Thursday, January 6, 2011

an Advent Soul

Don't let anyone convince you otherwise: perfectly working clocks move at different paces. Surely the days and nights were somehow objectively longer last fall, my heart, body and mind occupied in Rwanda. Between July and almost December, every email I received caused flutters in my knot-infested stomach, almost always to disappoint and somehow create even more longing and pain. and hope for the next one.

But I knew it wasn't about him. Not about Isaiah anyway.

Oh sure, some (even a lot) of the acute longing and pain was very connected to our heart born son, who spent close to two beautiful and difficult years at Home of Hope. Without a family and without so much more that that. And those painful, basically sleepless nights mysteriously and perhaps even spiritually knit me closer to him. I would never wish away a single one of those aching moments.

But that "knitting me to him" wasn't the aching's only purpose, and Isaiah wasn't it's only focus.

I cringed and rebelled at the thought that I would somehow feel all better once he was home. Like many of you, I balked at the idea that if he had a good day, if someone could tell me that he'd had enough food, enough affection, enough attention, enough of a sense of God's love for him...that somehow the almost unbearable pain I was feeling would go away.

Maybe (likely) I was being stubborn, but I refused to let the pain go away. And I believed and still believe it shouldn't go away. Not yet.

You see, as I've asked our Maker, the One who hears the cry of the afflicted, to give me eyes like his. To help me to see more like Him. When I've asked him to help my heart to break more regularly for what breaks His. I really believe He has started to answer. And He has been slowly and sometimes painfully building and refining in me an Advent soul. I'm not even close to alone or special in this journey, I've found good company in present day and Old Testament prophets like Habakkuk and Isaiah. Many of you who defend the cause of the oppressed, or fight for justice have developed these souls as well. I'm a very unfinished product, but I believe He has shown me some of what it means to have an Advent soul.

In summary, I think it means groaning with all of creation for anything or anyone that isn't yet what they will be like in future glory. longing for all things to be as they should be, as they are promised to be. as they will one day be. it means noticing and feeling almost ruined over Spirit-revealed discrepancies in my character and, because of Jesus' work, what I will one day be like. It means allowing myself to be disappointed and deeply saddened over broken marriages...or even good marriages that aren't perfected ones (that's all of them). It means being moved to tears over the plight of children who don't have families. Who don't have enough food. or shelter. or love. It means being overwhelmed with anger and deep sadness for women who seem to have no choice but to allow men to rape them day in and day out, or else they can't feed their children. and to weep for the children who follow in her footsteps at a young age.

He's graciously and painfully opened my eyes to gaps between how He intends full life to be--how it will one day be--and where we are now. And he has taught me to feel profoundly disappointed, to ache, pray and long for the Kingdom to come in some of those parts of life. And to be dissatisfied with anything less. In myself. In the church. In the world.

To ache for God's fullness to come to broken areas includes admitting and articulating, even intentionally drawing others' attention to the fact that there is currently a gap. Martin Luther King says it so well, "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of of this period of social transition was not was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people." It means waking people up to notice and care about the disparity. Seems like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised at the discomfort caused by admitting disappointments in life. Honestly it sometimes makes me and others feel a bit depressed or uncomfortable to see how bad some of it is. Who wants to willingly go there?

But I believe as we admit the brokenness of our lives. The ways we don't live as we should. The ways our motivations are so stained. As we confess that there are major parts of us that need to be drastically transformed by the Spirit before we will even slightly resemble our future glory selves. When we do these things, we actually defend the goodness and glory of God. For like the prophet Isaiah noticed, we are not good, but God is not like us: "Woe is me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the King, the Almighty." Admitting our inadequacies and brokenness is a first step in inviting ourselves and others to experience the hope of the Gospel. If there isn't a gap (for me, for you, for the world), why is the news so good?

God isn't indifferent about the discrepancies between future glory and now. He seems physically pained throughout the Old Testament as he sees what the world is like and He is always promising that He will defend the cause of the oppressed, He will feed the hungry, He will bring justice. He is always deeply frustrated by the wrongdoings of His children. Then when Jesus walked among us, he groaned, wept, grew angry over the injustices and brokenness he saw.

And so should we.

