correspondence: we are what we keep

Our boxes are (mostly) unpacked and we (mostly) know where everything is here at the Lighthouse. We can even find obscure utensils in the kitchen. But up ‘til now we had plenty of frantic moments trying to find stuff – for example, when you’re on the phone and need to write down information and the only thing in sight that even remotely resembles a pen is a blue Nerf dart.

correspondence: we are waht we keep (copperlight wood)

Or when a child falls outside and comes in bleeding, and you can’t find the bandaids anywhere – not in the boxes, not in the cabinets or bathroom drawers, not on top of the fridge – until finally one of the boys confesses he has a stockpile of them in his closet, which turns out to be a good thing because in lieu of a real bandage I was this close to cleaning out the wound and slapping a feminine hygiene product on it.

Before we moved, I cleaned out all the neglected catch-all spots in the old house – those places that accumulate old papers and nostalgic items, the stuff we don’t know what to do with but aren’t sure we can throw away. And you may not believe this, but I was actually looking forward to the prospect of moving twice because it would force me to purge through these items more than once and really get them weeded out.

It was a brutal gift to be able to sift twice through things that had been shoved aside and buried, a forced priority that I knew would bring freedom once I put the work into it. And cleaning out the physical spaces dovetailed with cleaning out the heart spaces – What am I holding on to? Why am I holding on to it? Are my motives pure? It’s life-giving routine maintenance if we can bring ourselves to do it.

All the closet corners, neglected cabinets, and old boxes were examined. I went through art projects, physical records, old correspondence, concert tickets, birth announcements, photos, and obituaries. The Keep file was slim; the Burn pile fed the woodstove for several nights running.

Some of it was easy to get rid of. Some of it was emotionally hard to sort through. And some things I wanted to keep for the wrong reasons, but He reminded me Love keeps no record of wrongs and I didn’t need to pass a legacy of offense onto my children. So those were burned, too.

I was pretty ruthless about it. Newspaper clippings, letters, a high school friend’s obituary – most of it was prayerfully tossed. I didn’t even keep all my old notes from Vince.

One particular letter I kept, and I never even knew the person who wrote it.

Through an odd string of events, in college I became friends with an elderly woman who I met through a mutual friend at the airport, back when you were actually allowed to meet people as they got off the plane, and say goodbye when they left again. We must’ve been there to see off our friend, but I can’t remember the details. I do remember that afterward, she took me out to lunch. She listened to me talk about my struggle living as a flailing, failing, compromising Christian, living with my unsaved boyfriend. And she didn’t lecture me, she loved me.

She told me to pray for him. She told me, picking up the glass of water in front of her, that every time I took a drink, to pray that my boyfriend would be thirsty for Jesus. And that I would be thirsty for Jesus.

She must’ve known I wasn’t, but I wanted to be.

We exchanged phone numbers and caught up every few months or so. She sent me cards, and mentored and counseled me through my fledgling relationship with Jesus. A couple years later she came to our wedding, and mentored and counseled me through my fledgling marriage with that unsaved man. Then I got pregnant, and during that pregnancy the man came to know Jesus. And seventeen years ago when the baby was born, I sent her a birth announcement with our Christmas card.

The following March a letter arrived. The handwriting was unfamiliar, but I knew the last name.

Her husband wrote to tell us she had died in her sleep a month earlier. He wrote, Her death was as unexpected as it can be at our age. Our marriage was the best 30 years of my life and I miss her. We received your Christmas card. Congratulations on your new baby. He included a copied slip of her obituary.

I kept it, envelope and all. I knew her for less than five years, but she was one of a few women who poured into me when I had less than nothing to offer back and needed the investment desperately. She helped shape me.

I looked up her husband, thinking he must’ve died years ago. He did; it was shortly after we moved out to the Valley and his obituary said his memorial service was held at our church. We were so new here I’d had no idea.

At that same church a couple of weeks ago I got to help a friend teach a class on prayer. She had collected a bunch of books to give away to the students at the end of class, and after everyone had chosen one, one was left for me – a little green paperback about a Welsh missionary I’d barely heard of.

