Sheltered Children

Sheltered Children

After birth, leaving the hospital with my first was extremely nerve wracking. I recall looking into the nurse’s eyes as she went over discharge papers with us and feeling a sudden wave of fear and anxiety.

Is she really letting this baby come home with us?

The reality of bringing home a straight-out-of-the-womb newborn began to sink in, and I secretly hoped she could read my mind to hear what I could not bring myself to say.

We are NOT qualified. We don’t know what we’re doing. Can we just stay here where it’s safe?

Bringing the nurse home with us was not an option either, so we were immediately thrown into the deep end of this thing called parenting. That first month was grueling of course, and I felt discouraged thinking this was just the beginning. Then I started hearing crazy things like parenting only gets harder. With a smile, seasoned parents would assure me that the easy part was now.

Well that’s a cruel thing to say to a puffy eyed, sleep deprived, hormonally imbalanced new mom, I thought. But six years later, I now realize that what they were saying was true.

Today, I have three children, and while the oldest is now already six, I still sometimes find myself feeling just as unsure as the day we first brought him home. I sometimes wish he could still be in my womb where he was safe and warm or even be that newborn I held all those sleepless nights. He is growing faster than I can keep up with and there are always more questions than I have answers.

And what if the ways I am parenting my children and the decisions I am making are not actually good for them?

When I was a little girl, I almost killed my pets so many times, all with good intentions. Like my fish that almost died in just a few days when I tried to clean its tank out. Without the slightest clue as to what I was doing, I very carefully grabbed the fish with my slippery, tight fists and then ever so gently placed it down on the dry, fuzzy carpet beside me. I thought surely it would be safe on the nice soft ground.

And so, there it flipped and flopped through all the lint and dust while I spent the next half hour or so diligently scrubbing its tank. In my mind, I was hoping to do something good for the fish, but by the time I was done and finally looked down, I found it half dead.

A little extreme I know, but this is one of my fears. That even when doing my best, I inadvertently harm my children or scar them in some way without knowing it. That even in my best efforts and greatest intentions, I would somehow mess them up and one day they will walk away from me hurt, bitter, and/or disappointed.

This past year, this has been on my mind constantly as our family has been trying to make some big decisions. For example, the question of whether to homeschool our children or not has been a hot topic. I know the idea of homeschooling raises a lot of eyebrows, but I personally love the idea for many reasons. Even still, is that the right path for our family or am I just afraid, and will our kids be too “sheltered”?

Then on the flip side, I also wonder if I’m not sheltering my children enough because this was also one of our main concerns while contemplating orphan care and having other kids stay at our home. How will our own children fare? Will they grow to hate us for allowing a stranger into our home? Will they feel jipped of the time and energy and love they would have to share? Will they see and learn too much at too young a age?

Within just the first hosting alone, we already had to talk to our two-, four-, and six-year-olds about messy divorces, scary jails, bloody suicides, and broken families that sometimes fall apart. I remember the terror in my kids’ eyes as he described the details of some of the horrific things he went through. It shocked us all, but this was the reality that the little boy in our home dealt with and shared with us on a regular basis. We also saw the product of such trauma in the form of physical aggression, angry outbursts, and emotional instability starting from the second or third night when he lashed out at me with teeth, spit, and nails.

All this and more our kids were exposed to, and I could see their minds and their eyes widen in seeing this other world they never knew existed before. My motherly instincts of course kicked in many times, and I wanted to quickly assure them that such things would never happen to them. Nope, not in our family. I wanted to tell them that they were safe and we would be fine. There was nothing to worry about.

I could never really come to say those words, however.

No, as my children’s worlds collided with that of this little boy’s, we were all stripped of any false, flowery, fluffy illusions of safety. This was the reality of not just this kid’s life, but of life, period, in a fallen world. I could no longer fall back on empty promises of a life free of pain or suffering or even that mommies and daddies would always be there for them and protect them. That would all be a lie.

Yet what the beautiful part about these intense and raw interactions was the amazing truth that still remained. Whenever these moments occurred and we really had nothing left to say or do, we held each other close and huddled together in prayer.

