Our friend Thomas told us once that the best way to grow a tree was to give it excessive amounts of water, and then, leave it be for a long stretch before going back to water it again. He makes his living with plants, so I had a pretty good idea that he was right, and he was.
I use this technique for every plant that I grow. I bought a few plants for the fall season, and sure enough, I found myself watering them until their soil was sopping wet. I’ll leave them for a couple of weeks and come back and do it again.
There’s something that happens every time that I’m standing over those plants. It’s His way. It’s how the Lord grows us. He pours Himself out into our spirit until we are saturated with His goodness, but inevitably we begin to feel the heat of persecution, and the rains of friendship and family are nowhere to be found. Our roots begin to grow deeper and stronger in search of the living water that He has poured into us. In His perfect time after the persecution and drought have done their job, He comes by, and we willingly accept the coolness of His perfect water.
It’s the ebb and flow of sanctification.
But, the roots
When will we allow our roots to grow?
How long will we wait for the rains of friendship and family to give us life?
We wait for the rains until we are wilted and bitter.
When will we release our relationships for the satisfying water of the One who loves us most?
How often do we find our identity in the ones that leave, in the ones that let us down, in the ones that were never designed to sustain?
Children grow up.
Spouses grow tired.
Parents grow old.
Friends grow apart.
People step in and out of the doors of our life, and before long, we find ourselves disoriented, lonely, lost because people don’t have the eternal water that we require.
With His water,
I can release my children.
With His water,
I can lift my spouse.
With His water,
I don’t have to fear being an orphan.
With His water,
Friendships can last a lifetime.
With His water,
I can love the most.
Being in an orphanage can do weird things to a person’s ability to process time. Understanding when an event happened and in what order it happened turns out to be something we develop through the sequences and changes of everyday life. Nothing changes in an orphanage, and no one actually knows their beginnings. It’s like the old movie, Groundhog Day, for years on end.
This whole problem led to my youngest son, Leo, trying to wrap his mind around Noah and the ark. He couldn’t quite understand why Noah wasn’t in the ark. Everything operates in the present for him.
This is where it gets interesting.
Have you ever tried to explain the birth, death, resurrection, and earthly return of Jesus Christ to two kids who are bumfuzzled by past, present, and future?
This was the conversation we were having last Sunday morning on the way to worship.
Oh, let’s not forget trying to explain that we all have a spirit that goes to Heaven when we die. My babies are concrete thinkers.
I reluctantly decided that ghost was a good way to get my point across. Then, panic ensued. Clearly, we will all be blind in Heaven because ghosts don’t have eyes that work.
I can’t make this stuff up.
Then, something happened. My boys started talking about their brother. The one they’ve never met. The one that’s in Heaven. They’re sure that they know him. I’m sure it’s because he’s never far from our thoughts and always part of our conversations.
I know him, said one boy from the back seat.
By this time, I had gotten to the rapture, and we had gotten over the idea that we would all be struck with sudden blindness upon arriving in Heaven.
Your spirit will be joined with a new body. Jesus will give us all a new body.
Yes, even Miles.
If I had said we were getting on a bus to go see Miles, I’m sure the excitement would not have been any different.
My boys have childlike faith—the kind that Jesus says we all need—the kind that I need.
It’s the kind of faith that makes us look forward to the day.
It’s the kind of faith that makes us soak up every opportunity to love on others.
It’s the kind of faith that makes us thankful for everything—even the bad stuff.
It’s the kind of faith that makes us aware of our limited time and drives us to leave a Christ mark.
And, it’s the kind of faith that reminds us that this isn’t it, and there’s going to be a YEEEEESSSSS moment that will be heard through all eternity.
There are moments when I write for the sake of seeing truth on paper. It's my way of reminding my heart of the knowledge that Christ has given to all believers. That's the case with this blog. It's deeply personal, and on this day, I need to see the end of my confusion. It's my hope that it will help another mom see the end of her confusion, too.
Lots of love,
Grief is saying goodbye a thousand times. It’s believing that every goodbye is the last time. It’s hoping that the next goodbye will never come, and if it does, it will be a little easier than the nine hundred and ninety-nine goodbyes that caught us off guard. Grief is soaking up the in between times, the moments when the clock of life seems only a tick off rather than whirling into oblivion.
Grief goodbyes are letting go to keep our sanity. The goodbyes protect the ones that are left behind. Goodbyes are heartache and hope intertwined into a handful of confusion that can be horrific to unravel. If we’re lucky, we’ll find the end of the confusion before the next goodbye comes steaming into our lives.
On the day that you left.
On the day that we packed your things away.
