Archive | love

how deep the father’s love

sisters forever

I have been trying to write this post for more than an hour, but I am continually interrupted. I keep finding myself singing the song “Little Girls” from Annie. Whenever I walk into my room, I either find small shoes spread across my room, or that my own shoes have been marched to a new location. Fuzzy ponytail holders and geography books and neon fake nails turn up everywhere. I’ve been invaded.

In the past hour, Jubilee and Meggie have been “sitting” on my bed squealing and talking about boys, diamond rings, marriage, babies with cheeks like squirrels, and how old everyone will be when everyone else reaches these milestones. Meggie is set on having at least one baby as brown as Jubilee. Jubilee wants “chocolate milk babies” (biracial!) and they both agree on the squirrel cheeks. Just now, from their room, I heard Meggie saying her prayers with my parents. She prayed I find a job and get a boyfriend soon, because I am so old. (Update—I did get a job! No news on a boyfriend, yet.)

It feels somewhat ethereal to have Meggie’s face so close to mine as I sit in my usual spot on the bed, laptop open and pillows strewn about. She is here, in moving, living action. She is Meggie and she is home. She is Meggie and she is ours. It’s like a little miracle every time she smiles.

When we lived in Haiti, there was a time I wanted us to all be home together so badly, it was like looking forward to heaven. I cannot help but relate adoption to our true homecoming once again. It feels as if all is right in the world when I see Jubilee and Meggie playing together and hear them giggling down the hall. It seems like this is the happily ever after, the climax, the victorious justice that triumphs over all the pain in her early life and in the long wait. There are rough moments, and the good moments are often the product of lots of hard, loving work, and yet it amazes me to see two girls adopted from opposite sides of the globe, mesh together in sisterly affection. That is the product of God’s grace!

I know this is only the beginning of a new chapter for my family, but I’m so very happy in this moment that it’s hard to see beyond it. Watching Meggie interact with my dad has had me thinking about this especially. The love of a father is something every little girl should have, but the joy is still brand new for her. Their sweet relationship has taught me a lot about our heavenly father’s love for us. The Bible call us God’s adopted children and that analogy works in so many ways…

1. He chooses us

God the Father “chose us before the foundation of the world” and “predestined us for adoption” (Ephesians 1:4-5.) That means that before we were born, He had a plan and began reaching for us. It’s like a prospective parent waiting to hear from the agency. When the baby’s born, the parents are already putting the finishing touches on the nursery. He loved you before you knew Him. When parents are blessed with biological children, we somehow trust God to make the child turn out “alright” and expect him or her to fit into her family perfectly. When you adopt, you’re saying, “this child comes with baggage, pain, a sad story, but I’m choosing all of that, I’m choosing her.” That’s how God’s love works.

2. He seeks us and waits for us

When my parents adopted four of my siblings from Haiti, they spent three years working tirelessly on paperwork, traveling back and forth countless times, bonding and then having to part, and finally moving down there to run the orphanage and complete the adoptions by hand after everything had crumbled beneath our feet. That’s a passionate pursuit if I ever heard of one. I was so afraid the babies wouldn’t remember us when they finally came home, wouldn’t speak English anymore. I was afraid our love would never be reciprocated. God often has to wait for us with just as few reassuring gestures from us. The pain of our wait was severe. The stress and burden of the work was immense. The result was worthwhile.

3. He sacrifices for us

Do you know what an adoption costs? I cannot begin to fathom the amount of my dad’s earnings that have gone into adoption related travel, fees, paperwork, agencies and then the provision for the children once they come home. Adoption can be financially expensive, but the emotional expense is greater. Have you ever dropped of your own child at an orphanage when you would gladly care for them yourself? It’s not easy.  Have you ever received an email saying your little girl was crying herself to sleep every night and wondering if you’d ever come back? If waiting families ever feel alone in this, they can surely look to Jesus. “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize” (Hebrews 4:15.) Did not God send His own son into a dangerous, hateful world to be abused and laughed at and murdered? Does He not see His children aimlessly wandering every day, like so many orphans? His arms are open so wide, and we run to other “parents.” He would do anything for you. He did everything for you. He paid the cost, He’s just waiting for us to come home.

