9.30.2014

We will never have it together.

Many of you know our early years' marriage story.

But in case you don't, I'll fill you in...it was rough.

Sweet Man and I are products of two very different families. If you couple that with the reality that we are both beyond stubborn, independent and insanely selfish, it shouldn't surprise you that I called home after being in our wedding night hotel room a whole hour, weeping to my mom to come and get me.

She gently encouraged me to get a grip.

Now take that frustration and compound it by hundreds of days of unwillingness to bend or grow on either of our ends, and you're greeted with the natural result of numerous nights of my jumping up and down on the dining room table screaming, or pouting and whining to manipulate our personal agendas.

We were messed up.

From the outside, you would never know it. 

We knew the Christian script well. 

We mechanically danced the waltz we'd been taught to do, but we were professional fakers.

Mix this scenario with three surprise blessing pregnancies in three and a half years, a sick son and gallons of sin...and you have a picture of our ticking bomb.

But friends, we all have a ticking bomb.

It may not be your marriage, but there is a space you're striving to control, to juggle, to protect. You're unknowingly preserving its idol status.

You next natural question might be, How did you ever get from there to here?



From weeping in my daddy's lap to let me come home, to grasping that Jamie is the primary catalyst of my seeing my Savior on this earth and becoming more like Him?

It was a train wreck of coming clean.

We got real with those around us, let them into our muck and grey, to wade through it with us.

It was May 18th, 2007, when we hit rock bottom. I was six months pregnant with Daniel, Benjamin was at the doctor every other day, vomiting and so very sick all the time, Caleb was surviving, and Jamie and I despised each other.

But something shifted that day. 

For so long, we had bought the lie that we could not be used by God until we were able to pull ourselves together. We believed the nasty whispers that in order to do life with the body of believers, we had to be neat and tidy, presentable and appropriate.

On that afternoon, we fell to our knees together and said, Enough.

We called those we considered close to us and shared the truth that we were broken and at the end. 

They came, and for the first time in our five years of marriage we were exposed, our sin, our desperation, our aching and scars.

Then, we turned to God, weeping from our knees and said, Take it all. Take our lives, our sons, our home, our marriage, money and dreams, and just make it Yours, whatever you want, however you want it, because it's not working our way.

Friends, in that moment, for the first time in our marriage, I knew I wasn't going to suffocate from my own need to control.

I was free from myself. 

We weren't our own anymore.

And we've never looked back.


People often remark to me in conversation, We want to do something like you do when we have it more together...

When there's enough money...

Or the bigger house...

Or our kids' grow up...

Or we retire...

Or we don't fight anymore...

Women tell me they will join a small group when their hearts are in a more stable place. 

Families will open their doors to hospitality when their house is in better shape, the new project complete.

Christ-followers commenting they'll incorporate outreach into their lives when they cross the next time hump, financial crunch...

Friends, the Gospel is for the broken.

It's about beggars discovering the Bread of Life in the midst of our famine of the soul.

We're all desperate, and if we say we're not, we've missed one of the most beautiful cornerstones of life...

To be utterly exposed and needy together, with one another before our Savior who became exposed for us.


Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power.

Come, ye weary, heavy-laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you're better,
You will never come at all.

View Him prostrate in the garden;
On the ground your Maker lies;
On the bloody tree behold Him;
Sinner, will this not suffice?

Lo! the incarnate God ascended,
Pleads the merit of His blood;
Venture on Him, venture wholly.
Let no other trust intrude.

Let not conscience make you linger,
Not of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need for Him.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
Oh, there are ten thousand charms.

~ Joseph Hart, an 18th century minister who strived to have it all together, 
before he finally fell in desperation at the feet of his Savior.


9.29.2014

Would you do it again?

It's been a long time since I've entered this space.

I'm not sure why it's been harder for me this month.

But I'm here, and I'm processing, and I know so many of you are too.

If you don't know, we're on our first break as a family nucleus since we began this crazy journey of foster care.

A 10-day sabbatical.

The vacation is nice, but more than that, there were weighing elements that signaled it was time. Questions that have been lurking in the shadows began to undeniably demand attention, and we knew we had to be away to truly return and respond with our Holy Yes' and No's.

I can't even begin to list the people who made this happen for us, and we're so incredibly grateful.

Sometimes your mind must escape in order to fully enter once again.

I was recently asked on a panel and then again by a friend, If we knew what we know now about our lives, the struggles, the brokenness of foster care, would we embark on the journey again?


Photo Credit: Sodahead.com

As you know, nothing is a simply Yes or No in my mind...

Seventeen years ago, I was a freshman in college.

Each week a local mom would pack up a mess of rowdy college students and carry them down to the urban center in Tuscaloosa to serve at Kids Club.

I didn't make it every week. But the times I did, there was a young black girl, April, with twisted braids waiting for me on the bench when I walked through the double doors.

