curling irons and refugees

When I was in middle school I curled my brother’s bangs with a curling iron. I told him that it would look cool. Not so cool. Not so cool to curl your brothers hair. Ever. He says it was that point that it was very clear my future would not be in cosmetology. But I just wanted him to be his best. Apparently I thought that meant some funky hair and aqua net. But that is how we love.

We don’t always love the right way but we love the only way we know.

I don’t live near any of my siblings. I have Michigan envy they all get to be within an hour of each other. Holidays are hardest when I can’t be with them. Grateful this Christmas we can all be together. We love each other well. In all the mess we are learning to love each other better.

So todays challenge was all about loving your sibling well. For me that meant sending letters of love to each of them. I communicate best that way. And I didn’t want another day to go by without them knowing how much I adore them.

My kids….well let’s just say they have had better days at loving each other. I have seen them love better. But it’s ok. That is what grace is. Another chance. Another day.

Day 20: Stand in the gap for the vulnerable!!!! This challenge is the beat of my heart. And now you are asking what do you mean? Who are the vulnerable? The vulnerable are those that need someone to speak for them, teach them, lead them, and love them where they are at. I wanted to focus on a couple of my favorite organizations. I am sure that you have ideas as well. I can’t wait to hear what this looked like for you.

World Relief– Can you imagine? Can you imagine being in a whole new country and not knowing anyone? Or the language? Or the social norms? Or even how to get from one place to the next? Friends we need to be the church. We need to invite refugees into our homes this year. We need to not just give but give of ourselves. I asked one of my dear friends who works for World Relief some tangible needs that could be met this Christmas. Here is what she had to say…..

Here is also a link to all the ways people can support or give to World Relief. If people are interested, they can donate financially to support adults and children in ESL class or to help refugee reach self-sufficiency. Or, there is a link for donating household items (or a car if people have those lying around!)

http://worldreliefdupage.org/give-wrda-for-christmas/

I have helped with World Relief for years. I love it. Absolutely love it. I love having friends from all over the world. Who love, and live so differently than we do. But that is the best part of it. We laugh and learn to do life together….and it’s better that way.

Kids Hope– I have the privilege of being a mentor through Kids Hope. It is an amazing opportunity to spend an hour a week with a child who just needs a voice. They just need someone to come alongside them and meet them where they are at. To extend grace and direction in a life that seems so out of control. It really will change you. Talking to our leader of Kids Hope at our church today she mentioned that of course they always need volunteers or mentors. Those that is willing to just give up one hour a week to meet with their mentee. We also need other churches to come alongside schools and partner with them. It is usually one church per school and they provide them mentors for that school. So call your church, ask them if they are involved and if not….ask why. We need to be the church my friends.

Tomorrow our family will be coming alongside with other families in the community and loving on a few refugee families. We cannot wait to give them Christmas this year. To know that they have enriched our lives, our communities and our schools, it’s the least we can do.

So friends…..how can you stand in the gap for the vulnerable tomorrow?

#25daysoflove…..go love BIG!

p.s. after tomorrow….#25daysof love goes to Michigan….and my siblings are getting in on it! It’s going to be awesome!!!!

when Christmas sucked.

When all I could do was breathe. And breathing even hurt.

Last Christmas sucked. Just sucked. From the outside I am sure I gave the impression that everything was amazing. I had just returned home from Uganda with our newest son and we were one happy, send out Christmas cards to pretend we were, happy family. We lied. I lied. It was me. I lied to save myself. To save myself from all of you knowing that we were falling apart. And by we, I mean me. I was falling apart. I couldn’t breathe. It hurt too much. I cancelled Christmas. I literally cancelled going home for the holiday. I could not imagine being in a room full of people that wanted to love me. When I could not even stand the thought of a person hugging me much less wanting to talk to me. I could barely get dressed. I felt like if I brushed my hair and my teeth it was a productive day. People wanted to visit. It was torture. Torture to pretend that life inside our house wasn’t falling apart. Torture to pretend that I wasn’t broken. A broken mess of a mom not even trying to be a wife. I could not tolerate who I was or who I was pretending to be. It felt like my skin was crawling and I wanted to run away. But I was too afraid to even leave my own home. I became obsessed that something horrible was going to happen to me and my kids. And I thought that if I just removed myself from the equation that everyone would be better.

