Don’t Call ‘Em as You See ‘Em…

This blog stems from a deep desire in me to not add to the negative voices in the universe. The voices whispering, “You are not good enough, smart enough, thin enough, creative enough…simply…you are not enough.” I hope to communicate a strategy I have adopted that has sent me to a different place with my children, friends and family. It has quieted some of the critical voices and shifted my semantics to speak life and love in to those around me.

Recently I was reading about Donald Miller’s tragic past with relationships…specifically with females. He had a broken engagement and a long track record pointing to a negative pattern with women. Each story ending with a crash and burn scenario. He was incredibly discouraged by this pattern but could not do much to fix it.  (Scary Close)**

Enter Bob Goff. Bob began to speak a different truth over Donald…words that almost seemed ludicrous. Regularly and sincerely he would say, “Donald, you are good at relationships.” He would then give examples in their own friendship of how Donald had treated Bob.

The language he used and his intentionality was quite surprising to read…but I was also shocked by Donald’s response. Over time he began to believe this truth about himself. He took serious steps to change in this area of his life– including attending a week long relational rehab of sorts. It was almost as if he wanted to live what Bob already believed to be true.

Stay with me friends…this has been bouncing around in my brain a bit…but we have the power to speak this kind of truth over others and it can create change. I think about my children who do things that are less than stellar: they speak to each other in nasty ways, they cut corners on chores, they may even lie to get out of or away with a certain behavior. I have a SERIOUS choice in how I respond with my words. I can call Kylee rude, and Caleb lazy and Joshua a liar…or I can do something that seems to really be a bit more Bob-like.

Recently when addressing my children about their short-comings I have started with this language, “Kylee, I am surprised by how you are speaking to your brothers…I know you are not a rude little girl–because I have seen you treat your friends with such kindness. You are a kind girl who loves her brothers…but that is certainly not coming out in your interaction today.”

Here’s another example…

“Caleb, I know this is not who you are! You are not a lazy child. I see you helping in the kitchen or cleaning up your room, (or whatever small area I see some effort) but today you really seemed to cut corners and the quality was far below what I know you are capable of.”

I think it is far easier to tell our kids how rude or lazy they are…I know I do this in my head even if it doesn’t come out of my mouth. (And it HAS come out of my mouth to be sure.) But over time I am coming to realize a self-fulfilling prophecy is a powerful thing…and if I want a home full of rude, lazy liars I should call ’em as I seem ’em. But if I would like to actually see change and growth I need to call them as I HOPE to see them… someday. (That includes how I speak ABOUT my children to others…even in relaying a story…little ears are listening.)

This translates to spouses, friendships, even co-workers and neighbors. If you believe the worst about that person…or feed the negative they believe about themselves…THEY WILL NEVER CHANGE. If you speak in to the universe (and over their lives) kindness and help them to see something that they are blind to see…they just might begin to embody your language for their lives.

Adults are a little more street savvy. I know Donald Miller rolled his eyes as Bob told him how “good” he was at relationships just days after he ended his engagement. But (secretly) he wanted this to be true…and finally did the work to make this a reality. **

I don’t want to paint our family with the “perfect brush” and have you believe we are all walking around saying the kindest of words and sharing only the good that we see in one another. Please. We are human and we hurt one another and I fail every day. But I have started to make this mental and verbal shift and our family seems to be responding well.

The stakes seem higher with adults…what if they don’t change? What if their patterns have already been set? I would say–it is never too late to speak (and pray) these words over someone you care about.

“A selffulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior.”     (wikipedia)

Who today can you find who needs a different word? Who might you be bold enough speak kind words over a negative mantra? Word are powerful influencers, they can set the trajectory for our futures. May we be the game-changers in the word world. May we speak truth, love and kindness believing the best over those in our path.

(**All stories and references were pulled from Donald Miller’s Scary Close)

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,

Jenni

 

 

 

Update on Caroline and Jonathan

To ask the question, “why?” to some of the deeper, darker questions of life can actually be quite destructive. To ask “what’s next?” might be a better question.

