17 February 2015

Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani

as i am trying to process the physical and emotional pain i’m experiencing these days, i recognize that i am not alone.

i am surrounded by family and friends and people that i do not even know, who are also suffering.

suffering…while unfortunate…is a part of the human experience.

…and yet ironically, the discomfort of others and of ourselves, makes us incredibly uncomfortable.

we say a lot of things to each other…to ourselves…in the midst of pain.

catchy little antidotes that we throw out…words of well-intentioned encouragement.

hang in there.

let go and let god.

keep the faith.

keep on pressing on.

…you know, all those things that sound nice but are actually more obnoxious than helpful.

i sat with a friend the other day…i told him, with great certainty, that if god was shaping me and molding me…in the very near future, there would be no clay left.

he responded by asking,

“what if we have missed the point? what if pain and suffering isn’t about shaping and molding? what if pain is just a result of a fallen world? what if pain is just pain? god isn’t doing this to you, erika…he’s experiencing it with you.”

as i am being bombarded with all the (excuse my language) shit life can throw at me…he did not offer patronizing quips or little rhymes dripping with religiosity.

instead, he slapped me in the face with truth…and THAT was encouraging.

i’ve been thinking about paul’s words in phillipians for a while…

“whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely whatever is admirable….if anything is excellent or praiseworthy…think about such things.”
~ phillipians 4:8 niv

we quote this verse all the time....but when we are really honest, there’s a whole string of unspoken expectations with every quote.

we mean things that make us comfortable….things that make us feel good.

we mean sunshine and flowers…we mean world peace and brotherly love.

but that’s not reality.

…and paul, who was no stranger to suffering, wasn’t exactly a sunshine-blowing kind of guy.

now, i never met the guy…so this is clearly just an assumption on my part, but….i don’t think he was telling us to meditate of jesus riding a pink unicorn in the clouds.

what if these words were a charge to remember this?

“from noon to three, the whole earth was dark. around mid-afternoon jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “eli, eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “my god, my god, why have you abandoned me?”
~matt. 27:45-46 msg

he groaned from the depths!

what if what’s good, is that we serve a king that experienced darkness…who experienced suffering…who knows what its like to no longer be able to distinguish between physical and spiritual pain...and who knows what it was like to feel broken and alone?

what if we started looking at these words as the most praiseworthy and lovely words in all of scripture?

do we have this much courage?

in the midst of our darkness are we willing to be this authentic?

will we let go of our bootstraps and truly let god be big enough and strong enough to carry the full weight of our burdens?

are we willing to voice what we are actually feeling…are we willing to cry out…just as jesus did…”my god…MY GOD…where are you??”

…because, i truly believe that until we do, we will not experience the full impact of his grace.

until we let go….until we are absolutely authentic….we will not feel this earth shake.

if we continue to power through…we will miss the torn curtain.

if we continue to self-talk…we will miss his voice.

if we continue to hang on…we will miss his hand reaching out to lift us up.

and if we refuse to ask, “why have you abandoned me?”

…we will miss his voice…rolling in with the power of a mighty thunder and the gentleness of a lamb, saying….

i have never…ever…left your side…

your tears are my tears.

“we do not have a high priest who is out of touch with our reality. he’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all…all but the sin. so let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. take the mercy, accept the help.”
~ hebrews 4:15-16 msg

04 January 2015

Through Rough Waters

the past few months have been hard...

hell, the past few years have been hard.

personally, we have been threatened, attacked, lied to and robbed.

our family has spent more time apart than together...our children have not yet been held by some of the most important people in their lives.

we have fought illness and have faced death more than too many times.

professionaly, we have also been attacked, threatened, robbed and have had to fight against attempts to cause division.

we have seen senseless deaths and unimaginable suffering.

...i am weary and i am broken.

two days ago we faced death yet again...

as we returned to bélans in a tiny fishing boat, the sea turned violent...the waves were so big and our boat was so small...

my children clung to me in fear as a wave crashed over us...

while i cried out for god to calm the sea... i also prayed for him to take my children quickly, should we be tossed from the tiny boat.

