Every once in a while, a day like today flies in the face of the cynic.
It blows up all the pounds of paperwork proving it’s not possible.
This day is a gift and it’s not even noon.
It’s called reunification, which is a lot of syllables packed into one word that means the court says it’s okay for a family to be together again. And that’s what happened at court.
I cried a little bit and tried to shield my eyes from all the legal people who claim detached objectivity. I try to claim it sometimes too, but I have a heart that likes to trot out on my sleeve on a regular basis (I am aware I may not be in the right profession). So, I cried a little bit when I saw parents reaching for tissues and looking at me with red-rimmed eyes.
I know it’s not the end. All my co-workers and any veterans of the public welfare system will tell you: it’s not over. And I get that. I know the road is long and the battle is intense, but today I got to say the word reunification and the six syllables will be on my tongue until 8:30 pm tonight when I finally drag myself home.
Now, to pray this reunified family into reconciled reunification with a forever family. That happy day would stretch for eternity!
Today, I know that every good gift comes down from the Father of Lights and this good gift called reunification was authored by His sovereign hand. These tearful moments were in the mind of God before the world began. He is in this, even this and always this. There is not a moment that surprises Him, not one good or evil thing that prompts a plan B.
This good thing today is one of many millions of merciful good gifts that God will pour out.
Oh, this day can’t even contain them! We might feel ten raindrops in a downpour, but imagine the amount raindrops! Imagine that each raindrop is planned and counted, just like the hairs on our heads. Our Father knows all and showers down every good gift!
You are good. You are good, O Lord. You are good and Your love endures forever.
Just a string of sad days here in the middle of Iowa and “whoa-o-oa” is about all I want to sing. It’s just not getting better – the circumstances, I mean.
The bad news just keeps coming and it feels like death. It feels like thick, heavy, black death.
So, how is it that my soul can again feel light and breathe freedom? Honestly, today I wondered. I was clinging to God’s promises through tears… but still clinging.
There was once a death that killed death. The death that my sin deserved was nailed to the only One undeserving of wrath so that the debt could be paid and I could be free. God sent Jesus to feel the full weight of His wrath and to embrace the full victory of His glory.
Christ stepped into the place of wrath where we should have stood so that we can step into the place of light where He now stands.
God sent Jesus, who buried death in His grave.
I’ll sing when it feels like death because Jesus buried death in His grave and then He rose again.
Yesterday my car was a freight train from 8:30 am – 7:30 pm, making a maze around Des Moines for appointments and meetings and visits. Today, my car Eddie has been parked in my driveway since 1 pm and I’m inside eating pistachios, watching the sun dance in my living room, and working on monthly reports. It feels way less productive, that’s for sure. But if I don’t finish the reports, all the speeding around is for nothing.
If a train never stops anywhere, what use is there to jump on board?
Apparently, I need a little blog therapy to stay stationary today. I need to remember that the words on paper are important to the little ones in my backseat. Sometimes the words on paper are what fight for them when everyone else has laid down their swords. So, I’ll write the words and finish my reports and respond to the emails and follow up on phone calls.
These frequent stops on the speeding train do make me wonder about the social transit grid – the systems and structures that make up child welfare. Where are we going to and coming from? And do those destinations make sense or are we all just rushing to get on board? The questions are too big for Tuesday late afternoon, so I won’t attempt an answer.
What I will say is workingin the system has shed light on what the system cannot do. It cannot change people or convince people or heal people or cure people. It cannot offer forgiveness or grace (second chances are not the same).
Every time my speeding train stops and I get good and stationary, I am aware of what the system cannot do. Right about that time (now) I fix my eyes on the unseen miracles authored by the One who keeps His promises.
This grid of systems and structures is visible – in the paperwork and the gas mileage and the court costs – and it is limited. Meanwhile, I’m hanging my hope on something unseen. This is the grace-energized faith that makes my speeding and stationary days about more than the grid.
As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18 ESV)
The road got watery today – just blurred up without warning. I wiped it away and sang this song with the sadness of my own heart’s wandering.
Because where you are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me
I need you, O Lord, I need you
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
My God, how I need You
It’s not just that addiction doesn’t know what “side of the tracks” to haunt and it’s not just that the sturdy wooden pews at the courthouse feel so much different than the tattered chairs of a living room. It’s not just the mess of names and family trees and explanations. It’s not just those things, but it is those things too.
I don’t know what started the waterfall today, but I know it made me acutely aware of my need for a Savior. I didn’t make it to small group tonight for the silliest reason – I got lost. Literally, lost on the way back from my last appointment. I was driving back and forth and sideways trying to locate a road that would point me in the direction of home and failed more times than I’ll admit. That’ll shake a person into the knowledge of need and it did me.
