Together are best.
Together are best.
When my daughters had their birthdays just four short days apart last May, I remembered like I do once a year every year, vividly, the day they were born.
I remember the feelings, the pain, the dark room, my husband’s presence, the mystery, the profound knowledge that very soon our lives would never be the same. I remember the blood, the dizzy, the terrifying pain, and a warm little person on my bare chest. I remember the exhaustion, selfishness that was being shredded from my skin as if my skin itself was being torn off, that moment the labor pains began in a process that might not end until that sticky selfishness is all gone or until I die, and I suspect the latter will come first.
I remember the sunshine, our family, our slightly larger family, the spring irises and peonies in bloom, old house smells and the new cribs bought with love by my in-laws. Waiting for sunrise, rocking to the warmth of a life in my arms, packing lunch for a weary husband before the sun showed itself, pulling covers over my head with her cry and crying just as hard as she was because all that pushing and carrying and stripping off of self is hard on a body.
Two birthdays out of the year I remember all of that and I smile. My girls are tall, beautiful, happy, smart, and they both want to take communion at church now because they believe that Jesus is real and that His shed blood gives them new life.
And then there’s November 22nd. I remember that birth just as well as the other two, but differently. I don’t think of blood or pain, no dizzy, no black vortex of labor and babies coming out with joy and the hardest physical work of my life. I just remember the black smartphone, ringing early and me waking to my husband’s voice. Walking into the bathroom from our bed and not able to even see the light because I knew that we had been given a son.
I remember waiting, half hope, half terror, and waiting and waiting and waiting some more. Waiting as my husband talked on the phone to the person unexpectedly brokering this gift, waiting on the longest mile car-ride in the world, waiting in the elevator, waiting behind the nurses station. I twisted back and forth in my spinning chair and tried to hold on to at least one of the million thoughts swirling around in my head like glitter in a water globe. My husband sat still with his jaw set but his eyes just barely shined with hope.
And I will never, ever forget walking into a barely-lit hospital room to meet her. I sat by her bed, close to her face, with my back turned to the door. She was beautiful like all women are after they’ve given birth. She was a fellow mother, and she wanted to do right by her son. There was a look of certainty, pure beauty, and pain on her face all at the same time.
And so she signed some papers, and I spent the next day with our new baby boy. We named him Jonathan after the courageous, God-loving man in the Bible, and Haven, after his daddy and his daddy’s daddy and his daddy’s daddy’s daddy’s uncle.
Three years later, I think of her every so often, but especially on the day she gave birth to my son. I pray that one day we can meet, just one more time, so I can thank her and tell her how much we love her.
She gave my family the greatest gift one human can give to another- the gift of a life. And every November 22nd I get to remember, and the thought of him, and of her, makes me bow my head a little, and smile.
When there is a planner with days scribbled on and scratched out and circled
And something to go in the oven, and stirred on the stove, bought at the grocery store, a list to be completed,
A suburban, full plus one, to drive to school in the gray and snow, a little one in the front seat blinking hard to keep the tears in,
Only an already-gone moment to discern whether to speak, or be quiet and listen
To do or to simply be available.
When the shoe shelf turns into a heap of strings and colors, all different sizes jumbled into one
And time moves closer to later than you want it to be
A kitchen crowded with five humans and a dog, each one with stories from a day with people
Only one supper’s length to share it all in words and smiles
To give, with hope that God really will provide what you need.
When you just want to do this right
And nice words from days already gone spread thin and dry up, so you sip at your coffee and find something to tidy but what you really want to do is tidy your soul, but you can’t, so you want to escape it all instead and buy a ticket to Tahiti.
You read Nehamiah, “the joy of the LORD is your strength“, and realize that the sorrows of the world are not your strength- who knew?
And sing “Jesus, Lover of my Soul” as loud as you can over the toddler boys dumping and stuttering and laughing and needing.