I found myself getting tangled in the “whys” of our story. I found myself wondering in a very western way…if it was something I had done or something someone else had done? Was there a lesson to be learned that I had missed in my early Christian life–a hard lesson He wanted to teach me? Had we misheard or misunderstood the Spirit’s “nudge” to adopt? And the biggest question banging around in my brain: Was God the orchestrator of it all? I found myself longing for my “why” to make sense of something that seemed purely non-sensical. I was tangled in a destructive web that only seemed to harm my relationship with God and my trust of others. I actually resented words and scripture quoted–words that might be contextually true but were missing the heart of Christ when delivered. Just because we have heard someone say, “God always knows best, or all things work together for good. ” Doesn’t mean that He is orchestrating these things (like a grand puppeteer)…nor will we see the good this side of heaven.

Delving in to a delightful read called, Is God to Blame?” (by Gregory Boyd) brought freedom in my search for answers to the unanswerable “why”. The book has helped me to focus on a far more important question of “what’s next?”…because at the end of the day…we are only guaranteed this day, this breath, and I don’t want to stay tangled forever. The book is a must read for anyone who has ever circled and circled around God’s goodness and his infinite power…citing inconsistencies with the evil, and unspeakable brokenness that envelopes our world. I could not unify these two truths: Seeing what I had seen…and continue to see daily on the news…yet still harboring His love in my head. It simply could not land in a safe spiritual spot. “Is God to Blame?” has quenched my sponge-like thirst concerning the faith-altering questions that Chris and I have circled our wagons around for the past year. A “good read” is an understatement. Anyone I know claiming faith in our Heavenly Father would be wise to invest in this researched and scripturally founded book. It might jostle your theology around a bit…but we actually need to do this–I believe it will awaken a fuller understanding of God’s love. The book will help you walk through suffering and help you help others to walk through suffering with far more grace and clarity on what in reality is actually happening.

I want to now take a moment to share what is “actually happening” with Caroline and Jonathan. A dear friend of mine connected in January sharing she planned to visit the hometown of her adoptive children. This same town happens to be near the village I knew Caroline and Jonathan to be currently living. After much deliberation we made the decision to send this faithful friend (who had known and met our children) with letters from our family. I wanted to be so careful not to further do damage to their little hearts…but my more recent reality has been…we never fully heal…we are either transformed or destroyed…so to this end, we realized we would like to share our love and remind the kiddos they are not forgotten.

The text I received from my friend sharing photos of C and J were wrapped with tragedy and beauty. Caroline and Jonathan are in the homes of the family who trafficked them. A home that was (from what we understood) never safe. And yet…the children as best my friend can tell…are okay. They are in school. They are together. They appear relatively healthy…there wore smiles on their faces. They are okay. They sent a video greeting…it is more than I could have asked for…and brought hope to a very dark story.

To think in the future this friend might be able to send our love and our messages, our memories, cherishing them and our short time we had together…is miraculous.

Initially, making peace with and finding contentment over our circumstances left me mostly asking why? This most recent connection  with our kiddos and the helpful guidance of Gregory Boyd has catapulted us forward leaving the unanswerable behind…embracing a new trust and new hope…giving birth to a new question: “what’s next?”

With fists unclenched…palms up… “What’s next?”

God did not cause the chaos that occurred in our lives over the past few years. I believe chaos will continue to reign until Heaven comes down…only then will true restoration occur. For now…we are either transformed or destroyed by the darkness…and we can stay tangled in the why* or we can trust and ask what’s next?

I don’t know where you are–but I hope you never lose hope upon your journey. I pray you will be sustained while enduring the darkest of days. Faith, hope and love do win out in the end.

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,

Jenni

*No judgement…I have been tangled in the why for almost a year now…just saying eventually we realize that simply is not a reasonable question. 

