Sunday, July 1, 2018

FAQ - foster care edition

For those of you who have been following our family, you know that we initially submitted our application to be foster parents back in October.  We have completed months of classes, our home study, home inspections, and all. the. paperwork!  We are still waiting for the state to push the 'approve' button to be officially opened, but I'm expecting that to happen very soon. 

I thought it might be helpful to address some of the common questions/concerns about foster care that I have heard as we have been working towards becoming a foster home.  I love to dialogue about foster care, so if there are questions that I have not addressed, please feel free to ask me!

# 1 - Why would you do this?  Isn't life hard enough?
  I think maybe the biggest misconception about foster parents is that they are either super-human or they are in it for the wrong reasons.  Yes, you do get a monthly reimbursement from the state for being a foster home.  While the amount varies based on the type of child and the state, my personal feeling is that the money is very unlikely to cover all of the expenses involved in caring for the child and so I have to believe that most people who are choosing foster care, are doing it to provide a safe and loving home to a child who needs one.  Regarding being super-humans - Nope.  You don't have to be around my family long to determine that we are pretty ordinary.  We try to be intentional about the ways we discipline and care for our children and our marriage, but we are just two parents who work full-time jobs, love our roles as mom and dad, and can't ignore the fact that there are hundreds of children in our city who need safe homes.  We have room in our hearts and room in our home, and while I know it will be hard, I also believe it is going to be really wonderful for all of us.

#2 - I could never do that.  I would get too attached.
I totally understand where this is coming from - I may have even uttered these words myself when I first began thinking about foster care.  The underlying implication here though is that foster parents must in turn be robots who do not experience attachment and love, but are really just mechanical care-givers.  I will get attached to our foster children.  I will love them the way I love my own children.  I will care for them, nurture them, advocate for them, and believe a bright future for them of healing and restoration for their families.  Many of these kids have not yet experienced healthy attachments, so it is absolutely vital that they experience a trusting, loving, attachment to a care-giver.  As someone who has known and experienced deep grief, I know that it will hurt terribly when these children leave our home, but I also know by experience the incredible well of grace that is deeper than the deepest hurt.  I am the adult.  I can love deeply and hurt deeply so that these children get to experience a healing, loving home.

# 3 - What about your kids?  Aren't you worried about how this is going to impact them?
Yes, yep, for sure, absolutely.  I think about my sweet children and worry about them ALL.THE.TIME.  We are not just going to be foster parents, we are going to be a foster family, that means all of us are invested in being a healthy, thriving home for a hurting child.  Foster care is a place of trauma, it is inviting brokenness into your home and saying - "you can stay here, it is safe."  We have had months of conversations about foster care with our children and honestly, there have been tears (from both of us) and it still feels fragile as we don't yet know what it will feel like to do this everyday.  But, I have SO much faith for my family with foster care.  I believe that they are going to see first hand what it looks like to serve, to think beyond yourself, to give even when it hurts, and to love without guarantees.  I believe that my kids can handle the trauma of foster care because they come from a place of safety and security, they know that we can do hard things.  We will always be looking out for our children, re-evaluating the health of our home, and trusting Jesus to take the next steps. 

# 4 - Why don't you just adopt?
We thought about adoption and prayed a lot about that route.  Honestly, the price tag was the biggest deterrent, but as we begin to learn more about foster care, the more I felt drawn to this particular pathway.  I would love to have more forever children in my home, but I see foster care as this precious space to stand in on behalf of children and families who are broken.  I'm not doing this so I can adopt all of these children, I don't even expect to be able to adopt right now.  I don't want these mama's who are hurting and broken to feel like I am trying to take their kids.  I want to be for families - I believe that whenever possible, families should stay together.  I want to love these birth parents, advocate for their family, and care for these kids for as long as that is the plan.  I've seen a lot of children in my line of work who were in foster care for a period of time and went back home.  For some of them it was a solid reunification, and for others it led to lots of bouncing around.  The goal of foster care is ALWAYS reunification, until it is not.  My heart is to love these kids, give them the care they will need to build skills when they are at home and help them develop positive attachments.  None of that is wasted, even if the placement does not end in adoption, none of that time loving a child is wasted.

