Daughter :)

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Today is special. It’s the very first time in all my life I’ve been able to say this. Happy Birthday, Daughter!!

 This family of mine includes a GIRL. And it strikes me just now as I write. God knew it would be important. These past months, adding even more boys – I’d need to add a girl besides.

I needed you this week. Really. Down on hands and knees, nose to the carpet – taking the same pose as the puppy who may or may not be responsible for the stench filling my house. And I’m actually not sure who’s to blame. Having raised boys for this many years I’m aware of other possibilities. Enough said.

None of them could smell it. Not even my husband. And right then and there I needed you. PLEASE come and tell me I’m not crazy. I need you girl.

(A note for the record. Luke did stop by later in the week. And he did confirm. This house smells like bungus. And today I’m happy to report. After a large sum of money spent on carpet cleaning, and my day off spent cleaning and Febrezing like a maniac, and finally a spring day with windows wide open. The smell is gone.)

I digress.

The boys lately have been asking me quite often – why are girls so complicated? True maybe. But boy, oh boy. It’s in those moments I could use a girl’s perspective. To help explain and defend and to give weight when I say, you boys aren’t all that easy to comprehend either. Just saying.  

You notice the things they don’t. Like haircuts and color. A new frame on the mantel. Wardrobe updates. A clean kitchen! Girl things. And it’s fun to share those little pleasures with someone who gets it. Someone who cares.

Today when I was cleaning I came across a Mason jar filled with decorative little notes. From you. A jar of blessings for my birthday a couple of years back.

You are a great example of a servant leader.

You have shown me the reward of living a life totally devoted to Christ & His Kingdom. 

You have demonstrated what it means to be a true PRAYER WARRIOR. 

You are selfless with your time, money & energy because your treasures are in heaven.  

You open your home to destructive kids week after week!  

Blessing after blessing after blessing. I count them. Two dozen in all. 24 notes written in your hand. What a treasure.

YOU are a treasure, Kiana.

A woman of passion. Incredible talent. A lover of Jesus. Wife to my son.

I shake my head as I watch you in motion. ALL of the things you are able to do. Artist. Photographer. Kids’ Pastor. Scholar. Athlete. (Almost as competitive as the boy you married. Or more?)

Kiana. What a blessing to have a YOU as a daughter. What a privilege to be “mom” to you.

Happy Birthday Girl! I love you.

Bucket List

Driving from Davenport to Des Moines Kyle’s eyes start to get that half-mast look and I feel compelled to come up with a stay-awake car game. Kind of like back in the day with little ones when our outings overlapped with naptime and I worked desperately to keep a toddler’s eyes open those last few miles to home.

Let’s talk about what’s on our bucket lists.

Not that we’re really bucket list people. Neither of us actually has one, but it seemed like a fun way to pass a few miles.

You start.  

Okay, well. I want to climb to the top of Half Dome. A no-brainer. I want to finish my seminary degree. Hmm. Golf eighteen holes under 80. Hike in Banff National Park. Go rafting in the Grand Canyon. Write a book. Dunk on a 10-foot hoop. Do the things on a bucket list have to be achievable?  

I want to build a little empty-nest house on a lake. Oh, that’s on my list, too.

We get sidetracked for a bit talking about that little house and which lake we’d like to build on. Remembering every now and again to add another item to the bucket. Share my favorite books with a grandchild. Learn how to really fish.

And it works. Kyle’s eyes stay open and we stay between the lines the two hours it takes to get to West Des Moines and Grant’s and Kiana’s apartment.

Later we’re hanging out just the four of us watching HGTV and we mention the house on the lake. Kiana has questions. Where and when – and how far will this be from Des Moines?

And that’s when it hits me. This is real to them. And it matters.

The next morning I’m thinking about this when I remember a dream I had a few years back. It was right around the time I was interviewing for a job at the kids’ school – a job I didn’t get. I wasn’t sure I wanted it, either, which is why I think I had the dream.

God asked me a question. What do you want? He asked it three times, and each time I answered the same. I want to go to seminary; write books; and enjoy my grandchildren.

The dream stuck with me and it seemed to matter. I repeated it to my husband and a couple of friends. One of my friends was impressed. Everything in threes. That’s a God-dream for sure.

 I don’t know, but I tucked that dream away and I saved it just in case. I’d return to it and ponder from time to time. Which is what I did last weekend.

