Monday, August 25, 2014

Never Give Up

Any carpool mom knows this is the place where your patience is tested and tested over again. This is where you play the game of toss up. Do you show up early and wait for what may be a near eternity knowing you've earned your kid a place at the front of the line to leave? Or do you wait out the line and show up "late" (just as school lets out) and wait at the very back of the line? I've tried them both. Either way you wait.

The car rider line is where you sit, breathe, catch up on an iBook, read the emails that have piled up from the day, or see what the newsfeed has to share. Oh look, more carpool moms waiting in endless car rider lines wasting their lives away JUST LIKE ME!

You learn to love fall and spring more than you ever knew you could. Otherwise you sit and BAKE in the beating down sun in summer, waiting out the rising heat until you feel the sweat dripping down your back and then decide it's time to turn on the car and get some A/C. Winter is where you wait out the chill until your fingers are too numb to text so you determine to turn on the car and run the heat...for just a few minutes at least. You don't want to waste too much gas afterall. 

There I sat in the never-ending car rider line. I arrived in the "in between" zone - not too eager to be in the front of the pack but certainly not pulling up the end of the line. It was a beautiful cool breeze and plenty nice for open windows without over-heating. Thank You, Lord! It was time for me to just breathe and relax today. I'd been busy and on the run all day. 

My phone started to buzz. 

"I need help!" the text read.

I wasn't sure what was going on at first but after a series of rampant messages I was quickly feeling the pain of the mom at the other end. 

Her child got in trouble at school. Again. She'd been notified by the school. Again. 

"It's only the second week of school!" I could hear the desperation in her written word.

I could sense her fear, anxiety, frustration, oh yes, I knew it all. Even the embarrassment that follows knowing your kid wasn't the one who everyone would say was "such a joy in class.' Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt. I may be well on my way to earning the trophy.

I shared in her pain, did my best to offer some advice, then put away my phone as it was now my anticipated turn to reach the front of the line.

"How was your day?" I exclaimed.

"'m sorry but I didn't have a good day," he replied. 

Don't lose your cool, don't lose your cool...I was trying to remember the cool breezes that had just been peacefully  blowing through the windows. Reality check. This is real life. 

Now I was that mom I had just been messaging. What on earth happened? Why couldn't he just be the kid who was "such a joy in class"??? Why was he, my child, the one who gets the note home from the teacher? 

If I've learned anything in that car rider line it's been a little dose of patience. You have to wait your turn. Everyday I play a guessing game, wondering what time to show up and what place I'll get in line. It's the same guessing game as I wait to see what kind of day he had. The time I spend catching up on work or reading for my own personal enjoyment is not time wasted even though I feel like I'm at a standstill. It's a lot like how I feel right now about this impasse we're in. Somehow I'm waiting for time to pass and years to turn into maturity. Someday I will look back and WISH - just wish - for the opportunity to pick him up from school. Despite my desire now to "fix" whatever it is that is preventing him, my boy, from being the "good boy," I know one day I'll miss our rides home when I can try to teach him a lesson from the problem of the day. One day I won't be there to pick him up. One day he may drive himself off to college (heaven help us, it's going to be a very looooooong road to get him to college!). 

As soon as I see my boy running toward the car, I'm not even mindful of the wait I just endured. The time passed is no longer a concern and who cares about my place in line. One day he'll be grown and the notes home will no longer be a concern. Right now in our world this is a big deal. One day there will be things that will be a much bigger deal. 

The song comes to mind...

Your love never fails
It never gives up
It never runs out on me

Just as the love God has for us can never run out or give up, no matter how difficult we may make it, He still loves us. I know that love. As a parent, we learn to give that kind of love, even when we're disappointed, frustrated, embarrassed. You learn to love the small things more than you ever thought you could. Nothing is wasted. Every moment counts. 

Any parent knows this is the place your patience is tested and tested over again. This is the place you breathe and pray. I don't have all the answers. But I'm not giving up. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Because I Didn't Learn the First Time

The last 24 hours have provided me with repeated reminders of a message God is clearly trying to send me. Not just subtle hints or whispers in the wind. I am being practically knocked over to make sure I get it. 

