Music

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Unfading Beauty

About 3 years ago I started on a journey.  A journey of being healthier and happier.  And 3 years later I've done that but not at all in the way I had expected.

You see, 3 years ago I joined Plexus.  I used it, sold it, lost weight, and felt better.  And in some weird way, I thought this would make everything about life better.

Can I be honest with you?

It didn't.

The truth is, I think we can become so focused on how we look that it starts becoming an idol in our lives.  What's the scale say?  Did I take my supplements?  How many calories did I consume today?  Did I exercise long enough and hard enough?  Is what I'm eating healthy?  Low carb, high protein?  What about gluten and dairy free?  Maybe I should try that.  Did I drink 100 ounces of water?  I wonder if I've worked hard enough to eat cake at the birthday party.  Have I done measurements lately?  What about adding coconut oil or apple cider vinegar.  

And life quickly becomes all about stuff that's not necessarily bad but that can become bad when it consumes your thinking and way of life.

I've had to take a step back from a lot groups and things that have aided me in focusing on lesser things.

Because at the end of the day, life isn't about what I look like.  It won't make one difference when I die if I was a size 0 or a size 10.  What will matter is how I invested my life in others.

And before you start thinking this is a post bashing Plexus, it isn't.  I love Plexus.  I've met some truly incredible people as a result.  And I'm still taking some of their products and I still sell it, although I don't actively promote it anymore.  I love MLM and direct sale companies and truth be told, if I'm going to buy something, I'd prefer to (and do) buy it from a friend and help them out.

But here's my issue.  I think I need clearer skin.  I buy what I think will help.  I need thicker hair.  I buy some shampoo and conditioner that's supposed to do the trick.  I need better makeup.  Then I need whiter teeth and less cellulite.  And I need some cute polish or designs for my nails.  I need ALL the cute jewelry and purses to go with it.  And I need something for these crows feet and dark circles and and and.....

..... it never ends.  There's always something vying for my attention - trying to tell me that how I am isn't good enough or that I could be better if I just had _____.

And I'm tired of believing that lie.

I've been doing a study on I Peter for the past several weeks.  And over and over again I keep reading how true beauty isn't from outward appearances.  It's not how our hair looks or the way we dress or the size of pants we wear.

But rather true beauty is found from having a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of GREAT worth in God's eyes.  And not only that, it's unfading (I Peter 3:3-4).  True beauty never fades.

Soak that in sweet friends.

My focus has been all wrong.  I have made the lesser the priority instead of cultivating what Christ says is true beauty.  Maybe you have too.

And maybe you echo with me: "I'm done!".

At the end of my life I want it to have mattered because I loved well.  Because I shared Christ with people.  Because I made a difference by serving and giving of myself.  I want to finish on empty - having given my all.

Not having worried about myself.

Is exercise bad?  No.  Is healthy eating bad?  No.  Are supplements bad?  Nope.  Are any of the things I mentioned wrong?  No.

Not unless you've given them too much room in your life.  If they've become your focus, your idol, your priority.

And that's where I've been.

Am I heavier than I was 2 years ago?  Yes.  But I'm learning more and more that it's okay.  I can exercise and eat pretty good and let God worry about the rest.  My body just won't respond how it used to.  I wish it would.  Oh how I wish it would.  But all the doctors and appointments and tests and money spent.....  it's all been for what?  So I can look a certain way.  And really friends, it's hard to admit that.  Sometimes you can only do so much until it becomes futile.

I'm there.

And I'm telling you today I'm surrendering.  I'm letting it go.  Am I giving up on this healthy and happier stuff?  Not really.  I'll still run 30 minutes every day and lift my weights and do my squats and pushups and planks.  I'm still planning on watching what I eat and limiting sweets. I just refuse to allow it to occupy more time and space in my life than things of eternal significance.  I'm refusing to make it the greater when it's really the lesser.  So much less than what really matters.

You know, when my husband can lay in bed beside me and say "No one ever has, does, or will make me feel like you do."..... that's all I need.  He has loved me at every size possible.  And now it's time that I love myself like that too.  That I see myself as Christ does.

So, go buy all.the.things from your friends.  Support them.  Love them.  But at the end of the day, realize what's really important is that Christ shines in and through you.  Put the majority of your effort into cultivating the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth.

It's invaluable.  So are you sweet friends.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Never Good Enough

Do you ever feel like you're just not good enough?

