Sunday, December 16, 2012

What You Find When You Peel Back the Tree

Copyright (c) <a href='http://www.123rf.com'>123RF Stock Photos</a>
The past two Christmases I've written excitably about the season, feeling inspired and touched by the meaning, the reality of it all.

The past two Christmases are the first two that I've truly known Christ.

This Christmas? There are more unexplained tears and more family-tension. More little problems and more big crises. There is more nagging and more needing-to-go-for-a-walk to get away from it all.

My blog has been quiet, waiting patiently for my return and I begin to think: who is the author - is it me? What is this blog? Who reads it?

The normal writer-doubts fill my head and tell me that I'm not good enough, that I don't write well enough. I hear the lie that I should just return to angst-ridden poetry instead of faith-filled personal writing because that, at least, got me ....

say it. Say it.

Attention. Accolades.

Shiny ornaments on my tree of success.

Oh, but I think about what I've learned in the past 2 years about God's upside-down Kingdom and I re-read what I just wrote.

The angst-ridden poetry may have gotten published widely and a few awards here and there...but the truly fulfilling writing did not come until I started this blog, until I started writing for my church newsletter, writing more intimately in my prayer journal and my regular journal, when I began my gratitude journal.

When I began the dialogue with God I became the writer I wanted to be.

Maybe not the writer that would get me accolades and awards. But the writer I know I was meant to be.

The angsty poetry had its place back then. But I am a new creation and I cannot nor should I discount the transformation within done by God.

So who is the author of this blog?

My dear friend, Michele, says on her blog that "Life's Author is God."

And I want that desperately. I want to surrender so much - all of myself - to God so that He is truly the Author of my everything.

I want God to be the author of this blog and I the mere vehicle.

I look at the metaphorical tree I have set up in front of me. I notice the ornaments are those of ingratitude, complaint, grief, sadness, depression.

I fight all those things on a daily basis, but this season has been especially hard. I read so much inspiration on my favorite blogs and I then play the comparison game. Why can't I do that? Write that? Feel that? Be that?

I don't want to feel this much grief for my mother, six years gone. Why am I feeling it so much more now?

I don't want to get this crabby on a daily morning basis.

I come home after my 40 minute drive and I am ready to go, having put the Armor of God from Ephesians 6 on, prayed in the car, told God I was ready to face the evening. And then to walk through the door to some crisis. It feels like it's every day. It just might be every day.

And in all of it - (I took a weekend break a few weeks back and learned this -) I know to give thanks.

Practice Eucharisteo. Practice giving thanks during the hard times.

So maybe this Christmas, for me, won't have the jolliness past ones have had. It isn't seeped in my mother's apple cider. It doesn't sing with Barbra Streisand's unique rendition of "Jingle Bells." We haven't done a family picture this year and I haven't sent out Christmas cards (how strange) because we've just been trying to survive.

Maybe this Christmas is more about what I learned that weekend I went away to be with God. Maybe it is about giving the hard thanks.

Maybe this Christmas I will peel the leafy evergreen branches back and reveal the bare tree underneath. It isn't about presents for me this year. It's about His Presence.

Not the decorated evergreen tree

but the bare tree that became a cross where Jesus gave His life for me

picture from http://www.dayspring.com/tree_to_cross_3_christmas_ornament/


and through tears (maybe explained, maybe unexplained) and heart-pains I give the hard thanks. I turn my head up and, amidst the frightening teenage choices and the whiny kindergartener and the starting-to-get-moody-tween and the marriage bumps and doctors' shrugs, I give thanks.

I give thanks to You, Lord. I give thanks because You deserve it and so much more. I give thanks because I am thankful that I know how to give thanks. For that is truly what saves me every time, in my deepest and loneliest and scariest times: counting Your gifts. I lived so much of my life feeling lost, Lord. This Christmas, I thank you for leading me, stone by stone, footprint by footprint, year by year, to You. I am choked up when I think about how You have saved me. How You sent Jesus down as a baby born in a dirty, filthy feed trough instead of a regal chamber.  I am amazed at how You, this baby grown into God-Man, have pursued me - me! - all of my life, and still do! How you ask me to sit at Your feet. This girl who looked in the mirror and hated herself. Who saw dirt and filth. You ask me to see what You see, Lord. You are the Savior I always knew I wanted but never could understand until now. And not only do I want you, but I need You, Lord. Jesus, I need You.

It feels odd to be writing so nakedly about myself now - here - at Christmastime when I feel I ought to be writing about Jesus and His birth and the Gospels. I wrote my first year of blogging here about Joseph being a great example of a stepparent and I shared different music videos contemplating the amazing situation Mary found herself in. And an interesting blog entry from December, 2011, about the yoke Jesus asks us to take on and about Christmas expectations.

Is this December, almost-Christmas, blog entry appropriate reading for this season?

I can't answer that right now. Somehow, though, I know God works through my heart and into my fingertips. Somehow, He can write me out of this confusion.

From a bare cross, God folds out my branches until, in Him, I am a beautiful tree, ever-green with glory as I shine with all He will do through me.

I hope to write again before Christmas. I can't promise, but I will try. Until then, may you keep your eyes on Jesus this season.

And does any peeling need to happen in your life? Certainly an interesting notion...

Now, if you'd like, sit back and listen to a beautiful song I just discovered:
"Becoming" by Christine Dente


Blessings be yours...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Realization of the Noisy Fridge

Seeped into a necessary God-sabbatical this weekend, I sit here in the quiet of a noisy refrigerator. That has been the only thing that has disturbed the past 24 hours' quiet and contemplation. I have never known 24 hours to go by with quiet, peace, reflection only disturbed by a buzzing refrigerator.

And because I rather like the lack of static right now, I am doing what I've wanted to do for years:

take a break. 

I took a break in the real world this weekend and now I'm taking a break from the online world this next week. I will not blog, facebook or twitter from tomorrow (Sunday) until the following Sunday. Due to work and other necessary obligations, I will be checking email.

I do this out of obedience to God's call to be present for my family and my own desire to have more presence for my family. 

Often, having more presence in the real world means having less presence on-line.

That is something I've been railing against, not wanting to accept in my heart, for a long time. 

But too much has happened in the past 24 hours to have me continue railing against that truth, against God's calling me to rest and find joy in the home. 

So while the writer/sharer-part of me yearns to blog pages and pages about everything God has placed on my heart this weekend and all the incredible blessings and nervous nail-biting that have resulted in deciding to take and live Ann's dare...

I'm going to leave it at that and say:

Blessings upon your next week. May you listen to the whispering in your own spirit and heed it. May you hold your loved ones close. May new wounds heal and old ones fade. 

I would love to leave you with this blog entry from my dear blogger-friend, Michele-Lyn over at A Life Surrendered.com. It talks about margins and the need for space, the need to breathe. 

