Category Archives: Being Sam

Forever Started in 2013

BC & meFor all its joy, bewilderment, love, anger, grief, laughter, wailing, mourning, exhaustion, jubilation, wonder, doubt, fear, questions, rage, surrender, and hope, 2013 was the year in which a little family was born. Forever took on a new and surprising shape as BC and I began to become son and mom.

How I pray 2014 will be a year of peace, as forever settles in our hearts.

For this child I prayed… 1 Samuel 1:27

Happy New Year to you and yours. May your New Year be one of peace, in which forever is settled and true. Amen.

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Anger, Longing, and Hope for Advent

AdventWeek1For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.  Isaiah 9:6, NASB

This Advent, I’m living in the reality that a child has been born and then come to me, a son has been given to me. I nearly couldn’t read the passage above, about Jesus, as BC and I first lit our Advent wreath two Sundays ago. Unto us, a Son has been given, a Savior who is Christ the Lord. Unto me, a son has been given, a son with many wounds and much delight, all tied together in ways I can’t unravel.

Advent is a season for longing.  The candles we’ve lit so far have been for hope and for love. Though there is abundant and heart-rending love, I’ve struggled with the hope part of this season.  Maybe because I’m angry.  I’m angry to live in a world where a mother chose a violent man over her son. I’m angry that my son suffers wounds that affect every part of his life, and for some reason make school a nightmare. I’m angry at Christian cliches, thrown around ad nauseum — spare me the “he just needs…” and the, “you should just,” that end in syrupy sweetness. My boy has been broken by the sins of others, period. Don’t deny the awfulness of what he suffers in the name of making everything feel nice, neat, and tidy.  He’s been bounced around for five years and you expect him not to be defiant and angry? Two months is supposed to undo five years? Yep, I’m angry.

But…I don’t always get to the “but”…the anger is easier to deal with than the longing.  It’s easier, but it gets in the way of the hope. (And, really, the love, too.) I long for a world as it was meant to be — a world in which children are sheltered and delighted in, and in which hobbling adoptive moms don’t run out of energy and use anger as a spare supply.  Yep, I’ve been angry.  I’ve also been spent.  And humbled.  I gave up thinking I’d have a son a long time ago.  And now I have one. I long for the day when he looks back and sees amazing, startling grace redeeming his deep wounds. I hope for the moments when that brokenness is turned into something good, kind, and strong in him. I long to rest in the One who loves BC more than I do, who tends to his heart in ways far more helpful than what is so often my driven striving.

I hope for those things because to me a Son has been given. Hope and longing are painful and by their very nature require me to live in tension and the unknown. Jesus, the Son who has been given, brings comfort and joy into the tension and unknown. I believe Him, and I need help in my unbelief. I refuse to be comforted, and He comforts me anyway.  I’m cranky and unjoyful, and He surprises me again. His work in BC’s life and mine will most likely be as messy as the floor under His manger, as crazy as a baby Savior born in a food trough. In Him I will hope.

Amen.

advent2

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Hope

cross1Today is Easter.  I’m celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, believing that it actually happened and that it changes everything.  I’m also aware that sometimes it feels more like that Saturday, when every human being thought Jesus was dead, and nothing seemed certain.  It’s a strange mix for this glorious day.

Last year, Easter was exuberant and joyful, loud even, as my family rejoiced that a baby we thought had been lost was very much alive.  This year, a child I love is facing loss he hasn’t even imagined yet, and I’m desperately hoping for years of resurrection for his heart and mind.  This morning, I took B.C., my foster son, to be with part of his biological family for Easter.  He’ll have a great time, and we’ll have a great time later at one of my family’s celebrations.  Then we’ll come home and probably deal with what seems like the confusing transition between families for him.  Tomorrow we’ll head back into our normal routine of school and work, bath time and reading stories, and every strategy known to boy for avoiding brushing one’s teeth.

Even as we do our normal daily things, slow movement is happening with B.C.’s “case.”  Given the system, it could all turn out very differently than it appears now, but at least for now it looks like B.C. will end up with a new home with loving, safe, fun, stable family members, several hundred miles from here.  I already love his family members — if we were neighbors, I think we’d be great friends.  And yet…there’s always this “and yet”…I know that for B.C. to grow to be a part of that family, he will have to endure the shock of knowing he’s not going back to his old home.  In addition to that, he won’t be staying in this home, where he has seemed to come to feel safe and secure.  There will have to be these losses.  Death — of what he knows and thinks and experiences every day — will precede resurrection.