That is just the tip of the Christmas package of pain last year. Under many more months and layers of therapy we uncovered deep fears and anxiety that suffocated who I was for months.

So sweet one….I get it. I get that Christmas may be excruciating for you. That you just want to wake up and it all be gone. The expectations that others place on you or worse yet, those that you put on yourself will never be met. And it’s ok. It’s ok to be in pain. It’s ok to be lonely. It’s ok to say out loud that it sucks. That is hurts. That you can’t find the joy. That it hurts to breathe.

Just know that you are not alone. I get it. And I am sure if we were all more honest and didn’t send out “everything is sunshine and my life looks like Pinterest” Christmas cards, we could all start to breathe. We could all start to heal. And give each other grace that where you are this Christmas is enough.

when love spreads- join us in loving BIG

 

This idea of 25 days of love was inspired by someone I have never met in person. In my head we would be the best of friends and bake together all day. But in reality I have never met her face to face, yet her heart is contagious.

When we launched the idea with our family years ago we did it because years before we had no money in our bank account, no Christmas presents, and barely anything in the cupboard. A mom I had just met at my daughter’s school had invited us to church and we had recently been attending. It felt like home the moment we walked in. It was the first time I had heard that Jesus would take me right where I was. Broken, lost, confused, prideful, angry…and the list goes on. That December that same sweet woman showed up on our doorstep with gifts for our girls and steaks for Christmas day. The ugly cry came out. I stood there and just cried. She had no idea how bad things were. No one did. We didn’t know where or how to ask for help but that didn’t matter in that moment. This family gave to ours with no strings attached. Just LOVED BIG. Throughout the years we have been astounded at the generosity of those we love who have loved us big. And those we will never meet this side of heaven whose simple acts of love have changed our family forever.

We do know that when given the opportunity, generosity uncovers such an authentic place in our soul where vulnerability meets love that it draws us closer every time. Closer to what joy resonating in us feels like. When we give without ever expecting anything back it is an act of love. And we all have the deep desire to love and be loved.

These last eleven days of #25daysoflove I thought it would be amazing to see just how far love can spread and how much is already spreading. At the end of each day I will post on my blog and on Facebook what our plans are for the upcoming day. If you would like to be a part of this, do what you can in your community. Spread love and kindness in the community that surrounds you. Love on people big. Then post what you did and what happened. I love watching people’s reaction when you try to love on them and they have no idea what to do with all the love being poured out. But I also love to see my children’s heart change and begin to initiate love without prompting. So here we go friends…..lets love BIG and see what happens….who’s with us?

p.s. wait to see what the idea is for the new year…..love BIG in 2014.

Today’s love……Pay for a strangers meal…..

this is why. (truth about what Christians did in the name of adoption….and why I don’t agree)

I know this topic stirs up controversy in the adoption world. I am not claiming that this is your story. This is our story. But do not think that it doesn’t happen. It happens all the time. And we believe it just makes the problems worse for anyone that comes after you in the adoption process. It only hurts the kids that are left because of our greed and American narcissistic demands. This is our truth.

There have been moments this past year when Jesus so gently has whispered to me ….this is why. This is why you needed to suffer. This is why your family had to be separated for so long. This is why you saw what you saw. This is why you needed to obey.

This past August we began the process of adopting our sweet boy stateside. Because he came from a country that grants guardianship with the intent of adoption, we wanted to begin the next process as soon as we were able to. We handed all of our paperwork and documents over to our lawyer who presented our case to the judge. On a beautiful day in Chicago we stood before a judge as a family of seven and knew without a doubt that this was the final step.

Yet three weeks later we received a phone call from our lawyer. The lawyer that was representing our son in the case was contesting the adoption. During the nine phone calls back and forth that Friday afternoon I felt like the floor was falling out from under me. Tim and I cried and prayed and set up a plan. We knew we could not share this information with our families. The past year had been a year of so much uncertainty and fighting for us, that we could not bear to put another burden on their shoulders. His lawyer was stating that with all of the publicity of child trafficking happening in Uganda our case would not be granted. She was certain that our case was the one that was going to help her “make a name” for herself. Our lawyer was furious. She had done her research . She knew our case backwards and forwards and knew that there was no room for argument. We continued to fall to our knees and just pray protection over our family.

