Good Days

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It’s been a good week. In spite of life on hold, and a returning cold, there is far too much blessing to ignore, and I must pay attention and live in the joy of all this good.

I sit outside on a Friday afternoon in late October. The sun is summer warm but the breeze smells like fall, and the combination is glorious. My neighbor’s tree is ablaze with red, leaves gathering on her lawn and ours. We’ll be busy with rakes and blower by week’s end, both yards being our responsibility somehow, and we’ll complain later. But today I choose to enjoy.

There’s a strike in Colombia, but all our news this week is good. For now we don’t need the courts, and all our systems are full speed ahead. We’re getting closer, and all of us can feel it – the five of us here and the two of us there. Each time we Skype affection grows on both sides of the border, and it’s a miracle, I think. All this love for boys we’ve never even held in our arms, but our hearts hold them closer than close.

Last Skype Grant asked the boys – What’s your best day ever? Felipe said last fall in Minnesota. Jimmy said the day we asked him to be in our family. And all of us here agreed – the best day hasn’t happened yet. The best day for us will be the day you two come home.

The Colombian school year ends in November. Just over a month and our boys will finish grades eight and ten. Felipe studies trigonometry and chemistry, and he tells us his grades are the best. Even this makes the extra wait count for something. Finish well, we tell him, and all that hard work will be to your advantage.

A couple of nights ago it was just three of us at dinner – Nils with Mom and Dad. We had nowhere to go and we lingered long over good conversation. Nils was chatty and we were all ears. This son turns sixteen in less than a week, and he is so much fun, and yes I know this is a gift.

I’m jumping topics. Thinking about a week full of good, and two surprises yesterday. An unexpected lunch on an outdoor patio with a sweet friend, and later a walk by the river with another young friend. This time of year even the drive to and from work is a gift, a feast for eyes and soul. A glimpse of white birch against red maple, and I soak it in and count the gift.

I complained too many times this week, and now I’m sorry. Complained about being sick, and missing sleep, and plans not working out. But complaining is the enemy of joy, and today I choose joy. I choose to count the good and savor the gifts and offer thanks. It’s been a really good week.

Goose Chase

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I sat outside on my porch this afternoon enjoying the surprise of warm sun in late October. I had been napping and reading in turns until I was distracted by a cacophony of migrating geese. As I glanced up to watch the impressive flock flying in formation overhead, it struck me the geese were flying north, not south. Is this normal? I wondered. And then, as the last of the gang disappeared from sight, I saw one lone goose flying solo, and south. I laughed out loud.

It struck me funny because just this morning I was re-reading the intro to a book by Mark Batterson, called Wild Goose Chase. According to Batterson, Celtic Christians have a special name for the Holy Spirit. An Geadh-Glas – “the Wild Goose.” Batterson thinks (and so do I) the name is fitting. Much like a wild goose chase, the wind of the Spirit is hard to follow. It lacks predictability.

And isn’t that the truth.

Lately I’ve had the thought almost daily. This isn’t what I expected. This life I find myself living today, as good as it is, is not where I thought I was going. And truth be told, I’m not the least bit certain of where I’m going from here. Wild goose chase, indeed.

Three years ago I honestly thought I knew. I thought I had a plan. I had been missing teaching and I felt sure God was leading me back to the classroom, via a master’s degree from the seminary. During the year and a half I spent at the Sem, when asked what path I planned to pursue, I’d talk about teaching. High school, maybe.

And then we met Felipe and Jimmy.

Two weeks earlier I had had nothing in mind but finishing my degree. I think I’d said it out loud. I’m all in to finish this thing. But the wind of the Spirit is a mysterious thing.

It’s been almost a year, and the wind is still blowing, and not one thing that’s happened in the past ten or so months has been according to my plan. I’ve almost grown accustomed to the shift in the Wind. But not quite.

This morning we received news, via Patti, our FANA friend. The Colombian courts are on strike. I shake my head now even as I type. What next?