Desperate Days and a Divine Collision

I don’t know a stronger word for desperate…so we will go with it…I was desperate. I had spent the past 2.5 months away from my husband…raising 5 children on my own. Feeding, bathing, homeschooling, and hand-washing all the clothes. All.the.clothes. I watched adoptive families come and go. Their stories were never simple, but in one to two months after their arrival, I found myself waving to yet another van full of smiling faces. Driving rapidly toward the airport leaving the country and us wondering when it would be our turn? We were given a 3 year ruling…meaning the children were “ours” legally via guardianship, but they could not be adopted in Uganda until 3 years had passed. We were promised by our lawyers that our case would be overturned by the appellate court. We were told we would have a court date by the first of the year (January 2014)…and it was early February…we had heard nothing. 

Most days I felt strong, courageous, hopeful and thankful. Optimistic, even joyful. I had the honor of spending extra time in the country my Ugandan children had called home…what a gift. I was doing life with, and meeting incredible adoptive families as well  making many Ugandan friends who were teaching me their language and culture. I had a husband with a great job at home who was sustaining and supporting us until we were granted an official court date. Life was good.

But there were days…when I missed my husband desperately. I was lonely and I was tired. I was exhausted from doing the single-parenting gig thousands of miles and a plane ride away from everything I knew as safe and comfortable. No dishwasher, washer and dryer, no car, no libraries, no parks or playgrounds. No “simple” meals were able to be prepared, no drive thrus, no Starbucks, and all the other things I hold on to in America to make it through a long day with children. And on those days I was desperate. 

I prayed a lot. I read my Bible. I read a lot of books that friends had shipped over from America. On a desperate day I found myself reading from a book called, “Love Does,” by Bob Goff.

Halfway through that read, my friend emailed me and said, “Jenni, what about Bob Goff??? He’s super connected to Uganda and loves Young Life…maybe he can help!” And sure enough…Bob Goff put on his “love does” cape and followed through on his super hero promise he makes at the end of his book. He answered my email within 24 hours and put me in touch with a Pepperdine Professor (and attorney) who had actually been a part of an adoption case on the appellate level in UGANDA. And 6 short hours later, Jim Gash emailed me and informed me he would be traveling to Uganda within the next 12 days and would be happy to meet to discuss my case.

Please pause. Did you just read that? Bob Goff connected me with (to my knowledge) the ONLY American lawyer to ever work on an appellate adoption case. Thanks Bob, I owe you one. SERIOUSLY.

But it gets better, because a few weeks later a large football player sized mzungu in a white safari shirt and kakhi shorts climbed out of a taxi style car driven by his favorite driver, Tango. Jim proceeds to have an early dinner with me and my five children at Jaca. Just like that…Jim Gash enters our world and our story. And we were never the same. One might called it a divine collision. 

The details get a little swimmy in my brain from here. What I know and remember best is this:  Jim was warm, kind, and tremendously honest. He had already looked at my paperwork and he was not as optimistic as my Ugandan lawyers for a victory to overturn the verdict. These words hit like lead. My stomached flipped as I began to let the ramifications of this truth penetrate my brain. SO…that means either we go home and come back in 2.5 years…or we settle in to a new life in Uganda until we officially and legally adopt our children through their system. (I couldn’t get on the phone fast enough to share this information with Chris.) Our first meeting and Jim’s findings, (followed by personal research done while in country) were the catalyst for Chris to take a leave of absence from his job and join us in March.

