A WARRIOR will rise….

When I was younger, my cousins and I all got under-roos for Christmas one year. It was either that or at one of our joint birthday parties. Because when you have 18 cousins, you have one party a year not 18 million. Because really, who has that kind of time or strength for that much piñata hitting?

My mom still has a picture of me with my siblings in the fantastic underwear that somehow transformed us into superheroes. Because nothing quite says “save the day” like red and gold undergarments.

I look at that picture now though and realize that little girl had no idea of how strong she really was.

Last week I had someone ask me when I started to believe that I  really was strong. I wish I could have said about the same time that the infamous under-roos picture was taken. That then, is when I believed that who I was included the word strong. But if I am honest, it wasn’t until my late 30’s. It wasn’t until then, that I started to understand what strong was.

I had returned from my third trip to Africa years ago more broken than I had ever been. My mind had shifted and it was in fight or flight mode. I really did not know how to function. I thought it was the hardest battle I would ever have to face.

I think the first time that I believed I was strong, was actually walking into that emergency room and asking for help. Splayed out with nothing between my dignity and a paper gown I had to start believing then that I was something else. That I was a warrior.

They say that you become who you surround yourself with. So if you want to be a strong person you need to find strong people. If you want to be brave, find the broken.

I found the people that I wanted to be more like and spent time with them. I signed up for a personal trainer and realized that my body was stronger than I ever thought it could be. I also marched my ass back into therapy. Well, one because I couldn’t make sense of what was going on and two because I am a feeler. I feel everything all the time. I am basically a walking kitten, well maybe a tiger. A walking tiger who likes ice cream.

Knowing I was strong did not come overnight. I did not wake up one morning and ka-boom I was a warrior.

I was warrior all along. I just didn’t know I was.

We all are. We are all warriors. We have all  had battles that have left us tasting dirt. And we have had battles that have left scars that tell more stories than we had wanted. We have run through battles unscathed and some have taken parts of us with them. We have fought armies of those in front of us and some of us it is the battles of our past that keep us chained. Some of our battles are on the public front and everyone’s cousin knows our business, while other battles, sometimes the hardest battles, are those we can barely whisper about. Some of us battle alone because we fear that others will view us as weak.

Whatever the battle we face, we become a WARRIOR when we realize we were never meant to go to war alone.

The battles that have left us bloody and raw have only made us stronger because of those around us who carried us to healing.

It is then that we are strong.

 

I realized that I do not want my daughters to know that they are strong, that they are brave, that they are warriors when they are thirty seven.

I need to them to begin to hear it now.

As I hug my middle one before she goes to bed, I have started to whisper into her ear

 You are brave. You are strong. You are a WARRIOR. And I adore you.

It is a small thing.  A simple thing. One thing I know I can do. I can tell her who she forgot she was. Who I never knew I was.

And yet who we were born to be.

I have to hope that they will start to believe it before they are my age.

It is time. It is time to start believing that you are a warrior. And reminding the women around us who they are. Who they were born to be.

A warrior asks for help. She takes her medicine. She takes that class she was afraid of. She forgives. She encourages. She delights in others accomplishments. She makes room at the table. She feeds herself well. She tells the truth. She walks towards healing. She doesn’t create drama. She is a listener. She lifts other up without looking for any credit. She lets others go. She is loyal. She is strong. She takes care of herself. She is a servant. She comes closer to the pain. She speaks life into others. She takes responsibility. She sits with the sorrow. She grieves for as long as it takes. She feels all the feels. She celebrates the movement of her body. She delights in the sunshine on her face. She welcomes the quiet. She waits for God to whisper. She follows what sets her heart on fire. She lets others love her.

And most importantly…..she WILL RISE.

A warrior will rise.

I remember one morning, months after I had been home from Africa. I was doing all of the right things. I was taking my medication. I was going to therapy. I was eating only whole foods. I had given up the nectar of the gods, caffeine and I was exercising my butt off. But I still could barely move from the couch some days. I felt like life was happening around me and I would never participate fully again.

Until I did.

Until I let my body heal. Until I let my mind heal. Until I let those around me carry me out of the battle.

And then I would rise.

