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Until the final Sunday.


The Christian life is death and resurrection.  It is the cross and the crown, the mourning and the dancing, the Friday and the Sunday, the release and the redemption, the laying down and the lifting up.

The paradox and the tension is that the one needs the other.  We don’t get to Sunday without Friday.  We don’t get to new life without the breaking of the seed.  We don’t get the birth without the aches and the groans.

When Eve cried out in anguish as her firstborn emerged, this was the beginning of our life in the paradox.  God would take our brokenness and allow new life to break through the pain.  As Anne Lamott says, “Hope begins in the dark.”

Our lives then, as those following in the way of Jesus, are ever in the tension of the death and the resurrection, discerning where to meet Jesus at the cross in weeping, and where to sing our Alleluias in rejoicing.  Our corporate worship and the Church calendar is all practice for the everyday actual places where we must  draw near to the cross or encounter the empty tomb.

Our Fridays look like coming alongside those in the throes of death, those beaten and persecuted, those cast out, those crying out that they’ve been forsaken.  It looks like a revolution that causes religious leaders and dominions and powers to tremble and call for the crucifixion of that which will only be resurrected.

Our Sundays look like the glorious embrace of those who have found new life, it looks like touching nail-scarred hands and rejoicing over each sign of redemption, it looks like feasts with outsiders ushered in, the prophetic embodiment of the new kingdom.

And we have Saturdays, too.  God gives gracious room for doubt.  There’s room for longing, for waiting, for questions.  There’s a space at the table for  Thomas and Peter and Jonah.  There’s room for lament and wrestling and groaning.  Yet God does not leave us there.

I’m wrestling in the tension today.

I’m grieving, aching, longing for Love to break through darkness.  This isn’t an abstract, out-of-body, ethereal reality – it’s in the actual minds and bodies and moments of people I love.  And it’s in the stories I read of, the names and faces who I won’t let be facts and figures and issues, but people who bear the image of God, the blessed poor in spirit.

And I’m singing Alleluias, as I listen to my four-year old singing slightly incomprehensible praises at the top of her lungs, freely loved and freely loving, as I watch my nine-year old smile in a way I’ve hardly seen for months, as my 13-year old laughs and plays with fear cast aside.

And I’m crying out in the unknown, the not yet, the how-can-this-be of the in-between time.

Yet we have this stubborn hope.  We can enter into the Fridays and the Saturdays because Sunday always comes.  We’ll sit at gravesides and hospital beds and prison cells and the doors next to our beloved one’s hearts because death won’t have the last word.  We’ll come alongside the broken and the weary and the oppressed – and allow others to come alongside us – because in the end, hope wins.  Light overcomes.  Love conquers.

Resurrection always gets the last say.



A Mother’s Day Reflection


She wakes gently, slowly, with the same peace that she fell into her sleep.  And I’m right there for her to stare into, and a smile breaks.  Fourteen weeks new and it’s like our souls have always known each other.  Our hearts are tied together in that beautiful hold only God can weave.  She makes that half whimper and I know her need in an instant and in moments she is being nourished.  


This is the gift of motherhood: that a mother can give life to her child.  All mothers.  Every day a chance to give life – to bodies, to souls, to growing minds, to wounds, to brokenness, to these precious hearts.  God made us mothers – life-givers, life-speakers – our love is filled with life.


And of course we know there are all kind of mothers, all kinds of life-givers.


There are mothers who hold life in their womb, where God sews and knits from nothing a perfect new soul.


Some of these mothers may not yet meet these beautiful ones until the new earth.  But they have held life all the same.


Some mothers birth life in their deepest pain and longest groan and in the beautiful paradox of this birthing find their deepest joy in one heavenly moment.


Some mothers nurse life at their breast or in their arms and watch and wonder as life grows so quickly before their eyes.


Some mothers find their children in holy stories of redemption, God putting things right by placing little ones into families.


Those women who encourage, those who comfort, those who speak life – mothers.  Those who nourish bodies and minds and souls – mothers.  Those women who know what it means to sacrifice, to lay life down so that new life can breathe – mothers.


On this day I think of my mothers.  And, oh, I am grateful!


First, the mother I call “Mom”, who has given life to me in every way.  From her body, from her heart, from her own life – she has given to me from every part of herself – and who would I be without her?  Now she also goes by Nana, and the life from her multiplies in these seven of mine who know her love for them without a doubt.


The Nana who gave life to my Mother and who loved so much life into me.  She showed me where Life came from, and even in her death held to life-giving Truth as the legacy she would leave.


