What is Real?



Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you.
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

I still remember the very first time I read The Velveteen Rabbit, a childhood favorite, to my first born daughter. I couldn’t get through it without crying at the powerful story line. What I didn’t know then, but do now is that it has a deep message for us adoptive moms.

Have you heard the funny one-liner: ‘I was a great mom before I had kids?’ And it’s true isn’t it? How about this one? ‘You are not their real mom, you just adopted them.’ That one stings. If you are like most adoptive moms, this triggers second guessing yourself. A statement like that is ground zero for comparisons between ourselves and the real moms, the biological moms. The sting is deepest when coming from our child’s angry mouth. Understand, I am a biological mother to five children. And I am the adoptive mother to two.  Am I only real to five of my seven children?

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I think I should do this or that to be a real mom, whether adoptive or not. And on those days strung together into weeks, months, seasons when I can’t seem to ever get to this or that, or whatever bar I’ve set for myself that says I’ve arrived, I call myself a faker. Unreal, imaginary, nonexistent, illusory, immaterial, intangible fake, false, imitation, counterfeit.

Anything but real.

But what is real anyway? Take a lesson from one who knows: “Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

You see, none of us start out as real anyway, not the Skin Horse kind of real.

Most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby,” says the ever-wise Skin Horse, who should know these things.

Real happens slowly, so slowly you won’t even realize it. Real happens with kids snuggling up with you and running their fingers through your hair, getting it caught and ripping parts out. OUCH! It hurts sometimes to become real. That’s ok, “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

Real happens as you cry your eyes out over your love for your child or children, only wanting the very best for them and thanking God He gave them to you. Real happens as you cry with them each time they experience the struggles common to humanity, but oh, so hard for them to feel every first time. Real happens each time tired arms carry them to bed after they fell asleep in your arms. Real happens as you kiss unseen but oh so painful boo-boos received long before you ever met them, and for which Band-Aids will not satisfy. Real happens over late night talks with pre-teens who alternately need you so much, and are embarrassed you’re so uncool. Real happens as you hold your grandchild in your arms the first time, as your grown child, now herself a mother, looks on in amazement, seeing your deep, generational love. Over and over again, these are the stuff of real.

Real happens even when the love your child has for you isn’t that loud demonstrative love that most of us expect ( and hope for) from our kids. No, their’s is buried deep underneath their past, underneath the anger and hurt they feel for what happened to them before they met you.

And, if I’m being honest, real happens as you neglect yourself a bit too often, caring for children instead of your own needs. But, Skin Horse says, when we’re real, “ these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

It’s true, none of us started out as real, but somewhere along the way we became. And we didn’t even know it. And the best part? “Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.” That Skin Horse tells it like it is.

Reaching Forward

Image result for leaves are about to tell us how beautiful it is to let go

but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead  Philippians 3:13 NASB

My 6 year old granddaughter stands on the wooden, built-in bench on my deck outside, facing the grassy yard. She’s holding in one hand a favorite toy, a plastic stegosaurus bigger than her hand; her grip is tight. Taking the longest downed tree limb we found in the yard earlier that day that has leaves at the very tip, I stand beside her and I stretch out the leafed limb in front of her as far out as I can. She then leaps out as far as she can, arms outstretched. She jumps off the bench and grabs for as many leaves she can with the one hand but still grasps the toy in the other hand, which she forgot she is holding. She lands on the ground, still clutching the toy. “Aww, I didn’t get any leaves, let me try again”, she says, as she lays the toy down this time and readies herself to jump again. Success.  Again and again. “Bubbe, reach forward more” she instructs me until the limb is stripped bare. We laugh and laugh. 

“The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go”

Long before memes and catch phrases about falling leaves and letting go, Paul taught deep truth.

Image result for Philippians 3:13-14

Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.

Six-year-olds get it, why can’t the rest of us? You can’t reach forward that well if you’re still holding onto dinosaurs. 

Paul uses the Greek verb epilanthano (forgetting), to suggest a deliberate act, a matter of the will, a resolve to no longer dwell on the past. To let go. Letting go is what we’re asking of our children from hard beginnings, isn’t it? That they let go of all the times in the past that their ever alert survival brain kept them safe from harm when no one else would. That they forget how dangerous it is to trust. That they forget the shame of rejection. Those are some big dinosaurs and their grip is tight. 

but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead  Philippians 3:13 NASB

The Greek word for reaching forward is epekteino emphasizing really stretching. You gotta get that tree limb really out there, that’s the best part of the game. And the real secret is fully empty hands as you reach for the prize. Whether the price is a fistful of green leaves, a child’s attachment and feelings of safely in a family, or ‘the prize of the calling of God’, you’re gonna have to let go of the stegosaurus. 

Image result for there is now no condemnation

Be blessed,

Gail

Re-Building Back Fences or Living Your Life With Purpose?

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake. 
-Psalm 23

Image may contain: mountain, sky, outdoor and nature

My husband and I went to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Park over the weekend. The rainy haze didn’t dampen the majesty nor the impact this moment in time had on me. These aren’t wild horses, but still, I was taken by how at home they were in their pasture, happily grazing away at the portion given to them.

Notice the fence in the foreground? It seems more decorative than functional against those strong beasts. I wonder if they know they can easily jump over or easily run through. Actually, maybe just a strong leaning up against is all that’s needed to break free to other pastures not of this fold.

Do you have a leaning child? One who longingly looks to the supposedly greener pastures elsewhere? The limit pusher, the one with the chocolate ice cream in one hand but crying for a cracker. too? Do you have a fence jumper, currently in someone else’s pasture, living the large life, if only in her own mind? Somewhere an 18 year old says, ‘well, mom, dad, it’s been fun, but I’m outta here, done with your rules and constraints and family dinners, and that God of yours, and the love that you give me that makes me uncomfortable because I still don’t feel worthy. Somewhere there’s a 9 year old who keeps running away because his survival brain tells him that the vulnerability of being loved and held accountable in a family is too scary: the memory of having only self to rely on before he met you is still too strong a pull.

If we’re able, we drag them back and re-build the fences. But even in the building project, we have but one real choice that gives the most impact on them: live our pasture life with real purpose, answering the unspoken question they ask, ‘is it really that wonderful in your pasture?’ Maybe the time for talk is over. Maybe now we show them by our own walk that the things they think are only out there have been here all along. Safety, love, family, belonging, a God who see and redeems, adventure, happiness, joy, peace. Have you been mending fences with the wrong materials of judgement, offense, bitterness, anger , rejection? I have. But that doesn’t leave space for God to work in them or in me. And for those children for whom we can no longer drag back to our pasture, what can we show them about our good land when they sneak a look back from time to time?

Sometimes I need to ask myself, how much leaning am *I* doing in God’s pasture?

-Gail

*This post was inspired by the book Reckless Faith: a 40-day journey to saying yes, by Beth Guckenberger and by God’s beautiful creation as experienced last weekend.