Monday, May 1, 2017

I've Moved!


Hi, Friends!

You will no longer see me here on This is my Crazy Laugh.

I have packed my bags and had them shipped to a newer (possibly cooler) website. 

The crazy continues at carissayoder.com.

See you there!


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Kids Who Aren't "Ours"



The first time I looked at him, he was grayish and wrinkly and wasn't doing his job very well. 

Our first baby needed extra oxygen and a little stay in the NICU before coming home to live with his unprepared parents. Not the seasoned mom you see in the photo. No, no. This one was wide-eyed.

That little seven pounds and seven ounces of wiggle changed everything for my husband and I. You parents know what I'm talking about. From then on, it was all different. When talking about events, ideas and dreams, everything had a place: before kids or after kids. 

That little boy was ours. Not "ours." We didn't pose it in question form or bother to assume it could be anything else; it was simply a reality. He came from our bodies and he belonged to us. 

As did his sisters and his brother after him. 

We all know what the definition of family is, but I imagine they all vary subtlety. My husband and I had each belonged to one up until the day we ceremoniously stepped away from them to form our own. 

My first one was neat and tidy and I had no reason to believe that my latter would not be as crisp.

There is something about the adoption process that tangles up so many things for a neat and tidy person like myself. There is nothing predictable and sleek about what happens. Not that there isn't beauty, but it's not an immaculate beauty. It's a wild and stretching kind of beauty. 

By the time we met our last daughter, she had spent almost 3 years with her people in her country drinking porridge and playing in red dirt. Those first four weeks with her were spent sharing her. Everywhere we went, her people smiled at us and acknowledged her as their own. 

Making her our daughter was a process. There was a time she existed without us and was not ours. And then she was claimed by us but was still cared for by others. We knew she was ours but she did not. 

Even today, though she has been ours for exactly four years, there are others who claim her in part. My African friend puts her arms around my African daughter's shoulders and pulls her close and talks to her in a language neither of us understand. She belongs to them too.

There is also a brave young woman in this country who claims my son as her own. Not with her words, for she is careful and kind. But her heart and her body have created his and she will never forget, nor should she.

There are grandmas and aunts and uncles and there will be brothers and cousins that will unknowingly claim my son. People whose faces would be complete strangers to both of us will belong to my son for his whole life.

I share my son.

My youngest two teach me something about my older five:
Not one of them is ours. 

Not really. 

I was the one changing the explosive diapers. I was the one catching the puke and rocking and scolding and teaching and listening and loving. It was me. Surely I can claim. 

We like to use the word Mine. With our damp eyes and our tight grip, we like the feeling of belonging, of clamping down on what is rightful to us. 

But it just isn't true. 

Every last one of "our" kids belong to God; he is only loaning them to us.

Even though I've heard it my whole life long, it didn't become real to me until I looked another woman in the eyes and said "Thank you for giving him life." 

I guess he never really belonged to her and he will never really belong to me.

Oh, but we love them. Don't we? 
We love them like they are truly our own. 

For in some crazy way, they are. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Why We Don't Have Everything We Need


The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need. 
Psalm 23

Is there a more loved chapter in the Bible than Psalm 23? Doubtful. We are all a bit desperate to know that God does a good job taking care of us. This chapter not only speaks to us, it shouts to us. God give me what I need!

But it doesn't always feel true, does it?

David is absolutely convinced that God gives him rest and nourishment and courage and companionship. He brags about how God protects his body and comforts his heart. 

David believes God restores his soul. What does that even mean?

Everything I need? Really?

I have a lot of needs. In many ways, I lack. There always seems to be a chasm between who I want to be and who I am. Between what I should be holding and what's in my hands. 

The list on my refrigerator look like this:
1. Water
2. Chocolate and/or caffeine
3. Patience 
4. Wisdom
5. Boundaries
6. Real conversations
8. Gentle tones all the way up to bedtime
9. Wisdom!

Is it true that I have everything I need? Because some days it just doesn't feel like the patience and the wisdom are there. Some days I scream "I have unmet needs!!"

You too? Please say it's not just me.

Do you know anyone who is exceptionally motherly? 

Go along with me for a minute. 