When we "go there" into the depths of disappointments in ourselves, or when we have legitimate godly longings for others and for the world, there is danger that we will lose hope. When admitting how dark parts of us and parts of the world are, we must be ever careful not to remember where the light is. Careful not to lose hope. Lately I have despaired over several things in my life that seem overwhelming, and surely when faced with the facts, it is easy to start to despair over poverty and injustice in the world. But the hope we have in Jesus is enough to overcome all doubt. All brokeness.

His Word assures us that indeed His son is the firstfruits of what is to come. That where it seems like there is only death, life will one day be. He shows us how to live with joy and hope despite the disappointments around us and the great disparity between future glory and now.

So, an Advent soul takes the invitation to explore how much more is on offer than we are currently experiencing. He sees (because God helps him) the discrepancies between future glory and now. Admits, with longing, aching, crying, frustration and sometimes righteous anger, that life isn't the way it should be. for him or for others. But somehow he lives and speaks with patience and grace (not me, yet), knowing that God is the one who will bring it to pass. Because though we are in a season of Advent-- of waiting for God to come-- we are also living in light of the hope and sure promise of the resurrection.

I'm grateful that after a year of Isaiah being home with us, I can tell you he's not our hope. His entry into our family was greatly anticipated, and we longed and ached for him during Advent last year. But my soul is not satisfied with him home. and his soul will not be satisfied with his imperfect family.

I almost long for those days of acutely feeling the pain of waiting for him. that led to desperate waiting and praying for the fulfillment of God's promises for children. for birthmothers. for those who suffer. That season of life was a gift, a glimpse into how and why we should be waiting for our Savior to come again. In fullness. When he will leave nothing untouched by his healing power.

Here's some of what we're told it will be like: "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. And they will be his people, and God himself will be with them, and He will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was sitting on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said "write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." Rev 21: 3-5

May our perfectly working clocks grow to feel a bit objectively slower as we long more deeply and eagerly wait for this day to arrive. Habakkuk 2:3: "for the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay."

PS. Can't go into it now, but obviously it is intended to be an active waiting. not passive. we are to engage, obey God, enter into others' suffering in order to announce that the Kingdom of God is at hand.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

God gave us you

Well, it was a year ago last day-after-Thanksgiving when we first saw a glimpse of our sweet son, Isaiah. I thought it was appropriate to make an exception to my season of not blogging to remember (with you) that day, and the year that has followed.

Though because of its origins Thanksgiving is a little yucky to me (sorry to be a hater, but the pilgrims weren't exactly gentle, gracious, peace loving people), I am still thankful for the holiday, one that perhaps uniquely hasn't been totally commercialized. Besides the traditional meal--who knew people eat turkey AND ham?--Macy's Day parade and football, there aren't that many distractions from what modern Thanksgiving is supposed to be about: family and being thankful.

How fitting that on a holiday intended to teach us to be thankful, when we are all usually surrounded by our extended families, we received news of the greatest earthly gift imaginable: a child. A son. Our "Dieudonne Rukundo", literally "Gift of God" or "Given by God" and "Love".

Psalm 68:6 God puts the lonely into families.

That morning, after many sleepless, tear-filled nights, we found out about our son. And we found out that our son, who went far too long without a family, now had an enormous one. One with parents who glow at the mention of his name, one with a sister who is his best friend and biggest fan, one with cousins he now delights in, aunts and uncles who love him dearly, and grandparents who spoil him in every way. And of course our other extended family--our amazing friends--who have celebrated him, rejoiced with us about him, supported us in the hard days, and delighted in and treasured his presence.

The day we saw your face, William Isaiah Rukundo Thompson, we knew from deep within our souls, that you were our son. Your daddy wept tears of joy. Your mommy jumped onto the chair, shaking with eager anticipation, as we waited to open the emailed picture. In those precious moments, it felt as if every part of us--our mind, body and spirit--burst into jubilant psalm.

I can't articulate the immense joy we experienced the moment we knew your name and saw your beautiful face, and yet our joy has only increased at least tenfold since having you home.

You are our beautiful, sought after, ached and longed for son. We can't imagine our family without your presence. This thanksgiving we give thanks that you are at the table with us. That God gave us you.