4. He adores us

How deep the father’s love! Or grandfather’s, for that matter. I’m going to switch allegories for a moment and speak about my grandfather. This would definitely apply to my dad, who is head-over-heels for Meggie, but you probably knew that already. Did you know that my mom’s dad, Papa, is equally smitten? This man who was born in a time when adoption was almost unheard of and always shameful, when ethnicities were separated by peaceful but very defined lines, opened his heart up to my little siblings like almost no one else has. He loves my adoptive brothers and sisters just like he loves me, and that’s always been a lot. He inspires me by lying down the picture of his descendants he imagined long ago and embracing a new, colorful version of our family. I would imagine he had to swallow some pride in the beginning, but now he proudly shows photos of his “grand babies” to his brothers and buddies. Meggie and my other siblings couldn’t ask for more than a grandfather who shamelessly adores them. What a Godly example he is. “As the father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love.” John 15:19

5. He raises us

We get very focused on the homecoming of our new kiddos, and for good reason. That’s a huge moment, changing the trajectory of our lives forever. Poor Meggie, who is highly intuitive for her age, went through every emotion on the spectrum as she flew home, bawling and laughing in one moment. Homecomings are huge for adopted kids, but it’s really just the beginning. The “gotcha day” is Day One of their new life. We’ve made the orphan a son or daughter and now the real work begins, bringing them up to be healthy, strong adults. As for you and me? God will bring His good work in us to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6.)

6. He keeps us close

When we think of death, we think of taking last breaths and being buried, but when the Bible talks about death, it is referring to a tragic separation not from our bodies, but from our Father. When you take your last breath, you’re actually more alive than ever. You’re back to perfect harmony with God, closer than you have ever been. At last in your true home with your true family! God’s whole plan (yes–I mean the whole grand thing,) is about keeping YOU close to HIM. Everything He does or allows to be done in your life is for this purpose. Your creation and adoption, the pursuit and sacrifice–all of this is spurned on by a deep and passionate love of your Father. He can’t wait to right the wrongs and take you into His arms at last. Picture the emotional airport moment times a billion.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

I set my computer aside and peek into girls’ room. My parents are sitting on the edge of their beds, saying prayers. My dad gives Meggie a kiss and a squeeze and tucks the quilt around her shoulders. She’ll have no trouble drifting off to sleep, warm, safe and loved.

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who is my neighbor?

"The Broken Pitcher" by William Adolphe Bouguereau (reimagined via picmonkey by everly pleasant)

“The Broken Pitcher” by William Adolphe Bouguereau (reimagined via picmonkey by everly pleasant)

She’s seven, she has brown eyes and blond hair and precocious mind. She’s been at my house all day, playing with Jubilee and eating fruit snacks and watching musicals and now it’s the worst part of the week. I tell her it’s time to go home and the whining starts. And then the tears. And then the clinging and the “I wish I could live with you forever.” Pulling into the trailer park, my stomach is in knots. I leave her with her grandmother until next week.

Clare* is hilarious, adorable and hungry for attention. She just so happens to be my neighbor, at least in a general sense. She and her guardian live five minutes away from us. She thinks my house is a mansion.

When I was a young teen, I invented a philosophy called The Roast Beef Life. The premise was a devotion to a full and rich life, no matter the cost. The metaphor was, to put it simply, never settle for a Happy Meal when you could go home and prepare a delicious roast beef dinner with just a little extra effort. I have been thinking about that lately because my life has been very “roasty” this summer, but not in the way I prefer. Things have not gone the way we’ve prayed they would. As a matter of fact, every time we think we might get some good news, we get bad news. And yet, my life is rich and full and savory. Why?