That you have to spend too much time and effort trying to prove yourself, only to be reminded you still aren't good enough?

I'd be lying if I didn't say that that's basically been my life in a nutshell.

I can remember distinct times growing up and thinking these things.  Like when I was in 8th grade band.  For 3 years, I was almost always 2nd chair, next to Mike (or next to Allen if I was 3rd).  Every time we had try-outs, my place remained.  Only one month, Mike messed up during tryouts and for a short period of time, I was 1st chair.  Not because I deserved it.  Not because I was better than Mike, because honestly, he's an incredibly talented musician, but simply because he had made a fluke error that day and I didn't.  I never measured up to him as a trumpet player.  I went on to quit band.

Or during my Sophomore year running track how I threw up before every.single.meet.  Yep.  Every single one of them.  My nerves would always get the best of me.  And while I was constantly improving and running my events faster and faster, there was always this guy named Scott who would rag me in Geometry class about how much faster he could have ran them.  Always asking if I threw up...again.  And then him and his friends would laugh and mock me.  It didn't matter that I received the Most Improved award, or that I had dropped 33 lbs between my Sophomore and Junior year.  I still wasn't good enough.

Or the time when I was a Junior in Chemistry class and everyone was struggling to even make passing grades on Mr. Hartsfield's tests.  That is, everyone except me.  So when the curve was implemented, everyone was elated that maybe they could finally get a passing grade.  But there was me, who made 95's and 100's, all but eliminating the curve.  And I remember the day Mr. Hartsfield said there was no curve because someone made a 100.  People were mad and seeking out the person that prevented them from getting extra points.  That's when Clay turned around, already knowing it was me, looked me square in the eyes and said "You're an ugly *itch."  Even being the best proved to not be good enough.

Or when I once liked one of my brother's friends.  They lived together for awhile and I had become pretty infatuated with him.  But it was never reciprocated until about 2 years later..... after I had ran track and..... you guessed it, dropped 33 lbs.  I wasn't good enough before and I remember that feeling permanently marking me.  I was excited when he asked me out on a date, yet I also instinctively knew I didn't ever want to be married to someone who couldn't love me at every weight I might ever be.  Things with him obviously (and thankfully) didn't work out.  Yet the reality of only being liked at a certain weight has stuck with me all these years later.

Even when I graduated as Valedictorian, it wasn't good enough.  Because my class was the last class before they changed the handbook, which stated that anyone with a 4.0 GPA was Valedictorian.  I achieved that.  But so did 10 others.  Yes, there were 11 of us that year.  And from there on out, the handbook read "The highest GPA".  Even in achieving what very few could, it wasn't good enough.  We were a joke.  "11 of you.  Hahahaha.  You're not the Valedictorian.  You're just one of many."

Even at the top, I wasn't good enough.

The reality is that while these were in high school, things like this still happen.

Like when you bicker about whose way of loading the dishwasher is correct.

Or when you're handed the pink slip at work and have to go home and tell your family you lost your job.

Or when your husband walks out.

When people say "Oh, you're *just* a stay-at-home mom? Don't you have 2 college degrees?"

Or when you feel like you're missing out on everything with your kids because you're working two jobs to make ends meet.

Or when your pillow is wet from crying yourself to sleep because you don't think you'll ever compare or measure up.

When you feel left out, uninvited and are being talked about.

When you're passed over on the job you were hoping to get.

When your weight yoyos back and forth like an olympic skier going up and down the hills and you don't want to leave the house because not only can you never compare to the tan, perfectly ripped, chiseled, scantily clad models, you can't even compete with who you were a year ago.

When you stumble across the evidence of your spouse's indiscretions and are left devastated and heartbroken.

When you fall into the comparison trap and feel like your income, house, car, and wardrobe don't meet the standards of everyone else.

When your kids are bickering and fighting with each other and your house feels more like a war zone than a safehaven.

The thoughts soon follow:

"I'll never be good enough."  "Well maybe I'll just try harder.  I'll do ___, ____, and ____ and then I'll prove once and for all that I'm good enough."

And the problem with this mentality is that not only is it destructive and putting too much focus on other people and circumstances making us happy, but it often flows over into our relationship with Christ.

This has been true for me.

