Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mirror Mirror

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope (expectation) comes from him. Psalm 62:5

Mirror mirror on the wall... I don't even have the strength to face the reflection I see. Staring at my flaws and insecurities and wondering how on earth the emotional bandaid can get ripped off my frail heart. Without warning and with full force, it happens so quickly that it causes the wound to be gaping and bleeding all over again. I barely recognize the person staring back at me. I certainly can't look her in the eyes.

I hate this feeling. Insecurities take over and cause me to call everything into question. Trust is stripped away and I am a prisoner to doubts and worry. Fears creep in and nearly squealch the life out of me. I am overwhelmed by the flood of emotions and bound by these feelings that leave me helpless. Intentionally or maybe even subconsciously, I sabotage myself and even my relationships. It's precisely why I don't release myself to "feel," yet here I am under the weight of emotional torment. Sigh...

God reminded me of Psalm 62:5...I need to know that my hope is in the Lord and even when I don't live up to people's expectations, I can still find rest in Him and the promises in Zephaniah 3:17. He's with me even when I feel alone. He delights in me even when I seem to disappoint everyone else. He is mighty to save even though I feel helpless. He sings over me even when there's no song in my heart. He sees me as beautiful even when I don't like the person I see of myself.

Despite all of the rampant emotions, I'm thankful. His strength is perfected in my weakness, so I boast in my frailties because it causes me to turn to the only One who can save me from the battle my own heart fights inside. All I know to do is turn my eyes to the Lord, lift my hands up in surrender, and call upon His name. He rescues me from the pit my own sorrow wants to drown me in. He lifts my head though it hangs in shame and he tenderly dries my tears as He sings His song over me.

Is the reflection in the mirror haunting you? Are your insecurities overtaking you? Are your fears paralyzing you? Are your wounds still sore and bleeding? Are you battling the raging emotions that cause you more hurt and heartache?

Your heart may be hurting. You may find yourself buried under the weight of emotions having their way in your life. Seek (Him). Feel (the emotions). Heal (completely).

I've said it before and I should heed my own advice - You have to feel to heal. Allowing these emotions to run their course is the only way I am assured not to bottle them up and store them away at the risk of another emotional eruption. In this moment I find my rest in Him and out of that rest in God alone, my Rock and my Redeemer, I have hope.

"I Turn To You" by Selah 
For the faith to move ahead
And to let go of the past
And to see me as You do
I turn to You
And here in Your holy presence
It's all that I can do...
I turn to You, Jesus.
I turn to You, Lord
What else can I do, Jesus
I turn to You.


What if I were to see myself as He sees me? Not as the flawed reflection the mirror taunts me with, but as the apple of His eye, hidden in the shadow of His wings (Psalm 17:8). Not as the awkward and often quirky person marred by insecurities, but as His royal daughter, one whose beauty He is enthralled with (Psalm 45:11).


And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Mirror, mirror...I don't need you to tell me anything at all.

The reflection I now see is His. I am being changed into His likeness. Shaped by my feelings and circumstances to become more like Him.

The Coffee Spot

8:30 a.m. and I'm settling into my morning routine. Laptop is fired up, sorting through emails, social media opened in separate browsers. A bakery-fresh blueberry muffin accompanies my tall mug of dark roast with chocolate caramel creamer. And then it happens. From the lip of my cup a single drop of coffee takes the nearly two-foot plunge to my lap. It was a perfect splatter of brown coffee about a centimeter in diameter now marking my freshly-washed sand-colored linen pants.

Not wanting to walk around with a coffee spot all day, I quickly dabbed a napkin with water and started to scrub. I was too focused on removing the coffee spot to realize the paper napkin bore a logo in green ink that was now becoming a part of my attire. The small coffee spot was now successfully mixed with green ink in an even bigger circle on my once-clean pants.

I was certain people were staring straight at the spot as I made the long trek to the bathroom. We are energy-efficient with automatic everything which means no paper towels. I tried to flag the sensor on the sink with one hand while cupping water with the other to splash on my pant-leg. I did my best to rub out the coffee and green-ink spot but I was now left with a 5 inch water spot on a lightly colored pant.

I made my way to the automatic hand dryer and did my best to hold myself up on one leg, nearly losing my balance twice, while propping up the other in a semi-awkward angle trying to dry my pants leg. They were efficient to dry hands - not pants. I looked in the mirror to catch a glimpse of what passersby would now see of my appearance and I just had to laugh at myself. How did a small spot of coffee turn into such a huge mess?!

This is so typical of me. What starts out as a little tiny issue, combined with my OCD tendencies and the "work" of my own hands, can spread into an unavoidable disaster.

I am biting off more than I can chew and taking my life in my own hands. Job 13:14

How often do I bite off more than I can chew - things that aren't even my responsibility or business and I get involved? How often do I take my life in my own hands - issues and circumstances that I am determined to resolve on my own? By my own hands, I can turn a barely noticeable spot into a mess no one would miss. When will I learn?!

How about you? Maybe in your best attempt to "fix" the problem, you've somehow created an even bigger mess. With what seems like good intentions can often produce disasterous results. I know. I've been there. The spot on my pants is a reminder that by my own hands I can't "fix" everything.