Until next Sunday, the 9th...

Sighing a long, deep Amen...


* Picture most definitely and proudly taken from Ann Voskamp's blog, A Holy Experience and in prayerful hope that it is suitable to share with you, for it does relate so very much.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Not My Saving, but His: What I Know Now Thursday

It's time for What I Know Now Thursdays...

Photo credit: Wallflower83 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND


and what I know now, this Thursday, is a very difficult thing to know:

that my oldest girl's heart is broken, has been broken, and breaks nearly every day...and I can't do anything to stop or fix it.

Are you a parent who watches the child you love suffer either through growing-up painful circumstances or through circumstances beyond their (or your) control?

I understand.

I may not have given birth to these children, but my heart holds them as if my womb did. And my heart aches when their hearts ache.

And right now my 14-year-old, who isn't able to accept me as a mother-figure in her life right now, is hurting beyond belief, and, like my mother before me, I now share the ache-for-the-daughter.

What I know now and what my own mother had to learn through many hard, hard years...is that we can't do anything to get our daughters out of the train wreck they sometimes [must] go on.

We can't be there to catch them every time they fall.

We can't be there to fix everything.

All that is certainly known in the parenting community, but do we really know it in our heart? I'm not sure because I know that I still try to band-aid and fix it all up, anyway.

When my 8-year-old stepdaughter is angry, she will let me sit with her and hold her and talk it out. And when my 6-year-old stepson is scared of something, he'll climb into my lap and we'll sort it out together.

But there is that age, that fighting-for-independence-age, when your teenager pushes away all attempts to love and support, while, at the same time, secretly yearning to know that you are still there, despite it all.

So, that is what I must do. Be here. Loving her from afar, making myself available should she seek me out.

One thing I didn't know not too long ago was that, while I could not be with her 24 hours a day to rescue and comfort her, there is a God who can. This 14-year-old isn't quite sure how she feels about this God we introduced into her life, full-on, 2 years ago, and so she wanders around pinning God-like hopes on mere mortals. How I wish I could open her eyes to all I have seen in 2 years.

But that is her own path to walk and God has His own will to lay upon her.

What I know now is that God's plan for her is a good one. He wants hope and a good future for her (Jeremiah 29:11) and I need to trust that.

What I know now is that, no matter how much I want to, I can't be her savior.

But God already is.

Linking up with Sarah Mae, even while is on sabbatical:


Friday, November 23, 2012

To Live a Thank You: Five Minute Fridays

It's Friday!
That means I've listened for the word that Lisa-Jo calls out and I'm writing, unedited and unbridled, for five minutes straight about that word.

Today's word is

THANK YOU.

GO....
****************************

I never had problems saying "thank you" as a child. My father and stepmother tell me now, as I call them and groan about the sense of entitlement and ingratitude in today's generation (particularly under my roof), that I probably said "thank you" a little too much. Can one do that?

I guess if it is born out of guilt. And I guess I felt guilty for getting things. Why? Did I not think I deserved them?

Was it about wanting approval and saying the "right thing?"

"Thank you" makes adults happy. It makes parents beam and say to themselves, "how nice my children look to others."

And when they don't say "thank you," parents might think, "how awful; I'm so embarrassed."

Has "thank you" become a measurement of how good we are as parents?

What if "thank you" became, to our kids, a measurement of how good we were doing as role models?

Ouch.

Husband and I are on the kids a lot about saying their "please" and "thank you"s.

And we try to say our "thank you"s as well. But how do we live the "thank you?"

Wouldn't that be...gratitude?

Oh, how circular it is. "You're welcome" is gratitude modeled to those who need to know what "thank you" looks like.

And my sometimes-ungrateful, entitled kids? If I model grace instead of react with sighed anger when they don't say "thank you," wouldn't grace feel better...and teach better? Wouldn't my consistent modeling of gratitude, even in the midst of ingratitude be the way to go?

I know I get so angry at the kids for being ungrateful because I am ashamed of my own ingratitude.

And so it is a circle.


STOP.
***************************

Smiling as this Friday's word is so fitting both because of Thanksgiving, but also because of what I received in the mail today:


One Thousand Gifts Devotional by Ann Voskamp


Thursday, November 22, 2012

How Owies Teach Me the Best Things



After my grumbling and groaning of the last blog entry, I find it funny that I sit here, befuddled at how my almost-9 Miss G just taught me the truth I've been trying to learn for years, the truth I wrote about in that last grumbling and crying-out blog:

How do we give the hard-praise? When life feels so rock-tough and you feel like you've fallen out of a tree and the ground gives you a good whack on the face, how do you look up and thank God, despite?

Miss G came home from her aunt's house tonight in quite a state. Husband had received a phone call from the kids' mom informing him that she was bringing home a very hysterical Miss G who had taken a tumble and konked heads with her cousin and thus bit her lip quite badly and was bleeding. Miss G cries scary and tortured when even the smallest injury happens so I hated to imagine what she was like at this point.

We were ready when the door opened. Husband ushered her in, took her bags and coat, and told her to get p.j.'s on as I followed her into the bathroom. She was crying badly, especially as she looked at her face in the mirror. Poor baby; her eyes were puffy from crying and just-waking-up-from-exhausted-nap-in-car, her lip was indeed hurt with a dark line beneath and inside with her lower lip puffing out a bit in an unintentional pout. It broke my heart. I held her as she fumbled to button her shirt and though I offered to do it for her, she just kept buttoning. I whispered, "it's okay," in her ear even though I knew it was not okay, the pain and the exhaustion she felt was not okay in my book, anyway, and I desperately wanted to go back in time and race up north and catch her when she did fall out of that tree and fell right on both her cousin and the unwelcoming ground. I'd do anything to take it away.

Trying a different tactic, I asked her to name one yummy food she had tonight and, through quieting sobs, she told me sweet potatoes. I asked her if they had marshmallows on them. She shook her head no. I told her that my Gramma introduced me to that kind and that it was yummy.

Husband brought the only first-aid-type thing we had to help disinfect the interior lip-wound: mouthwash. We knew this would sting badly and the way Miss G reacts when in pain made us want to wail in pain just thinking about it. We explained the whys and hows of the mouthwash to her and how I'd count 1...2...3....and on 3 she'd spit it out and ready? Let's just do it fast, we said. So she tipped a cup-full back and I counted 1...2...3...and she spit it out and...no sound. She turned to a towel and dabbed that face.

She made one slight "yuck" and Husband and I looked at each other as though the world had not, indeed, ended when it was predicted.

I followed Miss G into her room and sat beside her as she laid down.

"I don't know why God would choose me to have this owie," she said, talking the way one does with fat lip.

"Oh, honey, God did not give you this owie," I began.

