Holding On Tight

I am sitting on my couch with a computer on my lap, contemplating this strange season in the life of my family. Things are rather unnaturally calm at the moment, but there are rough seas behind us, and we cannot see what waits around the bend. It feels a bit like sitting in a rowboat in the eye of the storm. We don’t seem to be moving, but we know we should be taking the opportunity to get a good grip because things are about to get wild.

My Sweetheart lost his job two months ago. After 18 years, his co-workers felt like family, so even though his stress level at work had risen to nearly unmanageable proportions, to be cut loose was a difficult blow and left him feeling rather unmoored. Now, after more than two months of resume polishing and job searching, he is fighting discouragement.  He daily chooses to walk in faith, but I can see how hard he works to do so. Still, God is carrying him and providing the faith he lacks.

I, on the other hand, am daily battling the temptation to give in to fear or to try to “fix it” myself, which is my go-to response to uncertainty. This waiting and trusting business is not to be undertaken lightly. Actually, I’m discovering that it’s more challenging than all-out panic. God has assured us that His plan for us is good and that it was His will that Sweetheart move on from his long-time position. We trust Him–usually. We trust him until we look at the calendar and realize that we have only two more severance checks coming. Then we take deep breaths and ask the Lord again to guide us and provide the needed employment. We trust him until we hear the edge of worry in a parent’s voice as we discuss the situation. Then we take a deep breath, reassure them that God will take care of us, and choose to trust again. I now have a deeper understanding of the blind man’s plea when he said, “I believe. Lord, help my unbelief.” God has been asking me, reminding me, over and over through this journey to take to heart His command to be still and know that He is God. Apparently, that “be still” part truly means “let go.” He requires that I release my grip on the wheel of my life, that I stop running back and forth trying to spin the plates fast enough to keep them from falling. Apparently, He is asking me to let them fall. He will catch the ones that need catching. Those that smash to the floor didn’t fit His plans or desires for us.

I am a planner. I like to plan our days, our weeks, our months…as far in advance as I can get away with. I have learned over the years to make my plans in pencil (literally and figuratively), but in this situation, I can’t even do that. It feels like God has taken my pencil away. Okay. He’s the Creator of heaven and earth, unbound by time, full of love and wisdom. He can take my pencil. It was His all along. I just like to pretend sometimes that I’m the one doing the planning. In this season, though, He seems to want me to simply wait for Him, to trust Him with everything, including my own hopes and desires, not just for myself, but for my family. He is asking me to rest in Him, and I am struggling to let go of my pretense of control over my life.

Clearly, His plan for us involves more than a new job or a new location. I cannot get away from the sense that He is doing something bigger, deeper, and more eternal than I can even imagine. I kind of want to ask Him if maybe he could hurry up whatever it is He’s doing. I don’t doubt His love for us, His wisdom, or His power to care for us. It’s just the timing that rattles my nerves and makes my heart race a little. Waiting is not something I do well. At all. Ever. Just ask my children.

But I want–no, need–to learn what He is asking me to let Him teach. I need to rest in Him. And I am excited (with the kind of excitement one feels when standing in line for a very big roller coaster) to see what He has for us around the corner. So, I’m trying to use this time in the eye of the storm to strengthen my grip on Him. Then He comes and gently reminds me that He will not lose His grip on me or my precious family, that we are His, and He knows how to care for what belongs to Him.

It’s a wild ride, this journey with God, but I wouldn’t travel any other way. I’ll let you know what we find around the bend. If it’s a beautifiul stretch of sunny, calm sea, that will be lovely. If it’s a waterfall, I know He will catch us at the bottom. If it’s white water that takes our breath away, He will steer us through it will perfect skill. No matter what’s coming, we are safe because we are His.

What about you? What sort of season are you in right now? Are you in a holding pattern like we are, waiting to see what comes next, or are you in a season of calm? Maybe you’re holding on for dear life as the wind and wave try to capsize your little boat. If that’s you, then I have good news. There is a Captain who wants to steer you through the storm, and He hasn’t lost a ship yet. In fact, the wind and wave have to obey His command. You can trust Him, but you must let go of the wheel…and put down the pencil.

