Tuesday, January 26, 2016

::: mirrors and other reflections :::
When I was a little girl, I had a big, beautiful, full-length, three way mirror.  It was framed with distressed pale yellow wood and was my favorite part of my bedroom.  The two mirrors flanking the tallest middle one were on hinges, so I could adjust them to capture myself from any angle.  When I was very small, I used to sit in front of it, enveloped on each side by the reflection of my profile, and practice emotions.  I counted my teeth, perfected my silly smile, and read books aloud to myself, rehearsing animated expressions and made-up accents.  It was through that mirror that I learned that my hazel eyes turned bright green when I cried. My time spent with my beloved mirror taught me a lot about how other people saw me. And it helped me look more deeply inside myself.  I watched myself grow up in it's reflective glass.
When I was about 9, I made a mistake.  I took nail polish into the carpeted family room, even though I knew I wasn't supposed to. I sat on the floor, with my new Cabbage Patch Doll, Sharon, on my lap, and carefully painted my fingernails.  Within minutes, the inevitable happened.  I spilled the polish.  Not much got on the carpet, but Sharon's pretty purple dress was covered in bright pink paint.  
I panicked.  
I stripped the dress from the doll, ran to my room, and threw it behind my beautiful mirror.
I never told anyone.
But for years, every time I looked into that mirror, I thought about what was on the other side.  I knew what I was hiding.  And it plagued me. The reflection was the same, but now there was more behind it.
Lately, as I go deeper into the Word, it becomes more and more like my favorite mirror.  Beautifully crafted, larger than life, allowing me to examine my heart from every angle.  When I stand before it, I see both an image of the good that God has put into me, and a reflection of what lies beneath the surface.  And it compels me to confession and change.  To take my soiled human heart, like that soiled purple dress, and present it before my holy God. And when I do, His unbreakable, eternal Love and forgiveness reflects back to me.

My children, you will make many mistakes and experience countless hurts in this life. They won't define you, but they have the potential to change how you see yourself. 
Don't hide from them.  Face them.  Confess them.  Accept them. Learn from them.  Embrace the ways they reshape your character.
I pray that you grow up in the loving rebuke and resulting grace of your Creator.  
And that your life, through all its changes and mistakes, will ultimately reflect His glory.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

In the summer of 1983 I discovered my superpower.
I was six years old. 
Most of my days were spent barefooted and muddy from running through sprinklers in the grass, and riding my dandelion-yellow banana seat bicycle, shirtless and sunburnt under the heat of the Florida sun.
I was a little girl with pigtails, missing teeth, and had a newly remarried Mama.
We had just moved into the house that my step-father and his 10 year old son shared.
I was the new kid on the block in every way.
My step-brother had three close friends who lived across the street.  They spent all their time together.  They were a gang of snaggletoothed, mismatched, sweaty little boys, but I longed to be one of them.
I would sit, daydreaming by myself on the driveway, watching them wrestle and race and peg each other with little bouncy balls until they tired of that and ran across the street on their gangly skinned-kneed legs to hang out in their treehouse.
It really wasn't much of anything.  Just some boards nailed to a trunk, forming a crude ladder, and a piece of plywood in the fork of the branches.  But in my six year old imagination it was full of magic and mystery and adventure.  And I wanted nothing more than to join them there.  But every time I asked, they just laughed and told me it was "top secret" and there were "no girls allowed".
Then one day, as I lay sprawled on the garage floor, escaping the sweltering heat and soaking up the coolness of the concrete, four rowdy boys came in with an unusually calm and quiet approach.  They stood over me, and I stared up at them.  They exchanged looks that were indiscernible to me, and nudged each other, harder and harder, until one of them spoke,
"Um..so…you want to go in the treehouse?"
I jumped to my feet, and one of my light blue flip flops flew off my foot and across the garage.  I giggled and ran to retrieve it, then turned to look at them.  I'm sure the excitement was all over my dirt-smudged freckled face as I eagerly shook my head and said , "Yes!"
Without another word, they took off ahead of me.  I ran, skipped, and maybe even floated on a cloud of elation as we crossed the street to the backyard where I was absolutely positive I would finally be let in on a wonderful secret.
I reached the tree, out of breath but full of joy.  The boys were standing in the dirt, absently kicking roots and hiding grins.  
"You go first," one of them encouraged.
I kicked off my shoes, wrapped my little hands around the second board and strained to lift my leg high enough to plant my foot on the first one.  As I climbed, I thought my heart might burst with joy and anticipation.  It wasn't a long climb, maybe 6 feet up, and I enjoyed every second of it.  They watched me and cheered me on as I reached the top, then hoisted my tiny body onto the the landing place.  
And that's when I felt it.  Puddles of something wet everywhere.  I smelled it too.  The unmistakable scent of fresh urine.
It was all over the tree.  And all over me.
I couldn't move.  I just stood up, my back to the boys, and stared straight ahead.  
They lumbered up the trunk, standing on the boards, laughing behind me.  
I wanted to cry.
I wanted to kick their taunting faces.
I wanted to run away.
The only way down was to jump off the opposite side of the tree, or turn around and climb past them.
I felt my chest rising and falling in deep, uneven breaths.  And I felt tears threatening to breach the fortress of my pride. 
At that moment I had a decision to make.  One that I didn't realize then would change something in me.  One that I can only see the magnitude of when I look back on it.  
I could be weak, or I could be strong.  I could be overcome with disappointment and despair, or I could walk away powerful and in control.
I didn't think it all through like that, of course.  I was only a little kid, after all.  But I knew that I didn't want to give those boys the satisfaction of seeing me cry.
So I spun around on my bare heel, glared at their smirking faces, and resolutely stomped down the boards, jumping off before I even got to the last one. I picked up my flip flops, and walked home with my shoulders back and head held high.

