Recently I went to a women’s retreat with the new, smaller church my family has been attending. For 10 years we were at our old church when we felt the Lord recently call us to a smaller community, and I knew going on the women’s retreat would help me get to know some of the women and get connected to this new community. Only–I don’t do well with new places and new people–and getting over that hump is PAINFUL for me.
Enochlophopia: a social phobia that includes fear of crowds–often leading to feeling insignficant.
Y’all. I might have to diagnose myself with that phobia. The crowd was only 40 or so folks. But 40 that didn’t know me–so when the opportunity presented itself on the 2nd day of the 3 day retreat–I hauled it. Yes, I know. I failed retreat going although I help coordinate retreats where 450 moms are in attendance for each one. But y’all–I’m a retreat failure;). (I have a deep appreciation for every mom who comes to our retreats so bravely–it’s not something I do easily! And I didn’t last 24 hours at this one!) I packed my bags. Left one of my roommates I had connected with a note–and HAULED it to my car running as fast as I could with my luggage hitting my side as I ran. The only thing I left besides my favorite pillow was dust and gravel spinning off my tires as I skidded out of that place.
For whatever reason, in that environment I felt so unseen. And having to retell who I was…even who I see myself in Christ as–just felt too overwhelming.
He sees me.
And He sees you.
Where you are. No matter how unseen you might feel.
He sees you.
In Genesis 16, Sarai and Abram (later renamed Sarah and Abraham) forget God’s promises and His promise to them. They LONGED to be parents. They lived a life of infertility without adoption agencies or fertility options. But God saw them–and in chapter 15 the Lord had spoken to them promising them that one day they would have children (Not a child–but CHILDREN).
Sarai forgot God’s promise and convinced Abram to sleep with their helper Hagar so they could have a family through her. Hagar conceived, but was then mistreated by Sarai. And it felt SO…unfair.
Have you ever felt that? Tired? Done? Used?
Let’s leave Sarai’s feelings for a bit and jump to Hagar.
Hagar had gone above and beyond her duties as a helper. And to be frank–she was used. She was mistreated. She was forced to sleep with her boss Abram so Sarai could have a baby for her. Then Sarai was just mean to Hagar. SISTERS–you know the one thing that cuts our hearts in two is a mean girl. While things weren’t working out for Sarai, Hagar was just taken down with her–for no reason other than to try and make Sarai’s life better–and it just felt so wrong. She felt unappreciated. She felt used. She felt unseen. And not because of Abram–but because of Sarai…another woman not appreciating or loving her well.
Hagar felt more unseen because of the treatment of Sarai than the treatment of Abram. She ran and fleed to another country hauling it on her heels as fast as she could–certainly leaving her pillow if she had one. And then–as she ran…God showed up and reminded her, “I SEE YOU.”
I really believe as a woman that it is more often our very own that we feel the most insignificance, under appreciated and even hurt from. It is also our very kind that we can also receive the most healing through when we walk together–which requires dying to ourselves, vulnerability and taking risks. I know this is one of the reasons the Lord called me to serving women through retreats–it’s my very place of DISCOMFORT AND WEAKNESS—but it is also through these that I have been challenged, strengthened in and seen the power of Jesus in my own heart and hands in. I find myself drawn to the woman in the back of the room with her bags contemplating running–and it’s often that very mom that becomes my new VBFF in life–running beside me.
And Hagar–she also felt unseen. God saw her–deeply. She just needed reminding.
Instead of getting to build a new life away from the uncomfortable–God tells her to GO BACK. And He also discloses a little bit about what her son will be like. And that–wasn’t pretty either. A wild donkey of a son who will always live in hostility with his brothers. Good times Hagar…good times. Does the story for Hagar ever get better? Does your story every get better? Some times you don’t see it–and Hagar at the time didn’t either!
But Hagar says to the Lord, “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” (Genesis 16:13).
And that–is ENOUGH.
It is enough to leave there and return to serve. To serve without appreciation. To serve without being written more about. Her life isn’t written about more–but there’s no doubt that it continued and hopefully got better. What we do know–is she was SEEN and that was ENOUGH.