How do I explain that sometimes God lets bad things happen because sometimes they need to....so we learn or so He is glorified....how do you explain that, ever hope to explain that to an almost-9-year-old girl who has only known God for 2 years?

Miss G interrupted my thought process as I panicked to make sense of this. She said, "Well, I know that sometimes we get owies because God wants us to pray to Him and to realize that we need Him."

I don't think I spoke or blinked or moved any muscle for 10 seconds. I just sat and stared at her form in the darkness.

Isn't this what always happens lately? I'll be putting her to bed and she will, out of the blue, say some awe-inspiring, sage-like, truth that I think she is way too inexperienced and too young to comprehend.

Husband happened to be in the room and, after the 10-second-awe-look, I met his glance with an astonished smile.

She was basically saying, in her young words which spoke old, wise truth, that she was grateful for the owie so she could pray to God and show that she needed Him.

Would she put it that way? I doubt it. But the irony of her pointing out the way God could be glorified by this hard thing was not lost on me.

She was giving God the hard-praise.

One day after I had written here,

"Does God treasure our hard-praises more than our easy-praises?"

Miss G, my almost-9 year old teacher, was giving me one of her lessons again. And right when I needed it.

God loves our praise. He asks for it many times. And when it's hard? He is so proud of us for pushing past the muck and the mire, pushing past the fat lip and the illness left unanswered, looking past the angry rebellion and seeing the glory that can only be God - how good it is to praise even when we are confused or angry or sad. How good it is to praise when we are hurting.

Miss G praised our God after faceplanting her cousin and the cold November ground.

She will have pain to wake up to and she will visit doctor and perhaps stitches, not sure, but she is praying.

And isn't praying another way to praise as well?

She prays and praises and pays attention to what God is saying when I sometimes close my eyes and ears.

It's a good thing God sends ones like Miss G into my life or else I might not ever learn.

Thanking Him for the hard stuff this night.

Thanking Him for all the blessings I have in my life - today and every day.

Thanking Him that His definition of blessings and mine aren't always the same.

There is beauty in my uncertainty and beauty in His certainty.

Hallelujah and Amen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

If Thanksgivings Seem Fragmented

peeling apples, Thanksgiving 2011


My Thanksgiving this year feels very fragmented.

I want to be focusing more on gratitude when things are hard rather than when things are easy.

I hear of other hard thanksgivings and broken people giving praises from broken places and I wonder:

Is it supposed to be hard?

Why is it hard in the first place?

Does God treasure our hard-praises more than our easy-praises?

I find my head is spinning. This year has been such a roller coaster of health problems and emotional problems and an emotional teenager and a growing tween girl and changing toddler-to-schoolchild boy. This year has been a yearning-for-Mom year, more than any other year. This year has been one of great growth in faith and giant steps back in faith.

I feel dizzy.

Simulating the back-and-forth way I've been feeling, the kids' mom kept changing visitation times and so we didn't know whether we'd have the kids for the holiday or not until the literal last minute.

14 yr old Miss A and Husband and I will be going to my father and stepmother's house for Thanksgiving. That is fine, but it does feel strange to have half our family but not the whole.

To be honest, I've not felt part of a whole family in a while. Things have been so stressful. Things have been so fragmented.

Days are chaotic and days are traumatic. Days are hysterically funny and days are tearfully upsetting. Often we have all four things in the same day.

Do you have that, too?

Do you know which way you are going? Do you feel like your head is about to fall off from the back-and-forthing you've been doing, trying to keep up with the pace of your crazy life?

Sometimes I think God does treasure our hard-praises a little more than our easy-praises because it's in the hard times, when our faces are forced to look heavenward and our legs, forced by circumstance, end up kneeling at last. 

I don't think God wants us to suffer, but we humans are a stubborn lot. Well, I know I am. I also know that, as a parent, myself, children often need to be taught a lesson the hard way. It's the only way we seem to listen.

Trust me, God told the Israelietes. Trust me, He told them again. And again. And again. Then 40 years in the wilderness with nothing but what-is-it-manna and Trust me, God told them. And then men were made kings and statues were made into gods and idols and the Trust me became harder and harder for them to hear. As a parent who gets shamefully upset when my child continuously ignores me, I can only imagine how God felt when His children not only ignored him, but openly disrespected Him.

So I think God loves when we trust Him when it is hard for us to do so. He takes great pride in us when we do. God does not like that it's taken us to this level of bottoming out to finally realize what we have...but He is always waiting for us. Waiting for our realization of our need for Him.

I normally do something Thanksgiving-ish during this time, whether it is decorating the house or helping cook something (with my limited skill). So far I've done nothing.

I feel ashamed.

I am merely going to my father's house to partake in food with half of my immediate family coming with me and before I've filled my belly with food, I already feel full of leftover resentment, bitterness, and anger this year has doled out.

I feel full of ick. I have trouble remembering the good times of this year. I have trouble feeling grateful.

I sat in the parking lot of the grocery store while Husband went in to get one last ingredient for the stuffing we will bring with us. I sat in silence and prayed to God and thanked Him for so much of what I take for granted. I felt I needed to seek forgiveness for something, yet I wasn't sure what it was.

Writing this eve-before-Thanksgiving blog, I recognize it now:

Lord, I confess my sin of indifference.

I'm tired of the chaos and the crumbling. I'm tired of the uncertainty of what crisis will happen each day and, moreso, I'm tired of the certainty that some crisis will happen each day. At this point, I'm actually expecting it.

Lord, I confess my sin of complaining. 

Because that is what I am doing: complaining like the Israelites did as they were being perfectly provided for by their Lord. I'm complaining about the chaos of my family yet everyone is healthy and we live in safety and we have so much others do not and I have to be knocked on my face to see it.

So. Enough of the fragmented praise.

Yes, God is used to it - we all do it: praying when it is hard and praising when we are saved from the hard and land on soft ground.

I give my all-in praise: praise when things are chaotic and crumbling, tough and trying. Uncertain and scary.

Because God is everything those things aren't.

God is not chaotic and crumbling.
"The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer, my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." ~ Psalm 18:2

God is not tough or trying.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest." ~ Matthew 11:28

This year's Thanksgiving is not going to be fragmented, but rather intentional. 

I am going to intentionally pray. I am going to intentionally praise. 

I am going to intentionally look around me. I am going to intentionally rejoice, ignore any lies that haunt my mind, and I am intentionally placing  my focus on God. 

"The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy." ~ Isaiah 35:1-2a

2008 Thanksgiving table

Read that verse again. The wildnerness will rejoice and blossom. In the Bible, the wilderness was a place and it also represented everything we humans find scary and uncertain. It is in the wilderness that we feel the most lost and disconnected. It is in this wilderness that we give the power over to the enemy and believe the lies. It is in the wilderness when we can barely breathe the air is so stale from dust. And here...

the wilderness is rejoicing

The wilderness is blossoming

Flowers in the desert? Really?

