Christian, gifts from God, marriage

Marriage: Having Each Other’s Back

I wish I could say that I have total faith in God and His strength to carry me through any difficult circumstance that comes my way. The truth, however, is that I rely far too often on the flesh and blood people around me when times get tough. I have an amazing support system of family and friends, which I thank God for. Truth be told, I feel like I could handle almost anything with God and Jay. The struggles we have seen are not for the faint of heart. The strength of our marriage is in part due to the sheer need to cleave to one another as we pass from hardship to hardship. It is something we have done well these past 20 years (though far from perfectly). When I look back on the last few years, the hardest and most terrible moments had less to do with the circumstances we were going through and more with the state of our marriage in the midst. I have grieved many things in the past 20 years, from both of my parents to one of our children, and from my  dreams to my sense of self. I have confronted many trials and worked through many hurts, but there has yet to be a pain that cannot in some way be softened once wrapped in the arms of Jay. There is something about knowing that there is someone whose primary role in life, before any other earthly job, is to have your back. I suspect that it is this mutual goal that makes our marriage strong. It isn’t about seeing eye to eye (though that’s always a nice treat) or everything around us being perfect (it never will be). It isn’t about evenly dividing the chores (though that helps ease some burdens) or trying to meet each other’s every need (we can’t). It’s about “where two or more are gathered,” and one person lifting up the other who has fallen. It is a three-strand marriage, and it is very good.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him- a threefold cord is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

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adoption, gifts from God, grief and loss

Passing Us By

It is not uncommon for some of  the most life altering events to pass us by without our realizing. That moment when the stripe turns pink and you realize you are going to be a parent is typically weeks after conception. The acceptance letter to college arrives days after it was mailed and maybe weeks after the admission board made their decision. That first meeting of someone who will one day become your best friend or spouse might not even warrant you taking much notice. Even that tragic phone call with the passing of a loved one can come hours after the fact. There are moments, days, weeks, or even years in which we live oblivious to the big moments that have already occurred and will alter life as we know it. It is our human nature to look back and wonder, “What was I doing then?” We calculate back to the day of conception or think about those blissful moments before our life shattered.

Sean came into our lives like this, and he left our life in the same manner. I could not tell you what I was doing when Sean was born, completely unaware that someone had entered the world that would change my life forever 15 years down the line. And when he left the world in a similar quietness, he left me blissfully unaware of the pain that was soon to come. Part of me is sad that I cannot go back and know exactly what I was doing at that very moment, but I suppose it is okay. In the quiet mystery, there is deep truth. A sovereign God, who knows all things, is still in control. My knowing or not knowing does not alter the course of such things. Maybe a few more oblivious days/hours of life as I knew it was simply a gift to hold off my sorrow for a moment more.

A year has passed since Sean’s death, but this is a date that I am grateful doesn’t stick in my memory quite like it should. My memories of Sean, however, will never fade.

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Christian, gifts from God, loss

Stained Glass Lives

wreckedThanksgiving Eve in 2015, I sat in church holding a rock. As part of the service that evening, we were each asked to write something on that rock as a memorial. We would place those rocks on a table as a thankfulness monument to what God has done. What was God doing in our lives? What gifts had he blessed us with? Who were we becoming that should be memorialized? The word that kept running through my mind was “WRECKED!” God had wrecked my life. He hadn’t just thrown me a curve ball, nor had he simply turned things upside down. He had wrecked it. He had torn my heart out of myself. He had destroyed my very being. Could I be thankful for this? Could I see it as a blessing? I sat in my own little prison of broken dreams and silent pain, and wrote on that stone, “Wrecked my life.”

It wasn’t an accusation. It was both fact and resignation. I was working things out in my life or maybe more accurately, God was working some things out in my life. I was trying to catch my breath and lean into God in the midst of the pain. I was giving it over to Him and thanking him for the suffering, not in the, “I love agony” sense, but in the, “I know that God is good and I can trust him to turn the pieces of my heart into something beautiful” sense. Jesus and I had been clenched in many a wrestling match over the years, and I had stumbled through some pretty graceless dances with him as he tried to lead me, but nothing compared to this. I was holding onto the pieces of my life and waiting in wretched expectation.

Holding those broken pieces was difficult. The sharp edges cut deeply, and I was bleeding out. I was sure I died a few times. If I’m honest, I wished to literally die several times throughout that season. I couldn’t bear the place God had brought me, and I wouldn’t open up my bloody scarred hands and let him help me. As I was spilling my life out slowly and gasping for breath, Jesus was working his miracle. He was working out His perfect plan. I am certain he had been working it out long before I even knew I was broken.