She sat half on and half off my lap (she was too energetic to limit herself to one sitting position) through the Bible story, snack and game time.

She would tell me of her life.

She would speak of her many siblings, spread far and wide.

And each time I made it, I would hear a knowing voice in my spirit as I climbed back in the mini-van to go back to town, This will be your Yes...

Two years later, Jamie and I had just started dating when I signed up to serve with Big Brothers, Big Sisters. I was a junior at Alabama.

The director confessed she had given me the most unconventional match, something they always avoided, but they were desperate for this kid.

When I showed up to meet what I thought would be a cute little girl in need who I would take out for ice cream, Eddie came through the door instead.

A twelve-year-old abandoned boy with autism.

It had been literally years since anyone "on the outside" of his group home had visited him.

14 foster homes before he landed in the room I stood that day.

Everything in me wanted to pack up and run the other way, hard.

He barely spoke as I signed the papers to take him off campus to TCBY, and as we drove away, I heard the resounding voice again, This will be your Yes.

It became a two-year relationship, where each week that boy watched from his window for my little Mazda to pull into the driveway.

I'm ashamed to say I don't know what happened to Eddie after I moved away and married Jamie.

But God used that to unearth something in me that could never be buried again.

The truth is, once you have been exposed to the brokenness of this world, of your city, of your neighbors, it will ~ it should ~ forever shape your lens of life.

But did we ever truly have the right to run from that exposure to begin with?

More than that, when we have drunk deeply of the Living Waters and feasted on the Bread of Life that has pursued us with abundant grace, our experience drives us to those in famine, aching for hope.

So you ask, would we do it again?

There are so many moments I want to be uncalled. I would be lying if I told you otherwise.

But this space is our Yes. It is worthy of a million crowding No's, because we deeply recognize that today, in this season, this is the channel God wants to use us to bring His kingdom to earth.

He doesn't need us, but He has welcomed us in to know Him better through His bringing justice and redemption to splintered corners.

Before our calling to care for vulnerable children and families in crisis became known in our lives, I was never dependent on Jesus before. Not really desperate for Him.

I would have told you I was, because that was what I was taught to say as a good Christian little girl.

But I didn't wake up craving His hand on my heart, day by day.

I would never trade the grief we have known for the ways we know Jesus now, and to grasp that each moment we respond with the Yes to which He calls us, we will only know Him better.

I could never trade the pain for the budding understanding I have of Biblical love, compassion, and justice.

I would have told you what my intellectual studies of the Bible had scripted me to say of those things in my prior life, but to beg God to make those qualities known through Him ~ through me ~ as a mama forever says goodbye to the child she bore...I had no clue.

Truth be told, I am shattered. There are crevices of my soul that will never be mended here on earth because of this journey we are on. Even as I walk with our boys and talk with them this week, their hearts bare the scars of our family's calling.

That will never be undone.

But, Friend, would we want the scars of our Savior undone?

Is it my job to raise my sons to be good, noble citizens who will be productive one day?

Or...am I called to let them see how deeply their Savior loves them, longs to provide for them, yearns to be their everything?

To invite them into the reality that I love Jesus more than them, and that is a good thing?

To give them glimpses that their God is not safe, but He is so very good?

To live out before them the earthly and heavenly transcending reality that Jesus is worth it all?

Guys, I wail, I cuss, I rationalize, I ache, but all my wrestling continues to gently lead me back to the Cross of hope.

Jesus is worthy of the spaces to which He invites us....

And in the moments when we feel there are no more words to give, no more tears to cry, and our fingers are bleeding to the bone, He is waiting to carry us.

May we all reach the moment where we fall at His feet to be carried with nothing else to claim but the One who loves us.

9.04.2014

A Prayer for Conference-Going Mamas Everywhere

The cons far outweigh the pros.

Escape is not a word in your vocabulary.

The cost could cover groceries for a week.

Others can't man the home front; they don't understand.

You would be alone, nothing like all the other women.

My Friend, let the One who loves you silence the lies.

You are worthy of rest. You are worthy of restoration. You are worthy of being known.

So come.

And as you pack and check the list twice, I pray...

That you would thirst,

     for the well of living waters, quieted by the demands of false hurry.

That you would hunger,

     for the Bread of Life that lures you to your knees...
              ... because all of life looks different from your knees.



That you would be stripped,
   
    of the togetherness, perfectionism and status, with nothing left to bear but your soul.

That you would long,
   
    for a sorrow bearer, because you have carried the tears of so many for so long.

That your moments and circumstances lining the path to our meeting face to face, would deepen the ache, chisel the cavern He grafted for Himself a little more...

For as we embrace and our scars are exposed...

As our masks are removed and the darkness of loneliness and heartache are penetrated by the light of Truth...

With our arms raised to Heaven, I pray we would step into the abundance of His provision,

Renewed by the remembrance that He has called us His own.