In that moment Jesus again said….this is why.

This is why you were in Uganda for three months. This is why you waited so long for a passport. This is why I let you fall in love with the people of Uganda. This is why you saw others leave the country within weeks and had no idea why. This is why you were at the passport office watching as other “Christians” offered to pay off officials in order to “get out of there”. This is why, when you were asked to pay a significant person in the adoption for documents on your first week there, you immediately walked out of the room and never looked back. This is why you cried yourself to sleep at night after witnessing people tracking down officials and persuading them to do what they wanted, when they wanted. This is why you came home from Uganda knowing that you never gave a cent to anyone to obtain any part of the adoption. This is why you came home so angry and disappointed at what “Christians” will claim and do “ In the name of Christ”. This is why you lay awake at night so disappointed at what you saw unfold before you. This is why this story still brings you to tears and makes your blood boil. This is why when someone accuses you of anything illegal in your adoption you can hold your head high. This is why sweet girl. This moment. This moment is why. You obeyed. You may have had to be apart from the rest of your children for three months but this is why.

This moment when we knew we could go before the judge with a clear conscience and know all we did for Christ was obey.

This past Monday I came home from a weekend away to find a large envelope from our lawyer. In it was the final ruling of our judge. The judge had decided that what his lawyer was presenting held no merit.That our family was a family of seven. Our sweet boy is ours. Officially ours. Forever ours. This is why.

assessments.

This past week Ephraim’s teacher came for a home visit. The program that he is in for early intervention has it as one of their requirements that they visit the homes of their students. There is a higher risk of child abuse and neglect when the child has special needs or is labeled “at risk”. I was looking forward to her seeing how well he has integrated into the home environment. What I wasn’t looking forward to was the acting out that occurred the entire time she was here. He kept covering my mouth telling me to be quiet. He wanted her all to himself. He asked her to move in. It really was a highlight of my mothering career. My two other children home at the time then proceeded to answer the phone and play the bongo drums at the feet of the teacher. It felt like I was being taped for my own reality TV show on a network that no one would watch.

The report from the visit wasn’t what I was expecting. She mentioned several times how she was concerned how far behind he was. His language fluency as well as his social skills in comparison to his age was not measuring up. At first I was a little disturbed by her assessment of our sweet boy. And I wanted to say yes I know he is not at the correct developmental age. However, he is not even close to where he was a year ago. In this mama’s eyes he has come leaps and bounds from where he started from. And to compare him to a child the same age that was born and raised from birth with two parents in a first world country is just unfair.

Yet, this is how I compare myself. Daily I compare myself.

I love reading blogs. I am a bit of a blogaholic . There are blogs that I run across that I make a note to read later and then there are blogs that my smarty pants friends post and write that I learn so much from. But then there are the blogs that I follow religiously .They make me laugh and contemplate life and faith. For a long time though I only read adoption and mom blogs. I wanted to know that I wasn’t alone in the struggle. But you know what I kept feeling? I am not good enough. I don’t homeschool my kids anymore. I am homeschool dropout. I must not love my kids enough then. I don’t make my own detergent. Therefore I must not care about the environment or the stench of store bought detergent on my children. My children also do not match. Like ever. I shop at thrift stores and clearance racks. That is it. So I must not care if my kids never make the GAP adds. I also am not a size 4. I think I was a size 4 in elementary school for a month or so but I will never be small. So that means I must not care about my health or how attractive I am to my husband anymore. I know this is not true. I do.

But this is what I do, I compare myself to standards that don’t make sense. They are not even in the same ballpark. Making assessments with women I don’t know. Trying to assess where I am today with women that I discovered are at least ten years younger than me. Here I am sitting in my self- examination pity party trying to mirror the lives of people that I have no business holding my worth up against .

I am basically telling God that where I am today is not good enough. That how far He has carried me . Emptied me. Healed me. Transformed me is not enough. And that is just not acceptable. Where I am is not where I’d like to be. But from where I was a year ago is only by His grace. And His grace is enough.

When my teenager teaches me.