Instead of feeling victimized that day, I chose to feel victorious.
Rather than letting them steal my grit, I reached deep into myself and found my power.

Looking back on that day, I can't help but tell myself that if the little girl me can do that, then the big girl me can do it too.
And so can the big girl you.
God's word tells us that we are made in His image, and I believe that refers to the deepest parts of our souls and spirits.
We are human, but God created us as a mirror of His spiritual, intellectual, emotional, motivational, and confidently sturdy nature.

The more we are in His presence, filled with His Spirit, relying on his influence, the stronger that power to overcome grows.
When we define who we are by the reflected image of Christ in us, we have found our driving force, our supernatural strength that shoots forth from our many fault lines of weakness, our Superpower.

And there's no stopping a girl who has discovered her Superpower.

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me." 2 Corinthians 12:9

"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence." 2 Peter 1:3

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Two nights ago, Julia wanted to talk about her adoption.  Although I have told her many times that I want her to be completely free to ask any questions and always tell me how she feels, she still doesn't bring it up often.  But this time, she was clearly craving information about her beginnings.  
"Do I look anything like my birthfather?"
"How do you know he was really my father if they weren't married?"
"Do you think I would have my own bedroom if they had kept me?"
"What makes a mother decide to let her baby go join a different family?"
She didn't appear to be too affected by our answers to her questions until she asked this:
"Did they think about keeping me after I was born?"
We all stood in the kitchen together, the other kids nearly as interested in my answers as she was.  Everyone was waiting for me to say something.
I paused.  Unsure how much to give.  But I have always promised her that I would be completely honest with her and tell her all I know to the best of my recollection.  So I responded:
"When we saw you for the first time, the two of them were sitting on the hospital bed and you were in her arms.  It was a small room, so even though he whispered I heard him say to her with tears in his eyes ,"Do you think we should keep her?  We can keep her if you want to."  And she looked up at him and replied, "No.  We are not keeping her."

My girl became silent and I saw a flash of something I couldn't identify settle on her beautiful face.  Julia isn't a very emotional young woman, but this news clearly affected her.  She stood still for a few seconds, then ripped a paper towel off the roll behind her, wet it in the sink, and started wiping the counters.  

I walked up behind her, wrapped my arms around her, and told her how much I love her and how much her birthparents loved her to be able to choose what they believed was best for her, no matter how hard it may have been for them.  She stopped cleaning and let me hold her.  Then, in his typical compassionate fashion, Asa came over and made it a group hug. He told her that he loved her and that his life wouldn't be nearly as good without her.  When she looked up, Ethan said, "I'm really glad you're my sister".  Astrid skipped over and added, "I would have had to sleep in a room by myself all this time if you weren't here!  I wouldn't like that at all!"  Justin told her what an amazing daughter she is and reassured her again how much her birthparents loved her.

The details surrounding adoption can be a rocky terrain for any family to travel.  For there is the fragile heart of a child to consider, and the heavy weight of what can feel like rejection to help her carry.

But don't we all bear that weight on our hearts sometimes? We all long to be wanted.  It can be painful to feel as if someone had the choice to be with us, but chose something different.

This is why we cannot base how we feel about ourselves upon the choices of another person.  No matter how deeply those choices affect our lives.  It is a dangerous place to live, measuring your worth against the arbitrary decisions of a fellow fallen human.

Our identity has to be rooted in soil that is deeper and richer and painstakingly cultivated to fulfill the needs of our hearts.

Infinite worth is found in our relationship with an unchanging God.

Human hearts, plagued with hurts and scars and selfish ambitions cannot fill our need for unwavering love, but "who can separate us from the love of Christ?  Can trials, or distress, or mistreatment, or hunger, or nakedness, or danger, or weapons", or anything else?  (Romans 8:35)

He is where our identity is secure.
He is where our hearts can be filled to overflowing.
He is the only one who will always and forever say, "I'm keeping her."