friday.

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Here’s my contribution for Restoration Living’s Lent and Easter Prayerbook. May this day, this weekend, take you to new places. Deep places. Holy places. May we all be aware of and awake to how life circles around and in between both brokenness and beauty, pain and joy, death and life, as we learn how to live and breathe and love as resurrection people.

The ache, deep inside, that comes flooding into your heart, rippling over its surface, down and in between each layer – it hurts. It consumes. It permeates…everything.

Suffering – the strike of disappointment and its unwarranted process of making you aware that there’s nothing you can humanly do or offer to make your pain go away; the stark reality that we live in a broken world.

We fight it.

We numb it.

We hate it.

But it’s there. The rupture between goodness and badness occurs, and we’re left with pain and heartache and questions – with darkness.

The light hasn’t arrived yet. The beauty hasn’t risen yet. The new day hasn’t come yet.

And so we sit, in the darkness, holding out our arms, crying out for something more, something better, a sliver of hope. When will it come? When will HE come? The God who promises to turn ashes into beauty? Where is he?

Could it be, that he, is IN the suffering? Could it be, that he, would actually meet us there, in the despair? Could it be, that he knows all too well what it’s like to cry out with all that he had left? Because on that day – that Friday – in all of Jesus’ humanity, he stepped into the darkest of darkest places, and entered into the most wretched suffering. For us. With us.

He sees…you.

He aches…for you.

He grieves…with you.

That Friday marked history forever. His acceptance to suffer in that way, on that day, sent a message to the world about his heart for us, for you, in epic proportions. A message that says, “I am with you…IN the suffering. Let’s go there, together. I want to show you my heart, my love for you, there, in it. And then just wait…just wait to see what I have for you. It’s coming – new life, new hope, a new day. The story isn’t over yet. Death doesn’t win. But first…let’s go there, to the broken places, to the dark places, together. I’ll be right there, beside you, because you’re mine. You are my beloved.”

Perhaps the more we enter into our suffering, the more we’ll long to taste resurrection, new life, hope. Maybe the depth to which we feel pain is directly related to the depth to which we feel joy.

Because you see, Jesus had to go through Friday, before he could get to Sunday.

a few little words.

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I love opportunities to write for good causes and places and spaces, and I was so grateful when Jedd Medefind (President, Christian Alliance for Orphans) asked me to write a short piece for Becoming Home (Barna Group – FRAMES Series). I very much appreciated that he was willing to include an adopted person’s voice and perspective in this book. That speaks volumes!

I was asked to capture my “Listen” speech from Summit 9 in a few paragraphs. Well, you know me, I’m a woman of many words and that felt impossible! But, you don’t really tell someone that. Right? But, you can and do nicely ask for more than 150 words. Right?

Well, I asked, I submitted, the editors took off and did their hard work, and the book was published.

And, as any writer would, when the complimentary book arrived at my home, I was elated…to see my name, on that book. And then I opened it. And then I read it (my piece first, of course). And it was different. And, as any writer would, I checked my original submission to compare what was sent to what was printed. Yes, indeed, it was different. Minutely different, but different nonetheless. And, as any writer would, I felt mis-represented. I didn’t like the differences. It didn’t feel “right.”

And what didn’t feel “right” wasn’t that the words and phrases were changed and rearranged, (I understand there’s an editing process and I really do believe that people will “get” the message), but the WAY in which my words and phrases were changed and rearranged…THAT’S what didn’t feel right. Because to me, it’s been very, very important in how I use my voice, in how I use my words, in the adoption and foster care world. And, as any writer would, I care very deeply about each and every word. Because what words you say and how you say them can change a tone, a meaning, a nuance, a message. Right? And in writing, that matters. Well, at least to the author!

NOTE 1: It’s OK if right now you’re thinking, “Carissa – get over yourself and your words” because I often say the same thing to myself. HA!

NOTE 2: There’s no blame on anyone for the changes. It’s just what happens in the editing process. And, the changes don’t take away from the message that the adopted person’s voice, his/her story, is one to be listened to and responded to.

