A very Merry Christmas from the Bennetts. We are so thankful for our “Christmas gift” this year, but ultimately, thankful for our Lord Jesus Christ and celebrate his birth. How blessed we are.
Feathers and Loaves and Fishes
I was fixing coffee in the kitchen tonight while everyone gathered for our small group that we host each Thursday night. I heard Scott greet a couple coming in, Dave and Nikki, who have just returned from a trip to Jerusalem. I had wondered if they were going to come as they had just returned at 2am last night. In fact, I told Scott earlier today that I hoped they come so we could see them, but also hoped they stayed home to rest.
I turned from the kitchen counter to go to the living room and greet them. Nikki met me on the way and had something wrapped in a towel in her hand. She stopped in front of me and took a feather from the towel and held it up in front of me. She says, “This is from the shores of the Sea of Galilee.” Well, I don’t know what came over me exactly, but I nearly burst into tears. I mean, what? A feather from the SEA OF GALILEE? Where Jesus fed the multitudes??
I just can’t even. A feather from all the way around the world, from my friends who were so very busy with plans of their own and thought to bring it all the way back. And more than that, really from My Savior in a place where He performed a miracle. Tears overwhelm me now writing this. He’s so, so good to me.
After everyone left for the evening tonight, I spent a few minutes going back to that story in Scripture where he stood at the Sea of Galilee and fed the multitudes to see if God would have anything to say to me. (Except, of course, hello, I brought a feather to you from my place).
And guys, then it hit me. Our court date is in 7 days. 7! Of course it is not an accident that she gave me this feather today!
Cue more tears.
And so I started in on the story. A crowd has followed Jesus to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee. He tests his disciples and asks how they will feed them all. In one account, they are distraught because they don’t have enough money. Jesus tells them to go get what they have. A boy has some loaves and fish. You are probably familiar with the story. Jesus performs a miracle and ends up feeding 5,000 men and what is thought to be thousands more women and children.
As I was reading tonight, I felt the Holy Spirit whisper that these words were for me too. I have felt so entirely inadequate with this adoption. Just in Monday’s post I was writing about how I am not patient enough or loving enough or compassionate enough, or organized enough or whatever it might be. And God says, “Yes, I know.” And he replaces the words that were penned so long ago. “Jesus then took Amy’s loaves–the small, imperfect efforts to love her family–, he gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.'”
And I feel it. Yes, Jesus will take my small offering and multiply it, He will feed the multitudes with our small efforts and nothing–not one thing–will be wasted.
Maybe the multitudes that are fed by our efforts are you reading now or maybe the multitudes are our future generations down Jac0b’s family line. Maybe both.
So many more tears.
We talked tonight at group about the book of Ruth. Naomi lost so much–her husband and two sons. And we talked about how if she’d only known that all her suffering would be redeemed so that her lineage would lead to Jesus, maybe she wouldn’t have been so bitter at all. And what a reminder it is to us today–to me today, even when we don’t see God working or when it seems that times are hard that God is still at work. He does redeem and when we are His, not one ounce of suffering is wasted.
He can take our good, our bad, our not enough, our too much and turn it into a miracle.
And then, just as my heart is overflowing, God tips it over again as I realize that the loaves were numbered 5 and then fishes were 2. Seven pieces of offering given for the miracle. There’s a miracle coming. I just know it.
A Sprout of Hope
I started Ann Voskamp’s Advent study The Greatest Gift last night. The verse is centered around the prophecy about Jesus which says he’s like a new branch growing out of the stump of David. From what they thought was dead, a Savior was born.
She encourages the reader to look for the small to find God:
Just where you are, look for the small glimpses of God-glory breaking in, breaking out, sprouting, shooting, unfurling, bearing fruit, making a Kingdom, remaking the world. Slow and still. And see the shoot that bears witness to God – the hardly noticed child, the hymn hummed over the sink, the unassuming woman bent at the register, the dog-eared Word of God beckoning from the shelf. Gaze on shoots of glory to grow deep roots in God.
The passage reminded me so much of yesterday’s post—finding hope in the small moments with our family.
Yes, that’s what it feels like—a new branch growing, unfurling, bearing fruit.
And then I got to the devotional section that I filled out during last Advent season. The first question asks “In what ways do you feel like a lifeless stump, longing for a tender shoot of hope?” I scratched down a few things and then in a one word sentence, simply wrote “Adoption.”
I was discouraged last year about the adoption. I had gotten to the point where you just wonder if you’d heard God wrong or maybe it was time to give up. Maybe God had changed his mind or we’d missed the boat somewhere. It did feel like a lifeless stump.