So many instances of not feeling good enough have led me to believe that I'm not good enough for Christ either.  And the reality of that is, I'm not.  None of us are (Rom. 3:10).  But the danger is in when I begin feeling like I can work my way into better graces.  The "fixer" in me says "Get to work."  That if I'm more patient and gentle He'll somehow love me more.  If I can be more successful and give more.  If I can pray harder and dig deeper in His Word then maybe I'll have more faith and He'll somehow reward me with feeling accepted.  If I wouldn't have ever been depressed.  If I can become more disciplined and self controlled then maybe, just maybe......

And friends, He's showing me the futility of this.

Because really, that's what it is.  Futile.

There is NOTHING, absolutely nothing I can do that could ever make Him love and accept me anymore than He already has.

I am loved.

And I'm not just loved, I am loved by the Creator of the world.  The One who knit me together in my mother's womb, intricately weaving me piece by piece into who I am (Psalm 139:13).  The One who came to rescue and draw me to Himself.

You see, He loved me when I was unlovable.  He loved me before I was even born, knowing full and well all the horrible things I would think and say and do....all the times I wouldn't be good enough....all the times I would cry in the car, trying to pull myself together before I arrived where I was going.  He foreknew all of these instances, that I would struggle with accepting and receiving Love.  He knew ahead of time that trust would be hard for me and life would only deal me blows that made it harder.  And friends.....He came anyway.

He loved me while I was still a sinner (Rom. 5:8).  I didn't have to do anything to prove myself or that I'm good enough (Eph. 2:8-9).  I was simply enough because I was His.... am His.

And He's been breaking my knees until I will bow to this realization and understanding.  Forcing me  into situations that require me to rely on Him and trust Him and see how good He is.  And oh how He's constantly showing me this over and over and over until my heart will bend to it.

I've recently been listening to Selah's new song, Broken Ladders.  It reminds me that we so often think we have to reach and rise for all these things that will never bring us true happiness, that will never prove that we're good enough.  Because you know, He never asked us to do that.  He didn't ask us to be a certain way for Him to love us.  He simply has asked for our hearts and obedience.

And day by day, I'm learning this truth.

I'll never be good enough.  And that's perfectly okay because I am loved more than I could ever know just.the.way.I.am.

His.



Friday, January 27, 2017

When Your "Yes" Costs You Something (And it Will)

As Christians, I believe God calls each of us to something.  Oftentimes, multiple somethings.

And I'm becoming more and more aware that nearly always our callings require something of us.  They're not usually things that keep us comfortable or from sacrificing things that are hard to give up.  If we take a close look at the Bible, it's full of verses telling us that we're going to have to daily die to ourselves (Luke 9:23, I Cor. 15:31), to take up our cross and follow Him (Matt. 10:38, Mark 8:34) and that we're going to face trials (I Peter 5:10, James 1:2, John 16:33, Rom. 8:18).

Our "yes" will always come with trials.

Truth be told,  saying "yes" to adoption has cost us a lot. And not in a financial sense, yet in ways that have been much more costly and sacrificial.

You see, adoption is hard.  I don't know very many people that will tell you it's easy (albeit, I do know a select few).

Yet God is constantly reminding me that He hasn't called us to an easy life.  He's simply called us to follow Him.

For us, we had talked about adoption since we were dating.  I had always had a desire to adopt a little girl from China.  We had talked about wanting 4 kids; having 3 and adopting the 4th.  So when we had 2 girls and 1 boy the logical choice was to adopt a boy.  After researching and discovering how costly private and international adoptions are, we decided to adopt through the foster care system.

Even that process is long and arduous.  There's nothing easy about it.  The paperwork.  The background checks. The classes and trainings.  The waiting.  Oh the waiting.  The home visits.  Interviews.  Having your kids interviewed (and subsequently being humiliated by their off the wall answers).  The inspections and rules upon rules, the covered trash cans and electrical outlets, and more smoke detectors than a fire house has on hand and emergency escape routes posted and well, you get the point.

I wish I could say that was the hardest part for me.

Oh how I wish I could say that.

But that's not my story.  And my "Yes" cost me so much more.

From the day we brought him home, we were met with opposition from well intentioned people, and well, some not-so-well intentioned.  You hear people talk about caring for a child from a hard past and truthfully, you think, "Eh, not me.  He's so little, I mean, just 15 months old.  We've got this."