We prayed to the only one who is pure, and good, and righteous, and just, and sovereign–Jesus Christ–and we thank God we had access to Him in every single moment of need. As a parent, I have never felt more vulnerable than in these times where I could not promise my children good in their life, but I also felt all the freedom in the world to know and to be able to tell them that the Lord God who has overcome this world is for us and with us.

And again, I saw their eyes light up and twinkle and mature as they witnessed our prayers being answered. They saw for themselves not only the darkness in this boy’s life, but they saw his life being transformed in Christ. They experienced God’s faithfulness in the midst of tragedy and they clearly saw that although mommies and daddies are not perfect and do not have all the answers, healing, provision, restoration, and the like, all come from God.

We prayed and He answered.

Now I see a greater confidence in my children than I’ve seen before. Little by little, their faith is growing, and I realize more and more this is my greatest job. Not to try to protect them myself from the elements of this life, but to simply lead them straight through all the clouds and rain to the God who is the only true shelter from the storm. This is the way I want my children sheltered…in His grace.

We still don’t have all the answers like if homeschooling will be in the cards for us or what our next placement will be like. But together, we are learning to trust God in all things.

When we ask our children now if they would like to have another kid come into our home, they immediately jump up and scream yes! They are excited, and so am I, to be on this adventure and journey of faith together.

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Over and Above the Hill

Over and Above the Hill

Our family went to a wedding earlier this month, and it was the first one in a while where the kids were also invited. Naturally, they were all really excited and so was I, especially for the “dance party” we told them that would follow the ceremony. We have dance parties at our house all the time and about half of our life is a musical. It’s what keeps us sane. We all love to dance, and when it comes to weddings, my husband and I are usually the first and last ones on the dance floor.

This dance party, however, was on a whole nother level for all of us.

Understandably so, at least for the kids, because they had never been to a wedding reception before. They are used to dancing in our bedrooms with natural sunlight and VBS music playing from my iPhone—not hip hop and rap blasting through loud speakers and neon lights shooting out from different directions while highlighting that one crazy guy protruding his buttocks and swinging it around everywhere. They were stunned and stood frozen in the middle of the dance floor for 95% of the time with that glazed over look and mouths hung open.

I, on the other hand, felt right in my element and got my dance on as usual. Feeling the rhythm of all the catchy songs, I got down and felt great. But it was only really great for all of about two songs. Then I felt myself slow down. One by one, my body parts entered this sloth-like slow-mo trance until I, too, stood completely still beside my children gazing outward at the whirlwind of people around us.

I felt old.

I looked at the younger ones around me and saw them swirling around as smooth as Jellow and with more and more energy with each new song that the DJ ripped from his sound board.

Goodness, I thought, even just a couple years ago I was one of them.  

But this week I turned 32. Honestly 30 and 31 felt no different from the years before, and I was actually excited for my 30s. Yet this year was different. Quite unexpectedly, I experienced many mixed emotions with getting another year older, even feelings of fear.

It started with some recent events that took me back to places of my past, places that were once life as I knew it. The windy back roads I used to speed down on the way to friends’ houses in high school. The house I grew up in as a child with the worn but sturdy basketball hoop cemented into our driveway. The cafe I studied at each day after school in the same corner where I mostly looked through Cosmopolitan magazines and people-watched the many who came by. Lastly, the university campus I once attended and knew as home but was now full of a fresh new student body, the 10th graduating class since my own graduation 10 years ago.

Has it really already been 10 years?

Driving through campus was nostalgic, and I could almost smell the scent of each building I passed—the iconic Mckeldin library in the middle of campus, the musty math building right around the corner, the cafeteria carrying the aroma of late night fried foods, and more.

At the mere sight of each of these places, memories came rushing back and each one felt so fresh and familiar yet strangely old like a rose that had been hung to dry—they were still there just how I left them, yet now, they were nothing more, really, than still memories, dried up and hanging in my mind. They have all become part of my past, a vast horizon I look back on and at most, perhaps feel some kind of distant connection.

All these things that once were so real in my life have passed, and just like that, there stood 32 years’ worth of memories from when my life first started.

Suddenly, I realized I was now middle age, teetering somewhere in the middle of the top of the hill in between my beginning and my end, and I had to pause in trying to come to terms with the idea that I will quickly one day be over the hill.

I wondered to myself, Am I now standing closer to the end of my life rather than to the beginning? Am I already on my way down?