#5 - So does this mean you are saying 'yes' to anything?
Nope.  We have given our agency certain parameters to work with when it comes to placement.  For us, we want a baby, so ages 0-2.  We don't care about gender or race, but that is something that you could give specifications for.  We also asked for a 'basic' child, that means no obvious medical problems or special needs.  Also, our plan right now is just to take 1 child.  We are being licensed to have 6 children in our home (that means 4 potential foster kids), but we really feel like we need to ease into this one 'yes' at a time.  An important part of helping Jeff shake off some of his reservations regarding foster care was setting parameters and agreeing that this is not an open ended 'yes' to all things.  It is just the next yes.  There will be more phone calls, more kids who need homes, and when the time comes, we will say yes together, or the answer is no. 

I think those are the biggest questions that I've gotten so far about foster care.  Thank you all for your prayers and support for us as we have started this journey.  Foster care takes a village... like an actual village of people, so I'm so grateful to have friends and family who are willing to be certified as respite providers, take CPR classes and keep our own children so that we can do the things we need to do in order to be ready.  I'm so excited and eager for this journey to start.  Please pray with us for our first placement and stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The next 'yes'

A year ago, I read a book called 'The Lucky Few' and it spoke such courage and healing to my soul about finding God's best in the hardest places.  Read this book... I mean, don't read this book if you don't want to say 'yes' to the hard places, but read this book because the 'yes' is so worth it.  We have been praying about the future of our family, whether we should continue to pursue having another biological child, whether we should pursue adoption, whether we should do any of this at all.  As we have prayed and cried and sought counsel among our close family and friends, we have felt drawn deeper into God's heart for orphan care.  It has ignited my soul in a way that makes me feel alive, excited, eager, and full of hope.  In October we submitted our application through a local foster care agency, we have completed our classes, are in the middle of our home study and are checking off the final boxes to be licensed as a foster family. 

This hasn't been an easy decision, and most days I feel equally eager and terrified.  I'm reading all the books, listening to the podcasts, reading the blogs, revisiting TBRI, trying to be "ready."  The truth is that getting the room ready, locking up the medicine (and the laundry detergent), and talking to my kids about why we are choosing this 'yes' right now will not make me ready for the life and/or lives that will be present in our home and in our hearts in the coming months.  We have chosen the foster care system instead of private adoption for several reasons, but one important one is because of the brokenness inherent within it.  Saying 'yes' means inviting brokenness to come into your home and live alongside and within us.  While I won't pretend I don't feel some fear about that, I also feel like it is a sacred and beautiful privilege to care for vulnerable children when they are most in need.  I don't know if our placements will end in adoption, that is our hope, but there are no guarantees.  We can't be sure of what this will look like, how it will shape our family, or in what form hardships will come, but I am sure that it will hurt - like everything that is worth having. 

As we have waded into these waters of fostering to adopt I have prayed so many prayers and I have wrestled with wanting a guarantee from Jesus that it won't shatter me - He didn't give me that.  What He did give me, was the peace and courage to say the next 'yes.'  Right now that is the dozens of checked boxes on the licensing form saying we have done everything required.  Then we wait for the phone calls saying there is a baby in need of a home and we will have an opportunity for the next 'yes.'  I can't see what 'yes' will look like to the whole of adoption... so I'm going to take it one step at a time knowing that there will be both 'yes' and 'no' from me and from the Lord as we walk down this road.  The ultimate goal here is not to say 'yes' and get to adopt a child.  While I would love for that to happen, what I want even more is to leave a legacy of faithfulness for my family - that we have listened to His voice, felt His heart, and we have lived out a thousand 'yes's to Him each day.

