Tuesday, October 27, 2015

i only cry on tuesdays

On Tuesdays, I go to "Moms' Group" (yet another thing I once mocked but now thoroughly enjoy).

It's quite an amazing group of ladies from our area who meet in order to learn how to better train up our children and serve our husbands. I have already learned a lifetime of information, and I haven't even been going for a full year.

Furthermore, the community that has been built with this like-minded group as our foundation is amazing. They have been meeting for years, and I have been welcomes as their own with such warmth that I truly feel like I've been with them all along. We learn together, laugh together, and cry together. We share deeply personal (and not-so-personal) struggles, and we often storm heaven with prayers for the sake of others. These ladies are amazing, and they are truly bearing one another's burdens.

Which is why I cry every Tuesday.

You see, I go about my days busily, hopping from one activity to the next. Laundry, folding clothes, dishes, cooking (eh...or not cooking), nursing a baby, working on letters with the boys, officiating scuffles, tying shoelaces, sweeping up crumbs, wiping pee from several places that are not the toilet bowl, picking up clothes, running errands, attempting to exercise, etc.

You get the idea. The list goes on and on, and I'm never truly finished.

I do it and don't really mind doing all of it because it keeps me busy. But in the back of my head there is this one thing: Clementine. She is always on my mind, but I have to place her back there because if I were to actively think of her every second, I surely wouldn't get anything done for all the crying.

But on Tuesdays, these amazing women ask how they can pray for me. Most know about Clementine and automatically ask about her. I don't mind them asking. She's my daughter, (Clementine Kaleo LOTZ, for crying out loud) and I love to talk about her. But when they ask, I have to move her from the back to the front of my mind, and that's extremely painful.

So then I start talking. I can usually get her name out: "Clementine. Please pray for Clementine." But it all goes downhill from there. The chin quiver comes and my eyes fill up and my nose automatically become a leaky dripping faucet. (Why can't I be a beautiful crier like Teri Roy??)

Suddenly, I'm undone.

These ladies are gracious enough to allow me to stumble through simultaneous sniffs and explanations of the latest news. (Usually, we have come off of a conference call or email from our Department of State saying that DRC said kids will be home "soon," which has been said since April and might just be why I am a crazy person right now.)

I usually put her in the back of my mind for six days of the week in order to be strong, be present with my kids who are here, and to get things done. But on Tuesdays, the tears always come.

I am so grateful that I am allowed to do that with these ladies and that they understand that I'm not a crazy person who cries constantly. I hate being vulnerable, and the crying is not only painful because of our long wait for Clementine but also because it is a kick to my pride.

I want people to think I have it all together, for goodness' sake.

But I don't, and I am so thankful that they care deeply and want to be able to pray for us well.

This wait for Clementine is the longest and hardest road I've ever been on, but I'm grateful I'm not crying alone.

Monday, October 19, 2015

the act of mercy that broke our hearts

We are near the two-year anniversary of the loss of "our" twins to dysentery in DRC, and I'm thinking new thoughts about "our" loss.

First of all, "our" twins is such a loose term.

They were never ours biologically. They were never officially ours through adoption. In fact, they were never fully anyone's except for God's. They were God's kids, just as "our" Brody, Brecken, Clementine and Oaklee are really God's kids.

We only knew of them for a month, but we already loved them like our own kids. And as hard as it is to imagine, He loves them--and the kids who are currently in our family--even more than we do.

Which is why I believe I am beginning to make some sense of their seemingly senseless deaths, even though the whole matter is a mystery too great for my brain to comprehend.)

In case you don't remember, dysentery is caused by unclean drinking water. Contaminated drinking water should never be a problem for anyone in the 21st Century, yet it wiped out almost an entire orphanage and the majority of a village. (33 of 52 kids in the orphanage died in this instance. You can learn more about it here.)

We tried to help. I wrote often of the need for clean water solutions. I spent days calling different organizations around the nation to gather information about water purification techniques and costs. Our agency gathered information, as well, and they collected thousands and thousands of dollars of assistance to combat the tragic situation. (Read more about this here and here.)

It was a tricky situation, with multiple children's lives at stake, as well as an entire village of people who were without clean drinking water. Adding to the issue of urgency was the issue of logistics. The village was in a region of DRC that was so elusive that only a plane ride was said to get you there. That plane trip, we were told, was only 90% successful, meaning 1 in 10 planes went down en route. Adding to and compounding the logical issues was the issue of cost. Plane rides cost money. Clean water systems cost plenty of money. Sustainable solutions cost an extraordinary amount of money.

Money, equipment and personnel were sent to assist the orphanage staff in providing clean water to the remaining children. They were sleeping on the floor. They were peeing and pooping on the floor. They were wearing shreds of old cloth as clothing.

The solutions our agency provided--through the help of multiple donors, experts, and thousands of dollars--could still only do so much. They provided clean water solutions with as much sustainability as humanly possible. They provided fresh mattresses and abundant cleaning supplies to wipe out the nasty germs of contamination. They provided formula and extra money to buy food to fill bellies that were bloated with emptiness.

We later learned that the orphanage was a terrible place for children, not only because of the health problems but also because of the way the children were treated. Older children--as young as six years old--were expected to act as mothers to younger children because orphanage workers were either so overloaded or so jaded they couldn't attend to all children's needs. Children were HUNGRY.

The orphanage continued to be dirty and debilitating for children, who were also at the mercy of unsafe conditions outside the orphanage's high walls. (High walls because of the instability of the situation outside its walls. Rioting and violence were commonplace right outside the doors.)

And there was and is nothing our agency can do about any of it. They tried. We tried. The situation kept getting worse. It was no place for children.

