Saturday, February 15, 2014

Mercy Came Running

They just came to me, here in this space, as I sat down to type -lyrics I have so long loved: 

"Mercy came running
Like a prisoner set free
Past all my failures
To the point of my need
When all I had carried 
Was all I could see...
And when I could not reach mercy
Mercy came running to me"

And that is what this is all about.  It's about Grace and Mercy.  It's about receiving what is not deserved and not receiving what ultimately is deserved.  

It's about a broken life.  It's about fractured trust and the fear of failure.  It's about grasping for perfection thinking it will satisfy.  It's about self preservation and being ashamed the truth isn't worth the pain.  It's about being too much and, simultaneously, not enough.  It's his story…but it's been mine too. 

So I tell him this: 

  • A shattered past can also mean a beautiful mosaic of a future.
  • Fractured trust means there is space where real love can insert itself to produce healing. 
  • Fear is a lie. 
  • The pursuit of perfection is the killer of dreams.  
  • Your preservation is the resiliency of your incredible spirit.
  • The truth is always worth the pain but shame is a destroyer of the soul. 
  • You are never too much and you are ALWAYS enough. 

And above all….without grace and mercy, I was nothing but a prisoner…now set free. 

I am convinced that once you experience grace and mercy you hunger and thirst for it…

                   May you run hard after it and rejoice in it's beauty and redemption. 


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Refiners Fire.

You know what makes you vulnerable. Teaching broken kids. There is no hiding how difficult it is. It sands you down so the beautiful and the ugly...the real and the raw...shine through. How you can love so much and be so you can't do it, you're not good enough...but how you can't give up. It can (it often) requires you to plead with others to come alongside of you because you CANNOT do it on your own. Some days you're more diamond in the rough and some days you're just scratchy chalk on archaic slate. After your umpteenth come to Jesus talk with the umpteenth student, after you've used up all your coping skills and you start to look to the "Social - Emotional Skills Wall" that you designed for the you can draw ideas for yourself before you melt-down, after you've eaten your 21st lunch of gold-fish crackers, after you pour every ounce of you into ONE lesson plan...and still score twos (even though nobody can score that you're changing lives) have no choice but to be vulnerable. I'm learning so much about myself because of teaching...I'm just praying that like gold, this refining fire produces something beautiful.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Even In My Greatest Moment

You are infinitely more wise than I am in my greatest moment.  I fall against your patience and sovereignty and a find a well of peace and grace for my weary soul.  In you, all of my toil and striving cease as you whisper, "You are more than enough in me."

As the master teacher you are everything my students never knew they needed.  You are consistent in your boundaries and faithfully present.  You meet my needs and guide me with your brilliant and powerful right hand.  In you, my curiosity and awe for life is endless because in and through you, the gloriousness of all things is a mysterious life blood....I am never satisfied.

You are the picture of perfect parenthood.  Your love, it runs painfully deep.  Your patience is unmeasured.  My pursuit of their's a familiar feeling because of your pursuit after mine.  They way you recklessly pursue me, the way you mourn my selfish decisions and the way you rejoice in my accomplishments though they pale in comparison to you and your ultimate glory.

Help me relinquish them to your love and sovereignty as you draw me know that your hand is so much more powerful than I can ever fathom...heal, restore, protect, hold. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Emotional Flood.

“The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with the paths which the mind travels. How worn and dusty, then, must be the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity! I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains.”
Henry David Thoreau, Walden 

“It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” -Abraham Maslow.

True story - on both accounts.  Let us not forget.

Missing Out

If I could sit with them awhile I would share every "first" that is being missed...every beautiful moment of wide eyes and wonderment:

  • Of learning how to do a back float in the pool for the first time...despite him telling me that he surely can "swim" when in reality, he is more proficient in "sinking" than anything... but we will get there!  *You missed out on, "I can float!  I'm going to float FOREVER!! You missed out.*
  • Of the first Zoo visit.  "Look at that monkey just hanging in the tree!"  "Can I ride the carousel?" "That flamingo is sleeping ON ONE LEG!" "Come play on the splashpad!!"...on the monkey hitting the glass, on the baboon with the huge red butt, on the rhino, on sleeping tigers...  *You missed out on, "I LOVE the zoo! You missed out.* 
  • Of the first "fancy" dinner - with cloth napkins, fresh bread, and "why do I have so many forks?!"  So many decisions about what to eat and learning how to order properly, "May I please have the pepperoni pizza?  Thank you!"  The discovery of what the "little napkin" is used for (place it under your drink).  The hot-fudge sundae for dessert.  *You missed out on the toast, "To the BEST day of the BEST summer of our lives!!" and the clinking of soda glasses...You missed out.*
  • Of the trip to the trampoline place and bouncing, bouncing, bouncing all day long!  Of dodgeball against the "big kids" and "this is tiring!"  The foam pit...good thing Dyllon was a patient young lad who let us linger a bit longer than we were allowed... *You missed out on the perseverance to land that front flip...and the incredible smile when it finally happened.  You missed out.*
  • Of the first time at the rock climbing gym and the hidden fear when the harness was on and the ascent was imminent.  The slow but steady climb and the confidence as the scary became enjoyable.  Of that route that was near impossible...and the, "I can't do it..." and the "Yes, you can, we believe in you!" And the self-confidence that propelled him higher and higher and then the excitement and joy and the smile that spread across his face as his tiny hand hit the top of the wall.  *You missed out as the impossible was made possible because of his spirit.  He's a fighter and so resilient despite all he has been through.  He might think he's proving things to the world...but deep down, I know he's proving it to himself.  You MISSED OUT ON THAT!*
In two days you've missed out on SO much.  For a second I was angry at you, but a friend reminded me that, most likely, you don't find the same enjoyment in their victories and firsts as I do...or we wouldn't be in this time and space in the first place.  And because I'm not that type of person, I forgive you...for them.  For missing these incredible things in their lives.  And I will continue to bask in the joy that, for whatever reason, I was granted permission to take hold of... that I might experience these firsts and give the congratulations and the hugs and cheer them on in your absence.  I want you to know that you're missing out but I'll gladly fill the gap.  It is my joy.  It is my absolute honor.  

