Tuesday, February 13, 2018

When It Hurts

I could see the look on his face and I knew something was wrong.

"How was your day?"

"Awful...Mom, [my best friend] told me he doesn't want to be my friend anymore."

His face bore the resemblance of a deflated balloon and I choked back the tears as I prayed for words. He didn't want to talk about it, naturally, and I didn't blame him but I was feeling everything he was feeling as if my own friend had delivered the news to me.

Flashbacks of childhood friendships came rushing back. A flood of emotions hit me as I felt the protective defenses kick in. As his mama I wanted to protect him, console him, defend him, and set this straight. As his sister in Christ I knew I needed to pray for wisdom to help coach him through one of life's many disappointments.

We talked about friends and friendships, how people come and go, how sometimes people are just mean, how sometimes they're hurting and hurt people, and sometimes we don't understand but it still hurts. He told me his heart was hurting and I knew it was. My own heart was breaking for him. I told him God would always be his friend - the one he could always count on and who would never give up on him.

"I know God will always be my friend, mom, but I want a friend I can see and play with on earth."

"I know, bud, I do. I used to pray the same thing at night when my friends were mean to me and I felt all alone," Decades later, the memory was as real and fresh as if it had happened today. I hated that he was now feeling this way.

We talked a lot and we prayed for his friend and whatever he may be dealing with. I prayed that God would comfort my boy and use this moment of hurt to lavish His love upon Eli's heart. I shared with him that God hurts when we hurt.

It's amazing how the Lord uses parenting and children to reveal more of His character and Who He is. All of a sudden it became so clear how our Heavenly Father aches for us when we hurt, He grieves for us in our loneliness and despair, He longs for us to feel and know love.

Before bed, Eli asked if I would be his Valentine. I gushed and swooned and wholeheartedly agreed. The eve of this Valentine's Day isn't lost on me. Today it was my son's friendship. It could just as easily be love lost, love hoped for, love gone wrong, love never realized... It could be emptiness, loneliness, hopelessness, grief, despair... You might feel like my son, knowing God is present and faithful but just wanting the presence of a person.

I wanted to step in and intercede for my son. I wanted to stop his pain. I would take it away if I could. Yet I know it's up to me to help him learn to cope, teach him the deeper lessons of relying on God, pray he understands our opportunity to show love even when others don't seem worthy of it. Yet another reminder of how God loves us - even when we're unworthy, even when we don't deserve it.

Picking up the pieces and facing tomorrow is a part of the character building process. Allowing God to wrap His loving arms around us when we're hurting and alone is a part of understanding His character.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

God Showed Up

God showed up for us in a huge way today. I won’t go into detail but our family was facing a monumental decision. It was one of those things where it would have impacted each of us individually and all of us collectively for years to come. It’s been a whirlwind for a few days as we debated, discussed, prayed, weighed out options and prayed some more. I have to be honest. The point of this post is not to share what happened as much as it is to give God the glory for His faithfulness in each and every detail of our lives.

I’ll keep the specific situation vague because I think the journey is what can apply to others. In this case I have to admit I was seeking God’s will.  We were prayerfully asking for Him to reveal our next steps. That didn’t stop the actual situation from being a tornado of activity that required quick decisions and huge risks. Being as transparent as I know to be, I don’t know how you discern the balance between forcing your will and waiting for God’s. Don’t get me wrong. I am still standing here, spared and bathing in His mercy, wondering if it was my fault or if was He silent. Wondering if I forced my own agenda or if I completely missed His.

We wrestled. We went back and forth. We never felt a clear and utter "no" so we continued. We pressed on. Slowly at first then rapidly because the situation seemed to demand our hurried pace. We stopped to pray. Repeatedly. It seemed as if we needed to keep going so we did. I prayed for God to SLAM THE DOOR SHUT if it wasn't His will but it remained wide open. So we walked through. Once the decision was made I was literally physically sick. I spent the entire night in angst, anxiety and stress like I haven’t known in quite some time. I debated even the feeling. Was it the enemy attacking or was it God preventing? I couldn’t be sure. I prayed, I read, I sought Him. I strapped up with the full armor and claimed every Scripture I knew by heart and read others I needed to let soak into my marrow. The more I read, the more angst I felt. I might as well have been Jacob wrestling that angel and I would surely walk away injured. 

