Friday’s Rain Bible Study: now in paperback. And real pretty.

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Ah friends, it’s Friday number fifteen. And I could not be more excited to tell you about the new paperback version of Friday’s Rain: revealing what grief washes away. It’s real pretty.

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Some of you joined in on last year’s e-version release and I can’t thank you enough for the amazing feedback. This summer, not only is it available in paperback but I’ve ALSO added a week, making it a summer-friendly six-week bible study, great for individuals or groups.

And I know grief is a scary topic, but as life teaches us how to lose things, let me dare you to pick up this book and find Life from Loss.

Also, the new week is, no joke, on Martha and Lazarus. I was in final edits when we started living our miracle. Never would I have dreamt that Martha and I would walk such a parallel path, being asked to declare who our God is in the midst of the darkness, and standing in awe as the stone of death was rolled away.

If you are ready for a summer of cleansing, healing Rain, if you’re standing on the edge of a storm – perhaps yours or maybe someone else’s, if you want to feel even more of your heart beat, I promise you that Friday’s Rain brings refreshing truth as it washes away facades and reveals what is most true:

we are deeply loved, by a wild Belover.

 All this month, I’ll be sharing more about this study that brings a part of my heart and soul to your table. I can’t wait to hear how God reveals more of Himself to you through it.

ORDER HERE, and be sure to use the code FRIDAY15 for free shipping this week!

xoxo,

print only Brooke Mardell

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“I highly recommend Friday’s Rain to anyone who has walked through grief, heartbreak or unanswered prayers. Grief is such an ugly word with so many negative connotations and unknowns. It is often journey that is taken alone and not talked about. As a society we like to avoid the elephant in the room because grief doesn’t have an easy “fix”- we wait until enough time has passed and then maybe bring it up, holding our breath hoping it is over. But the reality of grief is that it is never really “over” and the beautiful part about Friday’s Rain is that it allows space for processing while speaking truth that God has promised in His word. Brooke is transparent and speaks from a position of understanding. It is evident she has allowed God to take hold of her entire story and challenges each person embarking on the journey to do the same. Prepare to be challenged, encouraged, inspired and assured in how great God is. I went through the study and left feeling hopeful and a part of a community. The most important piece is realizing you are not alone. There simply are not enough words to express the impact this has had in my life. Do yourself a favor, step into the discomfort and embrace Friday’s Rain.”

– Hannah H.

 

 

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On Being MARVEL-us

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Yesterday I got some of the final Christmas things stashed in their proper place in the garage beams. I figured it was a proper way to welcome June. And also, by I, I mean friends who are stronger than me, but I pointed and supervised like a champ.

This is what recovery looks like. Coming back online, back to life. Surging ahead and then slowing down. Working but resting. Inhaling but also exhaling. It’s tricky business, catching up on things that have had a four-month pause. Making new choices about how to use new time. Paying attention without being a hypochondriac. I mean, seriously, if I read the side-effects-call-your-doctor-if list long enough, I start feeling all the side effects of Jason’s medications.

It’s living in the middle of the both-and as life returns to normal, but an entirely new normal. A good normal, don’t get me wrong. Just a new one. Instead of dancing in the driveway, which he still doesn’t remember, we take an occasional spin around the living room. And we’ve instituted a new personal holiday that precedes Memorial Day by one week: We call it life-vest-no-more-day, basically a celebration of bra removal everywhere. Wait, that sounds awkward. Oh yes, that’s because life vests ARE awkward, and watching Jason take his off after three months of having it strapped to his chest was like watching him embrace the freedom that us ladies taste when we get to remove THE thing that truly lets us know our day is done and we can let our hair – and, umm, other things – down. Also, NO ARITHMEAS in the past three months. Cue happy dance.

Jason’s been back at his McSmarty-ness, logging hours at the library and hitting the books with a new love and fierceness – when he started this PhD program, we both knew he was tapping into a deeper, truer version of himself. He’s a teacher at heart, always has been, and soon he’ll have the degree that confirms it. In fact, as he was waking up from sedation and taking it all in, one of the first things he talked about was getting back into the classroom -that having received his breath back, he wanted to spend them in developing the next generation.

