Tuesday, May 31, 2011

a month of stories: lucy {chapter 1}

'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'
jeremiah 29:11

these words were written by the prophet jeremiah to the jewish exiles in babylon a looooong time ago.  but...if you've spent much time reading the Bible you know that the stories often have a funny way of applying directly to the time and place in which we live today.  this is why the Bible is my favorite storybook.

just to give you a little background...
when they were sent to babylon, the jewish exiles probably felt devastated.  they collectively wept at the prospect of being slaves to this foreign nation.  they were essentially leaving the security of their homeland where they felt a strong sense of spiritual connection with one another and with God...and being dumped in the midst of a people whose culture and values were drastically different from their own.  not fun.
i'm sure there were times when these people wanted to shout - 'hey!  there's been a mistake here!  take me back to my other life!'  but...
that season was no accident...it wasn't bad luck.  it was part of the plan...God's plan.  one commentary says it this way...
When you find yourself in the midst of  suffering and hardship, don't think his plans for you have changed.  God uses all things for the ultimate good of those who love him.  You might not understand his purpose in all things, but he promises to be working for your good.  (Wiersbe)
fast forward a couple thousand years...
a rebellious 15 year old girl finds herself 'on the run'.
away from her 'homeland'.

eventually she finds her way home to the arms of loving parents but the heartache doesn't end there.  in fact - it's just beginning.

though young - this girl is brave.  she is a fighter.  and she is surrounded by people who know Jesus and plead with him on her behalf as she walks through a valley.
the person of perhaps greatest importance to her during this time is her mother - a woman who selflessly jumps into her daughter's darkness with both feet.  it's an unfamiliar place but her faith is enough to carry her there.
as this mother finds herself in this foreign land of hurt and confusion she determines that she and her daughter both need something to stand on - 
some belief
some promise
this is what they heard God say to them through the words of jeremiah (just like those bewildered jewish exiles who suffered before them)...
'For i know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'

they would return to these words countless times over the months that followed.  there would be moments when they literally clung tightly to that promise with both arms.  and they weren't the only ones...

several hours away a young married couple wrestled with decisions around becoming parents.  adoption was something they believed in, but not something they ever thought they would do before having children biologically.
shouldn't they wait until later to embark on this journey?
all of the adoptive parents they knew had waited until their biological children were a little older.  that made more sense, right?
but something challenged their thinking.  after a year of trying to get pregnant, and no medical reason not to, the idea of adoption seemed to be surfacing early.  they committed to pray about this and doors began opening.  within a matter of months they were on their way to meet a 15 year old girl who believed that they were the parents of her unborn child...
a baby girl.
a daughter.
their daughter?

prior to this meeting the young woman who was ready to be a mother thought a lot about that teenage girl who was not.  she prayed for her.  she imagined what she would look like.  what she would say.  what she would think.  out shopping one day she ran across a plaque with these words...
'For i know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'
she bought it...almost on a whim...as a gift for that girl she would meet only a week later.
when she took the gift home she and her husband looked at, discussed it, repeated the words in their heads,
their hearts.
it became their prayer too - for that girl they had yet to meet and also for the child she carried.

one sunny day in the early spring of 2008 they met.  that brave 15 year old her, her parents, and the couple who would ultimately walk the rest of this journey with her.  the meeting could be described as consecrated - one of those events that seems so clearly set apart...divinely orchestrated.  it was as if each party had simply followed orders and found themselves fitting in as the perfect pieces of a complicated, yet beautiful, puzzle.