The Grandmom who gave life to my Daddy and who echoes life in her laughter, spreads it in her hugs, beams it in her smiles.  Her joy exudes life.


The mother who gave life to the love of my life, who beautifully raised him to be the kind of man I couldn’t imagine life without, who loves me as a daughter and fully embraces all of these who call her Grammy.


And there are the many sister-mothers, women who have come along and breathed life into me all along the way, and women who I share the journey with today, who laugh about the tantrums with me and cry over the losses and aches with me and rejoice over the simple beauties of mothering with me.


God, giver of life, in your grace you have given so much life to me in the gift of these mothers.  Thank you is not enough.  


On this day I think of my children.


The seventy-some who I have mothered… some for days, some for weeks, some for months.  My heart is spread far and wide, for each of you holds a piece.  And I have seen the face of God in you.


The seven who call me Mommy today – my heart is overwhelmed, blessings overflow.


My oldest four…  You have adopted ME, and found room for my love in your hearts, even in the places of your scars.  The gift of mothering you is a life-giving well to me.


My three littles… God has spoken so much Hope and Truth and Joy to me through the miracles of your lives.


You shave known me in all my frailty, tasted the sharpness of my words, seen my ugliest shadows – and you call me Mommy anyway.

Yes, this is the gift of motherhood.  God takes a perfectly ordinary, broken woman, and through the most vulnerable places of herself, gives life to others.


Only you, Lord, could have thought up this miracle.  







Jesus had this funny way of answering questions with the real questions.  I rather like it.  A lot.  I’ll be the first to admit that I also like straight answers.  2 +2 =4, right?  Simple.  I can just get my straight answer and move on, because I have that problem figured out.

Oh, but what questions are really like that?  Simple and straightforward?  The more I engage in this story of following Jesus, the fewer the straightforward answers I find.  And I’m learning to like it.

You see, when most people are asked, “How many kids do you have?” they can reply without hesitation.  I mean, who really has to think about how many kids they have?  Well… I do.

What does this question even mean to this foster parent/guardian/bio mommy/heart mommy?

How many children have I been a mother to?  How many children have shaped who I am as a mother, taught me what the word means, filled my heart with the spirit of motherhood?  How many children have changed me forever – still in my heart, still in my prayers, still a part of me?

Sure, you can ask me how many children I’ve carried in my womb and were born from my body.  (Two, in case you’d like at least one straight-forward answer.)  You can even ask me how many children live in my home (though, at the rate that we’ve had children moving in and out these last four weeks, it might take me a moment).  And you can ask me how many children I’ve adopted.  And the answer to that one, “legally” of course,  is none.  But for this mama who will likely never be able to legally adopt her three daughters, that is not a very good question.

There are a few other questions of numbers that don’t do me much good either.  “What is my limit?”  “When will I be done?”  “How much time do I have for myself?”

Better questions…  How much love can I give to all of my children?  How much room can we make in our hearts and our home for more children?  How many times will the Lord bless us with the great honor and responsibility of caring for His children?   How will we allow God to write a beautiful story in and around and through this crazy family only He could think to put together?

May I dare to keep my thoughts on these questions.  For the answers to these are… well… eternally invaluable.

Oh, and there’s one more numbers question that people just get stumped over.  “Wait… how old is your oldest child?  And how old are you??”  … 28 minus 17 equals… huh?!…  Yep.  I’ll just leave you with that one to ponder over.

All Creation.

Lightning erupts on the dusky sky.  Over valleys, rivers, plains.  And all of this, You have created.

Waters gush over cliffs, cascading into canyons deep.  Stretches of vast green hills interrupted by this majestic carving, a gorge that is breathless to behold.  And this You created.

Mountains high stretch down to low creeks, gushing brooks.  Mighty trees point to their Maker.

I have seen all of this in Your creation today.  You have created all of this, and seen that it is good.  And I have seen pieces, too.

You are Almighty, unmatched, omnipotent.  And yet… You did not stop creating after 5 days.  Your creation did not end with all of this beauty, this creation that can not help but worship You just by being what it is.

Yes, You kept creating and chose in Your grace to delight in this creation.  You, Almighty, delight in us, and call us back to the joy of being Your creation and knowing our Creator.

With all of the sights I took in today, could any compare to the vision of blue eyes and blonde curls, beaming with joy looking at his Mama?  Or the smile spread wide on the ice cream covered cheeks of my oldest son?  Made in His image, I find deep delight in my children, and can only imagine the delight our Father, who loves without limit, takes in us.

