Because you don’t have to be prefect this Christmas: a story of how Jesus loves broken-imperfect people.

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IMG_1220 IMG_1223 IMG_1225I’ve felt this one coming for a while now. Sometimes, you can feel the words there- words ready to heal. But walking down those roads again, the roads those words came from- can hurt.

I am convinced. We’re all full of words. Walking here and there, with all of life’s words, life’s stories- hidden deep within our hearts.

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Christmas time always makes me think of her. When the weather is cold, so cold your body shakes as soon as you step into the dark- I have to physically shake my head to make the thought of her leave my mind.

We were always poor. But cold winters and a promised Christmas morning, always made poor have a feeling. 

Sleeping together in the same bed to stay warm, running quickly to the electric stove, burning orange to warm frozen toes each morning before school- the kitchen lit by the light of the microwave. If there was extra money that winter- we would actually put up a sheet on the door of the room we slept and run a space heater. We had central heat and air, we just didn’t have money.

We had each other.

My mom was special. She worked hard. She would fix things when they broke. It was amazing. She would drive her little car into town and load it with lumber and then cut it with a real saw, like the ones dads used in their garage. On hot summer days, we would drive down to the filling station off the highway and share a real ham sandwich from the deli- made with Miracle Whip. We ate real slow, savoring each bite. If I was lucky, I also got to pick out a penny piece of gum.

Divine.

Our Christmas tree was always so ugly. She would climb a ladder to the top of some cedar tree in our yard and cut out the top of it for a Christmas tree. Always telling me the same story of how her and my dad spent countless nights stealing little trees from ditches along the highways- planting them in the yard and planning one day to cut them for Christmas trees. Totally crazy in love.

I don’t think he ever cut a tree.

I hated those trees. They were so ugly. And our neighbors? They didn’t only have a real family- three children, a dad, grandparents, and a dog- they had a perfect tree too.

Now, all grown up- I only wish I remembered more ham sandwiches and ugly trees. The truth is- I remember lots of pain.

I get my fight from her. She was a fighter. Wouldn’t give up. Wouldn’t back down. Wouldn’t let go.

But you can only throw your fists up for so long before you have the throw in the towel.

Then, you decide. You decide to love or be hurt. You have to figure out- did you survive or die?

There were never free turkeys, coats, or school supplies those days. We didn’t have things like free health insurance and food stamps. For some reason, they had told her no and she never tried again. They didn’t enforce child support those days.

We ate a lot of Ramen Noodles.

Police didn’t respond like they do now- when the man who always said he loved us would hit and she would scream for hours, I would call and they never came. Not once. We must have lived to far. One day, he hit hard enough- she never let him come back.

She threw in the towel. Hurt for the last time. Two failed marriages, a failed lover, a cold house. That’s it.

She gave up the fight. She locked up and hated the world. Finally removed the mask and realized, what was always hidden had become worn and weary. And she couldn’t fix it- no matter how strong her fight.

What do you do when your hero leaves? She had loaded the lumber in the tiny car and cut it with the real saw. She had cried, silently, every month when the bills were due but still allowed me the penny gum from the filling station. She couldn’t be perfect anymore.

The problem with realizing you’re not perfect is- others will soon know. So, to keep others from knowing, you just shut down. She shut down. She became bitter and mean. She never smiled. She never encouraged, she stopped buying the penny gum and sharing sandwiches on hot days- she was finished.

I slept cold and alone that winter.

You still want to love when that happens, I wanted to love even more. When you’re twelve and your hero is hurting you don’t know what to do– but you want to do something. Now, I know though. It can’t work that way. There is only one healer who can mend those wounds.

She didn’t have to be perfect. I never knew what perfect was. We learn what perfect is by those around us. I wish I had known- I would have taken her weary face, held it in my hands and said, give up the fight. Surrender the pain and love like crazy.

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We’ve had a lot of people in our home lately. New people. Two nights ago, I finally just started to cry. I told my husband, I can’t just keep loving like this Daniel. I think I’m afraid– It’s going to hurt too bad.

