Can You Hear Them? 

Can You Hear Them? 

I will never forget the first cry of an “orphan” that I heard. 

It was four years ago, just a month or two after my daughter was born, on a cool autumn night. The leaves had just changed colors and it was everything pumpkin from oatmeal to lattes to yummy pies. I was having major cabin fever after my recovery from birth, so my husband and I decided to go out to a movie for the first time in ages. My parents gladly agreed to watch the baby because she was such an easy and happy newborn. I was so happy to be out I even agreed to get popcorn and two different candies to make a good trail mix (my husband’s favorite), and this was our way of splurging. 

It was nice.   

We, however, only got into about an hour of the movie before I saw my phone lighting up in my bag on my lap. At first I ignored it, but it kept going off every minute or so, so I finally checked to see that it was my parents calling me. Quietly, I excused myself to answer the call, and as soon as I did, all I could hear was my daughter wailing in the background. I could hardly hear the words my mom was trying to say, but I gathered enough to know that we should go home immediately. 

Driving home, I wondered what it could possibly be. This was very unlike my daughter who was usually always content. Once we parked in front of the house and got out of the car, I could hear her cries from outside the house, piercing through the still night. Then as soon as I opened the front door and rushed in, I saw my mother frantically trying to soothe the screaming baby in her arms. We were told she had been crying non-stop for hours since we left and nothing seemed to work. Yet just as my mother passed her to me, like a switch, my daughter calmed down and stopped crying immediately. 

In awe, my mother looked up at me and said, “Oh my goodness… she just wanted her mommy…” 

That’s when it hit me for the first time. Right there as I stood in the middle of my living room floor holding my sweaty baby close in my arms, this thought rang in my spirit: what about the orphans.

Orphans, I thought? I knew I had always had a “heart for orphans,” or so I thought, but it never really meant more than that I knew they were there, and I felt really badly for them whenever the topic came up.  

But starting from this moment, something changed. Still holding my daughter, and with my family surrounding me, I looked up at everyone and whispered what I heard.

 “What about the orphans?”

Quiet, blank stares.

So I said it again. “What happens to the orphans? What happens when they cry and they ‘just want their mommy.’ What happens to them… ” 

My mind spun, and I could not sleep that night. All I could hear were cries–not my daughters–but cries of orphans that came from nowhere yet somewhere out there. 

Lying there with my eyes opened and staring up at the ceiling, I helplessly listened and tears streamed down to drench my pillow. I wondered how many were out there and felt so overwhelmed by the magnitude of the need. This went on for months, and although sometimes I wondered if I was making this all up in my head, the cries always continued. Some nights, I would even break down and cry aloud myself as if all I could do was echo and call back to a world I knew that was full of these children crying to no avail. 

That was four years ago, and so began our family’s journey into orphan care. Through a process, I knew God was calling us to respond and care for these orphans. No doubt there were many questions and concerns along the way, but it was no matter. The cries continued, and I knew I really had to do something this time.

But what I didn’t know was that the cry I heard that night four years ago was also more than just the cries of all the orphans out there. It was really just the cry of one.

It was one precious boy who was born around that time four years ago, in the same week as my daughter, but in a completely different home going through devastation and destruction. It was him who was crying out for help many of those nights that I heard and who was going to need a home four years later, just when things got really bad in his home and just when our home was finally ready, signed, and approved to host a child. 

It was his cry I heard in my heart that autumn night, and he was our first placement who is now in our home today. God allowed me to hear his cries to awaken me that night to not only the orphan crisis as a whole, but to hear and respond to the cries of the one the Lord knew we specifically could and would help. 

This one who was once out of sight and out of mind, is now family to us. 

Now, that one has a name that rolls off my tongue just as smoothly as does the names of my other three children. This one enjoys fruits and vegetables so much that it is almost always the first thing eaten on his plate. This one sleeps so deeply through the night, I can hear his breathing from the door the moment he falls asleep, and you can be sure that the second the sun comes up, he will begin to rub his eyes before making his way down to my room with the rest of the kids. 

This one is so real that I can’t believe he was once just a far off cry or possibly a figment of my imagination. Because now, I can’t imagine life without him.  

This one, he needs a home right now, and there is no greater joy or privilege to have him in our home for however long he needs. 

But he is just one


There are more…many, many more. 

And until their cries become real and loud to us, we will not be able to respond. 