I want to go to seminary; write books; and enjoy my grandchildren. I’m impressed with the similarities to my bucket list. Minus the lake home. And who has dreams about grandchildren when their own kids are still in high school?

God-dream or not, last weekend it became just a little more real. Hanging out with children grown and married. Celebrating my husband’s fifty years. Talking about a bucket list. Pondering a future full of possibilities; full of the offspring of these five boys of mine. And wondering which God-dreams are going to come true.

My Superhero

Superhero

Happy Birthday to my dearest husband and best friend.

I realize as I begin to write that maybe you’d rather not have the pressure of being anyone’s superhero today. Good news. The next three days are officially super-hero-days-off. (Let’s get out of town.) That said…

I think you’re amazing. Really. I think it a lot, but this week for example… I was walking Maple with her “Gentle Leader” and thinking about how you’ve been taking the time every day to break her in, practicing with her and giving her treats… While I’m still trying to find time to watch the training video. That’s about how it goes, isn’t it? You’re a hero, even to our dog. (I think I shared something on Facebook to that effect. Did you see it?)

You’re a hero to our boys, too, which is why they’re constantly harassing you. Bummer, huh? They know you can’t resist kicking it into Superman Mode and coming to their rescue. They’ll thank you someday. Or not.

But me? I’m thanking you now and every day. Because every single day my life is better with you in it and I for one am not taking that for granted. My world is safe and happy and wonderful because of you. You’re not God. You’re not perfect. But you are certainly God’s best earthly gift to me.

You’re 50. I’m still letting that sink in. Are we old? I mean I don’t really feel old – do you? Even with all these boys and their Grandpa-ing you all the time. (By the way, have you noticed they’re not doing that so much anymore? Can we call that progress?)

This past year has been about as hard as they come, but maybe the best thing that’s come out of it is being tested by fire and finding out we’re better, not worse. We’ve had to cling to God and each other and all that clinging has welded us even tighter. So thank you for praying long, even when I tell you to keep it short. Thank you for pursuing harmony, even through all this discord. Thank you for fighting it out with God, even when everything in you feels like just plain old fighting.

So I’m sitting here wondering – do Superheroes retire? Do they take their dog and their wife and disappear someplace quiet for a few years’ reward? I sure hope so… but I kind of have this feeling they can’t and they don’t. (Sorry if that’s too stressful to think about today. You can forget I said it.)

For today, let’s go someplace awesome, just you and me. (Like Iowa maybe.)

I’m crazy in love with you. Happy Birthday.

Your very own – Lois Lane. Gwen Stacy. Pepper Potts. Betty Ross. Mrs. Incredible…

Or just me (:

Hero

Dr. Purvis

A hero was welcomed home by Jesus this week. Dr. Karyn Purvis was a champion for adopted children. I “met her” through a video conference just last weekend. To say she was revered would be an understatement. She was adored. When I saw the news on Facebook last night, her battle with cancer come to an end, I was truly sad. Others will pick up where this teacher left off, but it won’t be the same.

Dr. Purvis brought hope to dark places. She loved children and she believed in healing and she transformed lives. Really she did. As I sat under her teaching last weekend her message to me and my family was this. Shalom is possible. This story is possible. Nothing missing, nothing broken. Yes. Yes. Yes.

It is better to err and repair than to never have erred at all. I’m not sure if these are Karyn’s words or those of a fellow worker. But to adoptive parents they’re a breath of fresh air. Our errors are many. How could they not be? We’re doing our best but the work is heavy. The hurt is real. To make mistakes is human, but to repair is grace.

And what would we do without grace?

There was a time when I sought to be a perfect parent. Years ago. My boys were young and I thought I could do it. It’s a long story, but the short of it is God showed me my failure and introduced me to grace. Thank goodness. Can you imagine adoption through the lens of perfection? I’d be sunk if I’d continued that way.

A Hall of Fame baseball player typically bats .300. I heard that at the conference, too. How success in baseball and success in parenting require getting it right about a third of the time. I said it out loud to the stranger sitting near me. What a relief.

 Grace. Healing. Hope.

Just last week I shared our shalom story with an adopted friend. An incredible young woman with a painful past – and she’s trusting Jesus to heal her wounds. And I shared my story of God’s vision for PEACE. Wholeness and healing. We talked about my family and hers and how God chose us for this journey. Together. Each of our families, discovering grace.