The picture we received:

click here and here to see some fun pictures and videos. Happy Thanksgiving!

and one last note: to clarify my last post about Isaiah/us, I would actually say that what feels like regression is actually some kind of progress. in many adoptions, kids hide/pretend for the first many months. being perfectly behaved, always copying siblings' behavior, etc. The ways Isaiah is acting right now actually (I think) shows that he's starting to come out of his shell. he's testing us, wondering how unconditional our love is. he is such a sweet kiddo. please pray we'll be patient and loving and show him he's safe and loved in our home.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

signing least for while

hello friends.
well, things in the house = chaos land. for a number of reasons I'm going to sign off for a while. maybe permanently. here are ways you can pray for us (and you can always email me!!):
  • best way we can describe it is Isaiah is regressing. we're not sounding an alarm or anything (regression is TOTALLY normal and to be expected), but we're getting some help to make sure we're doing the right things. we're mostly going back to what our lifestyle and parenting approaches were when Isaiah first came home (keeping a slower pace, lots of time in the house, attachment/play therapy strategies, bottles, ergo carrier, etc.) his stomach stuff is still there as well so we're going to be trying to spend more time figuring that out. please pray for our little man to keep moving towards trusting us and believing that we're going to stay. pray that when he pushes us away, when he tries to make us mad at him, that we will show him how much we love him. pray that he'll continue to understand that we're going to love him no matter what. and pray for us to be able to follow through with the things we need to do to make this season of life feel safer to Isaiah. it was easier to do this when he was first home (and easier for other people to understand that we were doing it). he doesn't always show his struggle symptoms with other people around and I need to just deal with people not understanding or believing that I can tell that things aren't going well right now. now that we're back to a mostly normal (pretty fast and pretty relational) pace, it is harder to back out again. but we need to. pray we'll know how to prioritize. how to stay healthy ourselves. pray that we'll just do the things we need to do. and not add a ton on and not waste a ton of time on unhealthy distractions.
  • coinciding with all of this, I need to not write publicly for a while (which is good because like I already said, I need to spend less time doing it and more time loving my kids and husband and more time making our house not feel like a tornado hit it everyday). Also, I'm starting to depend on writing and on people's opinion of me too much (lives out like an addiction actually). The things I'm most passionate about thinking, writing, talking about (faith, the world/those who are poor, adoption) are difficult to share about in writing. and I'm not very good at talking about them in a grace saturated way. That's not the best representation of Jesus in such a public space, especially when I don't know the actual audience. I also want to be a big deal. I want people to think well of me, of my approach to life. I want them to value our thinking. I know a lot of people struggle with this, but I'm struggling with it in a way that's destructive/too much right now. I need to learn some lessons in quietness, humility, and what feels like obscurity (in other words, being a stay at home mom). pray I'll use the freed up time well. that I'll learn how to be obedient and discerning about whether it is ever healthy or helpful to share in this kind of manner (this is personal. I'll continue to be grateful to read other people's blogs and stories because I love learning in that way...for me right now, though, it seems like it isn't a healthy exercise.) So at least a "fast" from blogging is necessary. perhaps permanently or perhaps only for a while so that it loses the power it has over me right now (power I've given it) and I can handle it with moderation.

I'm so thankful I've been able to depend on this community, even if most of you are anonymous!, through the past many months. I've learned a lot about myself through this. I may post something funny or a prayer request for the kids occasionally, but otherwise I'll be laying low for a while. xoxo

Monday, November 8, 2010

what we shared

several folks have asked how yesterday morning went/what we shared, so I thought I'd give you a little taste of it. Hunter was the one who talked about our family, so he might give us the full sha-bang at some point.

summary moment (not a part of the service): Hunter said to my sister KayLeigh (because she usually goes to church somewhere else): "I'm so glad you are at church with us this morning!" KK back to him: "I'm so glad Isaiah's at church with us this morning."

