Finding Rest

Summer vacation is quickly sailing away, and with it the moments dedicated to pursuing rest, adventure, and connection. As I look back on this summer, it is easy to wonder where the sunsets and sunrises went. Packed into the summer were days “off” and trips away, but it was basically being busy in a new location.

We fervently checked off the items on our summer “bucket list”: go to Saturday Market, check. Read a book, check. Hike, celebrate Anniversary, go berry picking, swim often, go to the beach, check, check, check. Yet, cramming in these restful activities has somehow created the opposite result. I lost the rest in my resting. How is it that I feel the need for a vacation from vacationing?

Rest Holly HawesI’m tempted to scratch out “September” on my calendar and instead write in bold sharpie: GET STUFF DONE. No other season tempts the part of me that is a recovering perfectionist more than fall. Between color coded school supplies and an uptick in scheduled activities for the various members of the family is a deceptive little lie: Getting stuff done is the most important thing. Productivity speaks to your worth.

It is so subtle. Just a shade off. For a long time I didn’t realize that my life was dictated by a false value system that signed me up for all the good things. The christianized version of this culture of productivity: Doing more for/with God is the most important thing. You are worthwhile and more loved based on how much you get done. If alarms aren’t sounding warning in your mind yet, be aware, because this lie is pervasive and harmful. The absence of rest leaves weary, unconnected, striving souls wondering why the very activity they pursued has left them feeling captive.

Something in our humanity requires rest. Our need for sleep on a regular basis is a signal that we are not self sufficient. Pushing through a few all nighters is different than simply not needing to sleep. Most people have experienced the crankiness of a child (or even yourself) that is quickly reset with a nap and a snack. Though we may deny it or pretend we are now somehow superior to previous generations, the need for rest has only grown as our reliance on technology and time saving methods has increased.

Our creator, knows this about us. “Then he [Jesus] said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’”-Mark 2:27

The God who formed the universe and created humankind built into us a need for rest. He also created a system of rest for His people described in several places in the Old testament that was referenced by Jesus during his time on earth. By no means am I an advocate of legalistic law keeping—Jesus has fulfilled everything. However, the one who made us knows how we operate. He created regular rhythms of rest: a weekly Sabbath, Every 7th year a Sabbath year, and every 50th year an additional year off (Leviticus 25). During these times no work was to be done. The time was set aside to worship God in order to practice reliance. A day to remember that God is sufficient to meet any and all needs. A year in an agrarian society in which they did not plant, produce, or in modern day terms “hustle”. Each half century, a reset occurred: Debts were forgiven, people freed from indentured servitude, land redistributed by family once again.

I cannot even rest for a whole week on vacation without feeling the need to busy myself. What would a whole community at rest for an entire year look like? There is so much to learn from the practice of habitually resting.

Regular, Planned Timeframes

People tend to rest when forced. An illness, exhaustion, or panic attack signals that the human body is outside of the realm of optimal conditions. Rest is the only answer. We not only need rest for our bodies, but also emotional and spiritual rest.

Rather than running us down, God provided regular times for this rest to occur. Today, we must fight for that rest ahead of time as we schedule our lives. Or, prayerfully rest for a time, perhaps months, or a year rather than climbing the corporate ladder or making a big move.

At Risk Of…

In their day the risk of loss in productivity was actually food to feed their families. In comparison, I have little to lose. Productivity matters little in the light of eternity. Each of us has things that are ours to do, and we strive to use the days God has given us well. But He made us for rest, any task before us is done within that understanding.

Whole Community

Holly Hawes RestOne excuse to forgo resting is the never-ending competition. Surely someone else will get ahead if I stop and rest. In Biblical times this problem was a non issue because the entire community would be at rest together. No one planting. No one working. I imagine a lot more time chatting around the fire took place. As well as time dedicated to learning what God had to say and remembering His goodness to them in the past years.

This aspect is harder to replicate. I have a hard time imagining what it could look like. From the outside looking in, those who know Jesus should be known for being at rest.

Reliance

In the end, reliance on God rather than ourselves is what rest really comes down to. It tests our true beliefs when we must act. Will it really be ok if I take a day off? Will the school be at risk because I chose not to be on the PTA? Why do I think the world revolves around me anyway?

