Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The death of my brother. Her marriage. My marriage. The death of her husband. The births of her children. The children in both our lives whom we both love so much. The defining moment in our life when we knew there had to be more than what we knew... what we'd been living in that moment. The days we fell madly in love with Jesus and never looked back. The women we used to be and the ones we've become. Her foster daughters and their children. The children I've worked with in the system. Oh, all of the children..... who'd etched their way into our lives. The places we've lived, and how much we've lived.
Some people live their life like classical music. We agreed that although we think classical music is both lovely and soothing, our lives are neither. Our lives are more like Rock n Roll. Crazy, unpredictable, wonderful, moving, groove to your own beat type of rock and roll. The kind of Rock and Roll that both makes you want to dance and cry... sometimes all at once. The kind that makes you feel wild and alive and free.
The moment Margy realized that there had to be more to life.... that she ached for it with everything that she was.... she was standing outside a bar... 19 and pregnant with her second baby. The moment I realized... I was sitting at a bonfire smoking a cigarette feeling the emptiness that was my life, surround me... and feeling so alone. And each of us are similar in the way that we have always felt pursued by God.... wooed by Him. We both felt the ache to know him deep within us. We both knew the loneliness... the hurt... the emptiness of not knowing Him. And ever since the day we handed our lives over.... Her at 19 and me at 16.... we've never looked back. Both of us, since that time, have felt called, pursued, and completely madly in love with our Jesus. And although we are twenty-some years apart in age... our lives feel so meshed together. Because we share the same love of our Jesus.... and the same crazy passion to live our lives to the fullest. We are both married to men who are the solid rocks in our lives... and whom have shown us the meaning of what it is to be faithful. Neither of us understand how you could find God's word boring, or prayer impersonal... Yes, we've wavered. Yes, we've felt far away and even fallen in our walks.... many times. Yes we are imperfect and human and don't go around hearing audibly from God all day long. But boring? Never. Impersonal? Never. Because this Jesus, this Grace, this Love, this Redemption... that so sweetly worked it's way into our lives has changed us, and we have never been the same.
And even when we've been unfaithful to Him... even when we've walked... even when we've sinned and fallen and missed his voice... even when the consequences have been painful and the hurt deep... we have always known one thing. God is committed even when we're not. God keeps covenant even when we don't. Somehow, he keeps wooing his people into this beautiful love... this incredible way of living that at times, leaves me breathless and so filled I feel like I'm spilling over.
As Margy and I spoke of all of our memories today... we asked a question that has plagued us both.. Why do some of us feel as if we've been wooed by God throughout the course of our lives and others struggle to feel as if they've ever heard Him? Why do we find it so easy to fall madly in love with Him while many struggle because they so badly want to know His love? Why is that? We know it isn't that we're special... that is certainly not the case. We most assuredly know we aren't holier or more repentant than most... nor are we more submissive or less rebellious. In fact I think both of us are a little more stubborn, more rebellious, and have lived past lives that were anything but holy and repentant. So, why us? Why on earth would someone like Him passionately pursue women like us... when there are so many who were saved at bible school when they were three and have been faithful their whole life but still struggle to feel as if they truly know Jesus.... struggle with whether or not they've heard His voice? I think the heart of our question was this...
Jesus why would you give women like us such beautiful, redeeming, passionate lives? Why would you bless us with such abundant love and faithful families? Why would you give us the incredible honor of raising up these children to be lovers of you?
The answer... I don't really know. I'll probably never know. All I know is he uses people... people like me... people like Margy... not because we're special... not because we're loving or patient or kind... but because we're His. And God is committed to His children.
That place I go... It's my place with Him... it's where we work through things... it's where I can safely tell Him my heart and hear His... It's the place of longing and love that He wooed me to at the tender age of sixteen... and the place He has never ceased to call me back to.
Jesus never stop wooing... never stop calling... never cease knocking at the doors of our hearts and opening our eyes. Oh that we could only love you how you have loved us.... Thank you for the seasons you've allowed us to walk through.. for they have shown us who you are.
Monday, July 27, 2009
So as much as I'd love to write about it... I'll wait until the words come.
