How to See the World More Clearly

Once again I have the privilege to introduce you to another dear mama blogger: Lea Turner. Once again I have to say I love her message! Lea is a mother of five—two of which are nonbio—and one of which is brand new. If anyone can address the topic here today, she can.

In the midst of busy, busy, busy, how do you see clear enough to make an impact on the future? You might be surprised at Lea’s answer. 


What would you want your life to look like in 20 years?

At the beginning of 2017, our pastor asked that question.

The challenge of this question is its demand to focus on what matters most. To scale back the fluff of life and ask what of today will matter tomorrow?

I take the challenge and write one evening what I want life to look like in twenty years:

Friendships with each of my children.
A stable marriage built on God’s grace.
Walking in freedom and wholeness.
Deep relationships with my sister and sister-in-loves.
To be loving the people in front of me with God’s love.

As I sat back and looked at my list, I knew something had to change. None of those things would just happen. Life needed to be lived on purpose to create the lasting fruit I longed for. It would take listening and abiding by the Spirit.

Hectic and busy schedules defined my everyday life. All the events that consumed my days were really good things and from the outside it looked like I was handling it all. Except being busy affected my marriage and children, and if continued these relationships would not flourish over the next twenty years. Busy dictated my time and energy and was taking a toll.

Something had to change.

The Lord whispered only one word this year…”be.” To build sustainable fruit and to flourish in my life and relationships the Lord would have to teach me the spiritual act of being present. Is that not how we abide in the Spirit?

Apr 24 BE

Twenty years from now I want my life to be defined by the spirit, not rush and worry.

Jesus is capable of calming our souls by saying, “Quiet Be still!” Mark 4:39. I only have to make a choice to obey his voice rather than the storm around. Choosing to listen and remember…

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

In a world defined by rushing, finishing to-do-lists, and our hours in between jam-packed with activities and commitments it seems almost impossible to “be still.”

I explained to the Lord how there is no time for me to just “be still.” Continuing to explain to Him how I have five children and a husband to take care of like he did not know.

A New Way to Live

“I am teaching you a calming of your soul when life is crazy all around you.”

As the months have continued on the Lord has slowly taught me to quiet my soul as I go about my day completing my tasks. The reality is that there is no separation between the sacred and the secular. All of life is spiritual because all of life comes from God.

Apr 24 Lea Turner

Throughout my day I began asking the Holy Spirit to show me how to …

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Psalm 37:7

Little by little I have noticed my pace is set more to the Spirit than to busy. I find myself throughout the day breathing in deeply, inhaling the Spirit that gives me life. Sometimes I sing, “Come Holy Spirit, come” to remind myself to abide in Him.

Once our souls are calmer, we can go about our days, intentional about loving the people in front of us. Listening—really listening to what the Spirit is doing around us.

Knowing there is …

A time to keep silent and a time to speak. Ecclesiastes 3:7

I do more intentional living rather than wasted time of wonder. Less time is spent aimlessly scrolling social media, and I find myself lingering in the moment rather than rushing onto to the next task.

Through this simple act of being your spiritual eyes awaken to the world around you. More time is spent praying and less time is spent worrying.

So, starting today, here’s what I want you to do:

Make a list of what you want your life to look like in twenty years, commit the list to prayer, and begin to be intentional about abiding in the Spirit. Then listen and obey to His leading. It very well may mean you have to say no to some really great things in order to say yes to what really matters.


Lea Turner

I’m Lea Turner. I have a husband, and we’ve got us, five kids. Three grew in my tummy and two in our hearts. My house is loud and crazy. Moved to Mississippi making me a northern girl stuck in a southern world.

Yeah…tired, worn-out you, looking for a place to find rest for your soul? I understand. I get it. Me too. Rest is what I seek. Finding and living out my truest self is my destiny. I blog at leaturner.com

I Often Don’t Like Easter Services

I often don’t like Easter services.

I don’t. I like parts of the service—usually. But I often come away less than satisfied.

The Easter story is packed with lessons:

The prophecies of Passover fulfilled
“Not my will but Yours”
Peter denying Christ
Christ bearing the punishment for our sins
By Christ’s stripes we are healed
The crushing of Satan’s head
Light in our deepest darkness
The defeat of death and the grave
Eternal hope
And so on, and so on, and …

It must be rather difficult for preachers to decide what to focus on. Most usually choose a topic that will speak to those who rarely attend church. (I think that’s a great idea.) And for those who want to break the story into meditation-size pieces, many churches offer several services the week preceding Easter Sunday. (Another great idea.)

