Saturday, August 24, 2013

All the Single Ladies

In the past week I've been approached or encountered by an unnamed number of women, all in different situations, but all facing some kind of heartache in their relationship or marriage. From breakups to betrayals to walking out and those blinded by lies they've been sold... I've walked through it ALL and I can't say it's any easier watching others face the same heartache.

I've witnessed women desperate for love subject themselves to companionship just for the sake of filling the emptiness. I've seen the insecurity eat away at confidence until women are so defeated they settle for anything less than God's very best. I've watched as rejection and scorn have broken, even hardened, hearts. I've heard the stories of innocence being corrupted because someone finally told them what they're longing to hear.

More and more, with each story and with each circumstance, I'm convinced the battle we face is not of this world. There is a very real and very imminent spiritual attack the Enemy is waging against us. All he needs is a chink in the armor - an insecurity, a rejection, a lie, a broken heart, a lonely night, an aching life... And you'd better believe he will find it. He'll aim right for it.

The very thing you think you are, or the very thing you fear you're not, is exactly where he will "meet your need." At least at first. It comes in a beautiful disguise of everything your heart desires. Masked by the false ability to fill a longing, this deception creeps in to infiltrate every feeling, taking captive every thought, holding hostage each desire.

On the flip side are the breaking hearts, begging God for a miracle. Seeking Sovereign intervention and praying for their hearts to be heard. They may be innocent victims. They may not have ever asked for this heartache, or this season of singleness. They may abhor it at their very core, but they may be completely out of control to do anything about it.

Believe me, I know you don't have to even be single to be alone. Sometimes that can be one of the most heartbreaking kinds of loneliness. Regardless of Miss, Mrs. or Ms., your heart may be concealing a heap of hurt that you aren't even letting onto. If you find yourself in any one of these situations, the only thing I know to share with you is a scripture that I clung to for years:

For your Maker is your husband-- the LORD Almighty is his name...
The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit-- a wife who married young, only to be rejected," says your God.
For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great compassion I will take you back.

Let me add a quick disclaimer. Some of you may have read the title and thought to dismiss this blog altogether. As I've said repeatedly, this blog is not "for" anyone. It's my own thoughts. Take them or leave them. They're usually my own experiences and always honest. Whatever state you find yourself in, married or not, happy or miserable, I encourage you to be on guard against the attacks of the Enemy. I plead with you to first and foremost seek The Lord. Even those of us born and raised in the church and baptized in the Word can be so easily led astray when it is our hearts leading us and not the wisdom from the foundation of God's Word at the helm.

You may be grappling with feelings of bitterness, betrayal, anger, even denial. You may be fighting depression and insecurity. You may be battling the reality of the place you find yourself in, but I pray you'll find comfort in God's Words, claiming Him as your husband, regardless of the title you already bear. Claim His promise to bring you back, regardless of how you ended up in this place. Let yourself feel the compassion He has on you, knowing your distress, seeing your loneliness, feeling your ache. The LORD Almighty is His name. NOTHING is impossible for Him. Whether this is just a season that will pass or a lifestyle you've accepted, it doesn't have to be a state of heart or mind. Just know there's someone who knows what you're feeling, facing and battling. Just know you're not alone, no matter how lonely you feel.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The First Day of Kindergarten



Twas the night before Kindergarten and a very anxious and excited little boy was fighting sleep. He used every excuse in the book to stay awake but he finally got to me when he said he was scared about his new school. We prayed, again, I read the book "The Night Before Kindergarten," again, and then recited his (and my) favorite memory verse, "What time I am afraid, I will trust in God." It helped put us both at ease. 

The morning came and a wake up call from his favorite Kindergarten teacher and aunt along with his cousin helped get him up and at'em. But he wasn't jumping out of bed, mostly because he was just tired from having been up past his bedtime. That didn't stop him from being his typical "full-of-himself" Eli. 