I don't know what this journey will hold for us, but I know this:

"I did not cover my face from humiliation and spitting.  For the Lord God helps Me, Therefore, I am not disgraced; therefore, I have set my face like flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed." Isaiah 50:6-7.  There will be some pain and humiliation in this journey, but it is not disgrace and I believe God gifts us mothers will the steel required to set our face like flint and fight on behalf of our children.  I also believe that God's strength does not disappoint - "Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.  The Lord God is my strength, and he has made my feet like the hind's feet, and makes me walk on my high places." Habakkuk3:17-19.  I expect that at times this will look a little (or a lot) like failure, and it will be easy to wonder, 'Where's all the fruit?!  I did all this work!  Where is it?'  May I remember that saying 'yes' does not mean I will get what I think is being asked of me, but rather it is trusting God's good, Father heart and rejoicing in Him even when it feels like failure because He is working together a masterpiece in the lives of many and I'm only getting a glimpse of it from my own perspective.

We have heard God's heart for orphans in our community, and God bless my sweet husband - we are saying 'yes.'

Sunday, October 1, 2017

birthday

Tragedy is tragic because it is generally the loss, the pain that you never saw coming, the one you believed yourself invincible from.  There has certainly been tragedy in the last few months, natural disasters on a far reaching scale that have impacted millions.  I have been anticipating (with a fair amount of dread) the milestone that is Levi's birthday - my own personal tragedy.  There are so many details of that day etched into my mind that can play back in a traumatic feedback loop if I allow it.  Levi deserves to be remembered, in all of the agony that comes with choosing to sit with the greatest hurt of your life.  So, as his birthday approaches - October 6th, he was stillborn at 2:38 AM.  I will remember and grieve that this is the last milestone.  When you lose a baby, you lose all of the future milestones you imagined you would share.  There can never be a first smile, a first food or a first birthday.  All that remains is the time from the last time you held him, the time you said good bye.

As I have thought about this day and wondered how to do it 'right', I have come to the conclusion that the best we can do as grieving people is to show up.  We can gather our people - the ones who have been willing to wait out the long, dark night, the ones who haven't shied away from pain, the ones who will bear witness because they see it is sacred - and together we will remember.  I think the reason so many platitudes follow tragedy is because we need to believe in goodness, we need people to not be in pain and to feel better, we need hope.  This journey over the last year of grief and this journey of accepting that dreams can die and be remade has helped me to see that we don't have to fear pain.  We don't need to feel better, at least not right away.  The experience of pain, of great loss, of tragedy is not one that we could choose, but when it chooses us, we can lean into it rather than fighting it and it will break and shatter and hurt.... and then it will build resilience, trust, and hope that is not easily disappointed.

It is hard for me to even put into words what has unfolded in my heart over the last year (I know - me, speechless?), but I am confident that my hope is stronger than ever.  Not hope in the worldly sense, that I hope I will achieve or receive something, because this journey instructs us that to hope in those things is empty.  But hope that is eternal and rests with the Good Father, who walks near us in our defeat and near us in our triumph.  "I relieved his shoulder of the burden, his hands were freed from the basket.  You called in trouble and I rescued you; I answered you in the hiding place of thunder." Psalm 81:6-7.  Rescue does not mean that we will be spared from pain, it does not mean we will get the ending we are desperately praying for, but it means that even when tragedy strikes, we can trust that God is exactly who He says He is and He will show up with us in our pain.  He will shoulder the burden of sadness with us, He will carry the basket of broken dreams with us, He will sit with us in the storm of anger and confusion - and He will answer.

I am grateful for the life of Levi Robert Priour.  I wish it had been longer, I wish the milestones weren't in remembering  - but his life, however brief, has made me more resilient, compassionate, hopeful, alive, willing to take risks, and certain of the treasure I have in heaven.  I am also more certain that the courage required to live a life of purpose doesn't come from fearlessness or maintaining control; but rather it comes from confronting your fear, leaning into your pain, and knowing that even in the deepest darkness - you will never be alone.  You don't get to know those things in the core of your being until you have to go deep in darkness and when you do emerge from the darkness knowing that there is hope, goodness, and abundance for you - what is there to fear?  You will live courageously.