Jim went further than meeting for one dinner though. He spent time speaking privately with appellate court judges and lawyers not about our specific case, but asking questions to learn what the odds were for or against a case like ours coming to trial in the near future. He also shed light on one of the far more important pieces of the appellate court puzzle. Apparently the appellate court cases were backed up as far as 2008, one as far back at 2005. We had entered our case in 2013…we were FAR down the priority list. It was not looking good for us to be seen in 2014 or possibly even the following year. You may be wondering why I would be so grateful to a man who continued to bring me bad news…

Jim’s words were the first true and honest words I could find surrounding our case. His understanding of the judicial system and his willingness to engage on our behalf…while being respectful of boundaries…and just so doggone kind, was refreshing and exactly what I needed. Like a really great big brother, Jim not only shared his best prediction of our odds…but I felt as if he was mightily standing in the gap for us. In the end, he put his proverbial arm around us and gave us the real honest truth concerning our case: it did not look good for anything but a long and “fruitful” stay in Uganda. Jim’s commitment to our family, his excellent work ethic, and his warmth were tangible. And all of this time he spent “working” on our behalf was done out of the kindness of his heart. I saw in action what Bob Goff had been explaining in his book…Jim was living out Love Does before our very eyes.

I realized after reading Divine Collision, Jim intimately knew the confusion, frustration, and cultural differences I encountered on a daily basis. He knew the “time frames” I had been working with. He knew, and his empathy and compassion for our story sent him above and beyond the call.

One phone call, one glance at our case was all I was hoping for and yet multiple calls and visits followed. To this day he has continued to be a friend and resource for so much more than I could have asked or imagined. It brings tears to my eyes to type this.

I know God more because of knowing Jim Gash. 

Which leads me to this blog entry today. You get a chance to now hear more of the behind the scenes story of Jim’s connection to Bob Goff, his encounter with Uganda, and how God has not only transformed his world view; but His life for the better having had the opportunity to be connected to this country and a special young man who lives there…Henry.

Jim’s book took me right back to the dusty red dirt roads of Uganda. I could hear the chickens, and bodas, smell the chapati, and see the sunsets. Jim never thought he would EVER step foot on the continent of Africa and now he is slated to become a Ugandan citizen later this year!

Divine Collision is a powerful story of a boy named Henry and a Pepperdine lawyer…telling the tale of what happens when their worlds’ collide…and how both are changed forever. I highly recommend this page turner; many friends said they read it in only a few short days! So grateful for our divine collision with Jim Gash. You will be grateful when you hear his tale and his heart poured out in every page. We all are looking for those kizmet moments…we are inspired by them. This book reminds us to stay open and receptive to the adventure, you never know who might be waiting at the other end of your “yes”.

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,

Jenni

 

 

 

 

Cause Life With God is Tougher Than You Think

Not exactly a title that most Christian magazines want plastered across their pages. So I won’t be waiting by the mailbox for a request for further writing opportunities from their editors! I have always promised to be honest and the reality is…life with God is tougher than you think.

For the past decade, I think my two most consistent prayers to God were…”You are good and  I trust you.” That decade was not an easy one…we lost Chris’ beloved mother during those years to brain cancer, we shifted jobs, and navigated some difficult personal waters. But my fervent prayers and journals were littered with the words to which I tethered my faith: “God, you are good and I trust you.”

Today…(post Uganda)…my prayers are different. On really good days I pray, “I believe in my head you are good…help me to trust  you.”  I like being that flat out honest because I think it helps others to do the same. I wish I could be some sort of spiritual giant who walks through fire and comes out unscathed…never flinching and never feeling a single flame.

“The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.”  **

But y’all, I had my faith shattered and my trust broken. (Insert Jim Gaffigan’s high pitched, squeaky disapproving voice…  “Can she say that out loud?“) Yep. Said it. But here’s the thing…I have not lost hope. And hope will lead me back around to stronger faith and more trust…I am convinced of this.

I am in good company with those who figured out a way to find faith despite their circumstances….

“Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that–heaven country.  **

Here is where I really want to pause. This is a bigger ask than many of us sign up for in our faith walks. We want redemption…now…today…this year…in our lifetime. We want a pretty bow or a sign and simple explanation that our suffering proved “worth it” somehow. If you are reading what I am reading…that never happened for our forefathers…and yet, somehow, they still believed.