Her problems were deep. Her problems were heavy.
But she was seen–and being seen by Him was ENOUGH.
She was in a situation where she was now unclean and might never be accepted by the world.
But she was seen–and being seen by Him was ENOUGH.
She was serving her heart and soul out–being mistreated, having eyes rolled at her, being asked to do things that were not fair. She was looked from head to toe with a hateful glare by another woman that she would continue to serve.
But she was seen–and being seen by Him was ENOUGH.
Hagar didn’t have an iPhone to text her friend how unappreciated she felt. She didn’t have Facebook to gripe on…or a blog to vent through. She couldn’t call someone to just tell how rude and unkind Sarai was…
She was seen–and being seen by Him was ENOUGH.
And He saw Sarai too.
God is so gracious and merciful like that.
He answered Sarai’s prayer and life time longing in the chapters that follow by making her a mommy. Although she messed up. Although she didn’t trust Him. Although she took matters in her own hand. Although she sinned. Although she mistreated her staff. Although she rolled her eyes. Although she didn’t love others. Although she didn’t do the right thing. Although she griped. GOD SAW HER…TOO.
Where ever you are today–God sees.
He sees you right where you are–and He also has promises for you–just like He did for Sarai…and Hagar.
I think about His promises to me–and oh how FAITHFUL He is.
We must recount and remember His faithfulness…and share it with those who are waiting…feeling unseen—feeling forgotten…so they may be encouraged.
Fourteen years ago I was living in China and prayed that one day I would have a child from China. I wanted to be a mommy more than anything. God would later answer that prayer–after walking through Lyme disease, miscarriage and a whole lot of crazy. On the 10th anniversary of our wedding–we would be in China for the first time together completing our family.
Remembering back to Lyme disease, I remember thinking I would never run or have energy again. My rheumatologist diagnosed me with Sjogren’s Syndrome. The fatigue that came with this seemed too much for also homeschooling yet we felt called to this through dyslexia and other needs. I see now that God had me go through these things to know Him deeper and experience His glory in new ways. This week I got another year of great CLEAR results on my blood work–perfectly normal results. Those months and months of struggling were holy and sweet–although at the time they felt overwhelmed and hopeless. I feel so privileged to now be able to encourage others walking this journey with the same comfort I received from Him offering hope and encouragement on other’s journey.
This small town girl has always struggled living in the big city–and while I thought and hoped one day we would move to a really small town where I would know people and be known by people on a deeper level, God led us to a farm just outside the city…and it’s perfect. Because He sees and He knows me on the level my soul longs to be known.
And while all of Sarai and Hagar’s issues would have not been issues had Sarai just believed God’s promises in the first place–He still saw and didn’t leave either of them. Because He is good. Because He is God. And because He wants us to all know–that no matter what we do…He is ENOUGH.
He sees YOU today–right where you are. He is going to show up and show you that He is enough when you choose to open your eyes and look for Him. He, too, has promises for you. He longs for you to see Him–as He sees you. And oh sweet sister–HE SEES YOU. Feeling appreciated or not…loved or not…used or not…lonely or just out of place…HE SEES. And He has a plan. Your story is going to be beautiful as you wait on Him and rest knowing that He will always show up. He is EL ROI…the God who sees. And He is enough for you–and me.
Thankful for His faithfulness…
It’s been 6 months since we moved to the farm:) What we call the farm anyway. Little by little–we are making this place our home. It’s not easy making updates with homeschooling and 5 children under 10, but each time we put our mark on something–it feels a little more like home…like it fits us.
Oh the lessons.
Bit by bit we can do updates–and this next month, it will be the carpet upstairs. Removing 10 years of someone else’s stuff and replacing it with clean, new carpet. I decided to help the cost a bit by ripping up the carpet on the stairs. Only–my projects never, ever seem to help the cost. Some times, just add to it.