I can't bring myself to say, "Happy Birthday."  It doesn't feel authentic, at least not yet.  But I can say, I'm so happy you were born.  I'm so happy I got to see you, hold you, and I will love you forever.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Piece by piece

I can't believe it has been 6 months since Levi was born and almost a year since I found out I was pregnant.  It feels like that was another lifetime... and maybe it was.  When I see myself now, I feel hardly recognizable, but not because I see the grief stricken mother wondering how to keep living in a world her children won't get to see (although I do still see images of that mother at times).  But, I see a woman who has been rebuilt after brokenness into something that is strong, but flexible, tender, but fierce, and most of all full of hope with hands open to receive whatever may come - joy and heartache.  It is hard to put into the words the shift that has occurred inside my heart as I have wrestled with the Lord and with myself over why I have to belong inside this story I never wanted.  But I have learned some valuable lessons along the way that I want to memorialize so I won't forget what God has done.

1) There is no healing in pretending, there are no short cuts to grief.  It doesn't unfold like a neat 5 point pathway that you naturally progress down and then you reach the end and it is finished.  It is like a violent and unpredictable ocean that you can fight against or learn to lean into so that you can find the surface again.  God doesn't take the pain away just because we ask him to.  I didn't experience perfect peace just because I wanted it.  It wasn't until I allowed myself to feel each moment authentically and process those feelings and thoughts taking them to the feet of Jesus and just telling Him whatever my truth was in that moment, that I began to feel the weight of grief lessen.  When I experienced those moments with Jesus, I discovered that He had feelings too and was not simply observing my pain from a distance, but actively experiencing it with me.  I so desperately needed to know that my Father hurts too and suffers alongside us.  Pretending the pain away by quoting scripture at it or chasing after the multitude of platitudes that inevitably follow a disaster didn't do anything to heal the deepest brokenness of my soul.  Showing up in your pain matters, being authentic about your struggle matters and it was only when I decided to keep showing up and telling the truth of my heart that I began to experience hope again.

2) We can do hard things, but we don't have to do them alone.  It is easier to hide our pain, to distract ourselves from experiencing it's weight, to smile because we think we're supposed to.  It is uncomfortable to see someone in pain.  Our human instinct is to heal it, to fix it, to make the pain stop.  But, what if the only way to heal is to hurt deeply?  I've learned in this journey that not everyone can walk next to you - and that's okay, you don't need an army.  But you need a few trusted soldiers - who will go to war with you and will sit in the darkness with you for as long as it takes.  By being open about my journey I have had the privilege to show up for others, to walk into their darkness, and to hold the hands of hurting women in need of hope.  I am so grateful for that.  God often brings deep healing in community, and I'm thankful for those who continued to show up, to listen, and to trust God's work in my life.  What hurting people need most is for others to not be afraid of their pain or try to fix it, but to be embraced in the midst of it and to experience the validation of others who will hurt with you. 

3) Fear only feels like the truth.  To have some of my worst fears realized more than once made those fears feel much more real than the Truth of God.  Fear is a normal human instinct, one that has enabled survival and can be adaptive for us to respond to.  Fear is real and its visceral expression only solidifies the feeling that it is the truth.  To deny it or try to stifle it seems a little delusional, because it tends to show up even when we don't acknowledge it - nightmares, anxiety, feeling out of control - all of these physical experiences are rooted in fear.  For me, the only way to overcome the feelings of fear that I experienced when I thought about the future was to chose to trust God's heart.  This was actually the most difficult part of my healing.  I wrestled intensely with what it means to trust a Father who doesn't promise to prevent this and then doesn't rush in to fix it.  I can't even pinpoint exactly what shifted for me, except that I quit trying so hard.  I prayed and wrestled and begged God to repair the broken trust I felt between us, but He didn't - at least not right away.  He gently reminded me that it is His job to repair the brokenness and to quit trying so hard - and I did.  I continued moving forward in this journey, but chose to operate on an underlying belief that God is exactly who He says He is.  I began to experience this hope that was coming alive in my heart that God was building something much more beautiful than the tiny dream I was holding onto for myself.