So sweet one, today if it feels like the weight of fear has you breathless. If the battle you face is too painful to utter off your lips. If your scars have been reopened for the world to see. Remember this…

You are. You always have been, a warrior.

And a warrior WILL rise.

Buy differently this Christmas.

One of the first times I came back from Africa I stayed out of the stores for as long as I could. I was disgusted by how much we have. We all should be. Our kids do not NEED any more. They don’t. We don’t. Just the thought of going into “our world” made me sick to my stomach. After watching children my own children’s age walk barefoot in the red dirt for water each day. And play with a stick and a bike tire as a toy I wanted to exclude myself from participating in self consumption. It wasn’t long though I needed to buy cereal and milk. Cause that’s what we moms are supposed to do. Feed our kids. Yet so many mothers around the world cannot provide the basic needs for those they adore.

For a while I struggled with how do I live here while part of me is thousands of miles away? I still struggle with this. And how do I justify buying a five dollar coffee ( I still can’t come up with this one) while millions of children don’t have a full belly? Nights I would wrestle with the have and have not’s and I still don’t have answers. But that is why God is God and I am not. It is all for a reason. But I strongly. Strongly believe that those of us that are given much are required to love even more. And if you are reading this. You are given much. You are the elite of this world.

I thought I would share how you can love much this Christmas. By being extremely mindful of the gifts you buy this Christmas you can change the life of a child, a family, a generation. Be that change….

Here are a few of my favorites. What are yours?

Sixty Feet

The Cupcake Kids

Trades of Hope

Samaritans Purse

TOMS

Krochet Kids

Sseko

Noonday

Ten Thousand Villages

Sevenly

Whenever we buy gifts we try and purchase from these companies or at least try and buy local small businesses. Let your Christmas look differently this year….smaller, more meaningful. #lovedoes

The emptiness that screams….

There is this void inside of me. I think if we are honest with ourselves, we all have this.

I think I’ve always known mine was there. An emptiness that screams. Like me. Need me. Invite me. Laugh at me. Hold me. Notice me. Love me. Listen to me. Hear me. Believe in me. Trust me. Walk with me. Dance with me. Pick me. Don’t leave me. Want me. Fight for me.

When I returned from Uganda a year ago I came home with a chasm of emptiness. I am sure all that were there noticed it when I walked through the gates at O’Hare. Although I am sure it was masked by the fact that I was looking just so ravishing after traveling 26 hours straight with a child that was bighting me .

After being in Uganda for over eleven weeks and only released from the country because a certain large organization was called in, you could say I came home with some “issues”. One of the biggest issues was my overwhelming sense that I didn’t belong. I didn’t know how to fit back into my own family. I had left that role for so many months that my family didn’t even know where I belonged. And I had this devastating ache that I would not be able to ever reconnect with my friends. That we would never see things in the same light again.

It wasn’t until recently that I could voice exactly what that need was, I wanted to be heard. Really heard. But I couldn’t. I wanted others to understand the depth of what I had been through. I wanted them to see international adoption in the same revealing way that I now am understanding it. I wanted someone to tell me that they understood the deep pain that suffocated me. I wanted someone to realize that I missed out on three months of all of their lives and felt like I never caught up. I wanted someone to see that I was struggling to know what my role was in the home. The older kids had to be in charge so many times that they had a difficult time letting me be mom again. And here I was scared to be mom because I carried so much guilt around for being gone. I wanted someone to know that I needed to reconnect. And I didn’t know how.

In retrospect I know this wasn’t fair. To them. To me.

I wanted others to fill a deep longing. A deep pain. A deep fear that only Christ himself could heal.

This morning it was apparent I still have parts of the emptiness that are still exposed. I was feeling so alone and disconnected from others. I was drawn into the lie again that they will fill the emptiness that only He can fill.

So in the emptiness I will cling. In the emptiness I will heal.

In the emptiness He will make me whole again.

faithful.

Today was the National Day of Prayer. I didn’t stand by the flag pole or go to any ceremony of special significance. I instead went to be with some of those that have been instrumental in these past few years. Women who prayed fervently for me when I didn’t know what to pray. Women who prayed for our sweet youngest before we even saw his face. Women who get all the “adoption issues” and laugh when there is nothing left to do. On this day of prayer though I am reminded while scooping out buttered noodles for all of our little ones to eat, that our God is so faithful. Nothing like buttered noodles and a house full of little children from all over the world to bring the National Day of Prayer to another level.