I can't prevent problems from splattering and staining me, but I can prevent my own hands creating an even bigger mess. I have the coffee spot to prove it!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Zephaniah 3:17

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

Oh, how I love this verse! It is so rich with promises, it soothes no matter what my soul is facing.

God is with you.
When I feel all alone, abandoned, broken-hearted, destroyed, desolate...I can trust in the promise that God is with me. No matter who has failed me, He has never left my side. You are not alone. God is with you.

He is mighty to save.
I will never forget kneeling beside my bed as a tender-hearted five year old and acknowleding I needed a Savior. It is the salvation of your soul that I hope you've experienced - the gift of eternal life through His atoning sacrifice. The price He paid for you and me to have everlasting life. But it is also the salvation that comes through daily circumstances; the power He works in us to overcome the problems, pain, troubles and trials we face. He is mighty to save.

He will take great delight in you.
He delights in you and me, His children. He finds joy in His creation and we have been uniquely formed by His hands. Our lives bring Him glory. He is honored by our love and the example of Him that we portray. He takes great delight in you.

He will quiet you with His love.
I don't take this part of the verse to be a literal hush over my words. Rather, what it means to me is that my thoughts that run wild and my emotions that run high will be quieted by His love. When fears overtake me, when insecurities consume me, when thoughts of what if, what might have been, or what happened control my mind...I am comforted to know His love can still my racing thoughts and calm my high-strung emotions. He will quiet you with His love.

He will rejoice over you with singing.
It is no secret music is the essence of my soul, and singing praises to the Lord fills me with joy beyond what I can contain. But to know that my Creator sings over me with joy, it simply blows my mind! I lift my hands in praise to Him and He bows His head over me with resounding song. Be still my broken, human heart. This thought alone sends me to my knees in humility. He will rejoice over you with singing.

The God of the universe is with me, He saves me, He delights in me, He quiets me with His love, and He sings over me with joy! How can it be?! And here's the part that you cannot miss - He does this regardless of what I do. He is. It is part of His character - the true essence of his "Godness" - that causes Him to delight in us, rejoice over us with singing, quiet us with HIs love, save us, and always be with us. Oh Praise Him!

Monday, May 28, 2012

We Remember

E & I spent the weekend with my best friend, her 3 kids, and her Navy husband. It was nice to get away, and especially nice that he's stationed in VA Beach. We took full advantage of going to the beach on base. It was more than just a great day to dip my toes in the ocean and relax to the sound of the crashing waves; it was a a reminder of the holiday weekend we were celebrating. We were surrounded by service men and women, but that was only the beginning. 

You see, before we ever made our way to the beach, we had to clear security where Officer Daniel was saluted as he drove us on base. He pointed to the left and shared that we were passing a small military facility where SEAL Team Six operates. While this group is usually "top secret" they made worldwide headlines when they took out Osama bin Laden. Wow. All I could do was stare. I was so humbled and so grateful.

Then today I was honored to sing the National Anthem for the downtown Lynchburg Memorial Day service. Dozens of Veterans gathered to honor their country, honor each other's service, and remember those fallen who fought for our freedom.

With the presentation of colors, they stand and salute. I am in awe watching the emotion evoked in a veteran when he or she sees the stars and stripes waving in the wind. One soldier extended his hand to me and thanked me for singing the anthem "the right way." I thought about that for a moment and was thankful I chose not to add extra notes or use this song to showcase my own talent, rather it served as a way to honor these solders and veterans and the flag that stands for the rights we enjoy in this country.
My freedom of speech to even blog about what I want to blog about exists because of the dedication of these men and women. My grandpa and grandma both served in World War II. At my grandfather's funeral last year, we were all laughingly shocked to learn that grandpa's service in WWII found him a place overseas to teach the soldiers how to dance! That's right! He was an avid and accomplished dancer and he was assigned the duty of helping less fortunate soldiers learn to dance so on their leaves they could enjoy themselves. Remember, this was the '40's when swinging and jiving was a way of life. Grandpa used to always watch the History channel and tell us stories of how his brother was one of the D-Day casualties. I'm mindful how even in our family these stories hit close to home.

As I dug my toes into the hot sand, I could only imagine how hot it must have been in the desert sands of the middle east. As I listened to the waves crashing on the shore, I could only envision the terror that accompanied the shores of Normandy. As I relaxed under the sun, I was mindful of the nearby facility where Unit Six may have been in training. Today I want to use this blog as a salute to you, the brave and dedicated men and women who have given your life selflessly for your country, for me, the freedoms we enjoy. I honor your committment. I applaud your sacrifices. I admire your valor. Thank you. Today we honor and remember.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Living Proof

Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me. Psalm 119:175

My tattered Bible from college shows it underlined with a heart drawn in the margin. It's not just a verse I know. It's a verse I want to live.

Yesterday I heard a song that echoes this sentiment. "Let my life be the proof of Your love."

The verses speak straight from my heart:

If I sing but don't have love
I waste my breathe with every song
I bring, an empty voice
A hollow noise


I have said it before, but if it ever becomes about me, then I pray He takes it away. If I sing without communicating His love, every note is wasted. I am nothing but an empty voice without His love living through me.

If I speak with a silver tongue
Convince a crowd but don't have love
I leave a bitter taste
With every word I say


I've been a keynote speaker, presenter, writer, blogger...but without His love in my life, my words only leave a bitter taste to all who hear. Oh I pray it isn't true of me!

