Friday, May 15, 2015

Hard does not mean wrong

I think it was around mile seven that I very clearly remember thinking, "This is going to be HARD." I remember thinking how funny it was that I was thinking that. I mean, I don't know that I ever thought running the 13.1 miles would be a piece of cake. But I found myself reassured, almost as if someone was yelling the truth of it over me from the sidelines, that the last six miles would be a battle. 

There is a certain monotony to running. That study cadence, the motion that repeats for minutes and hours and...well, as long as you tell it to continue. Toward the end of that race, every muscle in my body hurt, and no amount of adrenaline or fear could have forced me to speed up. I was done. And yet, I couldn't quit, so I lost myself in the cadence. Left, right, left, right, thump thump thump. 

As I waddled across the finish line, I thought of Paul's comparison of the Christian life to a race. It is an easy analogy to many parallels to be drawn. The one that stuck with me that day, though, was the HARDNESS of it all. The moments of aching until you think you won't be able to go on, the weariness that leaves you dreaming of the nap that will most definitely follow, the  watching other runners zoom past you and longing to have the kind of endurance and energy they seem to possess in immeasurable quantities...the race is just flat out HARD. And so is following Jesus. He didn't try to sugarcoat it, and I won't either. It is HARD. There are moments of physically or emotionally aching until I don't think I can go on. There is often a weariness that leaves me dreaming and longing for eternity...for eternal rest. There are the times when I get caught up watching others seemingly fly by with success and ease I cannot find. It's hard. 

But the hardness does not make it wrong. In fact, I wonder if ease is an indicator that something might be out of balance. Because carrying a cross is certainly not easy, and yet that is exactly what Jesus tells us to do. 

For the last year, I have been laboring and dreaming and planning and working toward a vision I believe in to the core of who I am. I believe in the vision of Safe Families for Children. I believe in keeping families together where possible. I believe in coming alongside parents who are struggling. I believe in loving and folding kids into families. I believe in it. But don't misunderstand is HARD. It is hard to share the vision with others in a way they will understand. It is hard to empower and equip families to join the call and open their homes to kids who need a temporary home. It is hard to look around and wonder why other ministries seem to be finding so much more response and success. It is hard to have meeting after meeting and vision cast until I am blue in the face, but have people trickle into ministry rather than pour. It is hard. 

If I am gut-level honest, I sometimes (often?) question if the mission is worth it. I ask myself, "How much do I give before it is too much?" Tonight, as I have prayed over this weariness that blankets my soul, Jesus convicted me to my toes. I want the easy life. I want the quick fix, the cheap solution. 

I say I am willing...but I define the parameters. 

I say I will be patient...within the confines of my time table. 

I say I will take big long as I control what they are. 

I say I will give up my dreams...if I can have something better. 

I operate on conditions I name, and call it  following Jesus. And yet...that's not how it works. Jesus defines the parameters, and they are usually far beyond any we would set for ourselves. 

What about you...are you living in the comfort and ease of your own parameters? Or are you allowing Jesus to define the call and set the pace? The race is never easy...but it was never supposed to be either. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Dear Motherless child,

I think about you sometimes. I wonder where you are, and who is with you. All these days of in between, of being an auntie and practicing the art of sacrificial love...these days are spent in anticipation of the days yet to come. When I hold someone else's babe, I wonder if someone is holding you. When I cut up a kiddo's meat or pour his milk, I pray you are getting all the sustenance you need. When I drive to work where I will administer vaccines and care for sick children, I wonder if someone is comforting you in your pain. When I watch beloved friends nurture their babies through sleepless nights, I wonder if someone is there to cradle you in loving arms when the going is tough. I wonder, and I pray. I pray you know love, a love that will model the fierce, undaunted love the God of the universe lavishes on you. I pray this love surrounds you until I can. 

I am not a mother, and you are not a son or daughter. Yet. And while today is all about celebrating moms and the ways they change the world, I am thinking about you all the day long. Me, the childless woman, and you, the motherless child. One day, I pray we will find each other. You will make me a mother, and I will make you a chosen daughter or son. 

Mothers deserve honor, so much gratitude, and a thousand medals. But I would guess mothers find their greatest reward to be the kind of love that curls up on your lap and wraps chubby fingers around your neck. That kind of soul-shaping embrace is worth more than all the honor and medals and gratitude in the world. Today, I wonder how many motherless children long to celebrate their very own mama, to curl up on her lap and weather the storms of life in the embrace of another. I want to remember those faces today, and the mothers who will one day find them and make them sons and daughters. Those are moments of which I dream. 

Motherless child, I am thinking of you today...hoping and wishing and praying that someday you might have a mother to honor. I dream of a day you will have reason to celebrate Mother's Day, to write a scribbled "I love you" on handmade cards and serve burnt toast on a platter and give sloppy kisses to a woman who will make you a son or daughter. You are the bravest, motherless child, and I honor your courage in the face of loss and uncertain future. YOU are treasured and loved.