Meggie is still not home and we have no idea when she ever will be. But we have a very real connection to Meggie that will never snap. We miss her strongly. We love her deeply. We pray fervently. We will be gloriously overwhelmed by joy when she finally comes home. Life is rich.

One of the unexpected riches of this summer has been found in keeping Clare on the weekends. By a strange series of events, we became connected to her situation and offered to help out. Clare has provided us with many opportunities to learn patience, but she has also stolen our hearts. We wish it was Meggie in our car, singing along to 50’s music and in our lap watching princess movies and at the end of the table eating or refusing to eat whatever has been served. But it’s not our faraway Meggie, it’s our right here Clare. 

Because, as much as we love Meggie, Clare is my neighbor and I must love her “as myself.” The smart-alec scholar was hoping to trip Jesus with a follow up question when he asked, “Ah, but who is my neighbor?” Is there a detailed list, a specific geographic requirement to qualify as a neighbor?

Jesus replied with a story of a man who was beat to a pulp and left to die on the side of the road. You probably know how the story goes. A priest passes him by, a Levite passes him by and then, a “despised Samaritan” stops and helps him onto his own donkey, binds his wounds and pays for all of his medical bills. The point Jesus is making is that this bloody and forgotten man on the road to Jericho was neighbor to the priest. He was neighbor to the Levite. He was neighbor to the cursed Samaritan. And yet, only the Samaritan loved.

With all that is going on in Iraq and Israel, with the Ebola and the violence and the hatred, I cannot help but think that the solution is very simple. If we all loved our neighbor, every neighborhood would be safe. If we all loved our neighbor, there would be no war, no genocide, no need for gun control. If we all loved our neighbor, the whole world would be taken care of.

Today, we were all saddened to learn of the sudden death (almost certainly by suicide) of the talented actor, Robin Williams. I have just recently watched The Dead Poets Soceity, Hook and Mrs. Doubtfire and so the irony is strong and painful. I have just recently remarked to my family that he is so gifted. Now we can only say that he was gifted. It’s a terrible shock to find someone you admire is suddenly not on this earth.

With this terrible news, my thoughts on loving our neighbors came full circle and I suddenly knew what I’d been trying to say here for weeks, if not months. We’ve all been posting on Twitter and Facebook about how much we loved Robin Williams. I say I loved him, you say you loved him. Celebrities tweets will be retweeted and favorited as they share about their own love of Robin Williams. And yet, Robin Williams killed himself. He killed himself, no doubt, because he felt useless, depressed and unloved.

I don’t know who truly knew this man or whose responsibility it was, until today, to show him love, but I cannot help but feel that we are not loving our own neighbors. We can say we love Robin Williams whom we’ve never met, who has never personally done anything for you or I, who is now gone, and yet we cannot love our own, physically near neighbors?

The folks in your own home and to the right and left of it? The folks across the way, five minutes down the road? The girl who makes your coffee, the man who takes your promotion, the child who ruins your vacation, the crossing guard out in the sun? The beggar, the salesman, the woman at the deli who calls you by name? The pregnant teen, the dependent senior citizen, the unplanned baby? I could go on and on, but I think you’re getting my drift. Your neighbors are all around you and you only have so long to love them.

Will you? Will you love them? Or will you just tweet about them when they’re dead?

-everly

*Name changed to respect privacy

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dear meggie

IMG_0941

Dear Meggie,

I am sorry that you’ve never known what it is to have an older sister. Mothers and fathers and grandparents may have failed you in your short nine years, but an older sister never even got a chance to do that. I’m sorry that you’ve never been in on the tradition of watching Little Women when it gets cold or passing each other notes between our rooms or secret codes for knocking on the door. I’m sorry that there haven’t been sororal piggy-back rides or late night talks or tickle fights. I’m sorry that you’ve been so solitary while we’ve been so together.