If you’d care to share a bit about what’s going on in your life, I’d love to pray for you. I’d love it if you’d pray for me! Happy sailing!

God Is Here

It was a sultry September afternoon when I first laid eyes on Beau. I had been in labor all day, but things were not progressing, so the nurse was lobbying for a labor-inducing drug to speed things along. I wasn’t fond of the idea, and neither, apparently, was baby Beau, because things immediately began moving forward.

We had been stalled for so long that my obstetrician was relaxing in the doctors’ lounge and eating dinner. Now, suddenly, delivery was imminent, and I was not at all on board with the nurse delivering my baby. While I didn’t doubt her competence, I knew in my momma heart that we were going to need the doctor’s expertise and slim fingers. Our most recent sonogram had shown Beau’s umbilical chord wrapped around his little neck, so there was concern that delivery might be dicey. My doctor had assured me that “babies go in and out of their chords all the time,” but I wasn’t convinced.

The nurse switched on the intercom and calmly said, “Dr., we need you..” Then, from the depths of my normally reserved and sedate being came the low, gutteral, urgent command, “NOOOWWW!!!”

The doctor beat a quick path to the room just in time to glove up. She checked my progress and, sure enough, little Beau was ready to make his entrance.
“Push!” she encouraged me. Then, more urgently, “Stop pushing! He’s got a very tight chord.” There were several breathless seconds as my baby’s face turned blue. Finally, the doctor managed to wedge her fingers under the chord and pull it over his head with no small amount of effort.

Beau began to breathe, and after pounding his little back a bit to help him, the nurse laid him in my arms. In those moments, my sweet, strong husband leaned near and whispered, “God is here.” He felt prompted to say those words, and I as I gazed into the beautiful face of my new precious son, I knew that God’s presence did, indeed, fill that room. It was His hand that had removed the wrapped chord from Beau’s neck and His arms that cradled my baby and all of us.

It is still His hand that holds my boy. He is over six feet tall now, but I still see that tiny face when I look at him. He is still my baby miracle, a reminder of God’s ever-present help, and he still fits perfectly in the Father’s hands.

Today, he is eighteen. I am still trying to wrap my mind around the reality that my precious son has grown up. That first life-threatening encumbrance was not the last, but God has always been there to deliver him and fill his lungs with His breath. I don’t have the ability to foresee the challenges and joys that lie ahead for him, but that’s okay. I know Who does, and I know that He loves my precious boy infinitely more than even I can. I know He will be His hiding place, His strength, His protector, His redeemer, and His guide.

I have no doubt that this son guitar-playing, wise-cracking, compassionate, tender-hearted, Jesus-loving son of mine is here for a profound purpose. He is stronger than he knows, and His future is brighter than he can see from here. Every day is a miracle as we watch God mold and build him into a man after His own heart. What a privilege it is to have a front-row seat. I can’t wait to see what comes next!

 

 

We Have Lift-Off!

 

It was a breathless week, but after some financial gymnastics by the very helpful financial aid office at her university, we were awarded enough assistance and student loan opportunities for my sweet girl to begin her pursuit of higher education. God didn’t answer our prayers in quite the way we were hoping and expecting, but He did answer, as He always does.

You would think that after so many answered prayers, after so many provisions for needs of which we were not even yet aware, we would be immune to anxiety, but we’re not. We’re learning though—slowly, but we’re learning. I’m learning.

I’m learning that God loves my daughter more than I do—so much more. I’m learning that He knows what she needs before she needs it and that He has already made provision. I’m learning to bring needs to Him as soon as they arise rather than running around trying to provide for them myself, bringing them to Him only when I’ve reached the end of my meager resources.

I’m also learning that my precious child has much to teach me about faith and what’s important. She is learning childlike faith by watching the loving care of her Father while I am an alarmist who constantly needs to be reminded that perfect love casts out fear.

