11.28.2012

The Calm in the Storm


About a month ago, I announced on Facebook that we had become foster parents to an 8 year old boy.

Honestly, it was pretty surprising. Everybody (like my Mom) was all, “Say what?!”, because I had never even mentioned foster care before. What can I say? I am a woman of mystery and intrigue. I'm unpredictable. I bake pies into cakes, people! Who knows what I'll do next?!

But this foster care thing really did happen overnight. We got a call on Saturday about a child in need, and on Sunday we got a child.

Just in case you're wondering? That's not how foster care usually works.

Usually there's a lot of paperwork and classes and forms with scanned fingerprints, home visits from social workers with long grueling checklists, brown paper packages tied up with string... no, wait...

Anyway.

We didn't do any of that. I mean, we did, but it was different.

We partnered with an organization that places children in need with safe families while their parents work to better their living situation. It's a voluntary foster agreement – the kind that helps keep kids who might otherwise fall into the abyss of state care (while their parents get clean or find appropriate housing) out of “the system”. It's all very legal and official, and it's done under the supervision of a legit foster care agency, but it's not bound by the same letter of the law, nor the super strict guidelines of the government, so the application process is streamlined and the requirements are more reasonable. Get it?

So that's what happened.

Someone called and said, “We have an 8 year old boy who needs a home.”

And we were like, “We don't really have time, or space, or money. Soooo... we'll take him!” And then we did. I've never made an easier decision in my life; Child needs a warm and loving home? Done.

Just like that, we swept him into our clan and, for one fleeting month, we became the calm in his storm.

Now, I don't know if you've noticed this yet, but I'm not exactly the world's most laid back person... I'm kind of high strung. And twitchy. And I'm super disorganized. Plus? I'm moody. Come to think of it, usually, I am the storm.

So you can imagine my shock at finding that somehow my crazy, busy, silly existance had become a place of peace and rest and security for someone else's.

I'm not gonna lie -- It wasn't a month full of unicorns and rainbows. It was more challenging than I expected it to be in a lot of ways. Certain days really sucked. A few nights dragged out way too long. It was surprisingly hard on my kids. Even my cat, Knives, made himself scarce. 

And in the end, saying goodbye was way harder than I anticipated. It's possible that you don't know this, but I fall in love faster than Taylor Swift at a One Direction concert. And fall in love, I did. 

So when people ask me if foster care was hard, I tell them yes. When they ask me if it was good, I tell them yes. And when they ask me if I'd do it again, I tell them abso-freaking-lutely! 

Because, well... because.

Because this is Mercy, come to life; that I offer my own hand to the weary.

Because this is Hope, believed; that I know one month of calm can change a lifetime.

Because this is Christ, in me; that I can raise my arms against a storm and say to the wind and the waves... “stop”.

And they will.

....          ....          ....

If you find someone who's drowning, offer them a hand... And then be the calm in their storm. 

11.16.2012

The Story of Church.

Remember when I was all, “I don't like cry babies, so don't ask me to serve in the nursery!”

Well, thankfully, nobody has. Granted, it's probably because they're afraid I'll teach the toddlers to shout obscenities and draw Sharpie tattoos on their necks. (Oh, come on. Nothing screams “Sunday School” like a 2 year old with NORCAL THUG scribbled across his throat. Am I right?!)

Anyway. I won't have to touch the sticky children ~*huge sigh of relief*~ because I've found another area to serve; somewhere safe from boogers and diapers, where I'm a little more comfortable making a contribution. So, basically, it's a win-win.

A few weeks ago, I sat down with the leadership of our church and together we asked, “What if we could create a space for the people of Lakeside Church to tell their story? What would it look like? Who would contribute? What stories would we tell?”

For me, this was a super exciting conversation – mostly, because of you.

See, writing The Very Worst Missionary has taught me that a blog can be more than just words floating around in a vacuum of internet space. It taught me that we are connected by our most honest stories, and it showed me, first hand, how God can use one man's story to change another man's life. Through your comments, encouragements, and thoughtful responses, I've learned that our stories allow us link arms and stand together – even from across the world.

So this week our church launched a new blog, and I had the honor of writing the very first post. We're calling it "Lakeside Life", and we're hoping to see the story of a Church unfold in its pages.  

I'll be a regular contributor there, so feel free to follow along. As far as I'm concerned, y'all are the best commenters on the planet(!) – so please feel free to get in there, and show the people how it's done. :)

Oh. And thank you.

Thank you for showing me the value of a story.

Thank you for telling me over and over and over again that I'm a writer.

And thank you, thank you, thank you for making me a blogger and saving me from the clutches of all those miserable babies.

You guys are the best. I mean that... YOU'RE THE BEST!

. ….. …..

Did you check out my post on Lakeside Life

How is God using your story? 

11.04.2012

Jesus in Cougar Town


While I waited for a friend at a coffee shop, I watched a woman in her late forties flirt shamelessly with a young, good-looking firefighter.

He was doctoring his coffee with cream and sugar while she smiled and giggled, and twirled her hair, bending to show him a little bit more of her aged and freckled cleavage. He looked uncomfortable. Hell, I think we all looked uncomfortable - everyone in a fifteen foot radius was squirming in awkward discomfort.