So, those changes? Seriously. No big deal. But, here are my words, my original words. We’re working on changing them for the second print, but for now, you get to have them. Because I want you to have them. From me.

I encourage you to read Becoming Home. I so enjoyed knowing more of Jedd Medefind’s story and heart and insight as he uses his position and platform and passion to invite the “church” to become conduits of safety and love and healing and hope. And, because it’s important to keep the conversation going about what it means “to care for, to preserve, to keep, to take care of…one another.”

May we continue, to listen, to one another.


Listening…it takes practice.

What does it mean to listen to the heart of an adoptee? How do you hear what’s really being said behind the voice, the eyes, the behavior? How do you begin hearing those who hold a wound from before they can remember – a wound that birthed a deep longing to feel significant, wanted, loved?

Us adoptees, we’re like you…worthy, loveable, capable. Many times, though, we’re defined as voiceless, helpless, forgotten. But, we’re not. We are people who have a story to tell, a voice to offer. We’re learning to trust, and are being healed. We have hope. We don’t need you to rescue us, we need you to see us…the beautiful parts and the broken parts. We need you to remind us of who we are, who we were created to be.

We need you to listen to our hearts…our loss, our heartache, our journey, our restoration.

And then respond.

No, you don’t have to. You get to.

You get to model vulnerability, cultivate courage, build trust, offer grace. You get to show a real-life, real-time picture of Jesus, of his heart…for the orphan, for the world. And then, as that relationship becomes a two-way street, something sacred and beautiful and healing can happen. A space is created where transformation can take place…for all.

You, me, us, them…we get to be in this together. This is the call to the church: to love and be loved; to step into what God is already doing among us, through us. We, the church, get to offer healing and truth and hope – to one another – with a posture of humility and openness and presence as we share our stories, our hearts.

But first, we need you to lean in, be still, be present, and listen. It’s then when something miraculous and mysterious will happen. It’s then when we will begin to embody what it means to connect and trust and feel safe…with one another, with God.

May we all become good listeners…to all of the story.

Because if we do, it just might change…all of us.

**Original submission for Becoming Home: Adoption, Foster Care & Mentoring - Living Out God’s Heart for Orphans (Barna Group – FRAMES, 2013). Written by Jedd Medefind & David Kinnaman; RE/FRAMES by Francis Chan, Jim Daly, Ruslan Maliuta, David Platt & Carissa Woodwyk.

giving face.

triad

I have these moments when I’m completely struck by what’s happening around me and what’s happening within me, simultaneously, and how holy it is.

A few weeks ago, I listened to two stories. Two stories filled with brokenness and beauty.

The first one was about what it was like to live in the shoes of an adoptive mom. She described what it was like to wrestle with herself, with her body, with her dreams, as she walked through her infertility. She shared of her deep longing and ache to love and nurture a child and how God brought about his gift to her…from the womb of another woman. She spoke up and out about what it was like to stand in that hospital room watching a baby enter the world – her baby – and then being passed from the arms of his first mom to hers. She talked about that moment when she and her son’s – their son’s – birthmom hugged goodbye – with compassion, with gratitude, towards one another…each life changed forever.

OH. MY. HEART

The second story was about what it was like to live in the shoes of a birthmom. She described how her physical ability and finances and circumstances were adequate to raise the little girl growing inside of her, yet how her fiancé’s fear and feelings of inadequacy invited him to leave her…alone. She talked about her choices – abortion or single motherhood – and the cultural and religious stigmas that surrounded each of them. And then, how a third choice, a new choice, emerged…creating an adoption plan. And then that choice – the hardest choice of all – to choose to relinquish her daughter, to place her daughter, into someone else’s home, away from her care, but never from her heart. She described the thoughts and questions and fears and hopes – that she, that her daughter, would face someday because of her decision, because of the desire she had for her daughter to experience life more fully, wholly.

OH. MY. HEART.

