It doesn’t have to be that way

I’m absolutely heartbroken by the news of Robin William’s death. Not because I claim to have a personal relationship to him, or that we had some special bond, or even because I enjoyed him immeasurably as an actor. But because of my renewed awareness for the thousands, millions, of people who have not tapped into the source that provides peace beyond all circumstances. Jesus.

Jesus is the source that brings peace beyond all circumstances.

I don’t make this claim because I’ve had some easy foofy life that allows me to walk around with blinders on saying, “peace man”. I grew up with 8 siblings and one union workers’ income – not exactly the lap of luxury. I was a victim of sexual abuse. I had some pretty messed up world views as a teenager and young adult. I had a marriage that was frayed to a single thread, ready to snap for good. I sought, and acquired, all the wrong things trying to find happiness – partying, career, money, houses, cars, boats, vacations. But depression, fear, anxiety, inferiority, and unworthiness still subverted the peace in my life. It was only when I heard the gospel of Jesus and accepted Him into my life that my heart was filled with peace. A peace beyond circumstances – none of those situations have changed about my life – I still was poor, abused, and broken. But today I walk in peace every day, calling on Jesus when any one of those old emotions tries to drag me down again. He has never failed me.

Jesus is calling out, screaming out, to each of us every day. On billboards, in churches, through miraculous events large and small, in the longest running book in print in the history of the world – the bible, in opportunities to meet him – like this blog post, on bumper stickers, through friends, in dreams, even on t-shirts in Walmart now. But so many people, millions, turn away from Him. They can’t possibly believe it could be true. But what does not believing cost? Robin Williams. It costs a life where depression and fear and anxiety and unworthiness control us, sometimes to the point of no return.

Don’t let another day go by where you turn your back on His call. Find Jesus today, and find peace.

John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I’m Not Going Back to Egypt

I’ve heard the story of the whiny Israelites complaining to go back to Egypt hundreds of times. God hears their prayers begging for freedom, He saves them from 400 years of oppressive slavery by the Egyptians, parts the Red Sea for them to escape the army of soldiers bearing down on them, provides them food every morning and evening, and leads them toward the promised land. But even after all these miraculous events, the Israelites fret at every inconvenience they stumble on and whine to go back to Egypt, saying that slavery would be better than dying in the desert.

It’s been so easy for me to scoff at this faithless and untrusting brood of people. I mean c’mon, He parted the RED SEA afterall! Until I got whomped in the face this morning while reading this story yet again. I’m 7 months into this faith walk, of God leading me out of the slavery of corporate America, into the promised land of being what He created me to be, a writer. That means 7 months without a paycheck, just to be straight here. I have yet to not put food on my table, or to not buy my kids necessary clothes, or to not pay a bill, or to fall into debt. 7 months without a paycheck. But as the 30th of every month looms closer and closer, I invariably start questioning whether I should turn back and look for a job, wondering how the bills are going to get paid THIS time. No matter what miracles I’ve watched over the last 7 months, I still go forward with faltering faith, wondering when I should run back to Egypt and find a job. A job that (for me) means slow death by stress and exhaustion. But I wouldn’t have to worry about food on my table… oh, which God is already providing for me…

So, this chick is staying put. I’m going to walk this out to the end and stop looking backward wondering when to “save” myself. God is the only one who can save me. It’s in His hands.

Take One More Step

Jesus knows exactly what it takes to get a response from this world. He knows that things have to hit rock bottom crisis mode to get someone to listen and respond to your needs. And He will use it to maneuver your life for His purpose and your benefit.

If you’ve not read my previous posts about my adopted son, you can check them here, http://bit.ly/17HYhoc http://bit.ly/1mIL86X In short, 3 months ago I found a homicidal note in his room about me. This was the final blow I could bear after years of being subject to the behavioral manifestations of a child with abandonment trauma, kidnap trauma, neglect trauma, and starvation trauma. This was rock bottom, crisis mode. We started researching residential programs and re-adoption options to move him out of the house. But amidst the confusion and disorientation and strife of living in crisis mode, I clung to a biblical truth that everyday fought for a minutia of my attention. That breaking up a family could not possibly be the Lord’s will. After living through the destruction that the breakup of a marriage causes, I knew somewhere in a lighted corner of my then very darkened world that breaking up a family in any way would be just as catastrophic. So although I could go no further, the Lord asked me to take one more step, and I did.