For this child I prayed…

Someone shared that verse with me yesterday as a reminder of my journey to motherhood. 

For this child I prayed...

It was in my daily reading and devotions this morning. 

It's a silly little app but I downloaded Timehop. It's actually been such an encouragement and witness to see how God has been working. Today's notification just about knocked me down. Again. 

This picture was taken on this day a year ago. The reminder that this verse is literally written on the 2x4 behind the wall in the room that is my son's. This is part of the caption I posted with the image:

This is the verse I have been claiming and this is the verse I wrote last night in Elijah's room pre-drywall. Today I drop him off and don't pick him up until Monday after school... But he's in God's hands. I have to claim that everyday, all the days of his life. 

I wrote it in my own blog two years ago this month. It was before preschool began. It was the day I dropped him off, yet again. It was the realization of why I am called to be his mother.

If you ask my adopted son, "What did mommy pray for?" he will answer, "For a baby...for me." I love that he knows that HE was the direct answer to my prayers to become a mother. It is in this simple truth that I am also reminded that the gift I've been given is the very same gift I must turn back over to the Lord...

"I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given to the Lord."

I love that part... "for his whole life he will be given to the Lord..." Have I given over my son? Have I turned him back over to God? When I'm there? When I'm not? It's so easy for me to be caught up in the moments when I'm disciplining, training, teaching or just playing with my boy. Do I really need to remind myself I don't have it all together?!?!

It is so clear why I must be bull dozed down with the same message over and over (and over). It seems I never learn. God must know I need the many reminders. 

The truth is I've never wanted a different child. I've never second-guessed the fact that I should be his mother. I think the process that led to his adoption is even more confirmation to me that he is the very child I prayed for. Knowing that only God could place him in my life helps my soul rest assured that God had a perfect plan for me to be his mother. I hold onto this truth dearly. 

Yet I cannot deny the discouragement that my soul so often feels. I have feelings of being distraught and distressed and simply hopelessly wondering what to do in those moments of despair. You never want to hear someone say how challenging your child is. The embarrassment that inevitably comes every time a public appearance warrants someone's comment of how high energy he is. Watching the interactions other adults have with him and seeing their annoyance and dislike. It's heart-shattering.

I cling to the knowledge that he is mine regardless of how others feel about him. That thought alone is one that I feel I should scream at the top of my lungs. I AM HIS MOTHER! I know how he is. I know the frustrations and the exhaustion. And I also know that he is the child for whom I prayed. God did not make a mistake in choosing him to be my son. Nor did He make a mistake in choosing me to be his mother. This isn't about some trial or lesson and it certainly isn't about having more than I can bear. This is about another realization of God's plan - for my life and for the life of this child, my child.

For this child I prayed. And for this child I must continue to pray. All the days of his life. All of the days of my life. 

I prayed for him to come. I prayed for him to be mine. I prayed to be his mother. But I can't stop there. Now I must pray for him as he grows. I must pray as he learns. I must pray for his heart, for his mind, for every external factor he faces. I must cover him in prayer, more than the hugs and kisses I lavish on him. For this child I must pray...and pray...and pray!!!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The First Day of School

It's the hustle and bustle of the first day of school
For a morning in August it's unseasonably cool
No more sleeping in, lazy days are now gone
We were up bright and early and getting things done

The backpack was full with new school supplies
His lunch box was packed with a happy surprise
A note on his napkin complete with a smile
Never mind that this gesture might not be in style

He picked his own outfit despite my suggestions
He chose the Minion shirt to leave quite an impression
He asked for his hair to be in a spike
Which is something before he had never liked

I asked him for certain should I walk him in
He said that I could and gave me a grin
Of course he refused to hold mommy's hand
An independent streak in this little man

Just then he stopped and reached down with care
He picked up two flowers for me to wear in my hair
I smiled with pride, how could I deny
This special request from my sweet little guy

We walked to his classroom, I made sure to show him the way
"Pay attention where to go, I won't be here after today."
He walked into class and went straight to his seat
He never looked back and my heart skipped a beat