He says, “There’s no love without risk”

You see, what happens is in your quest for friendship you find the need to be perfect. And you don’t know it’s happening. You have a bunch of kids and people just assume you’re nice. Or you homeschool and people just assume you’re patient. You’re crazy about loving broken people and people think you’re some super Christian. But the reality is, you’re none of those things and you’re crazy dependent on Jesus to make you new every.single.day.

So you love. And people leave. You say the wrong thing that didn’t fit who they thought you were or should be and it’s never the same. So you’ve given your heart to them and now- they’re gone and you have a decision to face– did you survive or die? Do you close out the world and live in your box of pain or do you surrender, yet again, to an unfailing Jesus and start all over again?

When you sit with the “good brother” during the Christmas meal at the moms house who always told you you weren’t good enough- do you survive or die? When the father of your child doesn’t send a Christmas gift again for your little one- what do you decide? Do you ever love again? Or have you died to being loved. When you arrive at your in-laws home and they share with you, once again, how you really could have a better job and provide better for their daughter. You have to decide, do those words define you or does the love of a Savior and his promise of unending love define you?

I will never be strong enough. And not everyone will love me for who I really am. Someone will figure out I have Ja Rule in my Pandora playlist and they’ll decide I simply must be a reprobate. My big mouth will say something controversial and they’ll decide we can’t be friends. My Christmas tree will be too big for some and too little for others. My skirt too short, tattoos too exposed or skirt too long and perfect. I’ll make homemade bread one day and eat a donut the next and someone will have some sort of an opinion.

The truth is: in this life- many will still love, some will leave.

But the babe? The babe sent so perfectly that day? He will love.

I love Christmas. I am sure if I lived in a place such as Haiti or Syria- where death is all around and brokenness is so visible- Heaven and the promise of a new earth would be what I long for most. But here- in this world that I live in- the world I wake up in each day.  A life full of masks, broken relationships, constant reminders of cold nights, a mom who has given up on love, and a mind reeling daily with imperfect memories of pain– struggling through self imposed standards- I long for the day when I will see Jesus. Streets of ‘gold’ don’t excite me one bit. I’ll take Jesus in the streets amongst the slums – I just want to be with Jesus.

He is the one. The only one perfect. And yet he chooses to look sweetly upon broken me and love. He knows my Pandora playlist; he knows my struggles and insecurities and he still chooses to love. Not just any type of love. I’m talking get down and dirty with my junk type of love. He never leaves my side and he never judges through human eyes. He helps me surrender and gently corrects my faults. He’s always there.

When I really sit and think of what Joy filled the earth that day- I am overwhelmed at the love of a savior that really did come in the form of a babe- dependent on a broken woman. A woman who many, I am sure, had decided, was not perfect.

Oh, the irony of that magnificent King.

This Christmas may you be overwhelmed at the majesty of his great love for you and may you remain humbled and dependent on Jesus- realizing only his opinion of you truly matters and if we are seeking him to the fullest, he is good to teach us such good things. And one day- we will truly be perfect and whole.

May you smile a little brighter and love a little deeper simply because he loves so sweetly.

Merry Christmas,

Kati 

“Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!”

Jesus can love through a crazy person like me? An adoption story.

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“The hunger for love 
is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”

~ Mother Teresa ~

Early one morning, talking with my husband, I ask the question, “Well, we’re almost finished. What will we do next?”

Because what do you do when you know there are countless children just waiting for love. 

This time, a month ago, our journey to forever ended and the real forever began as we finalized our adoption of two kiddos. Making our family a fun family of eight!   It seems as though, this is just the way it’s always been. Them and us- us and them.

It’s funny how God can talk to you through so many things- even something as little as adoption paperwork. There are hundreds upon hundreds (ok, it seems that way– :) ) pieces of paper associated with adoption but I have two I treasure most.

One, the document showing change of name. Now they carry a bit of us– it feels like the perfect adoption story. So many times God gives a new name to a new person- such as Saul. A sign of new life, new purpose; a new calling. A piece of Him. They have a piece of us now- living new names, Ashley and Triston.

Then the words that tip toe into my heart right from the closure of a letter from our attorney. “as an adoptive parent and one of fifteen children, thirteen whom where adopted, I commend you on your decision… “

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Thirteen? Our attorney has thirteen adopted siblings?

could.we.really.ever.adopt.thirteen?

i gulp big.

