Friday, December 28, 2012

Can you believe?

Seriously.  Can you believe it is the end of the year?  It smacks me every time I think about it... another year blown by!  They go by faster and faster each time.  I remember my mother saying that when I was young.  Now it is my reality.

It is hard to glance back at a year and not think of things you wish were different.  Moments you wish you had side stepped and others you wish you had sat in and enjoyed... just a minute or two longer.

I could list many of those moments.  But I won't.  Those moments are part of growing, learning, refining.  Those moments magnify the great ones... the ones that are lit against a backdrop of laughter, joy, and love.  Those moments also increase my thankfulness for grace.  Grace that blankets me like a sweet, soft, glistening freshly fallen snow!

I am thankful for 2012.  I am thankful for the health and protection of my family.  And I am thankful for the presence and abundant blessings from the Lord.  I am thankful for His voice, for His hand, for His love, mercy and grace... and for His faithfulness.

As we get ready to start 2013, I do not EVEN dare make a list of things I want to accomplish, start, or change.  I pray my 2013 is blanketed in one thing... Abiding.  I pray each and every day I can walk in the moment in His love and grace and let it overflow onto others around me.  I pray I can walk each day ready and willing to move when the Lord says "move", stand when He says "stand", and change when He says, "change."  I pray I can grow in my ability to let go of self and embrace more of Him.

I do have fun plans for change with my blog.  I am very excited to share but it is a load of work!  So I will share more details when I am closer to revealing!

I am so very thankful for you... for my friend who shares this journey with me.  I am so very thankful for your encouragement and your friendship and the grace you give to me.  I am thankful for you and can't wait to share this next year with you.

I hope you embrace the last few days of this year and enjoy every moment and memory yet to be made!  Be blessed sweet friend... be blessed!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Loving the Hurt Child... Part Four

 The game of push/pull & control

Moments like this have been few.  Moments like this are precious.  Moments like this are very much needed.
Moments like this have been rejected all too often.  Moments like this are returning.

The understanding of a two year old is very limited to say the least.  Abby had very "difficult" veins.  They disappeared, rolled, and simply would not take an iv.  On several occasions, Abby was poked numerous times... starting in her arm, then her other arm, then her foot, then her other foot, and then her legs.  There was one episode where there were probably six to seven people standing over her as she lied on a table.  They were trying to find a vein with lights and poked her for over 30 minutes.  She was horrified.  It was one of the most tragic and helpless moments for all of us.  Her seizures were increasing like crazy.  Tests were all coming back normal.  Nothing could be found yet something was so wrong.

Having an iv for an emergency was necessary.  It was not an option at this point.  But all Abby knew was this: Her parents stood there and were letting it happen.  She was reaching for me with panic in her eyes, screaming and crying and I could not stop it.  I tried to soothe her which was probably all the more confusing for her.  It makes me physically sick to remember it.  I could not take anymore, and I did the worse thing for her... I left her.  I was about to explode into a million pieces and I knew my lack of calm was good for no one.  So I left the room and lost it in the hall... beating and kicking the wall, screaming into my hands and letting it out.  But all she knew was... I left.

I believe this... her abandonment by her birth mother... and her time in the hospital and orphanage in Kazakhstan has everything to do with her push/pull relationship with me.  Abby wants to connect with me... she wants to cuddle with me... wants to need me... yet when she gets close... she stiffens and pulls away.  Her hugs are normally cautious.  There is most always space left between us.  And a stiff arm is always ready to push me away at the needed moment.  She often rejects affection.  If I accept her rejection with ease, then she asks for the affection again.  If I engage her in conversation about why she is rejecting the affection, she seems more pleased.  Conflict is peeking around the corner.  She thrives on it.  Oddly, it satisfies one of her deepest needs... the need to be in control.

I think it is very normal for every person to like control.  It is one of the hardest things to give up.  It requires trust and the ability to be vulnerable.  But for a wounded child, control is something they grasp for with all ten fingers.  

Control is one of the biggest issues with my daughter.  Her contrary attitude has taken a toll on us for years.  We say "juice", she says "milk".  We say "apple" and she says "orange".  We say "bed" and she says "bathroom".  We say "no" and she says "yes".  We give a choice, she won't make it.  We make it for her, she then demands for the opposite.  We offer a hug, she says "no."  We say "O.K." and she then asks for the hug.

It has caused great damage in our relationship as it has gone on for years... years.  I have tried so many different parenting techniques and none of them have worked.  I knew it was a control "game" but I did not understand the deep need behind it and I didn't have the "tools" to help her.  I was at the end of my rope.  Really.

"Parenting the Hurt Child," by Gregory C. Keck & Regina M. Kupecky, describes this battle to the tiniest detail.  I was again floored when I read it.  And then it gave me two gifts... perspective and tools.  TOOLS are the most important thing needed when you are loving a hurt child.  Love has got to be there... but TOOLS ARE CRUCIAL!

Perspective: "There are some simple rules to remember with children who are overly controlling.  First, they learned to control adults early on--  when abuse, neglect, or the limitations of the orphanage taught them adults could not be trusted.  To quote Kay Donley Ziegler, an early pioneer in the world of older adopted children, "We live in a world where big people take care of little people.  They live in a world where big people hurt little people."  Asking these kids to give up control and hand it over is very difficult, because to them, it is a matter of life and death.  ... Because control is directly linked to the child's concept of survival, he will often initiate control battles unnecessarily.  Don't worry about the battles you can't win or the ones you don't know about.  After all, if you try to control everything, you'll end up the loser.  The child needs some control, and you can decide how much and how it is to be experienced.  The more control battles you give up, the more likely is is that you'll win the ones you take on." (63)

This page alone has been so helpful.  I had come to just see my daughter's need to control as a bad behavior grounded in manipulation and conflict.  Every time she invited a battle I was livid she could not be content without disruption and conflict.  The more she invited conflict into our life, the more I pushed her out.  I started wanting to simply avoid her or at least interaction with her.  And the more I avoided her and pushed her away... the more she dug up ways to have conflict... wanting that interaction.  It had become this horrible cycle that was simply destroying us.  Being offered the idea of it being "life and death" to Abby changed my entire perspective.  My heart... that was growing so hard... softened and my eyes saw her in a new way.  Instead of this disruptive little girl causing so much turmoil in our family... in our life... I saw her as a choking little girl gasping for air... grasping for survival in her world that was very much different from my world.  It was a huge turning point for me as an exhausted and almost hopeless mother.  I am forever thankful.

Tools: One of the most powerful statements in this book, for me, is found in an example on page 64.  "Whenever seven-year-old Alex was asked by her mom to tie her shoes, comb her hair, and put on her jacket, she would alter the order-- first combing her hair, putting on a jacket, and then tying her shoes.  Although her mom didn't care, Alex thought she was scoring an enormous control coup.  However, when mom started restating her directions-- "Honey, get ready by tying your shoes, combing your hair, and putting on your jacket... in any order you want."-- she took the child completely by surprise.  While Alex had been convinced that she was powerful by doing it "her way," she was knocked down a peg or two when she realized her mom had taken control by not caring.  In this case, the parent completely avoided the battle by eliminating the choice of doing things "mom's way." 