And then I shared my story – about what it’s been like to live in the shoes of an adopted person. I talked about the missing pieces and people, the missing messages my heart needed. I shared what it’s been like to wonder and wander alone, longing to feel needed and wanted and fought for. I described what it’s like to hear others talk about adoption as only something beautiful when everything within me has felt so broken – the fear, the grief, the shame. I talked about how my unraveling and wrestling and need for others and “leaning into” my story keeps bringing me to a safe place, with Him, allowing me to find more love, more trust, more voice.

OH. MY. HEART.

We had been invited to share our stories – these stories – in front of one another. We were listening…to one another.

Overwhelming. Sacred. Healing.

We were listening to what the other person has lost, what the other person has gained.

We were listening to how the other person’s heart has ached, how it has aspired.

We were listening to one another’s fears and shame and guilt and fragility, to their sorrow.

We were listening to one another’s beliefs and expectations and dreams, and how they got messed with.

We were listening to one another’s longing for hope and healing and redemption – for ourselves, for the people we love.

We were listening to the story of one another’s hearts. And it changed us.

As we listened to each other, we heard ourselves. As we entered into “her” reality, we felt “our” reality. As our eyes looked at “her,” we saw “us.” The “other” person’s heart? It was our heart. Sure, the context and content were vastly unlike, but the feelings…they were so a-like. The feelings each person expressed, with raw emotion, were so close to what swirled around in our own hearts.

Different shoes, different paths, same humanity.

And in those moments, those 3 hours, we felt joined.

Our stories felt known…by one another. Our stories felt needed…by one another.

Our stories connected – birthmom, adoptive mom, adopted person – with one another’s. There wasn’t one story that didn’t include or depend on the other story.

We each came from a very unique and different place, a different journey. Our stories had pain and disappointment and ache – for something we didn’t have, didn’t want. And, our stories contained truth and healing and hope – because we’ve seen a bigger story being put together, because we’re experiencing how each of our stories can be used for good. Yet in some regards, the very thing that connected us all – adoption – has been the very place that has kept us all disconnected and distant.

We want to change that.

Maybe naming the disconnection and distance could open the door for needed relationship, for being known, to more creative love.

Maybe naming these divided and silo-ed relationships could give us a chance to experience more connection, more healing, more wholeness – in the adoption triad, in our families, in the “adoption world.”

Every story of how a child came to the place of needing to be adopted is different. Some of those stories are tragic and traumatic. Many of those stories are unknown. But I know that when I heard this birthmom’s story and how her choice to create an adoption plan was necessary for her, I know without a shadow of a doubt that everything inside of her made that decision out of love, for her child. She wanted her daughter to have two parents, siblings, a cohesive family. Something that at that time, she wasn’t able to offer her. But her ache, for what she couldn’t give – it was so, so intense. I could feel it, deeply…with her. Her tears as she told that part of the story – they rolled down her face. They were unstoppable. They were heavy. They were sad. And in that moment, there was no judgment, just heartache. Not for her, but with her. She made a choice that changed her life and her daughter’s life forever without knowing where the story was going to go. She let go of herself – the belief that she needed to create an environment for her daughter alone. And so she chose to invite others into her story, into her daughter’s story. And in that moment, as I listened, something inside of me shifted from, “But why didn’t you fight for her? Why didn’t you keep her?” to “Her decision to create an adoption plan took mountains of courage to admit that she couldn’t do this alone, that she didn’t “have” to do this alone.” And in that moment, as I listened, my perspective changed a bit more from “I” versus “her,” to “we.”

And now, as my heart and mind continue to make sense of this experience, within the context of my own story, I feel her heart. I see her face. Her face – birthmom’s face – it’s been hiding. Maybe I’ve kept it hidden. Because you know what? It’s a hard face to picture, to see, to confront. It’s a lot easier and feels a lot better to keep it tucked away, back in Korea, back into the unconscious parts of my brain. But you know what? I need that face. I need that face because it’s part of my face, it’s part of my heart, it’s part of who I am. It’s not honoring to her to crop her out of the “picture.”

