…And then there are days…

When life is chugging ahead victoriously, that angers Satan.  When we are drawing closer to God, leaning on Him to provide clarity and direction, acknowledging what God is doing in our lives, Satan gets pissed.  So he lobs another grenade.

If Bruno Mars will catch a grenade for me, so will God.  And here we sit being attacked again.  Self-doubt, fear of what the future holds, physical symptoms, lack of sleep – all these things rear their ugly heads when the father of lies plants lines that are put on repeat in our minds.

Fear is a liar. 

When he told you you’re not good enough
When he told you you’re not right
When he told you you’re not strong enough
To put up a good fight
When he told you you’re not worthy
When he told you you’re not loved
When he told you you’re not beautiful
That you’ll never be enough

Fear, he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
‘Cause fear he is a liar

Oh this song is so powerful.

My place of content these days is my bed.  Under my super soft blanket.  Bill and Walter next to me, Netflix bingeing.  I can control what I hear, what I see, who I interact with and also nothing can go wrong in pajama pants and a comfy sweatshirt.  My kids know they can join in on the binge any time they want, my door is open, and please bring snacks.  It is just my way of putting up safety walls.  Protecting myself from overload.

I am working on doing the same in my fake world.  You know, social media.  “Unfollow” is a beautiful option.  “Delete” is also a new friend I am getting to know.  Knowing what is healthy and what is not is something I am learning as I go.

Last night, I was told that forgiving someone doesn’t mean I have to open my arms and welcome them back into the fold.  Of course I probably knew that, but hearing it last night was eye opening because that is how I have been looking at this.  All or nothing.  However, I can choose to move on and still keep up protective walls and that is ok.  In fact, that is healthy.

And as my kids move on from the glorious experience known as high school, and I drop off the face of the high school earth, we will be set free from the many activities, stresses, and people who have required us to pull back and reestablish our boundaries.   And in opening our hearts to the new things God is about to do, we will continue to find healing.  Goodbye, old.  We don’t have to be friends ever again.  Hello, new.  Looking forward to learning what God has planned.

June 3, you are a liberation day for our family.

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When the Prayer Becomes a Testimony

During the lowest of low in our home, I would hold her and we would listen to worship music and pray.

“Dear God, take this away.  Take away the darkness, the struggles, the pain.  Bring back the joy.  Bring back the laughter.  Be here so we can feel You.”

And for a long time, it felt like He wasn’t listening.  He wasn’t answering.  He had our prayers on mute.

We know better.  We know He is always listening and in His time, we will see the big picture. But in those quiet dark nights, it was hard to believe He was hearing us because the process was longer than we wanted, the loss was deeper, and the consequences much more costly.

One of the songs we clung to was No Longer Slaves.

“No Longer Slaves”

“You unravel me with a melody
You surround me with a song
Of deliverance from my enemies
‘Til all my fears are gone

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

From my mother’s womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again to my family
Your blood flows through my veins

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

I am surrounded
By the arms of the Father
I am surrounded
By songs of deliverance

We’ve been liberated
From our bondage
We’re the sons and the daughters
Let us sing our freedom

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
My fears are drowned in perfect love
You rescued me
And I will stand and sing
I am a child of God.

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
You drowned my fears in perfect love
You rescued me
And I will stand and sing
I am a child of God.”

This was a constant petition in our home.  “Please deliver her from the fear.  Aren’t you listening?  Why aren’t you fixing this???”
Fast forward to this weekend.  I was at a women’s retreat and after being reminded that I am worthy of God answering my prayers, this song played. For the first time, I heard it so differently.  I heard it as a claim of what God has done for her (and me).
We are no longer slaves to fear.  We have been delivered from the bondage of anxiety.  We are surrounded by His loving arms and we now stand and sing “We are children of God.”  It was the very moment when I realized our prayer had become truth of what He has done for our family and now needs to be our testimony.  God delivered our family from a time period that was absolutely destructive.  When we came to the very ends of ourselves, He was there to rescue us and rebuild us into what we need to be.  And that right there was our lesson.
Psalms 18:16 He reached down from on high – and took a hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters.
2 Kings 20:5 This is what the Lord says, “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears.  I will heal you.”
Isiah 41:13 For I am the Lord, Your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you “Do not fear, I will help you.”
God keeps his promises.  We just had to do our part.  More on that next time.
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On a lighter note, I went shopping with a dear friend this weekend and got my graduation dresses.  One for the party, one for the ceremony.  Check that off the list.  The more I can prepare, the less stress, right??  Right?????  Please tell me I am right.  Dress shopping is easy.  Addressing all the invites?   Well, for some reason, I keep putting that off.