Now I must clarify that if I asked Abby to do three things and she did it in any order... I would be thrilled!  The example seemed a bit much at first but I can clearly see that for a child grasping for control in all situations, it makes total sense.  In my case, if I asked Abby to comb her hair, put on a jacket, and tie her shoes... it would have looked more like this: Abby moaning about having to comb her hair... stating she hates combing her hair... asking not to comb her hair... asking why she has to comb her hair... followed by asking me to comb her hair.  I would be in there telling her that personal hygiene is important, yes she has to comb her hair, because it looks wild and because I said to comb it.  I would answer her last question with a "no"... she would have to do it herself (or give in and do it for her...depending on the amount of "battles" that morning).  Notice this is still the first request!  

Then when it would come to the jacket... Abby would state she doesn't want to wear a jacket and ask why she had to wear one.  I would tell her it is cold and I don't want her to be cold and she needs to obey and get her jacket.  Now on to tying her shoes... Abby would huff in annoyance that she has to tie her shoes... state that it is hard to tie her shoes... state that she hates her shoes... and ask me to tie her shoes.  I would tell her she is blessed to have shoes... blessed that she has learned how to tie them... and insist she tie them. In one morning, this sort of interaction could also take place over brushing teeth, clothing, breakfast food, breakfast beverage, taking vitamins, and getting to the car for school.

There would be days where I would think I was going to slam my head in the floor 20 times before I got her to school.  I would be completely drained and frazzled from trying to remain patient, consistent, and firm... yet loving!  LOL

So where was my "aha" moment on the above quoted page?  "...her mom had taken control by not caring."  Abby's behavior is all an effort to engage me and wrestle for control.  What would it look like if I started "acting" like I didn't care?  From other examples in this same chapter, I saw a "game" that I could play that might help diffuse the wrestling matches.  I just recently tried this out.  And I am amazed, filled with hope, and highly encouraged by what happened.  It is the very reason I felt so prompted to write this series.

It was a very difficult morning... pretty typical.  I started to enter the wrestling ring and then it hit me... play the game.  So I went for it.  Abby was being controlling and ugly to her brother and so I asked her for a hug.  She turned her back to me, frowned and said, "No."  I started laughing and replied, "High five Abs (with my hand raised for a high five slap), I knew you were going to say "no."  You rock!  You did exactly what I had hoped you'd do!"  

I wish I had her facial response on camera.  It was a blank look of disbelief sprinkled with hints of massive confusion.  I turned and went about my business making her brother's breakfast.  In her panic and realization that she had lost that match, she started round two.  She announced, "I don't want breakfast.  I am not hungry."  "O.K.  You don't have to eat," I replied.  Stunned.  She was stunned.  I had not insisted she needed breakfast.  We did not argue about her health and her need for food and what that food would be.  I had not entered the ring!  She actually started darting her eyes around the room... looking for a way to enter the ring for round three.  And she found it... pretty quickly.

"I'll eat this for breakfast," she exclaimed... in a high octave shrill as she picked up three peppermints off the counter. "Go for it Abby... that is a great idea... and I won't have to make it or clean it up... awesome," was my quick response.  She suddenly just stopped in her tracks.  She just stood there in silence... the wheels turning in her little head... with nothing for round four.  I had to find a way to leave the room as I was about to start laughing.  I told her I was going upstairs to get dressed and went upstairs.  

As I walked upstairs, I was smacked with how easy it was and how it had worked.  It had totally worked. There had not been one fight.  There was no conflict. She had lost all three attempts at wrestling.  I was almost laughing with delight.  I had no idea what was coming next but I had just witnessed something amazing.  I had won all the control battles of the morning by not caring.  It was SO contrary to anything I had thought, believed, or tried before.  I was amazed.  Would she eat the peppermints?  I didn't know.  But I didn't care.  I had "seen" her thrown off kilter by the "tool" I had used and I was FILLED WITH HOPE.  And I felt great!  Very odd for me to feel GREAT on a school morning!

Then something incredible happened.  Just minutes later, she entered my room and said, "Hug?"  And she embraced me.  It was a real hug... no tense arms... no safe space between us... just a real hug.  She had gone back to the very thing that started the whole "game" and was giving it to me.  I had to hold back tears.  Then she actually high-fived me.  Again, I wasn't sure what was happening in that moment, but she was pleasant.  Her entire attitude had changed from combative to loving.  She was amazing the rest of the day!

We went downstairs to leave for school.  There sat the three peppermints on the counter.  She had in fact not eaten them.  She had not eaten anything.  And we have not had a battle about breakfast since.  She simply eats.

This was a huge breakthrough for me... for her... for us.  I asked my husband to read the book and he did.  We are amazed at how much it mirrors our struggle.  I am so thankful for the tools it offers.  I am about to read it again.  And I do recommend it HIGHLY to any parent who is loving a wounded child.

Everything is not perfect now.  But we are making steps in the right direction.  And we have TOOLS!
Now that some of the conflict is missing, there is more room for positive interaction and nurturing.  It is sometimes hard to remember to "play the game" but I am trying more and more and I see results every time.  She is letting go of some battles and she is letting me nurture her more.  The bonus is that my attitude doesn't get so "up there" when I play the game and I am able to stay more calm.  That is a bonus for everyone! 

But the prize is Abby is healing.  The prize is something is working.  She is trusting me/us more.  And my heart soars with hope.  My strength has been renewed to keep walking forward in hope.

And I can't wait to see what the next year holds.  And of course... I will share it with you!

If you have not read the first three parts of this series, you can read them at the links below!  And please feel free to share them!  That is the very reason I write them...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hope in an ever present darkness

It is heartbreaking how quickly we can forget... the ever present darkness.  It is heartbreaking how quickly we can be reminded... and in such tragic ways.

I had taken Abby to Moe's for lunch last Friday.  This is a love language for her... going to restaurants.  The very famous book about love languages needs to add another chapter as "restaurant hopping" was oddly overlooked.  As we took funny pictures of each other on my phone and shared cheese dip and salsa, I kept glancing up at the television.  The horror of what happened in Connecticut was already being covered.  Darkness erupted and being reduced to headlines and tickers.  "What's happened?" she asked me.  "I am not sure," was my response.  I could not find a way to tell her.

I watched my daughter laugh as we tossed chips back and forth to each other.  I listened to her tell me three times, "Mommy, I sooo like our Moe's dates... thank you for bringing me here."  And I watched in silence and sorrow as parents faced their new reality... they would never hear their child's laugh again... or their voice.  They would never see another smile, see another dirty hand print, wipe another snotty nose, or embrace in another hug.

When I see things like this... gun control and other "fast track to be blamed" issues do not even come to my mind.  They are simply easy targets... handy excuses and further distraction to keep our attention away from the real problem.  

The simple and ugly reality is this:  Darkness, who most often disguises himself as an angel of light, has gotten bold and shown himself unveiled.  Darkness has risen up and thrown off the mask of allure he normally hides beneath.  He has unveiled and shown a more realistic picture of himself...  just a quick glimpse... catching the masses off guard... leaving us gasping and reeling for answers and understanding. 