Surely my mouth gaped at the sight of this real live Cougar. I know it's rude to stare - but really?! I could not avert my eyes. This was just too good, too hilarious, too outrageously stereotypical to ignore. I was taking in the whole scene with inappropriate delight when another firefighter popped his head in the door and told the guy to hurry up. The dude looked relieved and the Cougar looked super bummed; like she was just about to ask him if she could feel his biceps and then jump his bones on top of his firetruck in a pile of hoses like in that 90's movie, Back Draft... *shudder*


The object of her peri-menopausal desires made a hasty exit, and then a little girl, just 11 or 12 years old, walked up to the dejected temptress. “MOM! That was SO embarrassing!

And suddenly it wasn't really funny anymore.

It was sad.

She looked ashamed. And lonely. And she slowly twisted the gold band around her ring finger until a big, sparkly diamond rounded the corner, no longer hidden against the palm of her hand.

The suburbs are weird like that.

This place is overflowing with people who have full closets, full bank accounts, full bellies... and empty hearts.

I always think it's interesting when people pat us on the back for being missionaries to Costa Rica. Perhaps they think we were doing something difficult because they don't know that in Costa Rica there's a bleeding-Jesus-in-a-crown-of-thorns bumper sticker on every bus, taxi, and pizza delivery scooter. You can easily engage nearly every person you cross paths with in a conversation about God or Jesus or Faith or whatever. It's really not hard. Every town has grown up around a church, faith is taught in public school, and there's pretty much a missionary on every corner. In Costa Rica, “Jesus” is generally a familiar and comfortable word – not an instant conversation killer.

We've been back in the NorCal suburbs for a whole three months now, and all I can say is that ministry is way harder here than it ever was in Costa Rica. Being an agent for Love and Grace in a place where people truly don't recognize their own need is really tough. Watching a married woman angle for an affair with a younger, hotter man while her daughter looks on is gut-wrenching. ...And sorta hilarious.... But seriously? Gut-wrenching.

I believe Jesus has competition in the American suburbs like no place else on Earth. Everyone here is surrounded by so much shiny new stuff, it's hard to see the Light. Here, depravity is hidden behind tall double doors, and the things that separate us from God often come gleaming, right out of the box. The contrast between Dark and Light has been cleverly obscured by the polish of materialism and vanity. 

Here, poverty is internal, hunger is spiritual, and need feels non-existent. But it's there.

Behind the facade of perfection in Cougar Town, past the fake boobs and fancy cars and fat paychecks, and at the bottom of aaalll thoooose wine glasses, there's a need so desperate, a loneliness so great, and a brokenness so crushing that you can practically hear the collective cry for Redemption. But the beautiful thing to be found in all of that mess is that there's a Savior here, too, and He's ready to fulfill his promises. 

Jesus is here, in Cougar Town. 

And for the first time in my life, I feel like maybe I'm supposed to be a missionary...

....    ....    ....

What is the Light competing with in your town?

11.01.2012

A Halloween(ie) Recap

Last night marked the return of Halloween to our family's annual activities.

It's been five years since the last time we debated costume choices, lectured on street safety, or demanded our children be polite as they raced door to door to beg candy off the neighbors.


When we left the U.S., they were all still young enough to trick-or-treat. They were still innocent enough to want to dress up as ninjas and pirates. They were still pliant enough to be convinced they'd need a jacket over their costume to combat the chill of Autumn at night.

Now?... Well.... now things are... different. Five years is like a lifetime of difference in childhood. Last night I was reminded that we left with children and came back with young men. And, much to my Mama-bear dismay, none of these young men wanted to be Luke or Obi Wan for Halloween. They wanted to be scary. Or cool. Or... *ahem*...sexy... but they were no longer interested in incarnating their sweet childhood dreams of Knights and Super Heroes.

Instead, we had an Undead Boy Scout...



... an Uber-hipster... 


...and... um...

 THIS.


Yes. It's Sexy Mario and Luigi! 
A creative (if not totally obscene and terribly inappropriate) response to all the "Slutty Nurse/Pirate/Kitten/Princess/Mummy" costumes they've been forced to endure from their female counterparts. Get it?! It's ironic Halloween fun. And a painful reminder that my 18 year old is 18 years old. An adult. A man. A scary, independent, super-confident, hilariously bold MAN (who will never have a girlfriend if he keeps dressing like this)

And then, of course, we have Knives... 


...He was supposed to be Taylor Swift, but he refused to wear the pleated skirt and knee high socks. 
You are a Halloween kill-joy, Knives! 

This year my younger boys trick-or-treated without an escort. They just ran off into the night, with no one behind them to call out, "SAY THANK YOU!", and they collected an unholy amount of candy. I mean, a seriously disgusting volume of crap. My older boy/man went out with friends - half-naked and without a jacket. And I stayed home, where I spent the evening admiring the cute costumes and good manners of tiny witches and chubby dinosaurs, and where I fell a little more in love with the stage of life and independence we've found ourselves. 

Even though it's scary to have kids who are old enough to choose how they'll live, and what they'll wear, and how they'll treat themselves and others - I love it. I love it because this is where we're starting to see how God is moving and shaping them, and how, as parents, He has used us in that process. This is where we get to see them own their character and their Faith. This is where it all gets real. 

It's thrilling. 

And a little nauseating. 


So, I guess it's a lot like Halloween. 

....    ....    ....

Sooo... What did you do last night?