The hopeful part of all of this is that I believe, that I know, that death always does precede resurrection.  To wish away the loss for B.C. would be to wish away the coming good of life with two loving parents, and siblings, and dogs, plus an ongoing connection with his extended family, and…maybe…someday…the opportunity for healing reconnection with his biological parents.  The anguished part recoils from seeing someone I love so much suffer so much.  I’ve only been a parent for 6 months tomorrow, but this week I’ve wondered, how did Mary stand there and watch her Son hang there and suffer and die?  How did God the Father watch His Son hang there and suffer and die?  There is a dread of the loss that’s coming that completely takes my breath away.  Most days it feels like Saturday more than Easter Sunday.

And yet…there’s a deeper “and  yet”…what Saturday felt like to Mary, and John, and Peter, and all the rest, what “Saturday” feels like to me and what it will feel like to B.C., perhaps what it feels like to you if this is a somber Easter — all of that is the middle of the story.  There are glimpses of a better end, of a glorious resurrection.  Jesus said He would rise on the third day.  Today, when I took B.C. to his family, one I’d never met hugged me, kissed my cheek, and said, “Thank you for taking care of my nephew.”  He’s the dad of the one who may be B.C.’s second father.  There is a sense of promise to the whole thing, and it takes my breath away just as much as the dread, if I pay attention to the reasons to hope.  I don’t always choose rightly, but today I choose the promise.  Amen.

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A Heart Cut in Two

Foil covered heartI’ve been away from here for a while, for many reasons, one of which is that I became a foster parent four months ago. B.C. (not his real initials) came to live here on October 1st last year. He was four then and he’s five now. There is much to write about those four months, and about every day of this strange journey of foster parenting. Tonight, though, I keep thinking about B.C.’s heart — his red-foil-covered chocolate Valentine heart.

Last week, B.C. received an early Valentine’s Day gift that was supposed to hold seven small Nestle Crunch hearts. Much to his delight, it held eight! He announced that I should have the eighth heart, and stuck to his guns even when I reminded him I have a “new food plan” that means I won’t eat that chocolate heart for three weeks. I figured his enthusiasm would fade as that heart sat on the counter for a few days.

Last night, B.C. suddenly asked, “Can I give that chocolate to my mom?”

“Sure you can,” I said.

“I want to unwrap it, cut the chocolate in half, and then put the wrapper back on so you can have half and my Mommy can have half.” After a short encouragement to go ahead and give his mom the chocolate, he said, “I want you to have half because you’re so nice to me,” with a little quiver in his voice.

I held B.C. close and told him what a sweet, sweet boy he is.  The whole exchange took only moments.  This morning, he gave in to his desire to eat that chocolate once he knew he could buy his mom another Valentine.  Still, I keep going back to those moments last night. Is there a better picture of what this little boy must endure all the time? His heart is cut in half, or more likely in all kinds of pieces, without any smooth edges. I love him; my family and friends love him. And yet, as helpful as we hope that love is, it also adds to B.C.’s confusion, ambivalence, pain, and struggle. He likes living here and he aches to go home. I don’t know what to do except to ache with him.

Father, You know this little boy’s heart — every hurting, wounded piece, every delighted, singing-for-joy piece. Have mercy. Please protect and hold close and heal. Thy will be done. Oh, God, have mercy!

If you are one who prays, please pray for B.C. today.

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Bowed to the Ground

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.  –C.S. Lewis

Last May 13th, I rode to the hospital in an ambulance with my grandfather, frightened by how frail he had looked as they loaded him in the back, and wondering if it might be his last day with us.  It turned out to be what we knew as the beginning of a long end, and he passed away last August 13th after three grueling months of fighting and then about 30 seconds of letting go.

Exactly two weeks after Papa’s death, a precious friend got married and left for her new home a few states away.  She is one of those friends who knows all of me and my story and still loves me, and trusts me to love all of her and her story, too.  We walked alongside each other in ministry that was usually not easy.  We prayed and rejoiced as God brought her a husband after His own heart, a new family, and a new ministry.