When I stop, God continues to keep the world spinning. My heart still beats. Rather than seeing the hustle, I see the beauty. I see the people He has placed before me to love. I see the great masterpiece of creation. I see the adventure He is calling me into. In rest there is quiet enough to hear Him again.


holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

One Another Friendship

Last week a beautiful thing happeneda friend dropped by. No planning, no consulting our schedules to pencil in a playdate in six weeks pending the weather, possible illness, and the unforeseen mishaps that are bound to happen. Just a knock at the door.

As we sat amidst my laundry, watching little ones play we chatted about what was going on in life. As we took breaks to feed children or put a grumpy baby to bed, we coached the littles on friendship 101. Don’t pinch. Give her space. You can play with it when she is done. Gentle. Be slow to anger,she didn’t realize that hurt you. Yelling isn’t how we talk to our friends.

Friendship Holly HawesIt is good advice for us all.

Later, they will learn to keep confidences, cheer one another on, and be includers. To care for one another’s broken hearts, and forgive one another.

One another is really what friendship is about. As Christians, friendship is not simply based on common interests or places in life, but on the fact that as followers of Jesus we are family. Beyond stage of life, race, or ambition we are called to relationship. Because of this the one another includes the other.

Romans 12:10 Love one another with {Sisterly} affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

While the Bible doesn’t have a top 10 list of friendship do’s and don’ts, when I think about the way a family should treat one another, I continue to gain more insight into how redeemed sister-friendship works.

Come as you are

…But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

There is no need to clean yourself up to join the family, and we shouldn’t permit the facade of perfection to remain within our friendships. Family gets to see all sides of you. Morning bedhead. Messy room. Struggling and succeeding. There is vulnerability in sharing your real life, and this is exactly where we begin to connect deeply with one another as sister-friends. Past the Pinterest projects and small talk is the part of your soul made for real inter-dependence.

Confess

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16

I vividly remember the first time I sat across from a friend and confessed an area I’d been struggling that I hoped to never say outloud. Years later, I don’t remember even what I actually confessed, but I remember the deep relief and healing I felt as she said outloud that God had already forgiven me and she forgave me as well. We need people in our lives who can tell us the truth, hear us out, and pray for us.

Holly Hawes FriendshipMartin Luther famously said, ‘All a Christian’s life is of repentance.” Indeed, we are people who not only say we are in need of the change God can bring in our life on day one of following Jesus, but  also on every day after that. In our relationships this means  we are to be sisters and friends who are real about the places we are struggling and are pointing one another back to the good news of the gospel.

Forgiveness

…bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13

Friendship has a certain quality of commitment that is never stated in vows, signed on a legal document, or even agreed upon in a conversation. Instead, day in and day out we begin to do the things that make relationships last and slowly a foundation is built. Part of that foundation must be forgiveness or the relationship will not stand the test of time. People do fail, and no one but Jesus is perfect. We are able to forgive one another because we know that God has forgiven us.

I’m With You

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

As sisters we hold front row seats to each other’s life. We must cheer each other on both in times of joy and pain. I find that most people are great at half of this verse. We have the encouraging cheerleader party thrower types who celebrate well when a friend gets a promotion, begins a romantic relationship, has a baby, or is just excited for the new hobby she started. On the other hand there are the mercy-filled empathetic type who sit and weep with those struggling with illness, infertility, loss of a job, disappointment, or marriage trouble. We default to one side, but miss out if we don’t learn to give both rejoicing and weeping.

You Have a Gift

For as in one body we have many members,and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them Romans 12 :4-6a

For some reason, it is difficult to see in ourselves the ways that God has made us and gifted us. We need our sisters to point out how they see God at work through us, and how our gifts are needed. So next time you see a friend excelling at something, let them know. Because we are not alone in this journey. We were designed to encourage, help, and serve those whom God loves, those He created in His image.


Holly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time holly-squareas a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

The Story of Wonder

 

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.”-Psalm 77:11

There is an upside-down topsy-turvy nature to the story that God is writing. The pages of the Bible take its readers through an unexpected storyline. It’s a lot less #blessed, and a lot more figuring out grace, belief, faith, and trust in the middle of mundane endeavors. The place where God shows up time and time again isn’t when everything is clean, or when life is easy, but right in the middle of pain, confusion, and a sink full of dishes. This life with God is more about being withless about doing. It’s more about following when we cannot seeless about striving after the perfect plan.

I’ve often missed the gift of wonder by not noticing what God has done, because I am so busy trying to stay away from the mess. The truth is, we cannot understand the gravity of the wonders of this God who is utterly outside all our paradigms unless we see the mess he entered into. It is easy to take things that are true, but strip them down to a sanitized version that can fit on a mug wreathed in trendy watercolor flowers.