4) Brokenness is beautiful.  When I finally quit clinging to the life that I felt was robbed from me, the dreams that seemed to shatter the moment I reached for them and started living in my present life - I realized that it was so beautiful.  As I began to lean into this life, appreciating the moments with my children and experiencing joy again with the recognition that it was truly joyful - I realized that this is an abundant life and that I was living this life because of my brokenness.  Without the darkness, the pain, the terrible suffering, you can't experience the power of hope.  Who hopes for what he already has?  Suffering has a way of bringing life into focus and it allowed me to feel joyful, and alive because I could recognize it and because I have a hope that is not rooted in the things the world says will bring happiness.  Opening my hands and trusting God doesn't mean that He is going to grant my wishes or that I will be spared from more pain.  But it means that until I can let go of my fear and hurt I can't be open to receive whatever good things He has for me - even when it doesn't look good.  I am so grateful that God has taken me off the nice, neat, normal path where I don't experience my need for Him and I got everything I ever wanted - I would be an entirely different woman.  This story, the one I never would have written myself, it has led me to my Great Inheritance, the one that cannot be destroyed and where hope is anchored so deeply that it can always be found.

I didn't think this place existed, I had no clue how to get here and I certainly couldn't imagine living in a place that felt full, joyful, and abundant.  God's grace is deep and his promises are true, we can give God the glory and it can still hurt.  But when I look back, I don't see the tragedy that I expected, in fact, it looks pretty damn beautiful.  He has brought so much restoration, piece by piece transforming me into something whole again.  Thanks be to God - I know He's still working.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Saying goodbye before hello

" To the bereavement of my soul.  I humbled my soul with fasting and my prayer kept returning to my bosom.  I went about as though it were my friend or brother; I bowed down mourning as one who sorrows for a mother."  Psalm 35: 12-14.

I held my breath reading this a couple weeks ago.  It reads like a dedication to grief, which admittedly seems a little strange - and yet, when you lose, grief is what you have left.  To consider grief a friend or a brother - I can relate to that.  It feels authentic and true when your heart is broken and you need something that won't betray you - grief will show up with you.  The end of those verses talks about sorrowing for a mother... It seems there is no greater grief than a mother mourning for her child or a child mourning a mother.  God designed it such that mother and child are bonded from conception, intricately linked in a relationship that is beyond understanding.

There is so little left to show of Levi.  So few of us got to see his face, hold his tiny frame, see his small white coffin.  Those memories are treasured and haunting at the same time.  There is nothing else to look forward to, nothing that will grow or change with him.  All that physically remains of his life is contained in a silver box of ashes and a box they give you at the hospital when you don't get to come home with a baby.  I will never forget the feeling of being wheeled from labor and delivery holding a box of pictures and the few items that touched him instead of a baby.  This kind of loss, pregnancy loss, stillbirth, infant loss, infertility - it seems it is inheritently an invisible loss.  It is saying goodbye before you get to say hello - which makes goodbye even harder somehow.

I know so many women have and will experience this invisible loss and while each experience is unique, what I wish others understood is that while I keep moving and living, this person I am missing exists as an invisible extension of myself.  He is never far from my thoughts, his name forever written on my heart - you can speak his name - I long to hear it again.  Knowing and loving Ethan and Levi in the time I was granted to be their mother... it has shattered my heart such that the pieces will never go back together the way it was before them.  Yet, my heart keeps on beating in this new assemblage of parts. I find that rather than only seeing the missing pieces, it has somehow made my heart larger.  It certainly has some jagged edges, but the brokenness didn't destroy my heart, rather, it made it a vessel that can pour out more easily because of all the cracks.

