Because it's her birthday, and my arms ache to hold her.

{Originally posted August 2013}

You're four, now.

Balloons flood your hall, while pink and white streamers dance along your doorway.

And you twirl...faster...faster...faster, as if you're spinning to capture the taste, the elation...

Of peace.

And as you reach the peak of your movement, you just as quickly crash with the wails of a lover who has forgotten the very definition of love...

Because your definition of love is unreachable.

And you scream with the horror of men who stand among the bloody battle...

Because at four, you've survived your own war-scarred battles...again, and again, and again.

So, I reach for you, striving with all that I am to hush away the symptoms, longing to rip away the roots of the darkness that haunts you...

But removing those roots would remove the very core of our Cinderella. Of the story you've been given.

I move towards your soul, steadily seeking you through your darting eyes,

And you roar with the anger of injustice that sees no remedy.

Pushing away the safety before you, you claw, tearing at your skin, but really...

You're shredding the scaly layers of your tale, searching to remember how you reached this point...

of sadness,

of loneliness,

of fear.

But you can't rip enough away to remove the pain of your soul, no matter how deeply you scrape.

And realizing this infuriates you, with a rage that was never created to be known by you...

So you turn to me, kicking, screaming, flailing against the one thing you know will cradle you when the battle is lost, when the fighting has subsided.

My taking it only makes you angrier, until you collapse. War torn and weary, you whisper,

My heart's so tired, Mommy.

And if I could, Baby, I would take the deepest cut; I would claw through the unbearable pain that haunts you in the days, and chases your dreams at night, but I can't.

I wasn't made to do that.

So I take you to the One who did it for me.

I wrap you in my arms and rock you to the whispers of, Yes, Jesus loves you. Yes, Jesus loves you.

Between your tears you cling tighter, Mommy, I'm so sorry. I just don't want to hurt anymore inside. 

Shhh...Yes, Jesus loves you...

And my heart strains to feel my Savior who is cradling me under His tender wings. My ears strive to hear the whispers of His name over my soul so that I can look into your eyes once again and tell you...

That you were never meant for this. You were made for Jesus.

I love you with all that I am, and I always will.


Dear Church, You are called to foster care.

{The following reflection is not an effort to make foster care ultimate, but to encourage us to give pause as a Covenant body to the reality that the ministry of foster care is inescapable. It is already knocking on our doors, waiting to be known and recognized.}


Calling {noun} ~ a summons or an invitation; a command

I sat with a number of pastors and leaders from various churches as they listened to stories from the world of foster care.

One raised his hand and said, I understand this is important, but we're already doing great mission and mercy work in our church. We're not all called to be involved in foster care.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ ~

Foster care is not simply another ministry to add to your productivity list.

And, the extent of foster care ministry is not foster parenting.

Foster care is the tentacles of almost every mercy ministry within your church. The children in foster care represent the addicted, the imprisoned, the trafficked, the abused and neglected.

They reflect divorce, immigration, single parent homes, and the unemployed.

They carry the stories of parents who are homeless, churchless, widowed and broken.

They are little ones who are weighed with special needs, illiteracy, and teenage pregnancy.

They are not invisible or far away.

She is the child sitting by your own at the lunch table.

She is the strange kiddo who crawled up in your lap at a restaurant and put her hand between your legs.

He's the child who kicked your kid in the face at soccer practice.

And the one always in the Principal's office when you're up at the school.

It's the problem child at VBS, and the reason no one will sign up for that particular Sunday school class.

And it's the family who has taken up the call to love these kids, yet their marriage, relationships and connection to your Church body is sinking.

Dear Church, you are called to foster care. In fact, you cannot escape it.

Within our city, our country, and our world, we, as followers of Jesus Christ, are commanded to be "as the men of Issachar, who studied and understood their times and knew what Israel should do." ~ I Chronicles 12:32.

Our journey of foster care ministry has forced us to become versed in our country's realm of welfare, disability, illegal immigration, citizenship, child support, homelessness, sexual abuse, education and the nature of our legal system.

My friends, if the Church is not about believing the name of Jesus is powerful enough to set the oppressed free and loose the chains of injustice, then we have chosen the wrong kind of fast...or so Isaiah once said.

If we are not about feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the wanderer, and clothing the naked, then we are missing the spaces into which God the Father is inviting us to break forth like the dawn, to display the weight of His glory and righteousness, to be as His incarnation here on earth.

We do not do these things because it earns us a place at His table.

We embrace being slaves to righteousness because His great mercy and faithfulness has set us free to be emptied because of His love so that His name may be proclaimed among the nations.

If our churches are not for the broken, then for whom were they created?

For we are all broken and fractured, seeking the only One who can make us whole again.

Friend, Pastor, Leader, and Teacher...

You are called as a Church Body to be aware of the foster care world because only you can bring the One who makes all things possible to an impossible world.

And foster care is an impossible world.


The Final Hours!

Don't miss this!

I love my social workers, like in a deep way.

I have the most incredible workers on earth. Literally.

But there are days, when even they just don't get it. Just as there are things, I don't get about their calling.

