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On a Lamp Stand

March 13, 2018

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“You are here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We are going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.  If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a basket, do you?  I’m putting you on a lamp stand.  Now that I’ve put you there on a lamp stand, SHINE!  Keep open house; be generous with your lives.  By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up to God, our generous Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

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I’m a sharer.  I’m open.  I’m transparent.  I wear my heart on my sleeve, for the most part.  Always have.

I’ve never felt any real shame about any of those things because I truly believe that God creates us all differently for a reason.  He created me to be a sharer.  I’m one of those people who, rather than engaging in small talk, would prefer to sit down with someone and have a lengthy discussion about the deep, weighty details that make up each of our life stories.  (Or, better yet, write about those things.)  I’ll take an intricate, philosophical, emotion-infused conversation any day over casual small talk.

I’m a fan of openness.  I enjoy sharing life’s highs and lows in an attempt to connect with others, to identify with others, to encourage (and be encouraged by) others, to inspire (and be inspired by) others, etc.

As times goes by, though, I’m realizing – more and more – that this might not sit well with some folks.  I’m beginning to realize that it might make some people uncomfortable.  And, as of last month, I realized that my brand of transparency (in regard to my children, in particular) might make some people downright angry.

This realization came after reading a heated post that popped up in one of my online adoption groups.  In this particular post, I read several comments from people who were ranting and raving about adoptive parents who choose to share some of the details of their child’s story (their past, their medical condition, their adjustment, etc.)  One of these angry voices, in particular, was a woman who was ripping into an adoptive father who had chosen to stand up at a Christian concert and share some details about his child’s story as a testimony of God’s goodness.  This angry voice couldn’t believe it.  She was appalled that this man chose to share some details from his child’s past.  She claimed that zero details should have been shared by him.  Any/all details should be shared only by the child, because it was the child’s story to share.

Whoa.

(I recently heard someone say that the comments sections on social media are the toilet bowls of the internet because they are, oftentimes, full of crap.  So true.  But, still, I do get sucked into them occasionally….and often emerge from them feeling awfully gross.)  

If that angry voice knew me, and how much I have shared across the years, regarding my children’s stories, it would surely be spitting fire my way.

I have shared a lot.

Why?

Because, when each of my six children entered into my life, our hearts became one, and their stories became my story.  Their stories are mine.  My story is theirs.

I have three children who were adopted from China.  All of their stories have the fingerprints of God scattered all over them.  All of them are beautiful and bittersweet.  All of them contain themes of loss, redemption, healing, triumph, longing, and transformation.  All of them have their fair share of heartbreak and happiness.  All of them are filled with rich details.  All of them are filled with the richness of God’s sovereignty and grace.  Their stories are all truly unique and amazing.

They are stories that have already touched and inspired so many lives.  They are stories that I simply haven’t been able to bring myself to tuck away and hide under a basket.  They are stories that are worth sharing.  They are stories that are meant to shine.

But their stories aren’t the only ones that have their fair share of heartbreak and happiness.  They aren’t the only ones that are covered with the fingerprints of God.  They aren’t the only ones worth sharing.

I have openly shared about my biological children’s stories as well.  I have shared some of their highs and lows, and how God has shown himself in and through those times.

A couple of years after my oldest son was diagnosed with high-functioning autism, I made the news public.  I can remember silently weeping as I did.  But, I felt as though I had no other choice.  If I was going to get him the help that he needed, and if I was going to elicit the kind of care, compassion, and understanding that I ached for his village to give to him, I had to crack open the door of my heart, and my son’s heart, in an attempt to invite others to step in and help us.

First and foremost, I want him, and all of my children, to be loved (and to feel loved).  But, not far behind that, I want them to be understood (and to feel understood).  In order for my son to be understood, I felt like I had to make a move.  I had to open up and let others into his world.  I had to try to help others understand him, as much as possible.  I am still trying to do that today.  It is an ongoing, difficult process.  It is a process that has resulted in quite a few tears, over the years.  It is a process that I will never truly master.  But, it is a necessary one, nonetheless.

There are some details from my life, and the lives of my children, that I will never, ever share with anyone.  They are details that could possibly do more harm than good.  They are details that would serve no purpose except to cause pain in my heart, and the hearts of my children.  So, they will stay safely tucked away in my heart, and theirs.

But, for the most part, I try to be an open book as much as possible.  I try to share and to shine.  I absolutely love what Jesus says in the fifth chapter of Matthew.  He tells us to allow ourselves (our stories, our struggles, our triumphs) to be seen, and to live lives of openness.  Why?  Because, by opening up to others and letting them see how God has worked in our lives, we are encouraging them to open up to God as well.