I fall. I fail. I mess up. I sin. I hurt people. I am hurt by people. Over and over I have to take this back to the altar. Again and again I have to confess before the Lord. I'm ashamed to admit that too often I can seem to say just the right thing at just the right time, but it may not always be the proof of my life.

This isn't about whether or not people are moved by my songs; or if my blogs bring inspiration; or if my words offer encouragement. Those results may come separate and a part from who I am and the life I live. No, this is about the proof that I want to be found in me - living as an example of Him and His love. Demonstrating His goodness in my life. Echoing His praise with my voice. Delivering words that I don't just speak but I follow.

Yes, today I am praying Psalm 119:175 and seeking to live that I may praise Him. Today I am singing the words from the cry of my heart praying my life will be the proof of His love. I assure you - I will stumble. But His word assures me that His laws will sustain me. That's a Bible verse I'm not just quoting; it's one I'm seeking to live!

Proof of Your Love

Monday, May 21, 2012

Just Relax

We were in the doctor's office for the 4-year-old check-up. The actual room was no bigger than a walk-in closet and it felt more like a cubby for a rambunctious boy that simply can't stand being still or contained. I admit - even I felt the walls were closing in on us. The doctor finally came in, and not a moment too soon, but the more I tried to talk with the pediatrician about the health and well-being of my child, the louder said child became.

Of course he would be putting me to the test right here, right now.

I had to find the balance in my tone so the observing pediatrician would know I was firm and stern yet loving and caring. I felt like I was the one being examined.

"E, two people are talking," I politely said, hoping he'd remember the manners we've worked so hard on.

The dull noise of a preschooler talking grew to an attention-getting volume that was much too loud for the tiny little examination room.

"ELIJAH. Inside voice, please," I said sternly, flashing the "I'm-serious-you're-about-to-be-in-trouble" eyes.

And in response, with direct disobedience, he now escalated to a full blown shout as if to prove to this doctor his vocal chords were in perfect working order.

"ENOUGH!" I now found myself matching his volume as I shouted.

The ever-patient and mild-mannered doctor sat observing. I just knew I wasn't going to pass the parenting test if one was being given out today.

She kindly cut in and diverted his attention to a book that was his gift to take home. He instantly stopped yelling as he started browsing the pages. Of course. Why didn't I think of that - a diversion.

A few minutes and some more conversation had passed when she calmly looked at me and said, "You know, one thing I wish I had done more with my youngest - who was my most challenging - was just relax."

HUH? Oh... I see. We weren't talking about a challenging child. We were talking about a high-strung mother.

Relax. To make less tense, less rigid, less firm; to make less strict or severe. Certainly I couldn't just allow my unruly child to just scream his head off in the middle of a public place. How was I supposed to relax related to that situation?!

But the truth was the doctor was prescribing exactly what I needed to fix what ails me. He's 4. He's a kid. He's a boy. He's got a lot of energy. Remarkably, despite not having my DNA, he likens my personality in so many ways. And his own inability to "relax" is probably mirroring mine. So I was forced to look in the mirror, only this time it was into the face of an adorable 4 year old and recognize that if I could relax, maybe he could too.

I wonder if you could stand to "just relax" with me today. I know the woes of the world and the concerns of today can weigh us down to the point of being so high strung and wound so tightly that relaxing may seem impossible. The deeply hidden spiritual meaning here is that we all need to rest in His presence and replenish our souls with His strength, especially when we're uptight and stressed.

If you find yourself confined, walls closing in on you, frustrated to gain attention, screaming to get someone's attention, might I offer a little prescriptive advice? Just relax....

Matthew 11:28
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”


Exodus 33:14
“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”


Psalm 73:26
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”


Psalm 61:1
“Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.”


Psalm 62:1-2
“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”


Isaiah 40:28- 31
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”




Friday, May 18, 2012

Good Morning

The alarm jolted my peaceful slumber. The sun was peeking through the blinds which always makes me happy. My eyes were tired and my body was sore but my heart was full.

"Good morning, Lord. Thank You for another day."

"Good morning, my child. I love you today."

It was as if He was sitting at the end of my bed. I knew He'd been there all night, watching over me as I slept, singing songs over me to offer me peace and comfort even in my now forgotten dreams. I wondered if he was distracted by my bedhead that reflected a sound night of sleep. Hopefully He wasn't catching wind of my morning breath as I spoke.

"God, my heart is full ... but there's a lot on my mind."

"I know, child."

"Do You want to hear about it?"

He didn't answer but I felt certain the strength in His face and the care in His eyes gave me the go-ahead to share.

"God, I know you already know... but I have so many requests... for me, for my family, for friends, people I love..."

I began to rattle off my list of concerns, knowing full well He was aware of each and every circumstance.

"Lord, I struggle knowing how to pray. I know You are capable of working miraculously, but I also know You may have a plan that is different than my own. Increase my faith!"

"Beloved, I AM."

I knew He wasn't responding to my request, but rather reminding me of who He is.

He is. He was. He will always be. Ever present, always with me, Sovereign God. He took such care in forming me and planning the days of my life before I ever breathed my first breath; why would I think He was not intricately involved in each and every circumstance now weighing on me?