Incredibly…

“Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised.” **

I love the way the Message summarizes their lives of faith, hope and trust:

They were simply…

“...making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.” **

Oh how I resonate. Me too. There is beauty in this place…I see it. The sunrise and sunset daily bring beauty. You, my friends and family, (relationship) bring beauty.  But there are also some seriously jagged and cruel edges that tear you up. And for some, you don’t quite recover. I desire to be a kid who takes her cue from these mighty men and women of the faith. They trusted and had faith despite their circumstances. Lead me wise ones…there is no other alternative…life with God on this earth is my option. So may I find courage in their quests…not looking for a way to explain away the suffering I see…or waiting patiently for there to be a perfectly happy ending to a sad story…that is what heaven was made for…true redemption.

(** All are excerpts from the Message version of Hebrews 11.)

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,

Jenni

 

The Luxury of Calling…and I Don’t Mean Your iPhone

“Say whatever you want, it’s a free country.” Was a typical phrase filling the hallways of my middle school. We deflected random off color comments or offensive jokes…or dropped ridiculous things from our lips never thinking twice…just knowing we could say it because, it was a free country.

Recently, I have encountered some words spoken (and written) that have quite literally taken a lot of liberty to create. Words I believe many many American (and Western) Christians believe as truths. Words I would ask you to please pause and consider. Ask yourself the question:  “Is this God’s truth?” Or is this something I have heard, and my parents passed down to me, and their parents passed to them…or maybe my pastor or my Young Life leader mentioned. But pause. Ask…is it an American Christian truism…but not actually a Biblical truth? Just pause. Just ask.

The conversations I have had most recently surround God’s will…and God’s call upon our lives. I could write pages and additional posts (and maybe I will someday)…on these topics as well as subjects such as God’s “blessings” and human “suffering.” Americans seem to wrap their own stories like yarn in to a tangled ball of confusion on whether certain circumstances happened because God blessed us or because he was punishing us. They also get very paralyzed by the notion of remaining in God’s will at all times. I would ask (gently and lovingly) dear believer…I wonder if these are actual things to become tangled or paralyzed by, or they are just created from our own American Christian narrative and not God’s intentional interjection?

Today, let’s stick to “God’s call” on our lives. So, as most of you know, Africa messed me up. (In the best way.) It gave me a very different lens through which to view the world. And it has given me a global perspective on God and the Bible and truth. I have been saddened by things I have seen and thankful for them in the same experience. I am different and the way I view life is different. I know what I am going to share today will not necessarily be easy to read or particularly popular…but I feel like it is worth sharing.

Working with college folks is so very sweet and I have loved seeing their authentic and child-like faith flourish. One of the questions that is constantly plaguing my friends though is the question of, “What is God calling me to do?” This does not remain a college conversation though…it continues in to our 30s and 40s…and on throughout life. The more I encountered the conversation the more I was struck by the fact that never once did I encounter a Ugandan who was asking this question in terms of vocation. Ever.

Let me paint a bit of a picture for you of a few of the friends I had and their life circumstances on a daily basis. I had a friend named “Prossy.” She was a single mom. She did all that she could to get her neighbor to watch her children (alongside–no exaggeration–16 other children) while she worked at least a 10 hour a day at her waitressing job. She did her best to simply provide food for her family to eat and a shelter (a single room with a dirt floor) for her family to sleep at night.

Then there was “Anna” who lived a little farther north. She lived in a thatched hut with her mother, and 5 other brothers and sisters. Her father was killed by the LRA. She, being the oldest, had to drop out of school at age 16 to help feed/clothe the younger members of her family and help send her younger brother to school in hopes he might be able to possibly attend University someday. Anna walks just under two miles each day to a large field where she “digs”…which is simply tending a garden and working with local crops.

Prossy and Anna love God. Prossy and Anna desire to know Him and grow deeper in their relationship with God. They NEVER ask what He has called them to do. They are only able to do what is in front of them…the thing that literally puts food on their tables and feeds their families.

