“So Christian it’s not Christian.”

A few weeks ago, I overheard a conversation that I’ve been thinking about a lot ever since. A woman was talking to a man about Christian people who seeemed to be judgmental and wanted to force their views on everyone. I heard her say that “Jesus never ostracized anybody.” And I thought it was just the typical conversation headed toward, “Christians are so judgmental, but the Bible says not to judge, so they’re all hypocrites,” but then I heard her say something else:

She said, “It’s like they’re so Christian that they’re not Christian anymore.

And I started to think about what that meant. On the surface it makes no sense, but I think that what she was saying was this: Christians get so wrapped up in legalism, they get so wrapped up in wanting to make everything black and white, us and them, and Good Christian People do x, y, and z, therefore that person who is not doing x, y, and z is not a Good Christian Person and we don’t have to associate with them, that we forget how we used to be.

We forget that there but for the grace of God go I. We forget that people and relationships are messy, and we forget that Jesus hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors and gay men and adulterous women and gluttons. People that we often judge for even walking in the doors of a church. “How dare she come in here, she’s a stripper.” And we forget that our own salvation and our own lives are just as messy, and just as messed up. We need Jesus as much as they do. You don’t get saved and then need him less.

But we do it because it’s easy.

We do it because it’s much cleaner, and nicer, and less involved than having to go hang out with and be the gospel to people who don’t have the slightest inkling of who Jesus is, because they haven’t met him yet.

But what we have to remember is that Jesus came after us.

He pursued us.

He stays with us, even when we screw up and the sin that’s deeply embedded in our hearts comes out.

He’s still there, no matter what.

And we should be that to the best of our ability, to the people around us. We should be using our circle of influence for Him, asking that He use us among people who absolutely don’t know Him.

And if you’re not making legalists uncomfortable by hanging out with such unholy people, then you have to ask yourself: are you really living on mission?


Adoption from the other side.

For those of you that don’t know, a birth mom is a mother that has placed her child for adoption.

Many of us never hear her side of the story. We see closed adoptions, or adoptions from places like Africa or China, where the mother may be dead or simply never seen or heard from. Maybe she couldn’t care for her baby and her child was left at an orphanage, or she could have been in any number of situations and we don’t know because many birth mothers are not given the opportunity to tell us.

It’s a part of the story that’s often considered shameful, tragic, or too heartbreaking for the mother to openly share.

It’s something that people don’t want to talk about, or don’t know how to talk about. It’s something that, when mentioned, people often just respond with an “I’m sorry,” or “That must be so hard,” or simply a pitying look. Sometimes with judgement, depending on the circumstances surrounding the decision.

But I think that the shame needs to go away. I think that the tragedy is real, but that being a birth mother needs to also be celebrated. This is a woman who courageously chose life for the tiny human inside of her while surrounded by a society that would quite quickly say, “Just kill it.”

I am a birth mother. I won’t lie, Mothers’ Day is a hard day for me. Somebody asked me this Mothers’ Day, “What is it like for you?” And I wanted to say so many things. But all I said what that it is bittersweet. And up until recently, mostly just bitter.

I wanted to say that I’ve spent the past three Mothers’ Days alone, sobbing, staring at pictures of the now-four-year-old little boy that I sent home in someone else’s arms on December 27th, 2009, three days after his birth. Normally they discharge you from the hospital after 24 hours if everything goes as planned and only keep you longer if there are complications. I did not have a complicated labor or delivery, but I chose to stay in the hospital for the maximum three days because I needed to hold him for as long as I could before letting him go where I couldn’t ever follow. I couldn’t face the thought of going home without my baby, sending him off in another woman’s arms, calling someone else mommy. I didn’t want to think about not being able to catch him when he fell, not being the one to dry his tears, not being there when he took his first steps, or said his first words.

But I was sixteen. I found out that I was pregnant in my high school bathroom with a pregnancy test that a friend had kept in her locker. “Just in case,” she’d said.

An unplanned pregnancy in your sophomore year of high school isn’t the kind of thing that anybody thinks will happen to them. It’s the sort of thing that happens to those girls. The girls who sleep around, the ones who would just have an abortion and move on, the girls who wear too much makeup, the girls who are insecure and lost their virginity when they were twelve. Those girls. You know that ones I’m talking about. We’ve all judged them at one point in our lives.