At the same time, we are still meeting new ‘ologists as explorations and tests continue. Jason has officially been deemed a ‘medical marvel’ as doctors review his charts and we review their eyebrows as they inch up into a state of surprise. There is great comfort in hearing things like “your test results are extraordinarily boring”, but also some confusion surrounding my guy’s body and heart and why it stopped fifteen Fridays ago.

So some days the road feels like this

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And other days like this

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It’s not the first time we’ve heard how MARVEL-us we are … in fact, in some ways you could say we’ve been pre-conditioned to live without answers to everything.
But since science can’t answer why he woke up, I won’t be surprised if it also can’t answer why it first happened. Because we’re only the boss of little bits. So again with the being tricky …

And so we put away the Christmas decorations in June. We open and sort the mail that came in three months ago. We call doctors with questions and we remember who the Great Physician is. We work and make choices again. We pay the medical bills with a deep sigh of thanks … both to the doctors and to the givers that have made check-writing a thing of celebration. We have movie marathon days. We live in the knowledge that we’re not the boss of it all. And we embrace this most holy of truths:

IT IS NO BAD THING TO CELEBRATE A SIMPLE LIFE.

– J.R.R. Tolkien as Bilbo Baggins

Also, Bilbo said that on his 111th birthday. Amen to the long MARVEL-us road.

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Mother’s Day, Jesus, and Dolphins

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10171617_10154644169180134_4907199022451003141_nYou guys, Jesus is so funny. I think we will have some good belly laughs someday. Like that time He asked the barren woman to give the message on Mother’s Day. I mean, who doesn’t want to hear about infertility. At Church. On Mother’s Day.

But really, this is about learning to be His child while I pursued being a mom. And just how BRILLIANT this God of ours is even though He – and life – are often not what we planned. In the face of barrenness – of loss, disappointment, confusion, emptiness, whatever the variety – Isaiah tells us to sing, and to make room for more, not less. So this was my Mother’s Day song.

Also, don’t worry, I don’t really sing. It’s an analogy. As are the dolphins.

 

 

P.S. Loss doesn’t have the last word. That’s why I wrote “Friday’s Rain“.

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Mother’s Day: She and Me and All of Us

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I thought I’d dig up a little re-post as taming down the Mother’s Day hoopla to protect us non-moms has been trending …

It can get uncomfortable, right? Mother’s Day has all these rules now.

10 Things to Never Say on Mother’s Day

17 Ways to Destroy Your Church by Handing Out Roses on Mother’s Day

12 Do’s and Don’ts for Retail Clerks this Mother’s Day

I mean, it can get a little overwhelming. As a non-mom, I’ve got some messy thoughts on this messy subject.

IMG_1735I mean, the day is about Moms. And I’m not one. So it’s not my party. But there’s all this talk about how I should be treated on their day. Wha????

The thing is, we are uncomfortable with being uncomfortable. And I get it. My heart has bled on Mothers’-Days-Past as I wrestled with my unplanned unparenthood. But it’s also bled on Christmas and Fourth of July and days ending in Y. Pain is no respecter of holidays and dates.

And pain also isn’t satisfied with being just the boss of its victim – it wants to be the boss of everyone in the room. Pain would love nothing more than to see a room full of people feeling awkward and unsure how or if to celebrate something because it will make someone else uncomfortable.

This isn’t about embracing pain. I don’t like pain. I don’t like discomfort. I’m not the girl who signs up for the gym because it-hurts-so-good. Also, I don’t sign up for the gym for any other reason. But I do know that pain and celebration can happen at the same time. That they can GIVE to one another instead of taking away. There’s this sacred dichotomy of grief and celebration happening all around us every. single. day. And if we let it, it can make us stronger.

A few years ago, my bright-eyed-newlywed baby sister and I were out Christmas shopping. Now, you should know that she is ten years my junior, surpasses me in all things hair and makeup, is an opera singer and a beauty queen (literally) but somehow not a drama queen. Oh, and she farts rainbows.

So there we were. As we crossed the parking lot, her little button nose wrinkled up at the scent of grease wafting towards us from a fast-food restaurant. “What, are you pregnant?” I asked, jokingly-because-of-course-she’s-not-pregnant-she’s-a-baby-and-babies-can’t-have-babies-what-a-funny-joke-I’m-making-ha-ha-ha-ha. But then her feet stopped, her eyes widened, and she silently nodded yes.