I am about to say something that will very likely seem a bit “off” spiritually speaking…or a tad bit radical to a well trained western ear. But I am going to say it because I deeply believe it to be true: Seeking God’s “call” for our lives in the vocational sense is a luxury of the western world.

My friends in Uganda like Prossy and Anna…have no choice but to do the thing that is front of them. To do this job to the best of their ability and to do it as if they are working for God himself. Prossy and Anna’s understanding of God’s call on their lives is to simply: love God and love others. To love their God who has given them life, and breath, and the ability to work/provide. And to love others…the people they interact with everyday, their co-workers, their neighbors, and their families. That is their best understanding of “His Call” on their lives.

And if that is true for my sweet Ugandan friends…do you not believe that is true for us? We do not have some special Christianity that gives us more of a calling than my friends on the continent of Africa. Do we?

Now many of you are thinking, “Ugh, Jenni this is all I have ever known and the lens from which I see life. And I DO live in America and do want to believe God has special plans for my life and future. Doesn’t it say, something about God having plans to give me a future and a hope?” I would say YES…a future with him…and a hope in Him. (Deep breath.) Being a librarian, doctor, or even an evangelist…no. “Seriously Jenni, why are you sharing this with me???” I am not attempting a to burst a spiritual bubble nor am I trying to mess with your theology…I share this with you because I hope it will actually bring freedom.

Maybe this is why I do not feel especially stressed about where I will land in my own vocation. I believe I have learned so very much from every job I have held and I could not be more thankful for my life experiences through Young Life, personal training (POWER), and even now with Rodan + Fields. But my calling…my absolute calling day in and day out is to LOVE GOD and LOVE OTHERS. That’s it. No matter what we put our hands to…even if we have special “gifts” (and I do believe God has gifts He has given all of us) they are to be used to LOVE GOD and LOVE OTHERS in our life…todayand everyday moving forward.

I am not saying God doesn’t care about the minutia of our life…he in fact knows the numbers of hairs on our heads…which is pretty impressive coming from this thick-curly headed chick. BUT…I think the amount of time we spend caught up in our heads worrying and wondering if we are called to do this or that…might be far more American than it is a global Christian decision. And therefore if we can shift our thoughts to doing the “digging” we have been given to do THIS day…loving God and loving others…man…I feel like we might be moving toward a far more sane spiritual path to freedom.

I remember struggling with these thoughts and ones like them concerning Christian culture in America…and then was thrilled to discover Jen Hatmaker has put words to paper on the subject as well. She has  thoughtfully responded to some of things that had me quite tangled on the subject of God’s will/call. Jen does a beautiful job discussing these concepts in her book and gives scripture to support this sensitive topic–so for further reading, check out Chapter 3 in For the Love.

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,

Jenni

 

 

Cockerham Family Christmas Card 2015

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We have been hitting up the online holiday card for several years now…forgive us…it is just what we have done. Last year was just too difficult to place words or pictures to paper…but we are ready to give it a go this year. Get comfy, grab some coffee or cocoa and consider yourself officially Christmas hugged from the Cockerham clan…

It would appear the Cockerhams embrace chaos…because we chose this Christmas to MOVE. Literally…on Christmas Eve eve we put our heads on new pillows in beds we had not slept on in many, many, months. Our new home is nestled four houses away from friends who feel like family…a friend I have known and loved for 36 years. This home represents a new chapter…a next phase in an adventure that simply won’t quit.

In April of 2015 we boarded a plane indefinitely leaving behind the Pearl of Africa. A bittersweet decision. A part of our hearts will always remain in that place. We left two members of our family as well as a children’s village in northern Uganda full of children we adore and a country we will always call our second home.

The children have transitioned beautifully…Kylee is dancing and is a part of the Carolina Youth Ballet. She and Chris both participated in the Nutcracker this year–and it created a super special memory for all involved. (To be clear–he wore a tux not tights.)