When you just want to do this thing right
And no one walks in your front door to tell you, with authority, that, in fact, you are.
Take heart, dear sister or brother, that we are not home yet.
And if anyone tells you that home is here and you can find it,
shut the door gently in their face.
And get back to circling, writing, cleaning, driving, speaking, cooking, listening, and loving.
For your strength does not lie in the filling the needs that crowd around you, not much unlike those chickens when they see you carrying that bucket of feed-
your strength lies in Yaweh- The LORD.
The joy of the LORD is your strength.
This post is about two big things that Doc and I have done in the last three years. They have been difficult, dimensional, rich, beautiful, and risky.
Both come up in conversation rather often anymore, I think because they’re highly emotional topics. One involves the adoption of one of my kids and the other involves where we chose to make our home.
First, we adopted our only son. I’ve written before about the Feelings surrounding adoption because there are plenty of Feelings to go around. Everyone is excited, a few are cautiously so, and a few more say how lucky HE is to have us (my answer for that being that God gave us all of our kids- and I don’t know that they feel particularly lucky to have us some days!). It’s a fun story to tell, even though some of the details of where my son came from make a place in the middle of my chest feel tight- the most eloquent poet in the world could never describe what it’s like to be given a child, so I won’t even try. Overall, however, the atmosphere surrounding an adoption- especially an unplanned adoption- is one of joy and hope.
In the last few years it seems to me that adoption has exploded. It’s not so novel to see a middle class family of many colors- the kids not all matching their parents. I love to see it because it’s like God prodded our family and many others to wake up and do something about the kids that people in our circles don’t know much about- the kids that fall in cracks and get left for The System to deal with. God cares for the oppressed, He especially cares for the orphans, so of course if we love Him, then we should too.
However- and this is what goes unsaid most of the time- not every family is supposed to adopt. Many more should than have, but sometimes it turns into this pressure to go rescue some babies- putting it that way sounds so heroic. Who doesn’t want to be a hero?
But this world doesn’t need any more heroes, this world needs people who take Jesus’ example of loving vulnerable people seriously. Adoption is a great way to do that, but not the only way. Respite care is a temporary and necessary way to show kids some love for a weekend if you don’t have the resources to bring another kid into your family. Spending some time with kids who are missing one or both parents is a way to love. Kids around the world live in underfunded, overcrowded orphanages and these establishments need material and prayer support.
None of those ideas (and that’s just me typing off the top of my head- there are lots more ways!) are heroic or romantic. They won’t get you patted on the back quite like adopting will, but helping is never without reward. Besides that, it gets very, very old to get patted on the back for agreeing to parent one’s own child. God brought all of our children into our life. We’re not do-gooders any more than anyone else just because one of our kids was given to us by God AND another person who loved him because she got to be his mom, too, for a little while.
Adopting worked for us, it is one of the high points of my life, but imposing it as THE choice for demonstrating that one is compassionate toward orphans is wrong.
Second, we moved into the neighborhood affectionately known around here as “The South Side”. It’s on the wrong side of the tracks but it’s Montana… depressed but it’s not Detroit, if you know what I mean. We want to be a light here because places like this are sometimes neglected. We want to live in community with our church, and many of them live here, too. We also want to do our part to keep up the neighborhood, and therefore the community. Just like bad places are infectious, well so are good places. I plan to spread the good germs!
Adoption gets us mostly good feedback but occasionally a “you’re crazy” moment. Moving to the South Side gets us way less good feedback and way more “you’re crazy” opinions. But like adoption, I’m meeting more and more people and reading books by them and hearing stories from people who know them- of people who care moving into depressed neighborhoods by choice. I’ve heard it both praised and disparaged as “trendy” and part of a “New Radical” movement that makes everybody else feel bad if they don’t follow suit.
But moving into this neighborhood is like adopting for us. It’s not for everyone! It’s probably for more people than do it, but it’s not for everyone, and the only person who can know for sure is you. Only you can pray and seek God about it, and only you can listen and act on what He leads you to do.