The counselor said it was time.
When your 18th birthday came and went.
That time your hair turned into dust in my hands.
I thought it would last longer than three years.
On graduation day.
Your place in the procession was behind your Hannah.
The day your little sister got married.
She’s the big sister, now.
When the little boys came, and you were missing.
Because 1+2 never quite equals 4.
Grief is saying goodbye a thousand times. It’s embracing the void. It’s choosing empty hands rather than clinched fists. It’s whispering It’s okay and praying that you can hear our words. It’s choosing Heaven for you and life for us.
It’s letting go to hang on.
It’s knowing it’s only a thousand goodbyes.
It’s believing there’ll be eternal hellos.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 – you will not grieve as people who have no hope.
Written August 2016
I've wrestled with this writing. It's 6:24 am on what would have been my oldest son's twentieth birthday, and I'm wrestling. It's a truth that is potentially a hard word.
The truth, there is no such thing as 'what if' in the Kingdom of God. Children of the Living God are not subject to the 'what if's' of suffering.
The 'what if's' come knocking on our heart's door, wreaking havoc on our emotions. They slip into our minds, chipping away at our mental health. 'What if's' bring condemnation onto what is already a broken vessel. They are a LIE. Lies come from the father of lies, not from the Father of Life.
God is not on vacation when suffering enters our life. He saw it coming long before we took our first breath. It is a fallen world and the will of man that causes suffering, but it is a sovereign God who allows suffering.
He allows us to become as Job.
He allows us to be hungry.
He allows us to be abandoned.
He allows us to be sick.
He allows our children to die.
Our God is sovereign, and He is eternal. The 'what if's' reside in the temporal. Our Father has an eternal plan that doesn't include an alternate scenario. It doesn't include the what 'could have' or 'should have' questions, the ones that eat us up from the inside out. We can't derail His plans. If He allowed it, it is part of His plans for our life.
Hanging onto the 'what if's' leaves us stuck. That's what all of hell wants for us. Satan wants us to reject the eternal plan. He wants us to be stuck in the temporal.
The temporal says, "My child is dead. God has taken my child." The eternal says, "My Father stood in the gap between Heaven and Earth and welcomed my child into His presence, and He will do the same for me. What can I do for eternity before I stand in His presence?"
There's a hole in my heart that will never heal as long as I'm on this wilderness journey. Lots of us walk around with a hole in our heart.
I miss my boy. I miss his laugh. I miss his lanky arms around my neck. I miss his 'did you know' facts. This momma's heart would take his place in a second, but I can't. It's not the plan.
We can fill our hearts with the 'what if's'. We can, but wouldn't it be so much better to open our hands to the things that last? Wouldn't it be so much better to submit our lives to the work of a sovereign, eternal God? Don't we want to say 'yes' to His plans before we enter into His presence?
The 'what if's' deserve to be thrown back into the pits of hell. After all, that's where they originated.
(c) 2017 Victoria Paxton
He aided Aaron to hold up the hands of Moses when Moses realized that the Israelites prevailed in battle while his hands were raised: "Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side.
Rest is important. God gave us the Sabbath and commanded that it be a day of rest. Jesus rested. He knew the importance of getting away from the business and drain of ministry. Sometimes, He would gather with His disciples, and sometimes, He would slip away by Himself to commune with the Father. If God rested, we can’t get around doing the same.
So, what happens when we’re drowning? When there’s no one to throw out a lifeline? When we are tired, overwhelmed, and have no idea how we will keep it together for one more minute? When we are in the trenches of sacrifice, but there’s nothing left to sacrifice?
All parents have those moments, and most parents have the luxury of picking up the phone and calling a babysitter. They should. They should pull away from family life and take time to regroup and refresh. Everyone benefits from a mom who’s had a time of renewal. Everyone benefits from two parents who have a connected marriage.
Then, there are the parents of special needs children. Adopted children are by nature special needs, if not physically and mentally, emotionally. No one gets to lose birth parents and walk away unscathed. I’m convinced it’s the largest trauma that any little person can experience, and it takes parents who are willing to educate themselves and put themselves in the throes of complete heartbreak to help to begin to put the broken pieces back together.
Resting means depending on a handful of close relatives and friends who understand the unique needs of our children. Calling a teenager from down the block isn’t an option. Caretakers have to understand that our children are impulsive, prone to meltdowns, crazy insecure, terrified of being left alone, need a strict schedule, can’t have too much TV time, will manipulate in a fantastic way, take medicines, and misbehave because that’s their go-to when mom and dad have left and rocked their world. If we’re lucky, we won’t come back to a war zone and a sitter who’s been hogtied and laid out in the middle of the living room floor. Best case scenario, she survives and never, again, answers our phone calls.