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Caleb and Joshua have participated in parkour…Africa*** was an ideal training course for obstacle and adventure sports! Chris will also be coaching the boys this winter on their respective basketball teams. Regrettably  this sport transforms me in to an energetic “screamer”; where I get too loud and give too many instructions for any first grader to follow. (Typically sounds something like this: “Good job little Ralphie, dribble, now pass to Joey…okay arms up, defense…arms up, ARMS UP! Thatta boy…now box out! “)  I catch myself, hate it…and do it again the very next game. God help us all–and GO CLIPPERS AND ROCKETS.

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We added a black lab mix to our crew…her name is “Hope” as everyone needs a “little” hope in their world!

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Chris has been loving the challenge and nuances of full time ministry with Young Life College. We love our committee and he has enjoyed joining the familiar staff in Raleigh. The students he has met at NC State, Meredith and Wake Tech have quickly become friends and he looks forward to watching this ministry grow.

Chris has also continued to love premarital counseling and marrying young couples. Due to his desire to continue to invest in couples’ lives (long term) he is launching Peak Family Ministries where he will have the opportunity to care for new couples starting out, as well as invest in young families who are figuring out the different stages of love, marriage, and family.

I look forward to partnering with him in this endeavor.

I have had a delightful semester homeschooling the children as we transition back to the states. This is a challenge but a gift to have such intimate time with my kiddos–I especially enjoying watching the light bulbs illuminate after a new discovery. I have also started a new business working for Rodan + Fields. There has been something terribly therapeutic about starting something so very new and different…something that can bring health and healing to others…but also a business that has been a gift to our families’ finances. Grateful for new beginnings and great gifts.

My writing has turned a bit more personal and intimate during this season. I look forward to sharing more about this possibly even next year at this time. I did want to share a little story that brought me inspiration this Christmas season…

I love to read Christmas stories to my children…but annually a Christmas book inevitably finds its way to my bedside table. Because our December has felt especially full, on Christmas night in an effort to not miss tradition; I grabbed, The Christmas Box out of a red and green tub in the garage and cracked it open. I knew I needed to read it quickly…as a book I have been anxiously awaiting was being delivered on the 26th. (More on this later but if you somehow remember me sharing the story of how Bob Goff connected me with an incredible Pepperdine lawyer who was rescuing teens from indefinite prison sentences in Uganda…this precious friend of mine has written a book…and it is coming out for the world to read SOON…so get excited…my copy arrived yesterday…but you will be hearing more from me on this in the near future!)

On Christmas night, I committed to reading The Christmas Box cover to cover. I had read the book in college–I knew it was short and sweet. I love re-reading a book (ahem) 20 years later and pretty much forgetting the majority of the details with the exception of how the book made me FEEL. That said, I was NOT prepared for contents of the last letter discovered inside the Christmas Box. (Spoiler alert…not even apologizing…because it is too good not to share.) The Christmas box was filled with letters written from a mother to her deceased daughter…a daughter she had lost at the tender age of three.

“My Beloved One,

How I wish that I might say these things to your gentle face and that this box might be found empty. Even as the mother of our Lord found the tomb they placed Him in empty. And in this there is hope, my love. Hope of embracing you again and holding you to my breast. And this because of the great gift of Christmas. Because He came. The first Christmas offering from a parent to His children, because He loved them and wanted them back. I understand that in ways I never understood before, as my love for you has not waned with time, but has grown brighter with each Christmas season. How I look forward to that glorious day that I hold you again. I love you, my little angel.

Mother”

Needless to say The Christmas Box delivered more than a good Christmas story…it put words to my heart cries…it connected dots to a mother’s love and a Father’s love…to an eternal story…a story ending without good-byes…or tears.

In all of the mystery and faith I can muster…I see hope…I see heaven…I see a King(dom) coming. An unparalleled Father’s Love speaks to me this season.