So to Him who loves her most we take our myriad concerns. Will she get along with her roommate? Will she remember to take her medication? Will she be able to get up on time in the morning?  Will her eating disorder rear its ugly, relentless head with the stress of college life?  Silly worries taunt me, but they are needless.  She’s an intelligent young woman. She will make mistakes and then she will adjust to correct them, just like the rest of us did (and do), and her Father will be there to help her navigate the bumps and recover from the falls. I have to leave her in His hands because He is so much stronger, so much wiser, so much more capable than I am. But after the nearly catastrophic roads she has traveled in recent years and after the deep wounds she has sustained, I think I worry much more than I otherwise would.

The answers are not all clear yet, but I know that things are different now because she is trusting Jesus now. She wasn’t then. She has experienced so much healing, and though she still has wounds that hurt when touched, He who began the healing process will not abandon it. I know that her scars will be reminders of past brokenness, of where she doesn’t want to go again, and of how sweetly the Healer has mended her wounds.

And so I am asking Him over and over again to teach me, to give me wisdom, to help me know how to rightly parent this amazing, fragile, strong, smart, precious young adult without smothering her or making her doubt herself.  The biggest challenge most days is not letting my own doubt, fear, and weakness cause me to be a hindrance to her.  This feels like walking on a frozen pond—one tentative, prayerful step at a time—but we will listen carefully to our Guide, and we will get across it.

I am so excited for my girl, so hopeful and thankful. Every day is an adventure and a victory. She is held by a Mighty Hand, and she is going to be just fine.

Better Than One

  1. Ding dong…
  2. Opening the front door slowly, I was taken off guard by the hopeful face on the other side…and the double stroller on the sidewalk behind her. My across-the-street neighbor, whom I had just met at a neighborhood cookout a few days before, stood there smiling with her four-year-old son beside her. His twin three-month-old brothers waited in the stroller.

“Do you think you’d like to go over to the playground with us?”

I quickly recovered my senses, smiled, grabbed my two kids, and joined her at the neighborhood park where we spent the next hour getting to know each other while our preschoolers played.

My husband and I  had been in our house for less than a year, and as an introverted stay-at-home mother, I had not made any effort to connect with families outside our four walls. Quite frankly, I hadn’t felt the need.

Kristen changed all that. She was not an introvert. She thrived on companionship and began immediately to teach me its importance. When I would have stayed in my house and lived a small, drab life, she pulled me out of myself, out of my home, out of my gray boredom. Her friendship and genuine approach to life and relationship blew whole new realms of color into my life. Our children became best friends. We shared our fears, our hopes, our prayers, our confusions. She is the most authentic person I have ever known.

Two years and zillions of picnics and cups of tea later, God called our dear friends to another state to begin preparing for His next mission for their family. I felt so lost, like one of my arms or legs had moved away. We’ve kept in touch, of course, and we still pray for each other, but there is no substitute for the daily practice of community. Even though we no longer share each other’s daily lives, Kristen’s sense of spontaneous adventure, her zest for life and God, and her grace-filled, compassionate lifestyle have left an indelible mark on me. I have been forever changed by her friendship and presence in my life.

Scripture has some pretty clear things to say about friendship and community. For several years before Kristen rang my doorbell, I had dismissed those truths, convinced that my husband and children were all I needed. Sure, I could have continued to live my narrow life as it was, but I would have missed out on so much. My children would have missed out on so much.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 rings true.

“Two are better than one, becausethey have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.”

That’s been true so many times in my life. There have been days when, if my friends hadn’t been there to pick me up when I fell, to listen to my heartbreak, to support me with their prayers, I’m not sure how I would have made it through.

Before Kristen rang my doorbell that spring day, I did not seek out the companionship of other women. As an introvert, I just didn’t recognize the need of my heart. Thankfully, God in His wisdom knew what I needed better than I did. Since He brought Kristen into my life, I have begun to understand that I need the insight, laughter, and spontaneity of other women. I need to know that someone else struggles with the same things I do. I need to mentor younger women and be mentored by those who have been where I am.