...i prayed for them not to suffer and not to be afraid.

even now, though we are on dry ground... the memory causes me to tremble and uncontrollable tears flow.

...it's too much to bare.

so often life feels like that boat ride...the trials seem like the waves that we struggled to ride and sometimes they simply engulf me.

...but just as god carried that boat...he continues to be faithful and continues to carry us through life's storms.

i am reminded of how he has provided...

my children have never gone to bed with an empty belly...they have been healthy and even though we are far from family...we have been given a new family where they find security and love.

god has given us strength to recover from illness...he has been the air that we breathe...and he has surrounded us with a shield of protection.

he has carried us when we could not go on and he is holding us now.

...he bares that which is too much.

i know that he is gathering the broken pieces and building something of unimaginable beauty.

until then...i wait and cling to this promise...

"fear not, for i have redeemed you; i have called you by name; you are mine. when you pass through rough waters, i will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."

isaiah 43:1-2

06 December 2014

To Hans & Candiline

today my little brother is getting married.

he is marrying a woman that, for the past five years, i have called my sister-in-law.

he loves her.

i love her.

a little over three years ago it was my wedding day and two things happened that night.

first…i chose to not throw my bouquet but to “pass my torch.”

…as i gave up my flegle name…i handed it off to the woman that i knew would, one day, bare it with honor and pride.

second….my brother stood up with me…as my “man of honor.”

i made him give a toast.


he said that my husband was kind and always willing to help (true) and that it was good….

because his sister (me) was “really high-maintenance.”

(gee, thanks man-of-honor!!)

over the past three years i have learned that he was not wrong…that i am high maintenance…but that we all are.

marriage is high maintenance.

falling in love is easy…staying in love takes work …maintaining love takes work.

it takes intention….dedication and perseverance.

so today…as my favorite little brother and my brand new little sister join their souls and their lives as one…

i pray that you will not travel a road that is without challenges…not a road that is smooth and clean and that is low maintenance.

i pray that your journey will be one that challenges you and that will stretch your love to greater depths.

a journey that will force you to grow individually…and that will ultimately force you to continually choose each other.

i pray that you will never stop yearning to please…seeking to know…or learning to be one.

i pray that you will never again see each other as you do today but that you see each other with new eyes…every morning….

as long as you both shall live.

i love you, hans and candiline!

happy happily ever after!


01 December 2014

Not a Choice

november was adoption awareness month…so technically this is one day late.

but adoption doesn’t just happen one month out of the year…. adoption shouldn’t just be talked about one month out of the year.

adoption represents so much more than paperwork and legal terminology…so much more than the hague convention…so much more than the journey of a child and the longing of the parents.

adoption represents selfless love…healing…. restoration…reconciliation and the hope that we can come home.

ironically, this past month i have had to defend my position as a mother…more than any other time.

i have had to defend my husband and i becoming parents via adoption, given our employment status as missionaries and our lack of significant income….

i have had to fight for the validity of my children’s relationship with their big brother in comparison with his biological siblings…

jason and i have had to leave our children in a third world country…because despite being the only parent our toddlers have ever known…our home country will not grant them entry.

what saddens me…and honestly angers me the most…is the knowledge that if jason and i would have chosen to get pregnant…and in essence put my life and the life of a child at risk, rather than answering the call to save the precious lives of our two children….none of this would be an issue.

no one would question medical bills…which would be radically more than the cost of our adoption.

no one would question my role as a mother….simply because of dna…not because of any actions or decisions that a mother should make for her children.

no courts would question the relationship of our three children.

no one could stop us from being able to travel with our children or prevent them from meeting their family members…that happen to live in a different country.

there seems to be a misunderstanding about adoption.

on the surface and in a very practical sense, i am no different than a mother that conceived and gave birth…

i found out at the age of twenty-four that pregnancy would not be in my future…that very same day i conceived.

no, not physically…but in a very real sense, i carried my children for seven years.

just like every other mother who has adopted a child, i carried the hope of my children and i loved them….until the day that i looked into their big, beautiful brown eyes and knew beyond anything…that they were my babies.

they were the ones that i had been loving all those years.

no, i didn’t feel them growing and moving inside of me…i didn’t have ultrasounds or morning sickness…

and my boobs didn’t get any bigger…not even a little bit.

but i carried my children….i grew and stretched…and it was painful and beautiful all at the same time.