There are several issues being blamed and discussed after this deeply saddening event... gun control, school security, and media sensationalism seem to be the most visible.  But they are all tied to the number one issue... the evil presence of the enemy... Satan.  We do not wrestle against flesh and blood... but against principalities and rulers of darkness!  Ephesians 6:12~

The serious truth of the matter is that even when we seem to be comfortable and things "seem" to be going well, we live in a world where all hell has literally broken loose and wars against us daily.  Most people don't seem to notice or mind.  Some people don't want to know.  Some deny it.  Others ignore it.  It saturates almost every aspect of our lives.  It's displayed and endorsed in every single form of media and targets all of us.  It romances us in popular lyrics, television shows and movies.  It lies quietly waiting under the click of a mouse.  It poses itself boldly and provocatively in magazines and on billboards.  It wears beautiful clothes and says all the right words and promises a better tomorrow.  And it kills innocent children.  Evil is no respecter of persons.  It attacks us, our husbands, our children, our marriages, our families, our work places, our churches, our schools and our hearts.  It is real.  It is Satan and his fallen angels.  His three fold mission is to kill, steal, and destroy.

He is smart, cunning, thoughtful, manipulative, strategic, and the expert father of lies.  He hides behind the cloak of popular ideas, popular music, entertainment, ignorance, and comfort.  Beth Moore describes it as "friendly captivity."  He entices us in such subtle and saturated ways that we all too often can't remember when he entered into the picture.  And when we are vulnerable... he has been patiently waiting... waiting for that very moment... and he strikes at the very core of who we are... and goes for the kill.  No lace, no lipstick, no lies, no seduction, no rhyme, no disguising pretty packaging... just vile unveiled evil.  

Where is the hope in all of this?  Where is the answer to so many questions?  Where is the light?  Where is the justice?  Where is the healing?

The only place where one can rest in the presence of the living God... in the Word of God.  In truth.  In light.  In Jesus Christ... who won this war with His death and resurrection!  Sadly, the battles will continue to play out until He returns... when every knee will bow to His name and this fallen world will be made right again. But we must remain focused on the fact He has won the war!

"Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path." Psalm 119:105~

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."  John 1: 1-5~

"This is my comfort in affliction, Your word has given me life."  Psalm 119:50~

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."  John 1:14~

"For You will light my lamp; The LORD my God will enlighten my darkness... As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him."  
Psalm 18:28,30~

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."  John 3:16~

"He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.  Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret-- it only causes harm.  For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.  For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed you will look carefully for his place, But it shall be no more.  But the meek shall inherit the earth, And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace." Psalm 37:6-10~

This verse lies sweetly in the middle of the word of God... 
"It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man."  Psalm 118:8~

"Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord."  Romans 12:19~

"He will feed his flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them to His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young." Isaiah 40:11~

"I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them--- My Servant David.  He shall feed them and be their shepherd.  And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant a prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken." Ezekiel 34:23,24~

"I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep... As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father, and I lay down My life for the sheep.  And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also must I bring, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock and one shepherd."  John 10:11,15,16~

... the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining... 1 John 2:8~

 "Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and sea!  For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time."  Revelation 12:12~

"Then He who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.'  And He said to me, 'Write, for these words are true and faithful.'" Revelation 21:5~

"And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.  
Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter through the gates into the city.  But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.
I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches.  I am the root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star."  Revelation 22:12-16~

He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming quickly."  Revelation 22:20~

Our hope is in the Lord.  Our healing is in Christ Jesus.  Our power is in the Holy Spirit.  Our weapon against the enemy is the Word of God.  Our enemy is Satan.  And our purpose remains... to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in hope that no man perish without the promise of everlasting life! 

Without the Word, without Jesus Christ, without the Father... there is nothing left but empty attempts to understand a battle that has everything to do with Him!

Cling to it... devour it... learn it... memorize it... obey it... use it... and believe it.  It is our anchor in every storm. 

My prayers for comfort, strength, healing, hope, and salvation are with all the precious people affected by this tragic and heartbreaking event.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Loving the Hurt Child... Part Three

More Wounds to Come

There is something so deeply moving about offering love and hope to a child who has no family.  Again, words are not even full enough to grasp the beauty and intimacy of such a privilege.  It is Hope with skin on.   

When we adopted Abby, I thought the love and hope we had and offered her would be enough.  I had this idea that our love would just erase all the wounds and the pain. Love and hope are very much vital components of life with an adopted child but it was not always enough.  It was not enough for us.  It was not enough for Abby. 

Love is not enough?  That seems to contradict so much of what we come to believe but I can tell you... it is not enough for many children.  Although it motivates everything needed in all aspects of journey, there are other things needed that I/we overlooked.  Looking back at it all now, I think it was almost like a form of denial.  I didn't want to think anything was wrong.  I wanted to think that our generous out poring of love was enough to heal over her wounds and erase her pain.  I thought she was young enough to forget it.  I think I also thought it would reflect poorly on me if my love was not enough.  Love had to be enough.  What else was there?

I did not walk into adoption blindly.  I read numerous books on adoption, completed a adoption training course and THOUGHT I had all the bases covered.  In addition to the wounds Abby received before we adopted her, (you can read about that in the previous posts) there was another pretty big one waiting for us.

When we came home with Abby, she "hit the ground running."  She slept through the night and walked around our house like she'd been there all her life.  We were floored.  We were also blown away with how quickly she was learning English.  By the time we got home from Kazakhstan with her, at 21 months old, she already knew close to 10 English words.  Her first "word" was "ball."  She would fly through a deck of alphabet cards and knew all but about four of the letters.  We were amazed.  I can not repeat this enough.  THIS is probably what made me think all the more she would be "fine." 

And then things started to unravel pretty quickly.  My husband was hired with an airline in Atlanta and so almost as soon as we arrived with her in our home, we started packing.  Within two months of getting "home" with her, we moved from Virginia to outside Atlanta causing yet another transition for her.

In addition to the move, we started noticing funny behavior after she'd wake up from a nap.  She would wake up and sometimes have eye rolling episodes.  The eye rolling would last only about a second and then she'd be fine.  But sometimes she'd do it like seven or eight times in a row.  Before we moved, we took her to the pediatrician we'd had set up for her and she suggested it was absong seizures.  She reassured us there was nothing to worry about and she'd probably outgrow them.  Something didn't settle with me but again, I so WANTED to believe everything was fine.

Shortly after the move, Abby had a new kind of episode.  She was downstairs watching Sesame Street and I was upstairs making our bed.  I heard this weird cry... almost like a half muffled cry.  I went running and she was half sitting in her little rocking chair and half hanging out.  One of her arms was in between the back spindles of the chair.  When I pulled her up to me... she was limp... that arm was limp... and she looked drunk.  Reality smacked me.  Something was wrong and I went running out the door with her to our pediatrician who was located just 5 minutes away.  If she needed help, I thought it would be the quickest way to get it.  I moved so quickly that I was only wearing a pair of boxer shorts, my husband's undershirt, and I was barefooted.  This is important for later.

On the way there, I sang, "Jesus Loves Me," to her and kept trying to get her to look at me.  I ran a red light and several stop signs and actually made it there in less than five minutes.  When I got out of the car to get her out of the car seat, she was fine.  SHE WAS FINE.  She pointed to an airplane and said, "aypane."  She pointed to birds.  I stood there... puzzled to say the least.  She had raised her previously limp arm to point at the airplane and was clear and alert as if nothing had happened.  That is when it hit me.  I was standing in the parking lot of a doctor's office barefooted, in my husband's underwear (that I used for pajamas from time to time) and my daughter was acting "fine."

So... do I walk inside looking like a complete lunatic or drive back home?  I kept looking at her.  I stood her up on the ground.  She stood up just fine... took off running actually.  LOL  I started trying to think of logical explanations for the previous episode that had sent me running into public in underwear.  Could she have gotten her arm stuck in between the spindles, pulled on it and pulled it out of socket?  Could it just fall back into place by itself?  Could that have caused her to cry that weird cry and almost pass out and become limp? My husband was gone on a trip and... well... I was standing there in completely inappropriate attire... and so I decided to put her back in the car... head home... call my husband... and get his opinion.  

