Friday, January 30, 2015

2 Things Every Parent Must Say

The conversation around the dinner table was no different than every other night before. The girls each shared a story (or multiple stories if your Lu, because she just can't help herself) from their day and updated us on all the drama that swarms their growing worlds. Oh the drama. As per usual, we had to remind Anderson in between stifled roars of laughter, that farting, burping and toilet talk, while hilarious and a VERY normal part of a little boys boy's world, did not have a place set at the dinner table.  We assured him as he pouted, "When the dishes are cleared, you are welcome to re-tell the story of your bathroom adventures!" The girls hid their faces in their hands so as to not be deemed "contributing artists".

As my eyes circled the table, trying to take in these very brief and fleeting moments, my heart caught in my throat and threatened to pour over into my eye-lids as my spirit whispered, "Could they possibly know, could they possibly know all the places in my heart that they hold? Could they possibly understand in their maturing ways the irreversible path they have tread on their parent's hearts?  Most importantly, could they possibly fathom how deep and wide and long my love is for them? Do my children know deep in their gut and all the way to their toes just how loved they are? When they were tiny, hanging onto my legs every 1.2 seconds, cupping my face in their hands, and sucking every ounce of life out of my bones, "I love you" came freely and often, because well.... their was a lot of togetherness.  But as the canvas of our time together begins to stretch thinner and thinner and my legs are bare of their tiny hands, are the "I love you's" so engraved in their beings that the white noise of lies can be muted? As the drama swells and everyday questions of life, love, and pain begin to buoy in their minds, will our "I love you's" rise to the top and sustain them? Do they know that our love for them has NOTHING to do with them, rather our love has EVERYTHING to do with who they ARE, and they are OURS. They are Littlejohns, and that's all they'll ever need to be to receive an unending well of love from us.

#1 As a parent, no matter WHAT stage of life you are in, keep saying, " I LOVE YOU!" Our kids are desperate to hear it. It is one of the few things that will soften the blows of this dark and heavy world and keep the bridge between their heart and ours open for passage.

#2  As a parent, no matter WHAT stage of life you are in, tell your kids that you have screwed up, that you currently screw up, and that you will continue to screw up.

I'm not sure what it is about confessing my brokenness to our kids that paralyzes me, but I have learned that just because something is hard and uncomfortable doesn't mean it is not worthy and helpful. Say "I'm sorry!" Our precious kids need to know they are not alone in the screwed-up department. Sometimes I think we fear if we retrace our bad and painful choices in front of our children, we give them "permission" to follow in those steps. But in all reality, when we humble ourselves and offer vulnerability to our children, we can gracefully and honestly warn them to dangerous paths that might allure them in the future. Our kids need to HEAR about our biggest mistakes. Our kids need to see us RECITE our weaknesses. Our kids need for us to NAME the hard places in our lives so that generational bondage can end, and they can walk a road more full of freedom. We cannot spend a lifetime attempting to hide our roughest places from our children, they know. They might not know all the details and all the words, but our children see even what we are trying to forget. And in the cloud of hiding, the hearts of our children are at stake. There is so much comfort painted all over the lives of our children when they know that mom and dad are real people, with real mistakes, and a real story of redemption to share.

Katie, Julia, Lucy and Anderson,

It will be years before your heart can possibly process the way your daddy and I feel about each of you. In the meantime, you are everything to us! We are painfully proud of you, not just because of what you do, but because of who you are. You are our children, one of our greatest gifts from God! You bare our name, you dwell within our walls, you fill our dinner table and empty our pantry. You write stories of precious memories all over our hearts and lives. You fill our arms and dirty our floors. You drive us insane and whittle us down to sappy tears.

We are broken people living altogether in our brokenness. We have screwed up, we do screw up, and as long as we breathe, we will continue to screw up. We have made foolish mistakes that have left wounds on our hearts and in our home. You have suffered at the hand of some of those mistakes, we are sorry, will you forgive us?

In this life, we have but a moment, and of all the people we get to do life with, God so sweetly placed you with us. We adore Him! We adore!!

All of our love,
Mama and Daddy


Friday, January 23, 2015

How Long Should You Grieve Hard Things?!

Something happened in me yesterday. A culmination of a bunch a different circumstances came together and each one took my trembling chin, my tear stained cheeks, my blurry eyes, and my heavy eyelids and pointed in the same direction, the direction of hope.