“Look among the nations, and see;

 wonder and be astounded.

For I am doing a work in your days

 that you would not believe if told.” Habakkuk 1:5

People wonderYes, wonder. Yes, be astounded. Yes, believe that God is doing something amazing that you don’t even see yet. All that is true, but keep reading. Go back a few verses, read about how fed up the author is with injustice and how he cried out to God. The answer he received: This is not going to go the way you want it to. You’re going to lose. There will be pain. Yet somehow, this predicament was the work of God. His response, even though it’s going to be awful:

“…yet I will rejoice in the Lord;

 I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

God, the Lord, is my strength;

 he makes my feet like the deer’s;

 he makes me tread on my high places.”

-Habakkuk 3:18-19

I want faith like this. It is faith that astounds. A faith that makes the world wonder, because it raises the question, “Is that person crazy, or is this Jesus is real?”

  • When people cling to God despite a dangerous diagnosis. Not because God will automatically heal them, or make life good again (though he could, and sometimes does), but because He is their strength.
  • Joy in the midst of struggle, be it financial uncertainty, difficult relationships, or loss.
  • Declarations of the goodness of God despite the current state of affairs.

Looking into the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ, gives flesh to the ways God is working even in incredibly hard times. Without vulnerability and close connection within a community of believers I would be tempted to view their lives out of context in the same way I cherry picked verses for so many years.

Look at that great promotion, the cute Instagram picture, the orderly children who said the cutest thing today, and so on and so on. We must let people into the struggle, or they won’t know the goodness of God in the midst of it.

Stories of wonderThe wonder that a couple made it to their next anniversary isn’t there, if you don’t know how desperately they prayed to be able to forgive one another. Again. The wonder of the college student graduating isn’t there, if you don’t know that they were taken from their parents for their own safety and bounced from foster home to foster home all through grade school. The wonder of God in the person limping past you, is lost when you don’t know that only a year ago they couldn’t walk.

I’ve truly been amazed by the steadfast love of God when I see his story both on pages and in the lives of his children in context. I find wonder in listening. By asking another the question, “What is God doing in your life?” You will find more of God revealed. I’ve also been listening through the Bible in large chunks at a time. It was supposed to take 90 days- which would put me in Revelation by now, but I’m a bit behind and through 2 Samuel instead.

Listening to the stories of these characters, their  relationships, and God’s story of redemption has opened up the scriptures to men in a new way. The lives of the people known to be “heroes” of the faith are just as messy as the lives of those who surround me today, if not more so. Their story isn’t written so that I can try to measure up, but to give a picture of a person following God through all the ups and downs.
They, like me, needed to see the goodness and graciousness of God in response to their flaws. I need mercy. I get stuck. I find my identity in all sorts of things that cannot satisfy. Even when I know only Jesus does. These stories. Your story. My story. We are living pictures filled with wonder, not because we have lived perfectly, but because we have lived with faith.


Readers, What causes you to be amazed by Got? What causes you to be struck by someone’s story?

holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

Loving Obedience

“Wow. I could never do what you’re doing. I would get so attached, and never be able to let them go home.”

I have heard this, or variations of this, thought throughout the years from kind well-meaning people. This statement, that strokes my pride but forgets the work God has done in me, is the most common reaction I get as a foster parent. It comes in different tones. Astonishment. Admiration. Confusion. Perhaps a touch of guilt. I never know quite how to respond. Whether it comes up at the grocery store, through a message on Facebook, or while standing in the lobby of a church, we all agree on one thing It isn’t natural to love when there is nothing in it for us.

Attachment foster careI hear you. It’s true, it is hard to continue connecting. Pursuing the best for a child I won’t get to see grow up takes a whole lot of grace, and I can only describe this grace as not from me. My husband and I are not the heroes of this story, we love because God loved us.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. -1 John 4:7-11

Jesus loved sacrificially. We have grace, forgiveness, mercy, freedom, and abundant life not because of anything we’ve done, but because God loved us and wants to be known by us. But his love was poured out through great suffering. Why are we surprised then, that when we follow Jesus and obey his call to love the world, it comes at a cost, as Philippians 2:8 says, Jesus “…humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

I have resolved within my soul that I will love like my Savior, and if that means I must set myself in the path of heartache so that I may obey, so that  I may love, so be it.