I was happy he was happy as he worked to settle in
My heart couldn't decide if I should cry or grin
His bravery inspired me to just walk away
But all I can think about is the end of the day

I won't shed any tears, I just hope and I pray
That these hours that separate us in our day
Will be filled with learning and growing and more
There's much to be discovered in the year that's in store

I pray for him to be kind and sweet
I pray for the friends he soon will meet
I pray for his teacher and for all she has to do
I pray for your child and for you, mommies, too
Who are sending your babies to school today
Whatever the age, whatever the grade

We know in our hearts we've done all we can do
To bring them to this point, now the rest is up to You
Watch over them, Lord, keep them safe while they're away
Give us peace as their parents as we go about our day

Help us remember when you chose these babies for us
That we are your servants in whom You trust
To raise them and pray for them as we point them to You
To show them God's love above all that we do

The first day of school is yet another milestone
To remind us of the responsibility as we watch them grow
We pray for Your goodness to surround them in grace
And we ask for Your mercy for whatever they face

Keep us grounded in You as we raise daughters and sons
Help us seek You only, our Eternal One
You are God, You are good, You are all that we need
So to You and You alone, we offer this plea

Protect our little ones, however big or small
We give them to You, not one day but all
For all of their days You planned for them
As you knit them together before their lives began

It's the first day of school!
Thank You, Lord for this day
In Your name I ask all these things as I pray

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Day of Rest

I find myself thoroughly enjoying this soggy Saturday. It's a steady, non-stop rain that promises to be here all day. The quiet stillness inside is complimented by the steady downpour outside. I love to listen to the rain. 

I made a grocery list and planned the meals for the week but that is about as much productivity that I have planned for the day. This of course was all from the comfort of my couch in my ultra comfy yoga pants. I'm not sure that any of the shopping will actually get done today. Who wants to go grocery shopping in the pouring down rain?! Certainly not this girl. The weather seems to be contributing to the super-unmotivated mood I now possess. I've rationalized that I can't clean the floors because a certain doodle dog would inevitably track in mud and paw prints. He seems to content to be relaxing as well. 

I can't help but enjoy the laziness of the day. It doesn't happen often and usually life is in fast forward so this change of pace is welcomed and somewhat overdue. I slept in til 8:30! That in itself is a record for this automatic early riser. It's a blessing and a curse not being able to sleep past 7, usually awakened without an alarm around 6. The blessing is I'm usually most productive in the morning and it's a great way to get a jump start on the day. 

Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. Psalm 116:7

The Lord has been so, so good to me. Beyond what I deserve, even more than I could imagine. It's days like these when I actually take the time to stop going and doing, when I'm not rushing from one responsibility to yet another over-committed obligation. Days like these when I pause and reflect on His goodness, when I escape from the demands and expectations, my soul finds rest. The reality is the expectations are usually contrived by my own hand. The demands are typically the result of my doing. So in the stillness, in the quiet, with nothing more than the sound of the steady ready falling, I can just rest. I can relax. I can be comfortable. I can be restored. I can be renewed. I can find the peace my soul longs for. I can escape from the expectations I think everyone has of me and realize the only thing I need to do is be still right here, right now in His presence. 

The Lord has been good to me and because of His goodness, because of His love and compassion, I don't have to be consumed. I don't have to worry. I don't have to be overwhelmed. I don't have to fulfill any of the expectations or demands, I don't have to be obligated by responsibilities and roles. Yes, there are things to be done. But not today at least. Today is a day for rest. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Knocked Off My Heels

I wore flats to church today. Pants too. It felt weird. Not because people were judging my outfit but because I'm old school enough, or maybe brain washed, that I want to be dressed up on Sunday mornings. Don't get me wrong, I've worn pants plenty of times. In fact, I fully embraced the notion once our southern baptist church crossed over into the realm of making "whatever" acceptable. Yet somehow in my subconscious I still feel the desire (need?) to dress up. Today the flats were throwing me way more than the pants. I felt too "casual" for church. I also couldn't shake the feeling that I somehow felt significantly insignificant. 