Can you believe that I already miss you and you’re just in the next room? It’s after midnight, but I bet you’re still listening to my keys clacking. I just tucked you into your covers to next to Jubilee (tonight is the kind of night that calls for doubling up next to someone warm) and you asked me to sing for you. Meggie, a big sister is someone who sings you lullabies on nights when Mommy is crying. We miss you already.

You’ve been through more in the past nine years than I might go through in my whole life, yet I see you smiling through the tears. I see you forgiving and learning to hold your own temper. I see you coping like a pro. You astound me.

You have this tender heart and strong moral compass and I wonder who in the world ever pointed you North in your life? Every Christmas when you get a year older, you’ve looked back on a year of chaos and turmoil. Role models seem to be scarce and yet your heart is so strong. You are something I never thought I’d see and you’ve singlehandedly restored my hope in humanity.

I sometimes wish you were born into my family and I could’ve known you and loved you your whole life, but then you wouldn’t be Meggie. And we wouldn’t be us. I wish I could see the front of this embroidery work the Lord is stitching, because from under here, everything looks like chance and loose ends. From under here I cannot fathom why you would need to go through what you have, but God knows.

I told you today while we both cried at the kitchen table that someday we’ll look back and hardly be able to remember this sad time. Before I know it, you’ll be a lovely American lady and I will wrack my brain for the feeling of your soft skin and the smell of your shiny hair. I want us both to remember that you call your freckles “sparkles” and say that they’re a gift from the sun who loves you. You have a little up-turned nose and clear hazel eyes and the shiniest hair I ever saw. You have little square hands and feet and a gap between your two front teeth that makes you smile with your mouth closed, but we sometimes catch your real smile and it’s electric. Oh, how we love you.

I feel fear grip my heart because I think I’m about to push fast-forward on the best movie I’ve ever watched and next time I see you, the credits will be rolling on your childhood. I pray it’s not long until you’re here for good, part of the family, safe.

Stay small, Meggie. Stay small and sweet and soft. Stay silly and bright and brave. Be just like this when you come  home and be just like this the rest of your life, because I think you’re positively perfect just the way you are.

Tomorrow you and Mommy and Daddy will fly out. You will spend one more night together in Chicago and then you’re off. Across the sea, the miles, the barrier between us. You’ll be back to the orphanage and the boarding school, life without a family. That’s what feels like sand paper going down my throat. You could’ve lived your whole life without knowing the love we cannot help but lavish on you. How many more Meggies are out there tonight, just praying that someone would stroke their hair and sing “I see the moon” before drifting off to sleep?

I didn’t know I wanted another sister. I didn’t know I could love another the way I love the ones I already had. But oh how I do. You’re like a dream of  a girl from a book. You are the flourish at the end of our family name. I love you, Meggie-Moo. Hurry home.

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I say “feminism,” you hear…

roles of a woman

man-hater, anti-family, loud-mouth, bible-basher, pro-choice, bra-burning floozy. 

Fill in the blank. I know I did.

Some of you might know that in 2012 I pitched a book to three Christian publishing houses about feminism and legalism in the church. All three rejected it, but one agent stopped my pitch and told me about a conversation she had in the backseat of a car about her niece and college and how hard it was for her to hold her tongue so, “thank you for writing about this.” She almost gave me the deal, but I’m so glad she didn’t. God knew that there was much to teach me, there will always be much to teach me. I hold on to Madeliene L’Engle’s words:

“I do not think that I will ever reach a stage when I will say, “This is what I believe. Finished.”

What I believe is alive … and open to growth”

Oh to be open to growth all my life! That book had some good ideas and some poor applications. In general, it was too small for the topic. All of those words up there? They could apply to a feminist. But just because someone identifies as a feminist doesn’t mean any of those words apply to them. Feminism is one of those hard words that means something different to everyone who uses it. Sarah Bessey’s book, Jesus Feminist rubs people the wrong way with just the title alone. There are people who think, “How dare you put Jesus’ name next to that horrible word?” and people who think, ” I ran away from Jesus for the sole purpose of becoming a feminist. How could the two ever mingle?”