God is good. I read it again in a book just this morning. In order to trust we need to know He’s good. And what’s true for us is true for our children. Trust takes time and patience and repeated goodness. He is good. He is good. He is good.

Am I safe? Am I loved? Can I trust? These are the questions our children are asking. Dr. Purvis showed parents how to live in the answers. And she pointed to Jesus. To err and repair and depend on His grace.

Happier :)

Blessing

I’m happier this week, with good reason.

I get myself stuck sometimes, thinking too much. Like maybe this Christian life is a secret code I need to break in order to really abide. It can’t be this complicated. I said it to God, still in my funk toward the end of last week. I think He might have laughed.

So all weekend long He kept me close and He kept it simple. Repeating Himself often. Making sure I heard. A parenting conference. My quiet times. A sermon message. All saying the same.

Be thankful.

Simple. And doesn’t it always come back to this?

Last Saturday at the conference, the Jacksons said it.* We’re blessed to be a blessing. God blesses His family so they can bless others. It’s just the message I needed.

So I print two questions for my dining room table, mounted on decorative paper.

How are you blessed?
Who are you blessing?

Even teenaged boys can catch this vision. We’re blessed.

Tuesday evening at dinner we tried it out. Who are you blessing? One boy answers. I blessed the girls at school today. I guess you could say it’s a start.

All week at church I’m hearing a similar message, where we’re focused on being Happy. Five weeks of sermons from a favorite book – Philippians, the letter of JOY. And what’s a foolproof way to a happy heart? You’ve got it. Be thankful.

The past couple of days I’ve been a thank-you junky. Thanks as I’m coming and thanks as I’m going, for the little things and the big. One thank-you leads to another. And I have to admit driving home last night. It’s been a long time since I’ve been this happy.  

The surprise is it’s not the blessings themselves. What is it? It’s Him. He’s in my thoughts more of the time. God-thoughts and God conversations. All day long I’m chatting with Jesus. I’m caught in a rhythm of receiving His love. I’m FULL. I’m abiding. And it really is simple.

My soul is singing.

* Jim and Lynne Jackson, How to Grow a Connected Family

Happy?

ReVision Easter

We have every reason to be happy this week. Easter was amazing. ALL of our prayers answered, and I mean all. It’s a story in itself, and my husband wrote it down. Too long and too private to share it in full, but the gist is this. Kyle has a co-worker and friend who secretly loves Jesus, but NOT secretly has had a lot of bad experiences with Christians and the church. Felipe and Jimmy think this friend of their dad’s is super cool because she comes to watch them play soccer and she cusses boldly on their behalf. So this friend was with us on Sunday, Easter, at church. That in itself an improbable miracle. But to top off the awesome we find out later Felipe and Jimmy had a chat with this friend – told her God is real and she ought to believe Him. Crazy amazing. All.

Plus. We got a text from Des Moines from Grant and Kiana. ReVision Church doubled their numbers on Easter morning, 34 new people saying yes to Christ. After a month of praying for exactly that.

Yes. We have every reason to be happy.

And yet. All week long we’ve all been grumpy. Go figure.

Maybe it’s the surprise return of my time-of-the-month after several months of thinking I’m done. But that doesn’t explain Kyle. All week he’s moody and whining until I don’t even want to ask how it’s going, and he’d even admit it’s true. And boys who seriously may only know English as a negative language.

Happy?

It’s the name of the new series we’re starting at church this month. How ironic is that.

So here’s me this week studying and writing about the joy found in Jesus, how His Spirit makes us happy, and at every turn I’m bumping up against my slightly edgy annoyingly irritable self.

I admit it’s a problem. Confess it this morning in the quiet of my favorite chair. I’m sorry. What happened? I start writing, still brooding.

I decide to go for a run.

And that’s when it hits me. The answer. Wind cold in my face, sun breaking through clouds, and my own breakthrough at last.

You walked away from the Story.

 That’s it. It’s true. All that Easter and the very next day we forgot it. Went back to living like it never happened. Back to our habits of complaining and fretting. We live like the miracle never took place. It’s the same old problem we’ve had from the beginning, and you’d think by now we’d be better than that.

So. Here I am. Again. Starting over. Re-reading the story. Re-finding my joy.

Last Sunday, a miracle happened…