…the first thought that came to Rees was, Had he correspondence with God? Could he say the Saviour was as real to him as his mother? Did he know God as a daily Presence in his life, or did he only think of Him in the prayer meetings?

– Norman Grubb, Rees Howells Intercessor

I took it home, thumbed through it a little, and put it aside. The next morning I was drinking coffee with Vince and picked it up again. The inside of the front cover had an old bookplate with another friend’s name on it, which was a happy surprise. Houses or books, it’s a joy to live among things that have already been loved by people we love.

Then I noticed that there was another, smaller bookplate under that one. I held it up to the window to read through the page, and I recognized that name and address, too.

Before it belonged to me, or my friend, or the church library, or my other friend, it belonged to my mentor, Virginia.

And it turns out that since God played the nicest trick in the world on us and we’re not moving twice but instead we’re buying the Lighthouse (the story’s here in the newsletter if you missed it) we still had to purge twice. We cleaned everything out when we packed it up, and we combed through it again as we unpacked, before we even knew we were staying.

We’re holding on to the things that make a home – our books and projects, plants and pets, and each other. But if you come over and need a bandaid, well…

Just kidding. We’ve got those, too.

_____________

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in port

We knew the tether that held us to it was thinning when we started calling it “the old house” instead of “home.”

in port

We ate weird meals in attempt to clean out the fridge and freezer until we started sleeping at our new place. One day I served biscuits and gravy, which sounds normal except that the biscuits were actually English muffins and I served them with a side of lettuce (I mean, salad) and the last tablespoon of some balsamic dressing from the 1940s.

That night I wandered through the kitchen looking for dinner, but I’d already fed the kids all the leftovers, I didn’t want to cook, didn’t want to scramble up a couple of eggs, and didn’t want to eat the last of the stale bag of tortilla chips. So I took one for the team, and dove into the vanilla ice cream and topped it with cranberry syrup.

The walls were bare and our voices echoed. We touched up paint and trim, using a wood stain marker over every scratch we’ve made over the last ten years in attempt to conceal the fact that we’ve had enough children here to populate Gilligan’s Island.

The highest concentration of scratches was on the corner cabinet by the lazy Susan, where Sophie used to paw when we were slicing meat for sandwiches, cooking burgers, or carving the turkey. I cried covering them; her grave is in the woods over there, and I grieved over leaving it more than anything else.

I moved to the stairs and worked my way up that railing with the stain marker, covering pale spots where the wood was exposed, trying to make them blend and look new again. We put on a lot of miles here in ten years.

It’s a beautiful house, but it’s been loved and lived in, and we hope the new owners appreciate it – not just the work we did to prepare it for them, but that they appreciate the home that’s been made here and continue that legacy. I hope they know the wear and tear are from living life, and they will have many years of adding their own dings and scratches.

Iree said she hopes the people who bought the house have kids so the woods, trails, and clearings will still be played in, instead of growing over neglected. And I hope the owners of our new house – wherever that is – feel the same way.

I hope they’re being good stewards, cleaning up, touching up, praying for us. I hope they love their house and have similar mixed feelings about leaving it. I hope they’ll want us to love it there.

Maybe houses are like people: As children, those of us who have learned attachment early are able to attach in healthy ways later, and maybe a house that has been loved-in by one family is increasingly able to be loved-in by another family.

During our last week there I was mostly on an even keel, but at times out of nowhere the thought of not being in these walls made me all emotional. Overwhelmed. Leaky. After so much waiting and working to move, suddenly it was time and I wasn’t sure if I’d crossed everything off the list.

We get this way with life events and transitions. Am I ready? Did I do everything I was supposed to? Do we have everything we need?

I berated myself because it’s just walls, floors, and air, and I’m not sentimental. But it’s also memories, and more than that – it’s a milestone.

Because what we really mean when we ask all those questions is, Does this mean I passed the test?

This was the place we brought four kids home to. This was the place we learned to fight for healing in the midst of black brokenness. This is the place we got our war wounds, where we learned about friendly fire and mutiny, and about brotherhood and who we bury the body with. It’s where we learned that fear dreads the curveball, but faith knows God will catch it.