As C.S. Lewis said, “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” So I wake for midnight feedings that may never shift to midnight chats. I celebrate “first” experiences and offer wisdom when little ears are listening, praying it will stick. These children that enter into my home have experienced loss, and I cannot seek to comfort while remaining robotic and unconnected.

Yes, it hurts when they go, but love is worth the risk. It is the gift we can give to combat the suffering that presses into children just looking for a way.  At the beginning of our foster care  journey my husband and I talked about seeking to love every child like they would never leave. Simultaneously, we fight to remain open handed since we do not determine how long we have them. The ethos of love for our family is no longer as simple as an emotion.  It is a choice, deliberately made, to mirror the gospel.

HeroesTruthfully, I’ve said my own version of, “I couldn’t do what you’re doing,” when I see people love in wild, outlandish, and unconventional ways. Families who invite refugees to live with them while they acclimate to a new culture. Women who give friendship to the lonely and offer their presence in the midst of hard times.Single ladies who leave everyone they know and move across the country, or the world, to pursue a vocation where she will be able serve a hurting population. Mom’s who fill their van’s with neighborhood kids, building community amongst the noise.

All these pursuits may seem different, but they are the same at their core. Obedience. They are all a response to the call to love the person in front of you, so that the God who loved us first can be made known.

I wish that instead of “I could never” our narrative could turn to a celebration of obedience as our sisters participate in the different ways God asks us all to join Him in His work. It doesn’t have to be life altering. Perhaps it is as simple as asking God for the strength to view the person in front of us as he does. Reaching out to the other with the resolution that,  “I will love you, even if you don’t agree with me. Even if I don’t get anything out of it. Even if it hurts.”


Readers, How has God called you to obey him? 

holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

Seeking Beauty

I stared at the glowing screen, eyes glazed over, darting from one item to the next. I compared products and added to the ever growing “wishlist.” Babies don’t need much, but we are foster parents and instead of 9 months of preparation, we have weeks to prepare. Car seats. Consumer reports. Carriers. Will it arrive in time? Thank God for free two day shipping.

Completely overwhelmed I ended the night gazing at the problem through tears. Wishing the pain that causes a child to need a backup plan on no one. My empathy ignited for separated families and those stuck in cycles they cannot escape. The fear of the unknown future for this tiny one, for my heart.

beauty-seekingI seek the physical necessities, but also mourn that life has not been stable and “put together”. I plan out what furniture we need to collect and find Pinterest projects to beautify spaces. I long for this child to be celebrated, welcomed, and loved if even for a short time.

But the beautiful printables didn’t calm my heart. The wish-list increased my anxiety. Grasping for control only proved how out of control I actually am.

Through tears I expressed my crazy to my husband. He pointed me back again to the only source of peace: dwelling deeply in Christ. My gaze shifted. My heart calmed.

Dwelling, Gazing, Seeking. This is what I must be about.

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. Psalm 27:4 NIV

Dwelling:

I sometimes forget that I don’t need to fix all the problems, mitigate all the relationships, and control the situation. I can dwell with my God in worship. Not just someday in heaven, but moment by moment; being near to the one who made me. Abiding with the one who loves me most.

Gazing:

I can gaze upon his beauty as I marvel at his character. Mercy. Forgiveness. Overwhelming love. Love that not only believes in redemption and second chances for all, but also cares for the most vulnerable with justice and compassion. Rather than focusing on what is in front of me, I must turn my eyes to the eternal.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:2-3

dwelling-gazing-seeking-this-is-what-i-must-be-aboutAs a turn my eyes from today to the one who is truly life, I can stop striving, because God’s wisdom, his Spirit, and his love are available to me. He who named the stars of the sky, who created galaxies, and has been working out redemption throughout all of human history also knows me intimately. He is at work in the entire world and yet

You have kept count of my tossings, put my tears in your bottle.  Are they not in your book? Psalms 57:8

My heart is put at rest knowing that God is good. My anxieties ease as I stare into his power and greatness. I can leave him in control, for he loves me as well as those I fret over when midnight nears.

Seeking:

Seeking him out is the most beautiful pursuit. I don’t need to know the end of the story to know that God will be at work. He does not just take people who are doing well at life and shine them up a bit, but he transforms the worst situations possible into something beautiful.
It is not simply the “someday” resolution, wrapped up in a bow, that creates beauty in the midst of the messiness of life. Choosing to dwell with, gaze at, and seek the giver of life allows true beauty to bloom in chaos.