If someone asked the question, ‘what have you learned most during this process’ my answer would simply be:

I have never felt of God as my father. Strange, considering I grew up without a father; you would think that was the void God had filled. But for me, God has always been a friend. Someone I could talk to, argue with, get mad at, laugh with, cry with, and learn from.

A few weeks back I felt like I needed to start asking God to help me see myself the way HE sees me. As a daughter. Seeing myself as a treasured daughter, loved beyond compare, no matter what– has left me overwhelmed. My mind simply unable to comprehend how Jesus loves so deeply.

What if, He knew how badly I needed Him- His love, His grace, His fathering touch, His friendship; and yet He just turned away. What if He had said, “I don’t have a big enough house, or enough bedrooms. I don’t have any more time in my day, or money in the bank. I don’t have enough seats in my car or showers in my house. In fact, I have so many crazy kids already, I just don’t think I have the patience for one more.”

If I knew He was aware of my need for love and yet chose to do nothing- leaving me alone, without any true hope of forever love… orphaned. I wonder how empty I would feel.

I am full because Jesus fills me. =) And even now, just thinking of His outpouring grace for someone like me, fills my heart with gladness and my eyes with tears.

Most days, I feel like I’m getting it all wrong and these two kids would be better off away from crazy me. In fact, some days I feel like they should just take the other four with them because I can’t be doing any of them any good. But that is when my knees give out and my heart finds surrender because Jesus just has to love through crazy, broken, messy me.

Isn’t it true? It seems the more I try to understand how he could ever use a wretch like me- the more he keeps on showing me- that’s exactly what he’s doing. Working through me because I simply can do nothing but provide a heart of surrender and feet to follow. 

Oh, how hard that can be, huh?

I know a day will come when some of you will have your Ashely or Triston and I can’t WaiT to ReJoiCe with you! They will finally be full because Jesus will have loved through you. 

Oh, I can’t imagine our Saviors joy and the singing of angels upon a decision to care for the one of our Shepherds little lost, broken, and hurting sheep- just waiting for forever.

one. two. or maybe even- thirteen.

Imagephoto courtesy of callynth photography

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Oh happy day.

 

They’re all here now

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Something I wrote almost four years ago came back into memory today on this snowy, monday afternoon. We’re making stories mommas… and we never know for how long. 

from February 15, 2010:

We have great neighbors. Just yesterday while talking with friends at church the topic of neighbors came up and I have to admit, I love mine. Wouldn’t change them for a second. But you know what? We have a favorite. =) Ms. Renee and Mrs. Cotton.

Renee takes care of her mom, Mrs. Cotton. Cotton is in her 80′s and is as great as can be. Renee is a blessing to just be around. They are the first neighbors I’ve said: “Hey, I have to run to this place real fast can you watch two of my kiddos, I can’t fit them all into the truck.” Or, “Hey, I know it’s 9 o’clock at night, but can I borrow some coffee?”

Alli reads to Mrs. Cotton each week. In the spring and fall they sit outside in the nice weather, talking mostly, not doing much reading. In the hot summer and cold winter they read more, play puzzles and talk about the most interesting things.

Oh, I don’t know why I mention all of that; it really has nothing to do with what is really on my heart, just a sweet foreword, I suppose. =)

On occasion, this past fall Renee and I would jog from our houses down around the river and back. I remember one day while jogging and chatting she mentioned all of her children by name, one given Beth. I had never heard of Beth before. Puzzled, I asked… “Beth?”

“Oh, yes.” She replied. “She’s past away now.” 

I forget how long ago she had passed, but it was on December 10th; I remember that because it’s our Jordan’s birthday. She went on to tell me all of Beth’s problems from birth and how challenging it was. She ended by saying:

“She’s in a much better place now, her pain is gone.”

All of Renee’s children live close by. They are always over during the summer, swimming, eating Sunday dinner, sitting outside with Mrs. Cotton. That is why I was so surprised when I heard the name, Beth.

It makes you think. She’s not here now. She was then, but she is not now.

Life is different.

We make big deals out of such little things, don’t we? I think of my children and how I make such big deals out of the little things with them. I am just sure I was stressing about something three years ago, something that doesn’t even matter now. Something I can’t even remember.