This was our battleground.

Just air, and space, and walls, and floors. But the Breath of God moved in this place.

The morning of the day we moved, I prepped dinner in the old kitchen so it would be easier to make in the new kitchen that night. As I chopped veggies, this song was on repeat and my eyes started welling and stinging, I swear it was the onions – and I threw the kitchen window open to 17 degrees and prayed it wouldn’t kill my aloe plant before we moved it to the new house.

We ran out of time to finish the puzzle and in disgust resorted to breaking it into chunks to pack in its original box. It was a sorry mess when I opened it again; the edges of every section had crumbled in the transfer and loose pieces that I’m certain had been fixed in place were everywhere.

This is ironic, I thought. You think you’re putting something together, and this is what happens.

But we’d already learned that starting over is not the same as going back to the beginning. Sometimes it moves the starting line forward. Sometimes it means the tether has snapped, and a gust of wind fills the sails to send you where you needed to go.

He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly,

who despises the gain of oppressions,

who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe,

who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed

and shuts his eyes from looking on evil,

he will dwell on the heights;

his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks;

his bread will be given him;

his water will be sure.

– Isaiah 33:15-16, ESV

And that is where we are right now. In between, if you missed the newsletter, we’re renting a beautiful place from a friend while we wait for the next direction.

We’re on a bluff and the views are incredible; we can see for miles and pray over the highway in both directions. Our kids have room, our books have shelves, and after three tries, we even figured out where to put the catbox.

It’s a lighthouse for us, a temporary refuge to recuperate and rehabilitate after so many years in choppy waters.

Know your own happiness. You want nothing but patience – or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope.

– Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

It’s not where we thought we’d be, not where we planned to be. We’re not sure how long we’ll be here.

And now that we’re looking back, we can see that that’s been the story of our last couple years. Except before, we thought we knew what we were doing, and now we know that we don’t…and we’re okay with that.

We’ve made port in safe harbor. He is the anchorage. We’ll rest until He moves us again.

whatever it takes: a rallying cry for adoptive and foster families

Adoptive and foster families, this is for you.

You, who went through all the training, requirements, meetings, interviews, and red tape. It was crazy-thorough. Then you brought your child home.

whatever it takes: a rallying cry for adoptive and foster families

And you learned that all that preparation was kind of like going through earthquake survival drills – learning first aid, how to take cover, how to evacuate safely – versus actually living through an 8-point earthquake. It was like the difference between learning CPR versus actually having to administer it on someone who has no pulse.

Some of our kids came to us carrying grief and trauma equivalent to that 8-point earthquake.

And we love them. But it’s hard because they are hurting, and hurting people hurt other people, and we are here to do everything possible to break that cycle.

But some days we don’t know what to do with them. There your kid is, doing that same behavior that’s driving you both crazy: Rages. Lying. Something unmentionable involving bodily fluids. And yep, we love them, but they don’t always believe it so they test our love. Sometimes they push back hard. These attachment issues are no joke, friend.

Some days we pray and do one thing, and the next day we pray and feel like we need to try something else. We’ve learned to live in grace on a moment-to-moment basis.

I know your house used to be your sanctuary, but now, some days it feels like a warzone. The atmosphere’s changed and you barely recognize it: tense, palpable, high-alert, heavy. Sometimes you feel the weight and pressure of it in your gut. You’ve learned that you need God’s wisdom and presence in every moment, too.

And I know it may not feel like it anymore, but this is still your turf. Your territory. The spiritual attack is real but you own this space. You are the boss here. And as much as their behavior might contribute to the chaos, your kids need you to fight for dominion.

Don’t lose yourself, friend. Your kids need you to still be you – and they need you to find them in the darkness. There’s a uniquely brilliant person in there behind all the trauma and behaviors who is dying to get out and be known.