Thanks for those of you still hanging in there.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
A month ago, we went back. This time it was to have a wedding reception... as most of his relatives missed our wedding because of a huge snowstorm. It's only been a year but this time we drove my minivan... with four carseats and smashed fishy crackers in the back (romantic I know...). And as we drove, I reveled in how much had changed in so little time. We went from two people in college with practically no worries and a little sports car-- to married in a minivan with a life that was full to the brim. We turned into two people with a house and a minivan and carseats and bills and jobs and children overflowing! Our home was cute and clean when we first got married... Now it's child and puppy proof. I drove a sporty little jeep and he drove a hot little two door sports car. Now I drive a minivan filled with carseats, sippy cups, and mashed food and we sold his sports car to get something we could fit more people in. He shared a dorm room with his best buddy and had a small circle of close friends and a fairly quiet life.... Now we have these crazy overflowing lives with new and wonderful people coming in nearly every week.
And you know what? I wouldn't change it for the world.
As I looked at the man I married driving that minivan my heart melted. This man has given everything for me.. his whole life... his whole way of life for that matter! And he has graciously extended his hand to every child I bring into it... every person I befriend. He has given up much of his guy stuff, his nice car, his peace and quiet, his ability to be completely care free..... and he has done it for one reason....me. His idea of heaven is me and the dog in a little cabin in the woods. He got me and a bunch of crazyness... (although I did have to cave on the dog). Micaiah has stood beside me through every tough choice, every child that has melted my heart, and he has given up much for me to watch my dreams come true.
When we decided to get married... I'll admit... we were a little naive. We both, in our own minds, thought we'd have this little fairytale.... and just live happily ever after. Because, I mean... isn't that the way it's "supposed to be." I mean there are plaques people hang in their homes with this saying on it... people get divorces because they are not living happily ever after... it's in every fairytale ever written... and almost every romance movie ever made. So, I don't think we were crazy for thinking that's exactly what it would be... A fairytale.
Well... let me welcome you to our unfairytale life.
I say that with no cynicism whatsoever. Can I be real here... as it is my blog?? We didn't ride off into the sunset to go live in our beautiful castle... we drove our minivan to my parents house where we live underneath them... because we decided me being with these kids was more important than me getting a "good" job so we could get a house. And no, not every day is happily ever after. Some days are hard days and some days are really good days... Some days we are sick and tired and cranky and some days we are crazy and full of laughter. We don't live with everything cozy and neat in our lives. Rather, we live in the midst of the messiness of life.... but you know what? We live. My do we live.
Because I'm crazy about that man and he is crazy about me. Because we never stop striving to help make each others dreams come true... even if it means sacrificing some of our own desires. Because sometimes "a hot date" for us... Is sitting on the couch watching The Office and eating eggrolls. Because even though we're married.. we will never stop dancing together to cheesy romance music. We live when we get up in the wee hours of morning together to take care of a two year old or scrub puppy poop out of the carpet. We live when we giggle in bed late at night not because of anything funny but out of pure exhaustion. We live because we allow each other to be both ridiculous and serious. We live when we're sitting in front of the campfire and say nothing for almost an hour... because nothing really needs to be said. We live.. because no matter how much we hurt each other or what we might have disagreed about that day.... we always kiss each other goodnight. We may not have the storybook fairytale... but the way my husband looks at me makes me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world. We may not always be "happy" but we will hold each other's hand and weather the storm... together. There may not be a white horse and a princess gown.... but there is eggrolls and The Office... which comes pretty darn close.
Life.. is precious and unpredictable.. it is fragile.. and I don't ever want to take it for granted. I, for the record... love my minivan because it's a symbol of what is most important to me... I love that we live beneath my sweet parents because they have spent their life blessing me and I want to the spend the rest of mine returning the favor. I love that we traded getting things so that we could have a life full of people. And for the record... sometimes I even like the messiness of it all. I love knowing that whether something takes my breath away or shatters my heart, I'll be standing beside the same man I decided to marry when life was a little more simple. I love that my Jesus is the same now as he was then.
I wore my wedding dress to our reception in Watertown and broke it in two places, Micaiah and I and some good friends of ours toilet papered his cousins' house in the middle of the night as payback for what they did to our hotel room :-) We drove home in the minivan head bobbing in the wee hours of the night... trying to keep each other up. We rode horses at his grandparent's with our very best friends... We went to visit his grandmother who asked to touch my face so she could know what I looked like. We hugged people we hadn't seen in forever, we laughed, we played, we walked the beach at the lake... and we remembered what it means to pour out your life for the one you love.
"And they lived."