I wish I could say that it was the end of the breaking, but He had barely begun. There would be a lot more shattering and crushing in the months that followed. I’m not naïve enough to think that he’s done the painful work, but I am far enough along to see the light shining through the artwork that he made from some of those broken pieces. I am far enough along to see that darkness helps us to see the light, and that my mind isn’t big enough to imagine what He had in store for me. This week I found myself counting the blessing that have come from the brokenness of that year, the brokenness of my life. Stained glass needs to be seen from a few steps away or you miss the full extent of its beauty. Sometimes life is like that too.

 

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gifts from God, grief and loss, loss

The Cumulative Impact of Grief

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I’ve been thinking a lot about grief these past weeks as we move into the holiday season. This year will be a hard year for our family as we celebrate the first Thanksgiving, birthday, and Christmas without our son. I have cried a little almost every day since the week before Thanksgiving. I haven’t sobbed or broken down, but tears roll down my face during car rides, certain songs on the radio, or just at random moments. For me, this is the 3rd major loss I have experienced. Each being different, they began with the loss of my father 20 years ago. 20 years ago. It seems like I should be long over a grief that old.

 

“Cumulative grief” tends to focus solely on several losses in a short time. That isn’t me. Yet, I doubt that my grief experience is unique.

For me, the loss of my father was deeply devastating. I was a wreck for months. I gradually worked through the loss. I certainly don’t think I would consider my grief “unresolved”, but I definitely miss my Dad, wish he didn’t have to miss so many life events, and at times genuinely ache to have just another moment with him.
When my mom became sick a few years back, I grieved the loss of my father again. Certainly not anything like the original grief, but I thought of him more often, teared-up over little things more often, and longed for him more. As my mom deteriorated and eventually passed, I grieved for my mom, but oddly enough I grieved for my dad almost as much.

Just over a year after my mother passed, we would lose our adult son. It was sudden, like the loss of my dad, but he had not been healthy, so it was always in the back of our minds. We had long expected the day would eventually come. I cried, was sad, and missed him, but not the level of grief that one would expect for such a great loss. But the grief has built up these past days and weeks. It has grown heavier as we enter the holiday.

I grieved now for all three of them. Memories of any one of them might lead me to tears and thoughts of the others. Our son passed late in June. In early September, I remember crying at a family birthday party, because our extended family had gotten so small. There were so few of us now that we could all comfortably sit at our table. That same thought has crossed my mind so many times since that day. My Christmas shopping list is short. The entire family can comfortably be included in a single group chat. I know one day our family will expand. There will be weddings and babies (hopefully not mine). But for now, it is just small and my losses are painfully evident.

Sometimes I am fearful that growing older means that grief will pile upon grief and that each loss will magnify the previous ones. Do we simply accumulate our pain as we walk through this broken world, this world that was never meant to be marred by death?

Grief sure is an interesting beast. It morphs and changes, with an ebb and flow across the seasons and years. Many days it sits quietly, almost stealthily on the sidelines, but in an instant it can come out of nowhere to blindside you. While there are many ways to protect oneself from these attacks of grief, the truth is that grief is a gift. We are people who love and with that love comes a vulnerability to pain. It is only in our loving of others that we face such deep loss. It truly is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

So, no. We are not bound by a grim future of loss. While, Yes, these deep losses will impact us for the rest of our lives, there is more. There is hope and restoration and a supernatural comfort from a God who counts our tears and holds us through our suffering. And it’s enough. It really is.

 

 

 

 

 

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adoption, Christian, gifts from God, loss, parenting teens

A Million Things Spoken and 1 Thing That Wasn’t

Sixteen and a half years ago, Jay and I made a decision to become foster parents. Caleb was an infant, and I was pregnant with Abigail. There is a longer story of God working in our lives leading up to that decision, but that is a story for another time. We filed the necessary paperwork and took the proper classes. The only piece we had left was the home study, but Abigail was born so we put that step on hold. Then a few months later we met Sean. We were introduced to him by Sarah, a Jr. High student in the church youth group I was leading. In the course of time, we came to better understand Sean’s situation and realized he needed a home. He needed a family. Deciding to take on that role was not an easy one. We had an infant and a toddler. I remember discussing it at length and saying to Jay, “Do you think anyone else is sitting around this weekend talking about wether on not they should take Sean in?” And that was that. We were being called.

Sean 3

Sean came into our life through an invitation. We told Sean that very first day that we were inviting him into our family, and that family was forever. We meant it. We invited him and he accepted. One of the first things we did was give him a Bible verse. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Little did we know, but about the time that Jay and I were completing our foster care certification, Sean was in the midst of a crisis. We would later read a note he’d written where he state that his life had no hope or purpose. Reading that note, dated months earlier, was one of many moments in life where I knew God had brought Sean to our family. God was already preparing an answer to Sean’s cry long before we’d met each other. And God, in the way only he can do, had provided Sean with a very specific reply to his letter. God literally answered with words and actions.