Creation was made to praise You.  And in this we have our Hope.

“All creatures of our God and King…. Lift up your voice and with us sing.”

Fragments + Fullness.

Have you ever watched an artist, crafting their piece, from the moment the pigment first soaks the canvas? I freely admit that I am always the artist’s skeptic, quick to assume there’s no real picture that could come from those disproportionate shapes; or if there is, it certainly won’t be any good.  My eyes are always too far behind the image the illustrator has dreamed up, and it is such a dizzying moment when a shape turns out not to be haphazard squiggles after all, but a vision come to life.

So much of life is spent just before the pictures make any sort of sense, and all of it is spent before any work is fully completed.  For we wait for the Complete, in Whom everything finds its place, and all are put back together.

“For now, we can only see a dim and blurry picture of things, as when we stare into polished metal. I realize that everything I know is only part of the big picture.”

There are fragments all around me.  We all have been waiting, yearning for completion.  And today we see just this piece.  Fragmented joy in one story, fragmented sorrow in another.  All of creation groans and yearns for its Creator to put it all back together.

We crowd around a table for four, all 7 of us, with our topping-covered frozen yogurt the feast we use for celebration.  Sweet little Nay will have his last day of radiation tomorrow.  We have waited and groaned for so long.  When he went through his first round of chemo, we waited and groaned.  When the surgery was only 40% successful and the tumor was still there, growing, threatening, we waited and groaned.  When doctors shook their heads, when statistics were terrifying, when he was so sick… And in our waiting and groaning, the Lord God sent His Spirit to be with us.  Amen.  In great mercy the Spirit moved not only to be with us, but also to bring a physical miracle – total removal of the tumor in the third surgery.  So much joy.  And yet we still waited.  With chocolate on our lips we smiled and cheered and even shared our joy with the room of strangers.  Great joy, and yet we will still wait for all to be made complete in Him.

Other fragmented stories grip my heart and ache in my bones.  A community I love loses their dear friend suddenly.  Others whom I love deeply, wait and long and yearn for fragments to make any kind of sense.

“But one day, when Jesus arrives, we will see clearly, face-to-face. In that day, I will fully know just as I have been wholly known by God.”

So here we are, this Body, waiting and yearning, groaning, weeping, laughing, praying.  Asking for eyes that can see more than these fragments.  And our stories will not be complete just yet but we will find He who is Completion.   And in this long meanwhile the Spirit is here, God with us, groaning with us.

“But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”

So may we trust, may we hope, may we love, brothers and sisters, and may the Spirit of God in us and among us bring us to wholeness.

Passages from 1 Corinthians 13, the Voice & the Message

Thunder and Grace.

Well, it took me until nearly midnight, but I finally got it.

As Bug snuggled me close, hearing the drumming of the thunder, I whispered truth to him.  “God made the lightning.  We don’t need to be scared, because He made it.”  And then I saw this day of non-stop, all hands on deck parenting and relational serving as what it always was – a gift.  A pure and perfect gift.

I humbly, fully admit that this attitude did not dawn this morning.  You (mothers) know those kind of days where you feel rushed from beckoning to beckoning, it’s non-stop from diapers to meals (to another diaper?) to being called upon to give praise, advice, listen… And the Ugly says, “But when will it be my time?  Who is looking out for me?”  And all the while He is, and all the while my time has by grace been gloriously turned into something far more precious.  Even when I try to stop and build my own kingdom, another story calls, another Kingdom is built.  Because the Spirit is working.

Yes, the Spirit of God inhabits even this humble home.  He uses even the words of this clumsy speaker to tell a broken teenager who she is and how deeply her Father loves her.  He feeds us even when I tire of cooking, of dishes, and whine about these gifts freely given to me.  He makes these little children of mine grow, causes those two adorable feet to take their early steps from his new sisters to his Mama, even when I have done nothing to deserve this blessed milestone.  What joy that my sin does not stop the work of the Spirit.  And what humility that the Spirit gently calls me out of my sin and opens my heart to see the gifts all around me.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t entirely excited when 3-year old Bug awoke at 11pm to nightmares, unable to go back to sleep because of his fear of the thunder.  But something stopped the lies, lies that would say “Just make him go right back to sleep so you can have time – your first moment – all to yourself.”  Truth whispered instead.  Teach him now.  Here in his fear, Who calms the storm?