Monday, July 13, 2009
I held him... so close I could smell his sweet baby skin and feel his soft breath as he slept... safe in my arms. He was a child of the system, a child who'd been through and seen more than any child should. A child without someone to call mommy. A child who had suffered abuse and neglect at the very hands of those who were supposed to protect him and keep him safe. And as I held this sweet baby boy, praying over him...the tears were too many... the heartbreak too much.... And as I wept and prayed... my heart breaking for every little child like him.. without a mother.. a home.. a place to feel safe... I heard Him speak.
"This, is what I want you to spend the rest of your life doing...
Mother the children who have no mothers. Pray for the kids who have no one praying for them. Love them... unconditionally... without reserve and without fear of having to let go. And show them who I am..."
That sweet baby boy... at the tender age of one... forever changed my life. That night a longing was placed in me deeper than any I have ever known. And I knew that if I didn't pour myself into doing that... I would never know the richness life had for me. And honestly... I thought it would be years before I would see the dream that was birthed in my heart that night... actually come to pass.
Only six months later... (last July) I moved into Grace Refuge... and life hasn't looked the same since. Grace Refuge is a home that after much toil and prayer and believing in what they could not see... finally came to pass. It was built by Ted and Margy Johnson. Lovers of God who both lost their spouces to cancer and then met, fell in love, and began an incredible life together. Between the two of them they have eight children. Each of them have three of their own and together they have two adopted children. But beyond being the parents to their own children... Ted and Margy take in foster kids. Usually pregnant teenagers, sometimes teens who are already mothers.. and they extend their hands, their hearts, and their home to these girls and absolutly pour themselves into loving them. They have been a constant voice for those children who cannot speak for themselves and they have taken on the load of caring for those the system would rather forget. I have seen Margy fight for these girls... and it is amazing. Beyond all of that (as if it isn't enough) Ted and Margy run a college ministry and take in college students and mentor and minister to them by involving them in their family. They lead bible studies, have people over for dinner, take people in who need a place to stay.... They see a need in the body of Christ, or outside of it, and they fill it the best they can. When Margy asked me to move in I was taken right into their family. Which, at that time, was 3 teenage mothers (two of them pregnant), three small children, their adopted daughter, and me. Plus whoever might need a place to stay or a place to eat on that given day. It was chaotic, hard, beautiful and full of life. Margy also took care of her two grandaughers all day simply because she wanted to have an influence in their lives.
I simply cannot do this woman justice with words. Margy is a mighty woman of God with a heart that is so big and real and full of life it makes me stand in awe. She herself was a pregnant teen and has an incredible story of God's redemption in her life and she has truly poured out her story and her life as one of the most beautiful daily acts of worship I have ever seen.
Margy and I quickly found a kindred spirit in each other. Because although we'd known each other for years.... there is something about getting your hands dirty together every day that forms a unique bond between two women called to be mothers of many.
About a month of two after I moved in... the saying "If you build it, they will come." became a reality in our lives. One of Margy's nieces who is a single mom moved in and needed someone to take care of her daugher... so we did. Then another niece who was a single momma with three kids lost her childcare assistance... and needed someone to care for her children... so we did. My sister had a baby... and the daddy decided he wasn't ready to be a father... So we took in my precious niece Madi. And pretty soon we found ourselves surrounded by many small children. And a bond was formed between us that is one of the strongest I have ever known. And I don't even remember how we decided to do this... What I do remember is looking at each other one day and saying. "Maybe we should start a daycare." We laughed hysterically as there were like already eleven children running around us that day. I went to a meeting... and about a hundred batches of paperwork later... They gave us a license to do what we were doing. Which has baffled so many county workers it astounds me...
Apparently people don't usually just take in chidren... they do things like draw up contracts, figure out hourly prices, and such things. Apparently there is a limit to how many of these lovely little fireballs you can care for at once. Apparently, we're completely nuts! At least if I had to gage it by the looks of the people who walks in the front door daily and is assalted by many small children, and whatever else may be going on that given day. Apparently when people build seven bedroom four bathroom homes they don't usually fill all of the rooms to the brim and need to buy a supersize table just to feed the people who dwell there. Go figure.
So, there is no good way to describe this place. It is a melting pot of ministries. For me, it's a friendship with a woman I love dearly... and many children who teach me so much about the love of Jesus it astounds me. For me its community, doing laundry, dishes, praying together, loving together, giving grace to each other, grieving with each other, and walking with each other through all that life throws in our paths. Honestly, Grace Refuge is simply a home filled with very real believers who are imperfect and flawed... but live surrounded by the grace of God and each other.