The last five years of life, I feel like I was asked to walk a road littered with more pain, grief, sadness, shock, depression and darkness then ever before. A deep, deep winter of the soul. My pain, I know can easily be eclipsed by the stories of horror that you my dear readers have walked through. So sometimes I feel embarrassed for even bringing up my hurts.  But I've learned that life isn't about comparing our wounds, rather it's entering into each other's wounds and sitting in the mess together. Without comparison plaguing the space.

I'm still a little unsure how to best explain what took place in me yesterday, but in order for all of this to take root, I have to write about it no matter how broken and incomplete it might be. 

Julia got her ears pierced over Christmas. The first pull of the gun on her right ear didn't even make her cry, but immediately her body tensed in my arms as she anticipated the next pull. Therefore, when her left ear was pierced, her body jumped and her tears flowed. The pain could have been measured exactly the same in each ear. The gun did not shoot harder or sting worse, rather her body was waiting for it. 

The last five years, my body has been tensed in anticipation of the next pull. It hasn't been an intentional thing I directed my heart to do, but a natural response to a waterfall of hurt. I didn't even recognize I was doing it until yesterday. The heart can only take so much loss before it begins to self protect. My heart has been self protecting. I've lost a lot in the last five years. Each loss hurt worse than the one before because my body was raw and tense, I could only anticipate that more pain was coming. Even when there were chapters of calm and steady, I just knew around the bend more pain was coming. So I prepared myself the way I thought I should prepare myself, I waited to see the result of what God was going to do in my life. For as long as my soul has known Him, I have unreservedly trusted Him. I have rested in His sovereignty over and over again, knowing that whatever He was doing in and through me was right and good. Nothing over the last five years has changed His faithfulness to me. He has been unchanging, and has revealed Himself and His glory to me in a way that required a road of suffering. Last night a friend shared that sometimes the weight of suffering is actually what "sinks" us to the bottom of the ocean, only to find the pearl and the prize that await us there; Jesus. Ugh, the last five years have had a lot of sinking written into the script of my life. But I wouldn't trade it. Not a single a moment, not a single hurt, not a single tear, not a single betrayal, not a single meltdown, not a single shred of the despair that threatened to suffocate me ....because the way I met Jesus on the bottom of the ocean floor makes what I am about to share with you even more rich to my soul.

Sometimes in the middle of grief we are only left with enough energy to say, "Yes Lord! Here I am!" The pain can numb us so bad that all we have to offer on the altar of worship is the act of resting and trusting in His holiness, in who He says He is. Whether or not we actually feel like it. There I have found my Refuge. But in my resting, in my trusting, a part of me died. A part of me resigned itself. Part of me stopped hoping. In the midst of constant bad news being delivered to the door step of my heart, I just stopped hoping in good gifts from God. Justifying this death in my heart by stretching "God's sovereignty" over it like a band-aid over cancer. "To live is to hurt" was my banner of the last five years of my life.

But something happened yesterday. I was reading a book called, "Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet" (GO BUY IT RIGHT NOW) and the author was speaking about creation. How our sweet Savior spoke into being the entire universe that lies around us, but carved out this niche' for Adam. He left the naming of the animals for Adam. Not because our God lacks creativity and couldn't do it Himself, but because He wanted Adam to be an active part of what He was doing. He desired deep in His majestic being, for Adam to come along side of Him and own his place by the King of the World.

And in that moment something awakened in me that's been so dead. God whispered to my heart, "Sara, come name the animals with Me!" It broke me. It was the dearest thing my heart had heard in five years. I trembled, because you see I don't even remember how to name the good things anymore. Because I'm terrified if I begin to name the good things somehow I'll lose again. Pain can do that, pain can scar us for eternity.

For the first time in a REALLY long time, I don't just want be the result of God what is doing. I am ready to name the animals again. I am ready to take my place along side of the King of the World and actively participate in what He is doing. Not because I have to, not because I am being told to, not because my salvation or God's opinion of me depends on it, but because I WANT to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of living! 

I have clung to Psalm 27:13-14 the last five years, and yesterday I read it so differently.
"I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of living. Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the Lord."