You guys, my world fell out. I’d traversed hundreds of pregnancy announcements from the time we started “trying”, but my BABY sister was going to have a BABY?

Nothing humbles you faster than the ugly cry. In public. In a parking lot.

And bless it, that was my reaction to my baby sister’s news. It definitely wasn’t the way she wanted to deliver it; it definitely wasn’t the way I wanted to receive it. But I’m so glad that neither of us had a chance to be fake in that moment. I’m so glad we didn’t have time to prepare or take deep breaths or brace ourselves or plan speeches. I’m so glad there was no time for white gloves.

Together we hugged and cried and wiped snot (our own, not each others – mostly), and we found our way THROUGH it, not around it.

And you know what, it was hard. Like hard-hard. At Christmas she announced their news – she made cute little jerseys for each of the littles that make up the family “team”. Each had their number, their birth order number, on the back. It was adorable. And painful as hell. Because with each kid that unwrapped a jersey number, 1-9, and as my parents opened their “surprise Number 10”, I was sitting there with a big fat zero.

But my zero and her 10 were two totally completely separate things happening. They were both happening at the same time, but they were not the same thing.

With the snot-fest out of the way, we got to have crazy-real conversations throughout her pregnancy. I was honest when it was hard. She was honest when it was hard. Spoiler alert: sometimes it can be just as hard to figure out how to celebrate while someone you love grieves, as it is to figure out how to grieve while someone you love celebrates.

Also, she just had her second baby. Powering through the grief storm together makes these celebratory moments that much richer.

See, every day we encounter those who are grieving and those who are celebrating. Sometimes we know it – often we don’t.

At every wedding, there is someone grieving the pain of divorce.

At every birthday party, there is someone grieving the death of a loved one.

At every Church service, there is a mama celebrating as her son walks with the Lord while another mama grieves as her son has walked away from Him.

At every grocery store and fairground and park and office and schoolroom there is a heart that is full and a heart that is empty.

So should we stop celebrating these things? Should we just tame it by saying “you know what? Every woman gets a rose today – or no one – or men too – or you know what let’s plant a rose garden – no not roses, succulents – so no one feels left out.”

Please don’t give me a rose on Mother’s Day. Please give it to those who didn’t get a full night’s sleep. Who respond to “why?” and “what for?” and “how?” hundreds of times a day. Who juggle soccer schedules and math homework and dinner menus like a champ.

And please don’t cancel the celebration. Because celebrating her is not a way of not celebrating me. I want us to teach each other that. Together. In my Community, my Church, my Family, I don’t want us to tame the celebration, and I don’t want us to tame the grief. I want to be in a place where both grief and celebration have a chance to play into one another and say “aha, yes, I see you there.”

I want both to be okay. Because both are okay. Even when it hurts. Even if it’s uncomfortable. Because it’s okay to be uncomfortable. Really.

 

 

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Hope Heals: Redefine healing. Manifest hope. Live your miracle.

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Jay and Katherine Wolf are living a miracle and telling their story of ‘Hope Heals’. In mid-February I signed up to read their book as part of a launch team and help share their story. Just days later, we were living it. In fact, I emailed them from our ICU room before Jason woke up, asking for the book to be delivered STAT.

It arrived the day after we got home from the hospital. Complete with a personal note from Jay and Katherine.


We read it as sleep healed, and quiet healed, and yes hope healed.


Written from the proximity of loss, reading this book felt like kneeling beside Katherine and Jay inside the holy of holies, daring to voice both lament and praise. We’ve practiced this voice before. In fact, just before picking up this book, my J said: “I’m thankful; but damn, this hurts.” We know we’re ‘allowed’ to think that way, but it’s still a hard line of truth for a miracle to speak. And then it was echoed when we read this from Katherine’s pen: “I can give God the glory, and it can still hurt.” (p.16) It was like meeting friends who spoke the same language to the same God: the God who can take it. And the God who meets us in it.

And true to Katherine’s words, this book brought both glory and hurt. Glory in hearing another story redeemed by our amazing God in the midst of loss; hurt in facing the exquisite ways that Jay Wolf describes his time in the ER, the hospital room, and their amen to the long road. There were many days that my Jason would ask me to stop reading, sometimes even just a paragraph or two in for the day, because it was just too painful to hear what “the awake spouse” experienced.