No.  No we didn't.  We battled him on eating what was provided since he thought his diet should consist of Orange crush, mac and cheese, and strawberry ice cream....or jarred baby food they were still spoon feeding him.... at 15 months old.  We had to teach him how to use a fork and spoon, to sit up correctly since he'd been placed in a walker and left for no telling how long and then was put to bed at 5:30 pm with a bottle of milk.  We had to work tirelessly with him on not holding food in his mouth.  On trusting that we will always provide for him.  He cried and cried if I asked him to go play while I was cooking, fearful he wouldn't be fed.  He would inhale his sippy cup, gasping for air trying to drink it down as fast as he could.  He'd eat like a little piglet, lest it wouldn't still be there minutes later.  He'd eat to the point he'd vomit from overeating.  He simply lacked trust.  He lacked the faith in us that we wouldn't ever let him go hungry.  And it was heartbreaking.  If you haven't been there it's hard to explain watching this.  And I'd be lying if I didn't say it was also frustrating at times because we were doing everything we possibly could for him.

So when people wanted to feed him.... No.  Absolutely, positively no.  If he couldn't trust that we would provide for him then we certainly didn't want or need him seeking that out from other people, which he did often.  We went so far as to not even allow our parents and siblings to give him food.  One of us would always give him his plate.  And we were so thankful for their understanding.

But how they understood, others did not.  And I wish that those people understood all the battles we faced early on.  Yet that wasn't how our story unfolded.  We were talked about.  We were shamed (on Facebook of all things).  Meetings were held (yes, seriously over us asking for him not to be fed) and feelings were hurt because we refused to back down on what was best for our son.

This is the life of adoptive parents.  Going against stream because it's what your child needs.  And as his momma, I will gladly do that despite the backlash we receive.

Amidst my battles I was keenly aware of the chatter behind my back.  I remember telling Mark one night that I knew this particular group was talking about me.  He dismissed it as a combination of me looking into things and because of the depression I was dealing with; which really, I can't blame him.  So when a brave individual later came to me, seeking forgiveness for not standing up for me within that group, I had heard all I needed to hear.... had confirmed what I already knew but had hoped wasn't so.

I wish I could say that was the worst of it, but it wasn't.

We battled people from the outside on a lot of things, but if I'm being honest, the biggest battle I faced was within myself.  I hate this part of my story.  And by hate, I mean utterly in every way possible despise it.  I choke back tears and sobs every time I think about it.  It's hard.  It's ugly.  But it's also part of who I am and what's brought me to the place I am now. I've written about it in part in this post as well as this one but have battled sharing much more than that, and that's really probably a gross understatement.  I've said no to God a lot because I think my story is ugly.  Yet He's been speaking to me, working on my pride in order to get me to a point of sharing the hard truths of some of the things I faced.  And so I'm braving the waters a bit more, trusting that He'll somehow use it for His glory.  Oh how I pray that my struggles will not have been in vain.

You see, parenting a child from a hard place is.... well, hard.  And as if that isn't enough, add to it that I had zero bond with Chi when he came into our home and the fact that we were the 5th home he'd been in only complicated his ability to bond with people.  The excessive whining (hello toddler years), the battling people who didn't have a clue, the watching our other kids trying to adapt and struggling..... it all began to wear on me.

Combine that with a medication that I was unaware caused depression and suicidal thoughts and the perfect storm began brewing.

I went downhill quickly.

I wondered what on Earth we had gotten ourselves into.  It felt like it would never get better, like he would never trust us, like people would never step outside of their tiny boxes and care enough to walk in our shoes....to try to understand what we were dealing with, like I would never have more than a surface level bond with him.

Every day was a struggle.

I woke up thinking "Oh God.  OH GOD!  We really did do this.  I can't do it.  I just can't.  He deserves so much better than me."  "Why!!!??  Why can't I feel something besides frustration for him?"  "I want so desperately for this to be better.  Please, God. Please make this better. You have to make this better."  "If you can't make this better, then please give me the courage and bravery to do what's best for him, even if that's not being with us."

Every day.

Multiple times throughout the day.

And God always said "You're the one."

I'd be lying if I said this didn't make me angry.  I wanted my "Yes" to not cost me so much, to be easy.  And this has been anything but easy.

I wanted to feel connected to him, but didn't.  Therefore all the normal things he would do as a two year old exponentially frustrated me more than they should have.

It felt like the worst carnival ride in history that would never end.

Yet deep down I knew this was our path.  And I knew that God would see us through it, even on the days I really struggled to believe that.