Stepping through that darkness brought me into a light that only He could orchestrate. A homicidal note is a crisis situation that gets attention from the world, including a massive response from an otherwise untapped wealth of therapeutic resources available through our county health system. Following one phone call to the Department of Health and Services explaining this note, we have received an avalanche of support that I so desperately needed. A team of therapists comes to my home 2-3 times/week to give Tadi intensive therapy at my kitchen table while I cook dinner for the family. The Lord arranged it such that the team lead for this group is a woman with 4 children adopted from the Ukraine (Tadi x 4, nightmare!!!). She understands him through the depths of her own suffering. After 40 intensive in-home visits, they will then transfer us to outpatient therapy for some unspecified period of time (as long as we need it). The cost to me for these services is $0.00 and will continue to be $0.00. Services that even when employed, I would have been unable to pay for due to the intensive nature of them. Tadi’s progress toward healing has skyrocketed and my knowledge of his traumas has exploded. All of this because of a crisis situation that I chose to step through with faith in our Lord Jesus.

Jesus knows exactly what He’s doing. When you are in your darkest hour just remember that the Lord’s hand is at work. He knows exactly what it takes to get a response from this world and He will use it to maneuver your life. So when you’ve hit rock bottom and you can’t possibly go any further, remember in your darkest hour awaits your greatest glory. Take one more step.

“Christianity is a Crutch”

A friend of mine once told me that Christianity is a crutch. He believes that it is a religion for weak people to lean on to make it through life. At the time, my Jesus muscles weren’t big enough to rebut him eloquently and influentially, so I snickered under my breath and let the comment pass. But I’ve thought about it often. I’ve thought about it as I’ve walked through the fires of trauma, addiction, marital strain, financial pressure, job stress, broken friendships, and more. Not wallowing over the fact that these things have happened to me, but that I’ve chosen to walk into the fire of refinement to overcome them because Jesus was leading me and pushing me there. Walking through the scorching pain of having my pride torn down and my world view radically altered and being stripped of the need to control my environment which felt literally like I was going to die and having my hands pried open to release my money into His kingdom, has felt like anything but a crutch.

I was reminded of this “crutch” comment again during my morning bible reading. “The Cost of Being a Disciple”, Luke 14:25-35

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+14%3A25-35&version=NIV

Here is the explanation of these verses (taken from the Life Application Study Bible by Tyndale and Zondervan):

“When a builder doesn’t count the cost or estimates (the cost of a building) inaccurately, the building may be left uncompleted. Will you abandon the Christian life after a little while because you did not count the cost of commitment to Jesus? What are those costs? Christians may face loss of social status or wealth. They have to give up control over their money, their time, or their career. They may be hated, separated from their family, and even put to death. Following Christ does not mean a trouble-free life. We must carefully count the cost of becoming Christ’s disciples so that we will know what we are getting into and won’t be tempted later to turn back.”

And here is an excerpt of the definition of “crutch” on dictionary.com:

1. a staff or support to assist a lame or infirm person in walking

3. anything that serves as a temporary and often inappropriate support, supplement, or substitute; prop: He uses liquor as a psychological crutch.

Thinking these aren’t the same… just sayin’.

There is no crutch about Christianity, only the promise of a peace that transcends all understanding when you step out the backside of the furnace. Freedom from fear and oppression and addiction and brokenness. If your walk with Jesus is painful right now because He is tearing down who you thought you were, march on soldier, you’re headed in the right direction. If your walk with the Lord is not now or has never been painful, it’s time to throw away your crutch and step into the fire with Him. Hand Him your life today.

The Littlest Creature

My daughters have a hamster. His name is Stan. Although this mama was vehemently opposed to the addition of this creature to our family, his friendly demeanor and supple coat found its way into my heart. So Stan has successfully elevated his status from rodent to pet in our family.

It would seem that Stan is vying for a new promotion amongst our ranks, bible teacher. He hit the scene with a surprise lesson the other morning… 5am to be exact… that God really does care about the littlest things in our lives. Stan found himself free of his homey habitat and shivering with fear behind a suitcase under our bed in the wee hours after his rooftop door was left open the previous night. The story of glory is in the adventure of his trek in which only a divine guiding hand could have maneuvered him through. There are at least three insurmountable obstacles he had to overcome on his journey:

1)      Avoiding a date with a 12ft drop from the second story hall to the family room below which sits immediately behind his cage.

2)      Eluding starvation by bypassing refuge in the nearest bedroom, my daughter’s, in which he would have become like ET enveloped in an outrageous pile of stuffed animals and undetectable for days until his stench led us to his whereabouts.

3)      Miraculously escaping the jowls of my 75lb golden retriever after having been buried inside them as he was dripping with saliva when we finally rescued him.

After safely tucking Stan back into his cage, I crawled back into bed thanking God I didn’t have to deliver a fatality story to the girls in the morning. I was immediately reminded of the scripture that says, look at the flowers of the field, they do not worry what they will wear, and look at the birds of the air, they do not worry what they will eat; the Lord provides for these and doesn’t He love you all the more?

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+6%3A25-34&version=NIV

God was basically saying to me, “See, I do care. I have you covered even when you’re not looking.”