So we read of Jesus calming the storm.  I’m not certain that there was lightning and thunder during that storm on the disciples’ boat, but in our retelling there was.  Jesus said, “Why are you afraid?”  And with a word the wind and waves were stilled.  And in that moment of the retelling there was no denying this great gift I’ve been given, to speak truth to this young life, and even to hear it told back to me.  “Mommy, Jesus died on the cross and Jesus is alive and Jesus makes me feel all better.”  Ah, grace.  Such sweet grace.

(By the way, since reading Jesus’ words, we haven’t heard a single roll of thunder…)

He still hasn’t fallen asleep, and plays with my hair as I type.  But in the new light of this grace, I’m no longer worried about when he will finally go to sleep… but rather how quickly this precious moment will go by.

Thank you, Holy Spirit, for your work.  Even in me.

A Resurrection Story.

I can hear her singing in the shower.  She has been raised back to life.

*             *            *             *

It is Good Friday, and we have felt the goodness of it.  Around the table we have broken bread and remembered His body, full flesh, broken for us.  In the comfort of our living room we have remembered the Via Dolorosa, and the anguish of that long journey He took for us.  Confessions have been made; though we are here, 2000 years from it, our sin is there, nailed to the cross.  We have entered this story, and yet we can hardly fathom what He suffered… the sting of betrayal, the burden of grief, the shear pain of the torture, the weight of the cross… This cup – how could He bear it?

There You are… on the cross… And love still flows out of You.  Grace.  Words of peace to Your mother and beloved friend.  Then abundant mercy to the thief on Your left.  And to all of Your children…Forgiveness.  Yes, we know not what we do.  My Lord, we have hung you on the cross.  There you are – tortured, betrayed, crucified – and you are bleeding Love.

My shame and guilt have hung Him there.  This grief – the world has seen no greater pain.  This is not a place for a king… and yet…

I need the cross.  We need it.  Us, gathered around the living room, telling stories of this tragedy, could we be here without it?  We remember the dark of this Friday, and though we grieve it we already know how much we need it, how this cross was the only way to the empty tomb, to our new life, to our own resurrection.

We take a moment to share how the cross has forever changed us.  On cardboard we write down the dark that we have come from, hurts, losses, fears, brokenness… And on the other side, how we have been put back together, resurrected, made new by the power of our God become Man who bore the weight of our brokenness.

It is then that I can see it, plain as day, how she is coming back to life.  This new daughter of mine is being resurrected.  In her brave honesty she shares the hurt she has come from, and the new life she is finding.  Her Father is telling her who she is, that she is beautiful, that she is whole, that she is of infinite worth.  And in His mercy and grace to us He has used our voices, this home, to tell her.  And I ask again – could we be here, together on our sofas, without the cross?  That darkest hour is the only way we could find Light.

*             *            *             *

I am just about to walk the stairs upward to my bed, when I hear that sweet melody.  She is here.  She is home.  She is singing.  And that is the power of the cross.  And the empty tomb.

This Old Table.

She had the roast beef and mashed potatoes ready and waiting every Sunday.  That is what Mom told me.  They’d drive to the Baptist Church in their Sunday best while the smells of Sunday supper filled the house.  Funny part was, they rarely knew for whom that supper was for.  New folks they’d just met at church that morning?  Old friends who could use the warmth and the rekindling and that famous gravy?  A single mom who might be blessed by the nurturing and the family and an hour of respite?

They came.  This old table was surrounded with friends, covered with nourishment, and a witness to hundreds– thousands, of prayers.  Blessings for those seated among them.  Petitions for servants far and wide.  Thanksgiving for graces unending.  Confessions from humble hearts.  Hands held, heads bowed, and hearts turned to the Giver of this daily bread.

Nana must’ve known she’d need such a large table.  Not one or two but three leaves, so their table for four could grow and grow.  Because there always had to be room for one more.  And there always was.

It was also a table of laughter.  Nana and Papa, newlyweds for over 40 years, shared the table with other couples who’d gather for Friday night bridge games.  They had many close friends, but they also had that beautiful gift of making new friends feel like they’d shared years of memories.

I like to think that some of Nana’s favorite “guests” around her table were her grandchildren.  (And I’m quite sure that’s right!)  And there was no bigger fan of her roast beef than her oldest granddaughter.  Was it just me, or did she truly delight in the serving, the preparation, even the work of it all?

