Monthly Archives: November 2013

Three Days to Reconciliation

I’m sharing this largely because it’s just a great story.  It came up at our last session of Art of Marriage last Friday and I was inspired to share it.  It’s the story of the 3 days from divorce papers to reconciliation in my marriage.

A very brief background on my marriage.  My husband, Matt, and I were married for 17 years.  Like every marriage it was peppered with the tough times, some of them pretty intense, and some of them that were perpetual, always coming back again and again.  We were getting by, struggling, getting better, getting worse, but it abruptly hit the breaking point just a couple months after our 17th anniversary.  We separated, Matt moved out, and we were waiting out the one year requirement that North Carolina has between physical (housing) separation and divorce proceedings.

During this waiting time is when I came into real relationship with Jesus.  It was glorious… and painful.  As you may know, coming into relationship with Jesus is like looking into a mirror that has the ability to reflect back every ugly part of your character and personality that you’d rather avoid looking at.  Well, I spent many, many… many days, looking into this mirror.  And I was acutely convicted of my contributions to the failure of the marriage.  I was repentant and sorry for what I had done.  I was ready for the next go-round if the Lord blessed me with a new husband.

Six months into the separation I attended the Divorce Care class series on a recommendation from a friend.  It’s a 12 week class that focuses on a different topic each week, separation, anger, isolation, dating, etc.  I cruised through the first 10 weeks with fairly little consternation about each topic since I had already been run through the Jesus ringer anyway.  The 11th week came.  The topic was Reconciliation.  The motive was to consider it.  This class made me MAD!  I mean mad, mad, like really hot mad.  I was so mad and it was so disproportionate to my experience from the previous 10 sessions that I realized I really needed to scrutinize it.  I went into prayer that night asking the Lord for wisdom.  The answer I got was, “It’s time to ask Matt back now.”  What???!!!  I was floored.  Never, not once, had I considered this.  When I had been praying for a whole family, I meant a new one (a new husband anyway, not my kids of course).  I did NOT mean Matt.  This happened on a Thursday night.

On Friday, my brain was like a tsunami of thoughts about asking Matt back.  I couldn’t concentrate on anything.  I sent a note to my lady friends from the Divorce class and they told me to hold tight until we were meeting for coffee the next night.  So I did.  I went into prayer that night and I put God to the test.  “God, if you really want me to do this, I need a chance to talk to him in private.  I’ll know you want me to do this if he asks me out to lunch,” I prayed as Matt was already dating someone else.

The next day, Saturday, I was out shopping and I texted Matt asking him if he still wanted to go in on a bike for our oldest daughter for her birthday.  He said yes.  I asked if I could just pick it up while I was out or would he prefer to do it together.  He said together.  I asked him when would be a good time for him and he said, “How about over lunch this week”!!!!  Yes, seriously, that was his answer.  I was speechless, and totally unprepared for that.  So I went into “technicality” mode – technically, he didn’t ASK me out to lunch.  I told this little ditty to my girls from Divorce Care that night over coffee.  There were four of us, 3 white ladies and one black.  We very affectionately call each other our vanilla sisters and our chocolate sister.

My vanilla sister said, “Don’t do it!”

My chocolate sister said, “Girl, if that’s the Holy Spirit talkin’, you betta listen!”

Wow, that threw me off.  But I had to agree with her; she was right.  So then I started down the, “Well, if he this and if he that,” path.

And my chocolate sister said, “You betta just tell him you love him and would he come back.”

Double wow.  Now that was the Holy Spirit talking to me.  She was right again.

So what did I do?  I went home and put God to the test… AGAIN.  I got to the point of accepting reconciliation in my head, but it was far from in my heart.  I wanted to walk in obedience, but I wanted to be darn sure what I was being asked to do.  I prayed that night, “Lord, if you really want me to do this, just give me a really, really big sign,” and I went to bed.