But if I was the one planning the Resurrection Sunday service …

I’d be sure to include a sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs, hallelujah-shouting, hand-raising, triumphant celebration. The good old-fashioned “Up from the grave He arose” sort of thing.

Why? Because I love celebrating resurrection life—resurrection hope.

Hope based on an incomprehensible victory already accomplished.

Hope not just that things will turn out okay in my world today, but hope that all darkness, all evil, all sickness, all failures, all pain will one day be wiped away forever. Hope because they already have been.

Apr 17 Easter Hope

This hope thing.

It’s what I want to convey each time I write. Not shallow or plastic; but deep and life-giving. To do so, I share as honestly as I can. I paint the picture as dark as I remember it being while raising nonbiological, attachment-disorder-laden, fetal-alcohol-exposed children. And then, I turn on the light—truths that illumined the path I walked.

So today I pray I don’t discourage you too much when I tell you that even after my kids are all well into adulthood and parents themselves, even though they’ve beautifully attached to their dad and me, and even though their drama no longer presents itself in my home, it often does in someone else’s. And every now and then, I receive discouraging reports from those who are with them in the midst of it all. And once again my world  turns a little dark—like a cloud that blocks the sun.

And so I went to church yesterday, Easter Sunday, with a twinge of angst tightening my chest. I needed a good dose of hope. It may not have been the fist-pumping, happy-dancing, tears-streaming kind of service (for me) but it was enough. Enough to lift the grey and allow the Son to shine fresh.

None of us moms have guarantees …

that what we’re planting will produce beautiful gardens. We’ve no promises that all we’re investing will yield astounding returns. We’ve no reason to expect that all we’ve poured out of ourselves will ever be recognized (much less cherished).

But

We can grab hold and cling tightly to the promises of Easter.

My sins are forgiven.
I am God’s child forever.
Jesus is alive and in the world today.
He will always rise victorious.
His purposes will be accomplished.
His light will dispel all darkness.

My children can never offer me this kind of hope. I can never produce this kind of light.

But Jesus can. Jesus does. Jesus has.

If you’re like me, you might just need to do a little Easter celebrating even today. Shout-shatter that cloud hanging over you. Thank Jesus for the immensity of what He’s done for you. Bow before His gloriousness. Run into His embrace.

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:5-6 (NKJV)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”
John 11:25 (NKJV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
1 Peter 1:3 (NKJV)

The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!
Revelation 11:15 (NKJV)

Calling the Monsters Out

We sat around a beautiful hardwood dining room table.

Six of us with stomachs stuffed full of egg casserole, muffins, and fruit. A vase of flowers and a tempting dish of m&ms remained on the table. Our china cups recently refilled with fresh coffee. We met like this monthly, each woman sharing updates on the progress—or lack thereof—of her children.

0410 brooke-lark-96402photo courtesy of Brooke Lark @ Unsplash

One mom shared of the ways her near-adult son was taking advantage of her and her husband’s generosity. Disrespecting. Deceiving. Demanding. Where should she draw the line? How could she protect her sanity while trying to keep peace in the home? What should she do about her husband who continuously gave in to the demands?

I finally asked her,

What is it you fear the most?

I’d learned to ask myself this. Too many times I had attempted to parent out of my insecurities only to overreact and create a bigger mess than I had started with. Or, I’d shrink back and not take the task by the horns like I should have. When I found myself in a panic, I had to ask the tough, honest questions to get to the bottom of my anxiety.

She answered my question fairly honestly, but I took her a bit deeper. You see I feel there are primal fears that keep us awake at night, steal our ability to reason clearly, and stir up undue angst in our homes. I found she too felt plagued by such a fear. In this case, it was the fear of death.

I recognized it in her because I also had to deal with this fear. At times I was afraid that if I drew my boundaries too tight, my child might leave in a huff, get drunk, and get in a horrific car accident. Or my child might grow so despondent they choose to commit suicide. And if I’m honest here, the real fear was that I’d be left imprisoned by self-blame and guilt for the rest of my life. My attachment to my children wasn’t strong enough yet for me to fear losing them. I was more afraid of losing myself. (This is hard to admit. It feels so cold. But this is the kind of honesty we need.)

I don’t think this fear of death is unreasonable. In fact, a dear friend of mine experienced the devastating loss of her child through suicide a year and a half ago. Another dear friend had her child threaten it several years ago. And another friend has dealt with several unsuccessful attempts by her child.