So, I was the call to worship person and mostly told others that for that morning we were being invited to have our gap (between how life is and how life should be) expanded, because we were going to hear about beautiful children's stories from around the world who are living in varied situations of suffering. the good news, of course, is that as the gap grows, if we hear the truth of the gospel in the midst of that, if we search the bible to see what God has to say about it, our understanding of how big the gospel is. the beauty of it, the hugeness of it will grow as well. I used the aslan/lucy quote about aslan seeming bigger to her. (and of course when we understand what God has done for us, then we want to be participants in making the gap (between how life is supposed to be and how it is)- smaller.

later in the morning, Hunter shared about our family and shared a little snippet about how the gospel has grown in each of our hearts because of adoption (how we've been shaped in positive ways by it).

lucy prays regularly for kids w/out families and tells Isaiah (when he's sad): "it's okay brother, you're in your family now. she's more compassionate and aware of the world. Hunter has gone from only (mostly) caring about the big picture systemic change (in an emotionally removed kind of way) into a much more emotional, father-like response. I've been given a window more into God's heart for those who are suffering (and of course into my self-righteousness, though he didn't share that). and Isaiah is much better able to believe (we hope) that God is loving and good because he is starting to receive the essentials that, without which, makes it really difficult to believe or understand God's love.

then he shared about how Isaiah's tummy problems are still causing us some significant trouble, but we can get an army of folks at the hospital. all the experts we need to address it. whereas there are lots of kids at home of hope and around the country and around the world who don't have parents to advocate on their behalf. and so we need to remember them. pray for them. advocate for them. provide for them.

other folks shared as well, which was BEAUTIFUL about downs syndrome adoption. it was a beautiful morning. here's a quote from the end of our pastor's sermon (which was really great as as a whole!):

"on the cross, when the Father turned his face from his son. when, as the Jesus storybook bible records, Jesus cried out "Papa! Papa, where are you! Papa don't leave me!" the Son of God, our suffering savior, experienced the rejection, despair, confusion, disorientation and sadness that orphans all over the world experience. he experienced it on a cosmic level so that ONE DAY, like it is recorded in rev 21, there will be no more sadness. no more poverty, no more war, no more sickness or any other reason that causes children to be orphaned. HE experienced it, HE tasted suffering and in his resurrection he declared victory over it. one day it will be no more.

and, as if that's not enough, though children who are orphans in this world did nothing to deserve their estranged status, the Bible tells us that we, who deserve to be separated from God, who deserved to have him turn his back on us because of sin, we are told in the Bible that Jesus was rejected by God so that we could be adopted by him. he paid all the expenses of our adoption. and we are now brothers and co-heirs with Christ. no other God is like that, who will end suffering, who will end the orphan crisis, because he tasted it, becoming like one himself. who would give up his rightful position as son and equal with God so that we, who continually turn our backs on him, could be adopted into God's family. but that's the very God we serve."

he also shared this great John Stott quote on suffering:
“I could never believe in God, if it were not for the cross… In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross which symbolizes divine suffering.”- John Stott - The Cross of Christ

We sang "a mighty fortress is our God", "Victory in Jesus", I am bound for the Promised Land" and other songs that remind us that one day the battle (in this case, suffering) will be over. God has won.

I loved it :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

you had me at Open Letters

Dear wifey:
thanks so much for coming this weekend. you are the best E-harmony-like friend I've ever had. and since you are my blog dawg (I have no idea why I just made up that terrible term that doesn't sound like anything either of us would say) I dedicate this post to you.

You make me laugh harder than most people in the world, in writing and in person. and I could say the same thing about how much you make me think. Thanks for using your creativity, your brilliant, sassy and super-quick wit, and your depth of character and faith in your writing (and for forbearing with me and the uber-serious tone in mine). you are a gift.

short and sweet:
  • you blew me away with ideas and moments like this
  • you almost lost me because of ridiculously cute things like this or this (and, well, anything crafty)
  • I thought you stole my brain at points like this
  • I almost peed my pants in times like this
and yet, you are even more intriguing, funny, beautiful, creative, joyful and simply lovely in person. but, like my best friend here says (and it is such a gift for me to know and learn to believe): I don't love you because of any of those things. I just love you. so, if your posts ever start showing the (figurative) mid-forties sag, I'll love you anyway.

You had me at Open Letters,

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Aslan, you're bigger."

Did you know that Lucy, our daughter's name, is a family name? Yep, 5th one in 10 generations (or something like that). The name actually came as a "gentle suggestion" from a family member on Hunter's side. But in actuality, its family significance was only a really small part of the reason that we named her Lucy.