Then we headed to school. I was a ball of nerves the whole way there. I felt ridiculous for being emotional. I kept checking on him and he was quiet, serious. Not his usual self. I'm not going to lie - I fought back tears as I left him sitting at his desk. His nervous little look didn't help. "Mom, are you staying the whole day?" he asked. I assured him I'd be in the building and back to pick him up in just a few hours. He was trying to be brave so I tried to be too. 

After the parents toured the school and had opportunity for Q&A, I had a much calmer demeanor. As I stood in the gym waiting for my car rider, I was delighted when he came running and shouting, "MOMMY!" He was smiling from ear-to-ear, dimple and all, and my heart was happy. The peace I had so earnestly prayed for was finally washing over me. 

As if that wasn't enough, as we headed out the door, he stopped and said bye to a little boy. I looked at the boy and then up at his mom. We both seemed to exchange smiles of relief. "Did you make a new friend," I asked. They both nodded and then Eli gave him a hug. It was the moms turn to introduce ourselves and laugh off the worries of the day. One thing I had specifically prayed for was for God to give him a friend. I don't know if this little guy will be the answer to that prayer, but it was at least God's way of telling me, "Carrie, I told you, I've got this!" Yes, yes He does. 

Eli is still getting used to his new school. He told me at bedtime he wanted to be a Tiger and not a Bee (change of mascots). I suppose I don't blame him. Although he was practicing Tiger growls and Coyote howls while he was once again supposed to be sleeping. I'd be much happier if he were practicing the softer buzz of a bumbling bee. Or sleeping. Yes, I'd much rather that. 

I'm not the mom who doesn't want her son to grow up. I'm not the one wishing time would stand still. That's not why I've been emotional about all of this. If I had to sit down and truly pinpoint my roller coaster emotions it's that I want the very best for my boy. I want him to grow up and succeed and achieve. I want him to learn and grow and experience. I want him to make friends and develop. But at the heart of ALL of this, my deepest desire is for him to become all that God created him to be.

You see, I'm keenly aware of the fact that I had NOTHING to do with creating him. I can't take one ounce of credit for bringing him into the world so surrendering him to God for his whole life isn't exactly the issue. It's wanting to make sure he fulfills that which he was created for, and that is another area of surrender. I have to find my rightful place that God has entrusted and created me for. Fulfilling my responsibility to train him up in the way he should go, to teach him scripture and pray over him and leave the rest to the God who breathed His very own breath into his lungs while fashioning his body and planning all the days of his life, even today, the first day of Kindergarten. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Black Hawk Down

They call them helicopter parents because they hover. Recently the most controlling, hovering, and over-involved parents have been labeled "Black Hawk." You know the type. You may be one. Believe me, I am not casting judgment. You know I am way-too-honest.

I guess I'm here to ask the question - is it so bad to be considered a black hawk? Able to perform a variety of missions, a tactical transport that serves in conflict? If you are a Black Hawk, you don't back down. If you are a Black Hawk, you never retreat from your mission. If you are a Black Hawk, you ALWAYS follow through.

Okay, I get it. If we're talking about helicopters - the actual flying machine - then yes, you want a Black Hawk. If we're talking about parents - especially if you're a teacher - you do NOT want a Black Hawk.

I admit to being hyper-aware, overly sensitive and ridiculously concerned over every choice I make for my child. Chalk it up to a lot of things, among which includes adoption, blended families, the sheer amount of changes and circumstances that have been presented in his young little life. None of which provide me with a decent excuse. But it does lead me to the all-important and hugely drastic life change we're about to face. Kindergarten. (Yes, I said we.)

Registration was yesterday. Orientation is Monday and his very first full day of Kindergarten is Tuesday. Admittedly, I'm a mess. M-E-S-S! Someone asked me last night why this is so difficult considering I've been a working mom since the day he was placed in my arms. Not to mention the fact that he was already in a full-day pre-k program all last year. So what exactly IS the problem?!

A new school. A new system. A new process. LOTS of changes. We don't know anyone. We don't know how things work. We don't yet have friends. We don't have any context for this. Yes, we. Get over it.