And there’s a real you in here, too. You may feel like you lost yourself somewhere between the airport and the millions of appointments, but you are becoming refined. Strong. Whole, and more you than you’ve ever been before. You didn’t think you could be this tough, did you? You had no idea you’d be able to do all this. And here you are. This is you, doing all the stuff.

I hear your excuses; I’ve said them to myself plenty of times, too. I know you don’t feel like you’re enough. You don’t feel like you’re getting enough done, getting enough sleep, getting enough exercise, giving enough smiles, giving enough hugs to those kids. But those feelings aren’t the boss of you. They don’t change reality.

You are enough. You’re doing enough. God is enough to cover you in this time as you’re seeking Him, trying to shine light in darkness and find truth in trauma.

You’ve spent hours making phone calls, researching, getting references, making appointments, sitting in those appointments, wondering if this intervention is going to work for your child. Wondering if this professional is going to help your child, or if they’re going to do more harm than good.

You’ve missed some friends and social activities because things are different now. You wonder before every engagement if it’s going to be worth the effort, or if all the hoopla will evoke too much aftermath. We used to take for granted how easy it used to be, back when we never worried about overstimulation, hypervigilance with boundaries, and attachment issues.

You are the families who’ve been not just willing to go to the broken and hurting, but you’ve welcomed them into your own homes.

You are on the frontlines. And the church will see significant, exponential victory to the extent that it cares for those on the frontlines.

You’ve given everything you’ve got for the advancement of the Kingdom, and you’re giving people a vivid picture of how much God loves them. You are showing God’s heart for humanity – the same Spirit of adoption that He showed us.

In pockets around the world, the church is waking up to the power lying dormant in adoptive and foster families. The church is realizing that assumptions and lack of awareness about what these families endure have hindered not only the healing of the broken, but the growth of the Kingdom.

And there is a contingent of humble, repenting congregations rising up to do whatever it takes to support those who have already been doing whatever it takes – and in some cases, it’s taken everything – to walk out the spirit of adoption.

These teams – those who directly care for the broken, and those who support them in it – are unstoppable. They are mighty, gritty, capable of exploits, and not afraid to play hardball with darkness.

They are changing nations and generations. Together, they are living out a message that the world cannot ignore.

So you, my friends, are rocking this. Keep pushing through, and do whatever it takes to get some rest. To get some space. To find the you that you recognize again.

Because you’re in there, and you’re powerful. You’re changing the very nations with your daily steps to love your family and maintain dominion in your sanctuary.

the year of deeper and wider

I first encountered one of my favorite books in sixth grade. I was pulled out of class for a gifted program, walked down the hall to an unfamiliar, sterile classroom, and listened to a teacher whom I did not know read The Wind in the Willows to us.

I hated it. If this was being “gifted,” I wanted no part of it.

the year of deeper and wider

Several years ago it showed up in Mattie’s curriculum. I approached it with doubt and suspicion, unsure about subjecting my kid to the same misery I’d experienced twenty years earlier.

The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring cleaning his little home.

We dove in, and within the first pages I was in love. Surely it was the same book from before – but this time it was beautiful and alive and magical, so it must be that I wasn’t the same person reading it. I’d grown deeper and wider. I’ve read it all the way through three times now, not counting that first go-round that almost inoculated me from it entirely. I’m so glad it didn’t.

The kids ate lunch while I stood in the living room and read the first chapter to them. This is the first time Cham, Andrey, and Reagan have heard it and I want their memories of it to be warm and filling, sticking with them.

Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said “Bother!” and “O blow!” and also “Hang spring cleaning!” and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously…

This is Mole, who has lived below in seclusion, discovering the world above for the first time. It’s also me, and probably you. I know what the spirit of divine discontent feels like. I, too, have flung work to the floor while yelling mostly printable expletives.

I came to this passage and stopped to look for a pencil. None were within reach, so I tore the cushion off the couch to check my stash and found five pens, a set of nail clippers, a broken animal cracker and, hallelujah, one mechanical pencil. I started marking sentences.

He thought his happiness was complete when, as he meandered aimlessly along, suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed river. Never in his life had he seen a river before – this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again.