Those few people in our circle who get it are just that—few. They get tired, too.
As the Body of Christ, we can be a support to the parents that are doing the impossible work of raising beautiful, broken children. We can offer respite care—rest—when no one else is standing in line to help. Yes. It’s scary. Yes. More than likely, you’ll be glad when you can hand them back over to their parents, but it’s what the Church does. We care for and support the hands and feet of Jesus.
We must see the need and be brave enough to be intentional in our ability to offer rest.
We can educate one another. Learning builds understanding and compassion. It gives us the confidence to step in and bear the weight of care taking in a way that works for parents and the babies they’re leaving in our care. Understanding therapeutic parenting is a great starting point.
If you’re lucky enough to have an adoptive family in your circle of family and friends, ask questions. How can I help? Could you tell me about your day? How can I better understand your children? What would I need to know to care for your children? Can you give me some pointers for loving on your little ones?
The key is to listen and implement the tools that parents give. Sometimes, the tools don’t make sense. Ask the why questions. Asking why helps to get a glimpse into the logic of parenting adopted kids, or should I say getting a glimpse into the illogical?
We want you to ask. We desperately want others to understand our children. We want a well-informed, empathetic hand. We want people in our corner that we are confident will help, not hinder, our children, and yes, sometimes, we want to be able to rest like any other parent and not worry about the disaster that is ensuing at home.
Not everyone will adopt. I’m inclined to believe that if you don’t have any drawl toward adoption than you shouldn’t do it. It’s a lifetime commitment with no guarantee of a favorable outcome. It can only be done through the power of Jesus Christ. A desire to be all-in is the least a person should have in order to enter a permanent relationship with another living being, but that doesn’t mean we can’t throw out a lifeline every now and then. It doesn't mean we are exempt from carrying for orphans (and their families).
Church, we need you. We need for you to see us. We need a cheerleader. We need to be loved on.
We need for you to come up beside of us,
Take hold of our Moses arms,
And hold them up.
Because, it’s what He requires.
Because, we’re in this thing together.
(C) 2017 Victoria Paxton
Want to understand more about parenting children with a traumatic background? These resources are a great start.
There is no hurt so large that my Father would be thwarted by its very presence. There is no blemish, abuse, or act that need be hidden from Him.
He is an endless supply of salve applied to the gashes of my heart.
He walks through the darkest places unmoved by the devastation.
His authority topples the greatest of strongholds.
If only, I would bring my hurt to the feet of my precious Jesus. If only, I would fling the doors of my heart wide open, flooding it with the light of the Holy Spirit.
Make me brave that I would cry out from the deepest places of my soul. You hear my voice.
No masks or painted faces, I would adorn my naked wounds as pearls about my neck, flowers in my hair.
You hear me.
You see me.
I would dance in your presence with bleeding, open wounds—an extravagant dance because You have no fear of what has become of me. I would dance with boldness.
I am Yours.
You will not turn away from the darkness.
When our days are long,
When our eyes are closed,
When we would rather look away than lean into You, remind us.
When the battle feels lost,
When we guide one more time for the same missed step,
When we serve until we are numb,
When we would rather wash our hands of the battle than fight the war, remind us.
Remind us that You are the same God that showed up for Paul and Timothy.
Through You, there is power to be found within us.
There is a great work to be done within the confine of our homes.
Remind us that when we are empty, You raise us up from the inside out.
The war is won.
And the trials,
They are only temporary.
Remind us that You have given us salvation because You are The Saving King.
It is a salvation that is precious
And, it is shared because we can give.
We can give because You are a Living God.
You are a Living God, living within us.
(c) 2017 Victoria Paxton
Home is my place.
Right now, there’s a hen under my feet. The boys are napping, and I have this fleeting moment to worship and reflect. Quiet summer days can do that to a person.
In a lifetime, not everyone will have a place to feel safe and loved.
And sometimes, it’s built over time. God can take away the unnecessary, the hurt, the fear, the pride, the self-service. He can empty us of ourselves, and He can make Himself known in a place where all seems lost.
Where apathy once lived, empathy can begin to abound.
Empathy can learn to have compassion.
The servant and the served love.
It’s God’s way, not our human inclination.
He heals. He mends, and we begin to get a taste of the safest place of all, Heaven. It’s where the perfect relationship between Christ and His bride will exist.
We won’t have to try to bottle up the perfect days, or recall days gone by.
We will be home. We will be safe.