Sunday, May 12, 2013


I sent this e-mail to my co-worker yesterday, despite the fact that neither her, nor I, have any biological children of our own:  "Happy Mother's Day - for the love you pour out daily and for being the only picture of "real motherhood" some of "our" kids will ever see." 

Today, I received a text message from a sweet friend and neighbor, which read in part: "Happy Mother's Day!  You are a mother to more children than of any of us combined."  My heart swelled. 

I'm the surrogate mom.  That's pretty much the long and short of it. I may not tuck them in at night but I do just about everything before and after.  I'm, "Eat your breakfast," and "Do your homework..." I am the bearer of hugs, the giver of snacks, the reader of stories, the disciplinary....

I'm also results driven.  I love the process...but I love results too.  Teaching and parenting, well, they are both processes.  I'm also highly critical of myself.  You can see where this is heading, eh?

In my pouring out I empty myself of every tool and prayer and every possible strategy that I know will produce the results I desire but the truth isn't (and it will never be) always enough.

I was reminded of it today when I was handed the referral.  It read, "O called J a b*tch and a n***er during after school sports on Thursday." I was hoping upon all hope that the accusation was untrue because we have come so far...but deep down...I knew it was accurate... and my heart sank.  

I went to PE to get the kids and I called O to the front of the line and said, "We need to talk."  In his rhetorical "about what?" I already sensed the admission of guilt.  I was barely able to utter, "Thursday..." before he began his defense but I stopped it before it could begin. We walked as a class back to the room and the kids engaged in AR and I pulled O aside - I'm still keeping my commitment to try and meet all of the needs.

This time there was no excuses.  It was the one victory I took hold of - we've discussed (multiple times) the weight of dishonesty on top of transgressions and something about those conversations rooted themselves in his heart.   Inspite of it all, as the surrogate, I felt like a failure.  And in that moment I realized that this is a lie that mothers throughout all time and history have bought into - that we are not, have not, cannot, ever be: enough.  That somehow we drop the ball despite being the bearer of hugs, the giver of snacks, the reader of stories, the  They are not perfect and neither are we, in this messy (albeit beautiful) journey called life.

So here...for all of you who are standing in the gap as teachers, loving children who were, in my humble opinion, perfectly chosen to be in your care...hold firmly to your duty to live as a surrogate and embrace the messy.

Happy Mother's Day.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Big Feelings

A fellow blogger (and a woman I respect and admire) uses the term "big feelings" in relation to her children's emotional regulation and I'd like to borrow the term...because was FULL of big feelings.

As I work and redirect and draw close and pour I love and teach and comfort and discipline...and as I pray over, strategically praise, and guide...I grow attached.  I liken it to farming tiny gardens.  Till the rocky soil, remove the stones that hamper progress, feed and nourish...and water.  There is no promise of fruits for my labor and yet, the hope alone of life springing forth is worth the risk it takes to keep on, keepin' on.  And then that day...when I see even a hint of new life...the risk becomes worth it.

In 3 months I've seen the most incredible life spring forth.  And yet, I'm just the gardener.  I'm not the keeper or sustainer of life.  I should re-read that a million times. 

*K*... he's moving.  Poverty equates to instability.  When he told Ms. E  early today, his typically stoic little body folded into hers and he clung tightly to her as she held him close - because the feelings...they were BIG. 

And when she told me... my own feelings became BIG as well...I almost couldn't hold back the tears.  All the tilling, and picking away small stones...all the feeding and the nourishing...and life giving water....and like a giant wave the realization that I am just the gardener. 

The big feelings took over both *K* and I all day...and when it came time for writing I almost couldn't breath.  I gave him a note to take to his parents, a note which praised his growth and was full of admonitions to let him continue in the greenhouse of love and trust and expectations our entire team has built for him. 

I gave him the note and started to teach, and as I looked over I saw his head on his folder as he sobbed uncontrollably....because the big feelings, like an incredible wave - were too overwhelming.  The feelings of loss, of insecurity, of regression, of uncertainty....and I held him close as I choked back my own tears and I affirmed that his big feelings were valid because I was feeling them too.

I am reminded yet again...this thing I'm's messy and painful. 

At the end of the day, as we waited with *K* under the awning, he held both Mrs. E and I tight.  Though the weeds have often drowned out the beautiful...the signs of life are much too prominent now.  I'm trying to remind myself that it's worth the's always worth the risk. 

Tonight I'm fighting my own big feelings....and clinging to promise that He goes before and stands behind - that He will fight for me, that He has equipped me for such a time as this...that He will sustain me...