The story is fitting for all seasons – summer and winter, and especially those spiritual ones when you long for a river that runs deeper and wider than what you’ve been splashing in, and when you find yourself free of old barriers and able to test new waters that were out of reach not too long ago.

Testing new waters is impossible when you’re drowning in the deep end. We’ve spent a ton of time flailing and splashing there, but I’m thrilled to say that for the first time in four and a half years, it’s not where we are anymore.

Or, more accurately, it’s not that we’re no longer in the deep end, but that we’re no longer drowning in it – we come up for air sometimes, and can finally venture out into other waters a little.

Four and a half years.

By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spellbound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.

A big part of it is that one of our kids who needed his world (and therefore, our world) to be as small as possible is starting to experience victory like never before. I mentioned here a few months ago that choices are unsparing things. Sometimes we need the spirit of divine discontent to propel change, and over recent weeks his choices have been markedly and consistently different, by the grace of God.

He is experiencing the joy of a river that is deeper and wider. It’s a marvelous miracle. Most days (not all, I won’t lie) are warm and filling, and we hope it sticks.

The Kingdom is always of increase; our deep and wide is an insatiable sea.

This day was only the first of many similar ones for the emancipated Mole, each of them longer and fuller of interest as the ripening summer moved onward. He learnt to swim and to row, and entered into the joy of running water; and with his ear to the reed-stems he caught, at intervals, something of what the wind sent whispering so constantly among them.

– Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

Physically it is winter around us, but we are approaching a spiritual summer like a fast-moving train. There is running water, a full-bodied river; we are learning and growing and anticipating fullness that overflows the banks and spills into thirsty places everywhere.

I wish I could read the whole book to you, but there’s a terrific version of it on Librivox here instead. You’ll hear more about it soon, though. We’re only on chapter three.

Wind in the Willows, and Bingley

#highlights: just the funnies from 2016

We’re starting off the year with a serious dose of silliness. Grab your coffee and enjoy.

hashtag highlights: just the funnies from 2016 at Copperlight Wood

a summary of our 2016 

I’m no real estate expert, but never once in the last two years of avid househunting have I thought, “Wow, this is what we’ve been dreaming of!” by listings that include a reference to “great location for a marijuana business” or a close-up photo of moose nuggets.

Super productive night: Finished edits on Upside Down to send back to the publisher, and moved on to researching Han Solo’s Myers-Briggs personality type. #intjsarenerds #sendhelp

Been sick for a week. It started at the Cannot Operate Heavy Machinery level but rapidly declined to Cannot Operate Paper Clips. Urgent Care has informed me that the fancy name for this is pneumonia.

Turns out that if you’re sick for a month and never leave the house, your garden bed magically transforms into a chia pet.

I just heard a pastor promise his new congregation that he will never make them turn to their neighbor to tell them something. And this, my friends, is how you win elections.  #campaignpromises #hankiewave

Many emails and phone calls back and forth with the publisher today. We established the keywords for the book: adoption, parenting, foster care, special needs, and attachment. Also established the keywords for marketing it: arm & leg, lifeblood, second mortgage, mainstream media, longterm counseling, and prozac. #fixitJesus

cats

kids are brilliant

Cat reproduction according to Chamberlain, age six: “Mama cats never have just one baby. They always have giblets.”

Finn lets loose ten seconds of ear-splitting happy squeals. Afton leans over and murmurs, “Those are the shrieking eels…

fetch me another ninja turtle

 

Cham: I wish I could just SEE him instead of talking about him all the time. I wish we could have him over to our house.

Me: Who, Jesus?

Cham: No! TobyMac.

(This is the same girl who asked if her new dress could be considered an ugly Christmas sweater. She also thinks Wesley wears a manbun in The Princess Bride.)

kids

My son brings me the magnesium supplement and reads the label. “Contains no yeast, dairy, soy, egg, wheat, sugar, fructose, preservatives, starch, or artificial color or flavor. Cruelty-free.” He pauses. “Cruelty-free? What does that mean? That it doesn’t taste bad?”

