Our Level Best

It’s always a treat when I get to write about my family for the magazine. I’ve been honored to tell stories about a great date, memories, and even my testimony in previous issues. And in July/August, it’s all about my husband and his penchant for perfectly straight pictures.
It goes a little something like this….
Image courtesy of blog.forever.com.
Image courtesy of blog.forever.com

When my husband and I married 16 years ago, we came from very different backgrounds. He’d spent most of his life in the same home, his surroundings largely unchanged. I, on the other hand, am the daughter of a retail manager and—like the children of military men—was used to putting my things in a box every two years. Moving on so my father could move up.

By the 12th new address, my family could strip a house, pack a truck, and do a final clean and patch job in under 10 hours. We were never sure if this was something we should be proud of or sorry for. And when we got to the rented house in the next town, we’d unload in much the same way—placing furniture and slapping pictures on walls at a pace that would make a NASCAR pit crew jealous.

But just because the work was done quickly didn’t mean it was done well….

Check out the rest here!

 

In Honor of a Great Man

For those of you who have been following my blog, you know that my grandfather, Boyce Dale Lindley, fought a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. At 5:42 AM on Wednesday, August 5th, that fight finally drew to a close, and he went to be with the Lord.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 6.00.12 PMI am beyond heartbroken for myself and my family, but I am thrilled for him. I know he stood in front of God’s throne and heard those words we all long for: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” The things we perceive through a glass darkly are clear to him now. Every mystery has been solved. Every tear has been wiped away by Jesus himself, and there is nothing left but joy eternal.

To me, there was no finer man on this earth. Patient, hardworking, loving, kind, giving, and gentle—he set the standard to which I hold all people. And it is likely none will ever measure up.

If you knew him and would like to sign his memorial page, you may do so here. Also, we are asking that in lieu of flowers, people would consider giving to the missionary fund at his church. Specifics can be found by visiting the link above.

I will be one of three people speaking at his memorial service this Sunday, and I wanted to share my thoughts with you here as well. It is my hope that they will give you some idea of the kind of wonderful man he was.

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Writing a eulogy is no small task. How do you even begin to explain how much a person meant to you or how his presence in your life changed everything for the better? As a writer who believes in the power of narrative, I thought it best to begin with short stories, snapshots that would give you all a sense of the man Boyce Lindley was.

I began recalling memories, scrambling to write them down, and then discarding them almost as rapidly as they came. One was too flippant. Another was a family joke that would take too long to explain. A few were much too sad for a “homegoing” like this one. There were moments I remembered vividly, but when I held them up to the light of others’ recollections, I realized I had embellished mine a bit—decorated it with prose-y flourishes that filled in the gaps and made it more satisfying.

But just because it’s satisfying doesn’t make it true. And if there is anything I hope to do for my grandfather today it is to speak truly of him because he deserves nothing less.

There are people I’ve lost after long battles with cancer—my great uncle James, my young friend Trevor Alexander, a bright and promising student named Catie Carter—and remember them well. For each, there are bright, concentrated moments, as golden and gilt as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. But for all their brilliance, they are but a scant handful of memories. Bright drops of color on the canvas of my life.

But for my grandfather there are no standout moments, no highlight reel I can play, no bullet list to quickly go through to explain why he means so much to me. At first, this realization caused me no small amount of panic. What kind of granddaughter was I if I couldn’t remember my precious grandfather down to the most meticulous of details? And there was grief too, wedged between my ribs, thick and immovable, because I believed I had somehow lost something in my negligence. That somehow all the years of knowing Boyce Dale Lindley had been rubbed away and faded by time, never to be returned to me.11855673_10153577670751789_6362311139780261916_n

But then I thought about my grandfather and the kind of man he was. He was rarely front and center in our family. That was a task he left to my grandmother, his two bright and vivacious daughters, and his three gregarious grandchildren. No, he was happiest watching others, sitting or working quietly on the periphery—helping when and wherever he was needed. Always there, always in the moment, in a supporting role. You would always find him out front sweeping the sidewalk, whistling to himself, washing dishes in the kitchen, or taking out the endless bags of trash our family seems to create every time we’re together. Thankless but necessary jobs—ones that he happily completed for decades.

There was but one exception to this rule.