Today, know that God does care about every part of your life. He has you covered. He will provide all that you need when you put your faith in Him. Every little creature on this earth, whether a flower or a hamster or a problem or a relationship, is under His care. When you meditate on this and relinquish control to His will, He will see you safely back home.

Speak Life

I woke up to a great TobyMac song in my mind this morning, Speak Life, which prompts this post.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeBv9r92VQ0&feature=kp

One of the *great* manifestations of my having been abused as a child is to have lived with a perpetual expectation of impending death. This was such a facet of life for me, that up until just a few years ago, I didn’t even understand that it’s NOT NORMAL! That not everyone walks around thinking everyday life events spell sudden death.

Now, to reset the garish perception that I run around with a blanket over my head checking my locks 47 times, refuse to leave the house because the sidewalk might freakishly rupture and swallow me whole, or believe an alien abduction awaits me at every turn of the corner, it looks more like this. A bracing of my muscles as I drive into an intersection waiting to get fatally t-boned in the driver side door (particularly if I’m the first, last, or an isolated car). Turning a string of headaches into an inoperable tumor in my brain. Thinking that ongoing stiffness in my back means cancer leaching up my spine. When in reality they are, unlikely, job stress, and an old mattress, respectively.

So, praise God, I’m free from the emotions associated with the thoughts of impending death, even though it’s pretty much impossible to stop them from coming into my brain. But as I’ve taken that ridiculous outer layer off the death onion, I’m now privy to recognizing the more subtle ways that impending death invades my life.

At one time, waiting for my marriage to die

Waiting for the innocence of my children to die

Waiting for my son to die emotionally, spiritually

Waiting for friendships, relationships to die

Waiting for dreams to die

And the list goes on…

I was just waiting for all these things to die because I wasn’t doing the opposite, fighting for LIFE! That’s not to say I wasn’t working hard on them, on the contrary, I was working ridiculously hard, and then waiting for them to die.

Check out the first words of every verse of the story of creation:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+1&version=NIV

They all start with, “And God said…”  He SPOKE life into everything. Not planned, not executed, not met with 14 other people, not strived, worked, developed, designed, counseled, read, discussed…

I’ve done ALL these things to an excruciating, painful, exhausting end, and they are all absolutely necessary, BUT, they can only be effective AFTER the life of God’s word has been breathed into the situation. Otherwise, the effort is spent while waiting to die.

Breathing God’s life into a situation is just as simple as speaking it; speaking aloud that you receive the life of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’s name into a situation and you reject death. The spoken words alone are powerful enough to alter your perspective on the spot. God is the giver of life, and that doesn’t mean just at our conception and birth. It means, perpetually and unfailingly every single day. Seize this great opportunity by Speaking Life today.

Claiming Victory for Tadi

This is the end of the silence. This is the end of the isolation. This is the end of the enemy’s reign in our lives to keep us trapped from victory. This is the end of fear. Today is the day I take hold of the multitude of prayers that have been sent up to the heavens in my son’s name and claim victory over his life in Jesus’ mighty name.

My son is suicidal.

My son is homicidal.

And this is over in Jesus name today.

My son is a beautiful boy who has been dealt a raw hand. In his 8 years of life he has born more trauma and suffering and hurt and pain than most of us will ever know in a lifetime. And today I don’t wait to the end until it’s over to tell you the story of the glory of God. Today I invite you into the fire of our lives to expose the presence behind the lie that my son is broken. Today I expose the weakness and untruth in the lie. Today I invite you in to partake in the glory of God in action, unfolding in a little boy’s life.

In my prayer this morning, the Lord gave me a sword and told me to fight. I said “Yes!”. Today I am wielding that sword and taking action to fight for my son’s life instead of sitting by waiting for death to overcome us – death of family and death of relationships and death of hope. I claim victory over it all right now in Jesus name.

Today is the day for Tadi. I invite you to stand with me.

Lemons to Lemonade

It occurred to me today that this old cliché has a pow of faith as its backbone. I’ve always thought of it as a “buck-up” sort of encouragement that allowed someone to overcome the emotional burden of an unpleasant situation but largely left an inescapable sense of defeatedness in not knowing how to actually do it. However, I realized there’s power in them words when you let the Holy Spirit be the sweetener that transforms your sour to delicious.

We all have some undesirable part of our personality or behavior that stems from a previous unpleasant event in our lives. Maybe an over-critical old boyfriend made you hyper-sensitive and too reactionary; maybe a neglectful father made you desperate and clingy. For me, I became hyper-observant as a result of the sexual abuse I experienced as a child. Here is a glimpse into my day living with this type of behavior. I hear the swirl of ice in my husband’s glass and immediately recognize he’s about to say something he’s uncomfortable with. I notice that a co-worker is in my (former) boss’s office at a time he is usually not there and directly understand he is quitting his job. I see the shift of a friend’s pinky finger and am instantaneously heart-broken that what was just said hurt her feelings. At the meeting of a new person, I am swiftly dissecting every lift of an eyebrow, bending of the lip, tilt of the head, shift in body, flex of the hand, bend of the knee, shuffle of a foot, so that I can seamlessly react to their response to my presence and adjust my behavior to assure their comfort around me.