I turned off the music and just sang out that chorus on repeat. I realized how beautiful the words “my one defense, my righteousness” are to my soul. My defense against sin and deception and all the forms it takes in my day (frustration, fear, worry, pride, selfishness) is that righteousness is planted in me. God’s grace reaches deeper than my sins can ever go so that I am freed to righteousness in Christ.
My one defense to sin (Christ) is also my victory over sin (righteousness). It’s all wrapped up in one glorious bundle and it took way too long today for me to live like that truth is a Thursday reality. Too long.
I need You, Lord. O my, how I need You!
You have authored miracles in my life to free me from fear and pride and selfishness and worry. I desperately need You to help me walk like You’ve done just that. And I will never grow out of that desperate need.
There are a lot of reasons I’m crooning this jam from Milo Greene. It’s not because I know what he’s about – I don’t. I am just the kind of person who has a soundtrack to my days and this is making the list.
This song got stuck on me because I wish my clients would sing it. Some of them do, yes. Some of them want their kids back more than they want anything else in life. And when I get their voicemails about completing treatment or a picture text of the parenting class they are attending, a little part of me leaps with them for joy. Some of them are the reason I have a job – because they prove change is possible.
Others of them, well… I have to sing these lines on their behalf. I’m not sure how badly they want their kiddos back in their care, even though I am sure that they love their littles. But I want them to be reckless with their love – I want them shaken out of the stupor that addiction has buried them inside. I want to see them look those littles in the eyes and say, “Don’t you give up on me. Don’t you do it.”
Because, sometimes I wonder if the children want to. I wonder if they are tired of getting tossed about. I wonder if they get lonesome for home – one that stays in the same place with the same people. I wonder that.
And then there’s the other thing. There’s the other thing I think when my day’s soundtrack is stuck on this song.
I know the song isn’t about holiness or the Lord or probably anything spiritual. But, my heart is the Lord’s and I suppose it always stretches to hear Him even in unlikely places. And when I hear this song, I can hear my heart singing to the Lord about my holiness.
I know, sounds strange.
I’m just so far from holy – so very far from even feeling like there is progress, sometimes. And those times I imagine God shaking His head at my efforts as He patiently directs my steps (often in the direction opposite my footprints).
My friend and I read Kevin DeYoung’s book, “Hole in Our Holiness” and went to the Desiring God conference last fall where both Piper and DeYoung spoke. The incredible importance of our holiness sunk in so deep that it’s in almost every conversation we have now.
Though we are called positionallyholy as sons and daughters of the Lord, bought with the price of Christ’s shed blood, we are still being sanctified. That is, we are in the process of becoming holy right now, in this life.
And so, when I sing this song a bit of my heart asks the Lord not to give up on me. I know the progress is slow. I know I go backwards as often as I go forwards. I know I need to learn lessons I’ve already been taught.
But, I know [far above everything else I know] that the Lord will not give up on His sanctifying work. Even as I plead for His patience I am believing that He is giving it in grace. He has called me, and therefore He is doing a work that will be brought to completion.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
(Romans 8:29-30 ESV)
My holiness, the messy progress of it all, is a victory I can claim in this moment. I know I’m not near finished – there’s a whole lot more in my life that needs sanctifying. But, to the degree that my heart mourns my waywardness as I sing this song, to that degree my heart is lifted with hope that God won’t ever give up on the progress.
The progress of my holiness is His alone to claim. He receives the glory for every victory over sin and He will not fail.
I guess that’s the difference between putting your hope in a person and putting your hope in God.
Maybe she thinks she is a baby super star and that’s why she gets chauffeured around town and has meetings with important people.
But does she know that we got stood up today – her and I in McDonald’s? Does she know that the important people didn’t make an appearance? Does she know that I wanted to cry but I smiled instead and that’s when she cooed right back.
Does this little blue-eyed baby know that her world is chaos?
Today, grace means holding on to God’s sovereignty and savoring the moments I can spend with a precious little one even if the moments were reserved for someone else. Today, grace means this little one has no idea she was forgotten. Today, grace means that this little treasure is known by God. Today, grace means she giggles and coos as I chauffeur her about.
Today, there is grace for my broken heart that smiles at this precious little.
let LOVE fly like cRaZy
Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free;
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The LORD will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the LORD!
(Psalm 146 ESV)
Remember yesterday? When I was holding on to hope?
It was like someone tried to pop my balloon after that post went live. It was just a 20 minute thought in the middle of yesterday’s traipsing… but hours later I wondered if my cases had read it and wanted to prove me wrong.
Today, I’m remembering what it means to have my feet planted in future grace. It means God has freed me from anxiety, authored my peace, and anchored me in hope. In faith, I believe this today – that the Son of God will rise with healing in His wings. And I believe my day can look different because of my belief.