You probably know one sweet woman who would like to mother the whole world. Feed them. Cloth them with the perfect weight jacket for the coolness of the day. Give them advice all the day long.

That maternal figure might want to nurture the world, but she can only really mother those who let her. We can ignore her warnings and turn down her chili, spurning her mothering.

The same is true with the Shepherd. Just because he offers to be our shepherd, doesn't mean he is functioning as one in our relationship.

We have to let him shepherd us.

It is our turn, friends. We must place our sheepish selves under his care. We acknowledge we need him. We listen when he talks and we take his advice. When he points to a resting spot, we take it. When he nudges us into places that take bravery, we walk ahead. 


He leads me beside peaceful streams.


He might be in the lead but we still have to put one foot in front of the other and follow.


My cup overflows with blessings.


But do we see it? Do we notice the good stuff splashing out over the edges?


He lets me rest in green meadows.


Are we taking him up on the offer? Or are we distracted by the sunshine or by the other guy or by our own expectations?

Once upon a time I missed a great opportunity to rest because I thought rest only looked like inactivity and my soul stayed dry and needy. 

Once upon a time I didn't see his rod and his correction as comforting because I preferred to keep going the wrong way.

Once upon a time my strength wasn't enough for my situation because I decided to ignore his leading. 

That was yesterday.

Today? Today I'm learning to trust that Shepherd a bit more because I am absolutely needing what he is offering.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Two Kinds of the Stinking Mom Guilt


The scene stayed alive on the edges of my heart, just waiting for a reason for prance on in. It wasn't a pretty scene, but nevertheless it loved to come out to play. Play havoc on my emotions, that is. 

My son couldn't have been older than three or four. Meal times were still stressful for us even though he had graduated from Occupational Therapy and had a feeding tube in his little belly. 

I had imagined my stress level plummeting by now because surely our troubles would be behind us and typical eating would be the new norm.

After another meal time that was really, just another fidget time, I lost it. Not every mom is a yeller, but I get there quicker than I want to. This time was shriller and louder and uglier than most, causing my little guy to run for the next room in tears. 

And the picture of him crying into his hands tormented me for years. It messed with my head, it plagued me, it treated me like it's punching bag.

Until last week.

If you are a mom, you probably can identify with those feelings. Undoubtedly, you too have moments of regrets and words you would pay good money to take back. 

You too have an uninvited movie reel that enjoys reminding you of the low-lights. Perhaps it is that one child or that dark season that makes you wish for a do-over. Like a dry erase board that could be wiped blank. 

If you ever find yourself gazing at the dark ceiling above your bed, convinced that you are screwing your children up for life, you may suffer from guilt.

What is a mom (or a dad, or a normal human) to do with those feelings of guilt?

There are two very different kinds of guilt and if we mistake one for the other, we will be sad parents indeed. 

Paul words it this way:


The kind of sorrow God wants us to experience 
leads us away from sin and results in salvation. 
There's no regret for that kind of sorrow. 
But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, 
results in spiritual death. 
From 2 Corinthians 7

These two kinds of sorrow are the two kinds of guilt I'm referring to. 

1. One variety of guilt causes us to come eyeball to eyeball with our sin. That guilt is a helpful guilt. It is a gut check, the whistle blown on a foul play. We might not like this guilt, but we should.

2. The second variety is a life sucker. This guilt is the weight that keeps us eyeball to eyeball with our junk long after it has been forgiven. There is nothing wholesome about this brand.

Guilt produces bad feelings and bad feelings will never shake the guilt. No matter how often I revisit my bad behavior to punish myself, those negative feelings will never absolve my feelings of shame. 

Is there some small part of you that believes that holding onto those guilty feelings is the just punishment you deserve? That justice demands that you never forget your wrongdoing? 

It's easy to get sucked into that thinking. 

But first things first.

We need to identify our guilt. 

1. Is this a whistle being blown because I screwed up? If so, the remedy is so beautifully simple: repent. Repentance acknowledges the sin and decides to turn around and head the opposite direction. Guilt can do a good, good work if we let it.