Readers, Whatever your cares the weight of them can be revealed by keeping your eyes on the the God who can carry it for you. May you seek and find rest as you search for His beauty today.

holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

Deep Renewal

I sat at work in the local homeless shelter, and heard a measure of disbelief present in the voices of two women recounting their experience as “new” members of a Sunday school class at a local church.

I was nervous, but felt so welcome. They bought us lunch. They all seem to have it together, yet they didn’t bat an eye when we told them we are in the recovery program and living in a homeless shelter. I feel out of place in a  group of people who obviously don’t struggle in the way I do, but I guess I can keep going.

Their relationships continued to deepen, and one of the women was astonished by what she soon discovered. One of the “perfect” church ladies had revealed that 30 years before, she was in a similar place. Addiction had run her life and threatened to ruin her hope for the future. But she was transformed as she followed Jesus. Once she sought His ways instead of her own, it had been so life-altering that over the course of 30 years, it was impossible to imagine that the life she described as her past had ever existed. Had she not chosen humility and vulnerability, my friends who were fighting the same battle would never have known they were not alone. They were encouraged, reminded that they had not strayed so far that they could not be renewed.

renewal-holly-grassThere is hope in seeing the transformation that God works out over a lifetime. That healing begins the moment we first place our trust in Jesus. That 2 Corinthians 5:17 is true not only for the women in the shelter but for the woman crying in the corner at the Ritz. It reminds us all that our old life, whatever it might be, can be swept away so that new hopes may spring.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

The broken redeemed are living proof, because of Jesus everything, down to the deepest level, is different.

As for me, instead of the prodigal, who tried everything and ran as far as possible, I identify closely with the pharisee. I was one of those religious people who thought their actions and ability to do the right thing would make God happy.

Happy I was not, instead I was stressed out. I frantically went about trying to manage my personal growth. I grew up in church, and thought I trusted Jesus as my savior early in life, I somehow obtained an unspoken underlying idea that all those people in the Bible were REALLY good, and I should try to be like them.

I believed in God, and wanted to do things his way, but was confused about what that actually looked like. I approached  prayer and time reading the Bible in a results-driven manor. What had I learned? What did I need to apply to life right now? I knew I wasn’t perfect, but I unconsciously tried to be. The pressure was heavy.

At 13, I read the Bible on my own for the first time. Instead of perfect people, I encountered God-breathed accounts of real people with big issues. I didn’t know what to do. When I read more than the one verse attached to the teen devotional, I was confused. Where were all those great people?

Had I just never been taught the failings of Bible heroes like David and Abraham? How had I missed that they too were in need of grace? Most likely, because their failings weren’t exactly child-appropriate and more like something from an episode of Scandal. However, this didn’t put a stop to the part of me that thought I could muscle out goodness to please not only God but His people.

Rather than simply a huge outward shift, I too needed a renewed heart. I underlined verses that pointed out what truly saved, in bright green gel pen in my teen study Bible:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

Slowly, I started to base my idea of whether or not God approved of me by who He said I was rather than my performance that day. I discovered that God is in it with us for the long game. As I read Romans chapter 12 one day more than ten years ago, I was struck by something new.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

renewal-hollyTransformation doesn’t happen overnight. Trying harder and checking boxes just doesn’t cut it. Renewing the mind isn’t linear, or easily measured. Just like watching grass grow or planting a tree, change sometimes happens gradually in the Christian life. It is more clearly seen in comparison to last month, last year, last decade. My decision making and sense of what God had called me to do couldn’t be based on sitting down one day with my Bible and a question I needed answered ASAP. Instead, over a long walk with God and consistently hearing from him through his word, it all would be sorted out. Revealed in due time as He renewed my mind, and I slowly became more like my savior. One day, I too, will look back at life and see motivations and desires steadily renewed and transformed.

I am living proof, because of Jesus everything, down to the deepest level, is different.
It’s a process. Be patient. Remember, God loved us before we wanted him, and he doesn’t leave us alone on this journey.


Readers, You cannot be good enough to reach the perfection being in the presence of a Holy God demands, nor can you be so far that His grace will not reach you if you call to Him. Let those truths offer freedom to your soul and peace to your busy mind. When you look back how do you see that God was working?

holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

Christmas Moments Amongst the Mundane

Last year, when Christmas tunes began to ring out from the radio, our mostly quiet family of three became a raucous party of seven. My husband and I have one teenage daughter and, while we weren’t on the list for emergency foster care, four siblings (ranging in ages from 7-15) were delivered to our home during a crisp late fall morning so they could spend the holidays together, connected.