I went into worship at church the next morning about the same as before… with massive tension through my entire chest cavity and up through my neck that was so painful it was starting to prevent me from being able to take a full breath.  This had started and was getting progressively worse during the separation.  I started singing during worship.  The presence of the Holy Spirit flooded me and instantly the tension and the pain melted away like hot butter.  It was gone.  I decided that was my really, really big sign.  My heart was filled with desire to reconcile with Matt.

We were planning to meet for lunch that Wednesday to get the bike and I assumed this was the time I was supposed to ask him back.  But God had other plans.  He said, “Today.”  What??!!  This was Sunday, only three days after the original “Reconcile” message!!  I told Him that if I had the opportunity to talk with Matt in private when he brought the kids home that evening that I knew He really meant today.  The probability of this was absurdly small as the kids of course would crash through the door and practically bowl me over when they came home.  That evening they pulled up in the driveway.  I had the kitchen door to the garage open and could see them coming up.  The kids decided to stop and play basketball.  Seriously.  Basktetball???  They hadn’t used the hoop in months!  Then Matt came in the house, into the kitchen, by himself, not another soul around.  Seriously???

I asked him if we could chat.  I reassured him that if he were too busy we could do it another time.  He said no, now was fine.  I suggested he take a seat.  I told him I loved him.  I asked him to come back to marriage.  He actually did not fall out of the chair.  I told him I would wait until he was ready, however long that took.  It took precisely two and a half weeks.  That was April.  We celebrated our 18th anniversary together that May.  He came home that July.  And we celebrated our 20th anniversary this year.  Since then, Matt has come to know and accept the Lord also.  Our marriage is now founded on the rock that created it and it is growing stronger every day.

Matthew 26:61:  I am able to destroy the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days.

 

A Golden Calf

When I read in the bible about things people used to covet and idolize, it seems so obvious how dumb their behavior was.  Let’s see, let’s melt down some gold, form it into a calf, put it on the shelf, pray to it, and wait for it to fulfill our lives.  Woohoo!  Ok, seems like something I’m pretty much never going to do, so check “covet” off my list.  Not guilty.

Or am I?

Being truthful with myself and taking off the blinders about the golden calf, covet means “that which you spend most of your day thinking about”.  Ok, GUILTY!!  I was in a hurricane of covetous behavior over the last 10 days about a new business opportunity that came my way.  My mind was racing about this business even during the night such that in the unfortunate circumstance that my daughter’s hamster’s wheel was squeaking at 3am or my dog heard a random inconsequential noise and let out a “save the world” bark and woke me up, I was doomed.  I was awake for hours strategizing about how to capitalize on this business.  This was going to fulfill my life!!  I was going to be a millionaire in a week!!!  After 7 days I was exhausted and after 10 I was desperate.

Now, knowing this definition of covet, “that which you spend most of your day… or night… thinking about” meant that in the sane part of my brain, I knew this obsessive strategizing was a problem.  So I would pray about it during my morning prayer time asking God to help me let it go, but day over day, my prayers sounded a lot more like an aggressive volley in a Wimbledon match, “Dear God, please help me overcome… the strength in the compensation plan is… oh, overcome my covetous… the target market is huge… oh, my covetous…” and so on.  I was trying hard and I was desiring to let it go, but I was getting nowhere.  And all the while, everything I set out to do on this faith walk went by the wayside; my book and this blog.  Why wasn’t the prayer helping?

After 10 days, the light finally went off… or on… in my brain.  It was the way I was praying.  I realized I needed to stand on scripture, not just ask for help.  It’s a subtle but very important and powerful difference in prayer.  I remembered that scripture tells us we have the authority to give God dominion over our thoughts.  So I did.  I gave Him control of my thoughts.  Within a day the obsessing was gone and within two days He was feeding me ideas about how to efficiently maneuver this business opportunity… in a controlled fashion… and rejuvenating my desire to write for Him.  And He will fulfill something in my life with this business as He sees fit.

Whatever you are primarily focusing on to fulfill you in life is your golden calf.  It could be work or volunteering or your kids or party time or movies or movie stars or whatever.  Whatever it is, you will find it to be more successful, or less distracting, or less an obsession, when you focus on God first and allow Him to maneuver it for you.  Give Him dominion over your thoughts on it and watch His truth unfold in your life.