My recent blog said it best…there will be no “healing” in our story…we will either be transformed or destroyed. I was told by someone wise…”this kind of heartache and loss…seeing the things your eyes saw on the other side of the globe could become a deal breaker…for you and God that is. It could bust a person’s faith in to a billon pieces never to be recovered.” I have lingered there…I have wondered. And I have landed on the side of faith and trust…even when I stutter and stammer to let those words leave my lips. The Christmas story reminds me that there is more…much more to come.

This Christmas we choose new…we choose transformation…we choose the gift of Love.

May the Christmas Story intersect with your Story…and may you be transformed.

Love,

Jenni

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healing Doesn’t Work…

Confession: I’ve stopped trying to heal.

I came home from Uganda in April…shell-shocked and in survival mode. We let down our defenses and I immediately got to work…doing my best big girl job to heal. I did all the right things…went to my counselor within less than 24 hours of arriving on US soil. We took a month at the beach to adjust to the western culture and to quietly unlock the grief box. And I did pretty well. I grew angry and shook my fist at God, I doubted and questioned, and then grew sad–unashamedly sad, and the stages of grief rapidly unfolded in textbook fashion.

But then we walked back in to life, to new ministry, and in to a different home…and I found myself shelving the grief. When I did address it, my feelings were as raw as before. I was shocked. Had I not faced my disappointment with God, pain, and suffering head on? Had I not decided to do this real and in the raw, masking nothing…feeling the feels. Why was I not healing?

Recently, I stumbled upon these words:

“Recovery is a misleading, and empty expectation. We recover from broken limbs, not amputations. Catastrophic loss by definition, precludes recovery. It will transform us or destroy us, but it will never leave us the same.”  

(Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised, 73)

Truth found: The loss of two children and the knowledge of their current status…and the inability to do a damn thing about it…will transform or destroy me. Transform or destroy. Transform or destroy. It is my choice.

Who am I? This or the other?

Am I one person today and tomorrow another?

Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others, and before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?

Or is something within me still like a beaten army fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine. 

Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine! 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In my current state I know not who I am. I am so very different than the wide-eyed woman filled with wonder of the world beyond our America…excited to walk and do life among the culture of my future children. Rolling with the punches and the court-mandated relocations, resilient, hopeful. Ready for the adventure of long term living in a foreign country and serving in this location; loving the children we had been given long enough to satisfy any court-ruling so that we might move forward a family a seven. We left Uganda–dreams slaughtered…having seen unthinkable pain, poverty, and experiencing personal loss. Never mind, leaving two children behind and in harms way. Lumps in our throats and confusion in our hearts. All plotted not by human hands but trusting and following the leading of a loving God. Who am I? Where are we headed from here?

“Catastrophic loss is like undergoing an amputation of our identity. It is the amputation of the self as a professional, if one has lost a job. Or the self as a husband, if one has lost a spouse through divorce or death. Or the self as an energetic and productive person, if one has lost good health. Or the self as a respected member of the community, if one has lost reputation. Or the self as pure and innocent, if one has been raped or abused. It is the amputation of the self we once were or wanted to be, the self we can no longer be or become.”  Jerry Sittser   (A Grace Disguised, 81)

This week we will close on a house in Holly Springs. An unexpected twist from our original plans, but one I can see as a place where we will experience tremendous health and transformation. Moving back toward our local church and in to the neighborhood of childhood family friends. Our Apex home was a wonderful place for our lives pre-Uganda…it was also a place filled with plans for a future that will never come. This new space represents the choice we are making to move toward transformation.

I am so glad I have given myself permission to stop trying to heal. What.A.Relief. It is not even close to something I am able to do. I also am okay with not knowing who I am and will rest for the time being, in Whose I am.

The choice I daily make moving forward from here: Transformation or Destruction? For some it may not be an easy one, but for me there is one obvious answer…and it is wrapped in freedom and hope. I will take Transformation for 500…Alex.

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,

Jenni