I sound like a child who just found out she can receive that favorite toy even though she might have misbehaved last week. 

I sound like a believer in God who must remember how to believe anew each and every day.


It sounds like grace to me. 

Thank God His mercies are new each morning. 

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. 

I hope you can join me in praising when it is hard. 

And whether you are alone this holiday or surrounded by family, know that God sits at your table, unfailing in His love and faithfulness. 

"Great is his faithfulness. his mercies being afresh each morning." ~ Lamentations 3:23

"Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever!" ~ Psalm 106:1

heart biscuit
And because it is What I Know Now Thursday tomorrow and I will not be home to blog, I offer today's eve-before-Thanksgiving epiphany up to God and to Sarah Mae's link-up. 

What I know now is that I have to praise when my face is low with sadness and praise when my face is high in joy. I must praise when it is stormy out as well as when the sun floods through. 

I desire to live 1 Thessalonians 5:18:

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

Amen. 



and yet I don't seem to remember the lessons. I was reminded of this blog post from June:
http://dovechronicles.blogspot.com/2012/06/enough-is-not-enough-prayer-and-praise.html
What I know now is that God keeps saying, "Trust me" and I keep walking and listening to the world's cacophony. I will listen to You, Lord. I will listen. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

When the Flesh Recoils and You Reach to the Eternal

I am fortunate that, in my adult life, I did not get hurt by many people.

I'm not talking about car-sliding-off-into-ditch-hurt. I'm talking of old relationships-gone-bad hurt. 

Things said without voice, arrows slung at the heart and piercing a past I thought I could hold onto forever. 

I don't often lose loved ones without them passing on by death.

But tonight showed me that I am going to have say goodbye to a significant relationship, one that was with me since toddler-hood and was a very deep tie to my beloved mother. 

Due to pain on both sides, our relationship has been strained and though I have tried to reach out in various ways, the reaching-back has become less and less to the point of his arm actually recoiling. 

I never thought the recoil could hurt so much. It's so...intentional. 

There's nothing intentional about the losses I've had that has hurt me to the quick:

my Gramma when I was 15, her dying of a random heart attack on an airplane while taking a nap. 

my dear mother who died of lung cancer 

Those two people have been the biggest losses of my life. They loved me here on earth and they departed this earth loving me. 

This person loved me then and now the love has stopped. Been recoiled. 

Or...even if the love has not been erased, the deciding to not engage at all with me hurts the most. 

And I am hurt. I am angry. .I feel like a branch that somehow kept me close to my mother has now been cut off. I cried and I flailed. 

And then I watched some home movies with my husband because I needed to hear (and remember) my mother's husky, Chicagoan voice. I needed to see her sun-scorched hair and crooked tooth. That beautiful smile, nonetheless. 

 I needed to remember that I am still her daughter, even if the relationship with the other person has withered away. 

Certain kinds of love don't leave. 

It reminds me of God's love for us. And I wouldn't have thought about that at all prior to two years ago when I became a Christian. I can't fathom going through this kind of grief without knowing that I am unconditionally loved by a God who can love me more than anyone else on this earth 

My therapist said this to me last Monday: God loves you more than your mother did. 

That puts it into real terms for me because I knew how much Mom loved me. I felt that love so acutely that I can still taste and smell it, it was that palpable. 

But God loves me more. 

So instead of being angry, vengeful, hurt over the recoiling of love that hurt me down to the quick, I am choosing to focus on God who is the God of All Comforts. 

He comforts those who grieve. He comforts those who are depressed. He comforts widows and orphans. 

"He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
and to proclaim that captives will be released
and prisoners will be freed.
He has sent me to tell those who mourn
that the time of the Lord's favor has come,
and with it, the day of God's anger against their enemies.
To all who mourn in Israel,
he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
that the Lord has planted for his own glory."
~Isaiah 60:1-7 (NLT)


And my hope resides in Him, now and forevermore.

photo from http://www.flickr.com/people/a_gods_child/

Friday, November 16, 2012

When You Go & They Want You to Stay: Five Minute Fridays

Linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker and friends with Five Minute Fridays

Today's word is STAY.

**********************************
GO

Trying to capture the perfect "family picture"

I remember when I went to Honduras to visit my sponsor child, Daniela, and I thought we were intruding on her time by the end of the visit. I couldn't read on her face if she was thrilled or excited to see me. She looked rather scared and moody. But what almost-13-year-old doesn't look that way? Also, you please imagine having three Americans come to your country who look rather hot, red, and sweaty.

So near the end of the visit, I asked for both families, along with the interpreter, to sit in the church-building and talk with each other. It was quite a moving experience, with the mother bursting into tears and praises for us and our love and prayers and generosity.

I came home feeling good about going, but unsure of our real effect.

Months later, I received a letter from Daniela. She said,

[paraphrased] My family and I wish that you could have stayed longer and seen our home. I wish you could have visited longer.

I was flabbergasted. We did not spend as much time with her as we hoped, but we thought that was due to the organizations's regulations. We did not know we had a choice on how long we visit. Who knows, maybe we didn't.

But what sticks out to me is that Daniela and her family wished that we had stayed longer.

And I thought that we were an intrusion. My anxiety and nervousness blinded me to the love that was there.

Friends, there are a handful of bloggers in Peru right now visiting with Compassion International children and blogging about their experiences to us here in the States. Would you read along with me? Their stories are chilling and momentous and huge and tiny and miraculous.

And I am sure that each and every family they come across...I am sure that their wish is it that these Americans would stay. The hope and love that these folks bring them is priceless. The hope and love that you, through sponsoring these children, is priceless.

So join me as I read the blogs these marvelous volunteers are writing here

and think about sponsoring a child through Compassion * ?

Stay with these children all of their years. Be their beacon of hope and love and point out God in their lives.

STOP.
***********************






* To clarify, Compassion International is not the organization I went through to visit my sponsor child, Daniela, in Honduras

What I Know Now Thursday (done on Friday)

What I Know Now...

I know that I'm going to miss my stepkids when they go to their mom's house this weekend. I know that I take their presence for granted too much during the time they are here. I know I focus too much on being on time, on doing things the right way, doing things without [them] yelling, doing things quietly.

Fast, quiet, on-time, correct.

These are not qualifications Jesus has for us.

He'd rather us go very slow and have time with Him than have a clean-enough house or be 5 minutes early for school every  morning.

He'd rather me hug my kids and shower them with love and compassion and mercy.

I know now that I don't do that as much as I'd like

I don't do that as much as He'd like.

So Lord, give me grace for the lost mitten after a thousand other lost ones.

Give me grace for a child trying to get out of going to school.

Give me these 5 minutes to write focused on You

and then give me the rest of the morning to be focused on You and them.