Can we take a deep breath and listen to each person’s definition as we get to know them? Bessey uses feminism to mean “the radical notion that women are people too.” It sounds silly at first, doesn’t it? Like it’s so simple, she’s certainly got the second part of her definition up her sleeve. And yet, with Bessey’s definition, I see Jesus and the word “feminist” going together perfectly. Jesus was completely radical in his treatment of women and those that The Spirit inspired to write the scriptures were extremely brave in how many times they mentioned women in honorable, humane instances. Jesus changed eternity, but he made huge changes to the current reality for women. He gave us dignity for the very first time since Eden.

If your definition of feminism is that women are better than men or that women don’t need men, then I have to disagree with you. If you think that men and women are generally the same or that their roles should be completely reversible, we’re in two different boats. But if you believe that women are highly valued by God and equal to men in their ability to know God and be used by God, I’m with ya. If you think that this world needs to stop objectifying, using, abusing and stifling women, you’re speaking my language.

Being a Godly women doesn’t have any checklists, despite what our Bible study books might tell us. You don’t have to be a wife or a mom to be a Godly woman and you don’t even have to want to be. Biblical womanhood has nothing to do with marriage or motherhood unless that’s what a particular Christian happens to be called to. Bessey writes:

“If the title can’t be enjoyed by a woman in Haiti, or even by the women hailed in scripture, the same way it can by a middle-class woman in Canada, then biblical womanhood must be more than this.”

She also reminds us that if biblical womanhood means being a helpmeet to a man, this excludes 60% of females in the U.S. alone. It can’t be interchangeable with “stay-at-home mom” when the grand majority of women in this world do not have the luxury of choosing whether or not they want to work outside the home.

If you believe there is a certain job description for a biblical woman, you have a lot of Biblical characters to correct. Scripture doesn’t solely glorify motherhood as a role for a woman, but also prophesy, teaching, entrepreneurship and more. These women were merchants, patrons, land-owners, businesswomen, tent-makers, messengers, writers (just taking examples from the New Testament alone!) Women were present during all of Christ’s pinnacle moments, even when the men had fallen away. Jesus used women as a vital part of his ministry and gave them honorable roles. Timothy was taught by his mother and grandmother. Priscilla even corrected Paul in some of his theology! In Philippians chapter four, Paul writes that the women “have labored side-by-side” with him. Is this what feminism means to you?

You see, even though I’m not sure I agree with Sarah Bessey on every point, I loved her book because it encouraged me to live out what Jesus taught us about…us! I am a stay-at-home daughter who aspires to be a stay-at-home mom, but I don’t do these things because I think they’re biblical; I do them because I think they’re good. Just like going to college is good for my friend Megan and overseas mission work is good for my friend Brianna and running a ministry to strippers is good for my friend Kellie.

Are you single? God wants to use you. Are you married? God wants to use you. Do you have kids? God wants to use you. Do you want to travel? God wants to use you. Do you want to study? God wants to use you. Are you a leader? God wants to use you. Are you a teacher? God wants to use you. Do you have business skills? God wants to use you. Do you see the pattern?

The world doesn’t need another loud-mouth, another hater, another burning bra. The world doesn’t need anymore abortion or pride or competition. But the world is in need. Women and girls make up 98% of trafficked people worldwide. Over 50,000 women are trafficked in the US alone each year. 78% of trafficking is for  prostitution or another form of sexual exploitation.

statistic 1

Annually, more than 350,000 women die of pregnancy or birth-related complications. Studies show that 53% of the children denied an education worldwide are girls. Violence against women causes more deaths among women worldwide than war, malaria or traffic accidents. If “feminism” means putting an end to this, then count me in.