This is when fear came into the picture. In thinking about this, I had fleeting yet very real moments where my heart beat a bit quicker, my breathing became shallow, and little drips of terror trickled down my back.

I thought, Soon, my body will begin to fail along with everything else, everything will slowly weaken, everything will shut down (just like on that dance floor), and I will be nothing. Just like every memory of my life and everything else in this world that has passed, I, too, will pass.   

Then my grandma’s nurse called me. She wanted me to translate while she checked on my grandma’s many medications and health conditions. After about 10 minutes of verifying everything, my grandma then cheerfully came onto the phone and rather than any complaints of her ailments, she told me about all the things she had won while playing bingo. She said she had prayed and pleaded with God to win so that she would have gifts for the kids. Then, because it was almost 4 pm which is her time to talk with God, she abruptly said she had to go and hung up before I could say goodbye.

Wow, I thought, she is really something else. She is out of this world.

That’s when I realized, That’s right, I AM NOT OF THIS WORLD EITHER.   

Immediately, I was jerked back up from that steep, dark hill I had been peering down with death at the end of it, and I told myself, I am NOT going down that hill.

No, I’m going where my grandma’s going—where she’s BEEN going. At the age of 87, she is more alive than anyone I know. In a way, I see more life in her than I do in my little kids, because with every year that has passed, she has grown more alive in her spirit. She holds onto nothing but Christ Himself and glories in everything that is a loss because, to her, that is gain. In her most frail moments, she clings to Jesus and worships Him for being her perfect strength in her weakness and gives thanks for being one step closer to seeing Him face to face. She welcomes the death of her body, whenever that may be, and is excited to be completely and wholly with her Savior. In this way, she rises above everything, even that wretched hill and its dead end pit that calls out to all of us.

She never went down that hill but has been rising from glory to glory and shines brighter today than when she first started.

Thank you grandma and thank you Jesus for paving the way that goes above and beyond the hill and into the heavenly realm, the way that overcomes this life and death, and the way that has saved us all and given us access to the Father in heaven. Because that’s where I’m going.

 

Do not love the world or anything in the world... The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:15-17

 

 

Letting People Come and Go

Letting People Come and Go

I find that change takes a big toll on me whether I know it or not, especially with goodbyes. Even when I mentally know it is a for-the-better kind of goodbye, internally, I can get all out of sorts. Such has been the case as we have been transitioning little Rell out of our home. In a few weeks, he will be reunited with his family, and while I KNOW that him going back to his family is best, even as I sit here and write about it, I can feel little alarms going off inside that are crying out to hold on as tight as I can—the war between my mind and heart is real and rumbles constantly regarding his soon departure.

I didn’t know it would be so hard for me to let go. I also didn’t know it would be so hard for my kids to let go as well. 

I started telling my oldest son a couple weeks ago that Rell would be going back to his home. At first, he didn’t say much and only asked a few questions.

“Will we see him again? Is he leaving forever?”

 “Well, I hope we can still see him from time to time. But yes, he will be living with his family forever.” Then after a long pause and with the most convincing smile I could manage, “Isn’t that great?!” 

Seeing my unexpected enthusiasm, he searched my eyes to look for the traces of sadness and hurt he suspected were there. How did he know? Maybe it’s because he is the child who grew in my womb just inches away from my beating heart, and he knows it too well. Whether beating or bleeding, he knows it, and in this moment, it was bleeding.

 Nonetheless, because I was determined to only be happy about this situation, he let it go and accepted my pretense while forcing a smile of his own. He said he was happy because he could play with all his toys again and have his bed back. “Hooray,” he said under his breath. 

But then a week went by, and it didn’t take long for me to see there was a war going on inside of my son as well. At first, I noticed little things like a little more bickering between the two. Soon bickering turned to insult which turned to what felt like a fierce cold war. And it was entirely one-sided coming from my son’s end. What was going on? For months, I saw no such hostility from any of my children toward Rell, but now it was all coming out full force.

Then I realized—my son is trying to disconnect. He knows his “brother” is leaving, and it’s hard for him too. 

Because each of us in our own unique ways has been going through this same process and acting in ways we don’t mean to act. While on the outside, we all wildly celebrate the victory for Rell’s family, we also grieve the loss of a child we have come to accept as part of our own and don’t know what to do with ourselves. Will he even remember us?? And all the while, our hearts have been alerted to defend themselves at all costs and to detach from this one we’ve all come to deeply love. 