All for the One

Matthew 18:12-14 12“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

Two months ago, there was a big meeting in the theater of the high school.  My daughter sat in the back with me in tears, struggling for those breaths, brave enough to stick it out but yearning to leave.  When it was over, the students piled out the front of the theater to go about their evening plans, but one friend walked against the flow and came to her.  He came specifically to check on her and ask her if she was able to go on stage and run through the scene they were to brush up.  The image of him walking to her and his sincere concern is forever ingrained in my mind.  It was the most real-life example I have of the Bible passage of the shepherd searching for his one sheep.

This young man probably doesn’t even know the impact he had that day.  He was an unexpected example of the kind of love God calls us to show people.

Are we willing to walk against the flow?  To do the right thing when everyone else is taking the easy way out?

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From Me to You

This parenting process is full of lasts, firsts, and many big emotion days.  I expected today might be one of the harder ones.  Eighteen years ago, about right now, I met my children.  Recovery was long and hard, and they had to be evaluated and put on vents.  It was a few hours between delivery and that moment.  I was wheeled down to the NICU on my bed so I could see them and hear how they were doing.  For the amount of medication I had pumping through my body, I actually remember that moment pretty clearly.  I remember thinking Alli already had better hair than I did.  I remember the nurses telling us how cute Andy was.  I remember being told not to touch Karalyn because she was already overstimulated.  I remember wondering how they had all fit in me.  I remember being so thankful that someone else would watch over them so I could rest and heal.

Today, we woke each triplet up by our annual tradition of singing the very worst rendition of “Happy Birthday” we can muster.  We start with Alli because she is our strongest singer and adds so much to the music.  Then we move on to Karalyn.  Why?  Because she is the middle child.  Last, Andy gets the A-treatment.  He adores being woken up by really bad singing.  We do this every year.  Loudly.  It is most excellent.  I thought as we finished our last “Happy Birthday, Dear Andy, Happy Birthday to you” that this would be the last time we were all here to complete this tradition.  Next year, will their roommates know to sing loudly and horribly?  I think not.  And anyway, they don’t know what key to sing in.  Or when to switch octaves in the middle of a line.  Or how to properly use vibrato like I can.  We all journeyed to the living room and Karalyn so lovingly said, “Mom, next year, our birthday is on a Sunday.  I am coming home and sleeping here so you can sing again.  This isn’t the last.”  And I let out the breath I had been holding. (Remember, we do that around here to avoid hard situations.)

So today, I have some things to say to my three:

Alli, what a year.  You have been through the fire and come out refined.  You have redetermined your priorities and goals.  You have redefined “friend” and have learned that while some people do not have your best interest in mind, many do.  Your inner circle has become family while you cut loose the outer circle, allowing for space to breathe.  Remember that you are not required to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm.  Although God gave you the most tender heart, you still need to guard it – Proverbs 4:23.  I hope you have learned this year that this family has your back 100% and that somehow God loves you even more than we do.  You are so strong and so tender at the same time.  Keep pressing forward, great days are waiting for you.

Karalyn, where would we be without the perfectly-placed one liners and loyalty you bring to this family?  You have been selflessly willing to give up time, attention, and even friends to help our family this year when we were at threat level midnight.   As I watched you celebrating with your own friends last night, my hope was that you find a close-knit group at college like you have now so you can let your guard down and be your completely goofy self sometimes.  Your dreams are lofty and so achievable for you.  You are ready to face any challenge that might be foolish enough to face you.  Balance the two – work hard and play hard.  And keep texting me jokes so we can have improversations sometimes.  The world needs your joy.

Andy, remember when you were little and you told me you would never leave me and instead would build a house in the back yard and live there forever?  How close is that to the truth?  I know you could build it and it would be beautiful.  Your gifts and how you have honed your skills to be so completely talented in your areas of passion amaze me.  Your brain works outside the box and you have the capacity to serve others in meaningful ways.  Always be willing to see needs and help.  That is why God made you exactly the way you are.  Be smart in the decisions you make.  Whenever you are about to do something, think “Would an idiot do that?” and if they would, do not do that thing.  Use your charisma to inspire others to do good.