Sound exhausting?

It is!

The amount of energy it takes to acquire, integrate, store, recall, and use this information pervasively throughout the day is astronomical. I go to bed at night emotionally drained and physically exhausted. It has been a huge burden to live with, particularly because I acquire a lot of information of inconsequential value. I don’t really need to know every time someone doesn’t like my shoes because I have an uncanny ability to see an instantaneous flick of the eye. I really don’t need to know every time someone is watching me from behind because I can sense the oppressive weight of their gaze. I really don’t need to know every time someone places judgment over me because I understand the difference in the edge of their lip being turned ever so slightly up or down.

Now take this behavior and drop it in a corporate setting where I would regularly engage with 100’s of people and be overrun with shifty, side-handed, corporate politics. Nightmare! Now that’s some lemons. How did I turn that to lemonade? The Lord a plan for me and I trusted Him to lead me there. He brought me into a blossoming of this otherwise highly intrusive behavior. He made me a writer.

What makes a compelling story? Being drawn into the characters. What does it take to be drawn into the characters? To experience their innermost thoughts and feelings through meticulous description of subtle behaviors that reveal the truth beneath the unspoken word. What does it take to be able to do this? An encyclopedia of knowledge on the subtlest of human behaviors to pull from. When I visualize a scene I am writing in my book, this disruptive hyper-observant behavior becomes my best friend. I close my eyes and observe every move of my character. I transcribe it to prose and when I read it back to myself, the scene comes to life.

I am spending my days enthusiastically writing for the Lord using a dysfunctional manifestation of a horrid childhood experience. There is nothing outside His control. You are experiencing some part of your persona that feels like an overwhelming burden resultant from an unfair or undeserved experience in your life. This is part of the Lord’s plan for you. Seek His guidance on how He intends you to use this for His glory. Allow Him to transform both your perception and your usage of this burden into a gift, your lemons to lemonade. He will not fail you.

Our King

My 4th grade daughter was given an assignment at school to write a poem that started with “Lift every voice and sing” and ends with “Let us march on till victory is won”.  This is what she wrote:

Lift every voice and sing

Till earth and heaven ring

Christ the Lord has risen

To our cries of hope he listened

We lay dead in our sin

But we are His earthly kin

So he gave us His only Son

He gave us His Holy One

He leads us down the path of light

He leads us down the path that’s right

The Lord our King is mighty

We are his holy army

He prepares us for the battle that comes

He prepares us for the battle that will be won

Satan will have a taste of his medicine

And will be thrown in his own pit of fire

Let us march on till victory is won

Hope in a Little Black Dress?

My little black dress and the town’s best party have given way to cozy jammies and a movie with my kids on the eve of the new year.  The change of scene is a reflection of my stage of life as a mother of young-ish children.  But moreso it’s a reflection of the diminishing significance of the flip of the calendar year for me.  For truly it is just an arbitrary number assigned to a day that follows the previous and precedes the next.

Culturally, we have learned to assign special meaning to this arbitrary day which allows us to be filled with hope; hope for restoration and renewal and a new beginning.  It is wonderful to be overflowing with hope so we celebrate its arrival every year.  But when the new year fails us and does not rise to meet us and lift our hopes to reality, we are burdened with a heavy sense of letdown.  With only one opportunity a year to be renewed, how could we not be disappointed?

But what if we could be filled with hope every day?

I’ve traded in my little black dress and the desire to celebrate the arrival of hope because I’ve learned it doesn’t depend on the arbitrary flip of a day on the calendar.  I’ve experienced that we can be overflowing with hope every day, any day, through our Lord Jesus.  I’ve learned that He never constrains us to a particular day but is always ready to provide hope and restoration and renewal and a new beginning.  He is always knocking on the door; He’s just waiting for us to let Him in.

But what does it mean to let Him in and receive His hope?  It means every day you tell Him your hopes, your failures, your sorrows, your dreams, your triumphs.  Every day you ask Him for wisdom and a new perspective and knowledge.  Every day you ask Him for hope.  And every day you celebrate Him like the breath of fresh air the new year brings.  And He, and only He, will rise to meet you and lift your hopes to reality.

So my little black dress is tucked away in the closet until some other completely random and arbitrary day beckons for its adornment.  Because I know I can celebrate the arrival of hope any day, every day, and receive the gift of restoration and renewal and a new beginning anytime I call on Him.