I, for one, found myself feeling jealous, insecure, sad, unsure, and scared. Sure, I praised God for the good news, but I was also jealous of his family who would get to enjoy seeing the rest of his life, insecure that he’d forget all about us, sad that I may not have done my best for him, unsure what life would be like when he’s gone, and scared I would never be able to open myself up to another child again. What’s worse was that all of this quickly translated into irritability, impatience, and an overall grouchiness that I could not shake off. I wished I could return the boy without a second thought, like a robot, but that was obviously not possible—I was so human it hurt. 

I, too, was disconnecting. 

But once I realized what was happening and that poor Rell was getting the brunt of my selfish defenses, I stopped myself. One day after seeing how cold I had been, I held him close and told him, “I’m so sorry. I’m not mad at you… I promise. But I’m going to miss you a lot.” He didn’t know why I was apologizing, but being the compassionate boy he is, he gently responded, “I miss you too momma…love you,” and hugged me tight before running off to play. 
He has no idea, really, what is going on inside me, but without knowing it, he is also teaching me a great deal about saying goodbye.   

For the last five+ months, Rell has taken in another whole family into his heart and has traveled back and forth between us and his biological family every few weeks. In the times he has been at our home, he has FULLY been with us and has given us his all, loving us and allowing us to love him in return. He calls us umma and appa (mom and dad in Korean) and knows he has a place in our arms anytime he wants. Yet at the same time, it was always evident how much he still loved his family back at home whom he said goodbye to for the week. By the way he always talked about them,  we knew for certain they were always in his heart even when with us.

What was surprising, however, was that whenever he went back to his family for a weekend visit, he would cheerfully say goodbye to us and go back to his family, only to do the same thing to there. He would love being with them so much, but we were also always told that he talked about us constantly with such endearment. They said they could tell he loved us so much, just like family. 

The fact was, whether here or there, his heart had grown big enough to hold us all.

And that is what I learned we could do as well.

Now that the time is nearing for Rell to go home permanently, I have desperately been trying to wrap my mind around this concept of goodbye. Except now, I no longer mourn a loss, but I take great comfort in this supernatural God-given ability I have witnessed in Rell for our hearts to expand and forever carry the people who come into our lives, no matter where they may go. I can cheerfully say goodbye, just as he always has, and bless him or anyone else on their journey onward, knowing we will not be left with a void but with a special place in our hearts permanently filled with the memories and blessings that were brought through their very real presence in our lives. And there are so many. 

So with gladness, I have learned to say goodbye. Goodbye to this little boy, goodbye to many who have left us before, and goodbye to the many who will come hereafter. It has been our greatest joy to have had Rell and so many other amazing people come and go in our lives, and I can now say that it was all well worth it and that I also hope it never stops. Our family will open our hearts wide and welcome in anyone as family every time—sometimes for a day and sometimes for a month but always for a lifetime.

I bless you and your family Rell. I will never forget you, and I thank you for all the memories and lessons you have taught me. Umma loves you so much and there will always be a place for you in our hearts and in our home. Please be well. Kisses and hugs.

I Let Myself Go

I Let Myself Go

Sometimes… I forget to brush my teeth in the morning. I wear baggy tees and sweats more than I do anything else. If I’m lucky, I can slap on a pair of jeans and my kids wonder if I’m going somewhere special. Showers are a luxury and so is brushing my hair. In fact, my hairbrush is now used more for the brushing of synthetic hairs on dolls rather than my own. At least it is being put to use.

So, yes, I guess you can say I’ve let myself go, and while I used to once dread the possibility of such a thing, it is a decision I now choose to make and accept everyday–to let go.

This unraveling of my former self and surrendering of control has been driven by the unseen yet overwhelming force of little ones being present in my life and began when I first became a mother. Over the years, I have surrendered a clean house, an up-to-date wardrobe, peaceful mealtimes, nights of uninterrupted sleep, and even close relationships, at least the way I once knew them. All this and more I have let go of since this “force” has come and swept through my life like some kind of natural disaster that keeps pummeling through over and over again in all of its glorious chaos.