In honor of Orphan Awareness Month coming up in November, let us pray, let us listen, and let us be moved to action. I assure you, the cries are real, and the honor will be yours to care for one, if not more, of these children in one way or another. 

Can you hear them? 

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Shared Suffering

Shared Suffering
My father-in-law found out he was adopted when he was 26, newly married, and weeks away from welcoming the birth of his first child, my husband. His family was never going to tell him, but the secret accidentally came out one day in the middle of a family dispute. Since then, it has been a long road of trauma full of a million unanswered questions that have battered and left him bruised.
But what could he do? He didn’t know how to process the pain he felt or make sense of a life he suddenly felt he didn’t belong in. So he tucked it all away. He continued with his life as usual, began his own family, and tried to forget about his past. Already a grown man with many responsibilities and a million other burdens to worry about, there was no time, really, to understand… or to heal this area of his life.
Then one day, my husband and I felt the calling to welcome children in need into our home, and because we live with my in-laws, we had to make sure they were on board with this too. This was something he was not prepared for. In fact, he strongly opposed it when we first brought up our desire to foster or adopt and became very heated. He never imagined that we, his children, would ever have a child in our home like this, and he was not prepared to reopen those old wounds. He also questioned our ability to love these children especially when we already had three kids of our own.
“When they all get sick, who are you going to love? Who are you going to take care of??You won’t love him the same!”
The words cut through us all because we knew he was still hurting and that he never got over the years of feeling unloved and abandoned. Yet because my father-in-law is a tender man, it only took him less than a day to come around. That same night, he came over to me and my husband and said, “We gotta do it. We’re Christians right? If we don’t do it, who will?”
I love my father-in-law.
So with his blessing, we started the process. Before we knew it, we got a call for our first placement and within a few days, this little boy was standing in our home. It was a very emotional time for us all, but there was no doubt that my father-in-law, who was never known to shed a tear, was by far the most emotional of us all.
Over 30 years after his moment of realizing his tragic loss as a child, he stood face-to-face with Rell, a little boy who carried very similar scars he had. At first, he didn’t know what to make of it, but he couldn’t even get through the first meal before tears began streaming down his face and he had to excuse himself to his room where he spent the rest of the evening. No one knew what he went through in that room, but what we do know is that from that day on, we have seen healing and freedom slowly take place in my father-in-law’s heart as he has had to walk hand in hand with Rell on his own journey of healing as well. Together, they have overcome mountains of tragedy and pain.
And for Rell, there was nobody more qualified and suitable to help him on his journey than my father-in-law. Because when no one else understands, my father-in-law does. To be honest, there have been very difficult moments. Moments when I am tired of dealing with his tantrums and behavioral outbursts that I don’t normally see in other children. Moments when I am tired of waiting for him to come out of his blank stares because he doesn’t know how to respond “rightly” when I ask him to do something. Moments when I just wished he didn’t need me to hold his hand every moment of the day and wished he could go about his day with security and confidence. I became tired of being patient, tired of being kind, tired of extending grace.
But when I and everyone else tires, my father-in-law comes in quietly and ever so gently, and with kindness deep in his eyes, offers this little boy a hand to take that next step. They both know how hard that step can be, but together, they can do it and they have done it together everyday.
We are so proud of them.
The other week, our family went on vacation to the beach and Rell was so excited. It was his first time going in the ocean, and when we got there, he ran straight in with everyone else. Unfortunately, the same second he ran in was exactly when a huge wave came and smashed down on top of him, leaving him gasping for air and choking in the salty sea water.
After that, he didn’t go in again. 
Traumatized, he stayed as far back as possible and wanted me right beside him as he played quietly in the sand. Periodically, he would look up and see everyone else splashing in the waves, but nothing could convince him to go back in. Anytime I did try to get him to try, he would immediately shake his head no, and the one time he did get up to walk with me closer to the water, he ended up shaking and screaming at the top of his lungs until I carried him back to our towels.
Eventually, we all gave up and just let him be. That is, until my father-in-law drove up for the weekend to join us, and wouldn’t you know it that he was just who Rell needed to overcome his fear. I watched in fascination as the two held hands and slowly but steadily walked to the water’s edge. I knew Rell must have been trembling, but from behind, he looked peaceful and confident. Then slowly, the two began to touch the water with their toes, then with their fingertips, and soon enough, they were knee high in the water.
I couldn’t believe it. Before long, Rell was wailing in laughter as he kicked and punched through the wild waves that continued to crash onto his body over and over again. It was the most beautiful picture as I saw my father-in-law come alive from his past pain and use the most difficult time of his life to help another person in the same shoes.
And all the more I realized why Jesus had to come. Because in His life here on earth, He, too, experienced the same trials we each face and He is more than able to understand and to extend grace for each of us in whatever stage of life we are in. He does not tire of our situations and our unique trials, but He knows. He cares deeply for us and can help us take each next step. And with Him, we can overcome.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Hebrews 4:15-16