Lord, this I pray.

Give me grace to forgive them and myself.



Linking up with Sarah Mae at SarahMae.com for What I Know Now Thursdays (except I'm doing this Friday morning)

(http://sarahmae.com/2012/10/leaving-the-99-for-my-one-what-i-know-now-fresh-blog-start-day-11/



Wednesday, November 14, 2012

When The Odds Rise Against You

http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/businessman-removing-building-block-high-res-stock-photography/103033288


Two odds have stacked up; two very big facts in my life:

1. my body
2. my 14 year old teenager stepdaughter

Both are angst-ridden and angry, both are moody and stuck in a rut. Both are victims of circumstance and  victims of themselves.

Is that vague yet poetic enough for you?

To be more specific, yet still respecting privacy, let me try to explain a bit further.

My body has been fighting me for years, but has progressively gotten worse this year. Since March, I was in the emergency room three times. Urgent Care became my middle name and I formed long-lasting friendships with every on-call 24-hour-nurse at my clinic. They'd always be there at 3 in the morning to take my calls of pain and hysteria. They'd offer advice, suggestions, and sometimes just listen to me vent about how much pain I was in and how I couldn't get sleep.

After getting a common yet important procedure scheduled for January, my body made it known that it would not wait that long. The 3rd ER visit occurred and soon we had the procedure scheduled for four days later.

That was last Friday.

The procedure painted me as a healthy fool.

The doctors were perplexed.

Maybe you're too anxious, they said.

Yes. If you were going through this much pain and agony and worrying about how you were going to function every day and take care of your kids and husband and life-duties, worry about how many sick-days you were using up at work and were you going to lose your job over this...yes, I bet you'd be pretty anxious too.

So off I went to the specialist in my area of body-problem.

She was invalidating, plain-old-mean. She told me I was too emotional about it and wasn't the least bit sympathetic.

At that point, my normally-sweet and compassionate demeanor disappeared and I unleashed some wrath I did not know I had. Poor woman.

This got me to see a nationally-recognized expert in the area of my body-problem. I have to do another procedure this week and then get one x-ray next week and one on December 3rd. I'm told he will be able to tell me what is going on.

In the mean time, every day gives me pain, pain, more pain. I can't describe it without going into too much detail so you will just have to trust me.

Then there is my number two odd stacked against me: the 14 year old.

As with me and my health problem, she is full of pain and wrath. And lucky me, I am her target practice.

Actually, I don't think I'm "practice" for anything; I know she is very angry with me.

Yet I understand this. I'm not her biological mother; I'm the woman she lives with who is being the second parent in the house; I'm the woman who makes sure she does x, y, and z and gets on her case if she doesn't. I'm the parent who helps make sure her room is clean and that she gets picked up from confirmation and poms weekly.

But I'm also the parent who gets the "you're not my mom; stop trying so hard to be my mom."

I'm also the parent who gets to fight with her almost every morning about being upstairs on-time. About basic manners. About this or that. Name anything. We've covered it.

This girl adored me once upon a time. I have up on my wall a framed drawing that reads, "Stepmom is my favorite word. When you came into my life I felt hope in my family being broke up. I love you."

Was that only two years ago? How can a child morph into someone so different in two years?

And yet I love her. I am called to love her. God wants me to love her. And I do. I love her when I am angry at her, I love her when I act irrationally at her and when I act rationally (however irrational to her teenage mind). I love her when we bond over something and I love her when we fight (though, I admit, it's mighty hard to remember that).

So these two things: my 14 year old and my body...

they are both railing against me right now. They are wild animals howling in the night and they are in agony. They both want help but reject it. Granted, the 14 year old has more control about accepting or rejecting the help than my body does, but there are similarities none-the-less.

I feel like I'm being hated on...a lot.

This morning, after another tearful drive to work after dropping the kids to school (tears due to the tiredness of fighting with 14 year old every morning over something), I read through my index cards of Bible verses.

One stuck out in particular:

"If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first." 

No, that's not the president talking nor is it my own parent. It's Jesus.

John 15:18 (NLT).

I sat in my car, transfixed by that message.

I felt God lean in close and tell me:

I love you more than she hates you. 

Wow. I haven't realized the true nature of God's love. I haven't realized that God loves me no matter what time He goes to bed or needs to be upstairs in the morning. If God sneaks someone into the house, God is still going to love me when I punish Him.

Okay, so I'm making a bit of a joke there, but I think you might know what I mean.

Feeling God say that to me made such a huge difference. So much that I do not fear anyone or anything hating me [on a good day].

God loves me more, immeasurably more.

"With your unfailing love you lead the people you have redeemed. In your might, you guide them to your sacred home." ~ Exodus 15:13 (NLT).

Unfailing love, that's what Moses wrote. Unfailing love is mentioned, in the New International Version translation, 32 times!

So...

the odds might be against me.

But God is for me.

And if God is for me, who can be against me?

I rest in God. I thank God. I sigh into God's bigger-than-huge love.

Deeeep breath.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

5 Minute Almost-Friday: SICK

So... I would normally write a blog entry tomorrow and link up to 5 Minute Fridays over at Lisa-Jo Baker's blog, but I am going into the hospital for a procedure tomorrow. Don't worry, it is one that many people have to do. Hopefully it will help doctors find out why I've been in such pain this last year. Anyway, given that tomorrow morning the procedure will be happening and the rest of Friday will be spent in bed sleeping off the sedative, thought I'd do my own 5 Minute Almost-Friday.

And so my word is...

SICK.
http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/mother-and-daugther-high-res-stock-photography/85271995


**************************
GO

I feel quite sick right now and have for a long time. I remember when I was very young I had a phobia of

throwing up. I must have been eight or nine years old and I would make my dear mother sit with me in the

bathroom as I sat on the floor near the toilet, knees on towels for padding, body ready to heave, tears

streaming down my cheeks. Mom would be trying to comfort me, knowing I was probably not going to

vomit since I rarely did. I was mostly-sort-of-a-hypochondriac in that sense. But Mom did not make me feel

bad or stupid; she was supportive and loving. I listened to oldies music back then and I remember a song

that went, "Apple peaces pumpkin pieeeeee" came on the radio while I was crying in the bathroom because I

was yet again afraid of vomiting and we burst into sudden laughter because I said that song was making me

nauseous. Instead of remembering fear and sickness, I remember love and care. I feel so grateful to have had

a mother who took such loving care of me. I know that she would be so happy to know that I have found

my loving Father who is so good at taking care of me. And so He does right now. As I am sick and going to

have this procedure tomorrow to try to find out what is going on, I know Mom is in Heaven, watching me be

sick and...yes vomit...but vomit without fear...(go me!)...and I know Mom is proud of me and glad that I

have my Heavenly Father taking care of me. She knows He can take care of me better than anyone can.