And so, my prayer is that God will gently and compassionately show me what I need to know and understand and see in her face – that he will reveal to me the pieces of her that bring more fullness to my story, more healing to my heart. Because in my experience, the profound and holy moments of truth-telling, of love, of healing – with Jesus – is when I’ve been face to face with him, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

So, my friends…are we up for inviting ALL of the stories, ALL of the people, to the table? Are we up for giving one another voice? Ahhh! But before we can give someone voice, we need to give them face. Maybe by giving birthmom a face, you will be able to help your child – her child – give her a face, too.

Let’s invite birthmom’s face (and voice) to the adoption world, to our world. We need her. We need her voice. Not out of pity, but out of love. Because we value her. Because in doing so, we honor her – her heart, her story, her dignity. She completes the “picture.”

NOTE: Clearly, the birthfather’s face and voice need a place to be seen and heard too.

Perhaps for us in the adoption triad, we need the birthparents story in order to bring a fuller picture of the bigger picture of what God is able to reveal of himself, his love, through the process of adoption.

That could be overwhelming.

That could be sacred.

That could be healing.

Because as you’ve heard me say before:

You (we) have this profound opportunity, this profound calling, this profound invitation to provide a place, a space – for healing, for hope, for rebuilding, for renewing, for restoring, for redeeming us (her)…you.

No, you certainly don’t have to, but you get to…you get to offer a sacred, stunning, glorious, beautiful picture…of Jesus, of shalom.

But first, we (she) need(s) you to listen.

Please, please take the time to lean in, be still, be present, and listen to our (her) heart(s).

Because it just might change…all of us.

NOTE: Picture above represents the adoption “triad” – Adoptive Mom (Kim Scholten), Adoptee (Me) & Birthmom (Lindsay Walters). So, so grateful to be able to share an afternoon of storytelling with them. I respect their courage, their faith, their love for their children. Thank you Kim and Lindsay, for being a part of this post, for being an influential part of my story, for offering both your face and voice to the world. Both are SO needed!

 

 

two years + five retreats.

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, and penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”(Maya Angelou)

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I love when people show up, especially women. I have a bent towards the feminine soul – how it uniquely bears the image of God. Oh, don’t get me wrong! I love the masculine soul, too. I guess you could say that I lean both ways. But, well…you get what I mean, right? (I’m laughing right now.) The thing is, as a woman, I most understand and resonate with a woman’s heart. And I love it. I affirm it. I admire how it longs and loves and leans towards “bringing forth life.” In others.

This past weekend (and in February), I got to be in the presence and aroma of 450 moms at the Created for Care retreat in Atlanta. And now, this week, I need a nap. I need to rest my heart for a while. I’m sure they do too. Because talking and listening and giving and receiving and crying and connecting can TOTALLY wear a woman out. In really, really good ways.

These moms – they stayed up way too late one day last August to register for what has become known as “the retreat you just HAVE to go to because you’ll feel like you just BELONG with all these other moms.” These women have met and connected all over the Facebook and blog worlds for months and years, and for many of them, meet at this retreat for the first time. And they immediately fall in love – with the feminine soul, with the unique hearts of other adoptive moms, with the stories of one another’s children.

They just “get” one another.

And I’ve learned to appreciate it…them…this love.

Because two years ago, I didn’t. I ran off to my room with cheesecake. And hid. And thought they were crazy.

But each retreat, each year, I’ve stayed a little longer. With them. Because we need one another. We need one another’s stories and mistakes and perspectives and truth-telling and strength and vulnerability and humor. We miss out on something huge when we try to do life alone. We actually may miss out on “bringing forth life.”

The adoptive parent needs the adopted person’s voice. The adopted person needs the adoptive parent’s voice. Because together, we can be known, we can love.

“…it is only when we are known that we are positioned to become conduits of love.” (Curt Thompson, Anatomy of the Soul)

NOTE: The “adoption world” also needs the birthparent’s voice…because there are many people in the adoption “triad.” This post, coming soon.