[Note to reader: please don't tell this to my in-laws, especially Hunter's maternal grandmother, because I hope I scored some major points with the "family name choice." While we're at it, actually, don't tell them that the real reason I chose an Episcopal pre-school was not because of its academic or spiritual superiority or my desire to have her at an Episcopal school at all, but because of proximity to our house and the carpool rules (I don't have to get out of our car). Deep thanks go out to my girl, Susie, for giving me those extremely valuable criteria for selection. I'm serious.]

The two biggest reasons we named her Lucy were:

1. Lucy means "bringer of light." what a prayer we have for her little life. that she'd bring light, hope and joy everywhere she goes.

2. In CS Lewis' wonderful series, the Chronicles of Narnia, one of the four main characters is named Lucy. In one of the books, Lucy is able to physically see Aslan (Jesus) when other people can't, particularly when they are all lost and unsure of what direction to go. Again, another prayer we have for her life: that in the midst of darkness and confusion, whether other people see Him or not, Lucy would see "Aslan" and gently point others in his direction (and that she would follow him).

As we've thought about what to share about our family's adoption story this upcoming Sunday at church, a friend reminded me of this beautiful quote from Prince Caspian (one of the books in the Chronicles of Narnia series).

In Lucy’s first encounter with Aslan in this story, she says,“Aslan, Aslan. Dear Aslan. At last.”…She gazed up into the large wise face. “Welcome child,” he said.“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.” “That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.“Not because you are?”“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

When I became a Christian (though I grew up in the church, I'd say this really happened for me in college), the thing that was most important to me was the fact that I got cut from the women's basketball team at Wake Forest. Totally legitimately, God opened my eyes to him through the humility, sadness, and brokenness that came from this deep disappointment. I learned that God was big enough to handle our disappointments, insecurities, identity crisis, etc. That's how big I needed him to be, and that's about as big as I saw him.

Since then, though, I've grown in my love for God, which has led me to situations where I've had my eyes opened to a lot of suffering in the world. I've traveled to many places in the world that people consider "developing" or "third world" countries. I lived in Zimbabwe with beautiful girls who were orphaned, mostly because of a combination of AIDS and poverty. I went on humbling and inspiring work trips to learn about how God is at work in Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Guatemala, Ecuador, Brazil and India.

And through adopting Isaiah from Rwanda, God has continued to open my eyes to the way many people in the world live.

The suffering many people face is completely overwhelming and should ruin our appetites.

And my understanding of a God from college who can meet you in fairly minor disappointments and insecurities-- comparatively speaking-- wasn't strong enough to handle the things I had seen. the systemic brokenness, the sheer numbers of children who are orphaned or who only eat once a day. the personal stories of heartache. each one enough to make you sob yourself to sleep and wonder about a loving God.

Simultaneously, in the past 18 months of our adoption story with Isaiah, I've also learned a lot more about myself. More about the ways I live that fall very short of what is acceptable. my pride. my self love and self absorbtion. my self righteousness. my judgmental attitude. my laziness. and so on. I realized personally I needed a God who was much bigger, much more gracious to cover my sin and make me acceptable to God.

I needed him to be bigger for the suffering of the world. and I needed him to be bigger for me. or else I had no hope and no assurance.

And God has shown himself so much bigger. So much more faithful.

But, like Aslan said, He didn't grow; it was my understanding of him that did.

I've searched the Bible for hope, I've pleaded and cried out in anger in prayer at what felt like an absent God in the face of suffering, I've invited the Holy Spirit to search my heart and show me what is offensive.

and I've seen.

he's answered prayers. He's shown me his promises in the Bible. promises to wipe away every tear. promises to restore everything that's broken. he's shown me a Jesus, our savior, who wept over death. He's shown me a God who hears the cries of the afflicted. who promises justice for the oppressed. he's shown me mercy for me, a sinner in need of grace. and he's shown me hope and promise for a world that suffers.

and now when I worship God I sometimes feel like I'm going to burst because the news is so much better than it has ever been. it has always been this good, I just didn't know it.

I'm so excited to hear the Gospel preached this weekend, particularly in light of the brokenness and suffering in the world. I want us all to grow in our understanding of the enormity and beauty of the Gospel. and when we talk about facing big issues like "the orphan crisis", we have to talk about a really big God.