He was nervous too, begging me to hold him, hiding behind my legs as we entered the school to register. But he proved to be a lot more adaptable as he walked into the classroom, introduced himself to the teacher, and immediately started making friends as he played quietly on the carpet. I listened as he used his manners, "Excuse me," he said to a little girl who had something he wanted. I smiled with pride, knowing full well he could have yanked it right out of her hand and caused a scene. I was so grateful he didn't.

I left the school with a nervous feeling still in the pit of my stomach. I didn't get all my questions answered. I didn't get all the information I felt I needed. I still felt uncertain about many things. In not-my-finest moment I scoured the internet, google-searched, tried to Facebook stalk (unsuccesfully, I should add) and tried to "research" more. Nothing. I was going to have to remain a "mess" with all these unanswered questions and looming nervousness. I'm not ready for this!!!

It took the patience of my Knight and the encouragement of a dear friend to truly change my perspective. "Carrie, have you considered that Elijah has been placed in this school and with this teacher for God's purposes? Maybe they need him as much as he needs them."

May-day, may-day! We've been hit. Black Hawk Down!

Busted. And I'm glad for it! Why was my sight so limited? Why was I refusing to truly hand this over to the Lord? Do I not trust Him? Do I not know that this child I prayed for is the same child I must surrender ALL THE DAYS OF HIS LIFE (as I so recently wrote about)? EVEN THIS...EVEN KINDERGARTEN...I have to surrender.

You can rest assured I will join the PTA, volunteer at the school and attend field trips. But I'm determined to do my best to let God have this - my fear, anxiety, concern - and yes, even my son.

Get ready, Kindergarten. You're about to have a wonderful little boy, bright and imaginative, excited to learn and ready to meet people. He will bless you, as I know he blesses me every day, and he is more than ready. His mom, well, she's going to leave the covert missions for the trained tactile team he's been entrusted with.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Another Chance

It almost seems cliche. Of course God gives us a second chance. And third, and fourth, and fiftieth. It only seems obvious to ask why on earth would we need ANOTHER CHANCE?! Once we recognize the fullness of grace we've received, grateful to be redeemed and anxious to shout His praises for the work He's done, why do we put ourselves in the same position that requires yet another chance?

Not once, not twice, but three times Peter failed. Not once, not twice, but three times confronted with temptation he succumbed. Over, and over, and over again he lost sight of the call the Lord had placed on his life. Repeatedly he refused to make the right choice. Continuously he faltered in his faith. Three times he gave into the weakness of his flesh. (Luke 22:54-62)

Lord knows I'm not beating up on Peter. Ashamedly, I've been too much like him.

"The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter..." v. 61

Peter's triplet denial of Christ is not a new story, but I'd never caught this before. The look of his Savior in the midst of the denial. I imagine Christ looked directly into his soul. It wasn't just that he denied Christ - it was that just a few feet away, Jesus was being mocked, harassed, beaten and battered while Peter was within earshot and eyesight disowning him. 

I can imagine the look of horror at the realization. I can feel the stinging tears as he wept bitterly. I can sense the weight of guilt that buried him. I can understand the haunting images of reliving that dreadful moment, wishing he had chosen differently, beating himself up over and over and over again, knowing the punishment he put himself through would never reconcile his soul.

We know about the reinstatement of Peter in John 21. Three times he denied the Lord and three times the Lord asks and lovingly instructs him. But before that exchange ever occurs, Peter has resolved to live under the oppression of guilt, the rendering of himself useless and unworthy, and he reverts back to who he was before he ever met Christ.

"I'm going out to fish," Peter says in John 21:3. Not fishing for men like he had learned from his Lord, but literally fishing for fish. He spent all night and caught nothing. I imagine he must have felt like a complete and utter failure at that point. He denied Christ, failed as a disciple, and now couldn't even catch a fish. <Enter the self-loathing and imminent pity party.>

If the devil doesn't knock us down with repeated attacks at the same weakness, then he buries us underneath the weight of guilt to render us useless.