At the gaming table, he was a king. He was also our scorekeeper, arch nemesis, and teacher extraordinaire. He was never one to turn down a hand of dominoes or hearts, beloved games in our family. In fact, he played them both like a Vegas-level professional—with remarkable skill and style. No matter how many steps ahead you thought, he had already gone as step or two further. He was man who had no college degree to his name but could manage to complete complicated math problems in his head and remember years worth of sales figures on the spot. As I was fond of saying regarding his talent with the bones, “Papaw could make off a dead dog.” And though he beat you consistently, you couldn’t find it in yourself to get upset—because on those rare occasions the victory was yours, he’d celebrate like it was his own.

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I didn’t spend time with him sporadically, as I did with my beloved great uncle James, or know him for only a few short months, which was the case with Trevor and Catie. Boyce Lindley was there in the hospital when I was born. He swam with my brother and me for hours on end, long after he was waterlogged and ready to get out. He was a part of Sunday dinners, fish fries, church picnics, and cookouts. He was there for the big moments—recitals and holidays and graduations, family reunions, trips to Disney World, and days at the beach—and for all the run-of-the-mill days in between. For 30+ years, this man was an ever-present and influential participant in my life. That’s not the kind of exposure that leaves behind a few bright blobs. No, it’s the kind that saturates everything it touches.

Boyce Lindley is in my DNA yes, but that’s just simple genealogy. What matters more is what he did in this life. That has sticking power. And it’s tucked deeply into the marrow and bone of me.

I am patient because I never once saw him lose his temper. I give of my finances and time because he showed me how important it was to do so. When I am kind, the person on the receiving end has Boyce Lindley to thank for it. I know what it means to be a Christ follower because I watched him do it without fail for 37 years.

Each moment with him was like a drip of bright blue that fell into the clear pool of my heart, gradually turning it from sky to cornflower, cobalt to navy. That’s why I have no standout memories that feature him alone in the starring role. Simply put, there is no dividing line between us, no moment where he ends and I begin. I am thoroughly infused with him—each member of my family and every person who ever had the privilege to know him is too. And in that way, he will live on in and through and even beyond us. So yes, today we’re all blue, but not only with sadness. And that’s a very good thing.

Heart of Stone, Heart of Flesh

There are times when “God did it” is the only answer that makes sense.

Last Thursday, Wayne and I attended a “Family Meet Up” event in Atlanta. In essence, it was an adoption fair where representatives and case workers from all the regions in Georgia came together with information and flyers about kids who were available for adoption in their areas. The goal? To match prospective adopters like us with adoptees in need.

I expected the event to be interesting but perhaps not overly busy, but every time I’ve gone to a foster care adoption event, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find the place is full of interested families and single parents. Well, as per usual, this place was packed to capacity, and folks were asking questions, giving and taking names, and making connections like crazy. It was overwhelming to say the least.

Wayne and I visited each booth, each of which had a different theme. Some were simple and cute: a cowboy themed “Adoption Round Up” and another called “Matchup Madness” that was, you guessed it, all about basketball. My two favorites were a Lego themed one called “Build a Strong Family” and a Peter Pan one called “From Neverland to Foreverland.”

Well, we finally got to the Frozen themed booth (“Some People Are Worth Waiting For”), and something interesting happened. No, it didn’t make me like Frozen—that isn’t even a possibility. They had several sibling groups, so we started asking questions of the case worker in charge of finding them permanent homes. We were discussing a brother and sister, and then she dropped a bomb.

In the brochure, it stated that the boy had a “medical condition.” It turns out that condition is cystic fibrosis.

The entire time we’ve been looking to adopt, one thing Wayne and I have agreed on is that we cannot adopt a child with special needs. Our reason? We just don’t have the bandwidth. We both work outside the home and have only a handful of relatives nearby, all of whom are several hours away.

My reaction to this news should have been an audible gasp, a cluck of the tongue, a “Poor baby,” and a subtle return of the flyer to the table. Thanks, but no thanks.

But none of that happened. Instead, I said, “Tell me more. How did they come into care?”

I didn’t back away. And almost a week—and a few hours of research into CF later—I still haven’t stopped thinking about that boy and his little sister. And though everything in me is saying, What are you doing!? This is too much for you to handle. Get real.You’re not strong enough…loving enough…faithful enough…patient enough…spiritual enough, I still can’t quite let go of it.

A few months ago, my CEO preached on the moment in Joshua 4 when Israel crossed the Jordan on dry land and erected twelve memorial stones to remind them of God’s miracle. At the end, he invited each of us to come to the front and select a stone of our own from the pile in front of him. We were supposed to use it either to mark something God had done for us or something we were praying for him to do.

I drew this….

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I keep telling God I’d like a little boy and a little girl, ages eight and six respectively.