At 5 feet and 4.25", I enjoy a nice pair of heels that elevate my stature. I have a tendency to slouch when I'm lazy and wearing heels helps me stand up straight and keeps my posture in check. I was short today. Noticeably short. Was the missing 3" somehow keeping me from being closer to God? Heavens no. But it did get me thinking about the flats I was wearing and my posture before a Holy God. I wasn't just knocked off my heels - I was flat on my face as we sang about the holiness of God. The extra inches I was lacking didn't seem to be bringing me low enough. I should be prostrate before Him.

Heaven and earth are full, full of Your glory, Your glory
My soul is overwhelmed by all of Your glory, Your glory
Oh blessed is He who reigns, full of Your glory, Your glory
My cup cannot contain all of Your glory, Your glory
Hosanna we are found, after all You are Holy

There's something that happens when you consider the holiness of God. The overwhelming understanding of His true righteousness brings about the reality of who I truly am. A wretch. A sinner. It seems to be magnified in the presence of a magnificent and Holy God. Yet He doesn't reject me. He prepared a way for me. Man has fallen from Him and yet through the blood of Christ His Son, this soul can be redeemed. Hosanna we are found by Him, a holy God!

My height and my shoes have no bearing on my posture when I am in the presence of a Holy God. Today it took a pair of flats and some amazing worship to remind me of who He is and how He has redeemed my life. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Other Plans

I woke up to a crisp cool morning. Temperatures in the 50's. No humidity. You'd never know it was mid-July. It could easily be mistaken for an early Autumn morning. 

My cuddily Oompa Loompa (aka Baxter the Goldendoodle) seemed especially sweet while I got ready and loyally stayed right by my side. Knowing I had some extra time and wanting to take advantage of the cooler temperatures, I decided to take the dog for a walk. Little did I know he had other plans.

I should have known before we left our driveway when he was trying to chase the leash, spinning himself - and me - in circles and working us both into knots. I realized the problem. I was giving him too much leeway. I had to tighten the leash, give him less rope and essentially less freedom. I attempted to keep him right by my side. He still had other plans. 

We started our ascent down from the cul de sac. It's the perfect hill that requires no pedaling when whizzing down on your bike (yes, even at my age I have tried it). It's also the perfect hill to get a jump start on a jogging pace. Yes, as you can imagine, my doodle dog had other plans. 

He was still trying to get the leash in his mouth. Maybe he thought he could chew himself free. The whole episode landed him tying his own front legs with the leash and in one full swoop he knocked himself to the ground. I was concerned he might be hurt but he was now aware he had a better angle on eating the leash. I could see he did not want to be tied down. 

As quick as he fell, he was up even quicker and off we went. It was as if the gun had sounded and he was racing out of the gate headed toward the finish line. He's half my weight and full of puppy energy. He doesn't know his own strength and I was about to find it out for myself as he yanked me down the road at a blazing speed. I'm not a runner. Add onto that the fact that I haven't trained for ANYTHING since early April. I'm not only out of shape, I'm NOT A RUNNER. But we were running. 

We made it all the way down the hill and through the dip in the road before we started up the steep incline. He was determined to keep running and I was now breaking into a full sweat and panic. "Baxter, slow down!" I yanked on the leash, I tried to pull him back. For a half second the force of his speed was almost pulling me and I nearly thought I might just let him drag me up the hill. No, I had to regain control.

We managed to make it to the end of the road at a jogging/brisk walking pace. On our way back home I could tell he had worn himself. Silly dog. He stopped to sniff every mailbox, every pile every other dog left behind, digging into clovers, he even went chasing after a grasshopper. Now I was dragging him. "Come on, let's go home." He looked up at me and I could tell - he had other plans. He plopped himself in the grass on the side of the road. He had plumb wore himself out and we had 3/4 of the way yet to go. "You've got to pace yourself, Bax. You can't use all your energy up in the first leg of the race!" 

