So… You Want to Ask About Their Adoption {a guide}

If you’ve been around me for more than four or five seconds, you’ve probably heard me talk about my church family. Seriously. I love those people. I could list a whole plethora of reasons but that might (a) bore you or (#2) make you jealous. Not a good blog outcome either way.

But, I will take this opportunity to tell you just one of the things I love about them. I love their collective heart for adoption. We are a people who has been captured by the idea. Why? Two reasons come readily to mind:

First, because it is such a beautiful picture of the way God loves people and “adopts” them into His family. We cry out in a spirit of adoption, calling Him our Abba. Intimacy. Love. Family. It’s all about the relationship… not duty-bound religion.

But that’s not all; we’re bullish on adoption because we see God’s heart for the orphan all throughout the Bible. As we come to know Him, our heart mirrors His. For a whole host of reasons and circumstances, the heartbreaking truth is that there are children who have been left behind by their biological parents. We want to be a people who steps into that void and takes some of those children into our own families. Some of our families came to that place because they also struggled with infertility. Some did not. Either way, they have joined in God’s plan to love orphans by bringing them home and making them their own, very real sons and daughters.

While each of my friends would absolutely call their kiddos blessings, I know it hasn’t always been without struggle for them. Parenting never is. But, adoption comes with its own set of wrinkles. Not regret, mind you. But unique challenges just the same. One of those is the comments and questions that come from others – especially if their child is visibly of a different ethnicity.

Yesterday over at Rage Against the Minivan, Kristen shared this video that a friend of hers put together. It’s a great poke at some of the questions that sometimes come to adoptive parents. I pass it on as a good laugh but also as a reminder to be thoughtful as you inquire about these precious ones.

Video credit: Rain City Church on Vimeo.

Grace and peace,

Shannon McKee

Gathering in the Big Room {Bible Study}

BreadTime02Earlier this week more than 140 women came out on a cold, winter Monday night to gather together in the Big Room. It wasn’t a wine-tasting or a movie night or a girls-night-out or shop-at-home party. It was a Bible study. That’s it.

They came simply to study and talk about the Bible.

Some of them came desperate. “This is the last chance I’m giving it. I’ve tried to study the Bible before and it just isn’t working.”

Some of them came fearful. “Sometimes I’m afraid to even try because I often fail to follow through.”

And they came honest. “I try to read my Bible but I get distracted so easily. One minute I’m reading and the next minute I’m thinking about how I should go switch another load of laundry.”

A lot of them came with a mixed bag of emotions. Guilt. Anticipation. Hopefulness. Failure. Burden. Delight.

There’s a lot going on their lives. It intrigues me when I think about the fact that it’s a room full of 140+ stories. Every woman there has a story. A story of spiritual ups and downs and encounters with God and desert times where she wondered if God even exists at all. They each have stories of brokenness and stories of success.

For example, on this past Monday, I knew of one woman who had just received a promotion to become a partner in her firm. In that same room was another woman preparing for her D&C and grieving the baby who died before she ever got to meet him/her. Could they be in two more different places?

And, yet, they both came. We all came, crowding into the Big Room for Monday nights. To bring our stories – our lives, really – before God’s Word. To mingle them with the stories of other women and the women who have gone before us, and to submit it all to His order of things. His perspective. The Creator, Sustainer, and Rescuer. We peek into His heart and that peek makes sense of all the rest of it.

Is that not one of the most profound things you’ve ever heard? God’s story – alive in the center of 140 stories!

 

Reflections on the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing

flesh colored crayons (image from revangiem-n.com)

flesh colored crayons (image from revangiem-n.com)

I am thankful that I grew up in a home where racism was never tolerated. My parents always had people of color in their inner circle. And, truth be told, those relationships shaped my view of normal.

I can recall the time my Dad’s friend Billy took me aside one day to tell me the story of the time he had been traveling with my Dad and their course took them South. As it turns out, the hotels in the South at that time were happy to give my Dad a room but not Billy. Because Billy was black. Tears in his eyes, Billy told me how much it meant to him when my Dad told those clerks that he’d sleep in the car with Billy before he’d give them his money.