I think our hope is that the callings we have recieved in our lives will be fulfilled. Our hope is that each person who walks out of this home might know Jesus... or at least have seen a glimpse of Him in this place. Our prayer is that in our imperfections and our humanness... these kids might see Him. I've always wanted a big house filled with people I could pray with, do laundry with, make dinner with, and just live my life with. I love community because I feel like it is where I see life lived the way I believe God intended us to live is... And although there are days when Margy and I look at each other like we're crazy... there is simply no other way we know how to live.
Back to the little boy who changed my life.
The kids I care for daily at Grace Refuge are by no means the end to the story... rather, they are God's sweet beginning into molding me into who I know I need to become.... When Micaiah and I first met, one of the first things he asked me before we began dating was "Are you okay with adopting." A smile creeped across my face... and I replied with "Are you okay with adopting many?" We know that eventually we will do foster care of our own... that we will adopt children of our own... and we are believing for a home very much like Ted and Margy's. This is just the beginning... we are blessed because we are allowed to be part of what they do and who they are. I am so blessed because they open up their home for me to use with these kids. I am so blessed to be able to call them dear friends who have played an irreplaceable role in my life. That little boy began a new season... one I love very much. One that will continue to the rest of my life.
There is so much more to the story... but that, well, thats my small part of all that God does here. That is the song of my life.. sung to the tune of holding babies, play play dough, doing laundry and dishes, and reveling in how good life lived in community can be. For now, this is the part God has called me to play, and I do not take it lightly. In fact, sometimes when I stand back and just watch them grow and learn I am humbled that God would allow me to even be part of this incredible place. We truly stand in His grace here each and every day.
P.S. If you have commented, thank you. It has truly blessed me to know that a sort of community is beginning on this blog...
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
"Excuse me Maam" she says in that no nonsense tone that tells me I don't really want to hear whats coming next.
"Yes?" I said smiling as widely as I could knowing she was about to tell me one of my little angels had done something she thought severe enough to get my attention.
"Did you know your little girl is spitting at the other children and on all of the equipment?"
I look over at Rorie who is indeed making quite the puddle of spit as well as thouroughly enjoying giving everyone who comes her way a nice little shower. Then I look at the woman with a scowl on her face and nearly spit my beloved little drink all over her when I start to laugh hysterically.
"Uh... um... I'm so sorry about that." I say trying to contain myself as I go up to Rorie and tell her to stop.
Rorie looks at me, smiles, and spits again. So I grab her and we have our little battle as the prim and proper no nonsense lady gives me that look.
Then sweet 2 yr. old little Vaeh says loudly. "Don't worry Gorie! I woll wipe it wit my shurt!" So she takes her shirt and wipes up the puddle (I'm not kidding it was a puddle) of spit on the slide and then comforts Rorie. "There Gorie, all better!" I laugh and give the no nonsense lady a little smile and attempt to dry off Vaeh's no soaked little tee-shirt. No nonsense lady walks away unamused and keeps her grandchilden as far away from my brood as possible and we continue to play happily for another half hour with very few spit attacks.
And although this happend awhile ago... for some reason the Lord keeps brining it to my mind lately. I'm beginning to think I know why.
A week or so ago, my husband and I were spit on. Not literally but with words.. really nasty, disrespectful, hurtful, threatening words. Only I didn't feel as gracious as Vaeh. I just felt wronged. I wanted to throw some words back, write a letter, cut off all contact, get a restraining order... I wanted something to show this individual that what they had done was indeed very very wrong! But for one week I did and said nothing as the Lord (and my sweet husband) worked on my not so gracious heart. Then yesterday and today this story kept coming back to my mind.
Vaeh didn't care that the spit was not her own, nor that she would have to get her shirt all yucky to wipe it up. She saw Rorie getting in trouble and she wanted to cover for her... take it upon herself to make it better... make it right.. even though Rorie could care less. Her love for Rorie took cover and righted the wrong.
I wish I could say that because I love Jesus it's easy to forgive someone who spits on me.... It's not.
I wish I could say that turning the other cheek makes you feel holy and like you are being a better person.... sometimes getting your cheek slapped just plain hurts.
I wish I could tell you that I would gracoiusly offered my shirt to wipe up the nasty, biting words with no thought at all..... It took me a lot of thought.
What I can say is that I would rather wipe up the spit than spit back. I would rather offer mercy over judgement, kind words over hateful ones, and cover the offence with love rather than spit.
Because love covers over a multitude of sin... or spit... however you want to look at it.
Thanks for the reminder sweet Vaeh.