What Doesn’t Kill Him

What Doesn’t Kill Him

When a fetus is in the womb, it is safely held in a sea of water and protected from bacteria and other pathogens. However, the very second that water breaks and the infant begins to make its way out into the world, it must travel down a passage that is covered completely with microbiomes–various bacteria specifically prepared in the mother for that child to go through. Every baby’s microbiome is different and perfectly unique and tailored to that child. This bacteria completely covers the baby, gets into the eyes, ears, and nose, and is even swallowed.

Normally, this should hurt the newborn. After all, bacteria leads to disease and other harmful side-effects, even death. However, just as soon as the baby passes through this mucky birth canal, it is immediately placed warmly on the mother’s chest and offered its first meal at the breast.

The baby sucks and sucks by instinct, and if it doesn’t get it at first, he is still steadily taught, directed, and encouraged to feed at the breast because no alternative is better. Not even close. Then once the baby latches, liquid gold soon comes flowing into the baby’s body. At this time, baby is first introduced to this perfect milk that is full of immunities, complex sugars, and everything good to cover and complement the mess it just went through. It is the perfect match for that perfect bacteria that has been designed for the baby’s body, and together, they work to build up the baby’s system and its ability to fight off disease for the rest of its life.

The key is, however, that both are always needed–this life giving breast milk and the pathogenic bacteria. With either one missing, the baby will not properly be able to build up the strength it needs to live.

It amazes me that even from the moment of birth, this is the reality we are faced with–we experience and even need both the good and the bad.

Deep breath.

This week we were asked to petition for guardianship over Rell. There was a sudden turn of events, and his parents were deemed incapable of providing for any of their children. So, his three siblings (who had just been reunified at home) were immediately taken by the state. CPS and the police came knocking on their door, and just like that, they were swept away from their chance at staying together.

“Fortunately” for Rell, he was still with us (just a few weeks shy of being reunited with his family himself), and there was a plea on his behalf to be left out of the system and to be allowed to remain in our home. “Fortunately,” they agreed, but only under the condition that we would file legal guardianship over him. “Fortunately” for Rell.

Guardianship. What does that mean? Basically it is the gray area right outside of adoption. We have rights and the freedom to make decisions for him and assume full responsibility over him, but we are not considered his parents. We treat him like family, but he is not really family.

I agreed right away because I love this boy, and I would do anything to keep him safe, but the title didn’t sit so well with me. I wished he could either FULLY be with us through adoption or FULLY be with his biological family. What is this sloppy in between that he has to live with?

Already there have been so many moments that have left him feeling utterly isolated in this situation, and I feel him wanting so badly to belong somewhere.

Sometimes he asks me, “Is mommy going to come get me?” Other times, it’s, “I want to live with my daddy foreva.” Still other times, he looks at me and says with a hopeful smile, “Umma, is you my mommy … foreva?”

He wants a FOREVER family, and who can blame him?

But nothing is certain in his world. I can’t promise him that he’ll be going home to his family because we don’t know if that’ll happen. We can’t tell him that he’ll be with us forever because we don’t know if that’ll be happening either. 

The more I thought about guardianship, the more I hated it for that reason. How is this in any way good for him? All of this, this messy dysfunction he was birthed into, feels way more hurtful than any child should ever have to go through and swallow.

But the other side of guardianship is this: we do get to have him for a time. We get to have him for today, tomorrow, and possibly for a month or even the next 14 years until he becomes an adult.

And for whatever amount of time we get to have him, we get to offer him something good–we can love him, care for him, but most importantly, teach him how to lean into God’s bosom and drink from the cup of His hands. There, he can taste the sweet love of Christ and be strengthened even in this difficult place. 

When he is scared, when he falls down, or when he has a nightmare as he often does, we don’t only comfort him ourselves. Rather, we IMMEDIATELY put him onto the heart of God because although we may not always be there for him, we know that God will. That is the one pure, good, and sure “forever” that we can offer and promise him.