Today was not hard.  I hung out with three of the coolest kids adults I know.  They are my joy, my love, and my hope for great things ahead.  Happy Birthday to you, Dear Triplets, Happy Birthday to you.

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Laughter

Evenings around here are unplanned gatherings of crazy.  Andy had a friend over and they were in the garage, this time ripping apart a bike.  James and Alli were separately up on campus with their people.  And Karalyn, like typical, was sleeping in her footsie jammies.  With her glasses on.  And lights on.  But once Alli got home, a party erupted in the girls’ room.  I fell asleep listening to volcanoes of laughter.  When I asked Alli this morning what was so funny last night, I heard the unexpected “We were writing our Hamlet papers.”  Well of course that is funny.  Everything is funny with Karalyn.  Especially after a good evening nap.

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For example, yesterday, she and I planned our family’s victorious run on Family Feud.  We picked our team and even the color scheme we will wear. (All black, in case you were wondering because black is slimming and looks good on everyone.)  These are the important moments with her.

She wants to be in the medical field.  Seriously, who doesn’t want this lady to walk in and help you in a time of illness or broken bone?

“I’ve got this, Sir, I learned CPR from Dwight Schrute!”

It is good to end days in laughter when they often begin more like this (this is me listing to music and working on my breathing while comforting Walter who enjoyed another sock removal procudure):

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Well, I am going to go pick up Alli from a theater event where I hear she won a ninja contest while in a dress and heels – there has to be a scholarship for that.

That’s today in a nutshell.  One of the breathing days…

Breathe

I don’t know how many times I have held her and reminded “Breathe in.  Breathe out. I got you.”

Through the journey our family has been on this past year, and the major life events we face in the next couple months, I find myself looking for key words or thoughts each day that I can cling to.  Most of the words have come from the Bible or from worship songs as I dug into God, looking for footing, for direction, for purpose.  Often, the thoughts were simple.  A major theme that God keeps putting in my heart is that He loves me, and I just need to be still and rest in knowing the battle is His.  Trusting doesn’t come easy for someone who just tends to plow ahead and get things done.  But I am learning.

Sometimes in this home, we hold our breath.  We don’t necessarily make a conscientious decision to hold our breath, it is a response our bodies have to a trigger.  Sometimes, the trigger is obvious, and sometimes, Satan is just messing with us.  Many hours have been spent in this home practicing breathing through moments and talking to God.  If we can’t breathe, we can’t regulate.  If we don’t turn to God, we will never find complete healing.

Throughout the process, I keep hearing the lyrics from the song Great Are You Lord:

“You give life, You are love

You bring light to the darkness

You give hope, You restore

Every heart that is broken

Great are you, Lord

It’s Your breath in our lungs…”

We have had days when the best we could do was breathe and are aware we have more of the same ahead.  And that’s OK because it’s His breath in our lungs.  He made us.  We can breathe because of Him, and He will battle for us.

A friend posted a link to a song I hadn’t heard before, but instantly loved.  The healing process isn’t quick.  There are days we are dancing and days we are quiet.  On quiet days when we are still and focusing on breathing, this song will be a new go-to for me.  I think I might need to just put it on repeat sometimes – like when the senior email came from the school detailing graduation plans, or when I try to think through how many pounds of potatoes we need to peel for the grad party.  The small moments that sneak up and steal my breath.

“Breathe in.  Breath out.”  I can feel God holding me and whispering in my ear.  “I got you.”

Kari Jobe Here

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We Matter

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If you ever need to remember how small you are, I recommend a trip to the ocean.  It is the ultimate reminder that we are minuscule.
“I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance,  I hope you dance.”

We had a year of sitting it out.  But we are dancing again because although we are tiny compared to the ocean waves, God’s pursuit of us is relentless.  He loves us.  He loves me.  He loves her.  He loves our family.  Tiny little minuscule us.

The song Reckless Love speaks to our value – I highly recommend a few minutes of listening and soaking in the truth:

“When I felt no worth, you paid it all for me”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sc6SSHuZvQE

What does this have to do with impending empty-nesting?  A lot.  I am loved by God.  I matter to Him.  My identity isn’t solely mom of these precious children.  He can continue to use me in new capacities.  And besides, college kids are at my house all the time.  Even they need surrogate moms and dads when they are away from home.  And our door is always open.

So moms, be assured that you are loved, pursued, and treasured even when your life focus is going through huge changes.  You always have a purpose.

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