Please understand, in no way am I blaming God. The situation presented with pros and cons on each side, life-changing positives and negatives that we weighed out and considered and earnestly sought Him over. Ultimately it felt up to us since He hadn't made it clear. I thought. Have you ever been there? Have you ever weighed out the situation and prayed for confirmation only to feel you didn't have a clear answer?

Now as I retrace His hand, I see where my slow and almost unaware motions were pushes toward my own agenda. As unintentional as it may have been, if I’m being completely honest, I have to recognize He gave small intentional pushes that I think I just ignored or wasn’t paying attention to. Have you ever missed it? Have you ever missed Him?

So here I sit. Nearly flabbergasted by His goodness to redeem me yet again for the mess I almost created. Even that statement seems foolish because I'm not big enough to interfere with His divine Sovereignty. How can my intentions be so good, so in line with my heart wanting His Sovereign will, and yet fall so vastly short of reaching it because I become short-sighted of His hands at work in my life? 

I questioned everything. Why was my faith so empty? How was it so easy for me to doubt and fear? How could I be certain - 100% sure - of His will? Had I forced it upon myself and was I now trying to get Him to bless something that wasn't His will? 

I need to explain something. The minute we were able to change our minds - praise God for His overflowing mercies!!!! - there was immediate peace. I had suffered physical, emotional, and spiritual turmoil for 12 hours and instantaneously it was gone. With a peace that passes all understanding, I knew without doubt we had now made the right decision. Have you experienced this kind of peace? Has He rescued you from the entanglement of your own decisions? 

So what do you do when you don't know what to do? What happens when the answer isn't clear, when your faith is frail, when you can't discern His will? 

Today we watched God show up. It was later than I expected but I fully believe He had us walk through each step so we could end up here. In this place of recognizing His Sovereignty, understanding more about His character, and realizing His full faithfulness in my life. Today God showed up for us in a big way. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Panic Stricken 

I had a panic attack today. 

There I was, facing people, talking, interacting, and suddenly I became overwhelmed, filled with anxiety. My heart was racing. I tried to get a grip on what was happening and the more I sought to regroup, the less I had control over the situation and myself. It was terrifying. Sickening. Debilitating. 

I need to back up. If you know me, you know that panic and anxiety aren't something that ordinarily plague me. There have been circumstances in the past that brought about panic and anxiety, things that have since become very distant memories, but all based on the extreme life experiences I was facing at the time. So to be panic-stricken to the point of barely being able to function today was something I wasn't prepared for and hadn't experienced in quite a long time. 

What I've come to understand about most emotions - fear, anger, anxiety, and any number of things we may feel - is they are typically secondary emotions for what lies beneath the surface. In this case I can't pinpoint what happened, why it happened, or what caused this sudden onslaught of anxiety to leave me a near shell of myself. I just know I got overwhelmed and that led to panic and that led to me being out of control of myself and that was sheer terror.

I need to add this. Just last night I was watching Louie Giglio on Life Today talk about his struggle with anxiety and depression. I shared a quote from him specifically targeting anxiety. "Anxiety is the byproduct of me wanting to control my world." This morning I was pouring over scripture and listening to one of the video sessions in his series from Goliath Must Fall. Little did I know that a day later I would be experiencing that firsthand. If any of us are too naive to think for one second that Satan didn't have his ugly hands all over this given everything I was just studying then we are fools indeed. 

Here's what you may already know. I have a long-standing battle with trying to control basically everything around me. It is, and will probably always be, one of the things that so easily entangles me.  I don't feel I live under the weight of anxiety but I do know that my desire (obsession?) to control things is something that weighs heavily on me. 

What I've come to learn through Giglio's series is that living under ANY weight - anything that causes me to not have freedom in Christ - robs Almighty God from His glory. As he reminds us, our giants are not something we have to battle. Our giants are in fact DEAD. Christ died for ALL of them, once and for all, then conquered every single sin, fear, doubt, worry, giant, you name it, when He defeated death - and all our giants with it - and rose from the grave. 

So this battle, this desire for control in my life, the battle of depression, anxiety, addiction, obsession - or whatever it may be in your life - is needless. Yes, you heard me correctly. We are needlessly fighting these battles. In fact, whatever "it" is diminishes the power and might of our God and strips Him of the glory He could have in our lives. Make no mistake, God's glory is never taken away from Who He is but we forfeit the opportunity for it to be fully on display in our lives when we live under the weight of whatever else "controls" us, riddles us useless, diminishes our own ability to be who He created us to be.