And there was the time my Mom “threw down” with the woman who was visiting our home and called Brazil nuts by their derogatory name. It wasn’t a trite thing to my Mom. Because she knew even the small things mattered. Now that I’m a mom, I know that she also knew that young eyes were watching and that such an utterance would shape our thinking.

I remember the stories from my Sunday school teacher, a black man from Alabama. He and his wife are longtime family friends. He grew up in Rosa Park’s neighborhood. He remembers when she kept her seat on the bus.

This is my heritage. I did nothing to earn it. It’s just how I was raised. So, I can’t really take any credit for it. But, it sure has saved me from the hard work of unlearning a lot of junk.

And, let’s be honest, there IS a lot of junk out there. A lot of messy thinking and deeply rooted prejudices.

Today is the 50th anniversary of 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing - a heinous moment in a string of other heinous moments in our nation’s history. I’m taking a moment right now to reflect and to pray that God would continue to move among His people. That the Church would be a place where unity around Jesus would bring us closer to each other. A place where racial reconciliation is lived out day in and day out. A place where the color of another’s skin is a thing to be celebrated not shunned. That He’d keep showing us where our assumptions are wrong. Because even with a heritage like mine, I know I have things to learn and listening to do.

Below, I’ve included a link to a beautiful story about the healing that CAN take place when Jesus grabs a hold of your heart. Do you know that a life submitted to Christ will do crazy things – counter-intuitive things – that leave us gaping at the wonder of it all? This is story from one of the girls who survived the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing… while her little sister did not. This is her story. It’s a story about how God makes beautiful things out of the dust. How He takes pieces from the rubble and makes them whole again.

Beauty from the Ashes of 16th Street Baptist Church

Such beauty.

May He never stop.

And may we never stop noticing when He does it, falling to our knees in wonder and worship of such a One.

Spoons to the Death {Lessons from Game Night}

The Golden Spoon of Honor

On Friday night I got together with a bunch of women from our church for a game night. Only it wasn’t your normal “women’s game night.” Nope; not really at all. I guess we’re not a very normal bunch?!?! (I blame that on our pastor. {wink} Well, he does set the tone, you know. He might be my husband but I am not vouching for his normalness.)

Anyway, we called our game night “Spoons to the Death” and battled until just one of us walked away with the Golden Spoon of Honor.

Spoons can already be a pretty intense game, even when the spoons are just right there in the middle of the table. But try putting them at the other end of the room. And racing ten other women for them once you get your four cards.

Let’s just say it can get a little crazy. And painful. At night’s end we had multiple rug burns, sore knees, a blood spot on the carpet, and one fractured rib.

BUT we had a blast together. Women of all ages and athletic abilities played. And I do mean ALL athletic abilities. Ahem. Have I ever told you about how much I like books? Yeah, I prefer books and a spot of tea over sports. Pretty much always.

Mad DashEven the women who didn’t play (because they were pregnant or more tentative or just not interested) sat, chatting while they laughed at the ones who did play.  Because, let’s face it, it’s stinkin’ hilarious to watch your girlfriends in a mad dash for spoons on the floor on the other side of the room.

It was a fun night but it also made me think about a few things.

First, I hope you have friends that you can laugh with. Life is hard. I know the backstories of a lot of the women in that room and I know that life is not usually much of a cake walk. Infertility, betrayal, serious health issues, financial struggle, buried love ones, past sin that still haunts, current failure… you name it, it’s probably touched at least one of the women in that room. And, yet, sometimes, it’s good to just laugh. From the gut. Until your stomach hurts. Do you have friends you can do that with?

Shannon & Karen Duke it Out!I also hope that you go past the laughing together. These are the women I study the Bible with and talk about life with and cry with. We support each other in all sorts of ways – whether it’s bringing a meal or praying for a wayward kid or offering a ride or taking on last minute babysitting or answering the phone to talk at an odd time.

There are a couple hundred women at our church. Obviously, I know some of them better than others but most of them are connected to SOMEONE and there is deep communion in those places. If I had a serious need arise, I can think of at least 30 women that I could call that are not even in my biological family.  I don’t even have to think very long to come up with that list. We’re like a big safety net for each other. A family of linked arms under-girding one another. Do you have a network like that?

I hope so.