The Lord is good and gracious to those who fear Him.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
(Psalm 34 ESV)
I was sheltered, blah blah blah. I haven’t ever spiraled into worldly darkness at the mercy of a bottle nor have I ever hung out with people who have.
Maybe that’s what keeps a steady hope hanging out under my eyelids. Maybe that’s why I’m pushing against the callouses people wear around like fashion in this line of work.
“Go to rehab? She’s not going to rehab – 100 bucks says she used this morning and she’ll use tonight.”
“He used once? No, he’s an addict. Addicts don’t just use once.”
“They’ve been clean for 10 years, they said? Still addicts.”
The conversations are circular because I want so desperately to believe that people can change, that they can tell the truth, that they can love their kids more than they love their addictions. But people in this line of work have watched people never change, never tell the truth, and always choose their addictions over their children.
So, experience says I’m foolish and green and too wide-eyed.
I get that.
And I don’t want to be foolish about my hope. But, there is one thing I wish was more culturally acceptable to introduce into conversations about addicts.
“…but, she’s an addict.” “But, have you met my Jesus?”
And so I pray. I pray that things work out differently – for softened hearts and humble spirits. I pray for the addicts who are helpless against their vices. And in them I see me. I see the human condition. I see that we need Jesus. And so I pray.
How can you just not show up to see your little baby girl? What is more important?
I’m shaking off my judgments and getting a good helping of humanity today – the unfinished, raw, and unruly kind of humanity. We are all capable of this, we are.
Still, it’s tearing me up.
This is the love I wish all the children could crawl into – the kind that never leaves and always stays, the kind of love that is older and stronger than this breath of life, the kind of love that has roots deep like a tree.
I don’t know who this song is sung to, but I’m singing it today.
Sometimes melodies are just better than plain words.
Everyone warned me – these kids were going to go ballistic when they left their mom.
My heart melted a little bit when the little guy practically raced into my arms at daycare; it was like he knew where we were headed. We gathered up all the day’s things (and mercy! the day has so many papers and mittens and shoes and stray toys) and then we gathered sister and got into the car.
I had been told they didn’t do well in the car, especially little Mr. Man. But apparently the other folks didn’t know the secret. The little fusses almost immediately died down when we set out on the road and I cranked the tunes.
It was like magic.
I saw heads bopping and I think I heard a few notes floating around in the backseat, too. We got into a groove, those kiddos and me. I finger played my steering wheel like animal on the drum and that was a big hit. Sister shouted accounts of the day’s events while brother cooed and I multi-tasked my prayers for safety and peace and joy and the classic “help!” And we made it. We pulled up still friends with dry faces.
After the visit with mom, we gathered all the day’s things once again (how they can get multiplied and strewn about, I do not know) and I braced myself for the breakdown. I had been warned that it would get apocalyptic up in my car once they said goodbye. I got quiet and let the farewells fill all the space in the air. Mom loves these littles, of that I am sure.
They got belted in my backseat and there was a moment we just kind of teetered there on the cliff. Would we fall over that edge and spend the car ride in apocalypse freefall or would we fly instead?
The music accompanied our ascent and we sang all the way home.
It was like magic.
Why is this round trip car ride so significant? Does it deserve to be published into anonymity on the internet? I say yes and let me tell you why.
These little ones have had life ripped out from under them like a rug. Everything familiar and everything “home” is no longer true – it’s all turned upside down. Nothing is as it should be and no one makes sense when they try to explain it to their sweet little souls.
And then they get into my car and I get overwhelmed at the moments we share. What do I say? How do I pour out dump trucks of love when they are belted in the backseat and we only have 30 minutes? How do I become someone familiar?
I’ve never been so thankful for Christian radio in my life. We sing, I drum, they hum, and we all bop our heads to the sound of truth making melody.
The reality is I don’t know. I just don’t know how to make them believe they are precious and all this mix up isn’t their fault. I don’t know how to tell them that their little people world is turned upside down because some big people made bad choices. I don’t know how to make them understand there is a God who made them, loves them, and wants to be known by them.
And so we sing.
And I pray with broken heart that the truth sinks in: Jesus loves them and keeps every promise He makes.
let LOVE fly like cRaZy
Boys become kings, girls will be queens
Wrapped in Your majesty
When we love, when we love the least of these
Then they will be brave and free
Shout Your name in victory
When we love, when we love the least of these
When we love the least of these
Break our hearts once again
Help us to remember when
We were only children hoping for a friend
Won’t you look around
These are the lives that the world has forgotten
Waiting for doors of our hearts and our homes to open
If not us, who will be like Jesus
To the least of these
If not us tell me who will be like Jesus
Like Jesus to the least of these
**As part of my job, I regularly supervise interactions between children and parents with the hope that they can be reunified after the issues have been resolved.