It's in the quietness of these moments before my feet even hit the ground when I sense His presence and I'm at peace just conversing with my Creator. Yet, I know what lies ahead. The craziness of a busy schedule and the demands of a hectic day. It will pull and tug on me and drag me in a dozen different directions, so I savor this time where I can just be still in His presence.

I don't yet know how the day will turn out, let alone how each circumstance will be resolved. But I do know the one who holds me and my circumstances. I may not know the answers to my requests but I do know the one who hears each and every concern. Today I'm reminded to talk to Him. Whatever the problem, whatever I face. Just tell Him. Sure, He already knows the need before you even ask, but the sweetness of enjoying His presence and being reminded of who He is and that His sovereignty hasn't escaped any of the things I face...is what gives me the strength to face another day.

Good morning. Have you talked to your Father today? He is. He was. He will always be. And today He is waiting on the end of your bed to hear from you too. Before your feet hit the ground, before the day begins, before the weight of life's circumstances begin weighing you down, rest in His presence. Begin today with Him and have a good morning!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Rain, Rain GROW Away!

Monday morning after a ridiculously full weekend...Two birthday parties for a very active 4 year old, Mother's Day festivities, family gatherings, presents, church services, friends, graduation... SHEW! I'm tired! To top it off, Monday morning brought a grey sky and consistent rain with the forecast of all-day-showers. Bah humbug!

I fought the urge to stay in bed and braved the morning. Then I heard it, "Mom...it's raining outside!" E was up and with excitement I made my way to his room. I love to greet my little boy in the morning. I climbed in bed with him and we looked through the open blinds to a soggy grey day.

"Why's it raining?" a curious boy needed to know.

"The rain is how God waters the earth. He waters the flowers and the trees and the grass so everything grows."

"Aww (he said with a big sigh)...I'm sad because I wanted to play outside!"

"I know, bud, but the grey clouds outside don't reflect how my heart feels inside. I love you SO BIG and I am SO HAPPY!"

This brought a smile to his face (although I know I'd still get asked a dozen  more times when it will stop raining so he can go outside to play).

Fast forward 20 minutes and we're on our way out. I opened his car door and asked him to climb inside as I made a few trips back and forth from the house to the car loading things up for the day. When I was finally ready to go, he was not in his seat. Instead I found him outside the garage standing in the rain.

"E! What are you doing? It's raining!"

"I'm just looking for worms because they come out when it rains." He was right but we were in a hurry and he was not obeying.

"Let's go...you're getting wet!" I said as I scooped him up.

"It's okay mom, the rain helps me grow!"

And suddenly the lesson. The rain is unavoidable. Of course we'd much rather wake up to the brightness of the sun shining through the windows, but the rain is necessary for growth. And so I welcome the rain clouds, because despite the uncontrolledness this kind of damp day brings to my hair, it also brings growth.

He makes all things beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and that means even through rainy seasons, droughts, storms, and beautiful days of sunshine, He is cultivating our hearts to produce growth. I wasn't singing "Rain, rain go away..." Instead, E & I skipped down the driveway singing a new tune: "Rain, rain, GROW away!"

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Breaking the Silence: Infertility

The Saturday before Mother's Day is Birthmother's Day, the day to honor birthmothers who have given and chosen life. And then there's Mother's Day. Earlier this week I honored Elijah's birthday with a post. Even as I shared of not knowing where I was on the day of his birth, others read this and shared private messages of their current pain and desire to have a child.

We'll honor mothers everywhere this weekend. If you're at church with me, you'll be asked to stand and be recognized as the congregation will applaud moms. But I'm mindful that just 4 years ago I was not able to stand, and while I was seated and blending in with the crowd, I was silently dying inside.

Please don't take offense, but when you're dealing with/diagnosed with any type of infertility, it's not usually the kind of thing that makes the prayer list. Over and over on our prayer requests from church we see requests for surgery, illness, cancer, accidents, sometimes even emotional health. But I have yet to see one prayer request come through that calls for the prayer chain to lift up a couple who are struggling with infertility and the desire to get pregnant. (Maybe this is happening elsewhere, and if it is I'm grateful!)

My point is, it's a very private and personal struggle. And when you're in the midst of it, you feel like you have no one - LITERALLY NO ONE - to turn to.


My Story
All I know to do is share my story.

Somehow this idea of becoming a mother pricks the heart of a woman at some point. I wasn't the girl who grew up with this innate desire. In fact, I was rather worried because I didn't share my mom and sister's love and nurturing qualities for children. Even so, after a couple of years the desire came for me too. I wanted to be a mom. I wanted to have a baby. I wanted to raise a child. And so it began...

Even as a teenager I had this "fear" that I wouldn't be able to get pregnant. There were reasons and some medical issues involved that seemed to back this up, so it wasn't completely ungrounded. It started casually. A few months went by, and then I became more intent. Month after month turned up no results so I started to do some reading and research. I charted, I took my temperature everyday before my feet touched the ground, I took over the counter tests, ovulations kits and other predictors, vitamins, exercise and a host of other "natural" things that I will not go into detail here.

What happened as each month turned into another disappointment, was that each day turned into a "number" - I was constantly counting days. It wasn't about what the calendar said the date was, it was about what day of the month it was for me. Every. Single. Month. This would go on for nearly 2 years.

