faith

It Takes a Village (and One Pack Mule)

A few months ago I made an exciting announcement in this embarrassing video. If you haven't watched it, then you might still be operating under the assumption that I'm not an idiot. That's so nice of you! But you'd be mistaken. In the video I describe in an obnoxiously choppy and drawn out way a charming fashion that I will be publishing a 31 day devotional to supplement #AdamsActs and my blog in the month of October. The downloadable file will be available for $1.99 on this website starting on October 1st.

Before I go any further, I am going to give a micro-explanation of what I am talking about. #AdamsActs is a kindness movement that I started in memory of my brother Adam who was killed at the age of 17. We do 31 random acts of kindness in his memory to spread love and good cheer during a month that used to put me in a funk of sadness. When sharing this deeply personal part of my family's story, I can't help but share the part of my story that is even more significant: my faith story.

I am unwilling to cheapen my faith in Jesus by being pushy about it so I tend to share less than I sometimes want. Still, there are a lot of readers who want to explore this faith I speak of, and they want to do it in an environment that is not initimidating or judgey. I decided to process some of the deeper faith components of grief and suffering in a separate place than the blog so that readers can choose to participate or not. This thing that I am calling a devotional is simply a series of meditations and thoughts to consider as we go through the month of October. My hope is that it challenges you to examine your beliefs and explore/consider deepening your faith. I also secretly hope that you laugh at my funny jokes.

It has been a labor of love and so much nausea to get this devotional written. It has taken a village to raise up this little project. On the village roster we have my friend Lexi who would kick me out of my house and take excellent care of my kids so I could go to the library and get work done... only to ambush me at said library with coffee. She amused herself in the process by taking absurd pictures of my striking resemblance to a pack mule.

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Next on the village roster are my three editors. Greta (pictured below - in the middle) worked as my copy editor, tirelessly deleting 484 billion commas. I didn't know that I had a comma addiction. But, apparently, I, do, and, it's, super, annoying. She cleaned up my work significantly, and if you find any errors or typos... it's because I couldn't part with all the commas and I also came up on my deadline before she could make one final pass for edits. Also, it's a $1.99 so why don't you go ahead and simmer down on the expectations mmkay? Next on the roster, we have Char (pictured on the right with all the tats and a wicked mohawk) who combed through for any theological issues. She helped me answer questions like "Is it okay to call Jesus a baller?" For the record, the answer is no. No, it is not.

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And then on the left we have Melissa who served as more of a line editor. She did a lot of the heavy lifting when I knew what I meant to say, but the reader maybe wouldn't. The 4:55am editing sesh was not a one time thing. She lives in Manahttan, so for this side by side situation to take place... she had to travel all the way here multiple times to help a sister out. Her help was invaluable to me. 

My other villagers include a slew of people that Lexi and my friend Brandi manhandled into being on some sort of launch team to get a first look at the devo and share some of their favorite bits as a teaser for everyone else. Their positive reviews have been such an encouragement during these past few days of intense vulnerability hangover.

The mayor of this village of support is Heather (not pictured above) who is the designer for the devotional and is working on it as I write this. She sent me a sneak peek and I am telling you that she's a miracle worker because the crazy document I sent to her is looking clean, polished and professional, even if overly riddled with commas. 

It was not all fun and games and I learned a lot about my shortcomings. Which I could have done without to be honest. I spent less time with my family than ever before, but Tom happily took on the extra responsibilities while I was tied up with the editing process. The kids were proud of me, and have been so encouraging and understanding. The best thing to come out of this process is the excitement my oldest daughter, Annalee, has expressed in participating in the devotional with the rest of us in October. Her supportive offer to "buy it at full price" made all the work worth it. Even if I felt like this the whole time...

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If you are interested in participating in #AdamsActs or in downloading the devotional then here are a few things you can do:

  • Skip on one cup of coffee this week and the cost is already in the budget.
  • Subscribe to the blog here so it's super easy to follow along through the month
  • And/or follow me on Facebook so you never miss an update.
  • Download the devotional on October 1st right here on this website.
  • Spread the word by liking and sharing posts in October.
  • Find a group of people who might be interested in exploring faith and invite them to read and discuss the devotional with you.
  • Send me a private message here if you are interested in joining a weekly discussion group about the devotional just for the month of October. If there is enough interest, I will create an opportunity for people from all over to join me online via Periscope or Facebook Live to do a Q&A and discussion once a week about what we are learning. 
  • Praise the Lord that this thing is finally done.
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The Time I Went B-A-N-A-N-A-S

Yesterday was a bad day. A really, really bad day. I basically failed at life yesterday.

My sister-in-law, Carlie, recently sent me a song that has become my anthem. I have this song on repeat for much of the day, and I'm telling you that if you watch this video, and watch it all the way to the end, you're gonna straight up pray that sinner's prayer. Okay, maybe you won't, but that is the impact that Miss Tasha Cobbs has on me when she's singing this song. This song, it is my anthem.

Plus, my voice sounds a lot like hers.

I can not overstate how this has become my battle cry. "I am empty before you, fill me up God." 