Doctors included. O Great Physician, heal me, Lord.

STOP
*********************************

So Mom, this one's for you:


Linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker and I hope she doesn't mind that I made up my own word because I don't know what her word is going to be.
Remember, this 5 Minute Almost-Friday!

http://lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday/

What I Know Now Thursdays: How to Decode a Teenage Girl

What I know today is that fathers and teenage daughters have one of the hardest relationships to muster through.

I remember my own stepmother "mediating" between my father and I. I should call that "teenage interpretation" in which she decoded what I was trying to say and translated it into language my father could understand.

When I was a teen, my father didn't understand anything.

I have a 14-year-old stepdaughter and, trust me, she is very much a teenager. Add to that a history that colors her life all kinds of bleak and you get a pretty pouty and miserable girl.

How is a father supposed to understand such a creature?

How is a father supposed to allow his wife to help translate this strange teenage-speak?

And more than that, how is the stepmother...

who sees both the father's world

and the stepdaughter's world

translate to each other?

Flowers wither without water. Flowers can be surrounded by ever-encroaching ugly weeds.
We need to get the weeds out and water the poor thing.

Water it with love.

What I know now is that while it is important for parents to love their ailing teenagers

and I know it is especially important that those girls know and feel their father's love (even amidst their angsty get-away-from-me ways)

and it is important for a teenage girl who needs a mama role model to feel that kind of love

even though I know all that

what I know now is that it is, ultimately, the Father's love

Our Heavenly Father's unfailing love

that can heal a torn heart.

What I know now is that I cannot be a savior between the man and the girl I love. I cannot be the almighty translator and decoder.

We have a Savior. We have a Healer. We have a redeemer.

So who am I in this family? I'm not the savior, healer, redeemer. But I want so badly to show how I love, how I care, and how I can help. In some way.

What I don't know now is how to strike that balance.

Maybe that will be what I answer in a future "What I Know Now Thursday."

linking up with Sarah Mae  even though she is taking a month-long blogging break to focus on family which I highly applaud. In the meantime, do read her past blog entries. I enjoy her blog very much and find so much heartfelt wisdom there.

Friday, November 2, 2012

5 Minute Friday: Roots

My first 5-Minute-Friday. Read about it here or click on the badge on the sidebar. I'm hoping I can be intentional enough to do it every Friday.

This Friday's word is ROOTS

GO
*   *   *
photo from mike_tn at http://www.flickr.com/photos/21966325@N00/201221336


I think of roots and I think of family trees and the roots that hold the tree together. I'm missing my main root, my mama who will have died 6 years ago this next Tuesday, November 6th, and I have written about her so much these past 6 years, about her death and her life and my mourning and my healing so much these past 6 years, that it is blooming into my first real poetry book in 2013, God willing.

So much written about my Mom and yet I can't reach her. I have lost my grasp. I try and I try but I cannot recall what her voice sounds like and it shatters my heart. It shatters my stepmama-heart because I need my mama so much this year as mother-daugher/mother-son issues have exploded into my life, as I have truly morphed into these kids' other mother. I wrote about this on my stepmother blog that often goes untouched these past years. I wrote about how I wasn't a mother and then I was and now what do I do when the roots these kids began with are not my own? I do not share them, yet I feel these kids are my own. God gave me these kids and these years are the labor pain years.

But it is in these years that my love has blossomed for them. Why does it seem to take strife and pain to grow our love? I feel like their mother though I would never declare myself such a name to them, particularly the oldest who wants to put my name and the word "mother" as far away from each other as possible.

My roots are not theirs. My mother was a gentle, kind woman. She taught me about gratitude and acted very Christ-like even if she never openly professed herself as a Christian. She gave me forgiveness and grace and love. And when she died my life up to that point died along with her. I don't know how I survived. I almost didn't. But look at me now - I am married with three stepchildren who I consider my children (Husband and mine) and yes, I even call them "my kids" when talking about them. So does this increase in love through pain and hardship, this forgiveness and grace, make my roots intertwine with theirs? Maybe I can use that word-picture. Their roots might not be from my tree, directly...but I am certainly influencing them. I am making an impact that they will carry with them forever. So maybe roots aren't strictly blood-related. Maybe roots are love-related. Family trees don't just grow by water; they grow by love. And though we all certainly have our stressful days (years!), I am certain I love them as if they came from my womb.

STOP
*   *   *
Okay, so that was a tad more than 5 minutes. I remember doing timed writing exercises a la Natalie Goldberg, my great writing teacher and mentor from my high school/college days, and I'd always go over because I couldn't stop the thoughts from pouring out - nor did I want to.

May this 5-ish Minute Friday be the first of many.

Thank you for your eyes that read and thank you for your heart, that I pray is full.



Dear Me, at 16 Years Old

Dear 16 yr old Lisa,
What do I say to possibly prepare you for your future? Let me get one thing out of the way first, something that's been pressing: "J" is not worth it. He is not worth the obsessive phone-and-watching-and-waiting. You've been hurt and you will be hurt by him again.

But honestly, you know you search for your identity in guys, yet you do so anyway. I so wish I could go back in time and put your nose in a Bible. Ask Anne to go into detail of why she loves this God of hers.



God, in fact, opened a door in Anne and you did not take it. But don't worry - sixteen years from where you are the Great Whoosh will happen and, while I wish you came to Him another way, the truth is that you finally meet the only unconditional love you can ever have - and believe it or not, that will be enough.

Right now, nothing seems enough, does it? "J" can't call you enough, hold you tight enough; "A" can't dote on you enough, "Mr. M" doesn't think you're different and talented enough. The theatre folks can't ask you if you are okay enough and you can't seem to cry enough.

The cutting and scratching can't get enough of the pain out and trust me, girlfriend, once you start your first dose of  Prozac, any day now (if you haven't already), no medication will make you feel good enough.

Because if I could somehow get you to stop seeking out your "enough" and realize that just as you are - you are precious, beloved, treasured, and loved. Enough. Not by any man, but by God. Yes, Lisa, the Creator of the Universe thinks you are enough and He will be your Enough. Pain ends with Him. Seeking approval and validation end with Him.

All through your 20s, you will struggle with idolizing men. You will make each man you think you love into a little "god." I am sad and so sorry for the hurt that awaits you. If you thought your feelings for "J" were intense and heartbreaking, just wait.

Maybe this letter isn't as compassionate as I had hoped. I sense some resentment, probably because I'm starting to relive your teenage years in our stepdaughter.

Yes - you get your "daughter," though God gives you two girls and a boy in a very different way than you had originally imagined. But, right now, keep Caryn Eve framed if that keeps hope alive burning at least for a while.