Brawling for the last SpoonSo what’s my point? I guess I just want to encourage you not to go through life alone. It’s risky to laugh together. Partly because sometimes you have to laugh at yourself! (Especially if someone is taking photos!) And you might even get bloody rug burns in the process. But, that is the stuff of life… you’ll never get the spoon if you don’t race headlong across the room for it! And, oh the memories made in the process.

And, to be honest, it’s also pretty risky to go past the laughing to the soul places. Sometimes, that hurts more than the rug burns. Actually, it usually does. Because exposing your soul is risky indeed. Dangerous business, that. I’ve been burned before. Pretty recently. Honestly, even when it goes really well, it is still costly. You pay with your time and emotional investment. But, I still say there is a beauty in that risk. In knowing and being known.

Whatever you do, take a word of advice from the women of CCC-Stow and don’t go it alone.

Rug burns and all.

A Proper Easter Attire

Easter FlowersIn one week’s time my friends and I, we’ll be celebrating. Rejoicing over the single most profound event in all of history. Pondering the most baffling truth in all the world. As if taking on tiny baby flesh wasn’t enough… now the exalted King of all things has traded places with me and made it right again. He’s taken all the broken places and made them whole again. He has gathered up all the shards – the shattered relationships, the selfish acts, the greedy thoughts; He’s swept them up and fashioned them into something more beautiful than the original sculpture. All at His own expense.

How is this not the best news ever heard? How is it that most of us would rather talk about bunnies and pastel eggs and new bonnets? Can’t we just talk about something sweet? Maybe tulips or lilies? Anything to distract us from having to really focus on the shock of what Jesus has done.

Why? Why do we push it away? Why do we let other things overshadow this profound truth? Don’t we want the broken places fixed?

I think I finally understand it. I think we DO want them fixed. At least many of us do. We know something is wrong. We see the shattered mess of the world. And we really want it fixed.

We just want to do it ourselves.

And there’s the rub. Easter Sunday is only truly a celebration if we are convinced we’d be hopeless and desperate without it.

John Stott captured it well in this short piece entitled Naked Pride:

“As we stand before the cross, we begin to gain a clear view both of God and of ourselves, especially in relation to each other. Instead of inflicting upon us the judgment we deserved, God in Christ endured it in our place… This is the ‘scandal,’ the stumbling-block, of the cross. For our proud hearts rebel against it. We cannot bear to acknowledge either the seriousness of our sin and the guilt or our utter indebtedness to the cross. Surely, we say, there must be something we can do, or at least contribute, in order to make amends?”

Yes, isn’t there something? Maybe I can be a little nicer to my annoying neighbor. Or go to church a bit more. Oh, and, I’ll totally stop cussing when the kids are around. Yes, I can pull this thing together if I just work a little harder. Put my nose to the grindstone and all of that. Come to think of it, what’s the big deal about Easter anyway? Oh yes,  another religious holiday. Sure, I’ll go pay my dues. If God is lucky, I’ll even throw a little something in the plate as it goes by. Better yet, I’ll contribute to one of those clean water well projects in Africa. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. If we all just did something like that, this world would be a better place.

Ah… but Stott cuts across such platitudes, “The proud human heart is there revealed. We insist on paying for what we have done. We cannot stand the humiliation of acknowledging our bankruptcy and allowing somebody else to pay for us. The notion that this somebody should be God Himself is just too much to take. We would rather perish than repent, rather lose ourselves than humble ourselves…

“But we cannot escape the embarrassment of standing stark naked before God. It is no use our trying to cover up like Adam and Eve in the garden. Our attempts at self-justification are as ineffectual as their fig-leaves. We have to acknowledge our nakedness, see the Divine Substitute wearing our filthy rags instead of us, allow Him to clothe us with His own righteousness.”

And it is right there. In that naked place of realization. There that Easter Sunday becomes the grandest celebration. The best news we’ve ever heard.

May your preparation this week be blessed. Both as you ponder your own nakedness and as you embrace the beautiful garment offered to clothe you.

Grace and peace,

Shannon McKee

My Exceeding Joy?

“I have set the LORD always before me… therefore my heart is and glad, and my whole being rejoices…” – a song penned by King David of Israel

For the last 10 weeks, I have been gathering with 70 other women from our precious church family every Monday evening to ponder this very idea. What does it mean for me to set the LORD always before me? For starters, who IS He, anyway? What’s He like? Can I know Him? And, furthermore, can that – just setting Him before me – really make my whole being rejoice? Really?