I am going to try to describe this for you. As the days creeped along and approached a "month" cycle, I would wait. I was scouring the internet researching "signs of pregnancy" and I would try to sense any little signal my body might give to indicate that I was pregnant. (Again, not going into detail because you can google this yourself, but suffice to say I had a heightened, maybe even overly stimulated, sense in a desperate attempt to see if I could tell whether or not this would be the time...)

And then it would happen. Every single time. Every single month. I would get the sign. NOT the sign I wanted. The sign that proved yet again I wasn't pregnant.

I can't try to explain the emotions. It consumed me. Literally. NO ONE KNEW. I was always thinking about it. And every time I would think about it, it would turn into anxiety, and then I would try to calm myself because I knew the more I stressed, the less likely it was for me to conceive. I would go from anxiety and stress to excitement and wonder to devastation and heartbreak. And this vicious cycle of emotions accompanied the monthly counting and charting and testing. Over and over.

It was finally time for medical intervention. Testing. Fertility medication. More testing. Uncertainty. And more emotions that usually resulted in more heartache.

All the while, no one knew. Despite living a very public life, this was something I couldn't openly share.

And then it came. The test results and diagnosis that confirmed there was no natural way to conceive. The doctor delivered the news as if she was telling me the weather report. As matter-of-factly as if it had no impact whatsoever on anyone's future, let alone my entire hopes and dreams. I sat across from her speechless and motionless, waiting for her to give me the "but"... but it never came. So I walked myself out of the office and got in my car...and wept. Yes, this was the ugly cry and rightly so. I couldn't even begin to process what I was feeling and how this changed everything.

There was the possibility of surgeries and procedures and injections. There were questions of ethics and finances. There were no guarantees and no predictions. Just a whole lot of uncertainty and emotional whirlwinds that I was certain I couldn't handle.


Well-Meaning People
As time passed, the questions became more superfluous - when would we be having children? I cringed at the question for a long time, silently hiding any effort of trying to conceive without success. But after the diagnosis it became clear I couldn't hide this anymore. So ... I had to figure out how to tell people.

"We can't." This answer brought an onslaught of questions I wasn't prepared to handle or answer. So I tried other responses like "We can't have our own children so we're looking at options." It became apparent people wouldn't be satisfied without details, but it wasn't really their business.

It seemed appalling to me that godly, well-meaning Christian people would say things like "You're just not trusting God, that's why you're not pregnant" or "You must have unconfessed sin in your life". This wasn't some sort of punishment, nor was it a matter of my faith in God.

Then there were the experts - everyone had a "story to share" and an opinion to add. So and so who adopted and then got pregnant, or so and so who tried infertility and had triplets. Listen, people. Let me get on my soapbox for a minute (it's my blog and I'm allowed). JUST STOP. Be still. Be Silent. Listen. But don't feel like you have to do anything other than pray. Oh how this has taught me to just be silent and listen. To not offer advice. To just let the person share their heart and their hurt and offer my prayers and nothing more. Please heed this. You don't have to say anything.

I knew all the statistics and stories. I did all the research. I understood every option and the implications of each. It wasn't for anyone else to decide. AND everyone's story and situation is different.

I remember the person who said to me that I wasn't trusting God...to which I responded, "This has everything to do with my faith in God, but nothing to do with me not trusting Him. Are we so foolish to put God in a box and think He can bless us with a child through only one natural way? I can't wait to see what HIS plan is!"

Here's where I need to speak to those who are NOT going through this. If you know someone who is or has, offer your prayers. Be supportive and encouraging. A listener. But don't ask every month. Don't ask specifics. Don't worry about offering advice. Just pray. We try so hard to fix it and take the pain away from another - I am the biggest offender! But just like the person who can't control their cancer diagnosis, someone dealing with infertility needs to be reminded that God has a plan and He is faithful ... and even more, His plan is not their plan.

Grief
For me personally, I did not experience ever getting pregnant. I know many who have experienced miscarriages and I cannot relate to the pain and grief they've gone through. What I can share of my own experience is that it still needs to be grieved.

Much like a death, I had to let myself experience the emotions of grief. I wasn't grieving the loss of life. I was grieving the death of a dream. My desire was to be pregnant and to give birth to a child that would bear my resemblance and shared DNA. Grief is a process so there were moments of denial where I knew surely if God wanted to do a miracle and prove the doctors wrong, HE COULD! There were emotions of anger and frustration and questions of why and how...none of which I could answer or explain. And just like grieving a death, there are moments you think you're "just fine" and moments when the slightest little thing can trigger the emotions all over again.

Infertility involves a whirlwind of emotions and it comes in waves. For the person walking through it right now, you have to let yourself feel.

On The Other Side
There was a long conversation I had with another adoptive mom who said to me "When you get on the other side, you'll see how God worked all of this out." Her words were true and I can now say - on the other side - that I do see how God worked. But at that time, in that moment, I wasn't on the other side.

Just yesterday I had a conversation with a father who recently lost his daughter in a tragic accident. And now, even months later, he's still experiencing waves of grief and emotion that resurface at the slightest memory and sometimes without warning. I shared my friend's same words of wisdom but with my own addition..."When you get on the other side, you'll see God's plan...but right now you're on THIS SIDE so you have to let yourself feel these emotions and go through this process."