As we folded new family members into daily life, I realized they knew very little of the true story of Christmas. The way in which we celebrated Christmas was drastically different from what these kids commonly expected. The holiday season became a time of learning about these kids and their traditions, and articulating our own. Christmas for us tends to go deeper than the kinds of food, type of music, and activities we participate in. As we explained that, we began to see opportunities woven throughout our days to speak the truth of God’s grand plan to seek out, love, and mend hearts.

God instructed his people in Deuteronomy 6:4-8 to teach their children of Him in all aspects of life, to let the everyday moments become meaningful.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Deuteronomy 6:4b-8

We too can speak the good news throughout our days, sharing that the Savior came in the form of a fragile baby who would change the world. There may be no other season that presents more opportunities to connect the dots between our lives and the story of God in a way that deeply matters to our children, our neighbors, and our own souls.

To be honest, I didn’t plan to have any of the conversations that came about. Instead, the light of the world began to illuminate in the moments I least expected. In the car the youngest exclaimed “Jesus is the King of Love,” as she remembered the lyrics to a song she had heard. On another occasion, as we were hurrying along, the preteen asked me in a public restroom, “Why is it important that Jesus was born. Wasn’t he just another baby?” I didn’t expect to get to explain the whole story of redemption as we washed our hands and talked over the whir of the electric hand drier, but I had the privilege to do so.

Isn’t that exactly how God intersects with our lives? The moments we could never plan are when He makes Himself known.

Though these siblings were able to be reunited with family by the time Christmas morning arrived, I came away from the season acutely aware of the meaning of each moment. The real story of Christmas just needed to be pointed out. Not in a grand production, or lengthy speech, but in the simple moments wherever the Holy Spirit brought about a connection.

