Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Broken Beautiful

There is a song by Ellie Holcomb entitled 'The Broken Beautiful.' I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of the song itself (sorry, fans of Ellie).  As someone who has learned to embrace their melancholy, it's a little too bouncy and non-Sarah-McLachlan-ish for my taste.  However, I do love the lyrics:

You say that You'll turn my weeping into dancing
Remove my sadness and cover me with joy
You say your scars are the evidence of healing
That you can make the broken beautiful

That your love will never change,
that there's healing in your name
That You can take broken things,
and make them beautiful
You took my shame and
You walked out of the grave
So Your love can take broken things
And make them beautiful

Over the past month or so, that phrase keeps returning to me: the broken beautiful.  Why is it so striking?  I'm not sure other than the simple truth that the day-to-day walking out of our lives often looks and feels just like brokenness and beauty all wrapped up together. There are hard seasons. There are joyful seasons.  There are some seasons, like the one in which a few of us find ourselves now, that are at the same time both so full of joy and gut-wrenchingly difficult that it is hard to separate the two. It seems this isn't the first time someone has felt this type of thing; if so, we wouldn't have bouncy songs about it. But what does it mean when we find ourselves trudging through the tough spots?

Sometimes it means that we need to make time to self-reflect.  In the deepest places of our hearts, that brokenness and beauty can reside side-by-side, an odd couple of sorts.  They each have things to teach us, but we have to stop and listen.  We have to stop the noise-both outside and inside-and really really listen. That may result in us having to change our priorities.  Maybe we have to ask hard questions.  Maybe we have to evaluate our 'How did I get here?'s and our 'Why can't I get it right?'s for the hundredth time. Perhaps we have to find the freedom to let go of all of those things and learn to just be.  To be content.  To be enough.  To realize that brokenness isn't a synonym for weakness but is instead a place for healing and strengthening to occur. 

In the Christian world, we have a lot of clich├ęs to handle these seasons.  They sound a bit like, "Choose joy!" and "God is in the details!" and so on, etc. Oh, what about, "Joy comes in the morning!" Are these things true?  Yes.  Can we choose joy in the midst of pain or difficulty?  Of course.  Does God care about the details?  I like to think so.  Will joy come when you open your eyes tomorrow morning?  Well, I'm not sure but here's hoping.  So while we're at it, let's make it a hashtag.  These are not false statements.  Sometimes, though, they become our cover-up for not allowing ourselves to examine the hard things.  They also can prevent us from being present with others in their seasons of brokenness.

I may not be able to see you choosing joy every day in the midst of your circumstances or witness you completely losing it in the middle of every waking hour... unless I choose to enter in with you. Likewise, you may not understand my moments of struggle or even my moments of celebration unless you choose to enter in with me.   So we watch each other's lives play out in our Facebook reels and assume we are all doing just fine.  It's far easier to watch from afar than it is to step into one another's pain or hurt or failure or ______ (fill in the blank as you will).  But that's the part that so often we miss: our broken places are no less holy than our healed places. 

When Jesus appeared to Thomas, it was His scars that He showed as proof of who He was.  An interesting thought to ponder: the Lord of heaven and earth did not need to have any scars after He was resurrected from the dead.  The power that gave Him life surely could have healed those marks on His body.  Those wounds were for us. They are the 'evidence of healing' that allow us to remember the brokenness.   They are the trenches where  miracles happen, and yet we need each other in the trenches. As Laura Story so aptly writes, "Our wounds need to be witnessed."

So where does the healing come into this process?  There are times when it happens all at once.  Most of the time, though, it happens as we journey through and come out on the other side.  Sometimes we emerge much stronger, wiser, and more resilient.  Other times we may find ourselves kinder, less demanding, and more at peace.  Whatever the end result, change will take place.  Just as the physical seasons span a few months and then give over to the next, these life seasons take their own spans of time.  Yet as more of the 'beauty' begins to take over, we cannot simply bury the broken.  It is a part of us now.  We don't cling to it and let it define us, but we allow it the chance to shape us.  It is part of our becoming.

Where, then, does this leave us? Can we trust God to 'remove our sadness and cover us with joy'?  Yes--a thousand times, yes.  But I do not believe that usually happens in a 'pull yourself up by the bootstraps in the name of Jesus' kind of way.  This method seems to put both God and ourselves in a box that I no longer think I like very much.  What if, instead of carrying around the shame and heaviness that result when that 'solution' doesn't quite work, we allow for another way?  A way that says God is merciful and gracious and meets us in every season.  A way that says if we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, we will stop long enough to recognize our neighbor. A way that says, "I see you there, and I won't let you journey alone."  I'm not sure, but I think that way could turn quite a bit of weeping into dancing if we are willing to give it a try.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

One Month Home: Things We Knew & Things We Didn't

We have now officially been home for one month.  Since photos and Facebook are really meant for us regular people to appear fabulously wonderful at all times, I thought this would be a good time for 'what is real.'  (Don't worry if you are really fabulously wonderful at all times--I'm good with that.)

