Fur ball love

His eyes follow me wherever I go.

If I head up the stairs, he is right there beside me. He lays down at my feet as I fold laundry. He jumps onto the bed as I do bedtime with the littles. He is always aware of where I am and what I’m doing.

He checks on each little when he wakes. Sniffing, wagging, checking in to make sure they are well. He sits on their feet. They are mine, he says.

He barks at loud noises and stands ready to devour anyone who might threaten his people.

He is fluffy and handsome, and he loves his belly scratched.

And although my hubby is a stud muffin and for sure loves a good belly scratch –  I’m talking about my dog.

My dog is part shepherd. 

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And as I watch him watch me, his breed really strikes me. A shepherd. Aware at all times, ready to protect, always near, always devoted, always on alert. Loving, protective, close.

Yesterday I was doing homeschooling with the kids – Laurentz read about a shepherd – a shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep. A shepherd who lovingly says, “They are mine.” A shepherd who is compassionate, protective, close.

His eyes are on you. His eyes are on me. He doesn’t miss a beat.

He is our shepherd and we are his.

So friends, if you have any type of critter that loves you through thick and thin, protects you, sits on your feet and snuggles you close – know that God may be using that warm fur ball to remind you of a love that will see us through every moment of the coming days, weeks and months. 

We are not alone.

A Birthday Ditty for my Jesus

We love birthdays around our house. We party big. We talk love. During birthday dinners, we always go around the table and share what we love about that person. For Christmas this year, I decided to do that in poem form for Jesus. I read it out loud at our Christmas meal and cried – just like I cry at every birthday. In fact, our littlest runs to get a box of tissues before I even start speaking about the things I love. I don’t know why I can’t keep it together, it is what it is.

So here is my poem for Jesus. Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday Lord.

It’s so different than it used to be,

this love that fills my heart

This sense of joy and connection

from which I never want to part.

 

Religion was once a boring pursuit

A duty to gravely tend to

One I soon easily abandoned

When I couldn’t measure up to you.

 

Like a little kid tired of the rules

I filled my backpack and hit the road

I did what I wanted, oh what I wanted

Those nasty rules did I unload

 

I’m not sure I saw it coming

The traps the enemy carefully laid for me

Trying to get me caught in addiction

to love, to attention, to me.

 

Nothing was ever enough

as I pursued value everywhere else

Looking for the world to tell me good

until I came to the end of myself

 

You were there, as you’d been all along

And you invited me to know you

You brought joyful people and passionate believers

Who lived the love they knew

 

They pointed me to your character

Your mercy, love and grace

They showed me your sense of humor

The smile on your face

 

They introduced me to your son

The one I’d thought was bound in rules

And I found a faithful friend and brother

Whose heart for people was his fuel.

 

You showed me your plan for life

To protect and free and guide

You showed me the love you live

By filling me up from the inside.

 

And as I’ve come to know your love

The grandest adventures you’ve brought my way

Fun people and joys, amazing pursuits

Beauty to capture every single day.

 

And there’s been heartaches, there’s been hurt

Pain that took my breath away

But instead of blaming you and yours

I fell into your arms to hear you say:

 

I’ve got you and I’ll never let you go

This world is broken, it’s true

But that’s why I sent my son

To bring hope, life and joy to you.

 

Comfort in the moment,

along with eternity in my sight

Just hold fast and let me see you through

Every wrong will I make right

 

And now I can see how you changed it

Changed it all by coming to earth

Entering into the most broken of places

to show us your love and our worth

 

You paved the way, you gave it all

to give us a home in your heart

And all we had to do was say yes

And believe in this beautiful new start.

 

It was never about the religion

The pious pinched and proud

It was always about you living love

thoroughly, completely, out loud.

 

So thank you for coming down to this earth

My beautiful savior and joy

Thank you for showing me your goodness

As you came to earth as baby boy.

 

Happy Birthday, my savior

My king, friend and best Christmas gift

May you hear the praises of many

And may this poem your heart lift

 

Because as I think of gifts to give

tor family, friends and guests

It’s you I want to thank the most

It’s your gift I want to be the best.

 

Because I love you more than life itself

I love you with tears, can’t see

I love you with all that I am…

Because, beautiful God, you first loved me

I’m so stinkin’ offended!

No, not by Santa in Rudolph – although I can agree with the recent news blitz that Santa needed a bit more sugar to sweeten up his sour.

And no, not by Charlie Brown – though that single hair on his bald little head does offend my sensibilities – and yes, in seriousness, as a mother of Haitian children, I wish Franklin had a buddy and a decent chair at the Thanksgiving table.

But my offense has been longer term – and landed me in a dark place – because simmering under the surface of my smile, I just didn’t get it. I was offended.

By God.

See, I didn’t understand why I had to be so different. Tall, awkward, heavy, pigeon-toed. Last name that essentially begged for a good joke – Kok. Middle school was horrific – particularly on the day I made a fashion statement by wearing a skirt and boy’s tube socks. Yes, I did that. Worse, I thought it was a good idea.