Two hours after the kids bedtime. Or, as they see it, the perfect time to go to the bathroom, take a shower, ask how babies are made, tell about a bad dream they had last week, show off a drawing they made this afternoon, floss their teeth, ask you to check the spelling in their journal, and share a prophetic word of knowledge.

We saw a sweet hospital photo of a mama and her wee bitty premature babies. Cham yells, “Oh! Did she have giblets?!”

boys

 

#momlife

[insert quiet narrator’s voice, preferably with British accent]
In today’s episode of ridiculous parenting, a child makes a craft project and bursts into sobs immediately following its completion: “It’s SO ugly! And I was going to give it to my FRIEND! But now it’s too ugly and I CAN’T give it to my friend, so I’ll JUST have to give it to YOU!!”
#ohthanks #itslovely

The hero-husband painted an old ugly dresser white for me, then asked if I wanted to distress it. I reminded him that we have seven kids. We decided to just let nature take its course.

Dear Matanuska Electric Association: I’m sorry, but I cannot vote in the upcoming election because I used your ballot to smash a spider into oblivion. Our family truly appreciates this service you have performed for our community.

Afton just caught Finnegan dipping his toast in my 3-shot Americano, eating it, and liking it. Let the mutant superpowers commence. #avengersassemble

Child is disrespectful. Child earns a bazillion extra chores. Child is sent outside to wash all the windows. Child refuses and prefers to sulk instead. After several minutes, child complies and goes outside. It immediately commences to rain buckets, because God loves me.

The kids are practicing Spanish on the computer, and one of them keeps saying “Buenas nachos” instead of “Buenas noches.” Same thing though, right? #soundsgoodtome #muybien

Don’t tell my tomato-haters, but I’m not above chopping up a red bell pepper in front of them while cooking dinner and letting them jump to conclusions about the pasta sauce.

…and speaking of food…

10:32pm: We decide to live on the edge and fry cheese in the waffle iron. What could go wrong? We need to buy a new waffle iron anyway.

10:33pm: Sizzling. So far so good.

10:34pm: I lift the lid to check and behold utter chaos of every dairy nightmare imaginable. Goo everywhere, burning, running over the sides, and Vince has mysteriously disappeared somewhere in the vicinity of the garage. I yell “Pat Sajak!” so the kids who are still awake don’t know I’m swearing and mentally write hatemail to the foodie blogger while scraping cheese off the griddle.

10:36pm: We try it. Not too bad. Recommence frying cheese now that the waffle iron is “properly seasoned.”

10:39pm: Round two is iffy. A little better but still not nearly what the foodie blogger’s perfect photography promised. We try one more time.

10:40pm: Vince decides the cheese slices need to be a little thicker. He slices, breads them, and inserts them into the waffle iron. While my back is turned, HE LEAVES THE ROOM. Quietly.

10:42pm: Round three explodes out the sides of the waffle iron and Vince is nowhere to be found. We assume he is driving to Sears to see if there are any waffle irons on sale that come packaged with Ghiradelli chocolate and flowers.

bingley apron

The recipe for these brownies says, “Cut them into quite small pieces, almost like fudge.” Whatever. I just blew through these like a hobbit with elvish waybread. #chocolatelembas

Daydreaming while chopping mushrooms, garlic, and onions.
Pondering cooking shows while adding chicken thighs to skillet.
Considering taking a photo of dinner-in-progress (in spite of Vin’s disdain of such photos) while adding tomatoes and coconut milk.
Wondering why the chicken is so slow to brown.
Checking the burner to turn up the heat only to realize that the burner is still off.
And this, friends, is why I do not write a foodie blog.

P1000427

#wecandohardthings

God calls us to do things we’re not naturally qualified for. This is why we have to do things like change diapers, which is an aerobic activity akin to chasing down a baby kangaroo after it’s had an espresso.

Feeling super Alaskan today; sharpened my eyeliner with a pocketknife. #geterdone

You think it’s hopeless, it can’t be done – but then you do it. I’m not talking about life goals or big dreams; I’m talking about nine people and three cats going the whole day with less than two rolls of toilet paper. Oh, yes we did.