These past two years, I’ve been surprisingly invited to share my voice and step into the world of adoption. Still honored. Still blown away. And in each space, parents quickly begin sharing stories with me – stories of their adoption journey, stories of their child’s journey. I haven’t always known what to “think” or “do” with all of the details they share. Sometimes I feel like they want something from me that I can’t give them. Sometimes it feels like they’re searching for affirmation or encouragement or the “right” answer in order to prevent disappointment and heartache – for them, for their children. I’ve had to process these moments each time because usually, in my experience outside of the adoption world, people don’t begin conversations with me by sharing so much information about themselves and their children, within minutes of meeting me. So, it’s felt a little weird and awkward at times. I’m sure my little Asian eyes have widened as the stories have been told – eeek!

But here’s where I’m at today…

I sense that these adoptive parents are wanting someone to just “listen” to their story, to the miraculous ways they believe that God brought this sweet, sweet baby into their lives. I sense that they want to know how to love their children well, how not to “mess them up.” They want to heal their babies. They don’t want their babies to feel pain. They want their babies to know they are loved. They want to be “good” moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas. They want to know that their choice to adopt matters, that love will change their child’s story. They want ALL of this, for their child, with EVERY. OUNCE. OF. THEIR. BEING.

I’ve learned to honor that. I’ve come to respect that. I’m learning to listen – to their stories, to their longings, to their fears, to their miracles. Because you know what? I long for the very same things for my children. I think most parents do.

And so I’m learning that I don’t have to “think” or “do” anything. Or, teach or tell. All I can offer is me and my listening heart. And join them. And then maybe, offer a response – a blend of honesty and grace, a glimpse of an adopted person’s heart, a belief that the feminine soul was crafted in ways that can bring forth life in others, and specifically in their children.

But, my voice is only one voice. There are many voices and many experiences that can be invited into the conversation. I hope we’re listening to those voices too.

So after reflecting on these past five retreats with all of these tender and tenacious and beautiful mamas who hold some of the fiercest love for their babies that I’ve known, I have a few responses (below). Maybe they will be helpful. Maybe not. Either way, I feel deeply honored to have shared space with you these past two years, having my voice invited to speak into your stories, while at the same time allowing your voices to speak into my story. The Created for Care space has felt so safe…to be heard and understood, to feel loved and affirmed, to be known. THAT, crazy mamas, is a gift I hold onto tightly. Forever.

So, my message remains the same as it first spilled out during my first March 2012 retreat:

Please listen to the story and voice and heart of the adopted person. Because it matters. Deeply.

The adopted person’s voice…let’s keep finding it and listening to it and leaning into it.

The adoptive parent’s voice…let’s keep equipping it and supporting it and encouraging it.

The advocate’s voice…let’s keep using it to fight for what’s good and true.

Let’s keep sharing with one another – not just the easy and fun and good stuff, but also the hard and hurting and hidden stuff, because then we will know the places where life needs to be breathed in…gently, compassionately, graciously.

Let’s keep writing this story together – not just the adoption part of the story, but the whole story – the one that begins with loss and ends with redemption.

You, I, we…get to be a part of that story!

So, so grateful to have you journeying with me as I continue to learn how to articulate what’s inside of me, as I continue to experience more of God’s love and grace and healing.

Thank you, from the Korean adoptee, the marriage and family therapist (don’t forget those holidays and birthdays), the glow in the dark fox, and the mama who is cheering all of us on as we, together, create sanctuaries and cultivate shalom all over the world, in our homes.

With deep gratitude and respect, Carissa

So…a few responses to what I hear from the deep hearts of adoptive parents. I’m always allowing ideas and information (and theology) to work themselves out within me, with God, so my disclaimer is that I don’t have anything “figured out.” I’m in process, with you. I just might have the crazy notion to actually write and say some of these things out loud! Ahhh!

Let’s keep the conversation going. Let’s keep moving, forwards, together.

  • There’s nothing that’s hard or bad about your child’s story of loss that takes away from all the good and joy in your decision to adopt. Nothing.
  • Adoption includes both beauty and brokenness, gain and loss, suffering and redemption.