The depression worsened.  The thoughts began to come.  I say thoughts, but really they were lies from the enemy....and I believed them.  Every single one of them.

I was worthless.... as a wife and certainly as a mom.  My family was better off without me.  Why bother even trying anymore?

One day I remember yelling at the top of my lungs at Mark.  I blamed God.  I blamed him.  I blamed myself for ever thinking I could do this.  I was simply mad and depressed and irrational.  Oh how I was irrational.  I was crying so much that he could barely understand me.  I wanted to leave...had to leave.  He could have the kids because they needed someone strong, someone who could guide them and see them through life because I clearly wasn't that person.  They deserved better.  So much better.  And me leaving and letting him move on would be the only opportunity for them to have the life they deserved.  Hear me when I say my love for Mark and our kids is unmatched and unwavering, yet this is the nature of lies from the pit of Hell.  And every fiber of my being believed those lies.  I packed a bag and we literally fought over the bag, Mark pulling it from my hands saying "You can't leave.  It's going to be okay.  It's going to be okay.  It's going to be okay."  I walked out the door without the bag, him on my heels jumping in the car beside me, refusing to let me walk away from my family.

I still can't type that without the tears flowing.  The depths to which I had fallen... it's utterly heartbreaking.  The reality of what I was willing to give up because I had believed the lies.

And Mark.  Oh, my sweet sweet Mark.  When I wanted to give up, he fought for the both of us.  And the beauty and grace in that is something that I'll never forget.

I had made it through another day, but not without still believing the lies.  I just didn't have any fight left in me.

The thoughts continued.  I wished for death.  I prayed that God would just take me Home.  And when He didn't answer me, I began contemplating how I could take matters into my own hands.

With every beat of my heart, I wish this wasn't my story.

I wish I could tell you it was easy.  That I immediately fell in love with him and we bonded right away.  That I've never been depressed and certainly not suicidal.  And gracious, certainly not over the sweetest little two year old.

But this is my story.

And God has redeemed it.

I want you to read that last sentence again.  God has redeemed it.

No matter what your story is, He can redeem it sweet friends.

He walked alongside me, reminding me of His truths and promises.  He'd give me days where I began to think "Maybe, just maybe I can do this."  Then He prompted me to look at the side effects of the medicine I was on, which led to me stopping it immediately and subsequently the depression and thoughts leaving with it.  And He saw us through the ultimate betrayal of someone sending in a letter saying I didn't love Chi.  As I've briefly written about before, the letter was full of lies, complete with saying I wouldn't get up in the middle of the night when he'd cry.  Imagine the betrayal and pain we felt.  Imagine someone saying you won't get up in the middle of the night when your child is crying, even though your child sleeps through the night and has never gotten up (still hasn't).  Imagine having the baby monitor turned to high so you could hear him just in case he did.  Imagine your older son sharing a room with him knowing that he'd be awoken too should Chi be crying in the middle of the night.  So perhaps then, you can imagine our hurt.  The shock.  The questions and wondering why someone not only could tell such lies but why on earth they would.  There are some questions that we'll likely never have an answer to. Yet God can and has redeemed all of this.

What's hard for me is that I can look at my story and somehow begin to believe another lie..... that this person was warranted in sending the letter.  But here's the truth:

Telling lies is never warranted.

Gossip and backbiting is never acceptable.

And most of all, despite all of my struggles, loving Chi was never in question, only my questioning myself and abilities to be the mom to him that he needed.  I loved him so much that I was willing to admit defeat so that he could have better.  But God never offered that as a choice, He only consistently spoke to my heart "You are enough, my daughter.  You're enough for him."

Over the past several months I've thought about that sacrificial love.  I've thought about his birth mom and how she signed away her rights.  Now, maybe she didn't care.  Maybe she didn't want to deal with his health issues.  Maybe she thought "Hey, I can have more.  I'll just let him go and hopefully have one with less health problems."  Maybe.  BUT, maybe, just maybe she thought "I can't give him the life he needs.  And I love him so much that I'm signing my rights away to give him a chance at something better.  I won't fight this because he needs someone who can fight for him better than I can."

The sacrificial love of a mother made me a mother to yet another.

The resemblance of our willingness to sacrifice for his greater good is not lost on me.  Two mommas wanting the best for the same son.