We read over and over in scripture about God's response to our sin. Yes, we feel guilty but he forgives us without even a hesitation. There is no pause, no lull, no lapse. His forgiveness is quicker than immediate because he forgives us before we ever knew we needed it. 

For some lovely reading check out Psalm 32:1-5, Psalm 85:2, Hebrews 10:22-23, Romans 8:1-2, Isaiah 43:25, 1 John 1:9, Hebrews 8:12.

That first brand of guilt is not one we are so quick to talk about. And maybe that is why the guilt hangs around for so long, because it is uncomfortable to address the sin that it's pointing to. 

But it needs to happen and we moms are pretty good at doing the hard stuff. Muscles.

So now what is left? 
What do we do with the Mom Guilt that just doesn't quit? The stuff that follows our thoughts around like a stray puppy? We have got to stop petting that sick puppy.

2. Is this guilt a pure energy drain? If there is nothing left for us to repent of, than we have to call it what it is: completely unnecessary mom guilt. If we do not drag it out, showing no mercy, it will bring death. Death to our joy, death to a good night's sleep, even death to relationships. It must go!

Right here is the difference between BEING GUILTY and FEELING GUILTY. 

You can be completely guilty and not feel it and you can feel like a complete scumbag but be innocent. 

Like the great Bible preacher Spurgeon said, "Sometimes our heart condemns us, but, in doing so, it gives a wrong verdict."

He must be in cahoots with the disciple John who talks about guilt this way:


Even if we feel guilty, 
God is greater than our feelings, 
and he knows everything.
From 1 John 3

Moms, or anyone struggling with guilt, we need to recognize this last kind of guilt as a feeling. What do we do with our feelings? Or maybe the question is actually: what should we do with our feelings? (Because inhaling a bag of sweet potato chips may be my reality but not an actual solution.)

Hey friends, contrary to what some people have told us, 
Our feelings are not our boss!

They do not have to yank us around by the hair and dictate our actions and thoughts. 

The Holy Spirit is our Boss if we let him be and I know what he says about me and you and our old sins.

Don't miss this! This is so good and so important.

My guilt is removed and my sins are forgiven! (Isaiah 6:7)
God declares me right in his sight because I believe in Jesus! (Romans 3:26)
Because I have been made right, I have peace in me, not guilt! (Romans 5:1)

Hey Mom! Yes you, the imperfect one. You are not judged guilty!

Last week, God spoke to my guilty heart loud and clear, soft and kind. He let me know that he was in the ugly moment in my living room, mothering my son the whole time. He was motioning for me to come receive the healing and the forgiveness even at the very instant of my mom fail.

But the words he spoke to me were not just for me, they are for you too. And don't you know, when God speaks, we listen up.

It's over. It's done. Stop sitting in it. Stop replaying the bad.
The guilt is gone. Gone! See ya later. Adios. Fare thee well. 
Don't you dare pick it back up or stoop to pet it again. Let. It. Go.

There is no need to let guilt boss you around ever again.

You are welcome to walk through your days...
GUILT FREE!

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Shades of Yours and Mine

This last summer our family did something that was greatly needed but I hope to never, ever, evereverever do again.

We ripped off half of our house and scraped it all the way down to the dirty dirt to rebuild. Talk about crazy. And tight and dusty and inconvenient. But necessary.

My kids have always been the classic farm kids who run around in the dust with bare feet and ripped jeans. To put it mildly, they were all about the dirt that the construction gave us. They climbed it, made obstacle courses through it, dug down deep in it and threw it.

As a woman who can appreciate a good pile of dirt, I noticed something. 


Do you see all those varieties? 

From one single backyard, we found shades upon shades of the gritty stuff.

What color would you say our dirt is?
Would you call it black and white?
Or are they all shades of brown?





We are not opposites like day and night, up and down, black and white. 

We are more alike than we are different, me and mine. You and yours.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Book List {2016}

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. 
The more you learn, the more places you'll go." 
-Dr. Seuss

"Wear the old coat and buy the new book."
-Austin Phelps



Goals make me happy. Or is it just the setting of goals that brings on joy? Because reaching those goals in a whole other thing. Good intentions? I've got plenty.

Quite possibly the only goal I have snagged in the past few years is this one:
1. Read 12 books.