“My story bears too much heartache to be ignored and too much beauty to be hidden.” (Dan Allender)

  • Parenting is not the process of figuring out how to do things “right” so we won’t mess her/him up. It’s about entering in – into their pain, into the brokenness, into their GLAD, MAD, SAD, SCARED. It’s about going to the hard (and good) places, with them. I think we’ll be blown away at what happens in our own life and story when we do that, and how it will change our capacity to love. When our hearts enter into another person’s story, it will just know how to “be.” It won’t be focused on what to do or say. The control will be gone, but the healing will be initiated.

“To console does not mean to take away the pain but rather to be there and say, ‘You are not alone, I am with you.’” (Henri Nouwen)

  • Jesus – He does the healing. All we have to do (get to do) is create the kind of space for healing to happen.
  • You don’t have to, but you get to…you get to offer a sacred, stunning, glorious, beautiful picture…of Jesus, of shalom.

 

from one mom to another.

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To: That mom who was in front of us in the checkout line

I feel badly that my little girl accidentally bumped into your grocery cart while scooching around to grab that neon glow ball. I’m sure her innocent body didn’t mean to bother you. I’m certain it was the object in her view that made the world around her, including your cart, disappear for a moment. I’m sure you were irritated. In fact I saw it in your eyes when you looked so harshly at her. In fact this mom feels irritated, too, when she doesn’t watch what she’s doing or where she’s going. Often. But then, as I continued to put my groceries on the belt, I overheard you talking to the cashier in that serious and demonstrative voice telling her, “When my daughter was little and she acted up in the store, I took her outside and gave her a spanking and she never did it again.” That’s when I wanted to glare right back at you and give you a look like you gave my daughter. Were you trying to subtly send me a message? Because if you were, I wish you would’ve just said it to my face, because I would’ve had a reply. I would’ve met you in a way that I believe moms in grocery stores should meet one other…with compassion and understanding and grace, with an “I’m so sorry she bumped into your cart.” Because we ALL have had moments when our children have bothered adults in a store, when we’ve felt embarrassed and humiliated (maybe even shameful) by their behavior, when we’ve wished with everything inside of us that we were shopping alone, with adult manners, with the ability to keep focused on remembering what we need to buy. But, as moms, we don’t always have the opportunity or luxury or time or spouse to do that. And by the end of our shopping trip, we’re just really, really glad to have made it through the crazy-making experience and finally be done, in line checking out, because we’ve just spent so many minutes of our day managing children through a place that’s really boring and unimportant and over-stimulating to them. And the one-cent horse ride by the exit door is in view and we’re doing all we can to reach the finish line – for them, for us, for the frozen food! So then, to be met in a long and tedious line with your unkind face, glaring at my daughter, it feels unhelpful, unfruitful…not only for me and for her, but for you too. I’m sad for whatever lies inside of you that something so minute, so little in this world, got to you so severely and caused you to act so rudely, and had the ability to hide your love and gentleness that I just know lies beneath that furrowed brow. But that’s about you and whatever has gone on or is going on in your story. I have grace to offer for that. Not in spite of that, but because of that.

As for me, it reminded me of how us moms, whether new or seasoned, can offer a face of kindness and empathy when we see other moms struggling and managing and soothing and corralling, or even just wandering, in stores. Because we’ve been there. Maybe years ago, maybe hours ago. And we remember what shopping with kids was like: hard, chaotic, unnerving, definitely not any of the top 10 ways we would love to spend our day.

So again, I’m sorry that my little girl bumped into your cart. I’ll keep reminding her to try to notice what’s going on around her. That’s a really good and helpful quality to grow into.

And from me, to you – from one mama’s heart to another – may you see and feel, not only what’s happening around and to you, but what’s happening in and through your little girl, your children. So that when you’re in line at the grocery store again and some little girl bumps into your cart, you’ll notice her, and help her, and maybe even smile at her. And then, at her mom. Because you know. Because you’ve been there. And in that smile, that mom will know that you’re “with” her. That you “get” her. That you’re cheering her on.

I’ve only been on this parenting ride for about five years, but I’m pretty certain that most days, most moms, in most cities, need all the cheerleaders they can get.