I began asking God to bond us together, to make our hearts beat as one.  And He faithfully has been answering that prayer day by day.

The stubbornness I've had over the past 18 months, the utter brokenness.... Him bringing me to my knees.  Nay, breaking my knees until I would bend to His will, it has made me who I am today.

He used what most see as a negative... my stubbornness, and helped me use it for His honor and glory.  For fighting my way out and refusing to stay where I was.  For being willing to fight for our son and for myself to be just the mom he needs.

He helped me realize that just how it wasn't Chi's fault that I didn't carry him and have a bond with him, that you know, it wasn't my fault either.  But He could still work through us to bring about something marvelous and bind us together in ways I never could have fathomed.

And that's just what He's doing.

Because you know my prayer that He'd make our hearts beat as one?

One day last week as I was holding him close, rocking him in his room, it occurred to me that due to a rare condition where his heart is on the right side of his chest, our hearts always line up and beat together.

Each time I hold him, each time I reach out to love him more and more, our hearts beat together.

That realization moved me to tears then, just as it does now.

God had heard and answered in miraculous ways.

I'd like to say there's not still work to be done, but really, with parenting there's always more to do, regardless of if you factor in adoption or not.  But what I can say is that he trusts us so much now that we're constantly having to tell him to hurry up and eat because he knows it'll be there and takes his ever-loving-time eating.  ;)  He eats about any and everything.  I'm moving past all the frustrations and we're having fun together reading and playing, snuggling and doing all the things I had hoped we'd do with ease.

And you know what that means?

We're bonding.

God is binding us together.  He's so helped me that I can't even remember what life was like before we had him nor can I imagine ever not having him with us.

Yes, there are days that are hard, but even the hardest of days is nothing compared to what I've gone through.  And I'm so thankful.  Oh so very thankful.

I say all of that to say this:

I don't know what your "Yes" is.

I don't know what it's going to cost you, and it will cost you something.  But I know, without a shadow of a doubt, when you stay inside His will, He'll see you through each and every step, regardless of what it costs.  He'll give your eyes new sight that allow you to see His hand in and through it all.

Our yes has cost us a lot.  Truth is, our yes still costs us in the form of running to appointments every week and particularly with his upcoming health needs this spring and summer.

But he's worth it.

You saying yes to what God is calling you to will always be worth it.

You may be called to witness to someone at work.  To become a foster parent.  To adopt.  To become a missionary.  You may be called into the ministry.  You may be called to start a new outreach.  You may be called to any number of things that may cost you something if you say Yes.

Might I encourage you?

Do it anyway.

To think that our yes can be used for eternity.... gracious, it doesn't get much better than that.

Allow Him to use you.  Say Yes.  And then trust the Father's hand.

Because saying Yes to the Father is never easy, but it's always, ALWAYS worth it.

Monday, December 05, 2016

The Storm Behind the Front

Sometimes I think people look at us and think we have it all together.  Like we're some sort of super family that doesn't face the same struggles and battles that everyone else does.

But we do.

I think people can look at our pictures on Facebook and think that that's all there is to see.

But it's not.

You see, we've recently just come out of a storm, are presently in a storm, and recently just found out we'll be heading back into likely the strongest one we've ever faced.

When we chose to adopt we knew we'd face battles - that Satan would come at us like never before.  But if I'm being honest, while I knew this, I wasn't prepared for it.  I was naive and completely and utterly caught off-guard at the extent to which the enemy would go to break me down.

And he used me to do it.  You see, since having Emilee I've been battling a variety of different things with my health.  I've been passed from one doctor to another, none of which (until recently) have genuinely tried to help.  One put me on a prescription that I readily took without any regard to its side effects.... because I didn't even take the time to look them up.  I just wanted relief.  And it cost me dearly.  Because over the course of 12-15 months I slipped into the darkest days of my life, which also happened to be right around the time we brought Chi home.  His first year with us was spent with me being all over the place, me and Mark arguing because of the state I was in and my subsequent responses and actions to everything.  I questioned everything.  The adoption.  Our marriage.  Being a mom.  And as I previously wrote about in this post, I even began to think that giving up on life was the best choice I could make for everyone.

Satan had so distorted my mind and thinking that it was hard for me to distinguish between reality and his lies.  I had been doing the Armor of God Bible study and learning how to truly fight, yet I found myself slipping back to where I had been.