There is another often-overlooked reason to pursue close friendships with other women (or men, if you happen to be a man). We need people who know us well and love us enough to speak truth to us, even when it’s uncomfortable truth. I can trust my friends to tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear. I need to be challenged and held accountable by those closest to me. When my walk is not matching my talk, when I’m spiraling into swirling anxiety instead of trusting God, I need people in my life who care enough about me  to remind me of the truth.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.                                         Proverbs 27:6

Hard truths from a friend may hurt, but they do not harm. Rather, they are intended to help.

Since Kristen moved away, God has met these needs in so many ways. There have been several other women toward whom He has turned my heart. In each relationship, we minister to each other in unique ways. There is Candy, whose daughter was involved in Bible Quizzing with my son. Over the last several years, she has become a mentor, dear friend, and prayer partner. There’s Lauren, with whom I’ve shared the pain of children in crisis and the struggle with diabetes. Most recently, there is Sheri, whose sweet, quiet, unassuming, sunny spirit brightens and calms my own.

As a bit of a loner, I still have trouble initiating friendships with other women, but I now recognize my deep need for them, and I welcome them when the Lord directs me their way.  What about you? Who are your traveling companions? Do you live life in community with others, or is it perhaps time to open your heart to new friendships as God turns your heart toward those He has for you?

If you are experiencing the lack of close same-sex friendships in your life, but you don’t know where to begin to find them, the best counsel I can give you is to begin to pray for them. When we ask God for the things that He desires for us, He is thrilled to provide them. Be patient, though, because He does things on His timetable, not ours. When you least expect it, you may find Him turning your heart toward someone who is already in your life in some capacity, or He may unexpectedly bring someone along, as He did for me. Either way, He will provide just the right relationships at just the right time. Praying for those friendships will allow God to begin preparing you for them.

I’d love to hear about the precious relationships in your life. Who has taught you to laugh, wept with you, or held you up when you couldn’t stand on your own?  

Houston, We Have a Problem…

It’s midsummer, and for the first time, our family is in the midst of the deep inhale before the plunge, at about 3 in the countdown to launch our sweet Fairy Princess into the stratosphere of college life. She has chosen a Christian school twelve hours from home, so we have been bracing ourselves for months of separation, continually—but silently—asking ourselves if, after all she’s been through over the last few years, she’s ready to fly solo.

Then, two days ago, we finally completed the college cost planning worksheet to see exactly how much more cash she needed to ask God to provide. We thought this was mostly a formality, since we had a pretty good idea of what her remaining balance would be after financial aid—or not. The great disparity between the deficit we expected and the one we actually came up with was heart-rending. It was more than twice what she anticipated.

We don’t have that kind of money. Neither does she, even after working for a year after graduation. Also, our credit, while we’re working on it, is pretty stinky right now, so I don’t even know if we could get a private loan to help her.
What do we do? She’s confused. As a newly recommitted follower of Christ, she really felt that she was on the path God had chosen for her. Was she wrong? What now?

Our first impulse (well, my first impulse) is to launch a rescue by applying for more loans. But this is God’s business. She is His child. If He wants her to do this right now, He is fully capable of making a way. So, her dad and I have agreed to be still and pray for a few days and see what her loving Father does. Either way, we pray that He will protect (and even increase) her faith and hold her heart through whatever comes.

Also, we are asking God to strengthen our faith and fill us with His peace. Like a toddler who falls on her little diapered bottom and then looks at Mommy to see if she’s okay or if she should wail, our Fairy Princess will be looking into our eyes for reassurance. We want her to find peace and trust there, not panic and anxiety. After all, if we don’t trust God with her heart and her future, why should she?

Well, this story is far from over. God is doing amazing things in our daughter’s life. She has spent the last two years breaking free from a severe eating disorder, depression, anxiety, self-injury, and more. She is still recovering, still growing, still learning to go to her Heavenly Father with her pain and fear. He is healing her heart. Only He knows when she needs to leave our nest and try her wings on her own. Whenever that time comes, whether next month or next year, we will be cheering for all we’re worth, and we have no doubt she will fly.

To be continued…