Today, may we ask God to illuminate the places where His overarching story of glory and grace melds the mundane moments with the eternal epic. May God connect the dots of the busy with the dots of the meaningful. Let us ponder with awe the baby in the manger and share with glad and sincere hearts of the hope He brings. May this season be steeped in moments that deepen our faith and point us to Christ.

~~~
Readers, How do you share the true meaning of Christmas with those around you? Tell us in the comments.

b0de0-holly2bsquareHolly is a wife, mother of one, and foster mother to many. She seeks to glorify God in all she does, for all her life. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She welcomes people into her life, into her heart, and into her home with hopes of offering encouragement. You can find more from Holly here at Anchored Voices or at her blog Called to Restore.

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When the Adoption Fell Through

The night before it all fell through my husband had a dream that skated on the edge between sleep and wakefulness. The kind where you think your dream-life actually happened, only to wake and find it never existed at all. He was holding her, a girl we planned to name Harper, sleeping on his chest. It felt so real; the warmth and weight of a tiny body snuggled up, safe, and peaceful in daddy’s arms.
Then the phone rang like a chill shivering up the spine of a silent September morning. It was over.
We’d raised money, poured over her pictures, completed an expedited home study, and talked to a myriad of lawyers. We had done anything we could to make the dream a reality. The flight was practically booked to bring our little girl home when we were told it wouldn’t be needed.
Something I was sure was ours turned out to only be vapor. Worse, a dream I was sure had been planted in my heart by God suddenly withered for reasons I could not fathom. Why this cruel, quiet reality? Why not this child? Would we ever become parents?
The following weeks were a rollercoaster. I was sad. I was angry. I was embarrassed. I thought I looked like a fool for hoping this adoption process would actually come through. I’d been so vocal about the path I thought God had placed us on. Had He failed? Or had I failed to hear?
Before we lost her officially, I had begun to lose hope. One day I opened the Bible to a random page, desperate to be reassured that all would be okay.
Romans 8:31 jumped off the page. “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
That was it. I posted on my personal blog and Facebook about the latest adoption challenge with the hashtags #ifgodisforuswhocanbeagainstus & #adoptionrocks.
The truth? I had equated God’s goodness with Him giving me what I want. In my eyes His faithfulness would ensure that the road would be smooth, and this circumstance would turn out in our favor. In reality, the theme of that chunk of scripture assures me that no trial or suffering could separate me from the love of Christ.
I had been reading the Bible like it was a crystal ball—all about me and my circumstances and the next step to take.  Not as it truly is, a story of God and what he’s done to rescue his people. My quick interpretation of one verse was entirely backwards.
But the truth gave so much freedom:
  • I could be weak, because the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. Romans 8:26
  • God is working for the good of those who love him, according to his own purpose. Which means He would lead us to His purpose and somehow it would be good (8:28). Even when, even though, we weren’t taking home this child.
  • God gave his only son on my behalf (8:32). He is not holding out on me. Nothing can separate me from His love.(8:35)
That doesn’t mean it wasn’t difficult. I knew He had been leading us to adoption, and when it fell apart I couldn’t see why the path suddenly became a dead end.
***
A week later, we were told a heart-wrenching story of an older teen girl who desperately needed a place to stay.  She had been trafficked and needed to not go back to the area she was from.  I casually asked what it would take to become foster parents, since we already had a home study completed. I figured that since we had no other children, and we had been told, because of our young age, that we’d wait for up to three years for one we might be able to help. That situation ended up not being a good fit. We didn’t live in the right place.
A week later we received a life changing phone call. Could we be just foster parents? For up to a year? A 12 year old girl, who had been in an adoptive placement needed to move. Today. Everything in her life was falling apart, and we lived in the right town.
Three years later, she is our daughter. Rather than being in the potty training stage we are about to start driving lessons. I didn’t see that coming, but I’m so glad it did.
We’ve marveled over and over how God put us together. I can see the way He weaved our stories into one. How for her 5 years in foster care God’s people loved her, held her hand, and walked her right to our unlikely doorstep two weeks after we thought our adoption dreams had been decimated.
The dreams we held onto were far too small—we had no idea.  The destruction of one hope led to another being fulfilled. Our daughter was in need of us on the other side of that suffering and pain. God hadn’t failed; His promise stood true. He hadn’t told me that we wouldn’t suffer pain and loss, but reminded me that nothing could separate us from his love because He knew I would need the reminder.

 
Readers, What hope helps you to trust God with your deepest desires?
Holly is a wife, mother of one, and foster mother to many. She seeks to glorify God in all she does, for all her life. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She welcomes people into her life, into her heart, and into her home with hopes of offering encouragement. You can find more from Holly here at Anchored Voices or at her blog Called to Restore.

The Cry of Awareness

As I drove down the interstate a crying woman sped past me in the left lane, and a man talking animatedly on his blue-tooth zoomed by in the right. Wheeled bubbles of steel and glass rolled by the drama that clearly showed something was broken. Real people, with real lives, whizzing down the highway heading to destinations unknown. It is sobering to think how so many lives intersect but are still separated. That woman, with the tears, was weighed down by deep feelings. That man was attempting to talk his way out of his early morning problem. They both pushed forward alone into the crisp autumn morning on the highway right of the carpool lane.

There are too many burdens to carry on our own, but that doesn’t keep us from trying. We cover over the detail of real life with Instagram filters, and  “I’m fine,” or “we’re busy,” are the expected reply to the affable, “How are you?” Real answers are scary both to share and listen to. I fear we erect our own walls of steel and glass to keep inquirers from reaching our hearts.

How are you, really?

We don’t talk about domestic violence—too much shame.