Whether or not you believe women should be in places of high authority in our churches and government, can’t we agree that we need to be better represented there? I firmly believe that when we stand before God, He will be silent on the subject of feminism or anti-feminism, complementarianism or egalitarianism or our roles in the church and family. I don’t think we’ll be worried about old blog posts or Facebook arguments. I think, as I stand in line and wait to walk through the throne room doors, I’ll ask myself, “Did I humbly depend on the Lord for my salvation and love like Jesus loved?”

(read my review of Jesus Feminist here.)

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in my father’s footsteps

father's footsteps

“So, will any of your kids follow in your footsteps? Will any of them be doctors?” Several people have posed the question over the years. “Not if I can help it.” My dad responds.

As a matter of fact, my dad has been so open about the pitfalls of becoming a medical doctor that he has talked many students out of going to medical school (so many, in fact, that there was a Facebook group for all of the converts!) Many nurses and physicians’s assistants do what they do because my dad convinced them that becoming a doctor isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Obviously, the world needs doctors, just as the world needs fighter pilots and miners and astronauts, but none of us have turned out to be any of those either. My dad works as an emergency room physician in a busy college town and he is amazing at what he does. His schedule is never the same, sometimes days, sometimes nights, without so much as a cubicle to take a break in. He has to be a leader, a thinker, a calm presence at all times to perform well. He sets bones and prescribes medicine and comes home sore from CPR and yes, he has to watch people die. He has to tell parents that their child didn’t make it. He stops and prays with the family and sometimes, around the advent wreath, we all cry as he tells the story.

Because yes, your doctor goes home and cries. He goes home and kisses his wife and prays with his kids and falls asleep wondering if he should have done anything differently. He spends his days with runny noses and contagious disease, his nights with drunks and suicide victims. He restarts hearts, sews up wounds and delivers babies in the ambulance bay. His job is anything but easy.

Like I said, none of his kids will be MDs, and yet we do follow in his footsteps. You see, I might have a little more medical knowledge than the next girl, but the main thing my dad taught me was to love Jesus and to depend on Him at all times. God is often called “The Great Physician.” Jesus said he came to heal the sick. These days I hear people calling the church a hospital. We are the church and we make house calls.

Just like my dad gets weary and we all wish he could catch a break or make a breakthrough that would allow him to do something else before he does break, my siblings and I come home and we are weary. We wonder how many more of our friends we will talk through divorce? How many more friends will leave the faith? How many more times we’ll sit at Starbucks and listen someone say that they just can’t hold on any longer?

We have no briefcase, no scrubs, no diploma on the wall, and yet God continually sends us to the sick and needy. He continually puts the medicine in our hands and says, “Go and minister.”

I think of an ordinary day and my older sister is texting the single mom and my brother is on the phone with a friend whose marriage is on the fritz, my little siblings are all praying at dinner for the man in the coma and I’m penning letters to the lost and lonely. Where was the sign up sheet? Are we qualified for this job? Will we be paid?

When I see what my dad does, day after day, I think he doesn’t get paid nearly enough. And I think the same about anyone who does their job to the glory of God. We put in more than we’ll get out on this earth. Going the extra mile can make you sweat and being somebody’s only friend can exhaust you and praying with the dying can drain you, but it can also come back around and bless you. God works in mysterious ways, they say. Man, that’s true.

The stuff we never would’ve signed up for had there been a sign up sheet, the stuff we never would’ve felt qualified for had our calling been on the phone, the stuff no amount of money could ever pay for, it is the most valuable kind of work. You don’t get paid for it because you can’t get paid for it. There is no method of payment for compassion. No fund or grant for empathy. It’s a different line of work that didn’t originate here and you can’t go to school for it. People think you’re weird for doing it and they probably tell you to just stop. You wouldn’t know it by your bank account, but it pays better than the NFL. You pay in your time, your blood, sweat and tears, your comfort and blissful ignorance, but at the end of the day you don’t regret it.

I may be squeamish around blood and disinterested in a degree much less medical school, but I do follow in my father’s footsteps. My dad’s money goes many ways, but he seems okay with that. After all, we can’t take it with us, he says. Our eyes are on a different goal.

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