I had clung to words like "despair, wait, strong, courage." But yesterday my eyes handcuffed the words goodness and living. Two things that have been oh so dormant in my life. And in a single moment, a raindrop of hope fell across what was a barren desert for far too long. And just like a little girl pulls the ear of her father down to her level, I had the courage to ask the Lord to see His goodness in the land of the LIVING, without being terrified. Oh, I have tasted and I can bear witness to seeing the Lord's goodness in the land of death and pain, He has met me there up close and personal for the last five years, but my heart so desperately needs to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of LIVING! 

And so today, in a way much like a baby begins to walk, I am going to take a step towards naming the animals in my life. If I was being honest, first, I have to open my eyes from this long winter's nap and find the animals.
24 hours later, hope has smeared itself all over my life. And it tastes so good! 

I cannot wait to tell you the names of my animals!

To Him and Him alone,

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

I'm Engaged, AGAIN!

It was a Sunday, January 20th, 2001. President George W. Bush, was being sworn in as the 43rd president of the United States. It was cold in Kansas City, and he wanted to take a walk at the plaza.

It was pre Joshua's death, pre 9/11, pre Shaylin's death, pre Mama's diagnosis/death, pretty much 'PRE' anything extremely "difficult" in my life. I was a bubble pretty much wrapped in sweet naivety. The biggest loss in my life up until this point was when, at the age of 13, I learned Andrew had smoked a cigarette. And we wonder where Lucy's anti-tobacco campaign found its roots :)!

I wanted to be his more than I had wanted anything before. I wanted his name, I wanted his companionship, friendship and I wanted people to naturally say our names "Mark and Sara" together, for the rest of our lives. I wanted to be engaged to HIM!

And so, whilst standing by a fountain that had been turned off for the winter, he dropped to one knee and asked me to his wife. I was 19, barely old enough to vote and not old enough to purchase alcohol, but wise enough to not hesitate for one second and say, "ABSOLUTELY!"

That night I was engaged to him, having no idea our own personal winter loomed just ahead. And the fountains of dancing in naivety would vanish in but a moment.

Fourteen years later, one of the greatest adventures of my life is striving to stay engaged. Engaged in his mood, engaged in his work, engaged in his hobbies, engaged in his strengths and weaknesses (yes he has plenty!.....We both do!) engaged in his parenting, engaged in his friendships, engaged in his frustrations, engaged in his joys, engaged in his losses, engaged in his gains, engaged in his past, engaged in his future, engaged in his healing path, engaged in his conversations, engaged in his life. I screw it up plenty and disengage far too often. On my best days, I partially listen. On my worst days, I don't hear him at all. But far too often, my eyes glance down while I perform the mundane and I see the ring that sits on my hand that HE put there, and I'm reminded to beat ahead with many blows to stay engaged.

Happy Fourteenth Year of Engagement!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Why You Shouldn't Get Married

Before you read, please know my heart. I know so many of you have been wrongly wounded in abusive marriages. You have been abandoned and sexually, physically, mentally or emotionally abused. God never intended for marriage to include the equation of abuse. This post is NOT for you. This post is to not heap hot coals on your head. This post is not to burn you with condemnation and judgement. This post is for marriages that do not include habitual patterns and cycles of abuse. While it is true, we are all capable of abuse on any level, many of our brothers and sisters actually live in the hell of DAILY abuse. Again, this is not for you. Let your heart be at rest. Instead, today I pray that your heart would hope, and that you would be freed to find a marriage that does NOT include abuse.

I sat on my precious porch, built by the very hands of my sweet man. The hands that so gently started holding mine nearly 15 1/2 years ago, now build a place for my body and soul to retreat. For as long as I have known him, the mysteries of what his hands can build still amaze me. You see relationships need security AND mystery. When a relationship is ALL security we get bored and apathetic, there is nothing to anticipate with a gleam of hope in our eyes. Every thing is predictable and stagnant, and we begin to "stick it out" in our marriage instead of "sticking together" in our marriages.  When a relationship is all mystery, nothing is predictable or consistent, therefore there is no foundation and no trust. The consequence of a relationship that is all mystery or all security is the same; stagnant relationships that do not grow or change.

On that same porch my husband built, the phone lines between French Camp, MS and Salado, TX carried this message, "I don't even know if I can recommend marriage to my kids!" My life long friend laughed. She knew exactly what I was saying, no clarification needed.