Books make me happy.
Books grow me.
Books make me more disciplined. 
I owe most of my thoughts to good books.

We learners, we need each other. I want to hear what you are reading and I'm here to tell you what I have been reading. So here is my book list from last year and a quick recap.

Books {2016}

1. The Best Yes -Lisa Terkeurst
If you are going to say Yes to anything this year, read this book first. Are there not a million taps on our shoulders urging us to volunteer, commit, or sign-up? I love to be involved and I love to DO. This one was a gentle little shake of my shoulders reminding me of how to make good decisions in the middle of endless opportunity. 

2. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants -Malcolm Gladwell
Brilliant! I could just move into this Canadian's brain and be gleeful forever. In his latest national best seller, Malcolm challenges the way we view obstacles and set-backs. We have always seen David's win as miraculous but he gives us a different view of the underdog. A smart story-teller, I will read everything this man writes. 

3. Overextended... And loving most of it -Lisa Harper 
Lisa has been hanging out with Christine Caine doing the Propel curriculum for women and I find her hilarious and so relate able. She tells her story of adopting her girl from Haiti and becoming a mom for the first time in her 50's. See, she's a little crazy. And that's why I like her.

4. 60 People Who Shaped the Church -Alton Gansky 
I, for one, can take this lovely thing called Church for granted. This is what it looks like, this is where we are going and this is what we collectively have decided we believe. But the Church in every century stands on the shoulders of the previous generation and should look back with gratitude while they plan for the future. I feel so much richer having read this one. 

5. The Plausibility Problem -Ed Shaw 
If we believe that a homosexual life style is wrong, then how do we make it possible, for people in our churches who struggle with same-sex attraction, to live a pure life? I'm over here clapping for Ed in his brave vulnerability and practical guide to loving everyone in our churches well. Churches, we need this book!

6. Love Does -Bob Goff 
Favorite Book of the Year Award! Oh gosh. That Bob. A lot of people talk about loving their neighbor, Bob has just been doing it for decades. He reminds me of Yes Man (remember the Jim Carey movie?) but for Jesus, defending and serving his neighborhood, the vulnerable in Uganda and anyone in-between. Easy to read and full of cheer and hope. 

7. Undone -Michelle Cushatt 
When a tired mom lugs her last car seat out of the van and steps into another phase of parenting, there is a huge sigh of relief. Right? Michelle and her husband had no sooner lugged, then three foster children were riding in the back of their van again. Through her marriage struggles, unexpected family extension and cancer, this lady had me cheering her on. Plus, she is just amazing with words. 

8. Unashamed -Christine Caine
Fiery ball of passion, that Chris. I've been listening to her preach for years and you know how they say that every story has a back-story? She lets us see the first part of her story and how God redeemed her life. Does shame try to follow you around? Need some healing in your identity? Have I got the book for you!

9. Crazy Love -Francis Chan 
Francis is just simply gaa-gaa over Jesus and it feels refreshing to me. I was reading it for the second time with a young friend ready to travel the world on a missions tour so there were fresh discussions happening. Every bookshelf should be sporting this classic.

10. The Glass Castle -Jeanette Wall 
I am very late coming to the party, but I'm here! I vaguely remember hearing about this best seller many years ago and now I know the intrigue. The beauty of this memoir was the gentle unfolding of the characters as Jeanette sees her family through maturing eyes. Could not peel my eyes away until the story concluded. 

11. Jesus Feminist -Sarah Bessey
What is it about a campfire that invites? The warmth? The half-darkness giving us the cover we need to be a little more vulnerable? Sarah hosts a marshmallow roast with her writing and I love reading her ideas. Because she loves Jesus, she loves women and has a gently bold way of telling us why. This is such a kind cheer for women (and I really want you to read it). 

12. Blink -Malcolm Gladwell 
Have I mentioned how brilliant Malcolm is? We just may think without ever thinking. So many things make up our decision-making ability and he looks at our choices and conclusions umpteen different ways. Although this book was written a few year ago before the Black Lives Matter movement and the attention the police force garnered, this has some fascinating ideas about why we make the snap decisions we do.