I’ve also found that when we share our blessings with others, oftentimes those blessings are multiplied.  When we share our burdens with others, oftentimes those burdens are divided.

Multiplied blessings and divided burdens.  That’s the power of community.  And communities are built through openness and communication.

Those words that I read through on that adoption forum a few months ago claimed that if we share too much about our stories and/or our children’s stories, there will inevitably come a time when someone will insensitively bring up intimate details of our lives (and our children’s lives) at inappropriate times.  And that could result in some uncomfortable moments/situations.

Sure.  I get that.  Chances are, when you put stuff out there for all to see (i.e. – details about your child’s birth parents and the details surrounding your child’s beginnings), there could come a time when someone will bring up sensitive subject matter about your child at inappropriate times, which could create some awkward situations for them and/or for yourself.   It could happen, and it has happened to me.  But, let’s be honest.  Those situations are the exception, not the norm.

For every potential negative that can arise from living a life of transparency, there are hundreds of potential positives that can arise when we choose to open up a little bit, and let others read selected passages from our life stories.  I firmly believe that.  I believe that because I have witnessed it firsthand.

I also firmly believe that my openness, as a mother, is one way that I can help build self-esteem in my kiddos.  How so?  Well, by not shying away from phrases like “autism spectrum” (in reference to my eldest son), or “limb difference” (in reference to my middle daughter), or “brittle bone disease” (in reference to my middle son), or “congenital heart condition” (in reference to my youngest son), or “adoption”, or “birth parents”, etc., etc., etc., I feel like I am showing my children that they shouldn’t be ashamed of those things.  Those things are just a part of their story.  They are a part of who they are, and I ADORE who they are.  If I were to allow all of those words and phrases to become taboo, and if I were to keep all of them tightly locked away, never once uttering them or referring to them in public, what message would I be sending to my children?  I tend to think that they would look at how tight-lipped and secretive I was about those things, and come to the conclusion that those things should be kept under lock and key because they are things of which they should be ashamed.  And I would never, ever want them to believe that.  Never.

There are certain things that I will let them – and only them – share someday, if they choose to do so.  Until then, I will continue to share what I feel led to share about them, about myself, and about us.  Their stories are my stories.  And my story is theirs.  No one loves them more than me and their father.  No one.  No one cares about their feelings and their emotional well-being more than we do.  Because of that, I like to think that we are the most trusted gatekeepers that their life stories could possibly have.  And we always try to remember to stop and think before we share anything about them, ourselves, and our family.

Last Sunday morning, our pastor shared a wonderful acronym with our congregation.  He was delivering a message about the importance of taming our tongues, and watching our mouths.  The acronym he shared with us was this:

Before you speak, THINK.

T – Is it true?
H – Is it helpful?
I – Is it inspiring?
N – Is it necessary?
K – Is it kind?

I chewed on that for a little bit as I sat there.  And I thought about the heated words on that adoption forum.  How I wished that the woman who wrote those words could understand that if we THINK before we speak, regardless of how much or how little we choose to share, then we are using our mouths for good.  If what we choose to share passes the THINK test, then we should be able to share unashamedly.

My children are always watching me.  I know that.  Molding and shaping six uniquely wonderful minds is a responsibility that I don’t take lightly.  I know that I regularly fall short of being the Christ-like example that I want to be.  But, I will never stop trying.  Never.  I will never stop trying because I want them to see Christ through their imperfect mother, as much as possible.

I want them to see how open I try to be.  Open about myself, and about them.

I want them to see me – the real me – because I want them to be real and authentic as well.  I don’t want them to grow up fearing transparency.  Rather, I want them to grow up embracing it.

I want them to see their mom trying to shine on a lamp stand, so that they, too, will want to place themselves upon one, too.  I want to show these beautiful children of mine that they are meant to shine for all to see.  But, if they place themselves on lamp stands long enough for only their victories, triumphs, and strengths to shine, what good does that do?  I want them to be willing to place themselves on lamp stands and allow themselves to shine in the midst of their weaknesses, burdens, and brokenness as well….showing this world that broken lamps can still shine so brightly.  This world needs them to shine and to share openly to bring out the God-colors all around them.  This world needs the unique luminosity that radiates from each of their beautiful life stories.  The more they let their distinct, God-given lights shine, the more radiant and brilliant this world will become.

I want them to see that we aren’t put on this earth to stay to ourselves, huddling underneath baskets that keep our lives, our stories, and our broken (yet beautiful) lights discreetly tucked away so that no one else can see them.

I want them to see that we were put here to shine.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 14, 2018 5:45 pm

    Very informative. I love the THINK acronym. It’s genius. God bless you

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