A Son Comes Home

Walking in faith with my children has been one of the most challenging areas for me to walk freely in.  Calling myself a mother hen or mother goose just doesn’t feel aggressive enough about how protective I am over my children.  So I actually looked it up and found out the vulture is an impeccable mother, rising above all else.  So, there it is.  I am a mother vulture.

Parenting my two oldest children, my biological daughters, has been largely, well, a cake walk.  Although it was still a challenge to release them into God’s hands, it was not preceded by strife and dissension.  The story of my son Tadi (pronounced Teddy) however is an entirely different one.  A little of his background to set the stage:  he is adopted from Ethiopia and came home when he was 3 years old after having been *released* at 2 ½ years old (ie, abandoned) from his remaining biological family (which of course implies he went through the deaths of some of his biological family) and sent to an orphanage to be picked up by a white woman telling him “I’m your mom”.  Lovely.  Nothing like a little trauma to start life off on the right foot.  As a result, Tadi’s problems and behaviors have summarily been classified as “oppositional defiant” which basically means he doesn’t acknowledge authority figures and lives in perpetual state of defiance toward those who attempt to put boundaries around him.  He is a street kid, already having developed significant survival skills by the time we brought him home.  His behaviors have went well beyond childhood lying to orchestrated manipulation, beyond serving common selfish elementary desires to outright stealing, beyond childish “I hate you” retorts to literally running away from home.  Did I mention he is only 8 now?

I don’t tell you these things to rail on Tadi for his behaviors.  This is a story of the glory of God.  After 5 years of battling with Tadi trying to correct him, maneuver him, get him on the right track, get him to care about family, school, homework, work ethic, morals, etc., it became very apparent that the foundation of the problem is the scars from the blows he already received in his young life and I had no ability to heal them, or manipulate them.  Behavior management with rewards and punishments has had nominal impact on his daily function.  Even walking in love and compassion with him was divisive as he had a very distorted understanding of what love is.  It was becoming more and more clear that God was the only one who was going to carry Tadi through this trial and restore him to wholeness.  How was that going to happen?  I had to get out of the way.

Get out of the way.  Mother vulture, get out of the way.  Mother vulture, who watches everyday as her son’s trajectory points criminal, get out of the way.  Mother vulture, stop trying to correct him, steer him, drive him, maneuver him, heal him, protect him.  Mother vulture, put him in God’s hands, get out of the way.

Now, I had prayed for Tadi faithfully for 5 years.  But I would get off my knees, turn around, and begin again trying to drive him into being “good”.  I was protecting him afterall; it was my job to make him good and righteous and, well, hopefully just not a thief if nothing else.  But all I was really doing was standing between him and God.  The day finally came when God convicted me.  It was only through shear defeat and exhaustion and no other way to “fix” him.  I was dangerously close to disrupting the adoption.  But I got on my knees one last time and released him to God.  Verbally, out loud.  It was like extracting a pick ax from my throat.  I was trusting the protection of my son to God; I was giving up control.  Mother vulture, I release my son.  Then I changed everything.  I stopped fighting with him about homework.  I stopped fighting with him about lying and stealing and cheating and poor work ethic and avoiding the family.  I made one requirement of him, that he read his bible every day for his nightly school reading.  And he did it.  Faithfully, every day.  And I went on a prayer war path for him (see Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian).  And the glory of God swooped in like a dove and stole Tadi’s heart.  This past Sunday, Nov 3 2013, Tadi responded to the altar call at our church and made a public commitment to give his life to Christ.  And then he cried.  He cried that big fat snotty gushing cry.  His chest heaved like he was expelling a death sentence from it.  And then he soared.  He soared free and happy like I’ve never seen him before.  He smiled and beamed and radiated love and happiness the whole afternoon.  Praise be to God.

I know we still have a bumpy road ahead and that all things are not perfect.  But now we have God in the house, in the heart.  His transforming power has begun and once a work in His name is begun, it will be finished.