Stop right there. Some of you may be reading this and what may have started as feeling a little sorry for what I faced has now turned into contrary feelings given the ongoing Giant you face. I mean no disrespect. I hope you know my heart. I just know my own human tendencies and where I fall short. Giglio makes it clear that our giants may be dead but can still be deadly. They may haunt, torment, prevent, inhibit, prohibit, render useless, and leave us destroyed. For something that has no "life" it certainly can suck the life out of us. 

Today I had a panic attack. Today I was reminded of my weakness. Today I was brought back to the place of complete dependence on God and His strength and mighty in my life. Today I was reminded that Giants I've thought buried and gone are capable of having a deadly impact when you least expect it. Today I got to experience His grace. Today I felt defeat but was not defeated. 

You need to know your Giants will not defeat you. They've already been defeated. His Might and Glory are ready to be on display in our lives. I am writing this post, sharing this very vulnerable place, for the sheer purpose of hoping He will be glorified. 


Friday, January 19, 2018

Snow Day

Snow day...again. The kids have only gone to school for 3 full days in the past 2 weeks. They haven't had a solid full week of school in 5 weeks. It's been a long month of no schedules and loose routines, which means kids everywhere are running on overdrive while parents are running on fumes. Parents everywhere are waking up today and digging deep to find the courage and patience to survive another day while keeping kids entertained and maintain sanity. 

I am one of those parents. Working to find the balance between creative fun and screen time, bouncing between refereeing bickering kids and snapping photos of their sweet moments. The feelings of gratitude over having extra leisure time will be overshadowed by the feelings of guilt for wanting them back in a routine. We'll torment ourselves with all the "should, could, and would" as we scroll through everyone else's posts of what appears like them making the most of everyday. We'll battle feelings of insecurity and inferiority while playing the comparison game. I know I'm not alone. You've already admitted it. 

As a friend reminded me, I'm the one who prays for snow. I get SO excited about the falling flakes. I'm not complaining about the snow days that inevitably come with the blanket of white I love. I'm just learning to embrace a long season of anything but normal. 

The reality is the days are long but the years are short, at least that's what those who've gone before tell us. The time goes by quickly, indeed, some days it feels like not quick enough. We know to cherish it - the all-too-fleeting moments that will flash before our eyes. If we're lucky (blessed), they'll become memories etched into our minds. We'll hopefully forget the times we lost our minds and our cool. We'll ask forgiveness for the overreactions and we'll teach lessons of humility. We'll search Pinterest and look for at-home activities and snow-day recipes, then we'll settle on a movie and iPads because - let's be honest - we're on day 3 here. We'll pray harder for our kids' teachers and send an extra thank-you gift when they finally return to school. We'll look around at the messes - the piles of laundry and dishes, the toys in disarray, the puddles of melted snow, and we'll let ourselves off the hook because everyone is clothed, fed, warm, and loved. 

We've got this. Snow day number 3. We're doing the hard work together. As another friend reminded me, it does in fact take a village - the village of parents, grandparents, friends, teachers, iPads, Netflix, games, books, and timeouts - all to make it through. So here's to another snow day. Here's to the weekend. Here's to Monday and the forecast of 55 degrees and above freezing all next week! Happy Snow Day!



Monday, January 15, 2018

It Takes a Village

They say it takes a village. You have been more than supportive and encouraging to yesterday's post in letting me know I'm not alone. I don't want to be a Pinterest mom. I want to be an authentic one. Not the kind posting hypothetical scenarios of perfection and poise but the one covered in muck and mess down and dirty in the trenches...because that's where you are too!

So, thank you! Thank you for being honest and transparent in your struggles of this failed pursuit of perfection and the feelings of unworthiness that surround us all at the end of weary days of potty training, wiping noses, and correcting behaviors. Thank you for being willing to stand with me in the gap, to remind me this is but a fleeting season (that one day we will surely miss!), and for holding me accountable in seeking godliness as we seek to model Christlike behavior to the children He's entrusted us with. Today's post is just for us.