13. Daniel -Tammy Chupp 
Every moms' worst fear happened to my friend Tammy and she bravely tells her story of loss and the aftermath of it. An honest look at grieving after soul-shattering loss. I am wiser for the reading. 

14. Out Of Sorts -Sarah Bessey
As adults, the time comes when we need to sort through all that we have been taught about God. Oh, this one resonated with me and wet my smiling cheeks. Can we as believers be honest without being ugly? This lady Sarah is showing me how and I highly recommend her as a closet-cleaner advisor. 


There is my list, friends. Well, most of it. A few more half-read books didn't make the list but there is always next year. 

Would you be so kind to drop me a title or two from your reading list? Which books have wowed you, elated you or made you squirm in the best way possible? 

Fellow nerds, which new books shall I buy?

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Your Very Own Word for the New Year


Years ago, a wise woman told me a secret.

At the beginning of each year she asks God to give her a word for her new year. Just one word, maybe two, that gives her a heads-up for the next 12 month. And God gives it to her.

I was fascinated. I love admiring a brand new January with the promise of more brand new following close behind. What will this year hold? 

What kinds of words does God give? 
Are they meaningful? 
How does one get one of these secret words? 
Can I have one?

My friend sold me on the idea and for the past four years, I have been doing The Secret Word. Except it's not really a secret. It just feels like a secret, like something you would whisper behind open hands to your kindergarten friend.

I want you to know that YOU ARE ALL INVITED.

Not necessarily to my secret word (although if you ask, I'll tell). But to your own.

I believe in a God who knows absolutely everything about me and you and he is preparing us for the crazy ups and downs that are ready to jump into our year. When he gives us a specific word, it is for a reason. 

We might think we know what our year is up to. We might have some guesses and we may be right. But the unexpected always arises and we are caught wide-eyed. 

Does it bring you relief remembering that God is never surprised or unprepared? 

Me? I'm the one who is mixing up my husband's birthday cake without a single egg in the house. The one caught in a quiet candle-lit service with only the loud beeping toys for my toddler. I am so unprepared. Do you feel me? Do you find yourself living impromptu too?

But not him. Never him. 

And that, my friends, is the Why of the Secret Word. It's a compass and a clue.

What kinds of words does God give? 
Creative ones. Personal ones. Quirky ones. 
I am pretty sure we aren't making rules for him on this. He delivers as he wishes and nothing is off-limits. 

Rest
Running
Sunshine
Joy
Partner
Contentment
Eyes
Connection

If it's a word and it could be good, he might give it to you. 

Meaningful? Yes, some years more than others. Some years my word has been very clear and the meaning was laid out from the beginning. Other years the interpretation clarified as the months rolled on. 

This past year, my word was crystal clear from January 1: Eyes. 
"I will guide you with my eye." He whispered to me from Psalm 32.


All year long, I was reminded to look into the eyes of my Daddy God and study them. It was a year of many stretching new ventures for me and I was tempted repeatedly to look at what others thought of me and my decisions. But every time, I was the little kid whose mom cupped her hand around my little chin and pulled my face up until eye-lock transpired. Staring into that face, I was reminded of what he said about me and my decisions. 

That word was a strong pull in my year and so very worthwhile.

So how does one go about getting these secret (meaningful) words?

Listening to the soft voice of God takes some practice for most of us, but it is one of the best adventures for which we will ever pull on our boots. Promise.

Most of us hear his voice daily, whether we recognize it as his or not. I have caught most of my yearly words as I sat with my journal and wrote and waited. Most of these words resonated with what I had already felt in my spirit. 

Hearing God's voice is one of my favorite subjects. I have sat in on and led discussions on this subject taught by Mark Virkler. Check out this 10 minute youtube video for some great teaching on what his voice sounds like and how to hear it.

Do you want to join me? 

I know which word belongs to me this brand spanking new year. I predict it will be a challenge. And I cannot wait to see how it plays out!

If you want a word for your year, I believe God is totally stoked to give you one. Get alone, get quiet and ask away. Maybe a word will bubble to the surface. Maybe there is already one word that keeps following your thoughts around. Pray and ask. And have a pen handy.

Because you can totally have one. 

Word.