I told him what happened. We decided to talk about it more the next day and take her to the pediatrician (clothed properly) and get their opinion and guidance.  

Denial started wrestling with worry.  I was pretty sure at this point something was wrong.  As a new mother, you don't want to think anything is wrong with your baby.  But the next day, Abby would wake us up in the morning with yet another horrible episode.  Once again, there was a weird cry and she was limp.  The pediatrician suggested we pack a bag and head to the Children's Hospital in Atlanta.

Something inside clicks.  I call it, "handle it mode."  Unless you have experienced it, it is hard to explain.  I personally think a lot, if not all of it, comes from the Holy Spirit.  It is just this mode of calm that comes over you when everything inside is screaming.  As we drove into Atlanta, all sorts of things were running through my mind.  Things I had been holding back behind a locked door of steal.  Now, the door was open and it flooded me.  Was this a tumor?  Cancer?  Something simple?  Something horrible?  Could it be fixed?  Would she be o.k.?  Would we be o.k.  But something inside knew there was a shift happening... things would never be the same.  Dreams and hopes started getting hazy.

I have recently written about what followed HERE.  For the sake of my readers, I won't repeat it all in this post.  In a very simple nutshell, medical trauma would follow.  It would inflict new wounds on this little one who had already been through so much.  And worst of all, the new wounds would now include us... her new parents... the ones she had just allowed herself to trust.  

We would have to spend years fighting to get trust back.  We would spend years looking for the right "tools" to help her receive our love.  We would spend years fighting for her.  It would be a very difficult, lonely, exhausting fight.  And we are still fighting it.

But before we could really start fighting to get her back... we'd lose her even more.  There was yet another blow to this battle right around the corner. 

Part four to follow...

Friday, December 14, 2012

Small Pause...

Sweet friends, I thank you for your sincere interest in my last couple of posts and your private messages.  I am forever deeply encouraged when trials, challenges, heartaches, and pain in my past... our past... can give others hope, courage, and strength.  My ultimate prayer is that God is seen as the source of strength, mercy, love, wisdom, provision and guidance in all of them.

I have had to take a little pause from writing as life is crazy busy this weekend.  My husband and I volunteer for an orphan hosting program, Project One Forty Three. HERE  The organization brings orphans over from Latvia and Ukraine to be hosted in host family homes for four to seven weeks.  It is the most amazing program I have ever seen.

This past week, we had several last minute families step up to host and it involved several home safety visits and report writing.  My creative "posting" thoughts had to go on hold for a moment!  

You can read more about how the hosting program works HERE.

Today, a plane full of orphans arrive from Latvia!  My husband and I work the airport arrivals and it is HOLY GROUND.  When you watch family after family embrace their host child... God is standing in the midst of that and words can't capture the beauty enough to fully describe it.  That is what we'll be doing today!  And then Ukraine's children arrive tomorrow!

I am hoping to write another post on "Loving the hurt child," tomorrow.  I have had some of the highest traffic ever on my blog this past week and I thank you all for being here... for coming back... for sharing your heart in the comments... for sharing the posts on facebook... and for sharing your time with me!

Have a super blessed day and look for beauty in all of it!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Loving the Hurt Child... Part Two

 Playing Baby

In my attempt to get it so right... I got it so wrong.

I was so bent on helping Abby grow up... catch up... progress developmentally... that I never considered she needed to step backwards.

After Abby spent three months in the hospital, she was taken to an orphanage.  Her crib was the last one on the left side of the room, against the wall and by a window.  The walls of this large room were lined with cribs.  She was one of many.  She would be here for one year before we got to her.

I have to add here... something amazing.  In my infertility post, HERE, I mention stomping my foot and crying out to God why my pregnancy test was negative AGAIN.  On that very day, Abby was in this orphanage... waiting for me.  Waiting for us.  As I think about God looking down at her, having His hand on her, and guiding us on our path to her... I am amazed and greatly humbled.  I can see Him answering me gently, "Because she is waiting for you."

The caregivers at the orphanage held the children backwards.  Their thought process was well intended.  They thought that by denying the children attachment with them, they would more easily attach to their adoptive mommies and daddies since they wanted attachment so badly.  Well intended... but oh, so wrong.  It teaches them at a young age that attachment is not coming.  They learn/adjust/adapt to not needing it.  This actually makes attaching to parents even harder.

Abby had birth parent/s (caregivers) who abandoned her in a cafe in her car seat on top of a table.  We have NO idea if that environment was healthy or not.  But they/she left her.  Everything she knew to be true was gone.

She was in the hospital for three months (caregivers #2).  Physical contact and nurturing was likely minimal.  She lay on her back in a baby bed all day... for three months.  These caregivers "taught" her she was alone.  They taught her that caregivers don't meet her needs.

She was then taken to the orphanage (caregivers #3) where she was still alone, yet one of many.  Nurturing, movement and physical contact increased... but was still not healthy.  These caregivers taught her not to attach (without intending to).   

Enter in her hopeful... eager... and loving adoptive parents.  She was 21 months old and we were caregivers #4.  And we would be the very opposite of what she now knew to be true. 

I will never, ever forget the moment Abby came around the corner and I saw her for the first time.  The caregivers were telling her "mama... mama" and pointing to me.  I was down on my knees on the ground with open arms.  She bravely walked over... clutching a cookie in each of her hands with huge bow on top of her head... turned around (facing outward) and sat in my lap.  That moment is so telling.  Actually, many of those moments are now so telling.

I can still feel the weight of her sitting in my lap for the first time.  I can feel the warmth of her little head as I leaned down and kissed it for the first time... the softness of her hair.  I started talking to her... but she wouldn't look at me.  On our video, I can hear myself saying, "She won't look at me."

If this picture was not so heartbreaking... it would be pretty funny.  After holding her "outward" for a while... I had to embrace her.  I had been praying for this child for over a year.  She was now in my arms.  My. child. was. now. in. my. arms!  But this precious one had not been held like this in over a year.  The fear and panic in her eyes stab me deep in the soul.  Horror.  I was there... representing love and hope and a forever mommy... and she was scared out of her mind.

She totally was afraid to look at my husband.  One of my favorite pictures is of her in his lap... with her body and head tilted out... yet looking at him ever so slightly.  (Boo, I can't find it right now!)  She'd make a great big sigh and then quickly look away... with her little lip pouted out.  Then she would look back... for just about two seconds... sigh again... and look away.  Wanting to look... yet she just couldn't.  Wanting to let us "in"... yet so afraid.

My precious baby girl... oh so trying to be brave with cookies clutched tightly...

The orphanage allowed us to visit her twice a day for two hours in the morning and one hour in the afternoon.  This time was meant for bonding before we took her from the orphanage.  I loved they had this policy.  Instead of walking in... getting her... and walking out... she got to know us before she was taken by us from her "home."

Many of those moments were spent with her in my arms... crying the saddest cries.

She would hold onto me so tightly and just cry... for hours.

 two weary girls...