From: That mom who was behind you in the checkout line

 

perfect pictures.

NOTE: a bit late, but you know how life goes.

We love seeing them. We hate seeing them. We think all sorts of thoughts when our eyes fall upon those perfect family/kid/selfie pictures swirling around on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, on Christmas cards. What is it about all those pictures I post (I mean others post) that makes people’s minds turn from the story and life behind the eyes to the judgment of the intent?

I get it. I really do. It’s so easy to impose meaning and messages behind what we see over social media – pictures of people’s kids and in-laws and food and double dates and guys/girls nights and vacations and pets. I think most of us love the “real” pictures – the ones that help us believe that our “friend” or “follower” is just as normal and human as we are, our life is. We have a responsibility to discern if/what/how/when to post pictures – ones that tell true stories rather than give a false identity or appearance. And then take note of how our brains are interpreting them.

We see SO much.

So here’s my sidetrack thought for today…

First, a confession: I totally blow up people’s phones on IG and I totally hold back on how many pictures I post on FB. In fact, I don’t even have my IG settings set to automatically post my pictures on FB. Why? Because I don’t want people criticizing my love and gratitude and celebration and momentous moments with my kids (or my life). I don’t fear criticism of my pictures, I fear the criticism, by adults, of me, my intent of why I post each picture. The thing is, I hear women all the time saying nasty things about other people’s pictures on IG and FB. It’s so easy to be critical of how much and what kind of pictures are posted. And each time I hear a negative comment I think, “But what if there’s more behind why that person posted that picture?” Because actually, I may be that person.

Here’s what I know…There are lots and lots and lots of parents whose lives are spent managing really, really hard stuff with their kids – tantrums and meltdowns and dis-regulated emotions, shame and blame and self-harm. They’re engaging in “investment parenting techniques” (thanks ETC!) which takes tons of time and lots of grace. They’re trying to move their kids to brush their teeth and hair and eat and get dressed without them falling apart, and in fact, they’re trying themselves to not fall apart! There are lots of moms (or spouses) who stay at home with the laundry and dishes and toys and school work and stove – with the mundane. And, there are lots of moms (and spouses) who go to work everyday who aren’t with their kids, and still come home to all of the above. And, I’m finding there are lots of stay-at-home parents who are struggling to find their identity and calling (outside of being a parent) now that their children are in school (or out of the house). And yes, we know, that there are lots of people who are just plain bored and dissatisfied and jealous and use social media sites in really unhelpful ways.

We all have a lot going on.

When you’re in the season of growing and cultivating “family,” it’s so, so easy to forget the tenderness and vulnerability and fragility and goodness behind your children’s eyes, deep in their souls. We get weary. We get discontent. We get frustrated. We get busy. We crave anything that reminds us that we’re breathing and beautiful and that our life has a purpose beyond taking care of other people’s needs. And so maybe, just maybe, when we post a sweet or silly or amazing or entertaining picture of our kids, it’s because we need to visually be reminded of why we give…our hours and intention and body and money and emotion, and maybe even our mental health – ahhh! And maybe, for one moment, we catch a picture of our child’s true self, the child that we believe in and love with all our heart – the brave and precious and focused and listening and joyful parts – that maybe don’t show up as often as we would hope, or as often as our friend’s or sister-in-law’s child does. And for a split-second, or 15 minutes, we can breathe because the fear and shame and anger and guilt and “I don’t know if I can make it through this day” subsides.

We see him. We see her. We see what’s happening…

…and it’s a defining moment in the day. And it makes us smile. Gratitude swells, perspective returns, the re-set button gets pushed. And we move forward. Again…and again…and again.

Maybe all these pictures people post help remind them of the story they’re in, but also of the bigger story – that the loneliness and longing and really hard days – the ashes – can be and are being transformed into beauty…in their our children, in them us, one snap shot at a time. And I think we would all agree that the more glimpses of what’s true and beautiful and good in this world we can get, we need to take. Amen?