I’m a complainer. I can be. I can be a whiner and child not getting her own way. If I feel discomfort or see a social situation that I think needs “changing” it is my first sinful instinct to complain. I have my mini temper tantrums and excuse them as “stress” or say “someone needs to deal with that”. If I have issues with my marriage I can complain to my girlfriends. If I have issues with my kids I check out every book in the library about the particular setback. I roll my eyes at the mom in Target not controlling her selfish children, ignoring the fact that last week that was me in the same situation. I see someone being treated unfairly and I can feel the righteous rage build up inside of me. I hear a mom screaming and cussing at her kids across the street and I call my husband at work telling him we are putting the house up for sale. Letting him know that I am sick and tired of having to tell the kids to come back inside to play because I just can’t stand the language being used any longer.

This past month though I have been convicted on so many levels about my pride and self- righteous attitude. I can go around complaining or signing the next petition for an action to be taken place but until I walk across the street I am nothing but words. This morning I got to witness high school students “do something”. As I was a part of “See You At The Pole “day. Where students, teachers, pastors, community members and parents are invited to come and pray for the school and students. I was humbled when I saw how many students came to be a part of the solution.

I have been adamant with my husband that sending my daughters to this particular high school sends a fear in me that has never settled. I cry and beg him to think about moving to a “better” school district every August. A school district where there is more parental involvement with higher test scores . Where our kids will have more opportunities with a better chance of good influence. So basically I have been asking to move to a “socially acceptable, suburban, no diversity, uppity school district where people can buy there problems away and this mom can feel like everything is ok.” Which is in fact everything we wanted to avoid when we moved here.

And then this morning happened. I stood back and watched high school students bow there heads and beg God. Beg God to be so present in their school that teachers would not understand what was going on. That the sadness that has plagued the school would be overcome by the Holy Spirit. I watched as one of my daughters mentors showed up at 6:30am to hold her hand and let her know that she was not alone in this battle. As I walked away to get in my car I turned back and took this picture. clip_image001

I literally was crying. God was so present. He always has been . It was just me that was unwilling to walk across the street. To ask Him to be present. His Holy Spirit and Light are there. They are here. They are with every student.

I need to be bolder. I need to be on my knees for the girl in Target, for the teachers in the schools, for the students walking the hallways, for the woman across the street who is just needing some relief. I need to stop being a complainer. To set down my pride. To lay it all at the cross. To follow the example of the high school students this morning.

holding onto the back of a motorcycle and other lessons I am learning.

Parenting is hard. Parenting a teenage girl is like watching home movie reels of yourself and wanting to write a different ending. I was an atrocious teenager. For example, if you thought of the worst kid your kid could hang out with in high school and then look them up in the yearbook, there would be a picture of me. It’s not like I was rowdy or destructive. I was self-destructive. Which is the worst kind. I was a lost girl. A sad girl. I was every youth pastor’s worst nightmare. I put on the best front. Attending mass with my parents. Going on retreats. Holding part time jobs since I was 14. So to some I was the friend you wanted for your son or daughter. But I should have worn a shirt that said “Run away from me!”

The regrets I have are overwhelming and if I didn’t bathe in God’s grace I would drown in them. But the thing is, my daughter is the age that I was when thing started to go downhill on the back of a motorcycle. And the correlations are frightening. She looks just like my sister with the personality of me now. Not the me before Jesus, but the” I want to change the world” traits. For that I am grateful. But I am scared.

I sit and listen to my husband discussing the latest dilemma with our oldest for hours last night and I just pray. I can hear her say how unfair we are. How strict. How we don’t trust her. I hear her plead to be trusted. And then I hear my husband answer we do. We do trust you. But God trusts us to make decisions for you that you may or may not agree with. You don’t have to. That is because we are your parents and not your friends. We will always be your biggest cheerleaders. We wish we could be the “yes” parents. But we know that it would be the worst thing for you. Yes, we do ask for advice from those that we admire as parents and people. We do let you be with your friends and hang out with them .But you know our rules. No dances. No dating. You have to introduce us to them. You are not supposed to be or look like the world and God will honor your obedience. We love you so much and will do whatever we can to make sure that Jesus is evident in your life. Please don’t forget that. We adore you.