She would stop... look at me for about six or seven seconds... and start crying again.  She would not let me sit down or let her go.  I would stand and walk and bounce and sing and coo and pray... and worry.  My arms felt like jello.  I would prop my leg up on a chair and "sit" her on my leg without her knowing she was "sitting".  Knowing the inward battle she was having... the confusion... the pain... just killed me.  And we didn't even speak the same language!  I so wanted to fix it.  My desire to "fix it" has lasted to this day.

The worst part was having to leave her each day.  Even though I knew it was best... thought it was best... we kept leaving.  Just. like. everyone. else. in. her. life.  Finally, she realized we kept coming back and things started to turn.  PRAISE GOD.

It took three days until she smiled.  She was SO serious.  Her face was void of expression unless she was crying. I remember leaving after the second day of visiting and crying in the car.  I was thinking reactive attachment disorder.  I had read about it in one of the many adoption books.  And I was scared... heartbroken.

But on the third day, she fed me goldfish crackers (our biggest bonding tool!) and she smiled.  Hope flooded through me like a rushing river!  She smiled.  Amazing.  Beautiful.  Precious.

The fourth day she laughed.  We have it on video.  How I wish I was all video techno-savvy and could download it here for you.  It was one of the most precious sounds ever.  But the picture will have to do.  It is one of my favorites.  I had her in my arms, leaned her out from me, buried my face in her chest and acted like I was eating her up.  And she laughed.  And of course, I did it 20 times... kissing and gobbling up her chest, face, and neck!  And she laughed 20 times.  And there is where one of my biggest false ideas would enter into my mind and stay.  "She is fine."  "My love will heal her and we'll all just be fine."  I accepted that idea way too early.  It was what I SO wanted to believe.

During our exit interview with the lawyer, who spent a lot of time at Abby's orphanage, I mentioned the beauty of Abby's first laugh.  Her words still ring in my ears and her facial expression has never been forgotten.  "I have never seen her laugh."  She was in total disbelief.  I found it odd.  I asked her if she wanted to see this display of joy.  She seriously answered, "Yes."  I did "my thing" and Abby laughed.  The lawyers face lit up like a light bulb and the sweetest smile came over her face.  She laughed... looked at Abby... looked at me... and gave me a nod of approval.

One of the things Abby would do for years is act like a baby.  She would crawl into the kitchen while I was cooking and say, "I'm a baby... feed me."  It would make my skin crawl... irritate me... because she was eight... nine... 10... even 11 years old.  My response would be, "No, you are not a baby.  You are a big girl.   You are eight years old.  You are nine years old.  You are 10 years old for crying out loud.  You are 11!  Get up off the floor and act like an 8 year old... 9 year old... 10 year old... 11 year old!"

Abby acted like a baby because certain milestones of development were not met while she was a baby.  Go figure.  Who knew?  I had NO idea.  "Parenting a Hurt Child," informed me of this and gave several examples of children wanting to "play baby"... even teenagers!   But what this book did was offer a TOOL for parents with children who are not acting age appropriately and want to "play baby".

The answer... drum roll... PLAY BABY WITH THEM.

I was a skeptic.  Really?  How is letting my 11 year old play like she is a baby going to help her?  Is it not reinforcing behavior that isn't age-appropriate?  I kept reading.  The book gives several examples of parents who used this technique with great success.  One mother of a teenager turned her daughter's day bed around to make it a "baby bed-like" space.  She climbed into the "baby bed" with her teenage daughter and played baby with her using baby toys she had bought at the store.  This mother only had to do this on a few occasions before her daughter never wanted to play baby again.  Whatever deep need had not been met before... had now been met... and she didn't "NEED" it anymore.

THIS seemed too good to be true.  I read it at least three times.  My mouth actually may have been hanging open as I thought about this concept... this technique... this therapy... this hope.  I found myself actually looking forward to the next time Abby wanted to be a baby.  And it came.

Abby had just been disciplined for misbehavior.  It had been a BAD episode of defiance and control battles and disrespect.  It was a bad one.  After she/we cooled down, I went into her room to talk to her about it.  We were both sitting on her floor.  After just moments of talking... "I'm a baby," she said, and she crawled towards me.  This was it.  This was my moment to play baby with her.  Filled with HOPE and eagerness, I replied, "Are you my baby... my sweet baby girl... my Abby?"  To this she replied with a baby noise of "Uh huh," and put her hand up on my face.

"Do you want to lay in my lap little baby?" I asked.  Another "Uh huh," and she was in my lap.  As I stroked her face, I told her what a precious and beautiful baby she was.  She soaked it up like a dry sponge dropped in an endless ocean.  "I am so blessed to be your mommy.  You are my precious baby and you are so cute and smart," I added.

Then I noticed.  Even though she was soaking it up... she wasn't looking at me.  Eye contact is another area of struggle with  Abby.  The book had also made suggestions about this and so I went for it.  "Can I see your beautiful brown eyes, little baby?"  She slowly gave me her eyes.  "There they are, I love seeing those brown eyes... they are so beautiful," I cooed to her.  As I gazed into her eyes cooing words of baby affirmation, she gazed back at me like never before.  There she was... I could see her... the real Abby inside... deep inside... desiring and allowing love, nurturing, affirmation, and attachment!

In the past, I had demanded eye contact.  "Look at me with your eyes," I would say.  She felt threatened when I did that.  And she would never look longer than two to three seconds before looking away again. Now, by asking her in a cooing voice and playing baby, she did not feel threatened... but nurtured.

After about 5 minutes of this interaction, she jumped up and asked if we could play a game.  I was shocked and tried to roll with it.  I asked if we could play beauty shop and she giggled with delight and put about 15 hair bows in my hair.  I was almost in a daze. 

I kid you not... I did this sort of thing with Abby three times and she has not "been a baby" since.


I would have NEVER played baby like that with an 8 year old... 9 year old... 10 year old... 11 year old... had I not read that book.  Reading other examples of almost the exact behavior of my child and reading how playing baby worked with them is what convinced me to try.  And it worked.  I ACHE inside with the wish I had only known this earlier... when she was eight... when she was three!

I know Satan wants to steal my joy in what has happened now with that regret.  But you know what?  It has happened now... this year... and I am here... with you... and God will use it... someway...for at least ONE PERSON/ONE CHILD reading this NOW.  If more than ONE is helped, encouraged, or given hope... THEN I DANCE ON MY ROOF TOP AND GIVE HIM ALL THE GLORY I CAN EXPRESS TODAY!

God's GRACE... to get us here... UNENDING & ABUNDANT!  Her name is... Abigail (Her Father's Joy) Grace.  Love that.

Now I have to follow this up with a warning.  Be careful of what books you read!  I read at least three to four books on adoption before we adopted Abby and one book, in particular, told me MAJOR BAD MOJO... advice that I followed with all good intention and it caused more damage.  Mercy.  Makes me want to sob just thinking about it. 

But God is walking us through some healing now.  And I get the bonus of getting to share it with you.  What a gift!  I am so glad you are here.  Deeply glad. 

Part three will be coming soon...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Loving the Hurt Child... Part One

Deep pain amidst great hope 

I read a book this year, "Parenting the Hurt Child," by Gregory Keck and Regina Kupecky.  I could not put it down.  It was written for my daughter.  I was written for us.  It was written for so many.

I have sometimes shared the heartbreak, challenges, and joys of parenting, loving, and fighting for Abby.  It is the single most thing in my life that has aged me, stretched me, depleted me... and strengthened me.  It is the very single most thing in my life that has driven to and kept me going to the foot of the cross.