Let's start with a few things we knew going in, followed by what we have learned since April:

  • God had a specific child that He intended for us.  A friend told me something in random conversation  years ago that I have never forgotten--we were standing in the kitchen where we had probably either made a giant mess or were seeking coffee and silence--"You aren't waiting for just any child.  You are waiting for your child."  How right she was.    Yes, our adoption process was much longer and confusing than most.  But God knew.  He knew she wasn't here yet. And once she was here, He knew it wasn't quite time.  How thankful I am that we didn't give up on waiting.  How grateful I am for those who prayed in those hard moments of decision for us and who said, "If God isn't saying no, then keep going."  How precious are those moments with people who were not afraid of the tears and the questions and the hurt and who simply said, "Yes, I'll pray with you and for you." How beautiful that God always gave us the next step, even if that was all we could see.  
  • We knew the transition time would be a quieter stage, that we wouldn't be getting out as much for various reasons, that lots of people in a small space at once would be a little overwhelming, and that we would all need time to bond together as a family unit.  I read all the books, went to the conferences--what this 'should' look like is all stored up there in my brain.  What we didn't know, or at least I didn't, is that it is also a really lonely time.  Sometimes excruciatingly so.  My adoptive mama friends have confirmed to me that this is something quite a few of them experienced, as well, but that doesn't make it any less difficult.  I am sure people are trying to respect our current phase, but I was not really prepared for the quietness and the lack of interaction that seems to have occurred in many areas. So we are also learning to be more intentional people. That may look like meeting up at the park, inviting people over for dinner, or randomly texting a friend and driving to a tiny bakery for gluten-free donuts on Saturday morning (that was an excellent decision, by the way).  It takes a little bit of effort.  But in order to not drown, I'm working on grabbing the hands of those who are willing to wade through it with us.  Because we need them. 
  • We knew that going back to the 'under 3' age range would be different, especially since our other two are much older than they were when we started this adventure.  Good. Grief.  We are also older and tired and are now super happy to have these big kids because, guess what?  They can do things! For example, "Please help me find my coffee.  Or just reach up there and get it for me because I have no more energy until I drink more of it ." While the timing was different than we thought starting out, I know God is not surprised by that, either.  So while it may look and feel odd to one day have a kindergartner whose siblings are completing and beginning high school, it's ok.  Victor and I may have more gray hair than we'd like, but that's 'in' these days so we'll be fine.  Is it bizarre that my oldest niece is about to have her third baby and I now have a toddler and ask her which diapers to buy? Yep--only because I was ten years old when she was born and, wow, that's weird. But it's also a beautiful way for God to weave a story.                           
  • Speaking of the tired part--yes, we knew toddlers were busy people.  What we seemed to have forgotten was just how busy.  As in, they stop moving only when you feed them or they go to sleep.  People keep saying I look smaller.  Well, that's because I've lost a pant size.  Forget Whole 30--try Colombia 17!  Get a little altitude sickness, have a crazy schedule every day where anything at all could happen, walk everywhere (that part was great), get less sleep, and chase a toddler.  You, too, will be thinner, my friends!   I also forgot that you need to feed a growing toddler all. day. long.  Because not only do they need three meals, they need snacks, too! And they should all be healthy or you will be judged by the Parent Police.   Honestly, it's really the same as feeding Grant--I just have to be more creative with the food selections and she can't serve herself.  Thankfully, Violet is not a picky eater and actually does a little dance at the end of every meal because she is so happy with her food.  Yeah, it's pretty cute. She is also an excellent sleeper, so while she may be non-stop during the day at least she rests!  As do we...and getting a tight-as-she-can-squeeze hug in the mornings definitely makes it all worth it.        
    Even at the end of a long day, this face is the sweetest. 
  • We knew our families would be supportive and would love all of our children.  We didn't know how special it would be to see it happening.  My niece (aforementioned almost-ready-for-baby niece) and I  met at the park one morning and she saw a friend of hers walking.  Her oldest daughter said to this friend, "And this is my cousin, Violet.  She was just adopted from Colombia."   That isn't the only example, but that one made my heart smile.  Family is a gift.  How incredible that my precious girl has been so sweetly welcomed into ours.                         
  • We knew Natalie and Grant would be wonderful to a younger sibling.  Maybe because I do have quite a tribe of fantastic nieces and nephews and there have always been kids (ahem, people) older and younger than them around, they have a pretty good handle on how to treat little ones. What we didn't know was just how wonderful it would be to experience it.  While we do appreciate their help and their overall fortitude (do you know how many hours we spent in the back of a taxi in Bogota?), what I love most is the way we get to see them interact with their sister.  That bond seemed to happen immediately, and it is amazing to watch and to listen to them all laugh together at the simplest things. They can never say their little sister lacks personality, that's for sure, and neither do they.  I asked Natalie one morning if it was strange to have a little one in the house.  She replied, "Not really.  It's just like she's always been here."  And that is so true. 
Since that is enough words and we do all like a few good, happy photos, I'll leave you with these:
Bubbles are always a must.  And they are much better with a crowd. 

At encuentro, they told us she was very afraid of 'shower time' and really did not like water when they would do activities.  One of our given goals was to give her 'new experiences with water.'  I think she's made pretty good progress!

So far, the only people outside of my immediate family who can hold me are Mrs. Jame and mi amigo, Martin.  Mrs. Jame bribes me with cake and combs my hair.  She's a keeper.  I am pretty sure Martin is one of my people.   Maybe he is the first Nigerian-Colombian?  Either way, he's pretty cool!


A girl has places to go.  Hasta luego!