We don’t talk about miscarriage and infant losstoo sad.

We don’t talk about racial divisions (unless we’re with people who agree with our own opinion)too polarizing.

We don’t talk about the percentage of foster children who age out of the system and become homelesstoo complex.

We don’t talk about human trafficking, today’s slaverytoo dark.

We don’t talk about mental health or people we love who struggletoo messy.

We put the pretty, shiny moments on the internet to be celebrated, but remain isolated in the parts of the heart that needs the most healing. At best people band together in whatever they are dealing with and lament at how everyone else just doesn’t understand. We just don’t want to be alone.

The good news is that we weren’t meant to be. Both the joy and the pain are not meant to be experienced alone. Romans 12:15 says, we are to “ Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Despite the many masks and images we cultivate online, it appears not everyone wants to stay isolated. We raise awareness through walks, runs, ribbons and t-shirts.  Every cause send out the invitation: This is my life. I don’t want to be lonely anymore. Can you help? Will you listen?  

The cry of connected but lonely people: Rejoice with me!  Mourn with me!  Be with me!

We must be aware of the deep places, and not afraid to share our own hurts in order to be the family God meant us to be for one another. You don’t have to live out a set of circumstances to be impacted by them.  But you do have to be willing to listen as well as willing to share.

Perhaps the cry for awareness is simply a cry for love.

A love that is aware of the real substance in each other’s lives despite the disorder. A love inspired by the  life of Jesus, who entered into some awfully messy situations and empowers us to do the same. He is still the one who is aware of it all. All the pain, all the disease, all the horror that haunt the shadows of people passing us. He crossed lines to love people where there was racism, incurable illness, and social injustice. Bereaved parents, social outcasts, and hurting people flocked to Jesus then, and He reaches out to us now.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” ~Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30)


Readers, Do you have a burden that you need Jesus to carry, but aren’t sure how to start a relationship with him? Find our more about this Jesus here.

b0de0-holly2bsquareHolly is a wife, mother of one, and foster mother to many. She seeks to glorify God in all she does, for all her life. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She welcomes people into her life, into her heart, and into her home with hopes of offering encouragement. You can find more from Holly here at Anchored Voices or at her blog Called to Restore.

 

Running From Love

“Worst case, if she runs, just call the police.”

Did I hear that right? I had taken this phone call in the safety of my living room, and I was glad. For the cell connection hid the shock painted upon my face. Those words gave me a quick and hard reality check, and I was choking on it. Now, three years removed from the eve of our first experience with foster parenting, I’ve only had to follow this advice once.

Nine children have gone in and out of our home, and one came in to become our own. Through these experiences, I’ve learned much of how we as humans try to protect ourselves. Many times, in trying to do so, we run from exactly what we need most. I had no idea how difficult it can be for some to receive love, or how much I run from being loved myself.

We all do it. Fear causes us to run from love. As we attempt to get through the walls we ourselves and others put up we must realize that it may take extraordinary measures of persistence and sacrifice.

In children who have experienced trauma, it can come out in running, screaming, or slammed doors. They push people away before they get close enough to hurt, because that is what they have experienced. After enduring profound emotional and physical pain at the hands of those who are closest, the very people who should keep them safe, they learn to protect themselves from vulnerability. Which can cause a domino effect to those reaching out. Our natural response to being given the cold shoulder or being lashed out in episodes of explosive anger—Get away. What the child actually is asking for as they try to make you turn is closeness, connection, and safety. Their overtop reaction is a pleading for love.

I haven’t always translated this chaotic disconnect very well. As Dr. Russel Barkley said, “The children who need love the most will always ask for it in the most unloving ways.”

Sometimes they have the words to ask aloud, “Why should I trust you? Do you really care?” Other times the same question comes out in their actions, “Will you still be nice to me if I break your stuff? If I throw a fit, will you still tuck me in and read a bedtime story?”

Love gives both grace and truth in the midst of failure. This love takes perseverance that is completely beyond humanity’s grasp. When love freely given is not returned, or the recipient looks you in the face and spews vinegar for your honey, you are reminded real love is hard.

Real love is worth it.

I see this worth it in the child who packed a bag in anger. It’s contents: a teddy bear, warm clothes and the Jesus Storybook Bible we read at night . One moment raging and running, the next asking for reassurance. A hug. A sandwich. Completely against me one moment, but wanting me to stay close by later. My presence allowing sleep to come quickly.

I see myself in the runners. How I want my own way. How I avoid being near to God when I’m upset instead of collapsing into his open arms. I throw the same fits on a different plane. Moments of unbelief cause me to question if God really loves me, even though I know he has shown his love over and over again. I see now, I am running just to see if he chases me.

He does chase me. Like the Storybook Bible that is once again on the bedside table says, his “Never ending, never giving up, unstopping, always and forever love,” continues to persevere no matter what I throw his way.

His love is relentless, and somehow by God’s great plan there are people in my life who need to be chased down with the same kind of love. A love that does not depend on whether or not it is received or reciprocated. We go to extraordinary lengths to persevere in love because, “We love because He first loved us.” 1John 4:19

So today, I remember the persistence of God’s love for me, and from it I can persevere in loving the people in front of me. Even those who aren’t always easy to catch.

 


Readers, Are you running from the love of God? What keeps you from seeking him?

ff717-holly2bsquareHolly is a wife, mother of one, and foster mother to many. She seeks to glorify God in all she does, for all her life. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She welcomes people into her life, into her heart, and into her home with hopes of offering encouragement. You can find more from Holly here at Anchored Voices or at her blog Called to Restore.