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I experience that on a day-in, day-out basis. Oh, I have moments of joy. When I’m laughing with my family. Or when I’m having a great conversation with a like-minded friend. Or when I’m on vacation, walking along the dunes in quiet. Or when I’m singing hymns of praise and I sense the weight of my words back to God. Or when I’m reading an epic story like Lord of the Rings.


But, I’m not sure my whole being rejoices. And, if it does, it’s not for more than a minute or two. When the song stops or the laughter turns to bickering or the book ends or the coffee shop closes or it’s time to come back from nature into the grind of life. The moment passes and with it, sadly, so does my joy. It gets crowded out by all the rest of it.King David goes on in that same song to say that “in {God’s} presence there is fullness of joy.” Fullness. Not just a little crumble of joy that passes with a momentary pleasure. But fullness of joy. Like a cup that is brimming over with abundance.

The dictionary says that joy is the pleasurable feeling caused by the acquisition or expectation of something good. Can you think for a sec about the times over the last year when you experienced joy? What are those good things in your life that make you feel that way?

That’s a for real question. Not a trick question. And don’t say “Jesus” just because you think it’s the most spiritual thing to say. Think about it and jot some things down.

I don’t think those things are bad. It’s not wrong that laughing with my family brings me joy. But, I do think they are just a taste. Because, as Mary Kassian points out in her book Knowing God By Name, then it follows that the greater the goodness, the greater the joy will be.

Did you catch that? The greater the goodness, the greater the joy. So, if a walk along Lake Michigan dunes brings me a little bit of joy, wouldn’t it follow that focusing on the God of Splendor who thought of and created those dunes out of nothingness, would bring me A LOT of joy?

I think it might.

Sort of Like a Long-Awaited Letter. Only Better.

Tomorrow my friend Val and I will begin teaching an 8-week women’s Bible study for our church. And, I’ve got to tell you, I get goosebumps when I think about it. Not butterflies, mind you. But goosebumps.

You know that prickly sensation when you’re in awe or really excited about something? That’s how I feel about leading this study.

Sort of like we might feel if we didn’t have instant messaging or tweeting or email or even phone service. And we had to wait for letters to come great distances to hear from the ones we loved. I imagine it like the early immigrants to America might have felt. Maybe a letter has just arrived from our Grandad who still lives in the Old Country. How we all grab for it and want to read it first. Instead we gather around in the living room – brothers, sisters, cousins, all of us together. And one of us reads it out loud. And maybe his Scottish brogue comes through thick in his writing and Mom has to explain this or that because our own memories of “home” have grown dim. We didn’t really mean to forget. Not really. But, truth be told, it’s hard to remember what he looks like anymore or the way his hug feels after a walk in the meadow. And the littlest among us barely knew him at all before we left.

But when Momma reads we remember. We hang on every word. And I get goosebumps as I listen to words penned by his precious hand. A bit of him. Here. With us now.

That’s how I feel about tomorrow night. It’s an imperfect analogy, I know. But, it gets at the heart of it for me.

We did receive a letter from a great distance. Only it’s not from our Grandad… No. Even better. This letter is from the very One who called the stars out by name and told the proud ocean waves where to stop. And knew me while I was still being knit together in my mother’s womb. The One whose mercies are new every morning. He who heaps grace on me. Grace upon grace. He has spoken. Written down all the things He wanted me to know for this life. Fantastic accounts of love spurned and the relentless pursuit of a Suitor. A cheater wooed back. Of a love that wins.

A letter like that shouldn’t be sitting pristine on a shelf. Friends, do you know that men died so that we could get this letter? And read it in our own language? This is a letter that deserves to be poured over. Read again and again. Slowly, savoring every word. Pages worn thin from getting it out over and over again.

I know I need the letter. Oh how I need it. Because, I’ll be honest, sometimes I forget. I forget what He’s like and how His story has become my history. Let’s face it, there are lots of other voices competing with the letter. Trying to keep me from it. Some even mock the letter. “How do you even know it’s from Him? What if it’s a fake? Or been altered by the deliveryman?”