I'm happy to say we made it home. He's resting and so am I. I never intended to break a sweat on such a pleasant morning. We both are trying to catch our breath and I am certainly seeing the life lesson in our morning run/walk/jog/exercise fiasco.

I can only imagine how often I am pulling and tugging, trying to break free of the grip the Master has on me. Somehow I see this restraint as restricting what I want to do, never realizing He's graciously trying to spare me of the fight and struggle and loss of energy that it inevitably brings. He knows how far we have to go and what hills are up ahead. "Come on, God, I want to run! I'm ready. Just let me go. Why are you holding me back?" 

He's also willing to lead and guide me - if I would just walk with Him. I constantly leave His side, trying to forge my own way, distracted by all the "stuff" others leave behind. "Stay on course," I'm sure He wants to remind me. Before I know it, I've worn myself out and I don't have the strength to make it home. 

My intentions were good. I started out so strong. I wanted to run! You told me to press on toward the goal, to run with perseverance the race set out before me.

"I also said to throw off everything that hinders you."

Lord, the grip You have on me was holding me back.

"No, the grip I had on you was for your own good. To guide you, lead you, help you stay on course and pace."

I just didn't know how far we had to go.

"That's why I want you to walk beside me. I want to guide you."

I wonder how differently our walk together would be without the struggle over control. If there wasn't a fight to be in the lead, there would be a true balance of strength and pace. If there wasn't a mad dash in the beginning, there would be endurance for the end. If there was an understanding that where we're going and how we get there isn't up to me, then I would be willing to rest in knowing He has other plans. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Today and Everyday

Marry me, today and everyday

It was one year ago today when I became Mrs. Michael Wright. We danced to the familiar song by Train just after we'd been announced as Mr. & Mrs. The wedding was simple. A small gathering of family and a handful of dear friends on a hot summer day. We stood in the center of our loved ones gathered around us as they shared in our joy. A summer thunderstorm had popped up just before the ceremony but once it was gone it left a rainbow painted across the sky. If anyone needed one more confirmation from God it was there. The presence of the Holy Spirit filled the room. 

I love when people ask how we met and we both end up dumbfounded. We laugh about how often our paths must have crossed for years and how we never met before. God wrote our story. He's still authoring new pages and chapters each day. Somehow He saw fit to bring two lives together and work it all out for His good and glory. 

On this first anniversary I want to share some things I've learned about a godly marriage.

We aren't perfect. 
To say we fit perfectly together is quite a compliment. You must understand we were not "made for each other." We feel completely blessed to be able to compliment each other so well, but we're opposites in many ways. We share common interests BUT we work to stay interested in each other's lives (although I am more than willing to let him have guys night whenever the latest Sci Fi movie hits the theatres). At the end of the day, we are both human, fallen flesh, capable of hurting one another, being selfish, not considering the other's needs and the list could go on. Recognizing our need for grace and forgiveness from God, understanding His merciful hand blessed us with lives redeemed, we must seek to love and forgive each other. There has to be room for grace because heaven knows, I am nowhere near perfect!

God is the center.
If we didn't allow room for God in our lives and our marriage then we would have never ended up together in the first place. Acknowledging His hand in orchestrating our lives causes us to recognize our great need for Him as we live each day. You can't deal with the everyday "stuff" without starting EVERY SINGLE DAY with The Lord. Before we part ways each morning, we go before The Lord together. 

I can't even begin to tell you how much honor and integrity it must take for my husband to submit to God by wrapping his arms around me and committing our day to The Lord, even if we had been arguing the night before (gasp, yes, we have had disagreements). There's nothing that can melt a heart of stone like the Spirit of The Lord and thank God He has set me straight so many times when I simply wanted to be indignant. Allowing God to have His way in ME and in our marriage has already proven to make all the difference.

Tough Love. 
We've both been through life experiences that have taught us to love and appreciate that what we have takes work and commitment. We both understand that every single day is an opportunity to pursue one another - or to grow a part by following one's own selfish dreams. We've seen it, lived it and it causes us to make sure our priorities are in order. 