But I wasn’t one of those girls.

I’d had one boyfriend before my baby’s father. Before my baby’s father, I’d only kissed a boy and held his hand when I was fifteen. I didn’t smoke. I didn’t drink. I’d never been to a party. I loved (still love) books, and quiet solitude, and only had two very close friends. I was not one of those girls.

But it happened to me. It happened to the quiet bookworm with straight A’s.

And I was terrified.

Nobody wanted to help me, except my parents. My school wouldn’t work with me, I lost many of the people who used to openly associate with me, and I was the outcast at youth group. The quiet one who kept good grades and read books voraciously, the one who didn’t care about partying or even, really, about sex, was suddenly a bad influence.

And then I began hearing the word over, and over, and over: abortion. “Have you considered abortion?”

But, somewhere deep inside of me, God was moving. And I heard another word: adoption.

I knew, deep in my heart, that to parent my baby would not be a good decision, but I didn’t know what adoption was or how it worked. See, we have this misconception that adopting a baby or placing a baby for adoption is as simple as dropping the baby on a doorstep with a note, or like adopting a dog.

It’s nothing like that.

It’s heart-wrenching.

It calls up more tears than you knew your body could produce.

It draws stares and glares and glances and condescension.

It gets people to look at your left hand, searching for a ring that doesn’t exist.

And when people ask your age, and you respond with a number below 20, you can see the judgement in their eyes.

Not only toward you, but toward your entire family. Especially your parents.

How could they let this happen? Why didn’t you use protection? Did you do it on purpose? Don’t you know that having a baby is hard? You can’t take care of a baby, you’re just a baby.

But the truth is that at that point in my life, I was looking for something much deeper and more intimate than a physical connection with a teenage boy who could never repair the damage done to my heart, or fill the void I felt. I was looking for something to save me from all the things I felt were wrong with me. I was looking for a Savior, for unconditional love and affection, for somebody to love me for me, for someone who would understand and appreciate me. Someone who would sacrifice for me.

But He was already there. And He used my terrifying predicament to lead me straight to Him.

He caused my broken, crooked path to lead me into His arms.

He used a little boy named Christian, born on the eve of the day that we all celebrate His Son’s birthday, to give me new life as a Christian. And he used the image of that same little boy’s adoption to show me His adoption of me, as His daughter.

Never in my life have I felt closer to Him than in those moments before I even realized that I knew Him. When I was eight months pregnant, and had doctors comment on my age. When I was in the hospital in labor and certain nurses saw my birth date and were suddenly callous and rude and short-tempered. When they called CPS on my mother because her sixteen-year-old was giving birth at Northwest Hospital on Christmas Eve.

We don’t hear many birth mother stories, despite the fact that adoption is becoming a more popular subject, especially among the church. And I love that it’s becoming more popular. But I think that it’s time to hear from the other side as well, to hear from the mothers who have a baby that they may not even have the privilege to watch grow, as I have. I was lucky enough to have adoptive parents who were okay with an open adoption. But many birth mothers either don’t want that, or they are stuck in a situation where it’s not an option. I want to hear stories from the mothers who don’t have one or more of their babies on Mothers’ Day, not necessarily due to death or some other tragedy, but because of the tragic beauty of their adoption story.

I want to stop the judgement.

I want birth mothers to be celebrated on Mothers’ Day. As mothers.

I want their stories to be cherished, especially by people within the church.

There are many children living in homes with parents they were not born to. And that is a beautiful, wonderful, amazing thing, that there are people in the world who care so deeply for orphans that they would make them their own. It’s also a wonderful picture of the Gospel. But we should also care for the mothers of those orphans.

And those of us in the church should be the first ones to step forward, because just as my story led to redemption, someone else’s could too, and God may be calling us to help guide them there.

Alena Rivas is a college student from Tucson, Arizona. She has been married since August, 2013. She and her husband don’t have kids yet, but they hope to once she graduates! Alena writes about life, love, loss, and God. She works to incorporate her own experiences in such a way as to inspire others and encourage people to think about things in new ways. If you like her writing and want to keep up with it better or just want to have access to her awesome witticisms that may not always end up in blog posts, you can find her on Facebook (facebook.com/authoralenarivas), Twitter (@MrsAlenaeous), and Google+ (Alena Rivas).