But I know better. Aside from apologetic proof upon proof, there is the reality that His fingerprints are all over His correspondence. His heart beating with the very idea of something so impossible as grace. I need want to hear what He has to say. To be reminded afresh.

And I need to do it in the company of “family.” With my sisters. So that we can revel in the goodness and wrestle with the hard stuff… together.

I know, right? You felt it too. Goosebumps.

If you live in Northeast Ohio and you’re a chica and you would like to join us for the study, there is still time. We’ll be studying one of the most ancient stories of all – the life of Abraham as recorded in the book of Genesis. The cost if $15 for the entire 8-week session, which runs from Sept. 8 thru October 27 (7 to 8:30). Use the contact tab right here on my blog to let me know you’ll be there or to get more information. Unfortunately, online registration at the church website has closed; so this is the best way to sneak-in under the wire! Don’t worry, I know the pastor and he said I could. {wink}

Profound Thoughts On Being a PK

Being a pastor’s kid has its pros and cons. For the most part, the Man-Child really likes it – especially when someone gives us football tickets or we bring home leftover food from a church event. But, we still like to check-in to see how the kids are feeling about it – especially when it’s a busier time in the life of our church family.

This morning we asked and got this response: “Well, it IS extra work. And, sometimes I have to wave at people I don’t even know. But other than that, I’m cool with it.”  

Awesome. We’ll take it.

But , really, who knew that waving was at the top of the PK Hardships list?!?!

Grace for our Parenting Passions

Parenting is a funny thing.

Maybe it’s because our children are so dear to our hearts. Or because we know that their place in this world says something about us. Or because we intuitively sense the hugeness of shaping another life. Maybe it’s a combination of all these things.

But, something about parenting has the power to simultaneously bring out the best in us and the worst in us. Our most insightful, gracious, tenderhearted moments in one turn. And in another, our ugliest, most prideful judgements.

And I’m not even referring to how we treat our kids.

No, I’m talking about our interactions with other parents.  

You know what I’m talking about. Don’t you? Come on now. You’ve been there – probably on both ends of the judging. Depending on the day.

Perhaps you’ve seen the new mom. She’s tired. Her hormones are all whacked out. The book says little Joey should be on a schedule by now. But, despite her best efforts, he’s not. She condemns herself daily. She’s sure that she’s ruined everything. He’ll be a tyrant now. Because he doesn’t eat and sleep when he’s supposed to. She’s so worried about following the book that she forgets to just gaze into his sweet face while he’s nursing. And somewhere, some other mom is “tsk, tsking” her. Because her little Johnny was sleeping through the night at 6-weeks-old.  

Or you’ve been in a store with preschool mom. Her little guy is getting antsy. She thought it would be a quick stop so she doesn’t have the stroller. He wants to touch that one thing. You know, that one thing that he’s not allowed to touch. Momma has corrected him and steered him to another thing several times now. But, he’s not into that plan. Finally he reaches up, slaps mom in the face and runs out the front of the store before she can grab him. Mortified and defeated, she leaves her errand unfinished and just takes him home. As she straps him into his carseat, her vision is clouded by hot tears. She fails to see him as a boy who needs shaped. In that moment, she only sees her own embarrassment. Meanwhile the other moms and the sales clerk talk about what a horribly permissive mother she must be.

And, really, this is just the beginning. The issues just seem to get bigger and the judging more heated as the kids get older. Schooling. Clothes. Boy-girl stuff. Media boundaries. Books. Food choices. Extra-curricular activities. Cell phones. On and on it goes. 

Of course we feel passionately about our parenting. Of course we think we’re doing the right things when we make our decisions. That’s why we do what we do. Because we think it’s the best thing. We wouldn’t do it otherwise. Usually, our parenting choices come from our core beliefs about life and a heart of love and vision for our kids. Those are things we’re pretty passionate about!!

Unfortunately, often times, that heart gets buried by layers of defensiveness and judgement and pride and insecurity. Because even as we’re judging another’s parenting, we’re wondering and hoping that we’re making the right calls and that our own kids are turning out OK. We’re never totally sure.

It would almost be silly if it weren’t so damaging to true community.

What if there were a better way?

What if we really believed in grace? Like, really believed it. And that trumped all the rest of it.