The years that Sean lived in our home and the years after would not necessarily be easy, but they were good. We had a lot of fun and a lot of struggle. We were all better for it. We are a family of words. We talk a lot. Dinner time is loud and often very ADD. It makes Caleb crazy that we can’t stick to one cohesive thought. But we talk. We talk about pretty much everything.  We say I love you!  We laugh. We cry. We pray. We sing. We admit our mistakes.

There was this one time we still laugh about. Sean was 17 and we had found about about something he had done wrong. I can’t recall what it was, but we were really working on confession at the time with him. Sean came home and we told him that before he could go out he needed to confess what he had done. We left him with paper and a pen. Sean sat there for a very long time thinking and writing. When Jay and I finally read the note we got cracking up. Sean had no idea what we knew so he confessed to about a half dozen different things that we had no idea about and the one thing we did.

 

Sean would come in and out of our home over the years, but despite the offer, Sean didn’t choose to be adopted until he was 23. Adopting Sean was the court putting in writing the words that we had spoken so many years before. Family is forever. With those papers one word would change. Sean would forever take the name Seidle.

Ours was always a relationship of words, but of all the things I will remember about Sean, all the words spoken between us, the love, the jokes, the stories, what I will remember the most is the one thing he never said. No matter what happened, no matter how long he was grounded, or how mad he got, never once did he ever say, “You’re not my mother.”

 

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Christian, gifts from God, Proverbs 31

On Turning 40

I have pondered what a post on the arrival of my 40th birthday would like like, and after much thought I felt a day in the life would provide an reasonable evaluation of where I have come and where I am going. It marks some of the changes in the world over these years as well as the changes within.

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I awaken several times thorughout the night and check Facebook and the flight status of my 14 year old son who is on layover in London. My 28 year old son messages me a happy birthday from across town where he lives. He touches my heart with his love and calling me mom. He has not come into our family in the usual manner and his acceptance of my as his mother is something I never take for granted. I fall asleep and am awoken by a text from my husband wishing me a happy birthday. I like my sleep and it’s summer break so I get to sleep in. I have married up. My husband is amazing, hard working and a morning person (but I will not hold that last thing against him.)

airplane
I check email and FB, returning messages to friends thanking them for their birthday greetings. I check the flight status of my 14 year old who is “sitting in a chair in the air” on his first international flight, heading to Kenya for 5 weeks to visit friends. I am a tad anxious for him to be safely on the ground. The phone rings and I climb out of bed, but not in time to catch it. I head back upstairs to put on jeans and a top so I can sit and read. I am barefoot. My husband has gifted me a book on my kindle called The Reason For God by Timothy Keller. I read the introduction and am excited to conitnue on with a chapter a day. I read a chapter in Amos and revel in God’s plan for social justice. I boost my vocabulary by looking up a word I do not know. I pray for my husband and four children. True to form God has ordained today’s Power of a Praying Parent prayer to be about fear. I pray especially for my child who is hovering thousands of feet in the air for him to not be afraid and I pray for my own fears. It is getting late and I head downstairs to the two children who are living at home and have not left the continent. They are having trouble finding something they want for breakfast and when it comes to breakfast I am a pickier eater than they are. I opt to make “brunch”. I burn myself several times as I make bacon and waffles. I freeze the rest of the waffles for future breakfasts. It’s cheaper and better this way, but not something I do often.

Barb 40th
By the time breakfast is over I have mediated several fights between my youngest two and have assisted with Algebra for my daughter’s summer packet. I sit down to a cup of tea and a piece of choclate (I’m 40 years old and it’s my birthday, so if I want to eat choclate in the middle of the morning I can!) Most of what I have eaten today is organically grown, often local, and in the case of tea and chocolate it is fair trade. This matters to me. I send and receive emails from work about my computer which I left at school to be looked at. Apparently, the computer was fine; it was the user who had issues. I’m a teacher not a technology guru. I consider if I will do some reading and teacher preperations today or if I want to put that off for yet another day. I continue to check the British Airways website for flight data.