In the middle of the night when he’s in tears and afraid, “Sing praise, Relly. Worship. Let’s sing loud and sing hard. Praise God and the fear will leave you. You’ve got to sing.”

When he’s struggling to ride a bike and he has fallen down for the 20th time, “Get back up Relly and ask God to make your legs strong. Ask God for strength to pump your legs. Pump harder! You got this! God is your strength! Say it! God is my strength! You can do it!”

With tears, I shout, declare, and even demand this 4 year-old boy learn these truths now because this is his milk after the muck. And there is no better alternative. 

Then just maybe, this unique combination of the terrible, messy hardship in his life along with the perfect love of God will create for him a life that is strengthened and able to sustain him. Maybe what doesn’t kill him really will make him stronger. And we don’t want to see him just make it… we want to see him soar, and sometimes we even see him soaring now. 

So although it is hard at times and we struggle to see the good in all this when we can’t understand, we trust that God knows what this little boy can handle, and we hope that this seemingly dark place is still all for his good.

For that reason, we can always rejoice and say, thank you, Lord. Even in this, we rejoice. 

If we are to really live, if we are to grow, and if we are to thrive, once we all inevitably experience each of our unique microbiomes of hardship, chaos, and pain that have been laid out for our lives, we must also IMMEDIATELY lean into the Father and drink of His sweet goodness. While our suffering in some form or another will always be there, so also will be the Lord and His goodness. He is so good. And in the end, God knows and wills and works to perfectly make it all turn out for our good.


“Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her;
rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her.
For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance.”
For this is what the Lord says:
“I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream;
you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees.
As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you;
and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

Isaiah 66:10-13

From the Belly, From the Heart

From the Belly, From the Heart

Birth videos have become popular in my household since I’ve become a doula and childbirth instructor. I show them in my classes as an educational tool and am always looking for new ones for my students. I often get sucked into watching birth after birth because I find them all so amazing. Therefore, my kids have also gotten accustomed to seeing them as well. My daughter especially LOVES watching babies being born, and whenever it is her day to pick what to watch on TV, her answer is always, “the baby and mommy one!” She would choose a baby’s birth over Dora any day.

Ever since I decided to let her have a peek at her first birth film, I believe she saw it then, and still sees it now, the same way as I do–it is the most beautiful thing on earth.

I’m glad birth doesn’t scare her like it commonly does for so many women and people in general. Call her naive, but I hope she never fears what could be the most amazing moment of her life–the day she gives birth to a child of her own. She’s funny and often says, “Umma, I can’t waittttttt. I’m waiting for a REALLY long time. It’s taking TOO long. I really want to be a mommy, and I want to be in YOUR class!”

This is life as a doula’s daughter.

Anyways, last week all the kids woke up from their naps, and it was their 30 minute screen time. It was also Kindle’s turn to pick, so of course, baby movie it was. The three boys were there as well, so we all sat cuddling on our couch watching a family birth their first child.

I think part of the reason my kids like watching these films so much is because they know I’ve gone through the same process with each of them. They ask me questions about their individual births and are fascinated that they were once in my belly as well. This particular afternoon, Kindle turned to me and said, “Mommy, I was in your belly too in the beginning! And so was Micah and Moses. But not Rell. He was not in your belly.”

Silence.

Rell looked back at me and thought quietly about what Kindle had just said. He looked sad. Because, well, it was true. Rell did not come from my belly. In fact, he’s not even adopted, so it has been a bit of a sensitive topic using certain terminology such as “family” and “brother” and “sister.” It’s tricky because we want to be clear and truthful that he has a family of his own trying to get him back home, but we also don’t want him to feel like an outsider in our home. We want him to feel like family, and since he’s been with us for months now, it often feels that way to all of us. But I also know there are times he doesn’t feel like he completely belongs.

This was one of those times, and I hated that.

Instantly, all those months of connecting and forming secure attachments and trust between us seemed to crack and divide with that one mountain of a statement. Just like that, I could tell he felt worlds apart.

I couldn’t stand for that, though, because in my book, he was part of the family and had a place in our home just as much as anyone else. I had to say something to bring him back, so quickly, I said the first thing that came to mind.