I sit on the couch and just thank God that I have a calm and collected husband. Because if I had the chance I would just let her know that this was not my first rodeo and everything she was trying to pull with us I had done. And done it way better. I would also let her know that I had already filled out an application for her to join a convent in the hills of France. I am sure all of that would have gone over real well.

Instead I heard crying. And hugging. And blowing of noses.

I did not say a word. I think God made me sit on that couch and just be a listener. A learner. Teaching me that she is not you. She will make mistakes. She will make decisions that you don’t agree with. I would imagine that Jesus would softly whisper to me… But here is your chance. Here is your chance to show her the waterfall of grace that I have poured over you. Rest in this. She is mine and I adore her more.

blue walls and other things of going off the deep end.

This is a portion of a journal entries written over six months ago. It is only a fraction of what God has been doing in my life these past five years. He is changing me. Renewing me. And it is His story of healing that I am in the process of putting into a memoir of redemption and the unexpected struggles of depression and anxiety. Grace.

She stared at the walls. Blue. Light blue. Not light robin egg blue. Or you’re near an ocean blue. More like you have just been locked up blue. You have just officially hit rock bottom blue. Your dignity and pride are stripped away blue. Your soul is naked blue. The no one who can protect you now blue. She sat. Staring. Tears running down her cheeks, raw from the tears that had been shed in the last 24 hours. Hours filled with question after question. Name? Date of birth? Medications? Next of kin? Children? Where are they? Insurance? Are you going to harm yourself?

That is the question that got her here. That landed her in this hallway. That brought her to this dejected place. A place where she was just a shell of who she used to be. Frail and exposed. When she looked at the nurse with some sort of cheery scrub on, something that a toddler would find delight in and vacantly said “I don’t know”.

She wanted to disappear. She wanted it all to just stop. She wanted her heart to stop beating so fast. She wanted it to just end. To wake up far away from where she was. With no responsibility. No decisions to make. No one to ask her anything anymore. She wanted to hide. She wanted the voices in her head to cease. The voices that told her things she would never utter out loud. The voices that took control of who she was of who she never wanted to be. The voices that told her she wasn’t safe. She wasn’t safe to be in her own skin. She wasn’t safe to be around.

This is where it had all landed her. The months of anguish she had endured all boiled over her that Sunday morning. And by Sunday evening she was being watched by a police officer. Monitored one on one so that she wouldn’t harm herself. Her purse was taken away. Her clothes gone. She was left laying with a paper gown trying to plead with the doctor to not lock her up .She hadn’t shaved her legs or worn pretty underwear. Her mother always told her to do these things. Although I am sure her mother never thought her daughter would be laid out on a gurney being evaluated by a psychiatrist that December. She wanted to melt into the bed. She wanted to disappear. She wanted to wake up from this nightmare. “Please” she is pleading with him just don’t lock me up. She knows what it’s like. She does . She knows how they over medicate. She knows that people at church will find out. They say that they will look past this and forgive her. But they won’t. She knows.They say grace. But judge by the law. She knows that she will be looked at as the “crazy mom who had to be locked up” “ The mom who couldn’t handle it” “ The one who fell off the deep end” She knows how she will never be the same. She will never be who she was meant to be.

She sat staring at the blue wall pleading with God to show up. Begging Him to be real. In this moment of all moments in her life she needed to feel Him. To hear His voice. To feel His arms wrap around her. She pictured herself at His feet barely able to lift her head clinging to His ankles. Begging for mercy to be tangible. For this one moment all she ached for was hope.

sweet ones.–dreams for my daughters.

Dear sweet ones,

I watch you growing into the girls I always wished I could be and it makes me pause for a moment and think. I wish someone would have told me so many things when I was your age. Although maybe someone did and I was already so far gone that I just closed my ears to what was being laid out before me. So this is my advice to you now. Feel free to Tweet or Instagram it, whatever you need to do to remember it.

– Never color your hair. Seriously don’t start. You have gorgeous hair and once you start you end up spending hundreds of dollars to keep it up. You have your aunt’s gorgeous hair and I am a bit jealous. But if you do color your hair don’t do it yourself. I beg of you it will cost a lot of money to correct. And it hurts and is painful. Make sure you want photos of yourself taken with that color. Don’t try to convince me that purple will still look classy in 15 years.