Self will have no place in that place. He will make everything the way it was intended to be in the beginning, before the world took a dark turn. Every day will be like a quiet summer day, basking in His presence.
Not everyone, in this lifetime, will have a place to call home.
A place to rest, a distant dream,
But it’s okay.
It’s not the end.
There’s a place.
It’s the place that I dream of when I think about home.
When our family decided to adopt, we knew that we wanted older kids. First, we were approaching forty and were certain that babies would mean a quick and painful death to both of us. Secondly, older kids, especially boys, are in desperate need of adoption. Being a boy and older are two big strikes against a child that is searching for a family.
We put on our big boy (and girl) pants and waded out into the unknown waters of international adoption.
Boys need homes.
Let’s adopt a boy and, then, another boy.
Older children need homes.
Let’s adopt an older child, and, then, another older child.
It was that logical for us. God says take care of orphans. Then, we should take care of orphans. Our boys had a desperate need for a family. We chose to be that family.
That may have been the last bit of logic that we would ever encounter.
The illogical started to happen.
Two parents fell head—over –heels in love with two children that they had never met.
Two children embraced two broken—down, stranger, parents.
God, knitting us together
Something else illogical,
The obstacles are huge.
The odds are not always in our favor,
But we don’t care.
Because, God is in this space.
In the illogical.
Death for life.
That’s what He did for us.
Dying to self
Dying to the hard work.
Dying to the meltdowns.
Dying to the anxiety.
Dying to the tears.
Dying to their loss.
That’s what we do for them.
That’s what He does for us.
None of it’s logical. Laying down self to embrace the festering wounds of the broken. Spending a time-limited life on heartache. Fighting adolescent clocks to win the race to an independent adulthood. Holding on to Him so that we can hold on to them.
His love for us is not logical—that He would leave the eternal thrones of heaven to die for dust? –that He would feel hunger and the pull of sin for dust? –that He would die so that dust may live?
He lives in the spaces that we don’t understand.
His glory is in those places.
We reflect Him most in the corners of our confusion.
None of it’s logical.
But, it’s where love lives.
It’s where He lives.
(c)2017 Victoria Paxton
I’ve always wondered why the Book of Ruth was named after Ruth. After all, the story begins with Naomi, and it ends with Naomi. Naomi lost two sons and a husband. If it weren’t for Naomi, there would not have been a Ruth.
As I got older, I understood. People divide people up into two groups—good and bad. Naomi didn’t exactly make the preferred list. Ruth was the good girl, the heroine, the force behind the events that led to that perfectly placed child in the lineage of Christ. She is what we all aspire to be - the idea of a faithful God-honoring woman. Ruth never faltered—never.
We aspire to be a Ruth.
More often times than not,
We’re more like a Naomi.
I’m a Naomi. I really want to be a Ruth. It’s my desire to look more like my Father every single day, but anyone who’s in my close inner circle of friends will tell you that I’m no Ruth.
My goal is Ruth.
My reality is Naomi.
Naomi was demoralized. Dare we say angry? She didn’t mind sharing with anyone who would listen to her that her life was in the gutter. Her lot had not been fair, and she wasn’t about to pretend that it had been fair.
She went through the motions of doing what was right. She returned to Jerusalem. She kept the Hebrew customs. She was faithful and nice to Ruth, but she was not feeling it.
For the first two chapters of Ruth, Naomi was checked out while she was checking all the right boxes.
I’m angry, but I’m ticking the boxes.
My faith isn’t gone, but my heart is on hiatus.
My head knows truth, but my emotions are broken
I thought I’d be a Ruth.
Turns out, I’m a Naomi.
Funny thing is, God doesn’t divide people in the same way that people divide people.
It doesn’t matter if we show up to the game as soon as we realize we’re actually a part of the game, or if we show up to the game in the fifth inning, like Naomi who finally decided to get it together somewhere between harvest season and chapter 3. What matters is that we show up.
Our God doesn’t keep score.
He IS the score.
We see Naomi as a failure, but God didn’t.
Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her lap, and became his nurse. The neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi!” So they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Also, Naomi’s son.
Ruth birthed Obed, but Naomi raised Obed.
If we seek Him, even when it feels like it’s too late, He takes all of the sin away. He heals us. He covers us. He restores us. He gives us good things.
Because, people are flawed.
Because, He is perfect.
Because, He is all that is good in us.
Because, that’s how much He loves us.
(c) 2107 Victoria Paxton
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Victoria Paxton spends her mornings teaching special education and her afternoons raising two fantastic sons. She's the wife of Mr. Paxton, and, also, the mother of a grown, full of faith daughter who is married to Victoria's favorite son-in-law, Nathan.