I would pause, close the book, and silently agree that Jay and I had walked a parallel heart-path as we said goodbye to our spouses and hello to our fears, wondering if we would “no longer be a casual observer of the pain but the recipient.” He speaks of the sound of silence being broken by the sound of his own wailing (p. 26), and I too remembered how hearing my own wail was at once foreign and familiar. Something that was coming from inside me, yet as if from a distance too.

Jay speaks of his rush to the ER desk and the nurse there using a tone reminding him that it was his crisis, not everyone else’s. And I could see in my minds’ eye the nurses that wouldn’t make eye contact with me when I arrived to the ER and was ushered into a private waiting room. They didn’t need my break-down to interrupt everyone else’s waiting.

But slowly, day by day, we would read a little more. And then close the pages of their story and discuss the pages of our own. This book was like an elbow-to-the-side from a friend, saying “hey, talk about this partyes, that part too. Don’t skip it.”

There were moments in Katherine’s pages when I would see Jason nod, or sigh, or close his eyes in recognition of a moment of ICU despair. Of walking a sacred road that included being asleep for the most dramatic moments. (Confession: we did scan over some of the details of the physical healing, as that section got long, but this story is powerful enough that even scanning over it is impactful.)

Jay speaks of the day “I released Katherine from my feeble grip and into God’s. I knew that, though Katherine may well lose her life, she would never lose the indomitable goodness and inexplicable love of God. And neither would I.” THIS is the healing of which they speak. The healing this book offers goes far beyond the physical, and dares us all to think of how “we all walk through this life on the edge of a blade, and yet we rarely allow ourselves to feel the weight of our potential losses or the grace of our potential gains.” (p. 66)

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*Released TODAY; go grab a copy and dare to meet Jay and Katherine in the pages of this book. Dare to go even further and feel the elbow-nudge as their story unlocks your own … 

 

 

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All I asked for was a ride to the Hospital

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It’s Friday number eight. I told you I’d be counting for awhile.

  And LIFE is here, you guys. We are in it. We have a new filter, a new way to make decisions and priorities but we are back in the zone where we need … well, filters and decisions and priorities. And sometimes it’s real tricky. And coming at us real fast.

Eight Fridays ago feels like a lifetime removed from our here and now, but also like a constant timer going off in the background. In the here and now, we are laughing and holding hands and rolling our eyes at the same drama and launching dreams like books and businesses (turns out the Entrepreneur-apple didn’t fall far from the tree) and turning our prayers to other emergencies and hurts.

But also, it’s only been eight Fridays since our emergency. Jason still wears a life vest. We have learned what a false alarm on that thing sounds like (hint: terror. It sounds like terror.) We own a sexy old-man-pill-box. And Cardiac Rehab is a part of our new rythym.

It’s still. So. Surreal.

Eight Fridays ago I called one of my best friends and in a tremor-filled-voice asked if she would drive me to the hospital.

That’s the last thing I asked for.

I didn’t ask anyone else to come to the hospital. They came.

   

   
I didn’t ask anyone to bring me food. They held apples up to my face and told me when to bite.

I didn’t ask anyone to smuggle cots into the waiting room. They found a way.

I didn’t ask anyone to replace my silly heels. They brought Uggs and it felt like stepping into a hug. That I wore for four days straight. So ummm, they didn’t want them back.

I didn’t ask anyone to start a dinner plan. But every night on the courtyard patio there was the breaking of bread and more being nourished than just our bodies.

   

 I carried around a box full of hotel toiletries like it was a prized baby doll, you guys.

Because love looked so PRACTICAL in that space. Love showed up in every single hug. And prayer. And song. And baby snuggle. And card. And candy bar. And yes, hotel toiletry.

   
   
It was a collision of selflessness that turned into a beautiful symphony. I’ll never be the same because of it. And it hasn’t stopped – people are still giving us LIFE in countless ways. Turns out meal trains are the bomb, by the way. And turns out we have some amazing cooks in our tribe.

I’ve always taken Jesus’ words to heart when He said it’s more blessed to give than receive. And I get what He was saying. But I gotta say the blessing of receiving over these last eight Fridays has blown my socks off too. It’s powerful to see what life together can look like. I’m starting to think that life together is one of the most sacred things we have.