That's what I learned. Yes, there is a plan. Yes, there will be the "other side" ... but for now you have to grow where you're planted. So if you're still on "this side" and not yet privy to the details of the plan and how it all works out, you've got to stay put. You've got to feel to heal. Work through the process and all the emotions. And don't try to rush ahead or jump the fence to the other side.

Hope
If you or someone you know is experiencing infertility, I can only offer simple words from a heart that understands. I'm not going to tell you what to do or choose. I'm not going to tell you to just relax or have more faith or trust God's timing.

What I have to say is this: First, you're not alone. For anyone who doesn't have someone to talk to or share with, please email me at carriehispraises@gmail.com and know I will offer whatever support and prayers I can. Second, if you're able, find a prayer partner or support group whom you can call on as you're dealing with these feelings and the ups and downs. You feel alone but when you can get to a point where you can share, I promise God's people will also receive a blessing in praying with you and believing with you on this journey. Third, understand that - it is a journey. It's a process. You will experience the emotions in waves. You know the cycle. It comes and goes. Mother's Day will most assuredly be a heart-wrenching day. I know. I've been there. I can now proudly stand and be recognized as a mom but I don't do it without remembering the years when I ached as I sat childless. Feel. It's okay to feel. To hurt and cry. To be upset. (If you're on any kind of fertility treatment, you have an heightened emotional and hormonal state already.) Just don't put it in "park" in any one emotion.

I will say this hoping you hear my heart: turn to the Lord. Because of this private, painful struggle you face, there aren't a lot of people you can turn to. But I can most assuredly tell you it was in this times of desperation and solitude when I truly sought God's face - not His hand - and where I found Him. (Jeremiah 29:13)

I know this post is LONG and won't apply to everyone. But someone needs to read this and if you need me, just know I'm here and I understand.

Friday, May 11, 2012

So Long, Farewell...

One of my favorite pictures of all-time.
A student's tribute to the people in his life
during college. My name (alpha-listing) is first.
I came onto campus and nearly overlooked that I didn't have to pass row after row of parked cars. I drove to the front and casually pulled in, as if it was my own reserved space. As I walked through the normally packed student center, I counted 2 people lounging and a sea of open couches and tables. How many days have I waited and waited for a table to open up but now I could have had my choice of seats. When I ordinarily had to navigate my way through crowded halls and trip over bodies moving in swarms, I now didn't pass a single person on my long walk through the building. The bustling has subsided. It's the calm before the storm because today's desolate campus is almost a facade compared to the 34,000 people expected to swarm the university tomorrow.

The truth is despite the barrenness and absence of people, there's still an excitement in the air. It feels like Christmas Eve, although my ode to "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" may be more appropriately sung on Monday when campus is EMPTY and I'll belt my rendition of "School's out for the summer"!

I've been given the awesome privilege of playing a part in investing in many of these college graduates during their tenure here. Each year the freshmen class comes in wide-eyed and excited. And each year the senior class goes out with a different kind of wide-eyed excitement as they enter the great big world of reality they've worked so hard to prepare for. I feel like a proud mama having helped some of these lives change their major, develop their skills through internships and jobs, make life-changing decisions that would alter their course, and take steps toward their futures, careers and God's will for them as they sought counsel and advice sitting in my office, over lunch or through a workshop or presentation.

It's bittersweet for me knowing this was the goal all along. Seeing their dreams come to fruition, helping them discover their potential and cultivating that as they pursue who God has created them to be. Somehow along the journey I built relationships and managed friendships as I prepared them to go, despite the fact that I remain.

This is not my job. This is part of my calling. From the time I was a little girl, I've felt emotionally responsible for the well-being of others. But through each relationship, through each student, as I continue to pour my own life into the lives of others, what I've come to learn about myself is the ability to see something in another and work to draw it out and develop it. This is what was done for me. People put into my life who saw the potential for leadership and pushed me to develop that. Someone who recognized an ability to care and counsel and sought to help me discover it, too. Another who poured into me the importance of stopping in the moment to pause, pray or simply listen to whatever need was at hand. And now it is what I see to do in others.

To the Class 2012 I say congratulations! Your hard work doesn't come to an end; rather what you've invested the past few years learning and developing in yourself will now be the launching pad for the future God has planned for you. We've been on this journey together, many of us, and while I remain behind just know I am cheering you on as you go. See, what God planned for me to do some 11 years ago was to walk across the same stage and get a degree from the same university where He'd plant me and give me roots. Those roots run deep, drawing from Him as my source so that I might be able to further see the seeds not just planted but also scattered, watered and cultivated. I have "kids" all over the country. A few across the world. Thank you for letting me spend my life investing in yours.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What's Your Story?

I had the awesome privilege of being the keynote speaker at a regional writer's awards ceremony. 116 students, Kindergarten through 12th grade, plus 250 parents, teachers and other family members, gathered to be honored for winning writing contests. They represented a half dozen counties and dozens of schools; not to mention varying in age from 5 to 65. I was already wondering how on earth I had been chosen to impart words of wisdom and encouragement to these aspiring authors, journalists and novelists, let alone find applicable material for my vast audience.

I am often asked where I find the inspiration to write my blog. Not because what I shared is anything of grandeur, but I want to share a different kind of post with you and offer the words I gave to these young writers. You may not be a writer or a blogger or even a tweeter, but I believe the premise applies to each and everyone of us no matter what kind of forum or platform we're given to share.