This monster doesn’t just hide under our beds. It’s real, and big, and sometimes screams in our face.

Knowing that many moms have had to take an unwelcomed look at death, I feel it’s important that we name this thing out loud. We cannot shrink away from it. Fortunately, only a few of us will see this fear realized. But some will. And so we must be honest about it, train ourselves to recognize warning signs, equip ourselves with tools for prevention, and pray we never have to experience it.

At the same time, in spite of its potential, we can’t let this fear dictate our decisions as parents. This monster has not earned the right to have us tiptoeing around it. Our God is bigger. Much, much bigger. He is the one to whom we bow. He is the one we obey. He is the one we trust.

Apr 10 No Monster Earns Tiptoeing

Death was not the only beast I had to make myself stare down. I also had to deal with fears of:

• financial ruin
• life with of a child who never leaves home
• false accusations that might cripple my reputation
• failure as a mom

Do any of these fears sound familiar to you? Do you have other monsters that snarl at you? We all have them. Because they present a reasonable threat, we can’t just close our eyes and hope they go away.

I found the best way to shrink these things down to their appropriate size is to name them. Call these boogers out of hiding and let them know we see them. Only when we name them, can we begin to face them and weaken their stranglehold on us.

Then we need to talk to someone about our fears: our spouse, other nonbiological moms, close friends who understand, or quite possibly a professional. Talking about these fears doesn’t lessen the possibility, but it does lessen the power they hold over us. In so doing, we can think more clearly about them. We can more confidently draw appropriate boundaries, mete out suitable consequences, and create a solid support base in the event one of these fears is realized.

I don’t think we knew what all we were taking on when we stepped into this nonbiological parenting world. Did we? We had no idea of the extent of ugliness we’d have to face. But here we are.

I’m so glad our God is bigger than any giant that stomps into my territory.

Aren’t you?

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.
1 Samuel 17:45 (NASB)

“No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their vindication is from Me,” declares the Lord.
Isaiah 54:17

The Divine Finisher

You may remember me sharing that my word for this year (2017) is listen. So in February I asked the Lord what topic He wanted me to cover and felt impressed to study how He has modeled parenting for us. That’s been my theme the past several weeks. I figured who else can show us how to manage difficult children?

But this is an exhaustive topic. That’s actually good. Right?

Does not our heavenly Father continually entice us, make us thirsty, cause us to seek after Him, make us hungry to learn more, go deeper, grow wiser?

So in an attempt to wrap up this topic—leaving so many rich thoughts un-delved—I’d like to look at the idea that this Father does more than teach us how to parent …

He is the divine Parent.

Meaning, where we fall short, He stands tall. Where we lack, He supplies. What we are unable to complete, He finishes.

He is the Alpha and OMEGA, the beginning and the END. He has never expected us to be perfect. That’s His job.

Aren’t you glad for this? That …

Apr 3 God Fills Vacancy

For our children,

No one else can promise to never leave them or forsake them.

Only He can reveal Himself in a way that makes sense to them.

No one else can convict them of sin.

No one else can die for their sins.

Only He can resurrect them to new life.

No one other than the Holy Spirit can empower them to live the lives He created them to live.

Only He can love them perfectly.

So, dear mama …

out there trying your best, take a deep breath. Do what you can, as well as you can. When you don’t, know Jesus died for that sin, too. And encourage yourself with the same idea, that God is your heavenly Father, too. For you too, He is the Alpha and Omega. The beginning and the end. The filler of all your cracks and canyons. The divine finisher.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8, NIV

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12, NIV

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8, NIV

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:2, NASB

Yes, She’s My Real Sister

I tend to write heavy stuff because I feel it’s essential we shine a light on the issues we’d rather keep in the dark.

Sometimes, though, encouragement is best gained from someone who points to positive experiences. Someone like Katie Carper. Besides the fact that her writing captivates me, and besides the fact she’s another owner of dark curls, Katie is also an adoptive mom. But mostly I’m intrigued by the fact that she brings to her children—and to us—lifelong experiences as a sister to three adopted siblings.

How refreshing to read the perspective of a child impacted by adoption. I hope you’ll find the same enlightenment from her story that I did.


Yes, She’s My Real Sister

Mar 27 Sisterhood is Real

In the early 1970’s, my parents learned that they would not be able to have any biological children. Though they had always considered adoption as a way to grow their family, this devastating news led them down that road sooner than expected.