A couple of weeks ago I went to lunch with a friend, leaving all four children at home with Dad, for the first time. When I returned home, only one hour later I was greeted with this:

Three.

“Snowman Jordan”

“Snowman Alli”

and “Snowman Judah”

And I am sure, knowing my Alli, if they had not been called in for lunch by their dad, there would have been a “Snowman Emmyn.”

There they are. Alli, Jordan and Judah. They’re all here now. It may or may not always be that way. One day, when I’m 60, jogging with my 26 year old neighbor she might say, “Alli?” I have never heard of Alli?” The list goes on and on.

They are here now, not guaranteed another moment. God is so good to bless us with such treasure. Straight from his hand, the Maker. They are his, given to us to teach, train and raise in righteousness.

It isn’t always easy, it’s easy to give up. Sometimes, it’s hard to keep going.

But what a wonderful treasure it will be to stand before our God and hear him say “I saw each and everything you did. I saw when you didn’t give up. I saw when you prayed for them, taught them, held them, showed them patience, told them no when it wasn’t “fair”. I watched as everyone thought you were not doing things the right way, yet you followed my call. I saw each time you failed and started all over again.”

“You took good care of that which I let you borrow”

It is a good reminder, I may have a Beth someday. Most of the problems of today aren’t that big.

God is so good, to teach us such good things.

His grace covers even the drug addict – time & time again.

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I remember when it finally hit me.

Sitting at a mexican restaurant eating lunch, with a twenty-something aged man named Dan. Me, only 17. There’s a baby car seat sitting at the table with us; my little Alli is only weeks old.

He’s telling me how good of a mom I am. How would he really know?

A few nights before, we had sat up all night long. Alli laying next to me on the sofa at my friends house- all of us as high as could be. Who knows when we had slept last. I had met him there, at my friends house. She thought he would be a great “fit”.

He was nice. You would never guess. Responsible adult by day, drug addict by night.

I was nice. You would never guess. Responsible momma by day, drug addict by night.

At lunch that day, both of us dressed our best, wearing our “responsible look” he says to me- “So, you do drugs, huh?”

What? I do what? Oh, that sounds bad.

“Well, I… I… I... wouldn’t put it that way. I mean, I just do the one kind, well… maybe two.”

That day, it hit me. I had never thought of it that way.  I know it seems strange. But when we’re caught up in something we like, something that makes us feel good- we don’t always know we’re caught, do we?

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I sit with women each week on Wednesday afternoons. They come in. Grey stripes, neon orange slip on sandals, worn eyes. They usually didn’t know.

They were caught. And more than one way. They were caught living a life that had them fooled. They were caught doing something I’ve done countless times. They were caught doing something someone all of us know and love does. Drugs, DUI, past due fines, stealing, fighting, abuse. The list goes on and on.

There they are- Alone. Lonely. Dirty. Ashamed. Some, ready for change- others ready to resume life as it was. All in desperate need of a saviors love. Someone in their life saw it just like Dan did that day. Someone knew what they were caught up in. I guess we always see what others are caught up in though, don’t we? We just don’t always see what we’re caught up in ourselves. 

This is the beauty of  Jesus. The way he makes us new.

I still crave it from time to time. The rush of doing a line. The endless days, getting everything done- never being tired. Just because you surrender your heart to Jesus doesn’t mean you don’t still struggle with those old ties of pleasure. The difference is- he is now your strength, your rock to help you conquer those desires. Even now, I can hear a song from that time in my life and all of those emotions come back. I can see a person here in my little town and I am brought back to all of the secrets we shared. And just like that- Jesus has to save me all over again.

This is the beauty of being caught up in his unending love. To think, he loves me. Me, the way he does. He knows my heart, my desires, my struggles, and he still loves me. He’s always loving me through evil thoughts, painful desires, judgmental attitude; and self – righteous ‘christian’ pride. He loves me through all the things in get caught up in. Time and time again. And each time- the story of his grace gets bigger and my struggle gets smaller.  Each time, I’m redeemed all.over.again.

What amazing grace.

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3: 4-7 NIV

Surrendering daily,
Kati