There are two main points: 1. Tell your story and 2. Be a leader.

As I traveled with ministry teams in college I learned something: even the quietest, shyest, most introverted person can be drawn out when you start asking them to talk about themselves. When you start to peel back the layers and discover who a person has been designed to be at their core, it is a beautiful example of how God has created us so uniquely. These characteristics and personalities all contribute to the person and their experiences...and they make up a story.

You have a message. You have a mission. You have a motive. What is it you can share? What are you passionate about? What is your purpose? Tell your story.

My next challenge to the group was that in giving a voice to their story - whether written or spoken - it propells them to a place of influence. Whatever you're sharing of yourself has the potential to impact others. And so to this technology-infused generation, I cautioned them to choose their words wisely and not use their skill as a weapon. Rather, to share the gifts, talents, and stories in such a way that their passion is seen and it causes others to be inspired, impacted, influenced.

You might be reading this and thinking I'm crazy if I am suggesting you start your own blog (then again, there are some of you reading this who have a blog but just simply won't make it public!) ... We're all gifted differently. But we all have a story to share and lives to influence. I don't know what kind of platform God has given you - whether a stage, a blog, a card, a hug, a word of encouragement, an email, a bible study, a job, a paper route, a neighborhood... What you've gone through has shaped you. What God has done in you, He now wants to work through you. And as you share - in whatever capacity you've been given - your life and your story has the ability to impact others. You may be the quietest, shyest, most introverted person in the room, but God wants to use you and your life as an example to lead and guide others.

So I ask...will you share? What's your story? You might not be standing on stage or blogging about it, but someone wants to hear it. (Including me!)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Happy Birthday Elijah!


May 9, 2008. I can't really recall what I was doing that day. It was a Friday and the day before graduation so I am left to assume I was wrapped up in the festivities and a full day of work. I have no great memory of anything significant that day so I truly can't recall it. Little did I know...

Sara would be admitted to the hospital to be induced because the baby inside her was feared to not be growing. I don't know how long her labor was. I don't even know the exact time she delivered. I recall being told it was some time in the afternoon. All the while, I would have been diligently working away, completely obvlivious to the happenings in a hospital 15 minutes away. Little did I know this birthmother would have a labor coach who used to work for our business years prior. Little did I know that labor coach was someone I had shared with in bible study, someone who had heard me offer up prayer requests of my desire to be a mother. Little did I know that even though I had no idea what was taking place, that labor coach would be witnessing the birth of a child whom Sara would call "Riley" and whom I would later call "son."

He would enter this world weighing just 4 lbs 11 oz in what I'm told were a scary few moments because he wasn't breathing. After intibation he quickly found his lungs but not before being taken to NICU to be checked out. Little did I know a NICU nurse would be tenderly giving this baby boy his first bath. She knew he was being placed for adoption and as she washed his tiny body she prayed over him and his life. Little did I know that very nurse was someone I'd attended church with for years. Little did I know that very nurse who gave this little boy his first bath was my best friend's roommate in college. Little did I know that even from his birth, prayers were being prayed over him by godly people who were with him in his first hours, despite the fact that I was still unaware he even existed.

The only memory I have of that "time" was two days later on Mother's Day when I sat in church with an aching heart, fighting back tears and hiding the emptiness I felt because I couldn't stand and be recognized as a mother. Little did I know my son had already been born, we just had yet to meet or know one another.

May 9, 2008. I wasn't there that day. I didn't experience the labor pains, but I felt the pains of God shaping and molding my heart to prepare me to be a mother. I wasn't growing physically, but I was being stretched spiritually, trusting in God's faithfulness. I didn't feel him kick in my womb, but I was battling the emotions waging war inside me. I didn't have a due date, but I waited expectantly.  I didn't experience those moments of panic when a tiny life was without breath, but there were moments where God took my own breath away as I waited and prayed. I didn't give him his first bath, but I was already bathing him in prayer. I wasn't the first to call his name, but even as I was calling on the name of the Lord, Creator God was forming him and planning all the days of his life.

It was 4 years ago today and little did I know then, I now know the plan God had. I didn't give him life, but I thank God for his life. He was not knit together in my womb, but he has been interwoven into the depths of my heart.

He is my sandy-blonde-haired, brown-eyed handsome little man that providentially looks like he belongs right in the family!
He is my always-on-the-go, full-of-energy, non-stop, just-like-his-mama active boy.
He is a melt-your-heart-gentleman giving compliments and saying "I love you" clear out of the blue.
He is full of mischief and ready to test the limits at a moment's notice (or without any warning at all).
He is also full of joy and usually bounds out of bed with a smile on his face.
He is creative and imaginative as he escapes to his world of make believe.
He is at peace when he is outdoors, no matter what the weather or temperature.
He is our little boy and today we celebrate him!

Happy 4th Birthday Elijah Riley!

A Mother's Prayer

Monday, May 7, 2012

It Is Well

I stood to sing today. It's something I've done a thousand times before. Familiar hymns at that, Amazing Grace and It is Well With My Soul. Who knows how many times I've sung them.  But there was nothing familiar or comfortable about voicing these songs today.

Today I stood to sing with a podium as the only barrier between me and the coffin. Inside the body of a 69 year old man suddenly killed after a tragic accident. The story made the news but there were no reporters today, just hundreds there to honor a life lost.