I was reminded so clearly this past Sunday about how far He has brought me. It was four months ago that I was dreading going to a large gathering at church. I didn’t want to go; I was afraid to go. The people. The questions. The answers I couldn’t give. The eye contact . I would have rather just hidden in the ladies’ room all night and hand out towels than have an adult conversation. I dreaded anyone asking about adoption. Uganda. My life. My heart. All of it made me want to wear a sign on my forehead that said “now an introvert” or “too damaged; stay away”. But I went and made it through and begged God to start healing me.

And then He healed.

Last Sunday as we gathered for our church’s corporate prayer and worship services I stood with arms open wide ready to receive what that Spirit has in store for me. I was no longer crying the whole way there trying to conjure up a story as to why I couldn’t speak with anyone. I still didn’t talk to as many people. And I am ok with that. I know what healing feels like. I don’t know the exact moment it happened. It took weeks, months, and long nights. I do know what it is like to not be afraid to wake up in the morning. I do know what it is like to have God so intimately speak to me and show Himself to me that I only I could see it. I do know that it is like to lay everything down at His feet. I do know what it is like to speak the darkness out loud and it lose its power over me. I do know what it is like to bathe myself in Scripture day after day just to be able to breathe. I do know what it is like to ask for help. I do know what it is like to feel the hand of Jesus lift me from the pit. I do know what it is like to have people I have never met in person before reach out to me and just encourage at just the right time.

I do believe in a healing God. I believe that HE heals. I do also believe that we need to participate in the healing. That we need to be honest with ourselves and others; that we need to die to ourselves every day. I believe that part of healing is realizing that I needed to take better care of myself. I had been separated from my kids for so long and then came back in a depression that I no longer wanted to miss out on life. Part of that is knowing that God gave me this body and mind and I need to take care of it. It honors God when we take care of what He has given us. I do know that He heals. I have felt it. I have seen it. I am a product of it.


 

This song has been my anthem.

washing feet at 15.

When she was five I found chicken eggs in her closet. Not real chicken eggs. Like from the grocery store eggs. Right out of the carton eggs. You would think that I would notice that a dozen were missing. Beneath princess blankets and stuffed animals were straight from the fridge, eggs packed together neatly .And a five year old looking on as I tried to hold in the puke while removing them from her closet. She started crying ,carrying on about how “all her life” she had wanted baby chicks. And this was her only ticket to getting one. She promised that she knew what she was doing because she had watched her kindergarten teacher do it weeks before, so she must be an expert. She had a need to care for something for someone. Even if it did come from the fridge.

By the time she was in late elementary school her course of action changed and she wanted nothing more than to be a veterinarian. She would beg us to look up petfinder.com to find our newest pet. She would dream of living on a ranch where she would feed her own horse and groom it as soon as she returned home from school. Her dreams had clearly exceeded our pocketbooks and the house in the city.

She has always had a gift of loving others. But it wasn’t until this past fall in Uganda that I got to see what God has done in this little girl who wanted to hatch eggs in her closet.
It was a quiet afternoon and things around the guest house were settled down. After putting her brother down for a nap I asked my friend where she was. She pointed to the front porch. I stood in the doorway and watched what I can only describe as humbling. There was my sweet baby girl washing the feet of the women that took care of us. That walk miles to work each day in the red clay. That never utter a complaint. They spend hours scrubbing the floors, making beds, cooking amazing meals with smiles always across their faces. They are there before we even wake in the morning and go home well after dark to then take care of their own families. These women are the epitome of strength and courage to us. But there she was. Kneeling before them washing, talking, laughing, and listening. To their stories. To their lives. To who they were. She in that afternoon became an image of humble. A servant of the King. She was becoming the girl, the young woman, that God has been making her to be. I stood in the doorway with tears running down my face. I have never been more sure that God has unbelievable plans for her life.

clip_image002

Happy birthday my sweet girl. At 15 you make me more proud to be your mom.