farm share

At 12:30 we leave our house to go to the organic farm and collect our share. We meet up with friends and spend time picking green beans and herbs, selecting the pre-picked veggies, and wondering why we didn’t bring water on this hot day. I will take my plunder home and cut, blanch, freeze and otherwise prepare these foods for our family to eat now and througout the year. I do not however have a plan for what I will make for dinner tonight. Once home my mother stops by. She lives next door and wanted to wish me a happy birthday. I give her an extra cuccumber from the farm and she goes home for a minute to bring me back a recipe she clipped for me. I love cooking new things and I desperately want to eat all the food the farm has to offer in it’s beautiful variety. The children are not quite as excited by the prospect of eating kale and cabbage and things they haven’t heard of before like garlic scrapes. I overrule them. I am mom. Lunch is late, 3:30 PM, after finally getting word that the plane has landed. I am relieved. I am eating leftovers from last night’s unusual trip to a restaurant for dinner. I am eating things I would have gagged over as a child (artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms) and things you are never too old to enjoy like mac and cheese and french fries. I eat while doing research on human trafficking for the Justice Journey group that I started through my church. Once I conclude this post I will spend time in the kitchen with the farm share and a Netflix movie, bake myself my favorite snack of brownies, and and read a book. I might just start writing the much overdue (One and a half years overdue) annual Christmas letter that almost never comes out at Christmas. I will watch the US women’s Eagles rugby 7’s team 3rd place fishing match in the Rugby 7s World Cup. The game is weeks old and I don’t follow rugby much, but I am writing up a sports pin suggestion for my daughter’s scout troop and I wanted to see this game. I am not a big sports fan, but I love the teamwork of rugby, I loved when my kids played, and I love seeing women being strong. I am becoming a feminist. I intend to spend my night with my family and perhaps a friend or two. I will watch a chick flick. My husband will go to the church to help set up for the Wednesday night service. I will stay home. I love my church, but I am involved in other ministries and can not add this service to my plate. It was a long journey to this place I am at with my church and I am overwhelmed by the blessings. My husband will come home and not stay for the remainder of the verse by verse study through the book of Amos, he will do this because he loves me and wants to spend time with me. I am blessed all the more. I will undoubtably go to bed too late, but happy.

path
I have been many things in the past 40 years: Daughter, sister, friend, grandchild, wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, student, youth leader, counselor, homeschooler, mentor, scout leader, and Child of God. I have learned, loved, journeyed, and grown. I could make plans for the next 40 years, but I think it best to say that the journey is what life is about. So I hope to do all those things and more. I hope to travel the world, love others, fight for justice, dream big, risk much, create, pour out my life, and passionately love God. I have witnessed my own journey thus far and it has given me the confidence to know that the next 40 years have so much unbelieveable potential to be tapped. I am excited for this crazy dance of life, for it’s pain and struggles, it’s joy and possibilties, it’s unpredicatbility. This is the great adventure!

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gifts from God, parenting teens

Empty Nest Syndrome

Some days I wonder about this thing called “empty nest syndrome”. As I struggle with the day-to-day challenges of raising children, with the constant bickering, incessant requests, and the drain on my emotional, financial, and time resources, I think, “Is it really possible that one day I will wish this all back?”

hummingbird
In my mind I know it is true. At times the joys of previous parental stages bring a tinge in my heart as I longinly remember some of the joyous moments with my tiny children. Too often, however, the day-to-day grind leaves me dreaming of a rest and quiet. I long for the chance to do a task without interupption, to not be a referee, disciplinarian, maid, or chauffeur. Now, I think I understand why this is true. So much of parenting is sacrifice. It is giving up what you want, who you are. I’m not talking about giving my kids everything they want, or making them the center of the family. What I am talking about is doing what is best for them to raise them to the best of my abilities during the short time I have them. I don’t always give them what they want, however sometimes as I listen to the bitter compalints that follow I think it might be easier if I did. I make decisions that I believe are best for them, even when they do not like it. I make them do chores and contribute to the family, do more than the minimum required for their homework, go to places they find boring because sometimes that is life. However, all of these things come with sacrifices for me.

schoolThey come with sacrifices of time, money, and patience. Children are expensive. I never wanted to spoil my kids with things, though they certainly have an excess of things, so I decided I would rather invest in them in experiences. These experiences come in the form of classes, field trips, and vacations. We homeschooled for years which encompassed all of me. We sent them to private school, and that meant going to work to pay for tuition (something that would not have been necessary if we sent them to the public school.) I volunteered at summer camp to afford the costs for them. I listened to bickering that I could have ended to help them learn how to handle struggles. I have stood by helplessly as a child dealt with a broken heart over an issue that I could not fix and my heart broke for them. I have had insults hurled at me from these people who I had given my all to. I have given them all I have. I wonder sometimes what will be left of me by the time they are gone. And when that day comes I suspect the emptiness that will be left behind will be more than a longing for the company of my children. I will be a different person. I wonder if the emptiness will be because I will have lost my identity, and I can no longer remember who I was before them. I would not ever wish to be that person again. I already expereince an emptiness as I go from loss to loss in this process of parenting. Sometimes I think I could not bare another loss. But, one day I will lose my children as they go off to begin the lives that I have been preparing them for through this painful process. And with that loss I will be emptied.

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