As I have been thinking about "Abide" lately and walking with and resting with her... I have come to see that my walk with Abby has been the first thing to pull me away from "Abide".  It should have been the first thing to keep me there.  I think the timing of things God reveals to us is simply fabulous... purposeful... sovereign.

"Parenting the Hurt Child" not only drew an almost identical picture of my child and her struggles, it offered ways to help her... real ways that are effective.  It offered hope.  It offered tools.  I have been begging the Lord for the right tools for years.  My tool box arrived in this little book.  And I am now attempting to use some of them... even though they rub against the grain of my soul sometimes.

You see, parenting a child with deep rooted pain, fear, and insecurity is not like parenting a child without those things.  Some people wonder why we don't just do this... or this... or that.  They see it work on other children.  It worked on their children.

The answer is what works for one... many... does not work for all... especially a wounded child.  In our effort to discipline and love them... so often we reinforce the pain already there... instead of "changing" them or their behavior.

For years my effort has been to get to her heart.  I felt if I could get to her heart, I could get to her... the real her.  But Abby has a high wall around her heart... and she often guards it at any cost.  We have tried so many parenting techniques, reward systems, natural consequences, and even spanking.  Nothing has penetrated that wall if she didn't want it to.

It has exhausted me... caused me to doubt and blame myself... and damaged our relationship.  

One of the things Abby would do for years is act like a baby.  She would crawl into the kitchen while I was cooking and say, "I'm a baby... feed me."  It would make my skin crawl... irritate me... because she was eight... nine... 10... even 11 years old.  My response would be, "No, you are not a baby.  You are a big girl.   You are eight years old.  You are nine years old.  You are 10 years old for crying out loud.  You are 11!  Get up off the floor and act like an eight year old... a nine year old... and 10 year old... 11 year old!"

You see... my response was out of fear and lack of knowledge.  Oh... it saddens me deeply... that lack of knowledge.  And fear... Abby lost all abilities at three years old.  She could not walk... could not talk... could not eat... could not hold her head up.  She was in a vegetative state and often having 30+ seizures a day.  When God so generously restored her, healed her from THAT... I worked so hard to teach her to walk again, to talk again, to dress herself again, and to learn.  This FIGHT instinct became engraved on my spirit and I spurred her forward... always forward.  "You can do it... you can do it... you can do it."

But I was missing something so crucial.  It brings my spirit deep sorrow to know I had it so wrong in my effort to have it so right.

Abby was abandoned on a table in a cafe in Kazakhstan at the approximate age of 9 months.  Then she was taken by the police to a hospital.  A nurse measured her head... took that measurement and gave her the age of nine months.  She was a "foundling."  "Foundling" is a term for abandoned children.  They found her on March 18 and gave her the birth date of July 18.  Breaks my heart we don't have her real birthday.

Abby stayed in that hospital, on her back, alone, barely touched, barely nurtured... for three months.  This is what is done in her birth country so the child can be found if family members come looking for them.  No one came looking.  Think of a baby you know who is nine months old.  Imagine them being left in their car seat on a table... in a cafe... and then taken to a hospital where they lay for three months.  The development stage here for attachment is crucial at nine to twelve months old.

Devastating.  Tragic.  Deeply damaging.  

We have no idea what her life was like before she was abandoned.  But for those three months... her little baby brain, heart, and spirit were broken.  She found out way too early that people leave.  She found out way too early that people would not meet her needs.  She found out way too early that she was all she had.  She had to find a way to survive.  And she did.  Without even knowing it... she started building a tiny little wall... around her tiny little heart.  She would protect herself since no one else would.

She was giving me the "signs" for so long.  And I just didn't see them.  I just didn't know.

But we have had break through.  And I praise the Lord God on high for His mercy... His patience... His faithfulness... and His love.
I know what I have learned is helping us... helping her.  And I know it will be helpful to other parents out there.  I hope you come back... for part two of this beautiful story... as it unfolds.  I am so glad you are here.

More on Abby and her struggle HERE.

Psalm 91~ "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the LORD, 'He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust."  

"For He shall give angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.  In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone."
"He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.  With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation."

Monday, December 10, 2012

Well now... I am DONE with THAT!

Less than an hour ago I sat in a dentist chair.  I was scheduled to have two 21 year old fillings removed (as one had cracked open and the other needed to go as well) and have them replaced.  I knew it would be far from the regular dental visit for cleaning and I knew it would not be fun.  I actually really, really, really don't like going to the dentist.  I would rather be at the OBGYN, picking up yards full of dog poop with my hands, or cleaning other people's toilets than to be in the dentist chair. What happened today confirmed my worst fears... and was much worse than I could have hoped.

I prepared myself with my favorite Christian artist, Phil Wickham.  As Phil sang to me in my left ear, I listened to the dentist with my right.  I had been given some sort of numbing agent on cotton q-tips and was ready for the best worst most horrifying painful part... the needle.  However, this dentist doesn't use the needle seen in the above picture.  Oh no.  It is like an iv needle that wraps around the inside of your head two or three times and stays in for 30 five minutes.  As it went in, the sting came and I thought, "O.K.  I can handle this... O.K.... concentrate on Phil... sing louder Phil... sing louder!"

But then it felt like it just kept going and going and wrapping and wrapping and then it started to hit me... it felt like my ear drum was going to burst.  The pain was piercing my eardrum (felt like it anyway) and was 50 on a scale of 1 to 10.  Tears started trickling down my face like a tiny little faucet.  I kicked my right leg out into the air as if reaching for the wall with it would be helpful in some way.  I pressed my finger as deeply behind my ear as I could trying to take the edge off the piercing pain but no success.  It just kept coming.  I then let out about three whimpers and asked for a break.  The dentist pulled the never ending octopus needle out.

So now I am sitting there in complete humiliation.  I am 38... very soon to be 39 years old... and I just cried... out loud... in the dentist chair.  I have NEVER cried out loud in the dentist chair.  I once had to get NINE shots for a filling (my mouth would not numb) and I DID NOT CRY OUT LOUD.  Tears may have fallen down my face but never with sound.

As I sit there in my blanket of shame and soaking wet face, the dentist proceeds to tell me that there is no reason for my behavior.  What?  Did I really hear that correctly?  Really?  He follows it with informing me he has just pulled a tooth from a 17 year old who did not act like THIS.  Disbelief starts to join my humiliation and shame and I am at a loss for words.  Tears still falling and ear drum STILL feels like it is going to explode.  Not really sure how to respond... odd moment for me.

And then he seals the deal. With great indignation and disgust, he informs me this is NOT his first time to do this and tells me my behavior has made him feel like I think this is his first time or something.  After this... I find words and I respond, "I am not accusing you of anything, Spirit of Accusation be gone in the name of Jesus, I am simply in serious pain."

In response to that, he tells me he needed at least five more minutes of numbing and can't do what he needs to do.  I lay back and fall into my tears again and try and process what has just happened.  He proceeds to work on my tooth and I proceed to ask God for strength and comfort.  Phil sings about grace... "I need you grace."

About ten minutes later, he is done.  He sits me up in the chair and informs me he drilled out the broken area, cleaned it and refilled it.  That's it.  And he walks out of the office.

Sad thing is... stupid thing is... this dentist has treated me like this on THREE occasions.  I have given him grace and gone back.  I have made excuses for him and his complete lack of people skills and I have gone back.  I love many of the people in this office.  I just prayed with his hygienist... moments before I got into the chair of humiliation and shame... because she was upset about her sick dog. (Maybe that is the reason I was there!)  One of the other nurses and I chat about adoption through our entire session.