What if a homeschooling mom, a public school mom and a private school mom could all sit in a room together while they discussed their schooling choices and NO ONE felt threatened or insecure or judged? Not because we didn’t feel passionately about the choice we made for our family. But, because we could approach the whole thing with grace and humility.

I’d like to get a glimpse at people like that. I mean, who wouldn’t?

Oh wait. I already have one. Glimpses of grace in action. Sometimes you’ll find them in an old carpet warehouse on route 91. Or laughing in each other’s living rooms. Or crying over a cup of coffee together in Panera. Or serving in a homeless shelter together.

I can see them. Oh, I know they’re not finished yet. There’s more to them than this life. It’s not like they’re perfect. Sometimes they forget who they really are. But, I think grace is beginning to sink deep. Freedom is becoming a reality and they’re learning to love like Jesus. Honestly, I’ve never seen anything quite like it before.

It’s a beautiful thing to witness. An even more beautiful thing to be a part of.

One Non-Denominational Girl & Her Musings on Lent

I’m a decidedly non-denominational girl. I love Jesus. I love His Church (usually!). But I’ve never been particularly drawn to one denomination or loyal to one tradition within Christianity.

We worship Sundays in a converted carpet warehouse. Our pastor preaches most weeks in jeans. We’ve never even owned hymnals or had a formal pulpit. Our services are very simple with very little ritual… save the benediction at the end. We hold loosely to our “traditions” because we don’t want to elevate one way of doing something and get stuck in rut.

I’m not necessarily saying that’s better. It’s just what I know. (And, clearly, what I like.)

As a result, I know very little about the “church calendar” and some of the tradition that it highlights. I’ve never had the ash smudge on my forehead. Or abstained from meat on Fridays. Or given up something for Lent.

In fact, for most of my life, my view of those ideas was fairly jaded. Perhaps it was my experience with so many people who had ashes on their forehead one Wednesday every year but virtually ignored Jesus the other 364 days.

Or perhaps it was my misunderstandings of the traditions. Honestly, giving up diet Coke for 40 days seemed silly to me in light of the extreme and weighty sacrifice that Jesus made on my behalf. We Americans indulge ourselves in excess nearly everyday. Most of us know very little of true sacrifice and service. Many of the people I knew who gave up something for Lent gorged on their now-forbidden treat right before and after their 40 days. How could that in any way help us appreciate the anguish and sacrifice of the God of heaven and earth dying on a cross to pay for the awful sins of every person who has ever lived?  Did we think we were impressing Jesus or somehow identifying with Him by depriving ourselves of chocolate for a month and a half?

Most of my experience with such rituals was little more than pomp and circumstance. But, in recent years, I have come to appreciate some of the heart behind some of those traditions.

One thing I have come to value is the way such times help us to remember. We are forgetful creatures. So forgetful. So quickly. God knows that about us. He’s the one who instituted communion as a way of remembering. We do need reminded. Regularly.

I think such traditions can also help us to slow down and reflect. Otherwise, it’s just too easy to get swept into our cultural definitions of a holiday. We get mired in the commercial messages that pound away at our soul. Suddenly it’s April and Easter is about finding the right dress and eating jelly beans and designing the perfect centerpiece for ANOTHER big meal.

And, honestly, that’s OK for Target or Macy’s or whomever. Really. I don’t expect them to make Easter about the sacrificial death and amazing resurrection of my Lord. That’s what we who follow Him need to do. We need to make it about Him… in our homes and in our own hearts.

If slowing down for 40 days of fasting and reflecting before we celebrate Resurrection Sunday will help you to do that, then by all means, please do.

As for this non-denominational girl, my observation of Lent will mostly be in intentional reflecting. I have some books that I will use to help me focus. I have some ideas rolling around in my head that might work for the whole family. If I feel prompted, I might fast in some way during this time. It’s all still a bit of a work in progress for me. (As usual, I’m a little behind schedule. You know, since it starts today and all!)

One thing I do know. I know I want to be a woman who regularly reflects and revels in the Cross and what it means for me. Dorothy Sayers writes that to make the Easter story into something that neither startles, shocks, terrifies, nor excites is “to crucify the Son of God afresh.”

I want to be startled.

How about you?

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