How Then Shall We Live?

I have been reading out loud to my youngest five children. They are also my students as we homeschool. Three of them are teens and two are tweens. All five have listened with rapt attention as we have taken our time sauntering through the pages of C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew. We have savored the imagery and discussed his style of writing and pondered the spiritual applications. 

The kids know that I’m working in every spare moment on my own fictional story. It has been slow going and in fact, years in the making. But, now, I’m at it in earnest and determined to finish with a proof copy in hand and a goal in sight of a holiday publication. 

With a life as full as mine I sometimes question my choice to dedicate precious time and energy to a project that has no guarantee of success. There are moments that I feel a wee bit silly as I attempt to do what I’ve never done before but, have dreamed of since a child. I have seriously considered quitting or at least setting it aside until the children are all raised and out of school. But, then, I glance around and see my children watching. 

They see me choosing to write instead of watching a little television. They see me revising chapters that I thought were complete. They see me creating characters that have real struggles. They see the delight I take from finding just the right word or phrase. They see the process. 

Yesterday, during our read aloud time, one of my sons asked if we could read the first chapter of his story. I almost said no. Instead, I agreed and he asked his sister to do the reading. I listened to her and watched him carefully as she did so. He shushed the younger boys when they made a noise that might distract. He was anxious that we heard the details, that we missed none of his carefully chosen words. It was, after all, his story. His creative work. I could relate. 

As the story unfolded, I heard my son’s voice, his writing voice. In many ways, unpolished and yet, uniquely his own. When the chapter had been read and comments made, my daughter that read out loud asked if we could do the same for her story tomorrow. I said we could, of course. I know full well that another son will ask for his turn next. These three, ages 12,14 & 16 this month have all followed in my footsteps. Like myself as a child, they have stories to tell and they want someone to read them. 

I can’t help but wonder if there is a reason why it is at this very moment that I have set my sights on finishing. I wonder if I am somehow clearing the path for my own children who seem interested in going the same direction. Even for those who aren’t putting the proverbial pen to paper. They see me striving to complete a long-term project, achieve a dream, and finish what I started. 

My audience of readers may never go far beyond my own children and family and friends. I am certainly no C.S. Lewis. There may be plenty who see my work as unpolished and imperfect. But, my children will not see me quit. And whoever reads my words will hear my voice, my unique voice that sees the world through my eyes and has a story to tell. 

You may not be a writer and you may not have a slew of children but, you too have an audience, you too have a story to tell. Your story may be one of integrity in the business place or one of courage when facing seemingly insurmountable odds. Your story may be one of generosity to the needy or patience with the difficult. Your story may be one of suffering or grief, adoption or infertility, faith or discouragement. Whatever your story is, stay true to your own voice and be assured, someone is listening and it matters. 

The title of my first book is How Then Shall We Live? and I’m understanding clearly that is exactly the right question to be asking myself these days. Choice after choice, I’m telling my story, using my voice. What about you? How will you tell your story?

  

Mulligrubs And Struggles

I’m going to admit two things. First, I’ve been fighting the mulligrubs. I’ve been doing my best to shake it off but, it’s been a struggle. As a matter of fact, everywhere I look it seems the people I care about are in struggles of their own. There are health struggles, relationship struggles, financial struggles,spiritual struggles. 

To struggle means to proceed with great difficulty or to strain to be released from what is holding you back. It means to exert force when you meet resistance. It means you haven’t quit trying. You haven’t given up. You haven’t arrived but, you are determined to get there. 

So, now with that clarification I can admit that I’m struggling without feeling as if that is admitting defeat. So can you. So can we all. 
We can stand a little taller and breathe a little easier. We can square our shoulders and take our stand. We can set our jaws and focus our eyes. The struggle is real. But, we are strong. As a matter of fact, the struggle has made us strong. 
The second thing I want to admit is that sometimes I need reminding of all of the above. Sometimes I need to go back and read what I’ve write myself. Sometimes I need to contact trusted friends and ask for back-up. Sometimes I need to forgive myself for stumbling and realize I wouldn’t have stumbled if I hadn’t been moving, working, trying, struggling. 
When those days come. When the struggle seems too much. When I’m fighting the mulligrubs. When I wonder what I’ve gotten myself into. When I realize I’ve messed up in my efforts to do the right thing. When I have to make myself do the next thing and the next and the next. It’s ok. It’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to reach out. It’s ok that I’m not enough on my own. It’s ok because I am not alone. 
I believe we have an adversary of our souls. I believe he is the father of all lies. I believe one of his most successful strategies is to try and convince us that we are all alone. He wants to isolate you by making you think you are the only one. 