Just beyond the coffin sat his widow. I looked straight into her tear-filled eyes as I sang the words, "When peace like a river attendeth my way; When sorrows like sea billows roll..."

Next to her was the daughter mourning her daddy, tears streaming as I sang to her, "Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say..."

I wanted them to not just hear the words and notes but to find solace in the promise that maybe not today, but someday they'd be able to say, "It IS well with my soul."

With standing room only, people stood as examples of lives touched by the testimony and life of one man and his impact while on earth. His nephew wrote of experience after experience that all lead to life lessons. Lessons from the life of this man who served as a firefighter and taught those around him to be prepared and expect the unexpected. Now his unexpected death was being mourned by many, but his life was being celebrated because of his impact.

Tomorrow isn't guaranteed but while we've been given today, this moment, what impact are we making? Is my life worth a room full of people who would share of life experiences and lessons they've learned because of my example? How can you really know the impact you've had on someone and the lasting impression it might leave in their life?

How many moments I have wasted, I don't even want to add them up. But the challenge is before me to make every moment count. 

The other thing I've been trying to process is how you bring yourself to a point where you can wade through the grief, suffer through the pain, persevere through the trial, overcome the circumstance...and be able to say "It is well with my soul..." Are you facing the unthinkable? Dealing with the unbearable? How does your soul find rest despite the raging storm?

It may not be today, but someday, may our souls find that solace.

Today I celebrate life. Today I honor service, life lessons, family, friends, impact, and a life of meaning. Today I offered up the sacrifice of song to a grieving widow in hopes that one day she, too, can say it is well with her soul.


Accident

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Just Breathe...

"How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe." Daniel 10:17

Have you ever experienced this? How can you even utter a word to the Lord when your strength is gone and you can barely breathe?

Are you stressed?
Just breathe...

Do you ever feel overwhelmed?
Just breathe...

Have you gotten so bogged down under the weight of the pressure?
Just breathe...

Do you ever feel as though you simply can't make the right decision?
Just breathe...

Do you feel as though the decisions are so daunting you don't have the ability to even decide?
Just breathe...

Do you ever experience such anxiety it cripples you to a helpless state?
Just breathe...

Do you feel as though the waves might consume you?
Just breathe...

Do you ever feel as though peace escapes you?
Just breathe...

"Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him." Psalm 62:5

Breathe in. Breathe out. One simple breath at a time.

With each inhale, take Him in. Find rest in His presence. Breathe in His goodness. Absorb His peace.

With each exhale, whisper His name. Release the pressure. Let go of the overwhelming circumstance. Remove that which seeks to strangle the life out of you.

For this moment, what consumes you may take your breath away. It may bring you to a point of immobilization. You may not be able to move but all you have to remember to do is breathe. Just breathe. He breathes His life inside of you.

"Let everything that breathes sing praises to the LORD! Praise the LORD!" Psalm 150:6

You may not be able to handle your circumstance. You don't have to rejoice over your present state. You might not be experiencing joy through what you're facing. You may not be able to muster any semblance of normalcy in what you feel. Even if the air around you is so polluted by your situation, you can breathe in His goodness and breathe out praise unto the Lord.

Stop. Be still. Breathe in. Breathe out. Just breathe.

"Here" - Kari Jobe

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I Bleed When Pricked

I ended up with one of the worst migraines I've had in a very long time. I couldn't open my eyes because I was so sensitive to any ray of light. I could barely feel my arm and hand because they both kept tingling with numbness. I was so nauseated I couldn't eat. I actually had tears falling because I hurt so badly. I was unable to function.  It resulted in such debilitating pain I found myself in the doctor's office waiting to get a shot of pain medication.

As the nurse pricked my arm with the needle that would deliver the medicine to help me feel better, I heard her remark, "Oops, you bleed when pricked, huh?" I looked down to see drops of blood where the needle had pricked my skin. Ordinarily the sight of blood would cause me to be queazy but I was in so much pain I couldn't even bring myself to care.

It's true. I bleed when pricked.

I've found myself in such a debilitating state that I can't move or function. I've been rendered useless because of my actions, my sin, and even worse, my pride.

I've been numb to my cirumstance and my own actions that have resulted in my paralyzed state.

I've found myself  blinded by the light that seeks to reveal the areas I've so desperately tried to conceal.

I've been literally physically sick to my stomach because of the wretchesness of my choices and my decisions.

:Layer after layer can be built around my hardened heart but one truth remains...I bleed when pricked.

So I'm left with this fact and the reality that all it takes is one prick.

If I will but allow the Lord that one tiny place where He can enter in and deliver the redeeming balm I so desperately need...

If I surrender my lifeless, helpless state and allow Him to inject His Spirit into me...

If I give over my pain and numbness and allow Him to restore my feelings with His words of truth...

If I let Him prick my heart, it will bleed...

I bleed when pricked. And I'm glad to know that, because I can be wounded by words, framed by failure, shamed by sin, paralyzed by pain...but deep within is still a beating, bleeding heart. And this heart, as crushed as it's been at times, still beats and bleeds for the God who has saved it. I'm undeserving of His love. I'm unworthy of His forgiveness. But whether broken or hardened, my heart is His. Amidst the pieces and beneath the layers, it still bleeds for Him.