So on Thursday I decided to just rip it up. It was no easy task. And I’ve got battle wounds to prove that. Scraps all over my arm from those staples left in the carpet as I twisted and pulled and pulled some more. On Friday–I started sanding. Then that night–I stained. And uh oh. Applied Minwax. NEVER. EVER. EVER. EVER. apply Minwax stain to stairs or floor or furniture until you have every speck of stain completely removed. Or else. You are left with a sticky mess. That must be paint thinned off. Washed and scrubbed and sanded AGAIN.
Then you just grab a can of paint and say, “Forget it!” and paint the stairs grey. And you aren’t sure how it will look–but at this point you don’t even care because you just need them to not be sticky and send little feet all over the house with traces of stain all over them.
Don’t get me wrong–seeing little footprints throughout the house this weekend has been sweet…even mine:) BUT–that’s just not what I was going for.
It. Has. Been. A. MESS!
Richard assures me that in the end–it will be beautiful. And the perfect fit…because it has our stamp and hand all over it. But right now…it’s quite a mess.
And last night. I sat in my driveway as the sunset and cried for the first time in a very, very, VERY long time. But not about the stain. Or the stairs. Or wishing I could go back to 3 days ago and just let the carpet folks to it as we had once planned. Instead…it was over the hard in the now of helping little ones heal…
I’ve missed every soccer game for my oldest this season because my littlest ones either need naps or they aren’t able to sit and watch without running on the field…or having a tantrum because of sensory overstimulation. On Friday we missed a Nutcracker ballet session because of dealing with lots and lots of layers…and in the mess of trying to talk through the layers and why who did what and how that hurt someone else…something important was missed by another child.
Some times I hear those awful lines that only mean commenters or the enemy himself would say…you shouldn’t have grown your family again and again if you couldn’t handle it…didn’t you know adoption was going to be full of healing–you knew what you were getting into. The list goes on to the things we can hear–but none of them truth, encouragement, love or even reality. Because the reality is that the Lord did call us to this…it is more than we can handle…but it isn’t more than He wants to handle and plans to handle for us.
I sat there–stripping off layer after layer of stain.
It’s so hard. The layers.
It looked better being that old scuffed up carpet runner. But that was taken away. And the layers could begin to come off. I wanted it to look new. But it won’t ever look that way. So paint. And it will be beautiful–but not until all those layers come off.
And Richard comes in and hears me complaining as I paint the first layer…”Look how awful this looks on the side…I’m making such a mess. This is harder than I thought it was going to be. I just want to quit.”
“Why do you want everything to be perfect when you know you are in the middle of it? It won’t be until–you’re done. It will be–we just gotta get there,” he said.
The paint brush stopped.
And I thought of my children.
“Why do I want everything to be perfect when I know we are in the middle of it? It won’t be until–we’re done. It will be–we just gotta get there.”
The layers…the peeling away…the healing…the working through the effects of past trauma…IS NOT GOING TO BE EASY…or pretty or look perfect.
I know this is true about my stairs–but why can’t I grasp and believe it about something as grand as my family and children?
Then…I stopped to get ready for a Bible study with my Laney girl tomorrow. We shared our hearts and wishes and our wants.
Her wishes…my wishes…they might never be–but still we wished them…and my heart melted when she shared hers…and it was mine too. I tucked her in and went downstairs to put together scripture memory cards for the girls in our group–and this month…focusing on His faithfulness and perseverance.
Deuteronomy 32:4 “He is the Rock. His works are perfect and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.”
Psalm 33:4 “For the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does.”
Psalm 18:25 “To the faithful, You show Yourself faithful…”
Psalm 145:13 “The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made.”
Psalm 57:10 “For great is Your love, reaching to the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.”
Proverbs 3:3-4 “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the table of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good beam in the sight of God and man.”
Isaiah 40:28-29 “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired and weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”
Romans 5:3-4 “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
1 Corinthians 13:7 “[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
James 1:12 “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.”
Those scriptures–I know are for the girls. But…tonight–how much they felt FOR ME. I sat there typing them away feeling as if I was having a little revival myself.