I'm so thankful for Isaiah being in our family for countless reasons. one of them is that his story is a means of grace for me. I'm learning that God is the one who is going to save the world and who has saved me.

"Salvation is from God." did you know that's the literal meaning of Isaiah?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

some thoughts on care and caution about upcoming orphan sunday

So, this is just a conversation starter. I've not thought through this enough to cling too hard to my ideas below. Some of these thoughts have been brewing for a long time, and I want to learn from what other people think. and I want to speak into the conversation as well. I'm sure my ideas/thoughts aren't new; in some circles of people/organizations who work for the good of those who are poor, this conversation is advanced and pretty mature; in other circles it is less so. I'm going to embolden the main points below for easier/faster reading. feel free to skip through and comment if you have thoughts or ideas.

I don't want people to feel like they have to walk on eggshells when communicating about these issues around me (or others), but I hope by sharing these thoughts on caution we'll better love these children around the world.

With a special Sunday coming up, where, in lots of churches throughout the country (including ours), children around the world who have been orphaned will be recognized, prayed for, honored and defended; God will be lifted up as the One who hears their cry; whole services will be purposely shaped to communicate God's great love for these kids and His command for us to defend the cause of the fatherless (By the way, praise God that this is happening in so many churches!!), I just want to offer a few words of caution and care for me and others involved:

1. Let's be creative in the ways we defend the cause of the fatherless and advocate for these children. and let's be extremely careful that we do it without objectifying them. it is a slippery slope and so important. There are lots of ways you can "fall off" regarding this issue, actually. and, not surprisingly, I've probably done them all.

you can go anywhere from exaggerating, potentially overdramatizing or treating unique stories in a way that allows people to think that (the terrible picture painted) is the life of every child who was orphaned or the life of every child who lives in Africa... all the way to undercommunicating the actual devastation that exists in lots of places and making poverty palatable.

many of us are familiar with the first set of issues; we've watched the videos that leave us feeling completely sick and convicted/guilty. some of that is real and good to communicate because we should care about those needs and work for good, but it can sometimes border on (or worse than border) on being manipulative of the viewers and objectifying of the kids in the videos. I think we know that danger a little bit.

but perhaps you are less familiar with the flipside (potentially undercommunicating the needs of children who are orphaned)...I'll hit on this in a different way on another point below (making sure we don't take the "spiritual adoption" comparison too far), but for now, I'll say this. I looooooove Mocha Club and their "we need africa more than africa needs us" campaign. love it. so much so that I'm tempted not to say any cautious words because I'd MUCH MUCH MUCH rather err on this side. seriously, watch the awesome video I linked above. it is great ... but just in case there are people out there like me, who sometimes struggle with this side too, I have to.

while, like they say in the video, there are tons of beautiful, joyful stories in the midst of poverty... overcorrection and communicating that it is just beautiful. that the stories are just so joyful. like poverty is to be somehow envied...which is why we should all move our families there because you learn better life obviously dangerous too. there are TONS of stories like that. and we should learn from them. many people who live in very poor circumstances really are very joyful. and I wish so much that there weren't terrible stories. that there weren't ones that don't have silver lining. I wish there weren't stories that would never, ever, ever be envied.

but there are stories like that.

poverty sometimes--way too many times--reaches a level that doesn't have space for finding the good in the story. and we should make sure that in our good fight to protect the dignity of those who are poor and the beauty in some of the stories, we don't protect people from hearing the truth of other, worse, situations. we need to make sure we don't make extreme poverty somehow palatable.

again, I'm not picking a fight with Mocha club or mocha club lovers. I'm a huge fan. but I am suggesting that some people might misinterpret their great material and, without more information, underappreciate some of the real needs.

crazy how we can fall of the wagon so many ways, no?

good grief that was long. sorry. moving on.

2. During our church service that Sunday, Hunter and I have been asked to share about our experience adopting Isaiah. While I'm comfortable speaking in a lot of situations, it feels pretty clear that I might not handle this one so well (no, really??) so Hunter will speak on our behalf.