And then in the last question, it asks, “Where can you see new life coming in what you may have considered dead?”
My one strand of hope was an adoptive mom I had recently talked to who circumvented social services and had adopted privately. I wondered if this was our bit of hope, maybe there was another way for us.
Oh, how little did I know!
Not only was the stump not dead, but our new branch was found through DSS—the exact way I thought might be really, really dead.
And now I read those words I wrote last year and think oh my gosh, He did it. He really, really did it. Our new branch has burst forth from that lifeless stump. So much hope everywhere!
And in this particular Christmas season, I’m so overtaken with the hope of Christ. How much the Israelites must have felt like that dead stump too. A promised Savior not to be found. And then Mary and an angel and Joseph and a stable and I wonder if some of them thought too He did it! He really, really did it!
And it makes me think, man, if he can do this, he can do anything!
His power and omnipotence feel more real than it ever has.
So many of us still would still write so many things under the lifeless stump column—things or people we don’t think have any hope . I still have a few from last Advent season that still feel like a lifeless stump.
But I was so encouraged today. He knows them! Every single one. He’s working them out in his own time. It may not turn out how we envisioned, or in our timing, but you do not have an absent Father. When you’re following Him, He leads you down the right path, straight to the sprout He has promised.
Oh, how I am thankful for both of my sprouts this year, my Savior and my son.
Sponges, Narratives and Nets and a Few Bad Days
I’ve spent the last 7 days or so in a bad place mentally. Which really, is kind of bad because the kids actually had one of the best, if not the best, weekends together. They didn’t have any friends over or didn’t play with any of the neighborhood kids. They basically were on lockdown together at home by choice and they played and played and played. Very little arguing and lots of bonding and it was oh so good. We had family pictures and I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to see those. I even took them all out to eat and shoe shopping by myself Saturday night and it was actually fun. I’m telling you, things were good around here externally this weekend.
But internally, things were brewing in my mind. I got a random phone call last Tuesday. It was Jac0b’s Guardian Ad Litem that I didn’t even know he had. She needed to visit.
The visit went fine, wonderful, even. It turns out his GAL is a wonderful Christian woman who really, really cares about Jac0b and fought like a mama bear for him. Once again, I saw God’s hand in Jac0b’s life. And yet, I also saw more glimpses of his life with his birth family. I’ve figured out that this is always a trigger for me. My mind begins changing the narrative of this adoption.
My mind begins playing this story on repeat: this poor boy has endured so much and now he has been taken from his family.His family probably misses him so much and has no idea where he is. I am sure they are beside themselves in worry. Who are we to have their son/nephew/grandson? No wonder Jac0b hurts so badly. I want to fix the family and Jac0b and make it all right for them and we’ll just step out of the way. This is so depressing! I cannot fix any of this and it is so, so sad! It will always be sad and there is nothing that can be done to change the awful things.
I begin soaking up everyone’s emotions and then instead of being grateful and in awe of what has happened, I’m deeply sad and depressed.
Kay Bruner calls this being spongey.
It’s another boundaries issues. It’s a big one because I actually don’t know what their emotions are. And even though I do have an inkling of what Jac0b’s emotions are, that narrative is no good.
And not only is the narrative no good, once I’m sad and depressed about one thing, I begin being sad and depressed about so many other things. I had emails from teachers and texts from my kids with issues and no dinner on the table last night and all the sudden not only is this adoption sad and depressing, but I’m a terrible, absent mom and the whole world is falling apart. It’s no good!
As Glennon at Momastery explains, when we get into these head spaces, we have to change our narrative.
I feel like a lot of us get stuck in all sorts of bad narratives. We could be single or sick or hating our job or scared for our kids or hating our marriage. We tell stories about ourselves to ourselves and these narratives get stuck on replay and then infect all of our thinking. We need new narratives. Thank you, Glennon, for teaching us that.
The narrative I should be telling myself is something like this: bad things happened. His family didn’t care for him like they should have and no one stepped up to take care of him. But God knew in advance and began setting things in place for him to be rescued years and years ago. God was not taken surprise by this. He called us to adoption and he took Jac0b out of that family and has set him in a new family. We are a gift to each other. We should live gratefully and joyfully, making the most of what has been given to each of us. Just as God rescued him, the story is not over and God will continue to redeem.
That narrative is so much better because it recognizes that yes, bad things happened, but God is involved and there is so much hope already for what has been done and so much more hope for the future.
So here’s what I learned this week. I need to wring myself of others’ emotions. I am responsible for my emotions and that’s it. And I need to make sure my narratives focus on the positives of the present and the hope for tomorrow, all and only available through God’s love and plans.