There’s always a story behind what we see with our eyes – at church, at the grocery store, at school, at Christmas parties, on platforms. No family or couple or parent or child – or day – is perfect. Right? So, let’s not even go there with our minds. Let’s remember that every family is experiencing their own challenges. They all wake up with bad breath, bed heads and clothes they would never dare wear in public. Every home is rupturing just as much as it’s finding its own way to repairing and reconciling. Maybe we could try to halt our evaluation and criticism and jealousy, and instead, celebrate what lies behind the eyes and smiles and smirks and poses of those pictures – pure goodness, pure “life” – and then celebrate it…that family, their story.

So keep posting, people! Mark your significant moments and days and people with photos. Let’s cheer each other on. Let’s celebrate the “life” in one another’s homes. We need one another in the outrageously grand moments of life just as much as we need one another in the most boring and hard, soul-sucking moments.

NOTE 1: Please, please, please, don’t ever, ever, ever replace your human relationships with social media relationships. (Someday I would love to write a post about this!)

NOTE 2: There might be some unwritten rule about over-posting, but don’t send it to me – ha!

So here’s a slide show of our “perfect” pictures from 2013. A few years ago we started the tradition of making a slide show to send to our friends and family instead of a Christmas card. Nothing against Christmas cards, but in hopes that they would see and sense the story building in our family, behind our eyes. But know that behind all the fun and joy and activity you see in these pictures, there is also the reality of our bad breath and scraggly hair and piles of toys and dishes and laundry and dirt behind toilets and numbing out with rectangles and multiple mornings when we groan for our children to sleep through the night, and…a longing and desperation for more healing and hope.

But, here we are, another normal breathing family, sitting in the reality that both brokenness and beauty exists, together. And that’s a good thing. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t have one without the other.

May this year bring you a refreshed sense of self, a new perspective of others, a deeper love for God, and a growing belief of his deep love for you.

Happy, happy new year!

Love, The Woodwyk Family

Woodwyk 2013 Year in Review Slideshow (plays better on computer than phone and you should hear music).

 

hoping for God with us.

This post is the other reflection I wrote for the Advent/Christmas Prayerbook, which is a combined effort of Liberti Church in Philadelphia and Restoration Living (an online space that I’m honored to write with and for).

Merry Christmas! May your holiday moments be extra special and meaningful, and may you experience a fresh sense of God’s presence, and how deep and wide his love is…for you.

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It’s the day before.

Maybe you feel rushed and hassled and hurried, or maybe you’re ready and eager and excited. You’ve been prepping for days, maybe even weeks, for Christmas morning. And it’s almost here.

Inside, as you’ve entered into this advent season, you’ve experienced a longing, a waiting, for what is to come – for you, for your family, for this world – the day we remember the significant birth of a baby, a baby who was birthed to save the world.

But this waiting, it hasn’t been without or depleted of this baby, of his life. He’s been in the waiting. His presence, his spirit – it’s been here all along. Have you seen it? Have you felt it? Have you embraced it?

He’s here. In the waiting.

And he will come. Again. In the morning.

His hope, his peace, his joy, his love – it comes again and again and again. Anticipate it. Participate with it. The baby that was born that night embodied all of this. All of what we need was wrapped in that swaddling blanket. He was for…us.

Stunning.

Perhaps tomorrow is less about what is to come, than what has already come. Maybe today, as we wait, God awaits, with us – to make his love, his compassion, more known to us, like as a mother whose love overflows as she holds her swaddled baby.

So tonight, light a candle. And as you gaze upon the flame, speak out loud, “Come, Lord Jesus Come…make known to us what you have already birthed within us, in your world. Come find the desolate places that need more light, more of you – your hope, your peace, your joy, your love. Come, Lord Jesus, Come.”

Tonight, as the sun sets, and tomorrow as the sun rises, may your anticipation transform into participation, with him, the Savior of the world.

See him…in the faces lit up around you.

Feel him…in the body and blood and skin you wear.

Embrace him…in the wonder and awe and miracle that marks the day we call Christmas.

“Come, Lord Jesus, Come.”