The baby I hoped for and expected is not coming soon.  He has come and left me too soon and although his life is invisible to the watching world - Levi Robert Priour will forever be celebrated in my heart and his memory alive in the way I remain "attached" to Jesus in hope and expectation. It is tempting to believe this is an ending - I can't see him anymore, so it is over.  But, I know that with God as the Author, Levi's death is not the final word.  I am committed to pressing in and holding on and showing up - each day - even when it feels impossible.  I have continually experienced in these 'darks nights of the soul', that when I lift my eyes, dawn is just on the horizon.  I don't need a fairy tale, or even a happy ending - although, sometimes I would really like that.  What I really want is a story that matters.  A story of courage and truth and redemption.  Those are exactly the kinds of stories that Jesus loves to tell - that's how I know this one isn't over yet.  I am learning that somehow, it is not about the outcome - it is not the happy ending that matters - it is about the encounter and the transformation and continuing to tell my truth.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Courage

The imparting of courage is something I have thought carefully about as a parent, as a clinician, as a follower of Jesus.  Encouragement is simply not what I thought it was.  I assumed it was being nice, giving compliments, giving an 'atta boy' or acknowledging another person's effort.  Those things make you feel good momentarily, but they don't do anything to the well of doubt or fear that exists in each of us.  I am learning again that I am in the middle of encouragement.  God is taking my brokenness, pain, anger, and it is giving me courage.

The human condition guarantees that we will encounter disappointment and at some point we will most likely endure some type of disappointment that cuts us so deeply we will feel as one who should never hope in anything again - lest we have to endure this type of pain again.  It is in those places, the places without answers, the places without a clear path, the places without a promise of security that we need real courage; a pat on the back or a 'go get em' is just not going to cut it.  As I have wrestled with God - and this is still an active process - I am finding that He does not rush in and make everything okay, but instead allows struggle and patiently joins me as I cry out to Him.  Somehow, I am finding that the struggle makes me stronger, more whole, more joyful... I can't explain that.  It isn't that I have experienced a supernatural peace or am at a place where I really accept my circumstances - I am not there yet - but, the struggle is making me stronger and I know that is building my faith.

When I look at the heroes of faith in the Bible, they all struggled intensely with personal circumstances that produced some kind of doubt and struggle where they had to choose to hold on to God and trust Him anyway or give up.  They are heroes because they all chose to hold on and in that choice God gave them the courage to follow him, even when they couldn't see the promise, and most of them didn't - they endured years of waiting for a promise they didn't get to see.  I feel like I am in that place where my choice has already been made and now I wait.  Faith is the evidence of things unseen, not the 5 year plan of your life falling perfectly into place.  It requires courage to keep hoping when what you see in front of you feels like broken promises and failure.  I am still figuring out what it means to trust God when that trust is not tied to my circumstances or getting the outcome that I want. But I know that He is still exactly who He has promised to be.

I could not have believed God any more that Levi would live.  I really trusted God with his life.  I know many others who have believed God for miracles that weren't granted the way they believed it would be.  But I am not afraid of facing this pain or asking these questions without answers.  God gives courage and counsel and I know it, because I have been here before.  I have walked in the valley of the shadow of death and He has been there, so I know that when our greatest fears become the reality we are living - we can take courage and not be afraid.  It takes a deeper well to love one another and that is what Levi's life is producing in my heart - a well that is deeper, braver, and hopefully, more able to give life to others.  I am beginning to understand what James was talking about when he said "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." James1:2-3.  There is a freedom and fearlessness that comes from pain and trial.  It isn't 'fake it till you make it' and it isn't 'put on a happy face', it is the imparting of courage that comes from the Lord.  I can be absolutely grateful for that, because it certainly didn't come from me.