I can’t worry about tomorrow. Or what things might look like when our kids are teenagers or after. Will healing come? Will things be easier? Will they get who they are in Him? With us? Will I remember any of this myself because oh my…some days I’d just like to be normal–not homeschooling because of a special need or staying up late to learn attachment ideas or taking off the layers and layers and layers of stuff that we just aren’t promised a clear picture of what it will look like. BUT we are given in His Word a clear picture of what it is FOR.
For His glory.
For us to know Him.
To be shaped to be like Him.
To learn to trust in His faithfulness.
To keep going because He is in us and has gone before us.
Because healing is in HIS hands and not mine…and for that I am ever so thankful.
Even in the middle of the layers—when I want it to look beautiful but it’s hard—I can step back and see the beauty even in the hard. (Although tonight the word beauty wouldn’t be my first word to use). BUT…I know I will see it. And I’m starting to. Because it’s also MY layers that must be stripped away. The first layer–giving up wanting it to not be hard…or to look pretty in between the hard…and to just learn to embrace the ashes and the beauty all together while the transforming is actually happening.
Oh how I’m learning.
And instead of throwing my hands up in the air the next time the tantrum happens on the field or sewing needle is stuck in a brother’s back (ouch!)–I want to remember these are just layers. The taking time to bend down to look in their eyes…or rock them before–and even after nap time…it’s the new paint going on. When layers and layers come off–one layer of paint won’t fully cover it. Layers and layers and layers must go back on. It will take days. Years. Maybe even forever.
But He is faithful and good–and has a plan…and I trust Him.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
It took my awhile.
I wish I had learned sooner. Practiced it more often. Not worried so much. And just stood still.
Looking back–I see a frazzled mom trying to flip through magazines to catch up with what color would be cool for the next season…as if it mattered and staying up late monogramming tees. I confess I am Southern and in my 2nd year of parenting got an embroidery machine for convenient monogramming for Christmas. (Ten years later–that machine is collecting dust. Because there is nothing wrong with monograms–but we just don’t need them so much anymore.)
Wearing the new color of the season (for fall by the way it’s a cool minty green)…or having the kids in the right sports or schools or neighborhoods…(the list goes on)…are things that I have let go of. Roll your eyes all you want if you never have quietly or not so quietly wanted for these things…but 10 years into this mommy thing–I am finally finding joy in a little. The simple.
The funny part is…when you begin to find joy in the little–you begin to see the gaps. You see the things that matter of the heart. The things that need more tending that you have missed, and had you not slowed down…they might have been missed forever.
And it’s the heart that matters most.
But. But will they be okay not having this things we ask? Will you be?
And I think about my upbringing. How I rarely share…the joy that was found in the little.
My parents got married at 18. My dad joined the army and shortly to follow my sister was born. I came 14 months later. My little sister would follow in just a few years. Neither of my parents had college diplomas. My mom would return to school later many times taking us and our coloring books with her. It wasn’t until 8th grade that I could have a friend spend the night because if it rained in my elementary years–20 buckets came out to catch the water. By high school we had come far because of the hard work and determination of both my father and mother….and I had learned the gift of simplicity, learning to make something with what you already have and finding joy in a little. Not having or needing what others have…but this was probably more by circumstances than choice.
But out of the choosing. The choosing to stay in the simple…the joy seems even sweeter there.
No matter what you have or don’t have–you will struggle with keeping up with the world…until–you don’t.
You decide one day–that the keeping up with the world just isn’t worth your heart, strength, time…but living deeply and being real is…and you can’t possibly do both.
I’ve chosen to laugh more. Not fret about the small stuff. And if I want to change things up–an $8 highlight from the grocery is a whole lot of fun–and it’s…just hair. And for a mom…a girl who used to care…there is freedom in that as silly as that may sound. If the thought of a $8 box of hair dye sounds like a risk to you…um–then we might have a ways to go;). This was my entertainment for last week…
I’m learning there’s waste in comparing–energy, soul and heart. And moving out to the country–there isn’t a thing we miss. We haven’t been to our bigger church in 5 months and only 4 out of 2,000 have noticed and checked in…and we have made some pretty sweet friends at this small church of 200 and jumped right in with Rich teaching the 4th graders and me welcoming in the mornings. Life is happening in new, real, deep ways and we are thankful.