So as we approach the two-year-mark of the loss of "our" twins, I am still sad that they died so soon and without the embrace and care of parents. However, I am approaching thankfulness that God spared them the future they would face in that orphanage. With the Exit Letter Suspension--which was supposed to end on September 25, 2014--still in place without an indication of an end-date, there's no telling what they would have had to endure in that orphanage in that region.

We have been waiting for Clementine a long time, but it comforts our weary hearts to know sheis being cared for well in her foster home.

God loves his kids, and like most parents, He knows what's best for them, even if we may not understand it.

I surely don't understand why people have to endure such hardships, why unclean drinking water is still a problem, why moms die in labor, why children are being held oceans away from loving parents and families who could lavish love upon them, why children die in the womb, or why parents don't care for the children they have.

But sometimes--sometimes--I think God allows apparent tragedies as an outpouring of His mercy. Those twins were spared at least two years of abundantly difficult and love-starved life, possibly more. They didn't have to endure hungry belly rumblings and the dire need for affection and the stench of other dying children and the pain of life without a family to value and protect their little lives.

Although I still grieve for the loss of those precious lives from this Earth, I think their deaths due to dysentery were an act of His mercy.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

that time i met my bff

Two weeks ago was my birthday. Let's not talk about how old I am. It's irrelevant. It's depressing.

Enough of that.

On my birthday, I got to listen to Jen Hatmaker speak at the D6 Conference. She, of course, spoke hard truths without mincing words: Stop being a consumer in church; Serve the marginalized; Let's stop putting on a show in our churches; Down with over-programing; Pleated Dockers are a no-go; etc.

Our church's Family Equipping Minister had never heard Jen (of course we're on a first-name basis) speak before. She was knocked out of her socks, proclaiming that Jen should have done an altar call when she was done. (Several people would have relented wearing pleated Dockers that night, that's for sure.)

But really, Jen spoke the truth that we all need to hear. Some of us (myself) need to hear it daily. Stop putting on a show. Serve people who can never repay you. Love people deeply. Community is key.

That stuff sounds awesome, but it's oh-so hard to do. It requires constant questions: Do I have time? Money? Resources? Energy? Knowledge? (The answer is almost always yes, but we often don't want to ask the questions, so we don't. Instead, we ignore them and carry on in our own happiness, ignorant of the joy that could come when we lay our own desires aside.)

For example, Jen even offered up her church's strategy for small groups: Meet two nights a month, serve together once a month, invite others (to build relationships) to your own home once a week. Flexible, service-oriented, evangelism and discipleship focused, relationship-driven. (Side note: Brad and I liked it, and we're already trying it in our new Disciple-Making Group.)

But back to my main point: Jen is my new bff.

I knew I would be meeting her, which caused me to experience some adverse symptoms similar to those you might experience on a first date: sweaty palms, overthinking my wardrobe, playing out several conversation starters in my mind, imagining myself rattling off multiple pithy comments in a row and making her face hurt from laughing, worrying about whether or not I smelled like breast milk. (Ok, that last one wasn't something I ever worried about on a first date.)

Because of the symptoms listed above, I had nearly chickened out of speaking to her by the time I was supposed to go meet her. In fact, I had talked myself out of attempting to approach her altogether. You see, I like to admire things from a distance, to fantasize about my perfection in handling a meeting with of one of my heroes, to pretend THEY are lucky to be meeting me. If I were to actually meet one of them, I would surely mess it up. (See my explanation here.)

My friend even had to send me a pep talk via text: "Go get it, Lotz."

I was lucky Brad was there, because that man fears no one. He would jump at the chance to talk religion with the Pope, football with Brett Favre, or hunting with Ted Nugent. He has never been embarrassed, and "shy" isn't even on his descriptive radar.

I, on the other hand, would honestly rather watch everything unfold while hiding under my cardigan in a corner somewhere in the distance.

The great news: She was actually a normal person. I expected nothing but authenticity from her, but STILL, she is a superstar so you never really know.

Did she order special towels from the conference to keep her complexion spotless and glowing? Did she require 15 escorts to and from her limo upon arrival? Did she set a time limit on smalltalk?

No, no, no.

When she spread her arms wide for a hug, I (even my non-hug-loving self) actually reached in happily to receive one (until I began obsessing about the fact that I probably smelled like breast milk, which is oh-so-unfortunate-but-highly-feasible).

She spoke to Brad about her husband and Hugh Halter and told Brad she'd be praying for our church and the important decisions to be made. She then oohed and ahhed over Oaklee, kissing her on her tiny toes and holding her close, then apologizing for having zero personal boundaries. (Who cares that the Pope kissed that Pope Baby...Jen Hatmaker basically anointed my baby. That's a Top Ten Life Moment right there.)

"The anointing"
Pretty sure she's saying "for the Love..." right here.
Here's the kicker: She is a real person. A very real person. When she said she'd pray about our church, I truly believed her. When she reached out for a hug, she squeezed me as a friend. Her smile: Truly warm. She isn't just writing and saying pretty words that sound wonderful and make her seem like a superhero to the nations. She's doing it.

Serving the poor? She's doing it. Welcoming strangers into her house in the name of Jesus? She's doing it. Living uncomfortably to become more aware of the struggles of others and the holiness of God? She's doing that, too.

Sharing about the struggles of living with teenagers and hating on high-wasted jean shorts and complimenting her grandma's boobs and detailing the struggles of pastors and the church...she's doing that, too.

And all of this together--proof of her authenticity--adds to my love of her and the Truth she shares.

So of course, we're bff's. (Have we talked since? Of course [via Twitter].)

I have included proof below for those of you who don't believe me. BFF's, I tell you.