We want to find ways to appropriately share our experience in a way, like above, that doesn't pretend like Isaiah's life was just grand and perfect before, but without speaking disparagingly of his life in Rwanda and without objectifying him. without leading him (or others) to feel like he is a cause in our family instead of our precious, unique, beautiful son.

we want to honor him and our careful thinking about language is critical. (similarly, we were conscious of this with our journey to isaiah video (wanting joyful music that wouldn't pull too hard on heartstrings...but I also don't want to pretend that it is all just peachy. aye yi yi.)

A friend who advocates for people who live in unbelievably terrible circumstances around the world has a rule that, when he is speaking or writing about a person, he imagines that they are in the room with him. listening intently and understanding every word. he "brings them to the conversation" in his mind, which helps him make sure he speaks in a dignifying and truthful way.

on a different, but related note, I also want to protect the honor of the people who live in Rwanda. especially the amazing women who cared for Isaiah at Home of Hope, who willingly live in tough circumstances.

anyway, I would love for people to caution me when I've gone too far in sharing things. I mean that. I'm sure it will be hard to hear, but I'd like to err on that side of the conversation since my tendency is probably to overshare. Are there folks out there who have good measuring sticks or rules for how/what/when to share?

3. you've probably noticed it already, but, when possible, I think let's try to say "children who are orphaned" instead of "orphans." maybe that's just semantics, but saying "orphans" seems too defining, too minimizing of other things that define people. I get that for many kids this is the most defining thing in their life and I don't want to underappreciate that, but, like my friends Chris and Phileena Heuertz at Word Made Flesh, I would tend towards: people who are poor, children who are orphaned, women who prostitute. it is something about them; it isn't who they are.

4. Lastly, I'm super thankful for the comparison people have made between our spiritual adoption by God (through Christ we are now his sons) and the adoption of children. it is an interesting and sometimes helpful comparison. I totally agree.

However, from the way I understand it at least, the actual link between those things is not made in the Bible. I make that distinction because, like any metaphor, it only works for so long.

I think it is great because it helps us identify how God put us into his family, though we weren't naturally his children. and that leads us to be thankful for his grace in Jesus and leads us to live our lives differently. and that's beautiful...

but here are my two words of caution about it.

1) make sure you know that the comparison breaks down at this really important point. it was our fault (sin) that we weren't in God's family, except for his saving grace. it isn't a child's fault that they don't have a family. Isaiah wasn't undeserving of a family. it wasn't unmerited grace or sacrificial love that brought Isaiah into our family.

little annoying sidebar because this is uber-long already, but I'm doing this great bible study material right now, but the usage of the word "orphan" about how we act when we don't remember God's love for us is totally grating me. and I think this is why. someone help me develop or correct this thought!?! I just don't want people to overspiritualize the word orphan to describe how we sometimes act. bleh. I get it...but I feel unsure about it and unnerved all at once. bleh.

2) this is probably where I could get into trouble. but in wealthier contexts we have to try a little harder to identify with parts of scripture that talk about needs of the poor, and because of that, I think we can sometimes read into something a little too far. or at least we can forget and undercommunicate that the Bible is (also?) talking about actual physical poverty. in other words, I totally agree that Jesus wanted us to see that we are spiritually poor. but sometimes when we overemphasize the spiritual side, to help people who are materially wealthy identify with the content, we mistakenly ignore the physical side that Jesus was definitely also talking about. sometimes Jesus is only talking about physical poverty and we're not supposed to identify with the verse, we're supposed to understand and do something about it. "I was an orphan too before God adopted me" is true, but it doesn't mean you understand what it is like. (Obviously at churches on "orphan sunday," people are going to talk about the need to care for kids who are physically orphaned...but this has been on my mind a lot so I wanted to take some time to try to explain.)

I'm sooooooooo thankful that our congregation will participate in this kind of service. and I'm so thankful for the organizations that provide resources to help people think about issues faced by so many people in the world. I hope my caution doesn't communicate a lack of gratitude for or understanding of the need to draw attention to these important stories... I just figure in this pretty safe space where most of you read this because "defending the fatherless" is on your mind, that perhaps communicating these things on the front end can help us as we think about preparing for the services.

please talk back to me on these things. tell me ways you've wrestled with these issues too. rules you've made about talking about your kids, if at all (don't worry, I won't feel super judged. I know God leads people in different ways). tell me how you feel about potentially overspiritualizing words like orphan, poor, hungry.