Anyway, as I was saying, I have not one but two girls. And the eldest carries pain I cannot begin to imagine, yet, at the same time, she reacts to it identically to the way we did. I don't know if this was God's plan in allowing you to endure years of self-injury, but you now have a child who does the same. And guess what? She is as stubborn and self-absorbed as you were. She resists the help you try to offer as much as you resisted the help offered to you. That comes crashing down when you are twenty-two, by the way.

So I'm asking you to keep careful notes so that I may help this fourteen-year-old girl under my roof. Thanks for all those journals. From age eleven, I'm still going strong.

There are two things you will need to let go of. The first will feel of little consequence when I tell you what the second thing is, but I'll tell you anyway.

Right now, theatre is everything to you. You thrive on the accolades, applause, the carnations and compliments.





Don't cling; it does not last.

In college, something traumatic will steal that dream and you won't perform in another play for twelve years and even then, the acting bug will be long-squashed. But don't fret, you continue to perform and share through

 your poetry readings,


 the Alzheimer's Poetry Project


reading and singing to your stepkids, and even in church by singing worship songs with the Praise Team and when you portray Mary in a Lent monologue.

The second thing to let go of - or what you will have no choice to let go of - is...

I've been stalling. I don't want to tell you. She is your best friend and hated enemy at sixteen. And I know if I tell you she will be gone one day, I simply don't know if you can take hearing it. Even now, almost six years after, I mourn fresh and piercing. So no, I can't go into it.

Just love, Lisa. Don't worry so much about being perfect, about how much others approve of and love you because those who matter always have and those who don't never mattered.

Love your mother, but detach a little. For heaven's sake, give John a break. You will anyway in around seven years. Stop being a brat to your future stepfather. I'm now a stepparent whose oldest started treating me that way and worse this past year. Trust me, it hurts more than you ever know.

Sixteen is such a pivotal time for you, Lisa. If I didn't know there was a purpose for it all, I'd beg you to put away the tarot, crystals, the board, all of the New Age stuff that is not good for you. You were always seeking that Higher Power. Well, I found Him. If I didn't believe you needed to be molded and crafted before God flung open the shutters, I'd beg you to ask Dave what a born-again Christian is. Don't listen to others laugh and mock; these lovers of God could save you so much anguish.

I constantly wonder: what if we had been raised loving and knowing God? What if you had been curious enough to let Anne share? What if I wasn't the giant age of thirty-two before my life was so radically saved, much less altered, by God?

And yet....when I feel myself growing angry at you for all your mis-steps and idolizing, I remember Jeremiah 29:11. God has a plan for you, Lisa. A plan not to harm you, but to prosper you with a future too awesome to comprehend. And I have to believe He felt that way even when you were sixteen years old, flailing in a God-less bowl with water so high that you had to drown many times before hearing Jesus say, "Come!" and finally, after so much...you do.

But I know it all comes down to love. It always has. You are loved, Lisa. You must feel it and then love yourself. Listen to those older and wiser than you. Yes, even at thirty-four, we don't have it all together. You have a husband who loves and adores you, but you still look for validation too much. Codependency is still your middle name. Your childhood demons continue to shake your earth and has broken through the ground you carefully laid down as a toddler to keep it hidden and covered. It's coming up now, Lisa. I know you suspect at sixteen. Keep open to the healing and let love reach you.

I understand suffering so much better now. It doesn't make it less painful, but we have a God who comforts us, redeems us, forgives us. That love is eternal, something we never knew.

So don't lose hope at sixteen. "J" will leave one day. Others will take his place. And one man will come and be the one God chose for you. In fact, this man helps bring you to God.

Wow - did you ever imagine your engagement ring? Here it is!

And stop taking the pills. Stop marking up your body. Stop the self-absorbed self-hatred and remain open to the love that knocks every so often. I know He tried to come to you many times in the next sixteen years. Don't let a near-tragedy finally open your eyes.

And one day, Lisa, you will finally rest in the One who will never leave you, who will never be taken away from you.

You have a Forever coming. Be ready, my sweet, sad girl.

God is on the horizon.

I love you. More importantly, God loves you.

Lisa 

Linked up with 
although I waited too long to write this and be included in her link-up, here is the url for other letters to enjoy!

To support Emily P. Freeman's wonderful book, "Graceful: letting go of your try-hard life," people have been  writing letters to their teenage selves. It's quite the undertaking! Write your own and check out her book! You will surely be blessed by it.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Join Me: On My Knees and Ears Open

Be aware of what you ask for.

Did you read my last blog entry? I laid myself bare on the operating table, ready and willing for God to mold and change me. A wise reader commented how similar it sounded to the threshing floor process: dividing the carnal nature away from spirit so that God can impart more of His Spirit into you. Anonymous gave that definition in the comment from the last entry and it made a lot of sense.

I'm going to write about being on that floor. And I'm going to ask you to join me.

What? You're going to ask me go through that immense pain and suffering, you ask?

No, I'm going to ask you to open your ears to God's voice.

I was at the edge today. I've been at my edge at various times this week. Chaos and stress continue to pile on as though it has no care for my comfort. Is she overburdened? Oh, no matter. She's hunched over in pain both physically and emotionally? Oh, that's okay. She can handle a bit more. 

No, worldly chaos and stress don't much care for whether you are ready or even willing to take it on.

Looking back now, I can tell chaos and stress to keep their threats because my God promises:


No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
~ 1 Corinthians 10:13


However, from being at my edge today...and nearly succumbing to the lies of the enemy...and then seeking company and mentoring from a dear godly girlfriend...I know now that I need to do something before I can "stand up under it."

I need to get on my knees and I need to listen. 

I've spent too much time being my own little "god" and saying, "That's okay, God, I've got it."

I didn't consciously know that; it was all so subtle. I even told people.

"I don't have a savior complex, but I am trying to" x...y...z...

I told people I was not trying to save my loved ones...create peace in my home all by myself, using my own strength and resources...but I was. 

When we try to be God to other people, we miss God trying to be Himself to us.

And I'm not missing God anymore.

It might have taken my face to slam down on the floor - yet again - but I see now.

I bow to Him and I am on my knees and I am listening.

My friend gave me the idea today. She talked about her own stresses and troubles and I realized that while our situations were very different, what we had to do was the same. She worded it so wonderfully: she had to get on her knees and she was devoting this week to strictly listening for God's direction and provision.

And because I like projects...and goals...and God-homework...and I like being part of a group...

I told my friend that we ought to be accountable to each other and email each other how things are going throughout the week.

Then I thought, why not open this up to you?

Is there something you ought to be getting on your knees for? Have you not had your ears tuned to God lately? I know I haven't. I thought I did, but my eyes are open now. Yes, I was blind, but now I see. And I'll probably have to be blind again and be reminded again, but this is all a process, isn't it? And God realizes that. He is a God of so many chances. And if you are genuinely wanting to learn, God is so pleased.