Tonight we are sharing at Choose Joy – and yes, saying WE still makes me giddy, I’m guessing that will continue much longer than the counting of Fridays will. Choose Joy is a conference-that-feels-more-like-family and this is our third year here. It’s targeted to couples going through infertility and/or adoption, but you know what it’s really targeted at? Alone-ness. Fear. Lies that you’re the only one. See, some crises are far more private and invisible than a heart attack. And rarely does someone pick up the phone and ask for anything when their heart is being attacked in a way that can be hidden. It’s tricky learning how to share it. But dang am I amazed every year at the power of going from “1-in__________” to “1-of-a___________”.

Sometimes you don’t realize who your tribe is until you need them. Jason was once told that he “counted by ones” – to be honest, it was said as a negative, though in taking that phrase home we decided we always wanted to count that way, and never give into the ministry-pressure to start counting success by any number higher than one. That decision felt costly at the time. But as I sat in that waiting room and looked around me, you know what I was doing? Counting by ones … all the ones had gathered in that room together. Our Pastor looked over at me at one point and said, “this is a good return on your investment.” He could not have been more right.

So you guys, count by ones. Invest in your people. Take the risk of showing up. Because all I asked for eight Fridays ago was a ride to the hospital. Our people carried us from there …

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We are living a miracle: TeamJasonMiller LIVE!

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Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples.

– Psalm 96:3 –

And when appropriate, do it in jig form.

Also, it’s probably always appropriate.

And without further ado, for all who have asked about the video from Easter Sunday, here’s my guy in his own words standing on his own two feet and (appropriately) avoiding the jig:

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News that makes you RUN

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Let’s be honest, I’ll never see Easter the same way again. The story that has been familiar to me since I was five is ALIVE in new ways.

As I sat in that waiting room five short Saturdays ago, my mind was churning on all the words that had been delivered to me. Like heart attack and life support and it’s time to say goodbye. My mind kept sticking like a scratch on an old record on the word “widow.”

When the doctors and both attending nurses walked into that waiting room, I stood, expecting to hear the pronouncement, the time of death, the confirmation of this new title I never wanted. I mean, I’ve watched Grey’s Anatomy, I know what happens when the attending physician comes in with backup.

Instead, the doctor’s eyes and mouth got wide at the same time as he said “I can’t explain it, but he’s awake, you should go see him!” One of the nurses then grabbed my hand and raced me down the hallway. She was practically skipping, proclaiming over and over again that she’d never seen anything like this, that it was a miracle. My steps were a little more stumbley and heavy, as my mind and heart tried to catch up.

And there he was. ALIVE! And mad – oh my gosh so blessedly mad at the tubes and so scared by the noises. His eyes were just as wide as before, but instead of blank orbs there was LIFE fighting to see and be seen. He was in way too much danger for anything more than a few minutes of sloppy kisses on his forehead and words to calm him and tell him he was so loved.

I went back to the waiting room to tell everyone it was true: He IS alive! A friend raced in moments later – I will never forget the sound of his flip-flops as they raced down the hall and into the waiting room, not pausing to round the corners, coming at full speed to my side, where both of our messy tears and words rambled through a series of “I heard he was gone? But that now he’s alive?” and “yes!” and “what!?” and “how can this be?” and “what does this mean?”

I imagine a very similar scene in “that other” sacred waiting room – the Upper Room where the disciples waited from Saturday to Sunday morning. Like me, Peter was trying to wrap his head and heart around watching his best friend as he was dying. Like me, they were preparing for a burial. I mean, you guys, the women went to the tomb to prepare the body for burial, not to check for resurrection.

And the women came and Peter probably stood. Or maybe he only half looked up. Because either way, he already knew what they were there to say. They came to pronounce that they had prepared the body.

Except they hadn’t.

Because his body wasn’t there.

Because he was IS alive.

And Peter ran. His feet flew to the tomb when he heard the words that Jesus was ALIVE … I don’t know whether he ran in confidence or confusion or with skipping feet or stumbling feet. But when I read of Saint Peter’s footsteps as he ran to the tomb, I will forever hear an echo of my own as I ran-stumbled down an ICU hallway. And I’ll hear those flip flops, too.

Because “He is alive!” is news that makes you run.