There are moments, when I crave to be around other foster or adoptive mamas who have faced the darkness, the trauma, the baggage, the joys and funnies ~ and they're still living to tell the story because they know the One who has led them.

There are times when I want to be with another person, and simply know that she sees beyond the things I'm saying or laughing and crying at, and she understands, without me saying, there is a quiet, sober grief that lies deep in my soul, as I carry around the death of Christ in this calling for the life of Christ to abound.

When I have those times of being with other mamas who don't need a back story or head count, I sometimes will weep quietly with joy, to be reminded of the One who has called us together as we recount the stones and ebenezers of our journeys in this calling, and remind one another that we have never been alone.

I crave times like that.

But, with 7-10 kiddos on any given day, those seasons are few and far between, unless I plan for them.

So, plan with me :)

September 5th-6th, I'll be at Altar 84's Unfailing Love Retreat, right here in Birmingham!

If you register by today, you earn a FREE t-shirt.

This is also the FINAL day to book your fabulous Ross Bridge resort hotel room at a discounted rate!

This retreat is being established and led by women who are answering God's high calling for them to prepare a place for adoptive, foster, and orphan care mommas, to come and be reminded that "His yoke is easy and His burden is light," even in the midst of this broken, beautiful mess of orphan care that we wade through.

Do miss this. You need it. I need it. 

Let's be refreshed together.

Because of the One who restores our souls,


Removing the Mask...

O Lord, You have searched me and you know me.
~ Psalm 139:1

I play the part well. 

Don't we all?

Those of us born into this first world of affluence...

Birthed into an arena of privilege.

We delicately craft our masks for the ball.

Fashioned with glitz and flair, anything to keep one another from looking,

From seeing, what lies beneath the shell.

Because what is hidden are the truths that haunt us...

The whispers that awaken our minds in the early morning hours of the night. 

And as we rise to embrace the chaos...

We have somehow owned the false tragedy that to be a Christian is to wear the glamourous mask well...

All the while stifling the seeping darkness, the aching to be deeply known...

To be able to fall at the altar filthy, wreaking of perfumed stench, blemished and broken.

We bite the bullet that silences our souls, purchasing the weapon that tells us...

You will never be enough.

You must be more.

And as we dance our appropriate dances, a hungry world awaits.

Our children watch and study the moves that win our applause.

And a Father's arms reach longingly.

For even the darkness is light to Him.

And our little ones flee in rebellion because they too learn to repeat the mantra,  I will never be enough.

And the broken lost lose heart because all the pennies they scrape together could never earn them a place at the ball, though they would give their lives for it.

Failing to understand that to wear the mask is to sell the soul.

Friend, remove your mask with me.

Know me, and be known.

Perhaps our place on the ladder has heavied our poverty of soul.

Dance with me.

Not the scripted advancement, purposed with an end.

But with abandon and gracious delight...

Twirling to the cadence of the One from whose presence we can never flee.

...That for which you were made.

The World is watching. 

They are waiting on the edge, straining to hear the ancient song stifled by our masks of religion and duty.

They are searching for the tune that reminds them they are fearfully and wonderfully made, designed in a secret place, hemmed in on the wings of the dawn.

So remove your mask with me and dance in His beauty ~


Ancient Paths

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
~ Luke 5:16

It's the end of a long silence.

The closing of our intentional summer.

I've been quiet on this front...on so many fronts.

In the last months, Jamie and I have found ourselves at this crossroads.

The newness of our calling is gone. We've experienced the firsts, seen God's hand in beautiful ways...

The goodbyes still ache, but they are expected.

The hellos are tragic, but we've learned to prepare.

The grief is deep, but we understand how to walk it.

Yet, this ministry remains so hard.

When the call comes that the child who once called you Mama is returning to care, it doesn't fit into a "box."

When you hear she's been abused again...

The story has repeated itself once more...

When their mama calls to tell you that DHR is beating on her door another time, and she's launching her Hail Mary.

Foster care doesn't feel good.

And this summer ~ in the midst of the sweltering days ~ I've felt this ache to be uncalled.

To return to the simple.

To throw up my hands in cynicism and say they were right...it's not worth it.

We've shared this with people we love ~ who love us ~ and to be honest, the responses haunt me...

You've done your duty. It's okay to back out.

Your season of ministry is finished. Good job. You've worked hard. It's enough that it should last you for a while.

I told you; your efforts would never change anything. These people are different. They are hopeless.

The words fell like daggers to the heart.

So we withdrew for this season, to the lonely places of our hearts, to cry out to our Father.

And He whispered, I am making all things new.


He is restoring the ancient paths...
Rebuilding the age-old foundations...
Unloosing generations of bondage.

Ancient Paths Counseling
You see all of us experience new things...the fresh marriage, the first years as a parent, a career...
His love for us.

But the newness fades with passing days...

The things that delighted us begin to feel like burdens, and Satan twists our excitement to cynicism through the web of ingratitude.

This does not mark the end of our calling...it cannot.

It establishes the beginning of our depth, our pursuit of the ancient paths, when we truly begin to understand the Alpha and Omega.

In the last month I've had three different foster families contact me saying that they are done; this is too hard...They aren't like us.