It is definitely painful and disorderly at times, but unlike a true natural disaster which only causes devastation, this force that comes with motherhood brings life.

A wild and unkempt state of affairs is the new normal and something I now embrace because it is simply the residue of the little lives (lives that I love) that are simply living and being and making their way into this world. The force that comes along with such magnificent life and beauty cannot be helped.

Now everyday I stand in front of a mirror while staring at my somewhat disheveled reflection that is always blurred behind some kind of smear or smudge or tiny fingerprint, and I smile. I smile because I have accepted all that I see before me and I also smile because I remember so vividly that warm July day when this force first took over my life and first challenged me to let go. 

It was a little less than six years ago in a small hospital delivery room, just hours before my first child was born. There, I experienced for the first time an unspeakable force I never could have even imagined. It was the start of labor.

Once labor began, I could feel these waves of intense pangs that rhythmically came and went inside me. As each one passed, they gradually grew bigger and bigger, longer and stronger. They swept over my entire body every few minutes like huge waves crashing over and inside me and then ebbed away only to come back again and again.

One wave of contraction was so powerful that I was literally knocked off my feet but thankfully caught by the bed beside me. Then on the force went.

On and on for hours I endured this untamable force of life trying to make its way into the world and all I could do was hold on for dear life. For even then as just a little fetus, the force this child came with felt greater than any known natural phenomenon. Hurricanes, tsunamis, typhoons, and the like–they all paled in comparison to what rumbled within me. Right then and there, I knew I was in for a ride and my life would never be the same again.

And with every wave that continued to come in those gruelling 36 hours, my instinct was to grab onto anything I could–a pillow, a hand, my body, my life, anything to save me from the debilitating force that took over me. Yet every time I clenched my fists, my eyes, and my jaws to brace myself for each new wave, the pain only increased and I would hear a whisper beside me that reminded me, “let go…”

These words came from the kindest, most gentle human being on the face of the planet who also happened to be my doula, my birth assistant, my angel. This woman stood beside me and my husband every step of the way and whenever I started to fight that great force, she gently reminded me to let go and to let life take its course.

Over time, I heeded her directions and came to a point of true surrender, and that is when things got moving and it all became easier, more bearable, and dare I say even enjoyable. Rather than kicking and screaming through waves crashing over me, I found myself being able to float and ride over even the greatest of waves as I let them come and then gently let them go. When I finally reached the climactic end of this great force, I closed my eyes with one final push and then opened my eyes to see the most beautiful form of life before me. It was life in its purest form.

Now 6 years later, that force is still with me today.

It is the force of 4 pairs of hands pulling at my shirt in 4 different directions, it is the force of 4 little bodies fighting to make space on my lap at once, and it is the force of 4 lungs all screaming or singing or laughing at the same time into my bleeding ear drums both day and night.

And whenever the force of motherhood smacks me down off my feet like it first did in that delivery room and I feel like I’m drowning rather than floating through the process of raising these children, I command myself to open my eyes once again and to gaze at life.

I look into their eyes and at their still small form, and I marvel as much as I can because one of these days I know I will look up one final time and the force will be gone. All of them will be grown and beaming in the fullness of life with everything I have taught them and it will be time for them to go. Then I will have no choice but to let go. They will ebb away and all I will be able to do is HOPE that they ebb back to me from time to time some day.

That moment should feel like light years away since they are all just a few years old now, but it has been on my mind because in  a few months, I will already have to let one go.

The little boy who stormed into our lives this past March and who we have had the joy of hosting will be leaving us. We received news this week that after battling what felt like insurmountable challenges, legalities, setbacks, and obstacles, grace prevailed and the judge made the verdict to give custody back to his biological parent. A second chance has been given and this family will be reunified. It is the very news we have been hoping and praying for and now that it has finally come to pass, the only thing left to do is to prepare ourselves to let go.

There is no doubt a sting of pain that comes with the idea of missing this boy’s presence, cuddles, and laughs as well as becoming a mere blip in his memory. We’ve even attached since day one, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say a part of me wants to hold on.

But even greater still is my desire for his life to flourish and be where he is meant to be. So I will let go and do so with great fondness of the rich time we had together and with great honor of having mothered him through one of the most intense, difficult, and crazy waves of his life. Hand in hand we rode over it together, and now we just pray that this time will end with the birth of a fuller and greater life for this boy’s entire family.