We have no idea what it means. Four families who have become our friends are still down there, waiting on Colombian courts to release them for home. We wait in Minnesota for permission to come. And there’s not one thing any one of us can do, but wait.

Wait on the wild goose chase.

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

Shalom Revisited

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Last week I was given a new definition of shalom, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Dr. Del Tackett was the guest speaker for Legacy’s Spiritual Emphasis week and on Thursday I attended chapel. Together we read from Jeremiah 29:11. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Dr. Tackett explained the word prosper (which we are tempted to think is many things it was never meant to be) is really shalom.

And what does it mean to shalom-prosper? Dr. Tackett said this: May you fulfill everything God has made you to be. This is shalom. This is what God was saying when he told his people through the prophet Jeremiah – my plan for you is hope and a future.

There’s another word, closely related to shalom, which Dr. Tackett described, too. The word is agape – we translate it love. But agape is MORE. He said it this way: agape is the sacrificial zeal that seeks the shalom of another.

Beautiful.

I think about the shalom stories I’ve heard this week. A mother who prayed six years for the hearts of her husband and son, and a year ago this mom was diagnosed with cancer. Her illness brought faith back to her family. She wept as she told the story. She said it like a question. All it took was cancer? She’d do it all again, she said. And this is agape.

I have a friend who agape-loves her hurting daughter through long days and sleepless nights, sacrificial zeal seeking a hope and a future. May you fulfill everything God has made you to be. The ache in my friend’s heart pleads for this prospering shalom.

And then, of course, I think of adoption-shalom. How each adoptive family (four of our families in Colombia right now; one family back home; and the rest of us waiting) – how each of us who knows God knows he has plans for our kids. Plans to prosper and not harm, plans for hope and a future.

May you fulfill everything God has made you to be. I pray this for my sons, for Felipe and Jimmy. Everything God has made you to be – and I can hardly wait to see it unfold! With all my heart this mom’s agape love seeks this wonderful, healing, hope-filled, future-shaping shalom life. Life the way it was intended to be.

Dreaming

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Last night I dreamed about Presentation Day.

Presentation day is when adopted children are “presented” to adoptive parents, and for the past couple of weeks I’ve been getting email and Facebook pictures of Camp of Dreams families and their big days. I’ve been studying those pictures, worth a thousand words, guessing and wondering at the thoughts and feelings contained.

It’s bound to be a day of mixed emotion – fear and joy combined. But in my dream our day was wonderful. We were finally seeing each other face to face and it was everything we’d been wanting for so very long. We hugged and smiled until it hurt. Like a wedding day.

It’s tradition for the adoptive child to receive new clothes to wear for their big day, and we went shopping for Felipe and Jimmy back in June. Over Skype we gave the boys choices, asked them what they’d like to wear. They picked shirts and ties. Extra special clothes for an extra special day. Later we showed them their ties and both grinned and gave the thumbs up.

Last night in my sleep I remember thinking how all these months of Skype have prepared us well. We’re no longer strangers. We’ve grown so comfortable with faces and voices and maybe being together won’t be very awkward at all. It was a very good dream.

Sometime this morning between dreaming and waking I had an idea that must have been straight from God. I was getting ready to travel, and thinking about how best to prepare, and it occurred to me to bring along a few hand-picked Spanish words of blessing. Memorized phrases, written down, and the words I’d choose would be more than practical. These would be words specially chosen to bless.

Este es un gran día. This is a great day.

Me alegro de que estoy aquí con ustedes. I’m glad I’m here with you.

Te ves muy guapo. You look very handsome.

Me gusta tu sonrisa. I like your smile.

Me haces reír. You make me laugh.

Me alegro de que tengo la oportunidad de ser su mamá. I’m glad I get to be your mom.

Usted es un regalo de Dios. You are a gift from God.

Te quiero muchísimo. I love you very much.