Sweet friends, I believe with all my heart that it was the prayers and petitions of my family that kept me here and brought me out of the pit of despair.  And truthfully, very few of them knew the extent to which I was suffering and battling myself, yet they prayed all the more.  And I began to petition and beg God for mercy, to restore my mind and bring healing.

And one day as clear as if He was standing before me I heard Him whisper, "Read the side effects."

I thought it was a weird answer to what I was asking of Him but I did it nonetheless.  And there it was.  The medicine I was taking can cause severe depression and suicidal thoughts.  So much so that the medical community termed a phrase "*medicine's name* induced depression."

I stopped the medicine that very day.

Within two weeks I began noticing a difference.

Within a month I knew God had not only heard my prayers but faithfully answered them.

Now 3 months later I finally feel like myself again.

I feel like I can be the mom that God has called me to be to my children.  And I feel like I can love and bond with Chi in ways which I wasn't previously able.  We have made leaps and bounds of progress just in the past 3 months that I can't even describe.  Gracious how I love my kiddos.  How we have such sweet times together.  And I love as I leave their rooms at night how they'll ask for me to sing to them.  How Chi reaches his hand up for me to hold or how the girls sing with me.  Oh how I missed so much in the past year.  My heart aches at the thought of just how much time I lost.  How we faced so many battles from people who talked about us instead of prayed over us.  Yet He has been faithful through it all.

We left that storm only to be in the somewhat constant storm of raising a child on the spectrum.  Yes, Eli is high functioning, so much so that he can be trusted with a gun and out in the woods.  He's quite the little hunter.  But y'all, it doesn't negate all the battles we face with him that are often unseen to the outside world.  We have been on our knees in prayer seeking answers and guidance on how to best help him.  We make strides in one area only to see him revert back to behaviors he had previously stopped (like head banging).  Yet we persevere and love and guide and continue praying that God would work in and through not only us, but our sweet Eli.

And the storm that's brewing?  It seems to just be building momentum.

And so I ask that y'all would be praying for us, for the protection of our family and children as we enter the approaching storm.

You see, we knew Chi had medical conditions when we adopted him.  We knew that he'd be facing another open heart surgery when he was around 4 or 5.  But we were led to believe that'd be it - that this 2nd surgery would fix everything and he'd go on to lead a normal, healthy life.  But our world was shattered Friday when we saw that his oxygen levels were already down to 84% (although we suspected they'd be lower because of his worsening shortness of breath).  And then that led to being told that his surgery would be sooner than later.  And then that led to being told that most all children who have what he has will at some point need a heart transplant.  I felt like the air had been knocked out of me.  I was trying to process all that was being said and still listen to what she was telling us about the procedure and upcoming appointments but everything just seemed like a whirlwind around me.  I mean, he's healthy (other than the shortness of breath).  He's a normal kid.  No one would know anything if not for him becoming winded easily.  I mean, why won't the second surgery fix it?  Why have things changed?  Why couldn't we have seen his normal cardiologist so we could ask these questions?

Fear.  Fear.  And more Fear.

And yet I looked at him with all those wires hooked to him and knew in those moments that I'd do any and everything possible for him.

Right now nothing is urgent.  They don't like to do surgeries in the winter if possible, and he's healthy and maintaining well enough that we can wait even until early summer, which is the plan.  He'll have another appointment in mid spring, then a heart cath in late spring to make sure all the pressures in his heart and lungs are good and then open heart surgery a few weeks after that.  And no one knows when the transplant will be needed, be it 2 years after the surgery or 20.  It's simply based on how him and his body respond.

I'd like to say I'm not anxious about this, but I'd be lying.

This news changes a lot.  But you know what I can say is this:  this news doesn't change how we prayed for him before we ever knew him.  It doesn't change how we prayed and prayed for our son before we ever got the call, praying him through his first surgery we had no idea about at the time.  It doesn't change how we love him and will do whatever necessary for his well-being.

But it does bring a lot of fear.  Obviously for his health and safety.  But also for how our other 3 kids are going to handle it all...handle our divided attention, being separated, seeing him like he'll be after the surgery....

But HE is faithful.  Time and time again He shows me just how faithful He is.

So when you see sweet pictures on Facebook like this:


and think that we have it all together...that we're the perfect family, I want you to remember this:

You see the front.  We see the storms that have made us who we are.