Nothing about our relationship has been conventional. In the past 15 months we got engaged, sold two houses, rented a house, built a house, moved a total of 4 times (combined), became a blended family, sent a 5 year old to Kindergarten (who also changed schools), changed jobs (Carrie) and got a puppy. That doesn't even describe the external factors. (Are we crazy or what?!) I'm not trying to portray some overly difficult life but you know as well as I do that life isn't easy. Neither is love. 

Love is a choice. Somedays it's more difficult than others to CHOOSE to love. Yes, even we have days when we don't necessarily like one another or when something (or things) are pressing in on us and making it easy to become distracted. Isolation came easily for both of us. It had become a way of life for him and for me, it was a defense mechanism. We've had to be mindful that when life happens, when it's tough, we need each other. We can't just retreat or put up the walls of separation. We have to tough it out and love through it, together.

Patience is a Virtue.
I cannot admire enough my husband's virtue of patience. He is tender-hearted, a servant, giving and selfless and truly one of the world's most patient people. When I am emotional and chaotic, he is calm and patient. When I am loud and overbearing, he is quiet and patient. When I am difficult and defensive, he is gentle and patient. As much as I want to be the wife whose husband lacks nothing because of her, I must make sure you understand it is the other way around. Proverbs 31:11 is inscribed on the inside of HIS wedding band - but I now understand it is not because that is what I make him, it is who he makes ME. I am learning from his example. The godly qualities that are being lived out in his life are also what God continues to use to teach and grow me. This causes me to recognize that I am still a work in progress. If God has enough patience with me to want to shape and mold me, then I must never falsely believe I have somehow achieved the mark. What I'm learning about becoming virtuous is that it is an active state of pursuit. 

Always kiss me goodnight.
You've seen it on pillows, in frames, inscribed on walls. I'm not sure where it came from but my husband will tell you he's heard it from my lips a time or two (or several dozen...or hundred...but who's counting?!) It is more than just a statement, it is a mindset. It is an intentional desire to connect with and to each other one last time before we drift off to sleep. Just like that all important prayer that he is committed to saying each morning before we go our ways to work or wherever the day takes us, making a point to "kiss each other goodnight" is an intentional choice to connect as husband and wife. Pillow talk can be some of the most important time together. 

I could go on and on as I keep thinking of things that make a difference in our marriage. Some of these include:
- Date night. Having intentional time for just the two of us to enjoy each other.
- Communication. We make a point to always be in contact with one another but we also talk about almost everything.
- Protecting ourselves and each other. Making sure our communication/interaction with members of the opposite sex is always forthright and respectful so that nothing can be called into question. Whether it's someone from work, an email, text, call, etc. Striving to honor God and each other.
- Loving the little things. He still opens the doors for me. He seeks to serve me. I pack his lunches and make homemade meals. I make sure there's always dessert or chocolate (because he loves chocolate more than any woman I know). Compliment each other. SEEK TO SEE THE GOOD. 

Let me say this loud and clear: OUR MARRIAGE IS NOT PERFECT. We are not perfect. You already know I admit this. I'm sharing this because in the past 3 years (let's not even count the past month), I can't even begin to tell you how many women I've sat across and heard some version of "My marriage is in trouble." I've witnessed it and I've experienced it. I sympathize and I also recognize the signs, the cycle, the defenses, the hard-heartedness, the selfishness, the hurt, the emptiness, the loneliness. I GET IT!!!

I've also heard so many versions of "I wish I had what you have." Okay, now you can. You have to work at it. EVERY SINGLE DAY. You have to make that commitment to forgive, love, cherish, honor, connect - even when you don't feel like it!!! Ready for this? Even in the past year there have been days when I didn't feel like it. There were moments of frustration, disappointment, hurt, argument, disagreement, and a host of other hurdles to overcome. I'm not writing this because I think I've figured it out. I'm sharing this because I am constantly working on how to figure it out. 

Today and everyday, I choose to marry him. Today and everyday I must choose to love him, honor him, serve him, prioritize God then him over everything else, seek to protect him, choose to kiss him goodnight, forgive him when he's hurt me, ask forgiveness when I've hurt him. Today and everyday.