It has been eleven years this month since my Nana went home to her Savior.  I still know the taste of her roast beef and gravy, can still hear her laugh, still feel the warmth of that blue afghan we’d snuggle under in front of Wheel of Fortune.  When we held a celebration for the blessing of her life, face after face smiled in memory of their seat at her table.  Story after story told of her welcoming.

She knew what we so often forget.  That a banquet has been prepared.  That we have all been invited.  That around the table we are brother and sister and we commune with the One who gave His body and blood.

She left me this legacy, a legacy of invitation, of welcoming others to the family.  And she left me this old table.  May the welcome always be open, and may we always find room for one more.



The List.

I have a list.  You know the kind.  It’s not one I’m proud of.  That ugly record of wrongs that I insist I have the right to hold on to.   The items on the list are etched into memory so I can carry them wherever I go.  And this – this is The Ugly.

There is that familiar chapter, quoted at so many weddings, that speaks of The Beautiful .  “Love is patient, love is kind… Love keeps no record of wrongs.”

We spoke of these words before our own union, two young fools in love.   We saw the Beautiful in each other, noticed that kind, patient, selfless love in one another, the image of God stamped.  Vows were made before our Father and His Church and in a sacred moment I am his and he is mine.

This love – patient, kind, giving, selfless – is Beauty I wish to behold each day in us.  It is the stuff of a great marriage, a great life.  The Beautiful has taken my breath away countless times, as I’ve learned what it is to love and be loved and I have been caught up in the sheer joy of it.

And yet…  At times…

I choose something different.  The self.  The list. “Because I have a right to be hurt, and you were in the wrong, and shouldn’t you have known better by now, and why do you deserve to be forgiven anyway?”

The list is a mask I use to hide behind my own shame.  A way to keep him at a distance so I don’t have to face…me.  If I have the list, I can be right, I can be first…

But even as I defend my rights, hold on to my anger, I can feel the ugliness of it.  And Beauty whispers its own fragrance.  Calls me to lay it down.  Love perseveres…

There is no love that is apart from Love Himself.  And the God of Love bore the weight of all wrongs, and cast the list into a great sea.

I have been forgiven much.  Loved much.  And when I stop and breathe in the fullness of it, I am overcome.  Love never fails…

Good news.  That the Author of Love pursues me with his unfailing love.  And that in His great story He chose to unite me with a man who would make love something I could feel and touch and see.  And it is Beautiful.

1,096 Gifts.

Every day counts.  Every last one.

Our 55 foster children taught us that.  The phone rings and we scramble, make beds, pull out plastic bins of clothes and whisper a prayer for the little one who has been torn to their rescue.  They walk through that door with any mix of hope and fear, longing and loss, confusion and understanding.  Then a chapter begins, but will it be for a few hours?  A day?  Two?  Will days turn into weeks, weeks into months?  Seasons may even pass, but in a single moment the page can turn, and we will be scrambling, packing, sometimes shouting our prayers and… saying goodbye.  Even our goodbyes have no definition, our parting no foresight.

That is the story of the hellos and goodbyes but the real story is in those days in between.

We had just begun our most difficult goodbye yet.  I ached with the pain too many mothers know.  In those precious in-between moments, not by planning or the words of the law but by one of Love’s miracles they had become in my heart my daughters.  And in my heart I had become a mother.   But the story wasn’t what we had drafted in our minds and we were broken.  The grief swelled and the emptiness burned.

What do you do when your plans fall apart?  I wish I could say I knew.  I just remember scrambling from thought to thought, looking for some escape, some new plan to make sense of this heartbreak.   Foolishness, thinking that I who was not in control could find something new to hold on to and control on my own.

Ah, grace.

Grace found us.  Here in our scurrying, in our doubt, in our indignant anger, Grace had a plan all of His own.  Even now, thinking of it, I am humbled to tears.  Because Grace gifted us with a son.

He turned three today, that sweet child of mine.  So much life, joy, hope, and love we see in him, this little bearer of God’s image.  He is three with all of the things that normally go with it… the tantrums, the (especially) messy potty-training, the embarrassing public behavior.  But this day, each one, is a gift.  A grace-filled, messy, God-given, beautiful gift.

                        Every moment’s a chance to love you

                        Every day a new day to teach you that

                        Every good and perfect gift comes from above…


So with a full, grateful heart I say thank you to the Giver of these good gifts.  For these 1,096 days with my precious son.

                        So even when time seems to fly right by us

                        Even when heartache comes to try us

                        I will hold you

                        And we’ll hold on to Jesus

                        With every little moment I’ll love you, little one.