Yikes

Bob Goff

Today Kyle and I became friends with Bob Goff. For real. We went to hear him speak at the Bethel University Homecoming chapel, and afterwards Grant introduced us. Grant had already become friends with Bob earlier this morning.

Bob has been part of our story for a while now. I first read his book a year ago, and I’ve been sharing it with family and friends ever since. Love Does is part of the reason we’re adopting two Spanish-speaking teenaged boys from Colombia. Kyle was just taking his turn with the book when we met Felipe and Jimmy. Bob told Kyle to “Just Say Yes,” and he did.

Earlier this week I was praying for the boys and the adoption. I was imagining what it would be like if the adoption never happened. What would happen to our lives?

I decided life would go on. Nothing much would change. We’d still have our jobs and our ministries, and our own terrific family. Our really good lives would probably continue to be really good. And all the normal things we’re already doing would continue to be normal.

But it wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t be complete.

As I thought it through that morning with God, something occurred to me. Something I’d never really thought about before. Perfect lives are not necessarily complete lives. It’s not the easy things, or the normal things, or even the really good things that complete us. It’s the big things. The big God-sized things.

Something Bob said this morning confirmed what I’d been thinking. Bob talked about how when you’re really living, and you’re really loving, it puts you on the edge of “Yikes.” And the edge of yikes is the very best place to live.

He was talking about love. (Not rock climbing or cliff diving. Luke.) The edge of yikes is that place love takes you where your palms sweat and your pulse races, and you know it’s exactly where you’re supposed to be.

It’s how I feel about Felipe and Jimmy. Yikes. In all the right ways.

We skyped with the boys again this afternoon, and it was great. Great to see their faces and great to hear their voices. Every time I see them I think how amazing they are. How amazing it is God brought us together. How glad I am for this adventure. Every stretching, challenging, unnerving, terrifying part of it.

Yikes.

Labels

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Last weekend at Constance we began a new sermon series called Labelmaker. Our pastor started the series by looking at the labels we wear and how they define us. He talked about how our labels become our identity, for better or worse.

The message left me reflecting. And remembering. Remembering a time when my own identity was put to the test, and the labels I wore were turned inside out.

I was a young mom. The boys were something like 3, 6, and 8. “Mom” was one of the labels I wore proudly. I wore others, too. Christian. Wife. Homemaker. Teacher. Good labels, with good intentions.

What I didn’t realize was that wearing my labels proudly was causing harm. My labels had become barriers. I learned this the hard way. And what I learned broke my heart.

One day, through a series of events, my hidden faults were revealed, and I was horrified by what I saw. I saw a proud Mom looking down on others who struggled. I saw a proud Teacher who had become intimidating. A proud Christian without empathy. And there in an instant all my proud labels crumbled. I was crushed.

It was the best thing that ever happened. It was a crushing that changed my life.

Broken, I cried out to God. I asked him to help, to show me what to do. I asked him to give me what I’d been missing. And miracle of miracles, he did.

What followed was a beautiful season of rebuilding and relabeling. God spoke truth back into my life. He told me who I was. He took me to Scripture, and he showed me there: I was holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. Reconciled by his Son. (Colossians 1:22)

God showed me the lies I’d come to believe. The lie of perfection. The lie of approval. The lie that my worth was tied to my labels. 

I believed him.

That was over a decade ago, and I still live fully aware of the miracle. Fully aware of the wonder of my re-labeling.

Recently I’ve started a new job at church, coordinating a new ministry for families. A ministry providing encouragement and care for moms and dads. I’m a mentor of sorts. I wear my new job title cautiously. Humbly. Aware of the dangers and the privileges. I’m not an expert. I’m a fellow learner, and a fellow fail-er. And I’m a bringer of the good news of miracles. All of us, moms and dads, reconciled by Jesus, are Holy. Blameless. More than we could have ever imagined.

A miracle.