Sent forth with the reality that we were made for more,

Because we have remembered He is making all things new.

So come.

Because of Jesus ~

8.26.2014

Two years ago today...Be still my soul.

I wrote this letter in the early morning hours...

To my Sweet Baby J...

You're one.

You'll never know the way you looked at us when they dropped off all five and a half pounds of you, a year ago. You may never be told we were your third home in a week.

You may never know the first one who held you, the one whose body gave you life, who chose hard, when everyone else told her no.

You may never know the one who has held you through this year. They told us three days, maybe a couple of weeks, but a month at most. And here we are a year later.

Papa Jamie said I was crazy.

Now, you own his heart.

You'll never know the way you curl your fist around my fingers to rise, or the shrill you give when I come in the room.

You may never know the first one you called Mama, and you won't remember the feeling of my tears that fell when I knew you meant it.

You won't remember the stampede that comes when you scream, Baba, as a herd of brothers fight to be the one you are crying for.

You won't remember your sisters who have fed you, rocked you and cuddled with you on the floor.

They tell me you will always remember you were safe this first year. They tell me you will remember how to attach.

I know there is One who promises that His words will never be forgotten. . .

So, you have heard that Jesus loves you one million times in the last 365 days. I whisper His name from the moment I lift you from the crib, to the second I lay you down at night. Because I know His name cannot be forgotten.

So, you have cradled my face with your little hand as I've sang "Come thou fount of every blessing," to you in the dark of each night. Because I know His song cannot be forgotten.

So, He has grafted you into this Mother's heart, because He will not let me forget. And, if after a few short weeks I never have the grace of holding you, my son, again, He will not let a day pass that your name is not uttered from my lips, intertwined with hope of your Creator. If my only role from this day forward is to only lift you before His throne, then that is a high calling I cannot forget.

For, you were never mine, just as your Babas are not mine. You, they, we, were made for a high calling. And, if this year was only so that your soul could have whispers of all eternity written on your heart, then I am humbled to have been your mother in that purpose.

My son, you have my heart, and every prayer I could utter through my hope-filled grief cries to the Father not that you would be safe and protected, but that you would know always that you were made for more. You were made for Jesus.

I love you more than you will ever remember or know.


Be still my soul.

All for Jesus,

Mama Catie

8.25.2014

Redefining Success

I can count on three questions to be asked in every panel and training:

How hard is it really to let go?

How are your own kids impacted?

and...

How many success stories have you seen in your journey?

That final one, it's my trigger. 

I reply, What do you consider success?



Well...a thriving family, no longer dependent on the state or government, no longer supervised. You know; you don't worry if you're gonna get another call about them.

And always, the tears silently fall.

I don't have one. You've got to redefine success.

Blame our culture, society, or the Americanized Church... I'm not sure.

But we've somehow qualified our efforts of ministry with a dependable outcome.

But obedient ministry does not equate success in the world's terms.

Whether we care to acknowledge it or not, we want so badly to plug our faithfulness into an equation.

If we pray the listed prayers and have our children memorize the correct verses, our parenting will produce godly children.

And if we take them on missions trips, that's the icing on top. They may just end up in Africa....missionaries.

If we make ourselves available to our husbands and daily pray for them from our knees, our marriage will be blessed.

The only problem is...some of the most godly mothers I know, are crying out for their wandering adult children from their knees...35 years later.

And some of the most faithful and devoted, prayer-fighting wives...are begging God for their husbands to repent...even after he's left.

If I showed up to my ministry of being a wife, a mother, a friend, a foster mom tomorrow because I was guaranteed a profitable return here on this tangible earth, I would be left desperately aching.

Do I hope for it, pray for it, strive for it with all that I am?

Yes.

Do I stand for it, believe in it, and know that He can accomplish it with all that He is?

Even more so.

But do I recognize that He is sovereign in the petitions He answers with... Not Yet...and even...No?

Do I increasingly grasp that perhaps success is not the trophied finish line, but the faithful fight of today and the obedient response asked of me in the tomorrow?

Is there an abiding realization that His accomplishment is already complete in me as He sees me as His own Son, and my merits are simply an offering of praise...each step in this race of endurance?

So if you ask me how much true success I've seen in our ministry of foster care, I'll smile and tell you through steady tears, abundant success, but not what you would expect.

I've seen parents show up when the world was stacked against them.

I've seen mamas stand in brokenness when they have been stripped of all dignity.

I've see social workers answer the call in the dark hours of the morning, day after day.

I've seen children, survivors, forgive when they don't even understand what that means, and love with an unconditional love I can't even comprehend.

I've seen foster parents with open arms and broken hearts, obey through tears.

I've seen the Church respond to the Call to Rise up.

And, more than anything, I've seen my real mess exposed, so that I can meet the real Jesus again and again.

My Friend, that is success.

8.15.2014

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.

8.14.2014

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.