Guess what the brother and sister we talked to that case worker about are? Yep, eight and six.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence. Or maybe that’s the reason CF hasn’t scared me off yet. I keep thinking about how hard those kids’ lives have been, especially his. Not only does he live each and every day wondering who is going to feed him, shelter him, and take him to school. He also has to wonder if he’ll get his breathing treatment and if someone will help him clear the mucus from his lungs. He has to wonder if anyone will take him to the doctor when he’s sick and get him the many medications he needs. If someone will hold him when the coughing just won’t stop and will love him as their child even though they will be asked to attend his funeral one day.

And the thought of a child being asked to bear all that leaves me furious and brokenhearted at the same time. Me…the woman who never wanted kids and who, even after she said yes to adoption, added the caveat “but absolutely no kids with special needs.”

If that’s not a moment where you have to say,”God did it,” I don’t know what is.

I’ve been praying for God to change my heart, to break it for what breaks his, and to soften it in preparation for all the challenges Wayne and I are going to face. I’m essentially asking him to do what he promised in Ezekiel 36:26-27: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

I’m starting to realize that, no, I will never be spiritual enough or strong enough. I will never be sufficient for the task to which I’ve been called. But I’m not supposed to be. However, Jesus is all that and more, and recognizing that has given me a peace about our adoption that I’ve not experienced in the many months we’ve been attending classes, filling out paperwork, and meeting with case workers.

I’ve come to understand that a heart of stone doesn’t protect me or keep me from getting hurt. It only prohibits me from feeling the emotions (both good and bad) that I need to experience to become who I am meant to be. God doesn’t give us a heart of flesh only to leave it exposed to the elements and susceptible to wounds. Quite the opposite is true. The apostle Paul tells us, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).

I may not adopt this little boy and girl, but the sudden and inexplicable willingness to do so taught me a great deal about myself, God’s design, and how he does indeed purpose all things—even a headstrong, unwilling mom—for good.

Free Indeed

Meet Valeri and Valentina Seleznev—two of the most amazing, godly people I have ever had the honor to get to know. They are the In Touch Ministries employees selected as the March 2015 Faces of In Touch special feature, and I was blessed to be able to sit down with them to hear their story and to share it with our readers. I knew the rough outline from talking to folks around the ministry, but when the Seleznevs filled in all the blanks, I just sat with my mouth hanging open. Talk about guts!

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Photography by Ben Rollins

Valeri Seleznev is a man you can’t help but look up to—oftentimes because, as the senior maintenance technician at In Touch Ministries, he’s perched atop a ladder, changing a light bulb or repairing HVAC fixtures. But no matter what he’s working on, Valeri never fails to wave or say hello to passersby. His warm smile and openness make it hard to imagine who he was 20 years ago—an official in the Communist party who was labeled as disloyal to the Soviet Union. Eventually, he knew it was no longer safe to stay in his home country. And so he fled to the West with his wife Valentina, unsure of what awaited them in a new land.

A few weeks after the Seleznevs learned they were under suspicion, they boarded a plane in Moscow for a 10-hour flight to New York City. And they were up in the air—both literally and figuratively—every minute of it. Their paperwork had been acquired through back channels, and they weren’t sure if it was even valid. When they landed, the couple would either be allowed to enter the United States or be forced back to the country they loved but had to flee….

To read the full article, head over to In Touch Ministries’ website. And don’t forget to leave a comment there!

In Due Season

Believe it or not, November is just around the corner. And that means cooler temperatures, football, and Thanksgiving! We decided to feature food articles once again in In Touch magazine, and opted to include several different articles about the way it feeds our souls as well as our bodies. My contribution for this special section features my grandfather and the way he and I spent time working a BBQ smoker/grill.

This is a collection of articles I highly suggest you enjoy in print, so please visit this site and get yourself a free subscription. The layout is just gorgeous and is filled will illustrations created by the uber talented Jeff Gregory.

You can also view my article and the other wonderful pieces from authors like Rachel Marie Stone, Leslie Leyland Fields, Matt Woodley, Chad Thomas Johnston, Aline Mello, and Leigh McLeroy by clicking here.

 

Lyrical Witness

As someone who’s spent a lot of time performing and contemplating church music, I know how hard it can be to keep your passion for it intact. That’s why speaking with Keith and Kristyn Getty was truly refreshing. Not only do they have a great love for leading worship, they also are intentional about creating music that helps the church sing well together.