I've talk with a mama who said her adoption was a mistake. She must let her child go.

I've wept with wives who have said the marriage can't be fixed. It's the end of the line.

Friends, there is no poetic way to say this...

It is not about us, our feelings, or our comfort. 

It is about Jesus.

We are working to display a weight of eternal glory, following our Savior who for the joy set before Him endured the Cross so that we may have life, and life abundantly.

But that does not mean we can simply bow out.

Young or old; rich or poor; educated or uneducated...we do not have the privilege to turn a blind eye to the broken.

We are agents of His mercy, catalysts of change for the Kingdom of God....

The continuing incarnation of Jesus Christ still here on earth.

You are called to the sufferer.

You are commanded to bring the Hope you have been given to weary ones.

You are challenged to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, be a voice for the voiceless, give water to the thirsty, and visit the destitute.

This does not save you, but as you feast on the abundance of the One who longs for you, you will long to make Him known to the nations.

Press into the Father.

Return to the Ancient Paths.

We have.

And in the end His voice is certain, the Lumpkins are missionaries to this strange world of foster care.

Our being, our marriage, our family was designed for this.

Where is He calling you to return to the Ancient Paths?


The Boundary Lines

This weekend, between vomit and pink eye, Jamie and I watched the documentary film 112 Weddings.

In the movie, a wedding videographer visited eight of the couples whose weddings he had filmed years before; the longest marriage being 19 years.

Some had divorced; some were finding marriage convenient for tax and legal purposes. All noted the central theme of children being a driving factor to "make the relationship work."

But more than anything, all lacked deep abiding vision within their union.

Marriage was simply another option, the next step in life.

Void of calling, purpose or ministry. 

My heart ached for the families in limbo. Jamie and I have never hidden our marriage struggles. In fact, we share them openly for they have been and are a penetrating catalyst in Christ's pursuit of us.

In light of that, the last two weeks have been messy.

So much so we've found ourselves wondering if somehow we misheard God on this route to our ministry, to the spaces we felt we heard Him whispering to our souls to follow in faith.

I've thrown pillows against the wall and wailed, How could God be calling anyone to a lifetime of this?

As I often do, I turned on Jamie and screamed that foster care was his idea.

We cried and prayed, and as we always do, we ended in the same place, surrender from our knees.

I have to allow myself to go to that place every so often. To be real with the cost.

I don't think that's a sin. I think it's an acknowledgement of our call.

A re-commitment. A weighing of the balance.

When I stood beside my hot man on that day 13 years ago, this life was not what I pictured.

Instead I envisioned years down the road us dabbling in giving, our children going to a foundational Christian private school; maybe I would lead a Bible study and write on the side.

All in the name of Jesus.

Hear me when I say those are good things.

But when I saw those things as my safety net for the mark of Christ, I made them falsely ultimate.

These days I find myself rocking children who are knocking their heads against a wall. I'm counting pennies to make the budget work for children who come to us with nothing. I'm homeschooling our sons because our family life has them immersed in the world.

But it's our life. It's our ministry. It's our calling, and the story of redemption He has authored through us.

In college, my sweet friend Anna jotted a verse to me on a note and dropped it by my door in the dorm:

LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup. You have made my lot secure. 
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. Surely, I have a delightful inheritance. 
~ Psalms 16 : 5-6

Surrendering our vision, our dreams, for the path of life He lays out for us means our trading a life of temporary happiness for an eternity of inheritance.

It casts off the mediocre, the status quo, the stale bread, allowing us instead to feast on the Bread of Life.

My moments and days aren't anything I dreamed of when I stood in that white gown.

They're richly more.

We've allowed the Father to lead us to a place of walking on water, sink or swim, casting our nets in faith in order to live for the next moment.

That's being alive. 

I find myself desperately clinging to the cross morning after morning, and rejoicing in the victory of His daily mercies night after night.

Photo Source: Jeweledsteel.com
It's down right nasty sometimes.

But Friends, the Cross wasn't clean and tidy. It was splintered, bloody and smelly.

Yet, it birthed our eternal hope.

Because Jesus is Worthy ~


Raw Friday {On Success}

{Five-Minute Unedited Vomit Writing}

she saw her mama today

and in a moment her whispered prayers

and grieving wails were met with an answer

only to have them begin anew

she counts the seconds

marks the calendar,

boldly in purple,

numbering the moments until she can look

into the eyes that match hers

for one more hour

she knows the sins

understands the blame that was cast

yet, she worships the one who carried her to life

watchers sometimes ask how she deems her worthy of forgiveness

why she longs, dreams

she's entered the equation for success in my home, they say

education + finances = opportunity

how could she ache to return to the past

when a future awaits

and i'm reminded

there are no success stories in scripture

there's brokenness. there's betrayal. there's death. there's grief.

there's joy. there's redemption. there's Jesus and his glory.

there's His victory and cloak of righteousness...

but the only success is birthed from deep brokenness

Photo Source: Registeredrunaway.com
because it is from our shattered shells, new life breaks forth.

~ he who is forgiven much, loves much ~ 
Luke 7:47