Later on I was angry about my broken marriage. It was painful and heartbreaking. I hated that I went through a divorce. Why me? Why was I a single parent when all my family members were happily married?

When my dad went sailing and his boat came home without him, I wrestled with a ton of questions. He had drowned. No goodbye. No answers. And then adding heartbreak to heartbreak, my strong, handsome nephew lost his life in a car accident 12 days later.

And the day our initial domestic adoption fell through – that dark Thursday when the baby was born and his mom gave him to another family. My heart was sick. I didn’t get it. Why? And when it took four long years to bring our babies home from Haiti, I was confused. It seemed wrong that they had to wait so long to know our hugs, snuggles and kisses. What was happening?

God didn’t see fit to follow my timeline, to preserve my heart the way I wanted him to. 

And in different seasons, in different quiet moments, I was offended.

I know I’m not alone.

I’ve heard your stories. I know many of your heartaches. Your road hasn’t been easy either. And we question the one who could fix it all in a moment’s notice – and yet doesn’t.

This morning I was reading in Luke. John the Baptist – a faithful man who paved the way for Jesus – was in prison. He had heard that Jesus was on the scene – the one he had been talking about for years, the one he leapt for in his own mother’s womb. And he had to wonder, Why I am I still in prison? Why hasn’t he come for me? He sends a few of his disciples to talk to him. “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Kind of like, hey, if you’re the one, why haven’t you rescued John? And Jesus tells them to pass along a message to John. “Tell John what you have seen. The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed…” in other words, good things are happening. I am here. He finishes by saying “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

I imagine him saying that with tender eyes and a strong compelling voice. Tell John not to be offended. Hold fast. Hang tight. It’s not the end of the story. Then when the messengers are gone, Jesus goes on to tell the crowd how wonderful John is… of his faithfulness.

He is proud of him. He loves him.

Then why on earth would he leave him in prison? Why would he leave any of his kids – you and me – in yucky situations?

Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.

We live in a world of offense. We live in a world of pain. We live in a world where racism, cruelty, bullying and hatred exist. We live in a world with evil in it – and it always seems to surprise us. That in itself should be evidence of our God and his goodness. We weren’t built for this. We were built for a far better world where love reigns and joy resides. We are offended because we were made for more and the evil blindsides us. 

Jesus asks us to lay down our offense. At him, at each other. Why? Because the story isn’t over yet. Because he wins. Because every wrong will be righted. He calls us to love him and love others deeply – to fight the offense with love. To see his goodness even when we are sitting in a prison cell. And I can see it. When I look back at the heartbreaks, I can see his goodness in it. How my awkward self and my pigeon toes were a temporary phase, not an identity, and how those painful years created in me a tender heart for the outcast. How he molded me and kept me and provided for me as a single mom. How he comforted me in my sadness over the loss of my dad and nephew. I see how the one failed adoption led to the four beautiful babies residing in our home today. And John the Baptist, sitting in that prison cell? Oh friends, I bet those days are long forgotten as John enjoys his saviors love and all the sweetness of heaven. Even his days in prison were not wasted – as we can all look to him and be encouraged in our own sorrows.

What’s even more amazing? Jesus put himself smack into the middle of offense. He lived, breathed and died love – and yet he was mocked, beaten, abandoned and killed. Did he rise up and fight the offense? Smite the offenders? He could have. But he didn’t. Instead he laid down his life, asked God to forgive those who were nailing him to a cross “for they know not what they do.”

Well shoot. That makes my offenses pale in comparison. At God – Jesus didn’t exempt himself from the heartbreak we all endure. At others – He loved the worst. Can I do the same?

Oh friends, as we trust him, as we love through offense – even though our ears may not hear it now – he is bragging about us. Just as he did with John. Only he is talking to the angels. “Look at her…” “Look at him…” “She is a bright light in this dark world. I love how she loves.” “He is a strong warrior for me – he is my beloved son.”

Yes, there is offense – and lots to be offended by… but hold fast. Hang tight. It’s not the end of the story. “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Trust him. Love God. Love others. He will make all things right, in his time.

And oh, what a day that will be.

A Life in 50 Words.

I’ve been alive 50 years today. These fifty words sum up my wild ride:

Decade one (1-10): Innocent, family girl, adventurer, brave, water-skier, cliff-diver, boy crazy, tomboy.

Decade two (11-20): Insecure, awkward, foolish, bookworm, boy crazy, biker babe, self-conscious, self-defeating.

Decade three (21-30): Married, divorced, mother, broken, lost, found, grace, hope, author, speaker.

Decade four (31-40): Single mom, faith-driven, dreamer, hopeful, passionate, married, step-mom, empty nester.

Decade five (41-50): Communicator, swimmer, adoptive mom to one… two… three… four… wife, daughter, friend, adventurer, God crazy, woman.

Thank you for loving me strong for five decades, Jesus. You loved me as much when I was that naughty teenager as you do today (as a sometimes-naughty 50 year old). This life is all about you and I can’t imagine how it would have gone without you, Thank you, thank you, thank you for never letting me go.

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