I don't know how it is possible to feel so empty, and also so full of my own self. I am empty, and yet, I am stuffed. I am stuffed with selfishness, with fear, with stress, with rage, with pride, with self-loathing, with a desire for control, and more than anything else, I am stuffed with a desire for relief. I am stuffed sick of my self, and at the very same time I feel completely empty. So, I listen to this song on repeat and I let Ol' Tasha usher Jesus into my empty places, and I let him sweetly pour me out, all of that junk that is in me, I beg him to let it spill out so that He alone can fill me up. 

I know that this sounds ridiculous if you have never encountered Jesus as a living leader and active forgiver. But, for me... this song is like being in a spiritual spin class. Where the instructor is leading me into an excercise that I lack the motivation and discipline and know-how to do on my own. Listening to this song has been a spiritual excercise, and the incredible voice on that woman is walking me through the process of opening up inside, and letting a holy fire burn out whatever is left in me, so that I can be an empty vessel that God, in his mercy, can fill to overflowing.

Yesterday was a bad day. Yesterday, I was empty. And I am realizing now that "empty" just means that I am actually full - of all the wrong things. So, yesterday I was stuffed. And I lost it. I absolutely lost my mind. I have a new respect for the phrase " go bananas" because I truly and completely went bananas. Ironically, about 14 bananas were actually involved in this particular incident. I won't go into the whole mess of the thing, but let's just say that lives were saved by the fact that bananas are a soft fruit. If we were talking pineapples, I'd be in jail right now.

It wasn't pretty y'all. My entire dining room was a battle scene, the evidence of our struggle was everywhere. The floor, the table, most of the chairs, the walls, all of it, was caked with smashed banana, and my heart was caked with shame. And while I was on my knees, face down, sobbing in the literal and figurative mess of my life, I heard Tasha Cobbs still playing on my phone. It was at 3:56 into the video and in the song she is begging God to fill her up. 

Fill me up, God

Fill me up, God

Fill me up, God

Thirty times in that section of the song, the phrase, my anthem, is repeated.  

"Somebody ask him," she sings, "I need a fresh annointing... Somebody ask him, fill me again. I need more of you. I've been running on empty. I need you to fill me again. We cry out for more. More of your spirit is what we need. More of your annointing, more of your glory, fill me up. That's what I really want, that's what I really need. I'm so tired of me, I need more of you. I gotta have more of you. "

A couple weeks ago, I was the key-note speaker for a weekend retreat. Next week I go to Michigan for two speaking events, and when I get back home, I have even more events lined up, or maybe not after I publish this post. Either way, I am not selling out arenas or anything, none of these events are necessaily huge or impressive. But, I stand before people and I tell them about my life, I tell them about the wisdom in the Bible, the truths of scripture, but ultimately... I only ever say one thing, that Jesus is the bringer of hope and redemption. That is my only message.

Sure, I write and speak about my life. I talk about parenting a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder. I talk about being a multi-racial, adoptive family. I talk about racism. I talk about the violent end to my brother's life, and my response to his death (#AdamsActs) with you all. I share my family's personal experiences - my daughter's current health struggles, my mistakes and my struggles, about throwing down with bananas, cross-country road trips, general shenanigans, and all the in-between stuff. But, all of that sharing is just a pouring out. It's just an attempt to overflow what God is doing, has ALWAYS done, in my life.

I have nothing to say, I have nothing to write, that isn't about redemption.

People often tell me that I should write a book. There are even times where it feels like it could actually be a dream realized. But the question remains - what would my book be about? 

The answer is redemption. The answer can only ever be redemption.

Because I am empty, and yet I am stuffed. And I am the worst. And I lost my head and I went crazy and I let myself lose sight of who God made me to be. And so much banana was involved. And still, somehow, God still lets me speak to rooms full of people. God still lets me tell you my story. He lets me tell you his story.

Please don't tell me how amazing I am in response to this. Please. If there is ANY good thing in me, anything at all that is inspiring, or encouraging, or worthy of admiring in me then you must know, that is not me at all. I am on the floor covered in fruit. I am dry, and empty, and still sickly full of my self, my shame and my sin. But, still, he uses me. I am not amazing, I am broken and he redeems me for his purpose. And that is the miraculous power of the living God that I serve and rely on. Because if, even for a second, I take my eyes and my hope off of Him... I instantly become part of the broken mess. 

And every time I go to write, or speak to other people there is nothing I am more aware of than my own lack. My shortcomings, my limitations, my total and complete depravity are never far from my mind. The day I lose the awareness of my own need for redemption is the day I have no business writing or speaking to anyone again.

Yesterday was a bad day. A really, really bad day. All of us can relate to that. Anyone parenting a difficult child, or does life with somone who has mental health issues, may be able to relate to some degree. Those of you parenting a child with disordered attachment... you have a banana battle story of your own, I'm certain. And as I kneeled down, filthy and sobbing and ashamed, I begged God - out loud and in front of my empty, hurting child - to fill me up.

"Fill me up God, Fill me up God, Fill me up God"

I do not deserve to write or speak to so many people. I am not worthy to speak a single word about a Bible that I can so easily disregard in a moment of anger or exhaustion or emptiness. But,

That. Is. Redemption.

That in the unlikliest places, that at the unlikliest times, in the unlikliest people, God chooses to fill, to forgive, to heal and to sort it out for good. And as long as he continues to redeem me and fill me and give me another go, I will simply never shut up about it.