…and i bare the scars of that journey…scars that no amount of bio-oil will ever be able to erase.

i think there may be an assumption that adoption is a choice…and if you operate under the belief that all of life is a choice, then yes…adoption is a choice.

but to tell an adoptive parent that they had a choice, is like telling a woman who just gave birth that she has a choice to take her child home…or to not.

i did not give my children the gift of life….but they are as much a part of me as the blood the courses through my veins and the cells that make up that blood.

but family isn’t about blood…is it?

family is simply about love.

and the beautiful thing is that, at two years old, our children know that…they don’t question it.

they have not yet put together that mommy and daddy are a different color…that they are different colors than each other.

they simply know that they are loved.

they know that they are loved just as much by the people that they see everyday, by the people that they talk to on the computer and by the people that we see who, one day, they will know as their biological families.

they know that no matter what…we are their parents and that no matter where we go, we will always come back.

“real” mom and dad are not concepts that they have.

we are real and our love is real and that’s the they only criteria they care about.

oak knows that olive is his little sister and that even though she swipes his nuk…he has to take care of her.

olive knows that oak is her big brother and that mommy doesn’t need help putting him in time-out…but that when he falls down, he can never get too many kisses.

they both know that even though they have to talk to gaga through a computer, she loves them more than life.

they know that grandma and grandpa and mopmop and poppop would move heaven and earth for them.

they know that nini’s house is their house and that they are always safe and loved with her.

they know that their house is marie joy and betsy’s house and that there is always enough love to go around.

i wish we could preserve this toddler worldview for them.

i wish they could live in this world forever…where they are blind to the questions and misconceptions that i know they will face.

but I can’t.

what i can do is be their mom.

i can be there to tell them about their “tummy mommies” and their papies.

i can continue to surround them with people that love them.

i can be there when they have questions about loss and i can grieve with them for the losses that they have experienced.

i can rejoice with them over their joys.

i can refuse to be colorblind…but choose to provide a home that celebrates color and the beauty of difference and diversity.

i can tell them that adoption is not something that this world created but that is ordained by our creator….that we are all invited into adoption and into a bigger family.

i can tell them that before they were adopted by their daddy and me…they were adopted by their heavenly father…that their inheritance is not one that is of this world but is one that is from him.

i can tell them that they are not the lucky ones…that i am.

that i did not give them the gift of life…

but that life gave me the gift of being their mommy.

and i can cherish that gift rather than defend it.

that is my choice.

11 November 2014

More Than a Dream

it’s veteran’s day.

i very rarely get patriotic or political but today…

i am.

it occurred to me that the men and women that serve in our armed forces represent something so much more than america.

they represent hope.

they represent a dream that many of us have started to give up on.

the american dream is alive and well and it lives in the men and the women that fight for our freedom to dream it.

our troops do not serve the government that i have (admittedly) given up on…

they serve us…they serve the american people.

they do not fight for a commander-in chief that is seemingly not supporting them….

they fight for us…their brothers and sisters.

they do not stand for the honor of the us government….

they stand for our honor…as a people

they serve…fight and stand so that our children…and our children’s children might one day truly be able to live in a land where all men are equal, where they get to love whomever they chose, where they get to worship without fear and where freedom is more than just a word….

and a dream.

so today, i honor all the men and the women who have fought for my freedoms…who still fight and who are yet to fight.

in memory of:

robert monson
richard flegle
sidney johnson
art colaizy

in honor of:

christopher swope
anna petry
jake wilcox
dave johnson
matt misner
erik simonson
josh winkleman
dave skalicky

thank you for our freedom to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

“greater love has no one than this; to lay down his life for his friends.” john 15:13