A Letter to the Church

I was ushered into my workday this morning by an email letting me know that one of the kids on my caseload has run away.

The same teenager that I had to stay overnight at the office with a couple weeks back. The one that I would work at DSS forever for if it meant he would not have to endure another loss. The teenager that has lived in 20+ different places and lost every parent and sibling he has ever known.
The same teenager that makes really dumb choices and smokes a lot of pot. The one that will be repeating 10 grade for the 3rd time at 17 years old and still asks me how to spell every other word that he writes. The boy that hardly takes responsibility for his actions because he is so detached from everything around him.

Him. He ran away.
And my heart breaks.

Because he is broken. He is hurting and the pain never stops. He brings a lot of it upon himself and a lot of it he was born into.

He was in 20+ placements throughout his life because NOT ONE FAMILY was willing to commit to him and his terribly defiant and detached behaviors. NOT ONE. There has been so much “you messed up and now you don’t get a family” in his 17 years that the simple idea of family, and grace within a family, are completely foreign to him. I asked him last week who he is able to trust in his life and he named 3 people. THREE people that he trusts out of 17 years of life.

And ya know what? All 3 of them are his service providers and in some way employed to care about him.

That is unacceptable.
Plain & simple.

No government agency will make a good parent.
It was not meant to carry out that task.
But so often it is asked to do just that.
Stop placing the blame.

I started to think about Jesus this morning after I read that email. I started to pray for my boy.

And when I think about Jesus, I think about the ways in which he surrounded himself with the broken; people like this teenager.

Jesus loved the broken.
The vulnerable.
The marginalized.
The segregated.
The rejected woman.
The addicted man.
The orphaned child.
The mentally ill.
The homeless.
The lost.

And he loves my teenager.

But so often I don’t see the Church reflecting that image of God.
And I know you’ll think to yourself, “Our church has a great homeless ministry.” or “My church has a thriving orphan ministry.”

And those are wonderful things.

But let me ask you this- What are YOU personally doing in your life to help carry the sins and burdens of other people? What are YOU personally doing that makes you feel uncomfortable and drained? What are YOU personally doing that makes you feel completely desperate for Jesus?

Because the Jesus that I know.. He RAN to the vulnerable. He longed to see the broken restored. His heart was wrecked for orphan.

Yet we, His children and beloved, are so reluctant to care in the most minuscule of ways.
And that is not of Jesus.

I don’t know that I can say it many more times or scream it much louder without it losing it’s sting, but..

WHERE ARE WE CHURCH?? RISE UP!!!!

We should count it AN HONOR to serve and love and bring hope to the broken…
just as our Jesus did.
We should be desperate to see Him glorified.

There are around 300 churches in Greenville county. 300 churches that are supposed to care about the things and people that Jesus cared about.
And yet there was not even one family for my one teenager.

Please church, stop telling him that he doesn’t matter. 
And stop telling yourself that he doesn’t notice. 

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Because I know.

I write with fear of sounding like a broken record.

But, I find myself here so often. Living in the tension of knowing rejected children are living without a family and the God given ability in my soul to love them deeply.

When will He give me the confidence that He is telling me it’s time?

I have held their faces in my hands. I have told them they are loved. I know their names.
And because I know, I am responsible.

And then another one dies. One that I loved. In his room alone, his heart failed him and this life ended. Without a mother. Without a father. Without an advocate. While I sat on the other side of the world in my comfortable home in my soft bed with a healthy body. My mind just can’t make sense of it all.

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The injustice of it all gets so heavy that I don’t even know how to express it at times. I feel burdened and my words fail me.

I know that He created me, and He created you, as a response to this broken world. We are His vessels.
He made us to bring His light to the darkness.

And I’ve felt the honor of that.

But what I’m doing now… It all feels so small.
Advocating for them. Directing others to adopt them. Telling of their dark reality.
It all seems to come up short.

They need advocates. But what they need more than that is for people, a family, in their lives to proclaim their worth because of a Savior that loves them, and you, and me.

And I’m worried that I’m selling them short.

That while I sit here and tell others to adopt them, I am sending a mixed message that I believe they are worthy enough for others to adopt, but not enough for me to make the sacrifices to bring them home.

And that’s scary to me.

Because these kids are nothing less than worthy.
The same Creator that made you and me, made them. In His image. And He loves them just the same.

Chinese, Ethiopian, American, Honduran. They’re all the same- they are His masterpiece.

And I would never want that to get lost in the message.

Right now, I’m working through this whole thing. What would it look for me to live out what I preach? What I’ve been shown. What He has placed inside of me.
And I don’t have the answers just yet. He hasn’t given them quickly. And that’s okay. Because someone told me today that what He is doing in me is of no less value than what He is doing with me.

But that doesn’t mean we can stop seeking. We must never stop seeking His heart because He never stops pursuing ours.

And I know that these kids, they are His heart.
His heart is one of redemption, restoration, freedom, and rescue.
And ours must learn to be the same.

And so today, I commit to pleading for direction. What ways should I love His children now?
All because He has made them worthy.

Church, let us rise up!

My Brother’s Eyes

I look at my brother and so much floods my mind. 

Tonight, I broke. My heart couldn’t handle the daunting task before me anymore. 

And I took one look at him, and I remembered. 

 

I remembered the task of loving him and leaving him. I remember the ache in my arms until I held him again. I remember sleeping to escape missing him only to see his sweet face in my dreams.
I remembered the beautiful redemption that took place on his gotcha day. I remembered the attachments that came and when he started to say I love you. I remembered the car rides and the rocks to sleep. I remembered him in a family.