This is exactly where Christ found him. It's right where He meets us, too. That feeling of hurt, remorse, guilt and pain is where God plants the seeds of grace. It's where He cultivates our hearts to grow. It's where He brings rest to our souls. It's where He asks us to build an altar in reverence and in worship as we remember His atoning sacrifice for us. 

As we honor His grace at work in our lives, He begins to remove the layers of unclean rags and robes us with His righteousness. He helps us shed the weight of guilt by taking our burden and replacing it with His yoke that is light. We build an altar of remembrance and we honor our Lord for taking our place. We are mindful of our undeserving place of grace, yet we never take for granted the God of another chance. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Shrinking

I'm shrinking. It's true.

The house I grew up in since I was 8 has a chart on the wall in my parents' master bedroom. There are hash marks all along the wall, noting the growth of us "kids" and in recent years adding the grandkids. Each mark has a name and date to indicate growth. It's funny to see the barely two feet tall marks from the little ones.

E's 5 year check-up had him measured at the doctor but it was time to measure his growth on the wall. Just for kicks, I thought I'd measure up...only I didn't.

Almost a half inch. That's how much height I've lost since the last measurement several years ago. It seems odd, considering I waited until college to hit a several-inch growth spurt. Then again, college was...ahem...more than a decade ago.

So the descent has begun. I was claiming every single bit of my 5 feet 4 and one quarter inches. I guess I'm thankful I have a really good 3-4" inch heel collection! Nonetheless, I'm not too happy about the vertical effort I've lost.

Just the other day I was teaching E a song I learned in bible school:

"Read your bible, pray everyday and you'll grow, GROW, GROW!!!"

The next verse is what got me.

"Don't read your bible, forget to pray, and you'll SHRINK, Shrink, shrink..."

It's a harsh reality - but true. I'm asking the question of myself - am I growing or shrinking?

You can't be a "spiritual giant" if you aren't daily nurturing and feeding your soul. I am ashamed to admit my stunted growth.

I wonder what my "spiritual growth chart" would look like on the wall of my life. I imagine the hash marks would be up and down. I could probably pinpoint dates of growth and yet others of spiritual shrinkage.

I guess the good news is, unlike my lost half inch of height, this is one type of growth I can control. This is one vertical challenge I can rise to meet. This is an area where I may not always measure up, but it's one that I can choose to focus my efforts on and achieve growth.

How about you? Are you growing or shrinking today? The simple recipe in that childhood song is a great reminder to this adult of how to get my height back!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

For This Child I Prayed

A few months ago I shared about failures and frustrations in parenting. Today I've been challenged to look at myself and motherhood by several blogs floating around. There's something I need to share. It comes straight from my heart. I realize this is going to be one of the most brutally honest blogs I may have ever written. It's not for the faint of heart, that is for sure. And I'm sure it won't come without judgement. One thing I know to be true is that I'm not alone in this.

Yesterday my son went home from the sitter with a fever...only he didn't come home to me. This is one of those harsh realities of divided families. Mommies are supposed to care for their sick little ones. When you're sick, you usually want your mommy. But he wasn't with me. I couldn't hold him. I couldn't give him medicine. I couldn't be there for him. There was nothing I could personally, physically do for him.

At the heart of this issue are so many things wrapped up in the consequences and pain, the children who truly suffer, and every other nasty aftermath from divorce. We'd need another blog for it all. But one thing is certain - It's challenged me and my place as a mother.

I won't always be present. I won't always be able to nurture or care. I won't always be around to guide and direct decisions. I won't always be there for him. But whatever the circumstance I can assure you that this painful process has taught me to kneel before I can ever rise to the occasion as a 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. This is true for any parent, whatever your status or situation. It's an interesting thought to offer ourselves as living sacrifices yet cling so tightly to the very thing that we should be willing to offer Him. We see the example of Abraham offering Isaac. Hannah also reminds us of this in 1 Samuel 1:27-28. We quote the first part of this verse but it seems the second part of it is often left out.

"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? I have turned him back 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?!?!

For this child I have prayed - 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!!!