"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:3-6 (bold emphasis mine)

Mamas, don't miss this! As surely as there is an ever-present enemy lurking around seeking whom he may devour, so is the power of the conquering Savior available to us who believe and call upon HIM! With reassurance of faith, I thank God for you. I pray with joy over you because we are PARTNERS in this journey together. We are in the trenches together. We are doing this thing called motherhood together - we aren't alone. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

Here's the best part - while He's called us to this place, this journey, we can be certain He's going to complete the work He's begun. He won't leave us stranded midway through the sleepless nights, the snotty noses, the defiant behaviors. He's right there with us through it all working it out for not just our good but for the good of these little ones He's entrusted us with. He didn't just plan each of our days, He planned theirs too. And while some of those days stretch well into the long nights of sleeplessness and weariness, He's right there too.

I love this...

"It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me." vs. 7

Our present chains may not be literal. They may take a very different form while bound at home with little ones but we are doing the work He's called us to. We are drudging through the days of disasters and diapers and for this reason, I keep you close in my heart.

"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise of God." verses 9-11

Don't miss this! It's the best part! May our prayer for each other be that our love would abound more and more - when these little testers of our character bring us to the end of ourselves, when we feel like we don't have anything left to give, may that be the place where the love of God supernaturally steps in. May we be able to discern what is BEST - not always what's popular or trending or what every other mother is posting and doing but what the Lord reveals is best for each of us individually, for our families, for each child alone. May we be filled with the fruit of the Spirit - oh boy, this is where I drastically fall short. The promise here is that it comes through Jesus Christ! It doesn't have to come from me because on my own I will fail every time. And this, all this, is to the glory and praise of God. Yes, EVEN THIS.

So don't lose heart, today, mama. I'm with you in the trenches but more importantly, I'm standing with you in the gap. We're coming off a 4 day holiday weekend and facing possible snow days so I know we may be close to losing our minds and our cool but we've got the ability to call on strength that's not our own even at the point of our own inabilities.

Today you lack NOTHING. Every good and perfect gift from above is yours to claim. So this is my prayer for you, mama.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Broken

I'm not even sure where to begin. The reality was I had told him not to play with it. I had explained, as I had so many times before, that not all things were meant to be played with. As we were cleaning up the fort that had taken over the living room, I saw the pieces on the floor. He had disobeyed and taken it off the door and now it was broken. Useless. Destroyed.

I'd like to tell you what happened next was a mother-son heart-to-heart conversation that was life-changing. Instead I have to humbly admit I lost it. The hardcore truth is I was beyond angry, frustrated, exasperated. I don't like the gremlin I can turn into when this child of mine pushes me to the limits. Ashamedly this is me.

I could sit here and make excuses and tell you it's his oppositional defiance or the repeated times I have to ask over and over...and over again. I could try to justify my reaction with years of built-up frustration combined with the difficulties in finding ways to reach him so he'll understand. But the bitter truth is I'm the parent. I'm the adult. I'm supposed to be Spirit-filled and Spirit-led. If I'm a new creation in Christ, then I'm doing an awful job at representing His transforming power by my actions as a mother.

It wasn't a costly possession. It was something I had taken the time to make which made it even more special to me. Yet here I was placing more value on an object over my child and my testimony. The harsh truth was I already didn't feel well, was operating on very little sleep due to his sister's antics last night, and I was tired of the hours of fighting and bickering and squabbling I'd already endured between my two little blessings. I was riddled with insecurities and covered up in self-doubt. As a leader and business-woman, I thrive on knowing and operating well within my strengths. As a mom, I seem to always come up short. It was the perfect storm for a combustible explosion. My flesh's response to not deal with something well was now the overwhelming force causing the volcano inside of me to erupt, revealing the insecurities where the enemy had been taunting me all day.

I'm decidedly resolved to be transparent because even if I am the only one (although I feel confident I'm not) it's important to know I'm not stuck here. I'm not proud of my reaction. I'm sorrowful that his sin turned into my own fall - down the slippery slope of regret and shame, all because I couldn't gain control of my emotions and my tongue.

My son came to me and apologized for his disobedience. Remorsefully, I gave him my own apology for my outburst. I had a right to be upset. I didn't have a right to sin in my anger. He wanted to know if the decoration could be fixed. I had to explain it couldn't. His outburst of tears reassured me of his remorse but it was important he knew our actions have consequences. I of all people should know the depth of wounds that words can deliver.