I remembered that it was worth it. 

Simon was worth it. These kids are worth it. My God is worth it. 

I have watched Him bring beauty from ashes and I choose to trust Him to do it again.

His plan may not come easily or without a broken heart, but it is beautifully written.

I look at my brother, and this is what I see. I see God’s perfect plan and stunning grace wrapped up in a 3 year old little boy. I can see these kids’ futures when I look at him. I see the Lord give me new assurance and hope when I look at my brother.

The Father gives me peace when I look into my brother’s eyes.

Simon,

I love you with every ounce of my being. The Lord used you mightily tonight & I pray that the profound honor of that will never be lost on you. You are truly a blessing and a gift.

Your big sister,
Katie

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my daughter

Leaving provokes emotions; tons and tons of unique emotions. You know, the kind you feel completely ridiculous and peculiar for having. Can’t one just say that they want 2, completely incompatible, lifestyles at the exact same time. Is it really that irrational? I think not. 

 

It’s kind of the story of this life I live.  

 

There is this deep longing inside of me to stay here at the exact the same moment that there is a deep longing to head back home. Not one longing stronger than the other, but both ever present. 

 

For me personally, the idea of saying goodbye to these kids is a daunting, all consuming, task. The family that I have made here will always be close to my heart and not something I want to separate from. On the same hand, I am aching to have my brother by my side again and my parents on the other.

 

It’s hard to be vulnerable with these feelings, sometimes.

I asked for this life.
It’s what I’ve wanted for years. 

This is the type of life I have worked towards.
I begged God for years to let me live this type of life. 

 

And now, I find it hard, and gut wrenching, and those words don’t come out without a lump in my throat. 

 

My babies will grow older and, let’s be real, their 15 year old selves won’t remember the white lady that loved their 3 year old selves with every ounce in her. They won’t recall that they were wholly loved, utterly adored, and completely cherished.

There is something natural in each of us that desires to see the people we love realize how much we love them. We want to show them, tell them, remind them.

But the Father shows me that that isn’t my job this time. That isn’t my part in this story for now. My job in their story is coming to an end and I am grabbing and holding tight to everything I have of them. Our memories, the way their bodies feel in my arms, the sound of their laughs, their (sometimes awful) smells. Everything. Those are the things He has given me the privilege of having and I will forever hold those things close.

This isn’t the way He created it to be, ya know. 

Orphans weren’t a part of the plan.
Lost parents weren’t of Him.
Loving and leaving aren’t something He desires for His people.

But, we live in a fallen world and these things are a reality of it.
And in the midst of that mess, He holds us close.

It’s a tension that we choose to live in because the Lord chose us. 

It’s a place where we learn of His sovereignty and our depravity. 
It’s a place of continued sanctification.

And in the middle of the questioning, confusion, and heartbreak, He gently pulls me close and reminds me, “I love you, my daughter.”

And then I remember.
That is why I’ve learned to love this life of constantly having to let go.

It’s all in hopes that one day these kids will here Him whisper,
“I love you, my daughter.” or “I love you, my son.”

 

“Constant through the trial and the change
One thing… Remains.
Your love never fails.”

Thankful

It was one of those moments.

She was sitting on my lap and her head found it’s way into the crook of my neck. She had one hand draped around my shoulder and the other wrapped around a strand of my hair. I was singing to her a mixture of “twinkle twinkle little star” and “Jesus loves me.” I knew that she was completely content in that moment. Other little ones were still running and playing around us, but she was all there; soaking it all in. When I would stop singing, she would start singing back to me a melody of unrecognizable sounds with frequent “i love you’s” thrown in. I would look down at her, her up at me, just for a quick reminder that we’re both still completely lost in this moment. I couldn’t help but think about how many of these moments that she will get to share with her forever mom.

So often I believe I’m the one that’s helping her. I tell myself that I’m helping with attachment and the fact that one day, she will attach to her forever mom better because of the bond that we share. I’m here for her.

But in that moment, I was reminded that she has also done something remarkable in this heart of mine. That, black haired, brown eyed, 2 year old little girl has taught me more about loving orphans than she will ever know. She gives me new motivation to love well each time I am around her. The way she grabs my face for kisses reminds me that these are real kids longing for real affection. When she kicks her shoes off in a temper tantrum, I remember that she needs me here to fill the ever vacant spot of a mom to guide her and direct her. When I see her love a child younger than her in the same ways that I show love to her, I am in awe that she has already learned so much. When I tell her that Jesus loves her and she responds “I know,” I know that I am here to plant seeds in her delicate and young heart.

She is so easy to love. It just comes naturally. She has reinforced that it isn’t always necessary to have the same blood coursing your veins to share this kind of love.

As I was soaking it all in today, I took a look around at the 30 kids playing in front of me. It was almost as if time stood still. I was overcome with the deepest gratitude that I have been able to be a part of each of the kids‘ stories. I sit here trying to come up with words to explain how deeply I feel for each of them and all I know to say is that many families will be blessed by the treasures that these kids are. Each and every one of them. Many a family will learn similar things as I’m learning as they begin to parent these kids. Those families will never be the same and I know, without a shadow of doubt, that they, also, will be forever grateful.

As time slowly fades and the seasons change, I will face some dreadful goodbyes. I know that their young hearts may forget me with time, but what I choose to focus on is that their faces are forever imprinted on my heart. That isn’t a season. That will stay forever. I vow to never forget this time I’ve had with them and the way each one of them has challenged me and loved me.

They are extraordinary.