But then, both my grandfather and my friend were gone.  Through the whole summer, I had known the losses were coming.  I had shaken my head at how the joy and sorrow of life are mixed and inseparable as Papa moved toward Heaven and my friend moved toward her marriage.  I had wept with my family in the moments surrounding Papa’s death.  I danced and laughed and cried with my friends as we celebrated at the wedding.  But then, they were both gone.

What happens to walking alongside, being Sam, when the ones I was walking alongside go where I can’t follow?  Maybe not surprisingly, I found some answers from Sam himself.  Along the way to Mordor, Frodo appears to have been killed.  Sam comes upon Frodo’s body, and is undone.

“Don’t leave me here alone!  It’s your Sam calling.  Don’t go where I can’t follow…

“Then anger surged over him, and he ran about his master’s body in a rage, stabbing the air, and smiting the stones, and shouting challenges…

“And then black despair came down on him, and Sam bowed to the ground, and drew his grey hood over his head, and night came into his heart, and he knew no more.”

When I first went back to read that passage, I was undone.  It so echoes what happened in my heart last summer and in these last six months.  Fear and panic:  I don’t know how to live in a world with no Papa in it.  I’ve never not been a granddaughter.  I say Papa is in Heaven.  Is it really true?  Is Heaven real?  Is Jesus?  Did I miss my friend’s heart before she left?  Can we really still be knit together across states?  Will we just drift apart?  I can’t do this ministry alone.   Anger, too:  Why did You make Papa suffer so long?  I asked You, others asked You, to shorten his suffering and You wouldn’t!  And despair and emptiness, a dark numbness, that made the fall months in some ways a disorienting fog.  Actually, I didn’t even realize how thick the fog was until it began to lift in January.  I found myself like Sam again:

“When at last the blackness passed, Sam looked up and shadows were about him; but for how many minutes or hours the world had gone dragging on he could not tell.  He was still in the same place, and still his master lay beside him dead.  The mountains had not crumbled nor the earth fallen into ruin.

“’What shall I do, what shall I do?’ he said.  ‘Did I come all this way with him for nothing?’”

There was the question piercing through the fog.  Did I come all this way with (them) for nothing?  Does loving God and people really mean anything?  Is it worth the long ache of grief?  What shall I do?

Today I find myself still in the same place, vaguely aware that the world has gone dragging on, no mountains crumbled or earth fallen away.  Tears have come with these questions, and with the answers a gentle Lord whispers.  “Yes, it means everything.  Yes, I’m real.  Yes, it’s worth it.  Keep being Sam.”

Amen.

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Being Sam

Several weeks ago, I sat with a friend and talked over the direction of my work.  As many of my clients do, I saved one of the most important statements ‘til almost the very end of our time together.

“One thing I know for sure is that I’m Sam.  I’m not Frodo.”

Among other things I love about this friend is that she got that statement and took it seriously.  The more we talked about it, and the more I’ve thought about it since, the more I understood that we were talking about way more than the direction of my work.  I think it’s a summary of who God meant me to be.

In The Lord of the Rings, Sam is a hobbit, accompanying Frodo Baggins on his adventure to save Middle Earth.  He’s the gardener, swept up in another’s journey and struggle.  The journey is not mainly his, but he walks alongside Frodo faithfully and stubbornly.  He’s like Aaron holding up Moses’ arms when Moses got tired, or Jonathan helping David find strength in God when David was hiding out in a cave.  He’s like Ruth, faithfully and stubbornly sticking with Naomi.  He’s like John, taking Mary the mother of Jesus into his home, even as they both grieved Jesus’ death on the cross.  He’s like Timothy, bringing Paul’s coat to him in Rome before winter.  All of them are supporting characters, serving the purpose of the Author of the story, and something in me resonates with each one of them.  I don’t always know what it looks like, and I surely don’t always do it well, but I know that I know that I know the Author of my faith means for me to “be Sam.”

In this year ahead, I hope this blog will be a place to wrestle through what being Sam means.  I hope it will encourage other hearts along the way.  I imagine it will be full of Scripture and stories and struggles (that may, however, be the last hint of alliteration).  Here’s to the journey!

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