I wish I could tell you this is the first and last time - for both of us. It wasn't the first. It may not be the last. What I know is His redeeming grace is enough to cover each time and His strength is mine to claim in my weakness. Some things can't be fixed, but praise God just as the Father-daughter relationship was an extension of His loving grace and forgiveness to me, so was this mother-son relationship able to be mended.


This is the follow up post: http://carriehispraises.blogspot.com/2018/01/they-say-it-takes-village.html

Monday, January 1, 2018

2018


"David said it all: I saw God before me for all time. Nothing can shake me; he's right by my side. 

I'm glad from the inside out, ecstatic; I've pitched my tent in the land of hope."

Acts 2:25-26, The Message

This is it! I can't even contain my excitement. Ecstatic? Yes! 

For the past week I've spent time in prayer and reflection, reading and studying, asking the Lord for a fresh word as I head into the new year. I can't say it always happens. It doesn't always hit like this but when it does, there is absolutely no denying the hand of God at work. This is one of those times. 

I just so happened to see it on a friend's post. Mixed among all the Happy New Year GIFS and wishes, but there it was in black and white. It stopped me in my tracks. It was as if the Lord Himself was speaking the words to my heart. Had I ever even read that verse? I couldn't be sure but it sent me on a spiral of searches to cross reference and find different translations. 

If I'm being honest, as I only know to do, 2017 was interwoven with deep difficult trials. Facing 2018 hasn't been a time of hoping for all things new. It's been something that felt like we just had to get through. It's hard to move forward when the present state of the painful past continues to impact the days ahead. 

But then I landed here. Acts 2:25-26. The Message translation of pitching my tent in the land of hope hit me like an arrow to my heart because it's something I've said on many occasions. "It's okay to feel ____ (fill in the blank), just don't pitch your tent there." It's usually been in the context of encouraging a friend, or myself, not to stay stuck in a particular emotion of anger, hurt, grief, worry, or frustration. 

So here it was in reference to joy and rejoicing - the idea of pitching my tent in a land filled with hope. Other translations take it literally to heart. 

"Therefore my heart rejoiced and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope." NKJV

For my heart to rejoice and my flesh to rest in hope takes a willful act of choice on my part. Despite whatever circumstances, in spite of what may be uncertain, I can rest in hope. In fact, it's a place I can pitch my tent. It is in fact the place I want to dwell. 

But how? How do we do choose to dwell with hope when everything around us feels hopeless? David truly says it all. Take several different translations to soak in this promise:

"I saw God before me for all time."
"I saw the Lord always before me."
"I saw the Lord ever before me."

Always. Ever. All time. He's never not with you. No matter how alone you may feel, no matter what you may face, His very presence is with you at all times. 

"Nothing can shake me."
"He is on my right hand that I may not be moved."
"Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken."

The promise of His presence, the assurance of knowing nothing will shake us. He's right there - right beside us - just in case we stumble, in the event we trip, for those times we just can't stand on our own two feet. He's there to hold us up, pick us up, carry us through. Even when the foundation is crumbling, we won't be shaken or moved. 

We have to continue on a little further. (I urge you to read the passage in its entirety.)

"You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence." vs. 27-28

It's important to see it through, to understand that you who are chosen, you who have given your heart and life to Christ, you whom He has made holy because of His sacrifice, you will not be destroyed. There may be tough times, there may be destitute days, there may be trials and troubles, but He will not abandon you. We can pitch our tent in the land of hope, resting in His presence, and being filled with His joy when we know the assurance of who He is. 

David says it all, doesn't he? It is indeed a new day, a new month, a new year, and with that is a new word from the Lord to remind us that whatever we may face in 2018, His presence and joy goes with us. He upholds us, steadies us, stays right by our side to not let us fall. He fills us with joy and hope and promises to never abandon us. I pray you'll find the ecstatic joy in this promise, even if it may be difficult for you to see how it will all work out. Even if the assurance of tomorrow seems to be fleeting. Even if your brokenness feels too shattered to be healed. I pray today you'll find the plot in the land of hope where you can pitch your tent. Determine that is the place you'll dwell. Let Him comfort and support you. May He go before you in whatever you face. 

I won't wish you a Happy New Year. Happiness is made up of moments and often fleeting based on circumstance. I will wish you the joy and peace of the Lord, His ever-present hand to uphold you, and a  place of hope where you may dwell. Happy 2018,  my friend.