The one about Mothers’ Day: 3 things my mom taught me

I was recently reading a post called “How not to be disappointed this Mothers’ Day.” In light of that post’s advice, I’d like to take a moment to celebrate my own mom, who is wonderful and amazing. Being a mom, I think, is both incredibly important and under-appreciated. Moms teach their children how to be themselves, and how to go out into the world. So what moms teach their kids is of utmost importance.

So here are three things that I am grateful that my mom taught me before I became a teenager and knew everything:

Beautiful things don’t last forever. My mom is the type of person who gets excited about sunsets, flowers, and pretty rocks. In fact, she currently has a growing collection of heart-shaped rocks, because she thinks they’re cool. I do too, actually. I remember lots of people thinking she was weird because of her odd fascination with things that they considered ordinary and boring. But for me, her persistence in loving these things taught me something important. It taught me to appreciate beautiful things while they’re here, because they won’t last forever. A sunset is gone as soon as the sun goes down, and you’ll never see that sunset ever again. A flower lasts maybe a couple of days and then dies. A rock could be spotted, and then lost again, forgotten. These things don’t last forever. And neither do the things in our lives that contain even more beauty than the most beautiful sunset: family and friends, watching your children grow up, laughing with people you care about, being someone’s shoulder to cry on, building relationships. Family members and friends, even if they remain in our lives for years and years, all have an expiration date. So do we. Every one of our lives will end in death, and we don’t know when that will be. You have unlimited opportunities for laughter and happiness with these people, but many people don’t take them while they’re here. You have only limited opportunities to be someone’s go-to friend when they’re hurting, but many people don’t want to deal with it. All that leads to is loneliness. That person will find someone else, but you will gradually lose the people who want to come to you if you never respond. Your kids are only small once. Then they’re in high school. Suddenly they’re graduating from college, getting married, and, whoa, you’re a grandparent. Or worse, they pass on too soon, and they never even got to college at all, maybe not even to high school. You can keep saying, “I’ll spend time with them later, right now I’m trying to [blank].” But ultimately, what they’ll remember is what you did with them, not necessarily all of the things you tried to do for them, things that were intangible or unseen. Things they didn’t understand, and maybe things they didn’t even care about (like how many cars you owned, or how expensive your house was). What they do understand is that you either are or are not there for them.

The world won’t end if you don’t do the dishes. My mom’s house was always notoriously messy. Many times, I was embarrassed to invite friends over because I was so worried about what they’d think of the house. But my mom always welcomed friends inside with a smile, simply saying, “The house is a mess, but come on in.” She was never too busy and the house was never too messy to keep open doors, and open arms. We constantly had neighborhood kids in and out the door, at least two on any given day, running from our house back to theirs and back again, all day on Saturday, and in the afternoons when school was out. This is probably partially because of the novelty of owning horses that all of the kids wanted to see and pet, but also because my mom didn’t turn them away. She gave them a safe place to come and play if they didn’t have one at home. She gave them food if their own parents didn’t have it or couldn’t provide it. And she did all of this knowing that it would only lead to more dishes, extra laundry, and more papers all over the tables. But those dishes were from meals spent laughing and talking together, being with people we loved. The laundry was from playing outside together, building friendships. And the papers were covered in drawings from kids all being creative together.

But sometimes the dishes aren’t the most important thing for you to do anyway. Even now, my mom loves people. She recently got her nursing degree, and takes care of people for a living. She takes care of people when they’re at their most vulnerable, and quite often, their worst when it comes to temperament and mood. But she does it anyway. And although some people dislike her happiness and her willingness to take extra time just to talk to a patient, she is also very loved by those she takes that extra time for. They appreciate it. They feel loved, and noticed, and cared for. My mom taught me compassion, and to care for people, even at their worst. And this often happens at the expense of doing your household cleaning, your chores, or whatever other grandiose plans you had for the day. But in the end, it’s people that matter, and not  how many things you were able to check off of your “To Do” list. Who you impacted, and what kind of impression you left is going to be your legacy, and that’s important.

And that’s what my mom taught me.

Happy Mothers’ Day.