So I hope you run today. To the empty tomb. To life. To Jesus. Whether you have seen His new life with your own eyes or heard a report and are still figuring out what it means, whether you’re in ugg-boots or flip-flops, whether you’re running with confidence or stumbling along as someone else holds your hand. Run. Run to the news that HE IS ALIVE.

Because you guys, He is.

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Lexi, ICWA, and the choice to love anyways

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Raise your hand if you were traumatized by the video of Lexi being removed from her foster parent’s home.

Yeah. Me too.

I’ve read multiple articles expressing varied views, some in favor of the Choctaw Nation and seeing this as a victory for the tribe and a loss for the father, some in favor of ICWA in general, some in direct support of the Page family as they seek to get Lexi back, and perhaps most importantly the Court of Appeals Order.

I don’t really trust any of the stories I’m hearing in their entirety, but I do know the system. It is broken. But it’s also working with broken pieces. Some articles paint Lexi’s biological parents as villains, others as victims – they were probably somewhere in between. Her bio mom had already lost a battle to methamphetamine and with that had lost custody of at least six kids prior to Lexi. Bio Dad also lost custody of at least one other child, and is described as having an “extensive criminal history”. Lexi is 1/64th Indian, subjecting her to ICWA, and was described as a child who “bonded and thrived with her foster family.” The words and thrived stick in my throat. That said, the family she’s en route to, while demonized by many news outlets, first petitioned for her in 2011 and have been skyping with and visiting Lexi for years.

See, I bet some of that was new information to you. And that’s only a fraction of the details in play here.

As an Adoption Attorney and Orphan Care Advocate, I probably read some of these things with a different filter than many. ICWA isn’t new news to me – I think it’s the wrong solution to a problem. My brain does a few somersaults and sees the many conundrums and legal precedents that are butting up against each other.

As a human-being-with-a-heartbeat, I’m guessing we feel the same after we read these things. My heart twinges and breaks and aches as it seems like broken stories are only further broken. I hear so much being argued about competing rights, and a little girl named Lexi seems lost in the fray. Much like victims of frenzied stampedes in crowded places.

And I can’t help but think there could be another victim here too. More vulnerable only because it is easier to ignore, easier to overlook.

It’s the hearts of all those who stand on the edge of love. Wholehearted, fierce, unrelenting love. Especially those who stand on the verge of foster parenting and say “see, that’s why I could never do that.”

I won’t pretend I haven’t thought that as stories like this unfold.

Though to be honest, isn’t a story like this exactly why we need more and more foster families willing to risk wholehearted love? Shouldn’t every foster child “bond and thrive” with their foster families? Some of the tragic and untold stories are of foster homes where love isn’t offered at all. Science tells us that attachment is one of the most important things a child can experience at a young age. In that, the Pages offered Lexi – and whatever family she grows up with – a priceless and irreplaceable gift.

But I get it. Love is scary. Love is risky.

As a new bride, I was scared to be all-in on this love thing. Because that meant placing my heart in the most vulnerable position of all: potential utter devastation if anything ever disrupted this marriage. Like, say, a heart-attack that could take my husband’s life at age 39. About two years into our marriage, I realized I was about 99% in, holding this tiny fragment of myself as a means of self-protection, as if I could ensure I’d “be okay” if anything ever happened. I woke up one night and realized the bigger regret would be to have not loved wholly and fully and without self-preservation intact. And when that heart attack did strike on February 19, you better believe I was glad that none of my tears were ones of regret.

A lot of us try to live in the land of love and self-preservation at the same time. But they are different places with different currencies and different languages. Eventually you have to choose one.

And while we can inhale deep breaths of concern and exhale deep breaths of prayer for this situation, a lot of us are wondering if there’s anything more we can do. Well honestly, for Lexi, probably very little. For the Pages, maybe some money or some cards and meals. For the law, you can use your voice to call Congress, sign petitions, and lobby for either side you support.

But maybe the bigger thing you can do is dare to love. Fiercely and wholeheartedly. To not let a story like this kill the part of yourself that would dare to risk. That would dare to be broken. To hate the ICWA and love the Lexi in your life – in the situation that’s messy, that makes you vulnerable, and that guarantees you nothing beyond today. Maybe that’s an aging parent with dementia. Maybe that’s a spouse with a terminal illness. Maybe that’s a foster child, Indian or otherwise. Maybe it’s the drug addict that doesn’t show up for Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s the student that makes you question teaching.