“That’s true. Rell was not in my belly. God only put Micah, Kindle, and Moses in my belly… but God did put Rell in my heart, and Rell was in my heart for years before he came to our home.”

Silence again.

I hoped they wouldn’t ask for the biology behind what I had just said, so before they could shoot out all the questions that were probably going through their little smarty pants brains, I grabbed them all for a big family hug, just long enough to catch the smile on Rell’s face, and ended the conversation with, “Snacks anyone?!”

Quite frankly, however, this is something that has been on my mind for a while now. As much as I hate to admit this, as a parent who plans to adopt one day, one of the number one things that crosses my mind is about how much a non-biological child can really feel part of the family and how much that family can really love them like their own. I know others must wonder about this as well.

Do we really love him like our own? Can we even do that?

What I’ve finally come to understand is that the answer is yes. Yes, we can love another child JUST like our own; we can give them this love that is fierce, protective, kind, patient, enduring, hopeful, trusting, and unfailing, all because I have come to accept one thing–and that is that this love I give is also completely full of flaws and mistakes.

Strangely, it is this last point that gives me the most comfort and confidence in loving another child just like my own. 

It is because I know that in loving even my own children from my womb, I have made countless mistakes. In moments of stress or fatigue or frustration, I have succumbed to the the lies of the enemy and/or the weight of my sin and have had shameful moments of unthinkable and regretful thoughts like wishing I was childless. I have had to battle with forgiving myself as a failed mother over and over again for disappointing my children. Above all, I have had to get back up and continue on in my weakness, but more importantly, in HIS perfect love and strength, time and time again. This is the only kind of love I carry, and it is one for all.

Therefore, I don’t have to preoccupy myself with the question of whether or not I can love another child with the same kind of love I give to my children. With either child, I will have times that I feel like I cannot do it and that my love is not enough, but I will never let those momentary struggles prevent me from the surpassing riches of being their mother; and they will all get the same unrefined kind of love I offer that is perfected only in Christ.

His love is perfect and greater and beyond any borders of race, biology, grievances, shortcomings, and/or mistakes. Christ has loved us all deeply the same and calls us to do so to one another as well, whether it is my bio kid, adopted kid, or the kid next door.

It is all through Him. We get to love all our children the same, and it starts not in our wombs and not even really in our hearts, but we have all been born out of the love of God. His family reigns above all.

Thank you God for leading us on this journey that you call us to be on and for providing for us in every way that we lack. We are honored to see the miracle of perfect love in our home be made manifest through Your love as we welcome in those who are far and those who are near. 

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.”
Ephesians 2:13-22

 

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.

Shattered at Home

Shattered at Home

Sometimes, I can be nice, compassionate, patient, and kind. I’d like to think that these are the words that describe me best, but really, this is just what most people see on the outside.

It’s easy to be nice when people are watching, but how about at home?

Sure, I can be nice at home, too. We have plenty of good times. I’ve even been caring for another kid, so how bad could I be. But home is also where my flesh–my temper, my bouts of rage, my impatience, and selfishness–all the ugly stuff comes out as well. At the flip of a switch, I can snap. My words of love and grace can turn to knives, and I can be downright mean and hostile. Just push my buttons the right way and you’ll see.

Maybe it’s because I’m most comfortable at home. Or maybe it’s because I’m around ones who I know will love me no matter how terrible I act. Or maybe, it’s because one of Satan’s greatest desire is to destroy the home–the very place we are to build a family that reflects the greater family of God–and he is attacking us whenever he can, especially in our weakness.

Last week, my son and our Safe Families son were kicking around a ball in the kitchen. I have told them repeatedly before that all the balls should stay in the basement or outside. Before I could even give them a warning, however, one of them kicked the ball a little too high and it went crashing into a mason jar sitting on the counter.

I winced at the sound of the shattering glass on our tile floor. And I was done.

They weren’t trying to disobey me. Really, they were just having fun. But of course, this also happened to be my last straw. 

Prior to this moment of “fun,” 3 out of the 4 kids had been sick for over a week, the baby was screaming in pain from an ear and eye infection combo, everyone was grumpy and constantly bickering or crying at the top of their lungs, someone had pooped on the floor, and another peed in bed. I was also sick myself. To make matters worse, the one car we shared was in the shop and while it was over 90 degrees outside, our AC was not working. Now, I had to clean a kitchen full of tiny shards of glass that had slid all over the floor into every nook and cranny… with a crying baby on my hip.   