With that, I let go and bask in the joy of mothering the rest of my children and others along the way in order to release them all into the fullness of life. There is no greater joy.

And to all the other mothers who have been experiencing the force and learning to let go everyday, Happy Early Mother’s Day!

No Room for Groceries

No Room for Groceries

I remember walking through the aisles of the grocery store when Micah, my first child, was just a little infant. I struggled to bounce him in the carrier to keep him from fussing and could hardly manage to get through half my grocery list before we were both breaking down. Then every once in awhile, I would pass another mom with 4 or more kids and my eyes would automatically glaze over. I could not imagine ever being in those shoes, shoes that were tattered and frayed at every corner and stained with mud from playing in the backyard yet still the same pair she mindlessly slipped on everyday because there just was no time to pick another pair, much less buy a new one.

Yet today, I was that mom. With my trusted gray and white sneakers which have also gone through its own war, I mustered up the courage to take all 4 kids to the store for the first time. When we pulled in, I snagged the nearest two seater kid cart (thanking God for the person who invented it), and very strategically slid two in behind the play wheels, put one in the main part of the cart, and instructed the older one carefully to walk beside me. My plan was genius. That is, until I looked down and realized… there was no room for the groceries.

Before I had even entered the store, my cart was already full of these little human beings who I took a moment to look at in disbelief….where did they come from and how did I get here? Yes, my cart was completely full of them, my minivan was full of their carseats, my home was full of their toys, and their rooms were filled with mattresses and clothes and stuffed animals and books.

Slightly overwhelmed, I think I could have panicked because there was so much I needed to get. But instead, I took a deep breath and commanded myself to give thanks because there was SO MUCH MORE to be thankful for and not only the children, but the means I have been given to care for each and every one of them.

Especially since our latest addition, I have absolutely MARVELED at the support we have been given since we have taken in this little boy. Although we have the honor of being the ones hosting this child and being in the trenches with him, I am realizing more and more how we are just one small part of the puzzle and how there are SO MANY PEOPLE who are just as vital in caring for this boy and seeing him through. I cannot stress this enough. WE COULD NOT DO THIS ALONE.

And to clear up any confusion, this is not foster care. It is called Safe Families which is a national movement of Christians and churches all around the country who are stepping forward and answering the call to care for at risk children in our community BEFORE they are placed into foster care. Similar to foster care, these children are placed into a host home while their parents are working on getting back on their feet, but the difference is, there is a NETWORK of people all playing different roles to love the child AND their family with the love of Christ. Our family, specifically, is playing the role of temporarily hosting children, but others who are not have come around us in so many different ways playing their own various role.

For example, when the honeymoon period ended for us with our new little guy and the reality of not being with his biological family set in, he acted out in extreme ways. Rightfully so, he was scared and began to go into survival mode, lashing out at all of us aggressively with claws, fangs, and more. It was a trying period and so easily, we became feeble and tired. Then on top of the behavior which we hardly knew how to handle, we had to get clothes for him, prepare food for the entire family, figure out rides, get him situated into a daycare, and pretty much felt like anything we used to do normally had to take the back seat. The question of “could we really do this” set in with dark clouds.

Then our network within Safe Families reached out to us. All of them pretty much strangers whom we hardly knew, I wasn’t sure how much help they could really be, and at the same time, I feared asking for too much help. But I didn’t even have to ask. Very quickly, along with our church and our friends, these “strangers” came around us and began to offer us supports in every way, just like family would. In the same way we invited this boy into our family, they invited us into their family network, and it has been such a beautiful picture of the body of Christ loving each other selflessly.

Now, our home is full of not only the food and clothing and other items they have given us, but with their prayers, their love, and their unconditional encouragement. What’s more is that since we have been given such lavish support and the ability to focus solely on loving this boy, he has been FLOURISHING. Our house has not only regained order, but it has been thriving and has been even fuller with joy than before this all started.

I am humbled to be part of such an amazing movement and sincerely thank all those who are involved. If ANYONE has a heart for these families and children who are at risk of being separated and becoming orphans, there is a role for everyone in Safe Families, and the best part is, Christ is glorified.