So I’m back on track this time and being in awe and grateful and getting back to joyful. Thank you Glennon and Kay and Richelle and Mom and Heather for helping me get there.
What’s the narrative in your head right now that needs to change?
Table of Trust
“I don’t want that!”
A familiar scene in our house unfolds as I announce the meal planned for the night. My sweet food-finicky child invariably complains about my well-deliberated choice.
This night hamburgers were on the menu, and I knew it would garner at least one complaint. Thankfully, my husband was on hand and heard the comment. In his official highway patrolman voice, he proclaimed we were still cooking burgers and this child was going to eat one!
I also decided to put the time into making homemade potato skins to go with burgers. What’s not to love about them? Cheese, bacon, ranch dressing. I’m hungry just thinking of them. If our lovely child decided to seriously protest the hamburgers, at least he could fill up on those.
As I stood in the kitchen scooping out the potato, I felt God whisper that I do the same thing with Him spiritually.
Ouch. Thanks, God, for putting me in my place.
Sometimes, when God calls us to the table for spiritual food, we say, “I don’t want that!”
Read the rest over on my first post over on Deeper Waters
Learning Boundaries in Parenting
I am reading a book that’s so transformative to me that I can’t even wait until I’m done to talk about what I’ve learned so far. Last week I talked about my perfectionism and how at its roots, it was a way to avoid negative emotions. I picked up the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud to start addressing my issues and it turns out that I do indeed have boundary issues, particularly in parenting.
In fact, Boundaries ought to be required reading for every parent leaving the hospital. Why don’t they do that by the way? Give you manuals for those littles ones. They pop out and they say HERE, HAVE FUN! By the way, MR. DOCTOR SIR, A LOT OF THIS IS NOT FUN.
So Boundaries is all about learning when to say yes and when to say no and why it’s important, particularly when you’re raising kids. although it is applicable to anyone at any stage of life.
What I’m seeing now is most of my frustration with parenting to date is because I have not been respecting an emotional boundary with my kids. Boundaries define what is my responsibility and what is their responsibility. Their bad behavior should reap negative consequences—both emotional and practical—and paid by them, not me. I am only responsible for my own emotions and consequences of my actions.
To date, this is how I processed an infraction by one of my darlings.
Let’s just say little Suzy disobeys me. My immediate reaction is frustration/anger because once again they have disobeyed a rule we have talked about. In my head, I know they should suffer a consequence, but my emotional side takes over. If I give them this consequence, they are going to be SO MAD, I think. And I do not want them to feel so mad and sad. My poor little Suzy, I want her to be HAPPY. And so, I choose just to talk about it with Suzy. Suzy, you know we’ve talked about this before, don’t do that again. There, I have addressed the issue, I think. They understand that’s a rule they shouldn’t break. My parenting job is done.
Or so I thought.
And yet, I am still feeling angry because they didn’t own up to any consequences (because I didn’t make them) and they are happy because they haven’t and I’m even more frustrated they are not feeling remorseful for their behavior. Why would they?
What I am learning is I have violated God’s law of sowing and reaping. They have sown bad behavior but I have reaped their consequences. They are “irresponsible and happy and I am responsible and miserable”!
I thought a good conversation would be enough, but that is not what an irresponsible person needs. Dr. Cloud says it like this:
It doesn’t help just to confront the irresponsible person. A client will often say to me, “But I confront Jack. I have tried many times to let him know what I think about his behavior and that he needs to change.” In reality, my client is only nagging Jack. Jack will not feel the need to change because his behavior is not causing him any pain. Confronting an irresponsible person is not painful to him; only consequences are.
If Jack is wise, confrontation might change his behavior. But people caught in destructive patterns are usually not wise. They need to suffer consequences before they change their behavior. The Bible tell us it is worthless to confront foolish people: “Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you” (Prov 9:8)
And let’s face it, our children are not wise men. They still have a lot of learning to do to be responsible adults and God’s laws say paying for your consequences (reaping) is how you learn to avoid bad behavior (sowing).
So, I’m learning that I am doing them a favor by teaching them boundaries. It is not my responsibility to shoulder their emotional response to the consequence.
I’ts amazing how frustrated I have been at parenting when really, I was the one that needed to change.
The past few days I have started to put this into practice. I have begun seeing the consequences as a loving response (we have a behavior chart which leads to no screen time the next day). I am teaching them boundaries which they will use the rest of their lives. They will learn that bad behavior means bad consequences. I can see God’s law of sowing and reaping in effect and ironically it has brought such peace knowing that things are working just as they were meant to.