Very few people are willing to shoot straight and tell you that marriage can be the most wounding relationship you will enter on this earth. The way becoming one widens the margin of vulnerability and pain, far exceeds any other margin I offer to other people on this earth. Bottom line, intentionally or unintentionally, Mark has the ability to wound me far quicker and far deeper than any other person, simply because I love him far deeper than any other person. Consequently, intentionally or unintentionally, I have the ability to wound Mark far quicker and far deeper than any other person, simply because he loves me far deeper than any other person.

Mr. Nazareth was right, love in fact DOES HURT!

Without a doubt, I know why people divorce. I 100% understand how a person can walk away from their marriage.

There is so much false expectations about what marriage is and what it is suppose to be, that it astounds me that any one stays married. Oh the pedestal we fall off of during the opening years of marriage. Oh the stripping away of what we thought marriage was going to be, as we enter into what marriage actually is. I've said it numerous times, and I still believe it is THE BEST definition of marriage:
"Marriage is the understanding and promising to minister to your spouse's weaknesses for the rest of your life; regardless of change."

This definition always makes me weak in the knees.

It is mostly impossible to know all there is to know about someone before you marry them. There is a significant amount of false advertising going on during dating and engagement. I'm not accusing people of being dishonest, I did it too. Rather it takes some serious time living under the same roof to figure out who you have really married and all their dysfunction. Marriage is a journey of learning each other's weaknesses and strengths thru the uncomfortable, painful, and messy road of life and continuing to say, "I do!" at every turn. It is the hardest "I do" you speak day to day. Sometimes these words are motivated by the warmest thing you've ever encountered, and sometimes these words are motivated by sheer determination. Sometimes these words drive us from a place overflowing with giddy love and passion, and sometimes these words drive us from the place of grit, grim, and perseverance. Sometimes these words inspire us in the steady walk of companionship, and sometimes these words inspire us in fiercest storm of drudgery. Sometimes these words are said in the blooming spring of life, and sometimes these words are said in the desert of death and disappointment.

The common thread? We keep saying it, regardless of whether we feel like it or not.

Sometimes my marriage is running in the right direction. Sometimes my marriage is walking in the right direction. Sometimes my marriage is crawling in the right direction. And sometimes my marriage is bloodied and beat up, simply laying in the right direction.


Mark Adam,

I keep saying, "I do" because I am fueled by a Source that refuses to give up on me, on us. I know without a doubt I will always say "I do",  not because I am sure of my own covenant or yours, not because our life is predictable and we are shielded from life shattering pain and separation, but because I am 100% confident in the Source that fuels both our hearts. That Source will never run dry. Never. And if we remain in the posture of even laying in the right direction, regardless of our status, He will abide in us and we in Him. I want Him more than I want you, and that makes me want you even more!!

Let's go build something!

I do,

I chose this picture today because it's beautiful-imperfect. I'm in a hospital gown (you can't be more un-stylish in one of those) just minutes after given birth to Julia (the physically most painful thing I'd ever done up until that point) and he still chose me. He chose to climb over the railings of a hospital bed and cuddle my body seeing all he had seen in the horrors of  "that just came out of my wife's body!" I remember this moment so clearly. The tears roll without boundaries.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Predictions of Pain in 2015

We do pain embarrassingly bad. In our fast-food, drive-thru world, the second we begin to experience physical pain we seek out something to numb it.  Even more dangerous, the second we emotionally feel pain we seek out something to numb it; food, alcohol, work, all kinds of electronic screens, people, silence, relationships, noise, toys, games, music, drugs, sports, sex, porn, church, busyness, isolation, play, shopping, hunting, good works, servitude, exercise, pursuit of wealth, pursuit of happiness, control, indifference, etc...etc... the list is endless in all the ways we seek to numb our pain. Even the seemingly benign ways of numbing our pain are detrimental to sustaining the life blood of our hearts. We are ALL guilty as charged.