Please contact me if you would like to get involved. It’s not just a ministry or a movement…this is real people with real lives who need a real chance. One is sleeping peacefully down the hall from me this very moment and I seriously feel like I am hosting angels in my home, if not Christ Himself. I am overwhelmed.

 

 

Marriage–The Best Kind of Hard

Marriage–The Best Kind of Hard

I Want a Divorce

There was a time this thought visited my mind. I never said it, but I silently wished it. At the time, it seemed like the only answer and the only solution to the deep black hole of a mess we found ourselves in. But it was also a terrifying thought, one that I never imagined I would ever have. I don’t think anyone gets married imagining they might have a divorce one day. No, if you’re walking down that long, beautiful aisle, this marks the happiest moment of your life because you are thrilled you finally found the one, and divorce is really the last thing on your mind.

Yet just as soon as I got married, I immediately came face to face with the grim reality that no marriages are perfect, not in the least. I was shocked to see that divorce was everywhere and even more shocked to find I was one day considering it myself. It had been a tough year full of hurt and misunderstandings and after going around in circles over and over again over the same disappointing, enraging, and heartbreaking events and realizations, I wondered if we had made some horrible mistake.

Then everything inside me wanted out. I wanted to get out of the house, walk out of the marriage, and if it were at all possible, walk straight back to the days of being single and free. I wasn’t just trying to take the easy way out, but I honestly thought it might be better for the both of us.

The way that this thought came so naturally, however, was scary. It was as if it had been waiting at our door just looking for the opportunity to rear its ugly head into our home and present itself as the better alternative. And for a moment, I thought about it.

Thankfully, after a great deal of grace, prayer, counsel, and hard work, I stopped entertaining the idea of divorce in my home. I walked it to the door and after saying goodbye, my husband and I were able to find our footing and trek our way out of the thick of things. We’ve come a long way since then and continue to learn a great deal about marriage even now, but what I’ve learned the most is that marriage is not easy. It is without a doubt hard..really hard, excruciatingly hard, and yet, it is the best kind of hard.

Those moments and days and seasons and years of difficulty can be…difficult.  Dying to your own desires for the good of the other is sometimes like swallowing lemons and other times like a few good jabs to the stomach. Learning to love a person who is always changing can seem like an impossible feat. Not letting your mind and your flesh wander away from your first love involves perhaps more training, stamina, and mental discipline than is necessary for any extreme sport. Constantly working for closeness can be exhausting, but the moment you stop trying is the moment you start drifting. And learning to overlook offenses and to forgive quickly even when great hurt is involved can feel like a job only cut out for Jesus Himself, but we are called to do so nonetheless. Realizing the weaknesses, the faults, the utter sinfulness of your spouse and then of yourself. Illnesses, financial difficulty, infidelity, etc, all of which can rob every last ounce of joy and love that you never thought could leave your marriage. All this and a million things more are hard.

This may sound rather depressing, but there is of course the bright side and it is this. In the little experience I have had with marriage, I found that perhaps BECAUSE marriage is so hard, I have come to love Christ all the more.

I love Christ and how in the midst of imperfect love from imperfect beings, God can still show His perfect love. I love how the greatest hurts can be washed and transformed to blend into the most beautiful picture of reconciliation. I love how God can pick up all the pieces of shattered hearts and make it whole again. I love the long nights where tears mixed with pain and utter frustration turn into tears of laughter just as the dawn comes and we both know it was only God who could work such a miracle. And most of all, I love all the work, all the muck, and all the mess because when I turn around, I see that we are no longer who we once were, but we are one step closer to Christ and one step closer to reflecting His image.

I know not all marriages have worked out and not all always will, but one thing I know is that there is always hope. I have hope for my own and hope for everyone else who has or ever will find themselves in the beginning, middle, or possibly nearing what looks like the end of this really crazy thing called marriage. And I hope that when all is said and done, we will all have greater love, even greater than what we first imagined on our wedding day, and then it would all be worth it .

Civil War

Civil War

Micah, my Kindergarten big boy, loves school and loves being with his classmates. I can see the excitement in his eyes every morning as he watches the clock with his shoes and backpack strapped on while waiting to race out to the bus stop. Yet apart from school being “good” as he usually mutters under his breath in response to my enthusiastic questions of how his day was, his school life is entirely a mystery to me. I really have no idea what goes on within those colorful cement walls, except that recess was fun and that there was pizza for lunch.