In 1 Kings 18 we can read about some of Elisha’s struggles. He was a mighty man of God and saw many miracles. And yet, by verse 22, he was struggling. He was weary. He declared that he was left all alone. God showed him otherwise. The truth was, there were others. Others, who were struggling alongside him. He was not alone. 
I can’t help but recall a scene from an animated movie where a fishing net has caught a bunch of fish. The fish are struggling to get free. Finally, they are told to all swim in the same direction and to do so together. They’re still struggling. They’re still resisting. They’re still trying to break loose. But, now, they’re doing so together. Together, they accomplish what they could not do alone. 
Last weekend I was given this shirt as a small group leader to help remind the women around me that we were indeed better together. It is true. If you have been believing the lie that you are in this struggle alone, refuse to believe it any more.
  

Beautiful Brokenness 

People are strange creatures sometimes. Don’t you think? Well, I know I certainly can be. I tend to be much more open about past struggles. You know, the ones I’ve faced and already came out on the other side of. 
But, when I’m struggling in the moment, as in this very moment, I tend to be very quiet about it. When it would seem I should be yelling for help or in alarm, I take a step back and wait and watch. Perhaps I need to see how it all turns out first? Maybe I’m just not sure what to say?
So it has been the last few weeks. It all started with five of my children being diagnosed with mycoplasma (walking pneumonia) and then shortly thereafter one of my teen daughters having an appendectomy. Now, none of this was fun but, it was doable. You go to the doctor, you get the meds, you tend to your children, they get better. It’s a momma routine known and practiced by many moms just like myself. 
But, then the catch. My teen daughter did not get better. There were complications. Or perhaps I should say new issues. Or better yet, hidden issues. Mystery issues. Issues with no easy answers and no easy fixes. 
For weeks we’ve been seeing our outstanding pediatrician and an excellent nephrologist (kidney specialist) and there has been no stone unturned. We were greatly relieved when cancer was ruled out and other serious possibilities but, confused and frustrated that the issue remained and might possibly be a chronic illness that will impact my child’s life. 
Now, I want to say two things about that before I say a few other things. First and foremost, please pray for my little girl. Pray that this will be resolved just as mysteriously as it began and remains. Secondly, if you are dealing with chronic illness, I will gladly pray for you. Just ask. 
In the midst of this abnormal time in our lives, normal life continues. That’s so perturbing to me. I always have wished that when things were spinning a bit too fast, we should be able to pause things like haircuts and algebra and bill paying. I feel like we should get a waiver of some sort that says ‘Give this family a break please, they’re facing a crisis.’ That’s not the case of course and regardless, we must press on. 
Just tonight a friend shared an image with me that touched my heart. It inspired me and gave me hope. I knew I needed to blog but, I was feeling a bit depleted emotionally and writing is such an emotional investment for me. The image she shared was the one I’ll include below and when I saw it, tears came to my eyes. I’ll try to explain why. 
As many of you know, many of my children came to us later in their lives. I didn’t hold them as infants, encourage their first steps or hear their first laugh. By the time I became their mother, they had been broken in many ways. Trust was almost always damaged. It’s almost a guarantee that trust is going to be a struggle after experiencing foster care. And, just for the record it doesn’t fix as easily as it does in the movies. Nope. 

There has to be a putting back together. A mending. A repairing. You might say a ‘kintsukuroi’. 

  
If I could have intervened and protected my children from the brokenness that they faced, I would have. If I could even now shield them from facing betrayal and hurtful people and dangerous places, I would. If I could find the answers and offer solutions and make it all better, I would. But, then, just look at how beautiful they are and becoming more so every day as they are pieced back together and made whole again. 

This morning I experienced a beautiful moment. I was sitting at the table busily assembling the breakfast sandwiches when I felt a touch on my leg. There was my beautiful girl. Laying her head on my lap, sitting on the floor by my chair. I knew it was the pain she is experiencing that caused her to reach out for comfort. I immediately responded and gladly so. Oh, I wasn’t glad she was hurting but I was glad she was trusting. Making herself vulnerable, pressing in, asking for what she needed. This has not always been the case. The struggles of late have mended that part of her heart more than the seven years before. 

If you are an adoptive parent, like myself that may have missed out on countless opportunities to be there for your child in their early life, take courage. You are there now and in the most unexpected moments you too will see the beauty of the healing that occurs. 

If you are in a broken place yourself right now then learn a valuable lesson from this broken but healing beautifully girl. Press in. Dare to trust. Reach out. Lay your head on the Father’s lap and ask Him for what you need. He will respond gladly and another expression of beauty will mark your soul.