Maybe you are facing a trial today, or you are in a place of waiting on a promise that you cannot see.  There is enough grace for today, to face whatever it is, to love without fear, to give ourselves away... and the courage is coming.  Whatever courage is needed to approach this challenge and not be overcome - it is coming.  Take heart today, your God has overcome the world.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Something out of me

This song came on the other day and captured where my heart is at this moment.  These are the lyrics:

"Something Out Of Me" by: Nichole Nordeman

Just You and me on a hillside 
And 4,999 
If You could see on the inside 
What I brought, what I need, how I’m caught in between

You lifted bread to the blue sky 
They said they watched it just multiply 
But in the back of a long line 
Oh, I want to believe there’s enough left for me

Cause by now it really shoulda been long gone
And somehow it keeps going on and on 
On and on an on ‘cause

You take all kinds of nothing 
Turn it right in to something 
I see impossible, but You see a basket full of 
A little bit of this sounds crazy 
A little bit of just maybe 
You take every doubt and 
You make something out of me

It’s not the story that moves me 
It’s not that I don’t believe You could 
It’s just my heart is so hungry
Is there enough to fill me up 
Or will You run out of love

You take all kinds of nothing 
Turn it right in to something 
I see impossible, but You see a basket full of 
A little bit of this sounds crazy 
A little bit of just maybe 
You take every doubt and 
You make something out of me
Something out of me

By now Your love could have been long gone 
But somehow it keeps going on and on 
And...

You take all kinds of nothing 
Turn it right in to something 
I see impossible, but You see a basket full of 
A little bit of this sounds crazy 
A little bit of just maybe 
You take every doubt and 
You make something out of me
Something out of me

I have struggled with feeling like there is not enough, or that maybe there is just enough, but not any more than that.  Like God's blessing may have run out in my life and now there will be crumbs or morsels here and there, but the abundance is over.  I love this story in song about when Jesus fed 5,000 on the hillside.   I can imagine what it must have felt like to be there - you are hungry and thirsty and eager to get your share.  Sure, this Jesus guy seems legit - but can he give me what I need right now, will there be enough for me?  I bet there were some on that hillside that felt a similar desperation to what I feel now - the grasping, the striving, the feeling that time is running out and you aren't going to get your share.  Not only did everyone get what they needed, but there were LEFT OVERS!  Jesus didn't just give enough- he could have done that. Produced exactly what would be consumed, but He didn't; He gave more and gave abundantly.  I think our culture especially, perpetuates this lie of scarcity.  That there will not be enough, so you must get there first and get the most.  It isn't that way with Jesus - He doesn't run out and the well never runs dry.  There will be enough, it may not always feel like abundance or provide the feeling of fullness that I expected, but it will be enough.... And then the next day there will be more and it will be enough.  

I am learning to take a deep breath, shake off the lies of the enemy about scarcity and really look at what is in front of me.  When I can really look, and see with eyes that are ready to see - I see the goodness of God all around me and my family.  I would argue that it could be better - but, I am not God and I cannot see what He sees.  All I can do is choose to see goodness in what is in front of me and some days that will be easier than others.  I am also learning that in those moments of truly seeing, I am able to experience some measure of joy.  I have felt joy and happiness again and been grateful for those moments.  Someone wise told me recently - that those moments of joy, those are the most that we get.  We need to be able to see, experience and appreciate that moment of joy because it will end, but there will be another one nearby.  I think we put so much emphasis on happiness and even in Christian circles, this experience of joy that we assume everyone is walking around feeling joyful or happy most of the time.  I know I have felt this pressure to manufacture some of kind of joy because the Bible is always talking about rejoicing and so walking with Jesus must mean that I should feel like that.  But, the truth is, if you really look at the people who followed Jesus in the Bible - they suffered - a lot - and called it suffering.  Maybe that is why they were always talking about joy because when life is hard and circumstances bleak, we need to be intentional not about creating joy, but recognizing the things around us that still produce joy in our hearts.  I have learned that when your heart is full of sorrow, there is still room for joy - and you actually recognize it and feel it in a way that you can't when your heart is not broken.  I don't have any more answers this week than I did last week, but I am believing, like with true belief, that God is making something out of me that wasn't there before the life of Levi.  I want to be a woman who pours out abundance to others because of the abundance I have received.  I want to believe that I don't have to cling so tightly to what is 'mine' because I know that there is more than enough for everyone.