After adopting two boys, Dad and Mom thought to increase the estrogen level in their home, so they adopted an infant girl. She was a dark-haired beauty with olive skin, full of giggles and spunk. They named her Melanie.

Ten months after the birth of my sister, I was born. Seems doctors can only make predictions regarding procreation. The Long family now swelled to two boys and two girls.

Growing up, I struggled to connect with Melanie, my almost-twin. I did not value our differences, made more apparent as we shared a bedroom. She was not bothered by a bit of clutter; I was a neat-freak. At 9 pm, she grew more animated while I crawled into bed. She often hit snooze; I jumped out of bed to beat the sunrise. Melanie did not stress over academics; I had mild panic attacks before every test. She was the optimistic extrovert; I was the overthinking introvert. She excelled in music; I began to sweat when pressured to publicly sing “Happy Birthday”. She had dark, silky smooth hair like Selma Hayek; I had a thick, course mane, like a brunette Ronald McDonald.

We were never mistaken for sisters. Strangers were stunned to learn we were siblings and even more confused to discover we were just ten months apart. Despite our conflicting personalities and interests however, I always thought of Mel as my big sister. I was happy to share stories that began with these two endearing words: “My sister…”

Over the years, many have asked, “So, is Melanie your real sister?” Real sister? What does that mean? Was that word a subtle attempt to cheapen Mel’s role in my life because we weren’t sisters by blood? Was it a question born of curiosity? Or did it reveal an ignorance in matters of adoption-speak? Whatever the reason, each time I was asked, I felt the need to explain myself, to provide concrete evidence that we were siblings, to prove to some jury that she was my legitimate sister. I imagined we were caught in a scandal, our sisterhood finally exposed as a fraud. Several years passed before I could name that feeling as shame–shame that we didn’t share the same womb, family history, physical characteristics, or core personality.

I’ve come a long way since those awkward, painful moments on the other side of that insensitive question. Time, adoption resources, and talking with other adoptive families have helped me to feel less alone as I’ve worked through those feelings of shame. I now have only deep gratitude for how God made us sisters through the pain and beauty of adoption.

I feel privileged to have enjoyed such a rich childhood, full of memories with my big sister, my only sister. Her feet kicked my own in the double bed we shared as kids. Beneath the handmade quilt and cool sheets, her brave hand reached for mine when late night thunderstorms scared me stiff. Those same strong hands yanked my thick hair during our knock-down-drag-out fights. Her fierce green eyes lost their sparkle when faced with my cruel words. Her stifled snorts only encouraged me to make her laugh harder when we got the giggles in church.

Melanie has always been and will always be my real sister. When we connect, we share real hugs, real laughs, and real stories while we sip our real blueberry wine over a real game of Scrabble. Regardless of the insensitivity of others, we know with certainty that our sisterhood is real and no one has permission to diminish that truth.


20170327 Katie CarperKatie Carper is a recovering people-pleaser with a strong sense of justice and a deep desire to include the excluded. She’s grateful for coffee, laughter, and this adventurous life with her husband and 4 kiddos. You can find her at katiecarper.com where she blogs about community, faith, adoption, and special needs with hope, humor, and a good dose of snark. She also shares snippets of her life on Instagram.

Sometimes Love is Fierce

Lord, does your word support the idea of kicking our children out? How can I know if it’s the right thing to do?

We battled this decision with each of our children as we came to the point of feeling we were no longer helping them move forward into adulthood—and the cost of them remaining in our home was too high. That “tough love” part of parenting sure was heart-wrenching. Hard, but necessary. Never entered into quickly or thoughtlessly. Followed by hours … days … months of prayer, motivation questioning, and Scripture searching.

I suppose if we’d never second-guessed our boundaries, if we’d never wondered if we were too strict, then we’d probably been too weak—the lines drawn too softly.

As parents we should question ourselves at times. We do make mistakes, after all. Another look allows us to examine our child’s behaviors, objectively evaluate appropriate consequences, and review our own responses as well.

When in doubt, I found it helped to hold my discipline choices against God’s word.

Though a great example as a long-suffering father, God’s discipline wasn’t always pretty: pestilence, famine, sickness, and death. And, He did kick His children out, too. Several times. Starting with the Garden of Eden.

But this is what’s amazing to me. Sending His children into exile is part of God’s gospel story.

2017 Mar 20, Exile is part of the Gospel2

God knows we have to come to point of realizing that our sin is so wretched we do not deserve to even dream of His presence.

Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?
And who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood
And has not sworn deceitfully.
Psalm 24:3-4 (NASB)

There is none righteous, not even one.
Romans 3:10 (NASB)

It’s only when we reach a place of humility and awareness of our need, that we can turn to Him for salvation.

Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lip.
Isaiah 6:5 (NASB)

And only when we truly repent can we begin to experience the breadth and length and depth and height of His love.

…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:17-29 (NASB)

Our children need this too. They need to come to understand that we love them so much we’re willing to do the tough stuff in order for them to grow and have a fulfilling life.

Sometimes drawing a child close and holding them while they hurt is necessary. Sometimes guiding them through a maze of tough decisions is. But sometimes we have to put away the smiles, stand firm, and mete out the discipline.

And, sometimes, our absence needs to be felt.

The nice thing is, when we do withdraw, God remains near.

He may be quiet—a gentleman who refuses to barge in uninvited. But He’s there. Always.

And that’s why we can sometimes take a step out of sight. Sometimes we need to retreat to a place of rest. Sometimes we need to shut our ears to complaints. And as we do, we can be assured God is always with our children. He always has been—even before we came into their lives. He always will be—long after we’re gone.

“Can a man hide himself in hiding places
So I do not see him?” declares the Lord.
“Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 23:24 (NASB)

And you know what else? God is very, very patient. He’s not swayed by false pleas for reprieve. He’s not deceived by manipulative fake obedience. He will stand His ground and wait … and wait … and wait … until His child is truly repentant. And then He’s instantly there to scoop His children close, dry their tears, bandage their wounds, and lead them in His paths of righteousness.

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.
Acts 3:19 (NIV)

Even though we had to tell each of our children they had to move out, we always kept a door open for repentance. None ever moved back in to our home, but in time they each moved back into a loving relationship with us.

You see, sometimes love must be firm, determined, even fierce. But love endures all things because love always hopes (1 Corinthians 13:7).

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)

I Just Want to Hold You

I’m not a crier.

Or, at least, I didn’t used to be. But one day my quivering voice confessed to my mom the realization that I’d never hear an enthusiastic toddler sing “Mommy,” as he ran to me, his arms reaching wide. I was wading through grief after coming to the awareness that I’d never be my children’s first mom. My arms would not likely be the ones they’d long for.

Have you been here with your nonbiological child? When all you want to do is hold them tight and tell them how precious they are—and have them believe it. To see that belief reflected in their eyes; and hear it in their voice; and watch it as they walk through life.

This desire is one of the strongest for any mom. But some of us have become painfully aware it’s not a desire that will necessarily be fulfilled. And so we find our arms achingly empty.

2017-mar-13-hold

This desire. It’s innate. It’s a God-image part of us. It mirrors Father God’s base nature.

This I-long-to-hold-you characteristic of God is seen throughout Scripture.

The eternal God is a dwelling place,
And underneath are the everlasting arms;
Deuteronomy 33:27a (NASB)

We see it depicted in God as our shepherd in Psalm 95:7 (NASB), For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Psalm 23 describes Shepherd-God as the provider for our every need: places of rest, nourishing food, refreshing drink, restoration for our souls, guidance toward righteousness, comfort in the darkest places of life, safety from our enemy, empowerment for our calling, abundance, goodness, mercy, and eternity with Him.

And can’t you just picture this from Psalm 116:1-2 (NASB)?

I love the Lord, because He hears
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.

And how about this image?

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
… He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
Psalm 91:1-4 (NASB)

In fact God delights in our presence so much, He is never far away.

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
…You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
…Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Psalm 139:1-12 (NASB)

God is intimately aware of this longing in our hearts to draw our children close.

He smiles with us those moments we stand in moon-lit rooms, gazing at our sleeping cherubs. His heart swells with ours as we cheer from the bleachers and applaud from the auditorium. His heart aches alongside ours when a defiant one turns away from our instructions.

But one thing He does not do is embrace the emptiness that Satan’s lies have attempted to forge. Because this Father knows there is always hope. Always. Hope.

Why? Because when it comes down to it, He’s the first parent. He’s also the last parent. He is our Creator—He is our children’s creator. Author. And Finisher. The final say-so.

And whether our children want it or not—whether we believe it or not—His arms are eternally long. Our children are never out of His reach.

mar-13-no-one-is-everbeyondgods-reach

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. Isaiah 59:1 (NASB).