There is truly freedom in learning to find joy in the the little…and not needing things or being a part of things to make us feel like we are somebody. Learning over here to just slow down and rest…right where I am…He is enough…in Him I am enough…and I just need to be still.
I’m learning to slow down in new ways…and truly–learning to love and live with no regrets, retrieve or reserve. We have but one life…I want to live deeply and fully. You in?
Here are a few pictures of us lately…
Not sure if this blog makes a lick of rambling sense! But if it encourages one…the rambling is worth it! And it will help me remember these sweet days later–because I’m quite sure my mommy brain will forget!
Today was full of so many things.
I made 6 bottles of goat formula for these two..
Later in the day, I decided to surprise Richard and finish the goat fence. Which was so much fun because Isaac helped.
Mommy! Please let this be the last board! I'm getting wet out here! This is the last one…right mommy?
Sweet conversations as we worked together.
He worked too.
I was so proud.
A chicken almost got in through pool fence. I do CPR but not sure how that works for chickens so I'm glad we diverted that course.
This. This is the crazy we hoped for. Crazy. Fun. Messy. Hard. Perfect.
Richard and I even managed our date night getting to try a new fun pizza place…just us.
So fun going over the highlights of my day with him and he with me. This one I just have to write down because it's a mommy moment for me. It even made me cry over pizza–and I think I might have caught a tear in my Rico Suave too as I shared. The best of all of the moments in my crazy day…
I arrived to the preschool to pick up these two sweeties from their morning of play…
And I wish I had a picture of the moment just 5 minutes before this.
Still holding my breath thinking about that moment.
I was standing in line with a handful of moms in front of me waiting to pickup their 3 year olds.
The children were all in a circle playing. Except Zeke. He was sitting in the circle but stretching his little neck to see each mom that came.
I could see disappointment at each face…and his brow crinkled up as he strained to see.
He didn't see me yet.
And I knew…he was looking for me…mommy.
Here this love who entered my arms when he was 2 years old and now at 3. Waiting in this circle and hoping the next one was…me. Mommy.
I held my breath…because some times as a mommy through adoption you some times think…what if. What if i hadn't called that day when I was captured by that sweet little face of this boy I was praying for online. What if someone else had called? What if no one had? What if I had missed him? Or he me? What if he was waiting and waiting like that little boy stretching his head to see mommy…and no one came? Everyone needs mommy…and oh my…this mommy needed him.
I have a unique experience as mommy having biological babes and babes through adoption–my heart too. Sure they were all my choice to have…but with adoption it is different. I didn't know if my first three would be girls or boys or if I'd miscarry or if they would finally be in my arms. When I found out each time I was pregnant–we hoped…we prayed…for so many things…health, just making it here…and then…here they came with the miracle of birth. But with adoption…
Sometimes it's a phone call. Or a picture. You know months…some times years of health information–and the stories, medical history and backgrounds are often a pile high of papers to sort through with 24 hours to say yes to. And just like that…you are mommy. And you wait. You wait. You wait. And you wait some more. I watched mine grow up for many months in pictures while we waited for every clearance…every step another YES…toward I am mommy. Much of it all–really a choice…really for us and not so much for them…just hopes they will one day shout it…want it…want us–right back too.
And he sees me.
Mommy! Mommy! My mommy is here!
He squeals the same thing. Every. Single. Time.
And it never gets old.
My knees jolt from the impact of that little boy who just raced to run into them with a giant 3 year old hug.
I hold my breath. And force a smile instead of tears.
I am blessed.
I am mommy.
He is mine.
My sweet son.
Today I hold on to that memory. With thankfulness that His story…the One He writes for us…is so much more beautiful than anything we could write for ourselves. Trusting Him every step of the way!