Maybe it’s anyone we love. Because “[t]o love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

While the Pages may come out of this with some things they’d change, I can bet on one thing they’ll never regret: loving Lexi.

 

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Watch the heart

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It’s hard to believe that my favorite heart stopped beating four Fridays ago. And then started again. And then stopped again. And then, well, for those that have been reading along, you know the ‘and then’.

I know someday will be “just another Friday”, but for now – and the foreseeable future – I’m counting. Today is Friday number FOUR from “that Friday.” Friday and I have always had a thing – but more in the abstract, the idea of Friday as a season, which emerged from the disciple Peter’s experiences on that fateful “Good Friday.” When shock, loss, and mourning collide. When the unreal becomes real. I’ve always said my “first Friday” was going through infertility – our unplanned unparenthood. Heck, even the Bible Study I wrote is called, of all things, ‘Friday’s Rain.’  Walking through my proverbial Friday is how I learned that lament is worship and what it means to praise a GOOD God in the midst of UNGOOD feels and reals.

So it’s not lost on me that “the call” came on a Friday, too. The literal and figurative Fridays colliding in a scene that is still surreal, though the flashbacks hit with shocking realism.

  
This morning I woke up thinking about all that I didn’t know four Fridays ago. ICU-Nurses-turned-friends. Campus-security-officers-turned-heroes. A hospital I didn’t know existed. Medical terms that were previously obscure and irrelevant to me. Doctors I would hug. A naivety and innocence that I didn’t know was naïve and innocent.

But also the depth of community, the power of prayer, and the LIVING nature of Scripture. Just how rich we are in friends. Just how miraculous each breath is. These are all things I knew, but now I KNOW.

This morning my guy decided that it was time to kick me out for a little beach time before I went to therapy – both some of the healthiest things for my soul. When I got down to the water, the clouds were still perfectly thick, keeping everything sleepy and just the right amount of Southern California chilly. But as it generally does, the sun started to fight off the clouds, and as I took in the sun’s warmth, I thought about how the last few weeks have felt just like that … a taking in of the sun as it slowly burns off the clouds. And makes your eyes burn if you stare right at it.

 Direct staring not recommended, but paying attention: highly recommended. Walking the beach, I thought of my hours in the ICU, where I remember wondering if there would be a day that I’d walk the beach again in full contentment. And while I don’t miss the hospital or that ICU room, there’s one thing I do miss. Okay two. Okay three.

First, the definition within its walls. Second, Nurse Nancy. And third, the breakfast burritos.

The second two I can go visit. The first, the definition, may sound like a weird thing to miss- because a hospital is full of UNdefined possibilities, more questions than answers, chaos, and is constantly ON. But one thing a hospital does just right is having a single focus: LIFE. Life has one very specific, distinct, simple meaning in a hospital, especially the cardiac floor. You watch the heart. You watch it’s rythym, it’s beat, it’s pace, it’s consistency. Life inside the hospital walls means one thing. Watch the heart, keep it beating.

Life outside the hospital walls is not so simple. And that’s SO GOOD, and so healthy, and a little tricky. Because life outside the hospital walls includes deadlines and decisions and diets and directions and dog-hair and dust and deep sighs.

And still, watching the heart. Yes the physical – low sodium, cardiac rehab, etc. But also the heart-heart. The soul-part. The one that doesn’t come with a monitor – but oh my gosh can you imagine if it did!? Yikes. Because even when everything changes, you still bring the same self to the table. You’re forever different, but you’re also not.

Watch the heart, for it is deep, and varied. It can take in wonders, and can expand beyond what you thought possible, and ache in unknown places, and echo dazzling light and love. Watch it. Watch your hot-mess heart as it LIVES. I think you’ll be surprised what you find, whether it’s a Friday or “just another Friday.” One sign of LIFE returning this week were the tears and the laughter and then the laughing-tears when a kinda rough conversation led to Jason saying to me, “You know you’re the hot mess that I WANT to do life with, right?” You better believe that I laugh-cried right then and there.

You guys, these hearts of ours. Goodness they are a sacred mystery. They need watching. They have a lot to process and prioritize and participate in. And maybe life outside the hospital walls isn’t all that different from life within: watch the heart, keep it beating.

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