towards the end of the meeting the gift was given.  
the mother's eyes were the first to fill with tears...then the daughter's...as they looked in awe at one another.  as the father realized what was happening he too grew emotional.  they were all speechless which left the young couple seated across the table from them holding their breath.  it was the mother who spoke...
when we first found out about this pregnancy we determined that as a family we needed something to stand on.  this is the verse that God gave us.  it has been our prayer for over 6 months.
the young couple felt their tears begin to fall gently as they entered into the knowledge that the same promise had been planted on their hearts as well.
that is a 'forever moment' for me.  
it will forever remain in my memory as one of the clearest experiences of God's presence in my life.  it marked the circumstances surrounding our daughter's entry into this world and into our family.  it confirmed for me that God did have a plan.  the months following that moment would proved to be an emotional roller coaster for everyone involved.  in the middle of what seemed at times like chaos...there was order...there was purpose...there was a life that would be birthed and countless other lives would be changed as a result.
as we walked through our adoption of lucy, joey and i experienced one of the most spiritually profound chapters of our own stories...
and they were beautifully intertwined with the chapters that were also being written in the lives of lucy's birthmother, her birth grandparents, and the many other people whose lives intersected ours during that time.
our stories all overlapped to form something truly stunning.
i know of no other author than THE author and perfecter himself who could weave together a story like that.
my daughter has one of the most gripping opening chapters of any life story i have ever heard.  i know the remaining chapters will continue to amaze us.  within those chapters there will be seasons of light and seasons of darkness just like those of her families {both birth and adoptive}...
for this reason i continue to claim this promise for her own precious life...
'For i know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'
{lucy holding hope in her hands at age 3 as i pray she will continue to do for the rest of her story} oh - and by the way...things didn't turn out so bad for those jewish exiles either...God's plan prevailed...but more on that later...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

a month of stories: YOUR story

i am going to officially end this month in a couple of days with part of lucy's story {which i am in the process of finishing up right now}.  in the meantime, i wanted to leave you with a few quick thoughts on stories.

last week i saw a commercial for a certain cable network and this is what some idiot marketing genius decided was a great way to promote the network...

the story you could be watching is better than the one you're in

what???  are you kidding me???

here's the deal...i sometimes watch t.v.  some of the shows i have been known to watch involve fictitious characters.  i read a LOT of novels that involve stories about made-up people.  i find all of these things interesting.  having said that...i am pleading with you...

please do not believe this lie. do not for one second believe that your life is so lame that you need to live vicariously through the life of a fictional character {or even some celebrity on reality t.v. who you really know nothing about}.  from the depths of my heart i wish for myself...and for you...to live an amazing story.  off the couch.  out from in front of the t.v.  out in the real world.  {by the way - parents - this is one of the best examples you could ever set for your kids.}

and because no one can say any of this better than one of my favorite 'story experts' - donald miller - here are some thoughts from him and some of his books that i love...

The most difficult lie I have ever contended with is this: life is a story about me. 
– from blue like jazz

  Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Chrisian Spirituality  

And once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can't go back to being normal; you can't go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time. 
– from a million miles in a thousand years
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story

And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn't it?
- from through painted deserts

Through Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road

how's your story coming?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

a month of stories...interrupted

we have interrupted our regularly scheduled programing for some serious 3 year old birthday party craziness around our house.  we have officially dubbed this the 

'birthday extravaganza' 

{you should hear an 18 month old and a newly 3 year old try to pronounce THAT}    
the festivities have been going on since last friday and officially came to an end today.  grandparents in and out of town, cupcakes at school, princess tea party in the backyard, 

1st trip to chuck.e.cheese, 
this girl must feel seriously celebrated {as she should}!

our little doodlebug has come a long way from then...
to now...
those 3 short years contain the beginning of an amazing story...
as promised, i will share at least a chapter or two with you before this 'month of stories' comes to an end.  
but first...i think i need one more cupcake...

Friday, May 13, 2011

a month of stories: adopted

a d o p t
:: to legally take a child and bring it up as one's own :: choose someone to receive special recognition :: formally approve or accept :: accept responsibility for the maintenance of ::

these are 4 separate definitions for the word 'adopt'.  3 years ago joey and i agreed that we would fulfill every one of them for our first child - lucy.  we 'adopted' her in every sense of the word.  later this month i will share a little bit of her story.  

for now i wanted to call your attention to the depth and breadth of stories that are out there related to adoption.  start exploring on the internet...start asking friends...you'll be amazed what you find...

 there are so many things i could say on this subject.  both the earthly and spiritual aspect of adoption are truly enchanting to me...like something out of a fairy tale.  i am particularly grateful for the way that my earthly adoption of my daughter has given me a greater understanding of my spiritual adoption as a child of God...i know of no greater gift. 