So join me in this prayer, won't you?

Lord, I give myself to you. I bow low and open my ears to hear any and everything You might say to me. I recognize that You could speak through other people - my family or co-workers or even strangers. You might even speak through my worst enemy. No matter what form Your voice takes, I promise to listen closely. I can't do this on my own, Lord. I can't live this life without leaning completely on You and I apologize for trying to do it through my own efforts. I invite You into my life, Lord. I am stepping out of the way so You can move in my life. Thank You for loving me, Lord, even when I am stubborn and not listening. I am on my knees, Lord, and I am listening now. In Jesus' holy name, Amen. 









I invite you to join me in whatever way you wish. If you like having accountability and goals and being part of a group, post how you are doing in the comment box. If you'd like to keep it more private, I invite you to email me. I hope this can spark conversation and community.

Bless you.
Let this poem minister to you, given to me by my dear godly girlfriend whom I met with today:


Last night I took a journey
To a land across the seas.
I didn't go by ship or plane~
I traveled on my knees.
I saw so many people there
In bondage to their sin,
And Jesus told me I should go,
That there were souls to win.
But I said "Jesus, I can't go
To lands across the seas."
He answered quickly, "Yes, you can
By traveling on your knees."
He said "You pray, I'll meet the need.
You call, and I will hear.
It's up to you to be concerned
For lost souls far and near."
And so I did; knelt in prayer,
Gave up some hours of ease,
And with the Savior by my side,
I traveled on my knees.
As I prayed on, I saw souls saved
And twisted persons healed,
I saw God's workers strength renewed
While laboring in the field.
I said, "Yes Lord, I'll take the job.
Your heart I want to please.
I'll heed Your call and swiftly go
By traveling on my knees."
By Sandra Goodwin


Let this song, "Word of God Speak" by MercyMe be our theme song for this next week.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Story Table: When All You Can Do is Lay There

[note: this took many days to write, so bare with me as it is now three or four days after this event]

I'm sprawled out on the operating table right now.


I have been split completely open by mess.

Things I have neglected kept building and building; my self-care had gone shamefully mismanaged and neglected. Things were not going well.

I am not saying things are perfect now, as I lie on the table. I mean, I see that God's hands are ready to mold me. Take me apart, squish me together again, reshape me, do all kinds of things.

I see that God is doing work in me.

And it's scary.

There have been nights - recent nights - where I have sobbed on the laundry room floor and cried out at God, not necessarily to Him - and said, "I don't want this call! I don't want to do what you want me to do."

I've gone to the brink of suffering and almost lost my footing and let myself be swallowed.

And today I was completely split open.

Thanks to a few trusted counselors and a friend, I'm gaining some perspective bit by bit. I'm realizing how I need to care for myself. I need to put my oxygen mask on before I can care for anybody.

And let me tell you - I've let my oxygen mask hang there like a tree ornament for years now.

Oh nevermind you, I'd say to myself. It's selfish to think of yourself.

(As God whispers His command: "love others as yourself")

Nevermind you, I've repeated for twenty-plus years. You aren't worth it.

But no more. I am not letting the enemy's lies dictate my worth. I will not rely on anyone but the Lord to tell me who I am.

So I have taken an R&R evening. I have had to force my mind not to dwell on whether she did all her homework or if that electric bill sitting on the counter is going to tip us into the red. I have had to walk away from a sink full of dishes.

This is not piously said.

I say this in shame because I had to force myself to say:

I am breaking. I need help. I need saving. If I don't change something now, I will be lost forever.

Lord, save me. Stop this. I am Yours.

So although the image of me on an operating table sounds completely helpless and vulnerable, I have complete confidence in the Almighty to make me into who He wants me to be.

Why am I sharing this with the blogosphere? And who, really, reads my blog, anyway?

Reading my dear internet-sister-in-Christ, Michele-Lyn's blog entry, "What is alifesurrendered.com?" I read many of my own mission statements.

I can't keep quiet. What happens inside this heart is important. Not because I am more important than anyone else, but because I know God is doing important things in me.

I am becoming stronger not by my own efforts, but because I lean on Christ to strengthen me (Philippians 4:13).

My life will be a testimony. It already is.

God will use my story to help others. He uses all of our stories if we let Him.

Our story is His story.

That is what I desire - for my story to reveal His story.

Great Physician, here I am on Your table. I want to be molded, changed. I know I am made new by my faith  (2 Corinthians 5:17) and I also know that I will continue to struggle (John 16:33) so I ask you that you humble me enough to listen to You always. I ask that you humble me so that I may carry out the immense calling that you have for me - to serve my family and model Your love. As much as my heart beats for Daniela in her village, for Compassion International, Food for the Hungry, WorldVision, Operation Baby Rescue, and so many wonderful organizations that help the needy...my mission field is my home. The needy children are my own stepchildren who God has placed in my life. And God placed me in their lives. It goes both ways.

And Lord, I'm sorry that I was getting so overwhelmed and upset and I wiggled and strained against Your guidance. Sometimes it is so hard, Lord. Sometimes, I admit, I don't want this call.

I admit it. I am human.

I heard on Susie Larson's "Live the Promise" show (yesterday? I forget) concerning God's calling, that, if your heart resists a bit when you hear God calling you to do something, then that usually means you know that is what you ought to do.

Why? Because it's probably hard. And we have a hard time with the hard stuff. 

Lord, I wrote a few days ago - bring it on.

And oh, you did.

You did so much that I found myself split open. I know you didn't cause this immense suffering these past weeks or months, but I know now that it needed to happen. I needed to be split open to see the light - Your light.

I needed to remember where I come from, Who I come from, where I must serve, and who I must serve.

I needed to remember who I am.

I am not anything or anyone defined by my childhood friends or current friends; I am not defined by roles placed on me by family. I am Yours, first.

I seek You, Lord. I seek to love others as I...

I am learning to love myself.

That is hard to type. I still hear echoes of ugly in my head.

But You ask me to love others as I love myself.

So...in order to love others perhaps I must dare to love myself.

Perhaps I must dare to let myself be split open and lay on that operating table and release my life into Your will.

And it says - your will is that I love myself.

And others.

And You.

Lord, help me love.

Help the ugly voices turn truthful.

Help the lies dissipate into steam on the mirror which quickly fades.

This I pray.

This I put out there in the blogosphere for Your glory and in hopes that someone might come along and read my story, Your story, and decide...

to love him/herself.

And to love others.

And to love You, Lord.

I chuckle as I look down at the necklace I wear every day. The abbreviated Bible verse has not felt personal until right now.

"Seek...to reflect Him"  2 Corinthians 

So Lord, I seek You and I lay upon the story table where You mold and move me. 

That's where the big stuff happens. That's where redemption is found.