But you know what?  I am done.  I am DONE with THAT.  Period.

I drove home... replaying the ordeal over and over in my mind.  And I looked in the mirror and gave myself a pep talk.  I told myself I was not a complete baby... and I tried to convince myself to hold my NOW numb and drooling face high today.

Here is my official not so official reply: (not really sending this him this note!)

Dear Dentist,
Here is a little people skill lesson for you... free of charge.  If ever there is another woman... in your chair... who dares be weak enough to display the hurt and pain that I did today... take a break... pat her hand, arm, or shoulder and apologize for the ridiculous amount of discomfort.  Offer her a tissue... a smile... and ask if she would like to try again in five to ten minutes when the entire side of her head is half numb.  It might save you a patient and get you a few more.

Crying 38 old baby woman you totally disgraced and humiliated today... for the last time.

P.S. I forgive you.

My request:

If you are local, and have a dentist you LOVE, please inform me.  There might be a large reward involved.

Lastly, I find comfort in knowing I am not alone... 5 reasons to hate going to the dentist: HERE

Friday, December 07, 2012

13 and counting...

Monday will be my 13th wedding anniversary... actually... eloping anniversary.  Our "wedding" anniversary is February 26... however, we slipped away for the romantic "private" ceremony on December 10th.

In a world where most marriages fail, it is pretty cool to get to THIRTEEN.  As I think about those years, it doesn't look like many of the "images" or "ideas" that most little girls sit and dream about.  Yet... could it be something so much better?

As I mentioned, our marriage started with an eloping.  In our minds, it would be our special date together... something we would share.  We had dated over 7 years and had just gotten back together after a break up... the only break up we had during that time.

I was 26 years old and I felt it would be fun... romantic... intimate.  My mom would later find out and it became the source of such a trail of pain that to this day it has "tainted" my "wedding" memories.  She/they felt we had lied and were deceiving people and really saw it from an angle I had never even considered.  I was heart broken it caused her so much pain and would resent my groom for having suggested it for years.  Sad.

As we stood in the office at the courthouse, there was a tinge of sadness that hung in the air.  We had no friends with us and it was...well... just this office with a stranger (the official... not my groom!).  As we waited for the official to come into the room, I looked back behind us and noticed a sticker on his bulletin board.  It read, "Sh-- happens."  My heart sank.  It hit hard.  Here I was, on my wedding day eloping day, and THAT is the decoration... the word of the day... the theme???  Really??? LOL  Too bad I wasn't a blogger then, I would have caught that baby at a great angle and come up with a great post for sure!

But you know, even though I prefer, "CRAP happens," it is... oddly... very true.  And it is a truth that is not spoken of often enough to young couples.

So here it goes: To all young couples who are thinking about walking down the isle or have already walked down the isle... put your listening ears on and take notes... "CRAP HAPPENS."  Can't you just see that on wedding napkins and handmade fabric banners!?

If more couples really understood that, I think more marriages would make it.  I think expectations might become a little more realistic and the patience... strength... and faith needed to ride out some bumps in the road might become greater than the need to always be happy.

One of the greatest lines I have read about marriage is from one of my favorite books, "Sacred Marriage," by Gary Thomas.  He says so simply and yet profoundly, "Marriage was not created to make you happy." 

Chew on that for a moment.  We live in a society that rides on waves of happiness... jumping from one fix to the next.  If it makes you happy... do it.  If it makes you unhappy, don't do it.  If he/she makes you happy, keep him/her.  If he/she doesn't make you happy, leave him/her and try again... and again... and again... and... well... you get the picture all too well.

Marriage actually sanctifies us.  It rubs against us and causes our sin, selfishness, flesh, and weaknesses to be uncovered... exposed.  It calls for constant forgiveness, constant serving, constant grace, constant effort, constant examination and constant attention.  There are often not quick fixes.  There are often bumps that turn into gaping pot holes.  And then there are times of smooth sailing where the wind blows in your hair and the breeze kisses your cheeks and you feel like your feet are not touching the ground.  Journal those!  You will need to come back to them.

And then there are times when you look at your spouse and you are STRUCK deep with the knowledge of the storms you have braved through... been beaten in... and delivered from.  And there is a love there that is solid, glued, reinforced, never taken for granted, and cherished.  It is the blessing.  It is the intimacy and holiness of marriage.

Too many times, people can see pictures like this and think.. "Ohhh, they are so cute.  They must have it all together and have no issues.  If only..."  Truth is, there is a lot of joy, smiles, tears, pains, fights, ugliness, and beauty behind this picture.  Realness.  Life.  The beauty and the mess of it... or crap of it.

So I want to say to the ones who want marriage, who are about to enter marriage, who have just entered marriage, or who think they want to leave their marriage... THERE ARE GOOD TIMES AND BAD TIMES.  NEVER ONLY GOOD.  EVER. 

I have shared this before but it is worth sharing again... I once met an old lady who was about to celebrate her 50 something-ish anniversary.  I asked her, "What is one secret you would share with me about a lasting marriage?" She replied, "You stay in the good times ANDDD the bad times.  Sometimes you get a year of good, followed by a year of bad, followed by three years of good, followed by two years of bad, followed by..."  It stuck with me.  The good and the bad often last more than a day... or two.  But you put on your mud boots, you wade through the crap, and rejoice on the other side.

And I want to say to my husband... THANK YOU.  Thank you for loving me when I am drowning in my mess... when I am struggling with my own sin... my own wounds... my own failures.  Thank you for loving me when I am not very lovable.  Thank you for forgiveness and patience and grace and a constant unfailing and unconditional love.  It blows me away often.  It reflects the Father's love for me and I so often have a hard time receiving it from feeling unworthy... and you offer it anyway.

LOOK at what God has done with our life... our good and our bad.  Just look at this... and so much more not captured here.  It is... really... in the midst of the crap and the mess and the bumps...


Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Tell me please... about "Abide"

Abide is stamping herself on my heart.  I find she is joining hands with "Rest" who has also made space for herself in my spirit.  I have been thinking about it, chewing on it, settling with it for days now.  And I like it.  I like it A LOT!

It has amazed me just the past week how many people are walking through some seriously trying, challenging, painful, discouraging times right now.  I see it all over blogs, all over Twitter, and on facebook.  Oh yeah... I see it in person around me too!

So I want to ask... I want to engage you... I want to hear from you.  What do you think "Abide" means?

What does that word... that idea... stir up in your heart... your mind... your spirit... your soul?
Have you found a way to abide that is blessing you?  Oh... please do share.

I took this last picture in Latvia.  We had just left an orphanage.  I sat in the back seat of the car... processing... hurting... hoping... and then I looked behind me.  "Stop," I shouted, "I've got to get a picture of this!"  The moment was right there... in the quiet... in the pain... in the hope... and in the boonies!  I call this photo, "Road to hope."  I thought it would make a great "Abide" photo.

I think when we abide... we are on the road of hope... because we are with Him. 

Please share in the comments.  I am so curious of your thoughts on abide.  It will bless us all.  And you never know what may come forth once you start writing!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Abide vs Arrive

My faith is built every time the Lord walks me through dark times.  It is something that deepens my relationship with Him every time it happens.  How I wish it were enough to keep me from falling into a "hole" again.  But the enemy is relentless... his attacks are relentless.  The closer we get to the Lord, the more intense the battle can become... the battle for our heart... for our joy... for our family... for our relationships... for our intimacy... for our testimony.

