Thursday, July 16, 2015

love on its knees

A blank page before me. Swirling thoughts but little clarity. That's where I'm living right now, staying quiet while God works on me.

But today I'm thinking mostly about the idea of “Love on its Knees.” What that means, what it looks like, what it feels like tastes like smells like.

Sometimes love brings you to your knees.

Sometimes you have to get on your knees to show love. Words rarely get me on my knees, not in the way people need to receive it. “Sometimes even a simple act of humble service can help confirm the truth of what we say.” (Phil Ryken, Loving the Way Jesus Loves)

Jesus, washing his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper. Completely humbling himself to do the work of a slave.  If we are followers of this foot-washing Savior, then nothing should be beneath us.

Mary, overcome with emotion, washing his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. Spending what was probably the most valuable thing she owned, on her knees before her Savior.



Humility is required. In fact a HUMBLING is required. I’m learning that being humble and being humbled are not the same thing. BEING humble, well that I can manufacture all on my own and to be honest sometimes my motivations are all messed up even when I think my intentions are good.

But being humbleD? This is God’s mercy and grace, reminding me who I am to Him, and who he is, and where I should be looking for true humility. It doesn’t send a message of shame or guilt – if that’s what I’m hearing chances are it’s my inner critic talking to me. When I am humbled by God, I go to my knees not just in confession but in gratitude. And a willingness to start over, try it again, put myself out there without expecting any.thing. in return. No recognition. No affirmation. No pats on the back. Being in a humbled state does not require these things in exchange for service.

Working behind the scenes. Walking beside someone quietly, without judging or trying to fix them. Mowing the neighbor’s lawn. Spending the night at the hospital when no one else wants to. Doing laundry so your husband always has clean work pants. Watching grandchildren so a tired mama can take a nap or run errands alone.



Do you see? None of these actions require our words. Or admiration or praise. They happen in the silence of a grateful humbling, in the knowledge that we are doing our best to follow in footsteps too big for human feet.

“At the source of all Christian service,” writes Donald English, “is the crucified and risen Lord who died to liberate us into such service.”

Digest that for a minute. We are liberated into service? Wait. A synonym for service, as used often in Scripture, is slavery. What about how He died to set me free? We are freed to be slaves??

YES.

Because let’s face it. We’re all slaves to something. In my life BC (before Christ) I was a slave to all manner of sinfulness, even though I didn’t see it that way. Only in the looking back can I see that I was really just a broken down sinner living as a slave to my choices.

Romans 8:16 says this:

“Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone [or something] as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one [or the thing] you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience, resulting in righteousness?”

And then the whammy, in v. 18:

“… having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”

But do you see that this is really NOT a whammy? Not God playing whack-a-mole with us, waiting for our next sin. We are freed from that sort of judgment. But not just freed FROM something, we are freed TO something. Something better. Righteousness.

That deserves some gratitude, right there. And not just a “lip-service” kind of gratitude, but an active response kind.

Love on its knees. We are liberated to serve. What say we watch for ways to get down in the mud, on our knees, and love our neighbors so completely that they recognize Jesus.

On my knees,
Angie


Thursday, July 2, 2015

an adoption completed

This story has a happy ending. Figured I'd balance out the post from the other day.

Adoption is a fact of my life. I was adopted almost from birth, and I don't remember ever not knowing. But that story is for another day - today I want to talk about my kids.

I left an abusive marriage of five years with a three-year-old daughter and a 14-month-old son. Knowing I had to get far enough away to make a fresh start without the eyes and voices of disapproval surrounding me (after all, abusers are often very good at appearing to be charming), I moved my little family from a small town in western Kansas to Lawrence, Kansas, in 1987.

The kiddos, right before we moved to Lawrence.

The abuse part is not happy, and I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say that I suffered every form possible. It is truly true that abused women (and men) find it difficult to leave, even in the face of danger, because we can't see life beyond our circumstances but mostly because we feel guilty. We feel shame, because we are made to feel as if it is all our fault.

The last straw was not a physical one but a financial one, and looking back I think I finally got angry enough to leave. Surprisingly he let me go without much of a fight, and we were divorced shortly after I moved. Child support was another matter - he paid very little, and not very often.

His involvement with the kids was spotty at best, simply painful at its worst. He promised them the moon, and delivered them mud. He was absent even when living relatively close, and when he moved to Arizona not long after our divorce, they only saw him once. His calls were sporadic and left the kids hopeful, and then devastated when what he said never came true.

I met Greg not too long after I moved to Lawrence, and we married in October of 1988.

Our wedding day. The kids walked me down the aisle.

I won't mislead you into thinking it was all sunshine and roses at first. Both of us were badly wounded from our previous marriages, and our attitude was, "I don't need you. In fact, I'm never gonna need you because look what happened when I trusted before." Not a super healthy or hopeful way to start a marriage, but start we did.

Even as we struggled, it was strikingly obvious that he loved the kids. They loved him fully and completely, and even as they continued to experience pain from the failed promises of their dad, they began to trust in his provision for and protection of them.

Remember how I said they visited their dad only once after he moved? He took them to Disneyland ... there's a cliche if you ever heard one, right? Disneyland dad. My daughter came home from that trip with a bruised and recently-bloody face, and while he was full of excuses I vowed, NEVER AGAIN.

In the end my vow didn't matter much, because he never attempted to see them after that trip.

The meager child support stopped coming. Abruptly. I went to court, and they slapped his hand, but still, no child support. He was at this point nearly a year and a half behind on payments.

As I debated another court battle, Greg made the offer of a lifetime. His suggestion? Let's call him and offer to trade. Trade? Yes. Trade "forgiveness" of his child support debt in exchange for letting Greg adopt the kids.

So we called. My ex said he needed some time to think about it. Of course he did! This was not some small decision to make right? Wrong. He called back 20 minutes later, after having talked to his father, who said, "Cut your losses." And he did. It took him 20 minutes to give up his children.

I was filled with conflicting emotions. Extreme anger, naturally, and at the same time relief and absolute joy. We began the process of having his parental rights severed, and he signed the papers and sent them back without a peep. Again with the anger, and relief, and joy.

And so it was that only a few months after we got married, Greg and I stood before a judge with those beautiful children. Without hesitation, Greg not only accepted them as his own, but he fully entered into a lifetime of parenting them beside me. Without.hesitation.

Fast forward 27 years. I can look back and say what a blessing it was to not have a "house divided" by continued contact with that man. I can look back and say that Greg never looked back. I can say today that he has never considered them "less-than" ... I believe it never occurs to him to think otherwise. I can say that the kids never thought of him as anything other than their dad. He is the only one for them. The fact of their adoption is so woven into the fabric of our lives that it doesn't even enter our consciousness, except for the occasions when we get to talk about it. And then we do, with awe and joy, telling the beautiful story of how God knitted us all together, for ever and ever. Amen.

Those precious children have been cared for, protected, and loved like crazy for more than 27 years now. I can't imagine our lives any other way, and yet as I write this I am reminded to be forever thankful.


Loving my husband and the father of my children,
Angie