-Don’t ever date anyone that is not as amazing as your dad. You both adore your dad so much and he feels the same about you. Don’t forget that. When that boy or man child starts paying attention to you talk to your dad about him and listen. If you can’t or if he doesn’t even have the courage to talk face to face with your dad then walk away. Better yet run. Because sweet girls you think your daddy hung the moon and the man you marry needs to hold it in place.

-Don’t go to college. Ok. Hear me out. Don’t go to college if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. Just because you have a college degree does not make you any better than anyone else. Believe me some of the people I love and respect the most are changing the world more by never stepping in a college classroom. You don’t have to spend $30,000 a year to figure that out. And debt sucks. Travel the world. Go on a mission trip go on many! Ask tough questions. Follow your passion not the crowd. And if the crowd is your passion than we have another problem. I want you to see and know other countries and other cultures. I want you touch the oceans with your toes and see the evidence of God in the face of devastation.

– Open your heart to the possibility that God has something more than just high school drama for you He will meet you there.

-Throw away the credit card applications before you even walk in the door. They are liars. They do not want the best for you. They want the best for the world. And you are not of the world.

-Don’t fight with your sister. Love each other well. Learn her love language and speak it to her. Don’t wait until it is too late to make amends. Your siblings are your blood and they deserve all of you. I messed up in this area and I don’t want you to have the same hole in your heart like I do.

-Say no. Say no before you say yes. I want you to know how to balance your life. And just because it is good does not mean that it is always a yes. Good things deserve a no too.

-Know God. Explore Him. Claim Him as your own. Read His word. Soak in His Presence. Sit silently and hear His voice. Know that He is pursuing you so stop running and let Him catch you, hold you , and love you.

-Learn to change a tire. Grocery shop. Know how to cook all of your favorite meals and your siblings meals too. Give money away to complete strangers. Write thank you notes. Always have stamps on you. Know your family’s history. Ask questions. Tell your story. You never know how your story will heal another’s.

-Come home. You will leave at some point and I will sob. It will probably be an ugly cry and very embarrassing. But after you leave and start your own life. Come home. Visit. Call. Write letters. Skype. Facetime. Whatever you need to do to stay connected. If you need gas money I will send it. I will eat cereal all week if it means that I get to see your sweet face. Home is where we are. Home is where you began and the two should always matter to you. And if you don’t call. Don’t worry I will.

I love you to the moon and back,

mom.

When you check every box

Massie Family-Massie Family-0018

This morning we had our first OT ( Occupational Therapy) appointment for our youngest daughter. Of course with a first appointment comes with it a file of papers to complete. Asking questions such as what her birthdate and insurance coverage was. It then turned to more pressing questions such as what was my diet like while I was pregnant. Did she lift her head at the appropriate developmental stage? What prenatal testing did I go through? What was her weight, her Apgar score and other things this mommy brain could hardly remember? By the fourth child I am lucky I remember her name much less to actually keep track of anything in a baby book.

Towards the end of the questions they asked if there was any additional information about “the mother” that they needed to know. I sat staring at the question. Wrestling with my thoughts whether the truth at this moment was something I could look over. Whether or not I could suggest something but not quite say it. After what seemed endless I wrote these words- “ After Emerson was born I suffered from postpartum depression and did not attach to her for quite a long time” I wanted to add…”I’m sorry, I blame myself for all of this”. Instead I signed at the bottom and left it at that.

This morning at the office I was handed more questionnaires, specifically about where she is right now. Asking questions about her social skills, her auditory and sensory processing and other issues that interfere with her learning and being six. As I read and began to answer the questions I realized how many boxes I had checked “frequently”. For a brief moment it was a sigh of relief that perhaps someone understood the issues that had never been given a name. That she finally would be given a language we could all understand. Yet as I sat there with tears streaming down my face another voice was going through my head…” This is your fault”;” You should have gotten her help years ago”. “It is your depression that did this”.” She doesn’t deserve this.”

Believe me I have enough guilt in my heart I didn’t need to carry anymore.

I sit now with Truth in front of me. Trying to remind myself that the words are not good, and pure and holy do not come from God. And all I can utter is “Jesus please.”

I fully comprehend that this is only the beginning of our journey with her. And to many of you this seems so minuscule. But for today. For where we are. I ask for grace.