Recently in a FB post, I asked people to give me two words, one to describe 2014 and one to describe their hope for 2015. Out of 66 responses, not ONE person predicted any type of painful adjective for 2015. Again, NOTHING WRONG with "hopeful" adjectives, but we can be rather naive when we do not calculate a measured amount of pain that will inevitably seep into our lives. Out of the 66 responses, nearly half used a painful or "non-hopeful" adjective (determined by MOI) to describe 2014. This is not some deep analytical survey, nor an indictment on ANY ONE who answered. It was just real words from real people doing real life.  Do I think that EACH of us will encounter a painful experience in 2015? Absolutely. My personal experience confirms this. It's January 2nd, and you do not want to see the pain I have already inflicted on those I adore the most, and consequently the raw wounds already oozing in my soul. CRAP! I'm such mess! 

The rough estimate of deaths in 2014 is 60 million. That is 60 million moments when someone or a whole lot of someone's felt the full weight and paralyzing darkness of loss. These are the recorded deaths. Many societies are not real forth coming with their stats.

Now imagine calculating in every additional moment someone felt pain from all the other dance floors we find ourselves on; disappointment, betrayal, confusion, abuse, lies, loss of trust, hurt feelings, medical diagnoses, scandal, false testimony, failure, suffering, OH THE SUFFERING, oppression, addiction, bondage, captivity.. I cannot possibly list them all. But I have come to the conclusion this year more than ever,  the common tie that binds ALL the hearts of humanity is pain. I know, FOR REAL? Total Debbie Downer. But wait, please hear ME! Let us all wrap our hearts and minds around the fact that whomever we come in contact with in this world THEY TOO HAVE FELT PAIN! We have a common experience automatically with ALL (past, present and future) man-kind. When skin color, religion, sexual orientation, geographic location, vocation, socio-economic status, marital status, parental status, seek to divide and conquer us, no matter how quick we are to neatly categorize our every encounter, the common denominator is pain.

I find this astonishingly beautiful.

No, I am not some glutton for punishment and pain. No, I do not get some sick high on watching people struggle and hearing about their pain. Quite the opposite. I'm actually so deeply convicted and inspired. When the headline for the entire world continues to chatter about all the ways we are starkly different and inhabitable, yet each and every day we have this unique and stunning opportunity to discuss this beautiful-messy thing we all have in common... pain.

But remember where we started? We are embarrassingly bad at pain. From the time we are little we are taught to cover our pain, get over our pain, move on from our pain, deny our pain, keep our pain a secret, sweep our pain under the rug and are shamed over and over again for being so weak to even feel pain. Heaven forbid someone actually express their feelings and when one risks such taboo behavior they are automatically condemned to the "over-dramatic, over emotional, unstable, and reactive" club. I know, I carry a life time membership card to this club.  And so we have mass produced generation after generation who can not speak the language of pain, but  have perfected the Great Masquerade. All the social media outlets have compounded the Mayberry Masquerade we now all call reality. I mean, when was the last time you posted a totally nasty, fat picture of yourself? Masquerade. Oh, I'm guilty too. No innocence here. I crop, touch up and delete more pictures than I post :)

I can end this post here, and man it would be like the most depressing piece I've EVER written! Unfortunately, so many hearts and lives just dwell in this place of depression and hopelessness for always. I know it, because I have pitched my tent there too. I have allowed my days to end with the raw pain of life and no vision of the amen.

What do I mean?

In the face of pain, (tiny pain and HUGE pain) the only way I have survived and learned to embrace it's sacred ways and not fear the pain that will most assuredly call my in 2015, is by placing myself in the posture of amen.

Amen means, "so be it!" Not a cranky, indifferent, hardened, amen. But a protected resignation to a Majestic Savior, AMEN!  Not a sick interpretation of what the world calls the "submission amen", but in the intimate chambers of knowing and being known, AMEN! I have said it before, and I will proclaim it my entire life, when the Lord has asked me to join Him on the dance floor of pain, He has revealed His unspeakable glory in the most miraculous ways when the dance hurts the most.

God is so good at pain. He is so tender and delicate when pain rises to the top. We are often kicking and screaming so loud that we miss Him. Or we've numbed so effectively and distracted so intrinsically, we convince ourselves we don't need Him. And we miss entirely the amazing purpose of pain, because we refuse to let our hearts wrestle with His until we bleed. (Allender)

"An encore of amen" is my personal resolution for 2015.

As the new year begins, my sweet Jesus bows and asks for my hand, and as I posture myself in a curtsy, He sweeps me up into His faithful arms of refuge and I inch my way up to His ear to whisper, "so be it!"

So be it, precious readers. So be it!