This last "roll in the mud" hit me pretty hard.  The very thing I kept holding onto was the fact that when things get THAT bad... I KNOW the Lord has something wonderful for me around the corner the enemy wants me to miss.  

I know if the battle is raging that wildly... it is for a reason.

God shines brightest against the backdrop of darkness.  The darkness can look to be all consuming and yet it is the beams of light that leave us smacked with His glory.  I love this picture I took at the lake this past summer.  The darkness rolled in as we headed home that night.  Then we turned the corner and there it was... and it stopped us in our tracks.  We had to stop.  We had to inhale it... take it in... capture it.  His light... breaking through... leaving us in awe.  Suddenly the darkness seemed to almost compliment the light... intensify it!  HA HA.  That makes me laugh out loud!!  How often do we see the attempts of evil turned into some of the most amazing and powerful displays of God's power, love, mercy, faithfulness, sovereignty, and grace?  We see it with Israel, we see it with Joseph, we see it with Daniel, we see it with Paul, and we see it in it's finest display of majesty with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

God brought numerous people into my life last week who reached out at the most perfect times and in the most perfect ways to love me, speak truth to me, pray with me, and minister to me.  It blows me away.  Really.  The intimacy of it all.  The perfectness of it all.

The grand finale was displayed last Friday.  A friend whom I had not even met yet asked me to come.  She has a ministry of prayer and massage.  After taking two falls within four days of each other, my physical body was manifesting the intense consuming pain of my spiritual body.

This sister in Christ met me in her driveway... waiting for me like a family member I had not seen in years.  She embraced me with such love and joy... such love and joy.  She intercedes for people in prayer.  She has been praying for me even though we had never seen each other in person.

After talking and sharing for an hour, she asked to pray for me.  Even though we had been praying on and off during that hour, I knew this prayer would be something different.  She got on her knees at my feet.  She rubbed with them oil and she began to pray.  Then she began to cry.  Then she began to wail.

I could feel it rising from the depths inside my spirit.  And I prayed God would allow me to surrender.  And then I heard it.  It came... flooding me... washing me... healing me... words... His words.

"I am on my knees before you.  I am ministering to you.  I am serving you.  I am loving you.  I am crying your cries.  These are my cries for you.  I am the Spirit and I am interceding for you.  This is what I do.  I am here to comfort you.  Give your cries to me and I will take them to the throne on your behalf.  Give them to me... all of them.  And then you are free... free to have my peace.  You don't have to carry this inside.  The battle is mine.  I will fight it for you.  You abide here with me and let me do what I am here to do.  I am here for you." 

I shook as those words washed through me like a cleansing river.  I started crying at the reality of it... the moment.  And as I gave my battle to Him, I was flooded with peace that left me laughing with joy from heaven.  And I heard His words again...  
"This is what my love feels like.  You are in my love."  

And I sobbed.

One of the things I had shared with my friend was my deepest pain... I did not "feel" God's love.  I believed He loved me.  I KNEW He loved me.  I could see evidence of that love all over my life.  But I didn't feel it and I so longed to feel it.

As I sat there in the midst of that love, feeling it in every part of my being, I laid it all down and bathed in His presence.  The Holy Spirit bathed me in His presence to overflowing and I was refilled and renewed.

And when I arrived home after this encounter... flowers were on my front porch from another friend... providing that extra little kiss from the Lord.  Amazed.  Thankful.
I am still smacked.  And I have come to know one thing for sure.  I will never arrive.  I will never have it all cleared out.  I will never have the "perfect house" with "perfect walls".  I will never be spotless.

But I have been given the GIFT of being able to ABIDE.  Because of Christ, I am spotless to the Father.  As I wear the robe of righteousness given to me through my faith in Jesus Christ, I am seen spotless and I get the holy intimate invitation to ABIDE.  As I abide, the Spirit will walk me through the rest.  It is a journey.  It is a refining.  It is a transformation that is in process until I meet Him face to face.  And as long as I ABIDE, the dust and drips of glue will not unhinge me.  It all brings me closer to HIM.  The process.  This One Beautiful Life.

GraceLaced Mondays
For other inspiring stories of grace... click on the Grace Laced Link... and be blessed.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

And the walls come tumbling down

I have the ability to walk in a house that looks like the first picture and see it in my mind as the last picture.
It is something I have loved to do and we have done it many times.  I am a restorer.  I see the potential in something and I want to be a part of getting it there.  I LOVE seeing the finished result.

Isn't that just like our Father?  He looks down on creation and we look like the first picture.  And yet, He sees all our potential... He sees us as the last picture.  But just as it is in the physical world... it is in the spiritual world... it is a process.  And the process takes time... often triple the amount of time estimated!  And I have come to realize, over time, I don't like the process.  I want to skip the second and third pictures and just jump to done.

As you can see, we attempted to pull down wall paper in the kitchen.  It was on there like white on rice.  The wall was coming off with the paper and well, we just didn't have time.  We left two weeks after moving into this house to adopt our son.  There were other important matters to tend to and so the walls were not totally stripped.

The kitchen walls are fine.  The dinning room walls are fine.  The bathroom walls are not.  The bathrooms get hammered with steam each time someone showers.  And our master bathroom doesn't even have a vent fan.  So the steam sits in the air and festers.  Over time, that constant attack of moisture is causing a mess.

Constant attacks on my walls are causing a mess.

I mentioned yesterday that I had easily identified six walls in my life that have not been completely stripped of paper.  As I lied in bed last night, the 7th came to mind.  How I overlooked it so easily is beyond me.  Anger.

Here are my walls... six of them... the seventh I will keep to myself. 
1. Communication
2. Quality Time
3. Expectations
4. Respect
5. Submission
6. Anger

These are the sticky walls in my house that are affecting me greatly.  As they affect me, they are affecting my relationships.  And they have to come tumbling down.  Forget stripping the paper... God is hammering at them... smashing them... He wants them down... gone... cleared out.  After they are gone... there will be a wide open space for HIS presence to dwell in and flow from... nothing in His way... nothing blocking the view... no corners to dodge around... nothing blocking the light... nothing to hide behind.  And honestly, I have always preferred open floor plans anyway!  :0)

Do you have any walls in your life?  Are they blocking anything?  Are they dripping with a sticky mess as constant moisture penetrates the outside layer... revealing what is really lying beneath?

I invite you to take a look around your house.  Be honest.  Be real.  Maybe God will speak to you as I share my remodel with you.  That is why I share.  My heart's desire and ministry is to encourage others to be real... to invite others to be real and to look for God in all of it.  Life is not sunshine and lollipops all the time.  But God is in it all.  And as long as we continue to see Him and walk with Him and be real with Him through it all... we are transformed.

Amazingly, again, "Salvation" was on my calendar for discussion these last few days of November.  It is a frustrating topic for me as so many people just receive salvation and think that is it.  THAT is the prize...  the gift... but there is so much more to this christian life than being saved!  We are called to be transformed into His image and to die to ourselves and to our flesh and to our will and allow His holiness to flow through us.  And the dying and the transforming is a process.  It takes time.  It takes sweat.  It takes honesty.  It takes sacrifice. It takes obedience and selflessness.  And it takes faith.

Thank you for "sticking" with me during this time of dripping mess.  I know all too well... He is in the process of making something beautiful.