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 
Ephesians 1:3-6

a friend of mine recently sent me a link to a video about adoption.  because she knows me well the subject line read: 
get your cry on!
{and i did}
until we have more time to explore this subject in detail i want to share this video with you.   i believe it illustrates adoption beautifully.  pay close attention and you will see it's demonstration of both earthly and spiritual adoption and how they are so beautifully tied together.  as i looked into the faces of the children on this video i couldn't help but think - 
i bet there is an amazing story behind every one...

i would love to repost adoption stories or links that you have...please pass them along...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

a month of stories: my little storyteller

at this point the grandparents are cringing at my 'month of stories'.  they fear that over the next few weeks they may have to endure boring posts about my love of literature with nary a picture of their precious grandchildren.  grandparents...would i let you down?  of course not!  

the truth is - lucy may love a good story just as much, if not more, than her mama.  we tell stories before bed, in the bathtub, at breakfast...and most often - on the potty.  
believe me when i say - this sister can spin a tale like no other!  
of course i never capture the really good ones on video because i am too intrigued to get up and get the camera.  man - i wish i could share the latest adventures of snow white and jesus with you...could be a book deal waiting to happen!

here's at least a little something from my story teller in training...

Monday, May 9, 2011

a month of stories: the hook

here's what wikipedia says about one of my favorite songs from the 90's - Hook by Blues Traveler...

...the song's title refers to a 'hook' in music terminology: the catchy element or phrase of a song which makes it distinctive and memorable. The song's lyrics assert that whatever the singer sings about is effectively meaningless, since the song's musical hook will keep listeners coming back, even if they are unaware of the reason. 
"It doesn't matter what I say / so long as I sing with inflection  / that makes you feel that I'll convey / some inner truth of vast reflection."
The song's own hook is the familiar harmonic structure of Pachelbel's Canon in D, which forms the basic chord progression of the song.
The song also references the story of Peter Pan and his arch-nemesis Captain Hook  (a second meaning to the title). 
"No matter how much Peter loved her/what made the Pan refuse to grow/was that the Hook brings you back".
{you can check out the entire song HERE.}

when it comes to stories, the 'hook'  is a literary technique in the opening of a story that "hooks" the reader's attention so that he or she will keep on reading.  unlike musical hooks that can capture us regardless of the words that are being sung...literary hooks are all about the words.  so they must be chosen carefully.

let's see you if you recognize any of these hooks from some of my favorite stories...

(1) My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973...

(2) If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth...

(3) In my first memory, I am three years old and I am trying to kill my sister...

(4) There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it...

(5) Once there was a tree and she loved a little boy...

did you guess these?

(1) The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

(2) The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

(3) My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

(4) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

(5) The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

here are a few more literary works that have 'hooked' me over the years...
what are some of your favorites?

Friday, May 6, 2011

a month of stories...

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. ~maya angelou

if you've been reading my blog for a while now you've probably noticed that this is a very well-organized site with designated topics and a very specific audience to which posts are directed...NOT.  

i've often thought about renaming my blog 

the truth is...i write when i can, where i can, and what i can.  
my current season of life does not afford me the luxury of dedicating time and energy to extensive writing sessions in which i perfect the art of weaving words together. {my kids' nap time only last so long...you know??}

but i do love words.  and i marvel at the magic that happens when you put them together in narrative form...

so i write...

for better or for worse...i write...

this month i am breaking new ground and for the first time in the history of my blog i am doing something somewhat 'organized'.  it's kind of a birthday present to myself since my big day is coming up next week.  

for the entire month of may i am focusing on one word - 


the word is technically defined as: 
:: an account of real or imaginary people and events told for entertainment ::
:: an account of past events in someone's life or in the evolution of something ::

i'm hoping that over the course of this month together we can infuse some life into these mundane explanations of 'story' and begin to look at what it means to 
read stories, 
write stories, 
watch stories...
share stories...
and most importantly...live stories.

so let's do this...