If the church could stop trying to have individualistic hero moments, stop pitting “movements” against other Christians and the way they live, and could fix our eyes on Jesus Christ and then go LIVE- can you imagine what that would look like?
I hope this left you encouraged. God is moving in His church, yes, even here in the States. It’s exciting when we get called to do those dramatic things like adopt a child and build a house, but it’s easy to get addicted to the excitement.
Faithfully walking with Him in all of the in-between of life is what gets us to the peaks.
We moved back into town just before Thanksgiving for a hundred reasons; but the thing that trumped them all was that we felt God pulling us to move here.
I say God pulled at us to move here but I can’t describe at all exactly how God leads or pulls anyone to live any one specific place. It’s not science, but it’s not all wishy-washy feeling either. When we chose to move to Montana in the first place, we had to move somewhere after residency and so we prayed and interviewed and researched, and of all the places Doc could get a job, this one in Montana was right. It wasn’t in the most beautiful location although it’s close to pretty places, it certainly wasn’t the closest to family and friends that we love, it didn’t have the best pay or schools or air quality- but it was right. And we didn’t really know that this specific place was right until it was time to make the decision, as nice as it would feel sometimes to have the luxury of knowing God’s will in decisions like that ahead of time.
We jumped the gun when we got here and bought a house outside of town because we desperately wanted a home. Growing up military will do that to a girl! If I could pick anywhere in the world to make my home simply out of things that I like and that make me happy and comfortable, I would pick an old farm in Appalachia somewhere with a white farmhouse, a creek or two, some pastures for kids and critters to play in, a woodstove, and my man working hard up in the hills somewheres. But Montana doesn’t have many old white farmhouses, there are even fewer creeks, and pastures that are naturally green sell for lots of money here in the high desert.
Our country-esque Montana house was the closest thing we could find to “home” within money and distance-to-hospital parameters. But it didn’t even remotely make us happy or comfortable. Much worse than that, we felt a need to be closer together as a family (Doc’s office was on the other side of town), and more deeply involved with people (most of those were on the other side of town, too!). God makes different people in the church for different things and whether we like it or not, God made Doc and I to be a part of a community and to live right in the middle of it- to be involved with people, not just as a ministry on the side, but as a way of life.
Last night under the covers I worked through a little more of the book by Oswald Chambers, If You Will Ask. He said, “Jesus did not make religious hermits; He makes men and women fit for the world as it is (see John 17:15)…. ‘No one understands me!’ Of course they don’t; each of us is a mystery. There is only One who understands us, and that is God. We must hand ourselves over to Him.”
In my family’s case, right now, handing ourselves over to Him means trusting- really, perhaps tremblingly trusting- that He alone is unimaginably better than what I’ve conjured up and deeply feel that I want.
He is infinitely better.
Sometimes God pulls us to a place or a person, and it takes time and maturing to get used to getting something other than what we thought we wanted; but when we follow, it’s not entirely without reward.
With that in mind, we’re committing to this community by more than Doc’s job and attending church here. We’re building a house! It will be blocks from Doc’s work, the sugar beet factory, the oil refinery, our beautiful church, brothers and sisters in Christ, people that we love, people that we’re learning to love, and there’s not a cow or a mountain in sight.
We are oddly and beautifully at peace with that fact! I consider that sheer blessing from God.
The house that’s sitting on the property right now is unsalvageable, so an excavator and two dump trucks are parked and ready to go. There was discussion on whether buying and remodeling would be better or more cost effective than building and, had we found the right place, it would have been. We didn’t find the right place but we found the right property, so building it is. We’re excited!
I don’t know how long we’ll be here, it could just as easily be two years as twenty, but I’m thankful for a place to live and work together with my feller.
God is good even when we are stubborn and sinful, He is always after redemption.
And because I’m excited, I’ll keep posting pictures of the process:)