The day after election day, however, was different. Micah marched off the bus and before I could say a word or even kiss him hello, he immediately reported to me, “Umma, I have to tell you something. Billy’s mom …she voted for the man. She voted for Trump.”

Then he looked for my reaction.

“Wow,” I thought. “We’re going to talk politics? Literally everyone is in a frenzy over this election, even Kindergarten classes across the United States.”

Billy is Micah’s best friend at school. Micah has talked about Billy since day one. Micah loves Billy. But Micah also loves me. I am his mother, and lately, I have dropped my jaw and quietly shaken my head in disbelief many times in disapproval of Donald Trump. And while Micah has never said a word, I knew he probably saw and heard everything.

Micah also knew I did not vote for Trump. In fact, he was with me when I went to vote and even watched me bubble in my answer at the booth as he peered over my ballot and attempted to understand why it was that I was taking my particular stance. At most, I hoped it would be a lesson on practicing our right to vote, but I thought he was probably more excited about the sticker we got afterwards and the picture we took. I honestly wasn’t really expecting him to think about elections beyond that moment much less understand the gravity of what was happening.

But he did…a little bit anyway. He had no choice because along with the rest of the country, his little kindergarten class was talking about the results of this outrageous election, and EVEN in Kindergarten, there were opinions, there were sides, there was NOISE over the outcome.

When I asked Micah how he felt when he heard about Billy’s mom, he said, “Kinda mad? I tried to tell him he’s not a good man, but he didn’t understand…he said Trump was good… !”

The outcome of this election has taken over every conversation in every room and street corner, and while I know this is quite normal, it is really getting to disturb me. I, too, have deep concerns myself about what Trump may do in office and how he might dare try to handle the sensitive affairs of our nation, but I am actually more concerned at this point about the noise.

I believe things need to be shaken up at times before things can get better–protest, speak out for what’s right, do something for change. But it grieves me to see the division that so often comes from noise that is made thoughtlessly, without consideration, out of anger and revenge, out of hatred, pride, fear even, or thinking you or some opinion is right or better than another.

So many people think Trump will destroy our country, but he may not even get a chance to if we, the people, destroy it first. And it is indeed happening. Slowly, but surely, even in just a few short days, I have seen relationships burn to the ground, mistrust spring up like a field of weeds, and hatred spread like wildfire, all in the name of being right or perhaps supposedly fighting for your own rights.

And while there is no knowing what the future of this country will look like, my heart trembles at the state we are finding ourselves in and I trembled looking down at my five-year-old son because all I knew is that when he was staring up at me for a response as to where I stood (because really, where I stand is where he stands), in his eyes, I saw the entire next generation. I saw a generation of children who will grow to be the leaders of tomorrow looking up at me for an answer as to how they should respond and react in these tense and uncertain times, and I had to be absolutely clear and firm on the point that we always respond and stand in love.

So very quickly and careful not to show a hint of hesitation, I told Micah that it was ok that Billy’s mom voted for Trump and how everyone thinks a different way. We don’t dislike a person for who they voted for because anyways, it is God who ultimately put Trump there and it will be God who will bring us through these next few years. Our job is to continue to love and to pray and to trust God. Then I told Micah that who Billy’s mom voted for changes NOTHING about their friendship and that of COURSE he could and should still be friends with Billy. Because that’s what really matters to Micah and that’s what really matters period. Under every conviction, duty, and call to respond is our number one duty, priority, and responsibility to uphold unity, relationships, and love.

With that, Micah nodded with a little side smirk and said, “I know. I was just saying.”

Then I gave him a hug and we walked the rest of the way home.

I am praying peace and unity over this country. Put down your weapons against each other, your words that bring death, and find a way to bring life and light into this darkening world. If for no one else, for our children who are watching our every move and desperately trying to find which way they should go as they grow to be the next politicians, leaders, or just regular everyday people who will shape this world.

It may be like civil war out there, but we are in fact in the same country and should work together for the greater good. And I’m just glad that even when it is near impossible to choose or be on a “side,” we have one God above us who does not rise and fall as all other leaders do. Rather, in all circumstances, we can place our hope in the Lord who is the King above all Kings.