I wanted to crawl up into a ball on my bed in fetal position or just walk out of the house and not look back, but those unfortunately were not real options.

So instead, I lost it. I went full force in my flesh. First, I directed it all to my oldest because he should understand, he should be more responsible, and he should be able to take the heat.

So in the meanest, loudest, and scariest voice I could manage to find, I tore him up with my rebuke. I could immediately see the remorse and fear in his eyes, but my fury could not so easily be appeased. So I kept going. And as out of control and reckless I was with each loveless word that came flying out of my mouth, I knew in the back of my mind that great damage was being done. Much more than the cup he had shattered onto the ground, I was shattering his spirit, wrangling it, and leaving it for dead. Then with nothing but anger in my eyes, I stared at the rest of them as they whimpered and tried to hide behind the one who had been attacked. Not an ounce of mercy seemed to survive the rampage. I could not disarm myself, and I think I even felt a shade of that dark color called hate. Whatever it was, it was not love and who knew that could be possible with your children. 

Not wanting to deal with any of it anymore, I demanded them all go downstairs while I huffed through an hour of picking up all the broken pieces. As I did, I trembled through my frustration because it all felt too much. It felt impossible to pick up every piece of broken glass and it felt impossible to live this life right. I thought of how hard this was and how I’m a terrible mom and how my children and especially this child who is not even my own should not be in this kind of home. I wished I didn’t have to deal with his behavior anymore, and in fact, I wished he would just be gone and return to his home, now, if that were possible. Then I thought, wow, I’m nothing but a fake and this is not what I signed up for. I actually thought I could do this? No, I can’t do this anymore.  I felt so defeated and done.

 I agreed with all the lies.

And I wondered what life would be like if I did really walk out. I wouldn’t have to care for anyone but myself. I could do whatever I wanted, go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. But then what?

But then I would’ve missed out on this.

After I finished cleaning up and gathered myself, I quietly walked to where all the little ones were now quietly playing. They looked nervous and weren’t sure what to expect from me, so without hesitation, I scooped them up just barely able to get my arms around all four kids. I felt so ashamed and humbled to have to confess that I was wrong to my children, but I knew I had to. I reminded myself, my job is not to be some perfect authority figure to them, but it is to love them and to show them we can’t… but that Jesus can.

Once I apologized, they also teared up in relief and leaned in to be held closer. They even wiped away my tears and whispered softly that they were sorry too. Even the newest addition, who I was now sure hated me and would never look at me the same again, whispered, “I love you, mommy.” Thank you, Jesus, I thought. Then together, we confessed our need for Jesus once more as a family and there was peace.

“This” is the joy that comes in the morning. “This” is the light of dawn after the night. “This” is resurrection, reconciliation, and restoration that comes when we are at the end of ourselves and finally dead to ourselves as well. “This” is Jesus being made strong in our weakness and doing for us what we can’t do on our own. And “this” is the house full of laughter, giggles, and cuddles I woke up to today. The little boy even kissed me on the nose and said, “you’re cute mommy.” 

And I told myself, I wouldn’t miss this for the world.

If I turn away from what is difficult and broken rather than turn into the hope of Jesus, I would miss out on ALL of THIS… the FULLNESS of life that only comes when you persevere while witnessing Jesus’ saving work in our lives and in our families.

God knows I can’t do this on my own. Sometimes He just has to make that a little more clearer through shattered glass. So I surrendered once more, and I was so glad that I did because I got to experience all “this” and more.

Of course this is just another snippet of the journey. There are battles everyday to come against the devil and my flesh. So I pray for God to uphold our families, our marriages, friendships, and any other relationships He has established along the way. Together, we can taste heaven. Don’t listen to the lies. Don’t agree with the enemy. Don’t for a second believe that your situation is not worth it.

Because I know that Satan hates what is happening in our home right now and he tries to shatter it. He hates that our household is one with Christ and he hates that we have dared to even invite another family into our literal house as well as our spiritual house of God. And although Satan’s attacks may be great and my flesh my fail, we press on and we press into the goodness of God. Then even more than Satan’s displeasure and the damage he can cause, I feel the exceeding pleasure of the Lord who loves us even in our weakness and also knows how to pick up shattered pieces and make us whole again.

Let us grow in love, even in our homes….especially in our homes.

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh… the acts of the flesh are obvious: …hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions…. but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  Galatians 5:13-23