This Q&A with the talented husband and wife duo is featured in the September 2014 issue of In Touch magazine. If you’d like to receive your own copy of this magazine free of charge each month, please visit this page and give us your name and address. There are some great articles and series in future issues, and I’d love for you to be as blessed by reading them as we have been putting them together!

 

 

 

Worth My Salt

Sometimes, I honestly don’t know why I’m doing this.

I know it’s the right thing to do. I know I’m being called to do it. But every time someone asks me, “What made you want to adopt a child?” I draw a blank. I stammer. I say something acceptable and then spend the next hour sorting through the words, hoping to find the golden nugget of truth. It’s not something I consciously decided to do or willingly embraced. Yet, here I am, about a month shy of my 36th birthday, beginning the adoption process. And because I think best when I write, I figured why not chronicle the entire madcap experience here?

A little back story on me. I had dolls, sure, but I preferred to wear my plastic She-Ra armor and defend the Crystal Castle (a.k.a. “the garden shed”). I wanted play “G.I. Joe vs. Cobra” in the backyard with all the boys (and would choose to be Scarlet or the Baroness depending on which team picked me). When my parents told me it was time to start earning my own money, I chose to mow lawns rather than babysit. And this was when we lived in south Florida where it’s 98 in the shade with 100% humidity. So, yeah, the idea of motherhood is a bit foreign to me. I don’t have much experience with kids younger than 13, and though I’ve been a teacher, it’s a far cry from parental experience.

Wayne and I discussed different adoption options and finally landed on the one that seemed to be the best fit for our current stage of life and personalities: foster to adopt, special needs. I’m already beginning to see that the wonderful world of adoption is chock full of terms and acronyms, so allow me to explain our choice.

Foster to adopt involves taking in a child or children when one birth parent’s rights have been severed. (Also know as TPR or “termination of parental rights.” I told you there were acronyms aplenty.) Basically, the state is trying to reunify the child or children with family, but that often does not happen because the parent is found unfit. Children who come from these homes are often abused (emotionally, physically, or sexually) and neglected (especially with regards to health).

We chose this option because we want to adopt an older child rather than an infant. There were two reasons for this. One, I didn’t feel led to give up my current job, and two, doing so would put some serious hurt on our finances. (While we could survive on one salary, it wouldn’t be pretty. And I wasn’t really keen on pinching pennies until they scream.)

Also, it’s one of the greatest areas of need in the United States. According to Adopt US Kids, “More than 250,000 children…enter the foster care system every year. While more than half of these children will return to their parents, the remainder will stay in the system.”

Image courtesy of examiner.com.
Image courtesy of examiner.com.

The other term, special needs, is a little more misleading. Yes, it applies to children who have some sort of physical, emotional, or mental handicap, but it can also apply to children who:

  • Are older than age 5
  • Are part of a sibling group that needs to be adopted together
  • Have a history of trauma

The second one in that list is the reason why the term applies to us. We have room to take in up to three children, so we’re opting to go for a sibling group. I’m hoping for a pair because once the children outnumber the parents, you have to start playing zone defense.

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We have taken the first steps to make this happen. We selected Bethany Christian Services as our agency, filled out our preliminary application, and attended the first two-hour information meeting. The next step is to begin IMPACT training, which involves 20 hours of classroom time. Part of me is eager to get started, yes. But another part of me hesitates. It asks, “What are you doing!?” We’ve finally managed to get ahead a bit financially, and life is hectic but manageable. I get plenty of sleep. My schedule is my own. I have down time and can enjoy an evening on the town without pulling off a feat of logistics to rival D-Day. And I’m choosing to give all of that up, no waterboarding involved.

But of the many blessings I’ve been given, the first and most amazing is my family. I was surrounded by love from the moment I was born. (In fact, my aunt hid in my mother’s hospital bathroom until the nurse left because she was excited to see me and just couldn’t wait.) I have two loving parents, a younger brother, and an extended family who has never once failed to support me. I was never abused, never neglected, never told I was unwanted or that someone didn’t have time for me. And I’m coming to see just what an amazing gift that is. I can’t help every child who has not known this kind of security, but I can do something for the handful God has in mind. To do anything less is disobedient to the one who died for me, the one who allowed me to be “adopted” into God’s family.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “No man is worth his salt who is not ready at all times to risk his well-being, to risk his body, to risk his life, in a great cause.” I may very well be jeopardizing all of these things by adopting, but I can think of no cause greater than that.

Maybe I know why I’m doing this after all.

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If you’re currently adopting or have survived the process, I would LOVE to hear from you. Please leave me a comment in the section below, and tell me your story. I’d love some advice and to get to know others in this amazing community!