We have an incredible family.  Mark and I have a great marriage.  We have friends and family that love us and cover us in prayer.  BUT we are who and what we are ONLY by the grace of God alone.  It is HIM friends.  It is HE and only HE who has enabled us to be and have the family that we do.  HE alone is faithful.  HE brings healing and peace and joy amidst the trials and storms of life.  It is only because of His grace and mercy that we have made it this far.  And hear me when I say this:

I believe with every fiber of my being that He will see us through everything we're about to face.

Because He's never not done that.  Yes, we've lost two babies.  Yes, we've had times I didn't know if we'd make it.  Yes, we've watched friends bury their sons.  Yes, we have one son on the spectrum and one facing a possible heart transplant.

But HE IS GOOD.

He's so good to us.

I hope that no matter what you're facing in life that you can plant your foot on solid ground and say with us that no matter the storm, He'll be the way.  And if you can't, please contact me.  I'd love to tell you how He can bring you the peace for which you're seeking.

Much love,

Phoebe

Monday, October 03, 2016

Held

I'm becoming more and more aware of something.

My babies are growing up.

I know.  That's not earth shattering news.  I know this is the progressive course of life.  But it's hard.

I was texting back and forth with my friend the other day and she was getting ready to have a girl's night out with one of her daughters.  She said her older daughter had been invited to a sleepover and the younger one was feeling left out.  But what she said after that has stuck with me.

"I won't always have the chance to mend her heart but at least this time I can."

I was reminded of this yet again when after watching the Jungle Book our three year old got up in the middle of the night, running through the house screaming and crying.  I was jolted awake, confused, trying to figure out what was going on when the sweetest little voice said, "There's a lion in my room."  Ahh.... Shere Khan.  A lion, a tiger.... all the same to a 3 year old: scary.

I pulled her up into bed with us and she snuggled in close to me.  Her crying stopped, her breathing slowed to normal, and she drifted off to sleep as I rubbed her sweet little blond hair and kissed her forehead over and over and over.  After a little while, I took her back to bed and returned to sleep myself.  And then I heard it, her little cry coming closer and closer.  "Mommy, there's a lion in my room."  And so we repeated the process again.  Snuggling next to Mommy and Daddy, rubbing her little head, giving her kisses, and assuring her there aren't any lions anywhere to be found.  She calmed down and I returned her to her bed.  Not too many minutes later, I heard it again... this time, a whimper from the dining room.  A hesitancy.  I met her at the door, arms opened wide.  She ran to me and I scooped her up again.  Neck to neck, she held tightly.  This time I went to her room, sat on her bed beside her and rubbed her head as I whispered softly to her, reassuring her she was safe and there weren't any lions in her room.  And that time, she drifted off to sleep for the rest of the night.

It's in moments like these that God often reveals His truths me.  I couldn't go back to sleep that night.  I tossed and turned and this blog post began coming to life in my head as God softly spoke to my heart.

If you'd only come to me like she comes to you.

So many times I try to do things myself, in my strength and even though I know this will get me nowhere, I continue on anyway.  I fail.  Then I try harder.  I fail again.  And I repeat this absurdity over and over again.  And time and time again I end up reminding myself that this is futile.

So very futile.

If only I'd just go to Him.  Because, unlike me, He never sleeps.  He's not caught off guard, confused, and trying to figure out what's going on.  He already knows and He's waiting.

Oh how He's waiting for me to just go to Him.  To be held.  To steady my footing and be reassured.

I often imagine the Father to be a lot like my Dad.  Because gracious, He certainly blessed me with an incredible dad.  My dad made it easy for me to know that Christ loves me because he showed me through his love every day.  When life threw us some curve balls and we lost two of our babies, my Dad is who I wanted to call.  Other than Mark's, he's whose arms I wanted to be in because he's always comforted me for as long as I can remember.  And the Father whispers:

I'm here to do the same.

He wants to hold me close.  He wants me to settle in next to Him so He can steady my heart and show me that I can trust Him when He says everything is going to be okay.

If only I'd just be held instead of running.  Instead of depending on myself and what strength I think I have. There's such comfort in just being held.  Sometimes true strength is found in letting go.  And oh what peace there is in His arms.

You know, I won't always be able to take away my kids' fears and mend their broken hearts, but right now, while it's possible, I'll spend every moment of my life trying, running to them and holding them as long as I can.  And each and every time I do, I pray that I'm reminded to run straight to the Father and ...

... just be held.