Singing with the Psalmist: For Days that Feel Downcast
I’m never sure when I stop writing if it’s because I’m overwhelmed or because I get overwhelmed because I stop writing, but I always know that after not writing for several days, I am overwhelmed.
I’m not stressed and I’m not crying and I’m functioning ok, but I want to say with the Psalmist, Why, oh my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Somewhere down deep, I feel like God is writing a bigger story in me. It begins somewhere with a little girl who was desperate for approval and attention. Even though I had a wonderful, Christ-loving, stable family, I came into teenagehood craving approval.
I didn’t get it through promiscuity or being loud or rebellion. I tried through perfection.
Grades were everything to me, trying to have the right clothes like the popular girls, getting the boy I liked’s attention or the teacher’s attention or really, anyone’s attention. I wanted to be accepted. I wanted everyone to be proud of me.
This need for perfection led to an addiction of approval from people. We all know that spiraled for years until someone finally took me up on it, giving me as much attention as I wanted. He craved the power of seduction and I craved being seduced. I’m not proud of it. It doesn’t feel good to be desperate, particularly when there was no reason to feel that way. I had parents, family, a husband, and children that all adored me. But it was never enough.
God saved me from myself that season and taught me that he alone was enough. He loved me until my heart was overflowing. Oh, how he loves us, I would sing with tears rolling down my face. And I believed it. Full and content and overflowing until I was ready to pour it out on a little boy who needed to learn the same kind of love.
Even though He is shouting through feathers that He loves me and is with me, some days I still feel that emptiness. I’m pouring out and it feels like I’m not getting filled back up fast enough. I don’t think I have learned yet about the manna–about the every day pouring in. I’m trying. I open my Bible and I journal and I listen and it seems like it should all be working. But these past days, I still feel down. I feel like I can’t hear God quite as loudly. Oh my soul, why are you downcast?
God is not a geanie or a formula. Have I not yet learned that I can’t do all the right things and have it come out just so?
I don’t have a positive conclusion for you today, just an honest reflection.
Some days I burst with his love, and then other days I sing with the Psalmist.
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. Psalm 43:5
Love on the Move
Love is on the move.
When I wrote this post about our 6 week update, the night before I had a bit of a breakdown. I see clearly now that that evening was simply a step in the grieving process. Even though we have gained so much through this adoption, we have lost too. Jac0b lost his family, our family of four is gone and the family of five that I thought we would be is not. I had to allow myself to give up those things. I needed to say goodbye.
Since then, the Lord has asked something of me. He asked, “Are you ok even if Jac0b never changes? Do you love him for who he is not how he performs or how he treats you?”
His questions rattled me.
We have (rightly) been working so hard to get him the help he needs. His issues are not small. Educational, medical, emotional, spiritual. We have big mountains to climb. But he is not a project. He is a person that we are meant to love. And true love is unconditional.
It loves even when he sins, even when he doesn’t change, even when he doesn’t trust, even when he turns his nose at good gifts, even when he’s ungrateful, even when he doesn’t want to do the work to get better. We must love at all times. Because that’s how God loves us.
I thought I was ready for this adoption–that I had this love thing figured out. I have learned the past few years how God loves me and delights in me, but I don’t think I truly knew how much his love covered. He is showing me he loved me the same when I got my act together and was ready to receive that love as when I couldn’t understand his love and sinned against him.
My progress didn’t grow his love, but his love did grow me.
And I see that love on the move in Jac0b.
Last week he hurt his elbow after a fall on his scooter. He came in and plopped on his video game, I think to hide it. I walked by and he calmly said, “Mommy, I hurt my elbow.” He stopped playing and presented his scrapes to me. I saw how bad it was and told him I’d get him some cream to put on it. He didn’t question it, didn’t cry, but let me do it. This is progress.
Last night he needed to do some online assessments for some help we’re getting him and he asked me to sit with him. This is progress.
At bed time the past few nights, he has asked me to lay with him first instead of Scott. This is progress.
And then last night he’s sitting beside me and he calls for my attention, “Mommy.” I turn to look at him and he winks at me. He winked at me with a grin on his face. It was the cutest thing I’d ever seen in my life. I’ve heard of sons flirting with their mothers, but this was a first. This, my friends, is love on the move.
I’m seeing it now–love loves anyway, even though, just because, in spite of. It doesn’t wait, it doesn’t require, it doesn’t demand.
And that is the irony. If we wait to love until the change, the change never happens. But when we let go of the demands and love anyway, love goes on the move.
Love loves and then it moves mountains.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.