Monday, April 27, 2015

Bible Journaling Through the Pain

Bible journaling has opened up a whole new door for me in terms of meditating on scripture. As I work on the art, I’m reflecting on the Word, visualizing it, and hoping to make it come to life not only on the pages, but in my heart and mind.

In my last post, I mentioned that I need to have a hysterectomy. It’s not been something I’ve been handling very well. (I just got off the kitchen floor from a very good cry.) But bible journaling has been very therapeutic for this extremely difficult time. It helps me to connect my pain to God’s throne. It’s like a telephone line to God’s heart. HELP ME. HEAR ME. HEAL ME.

When I first received the news…(Isaiah 53:5, acrylic paints, date stamp, letter block stamps, stickers)

by his stripes 

Yet this scripture lingered in my mind, dancing around uncomfortably…(Matthew 9:22, stamps, markers, sticker letters, various stickers, tassel ribbon)

be encouraged

And while the anger and pain began to take over, I woke up one morning seeing this in my mind…(Psalm 118:24, acrylic paints, Crayola markers, stickers, letter stickers)

this is the day

And during the past few years I know the fire has dimmed, and with all these new problems arising I was struck with an answer…(Leviticus 6:12, watercolors, markers)

keep the fire burning

I’m thankful for the Journaling Bible Community on facebook for all their love, support and encouragement. I have been able to share my pain through the expression of art and scripture all in one place. God is using this process to get me through the heartache and suffering.

Robbed by the Common

A few weeks ago I was diagnosed with fibroids—non cancerous tumors growing on my uterus wall. The ER doctor determined that an ablation would probably be done—a procedure removing the fibroids. But a follow up appointment with my OB/GYN determined that the fibroids were too large, there were too many, and my uterus was also enlarged, so the only (viable) option is a hysterectomy.

“You’ll feel so much better when it’s over.” “Best decision of my life!” “Oh, is that all? That’s so common. Most women go through that.” “I had one. It’s not that big of a deal.”

That’s all I’ve been hearing since I announced the results. Were those supposed to be words of encouragement? Because they felt like harsh slaps to my face.

If this is so “common” why I don’t I feel relieved, or excited? Why does it feel so uncommon to me? So unnatural? So unreal…

I’ve had a lot of time to think about these things, since my surgery isn’t for another month and I’ve been pretty much couch-ridden for three weeks. This is not my choosing. I will no longer have children, or the ability to do so. I didn’t get to make that decision; the decision was made for me.

When I had Tavin, he was an opportunity for me to redeem myself for the mess I created with my first son. It was a chance for me to be the kind of mother I had always wanted to be, and with the man I had waited my whole life to share that bond with.

But Tavin wasn’t the “joy” we had expected. We didn’t get much of an opportunity to enjoy being parents of this small little life we had created. No. Tavin had troubles from the day he was born and they never really have ended. We spent the majority of his first 18 months listening to him cry continuously. He very rarely slept, and we were ragged. We couldn’t take him anywhere because he cried excessively in the car, in the buggy, in the stroller, in the store, at someone’s house… So we stopped going places, stopped doing things, and our lives revolved around this excessive, nagging cry and the need to make it stop somehow.

Once the crying stopped, a new ailment afflicted Tavin. A stomach issue that not only had him crying, but screaming and writhing in constant pain for another year and a half. Then we spent most of our time in the ER, at the doctor, seeing specialists, having extensive tests done, and in the end never finding out what was wrong. We just lived on edge as Tavin sat immobile, unable to move, screaming in pain…as if crying wasn’t bad enough. We sat helplessly, hopelessly by, watching him suffer. And while our hearts broke, our nerves were destroyed by the constant groaning, crying, screaming, and never ending agony.

Once that seemed to subside, it seemed that Tavin was sick with a cold continuously. He is always sick. He’ll finally get well, and a week or so later, he has another cold.

And Tavin is not an easy child. He is strong willed, inquisitive, talkative, and still a restless sleeper who is up before the crack of dawn. There isn’t much down time for us, since Tavin is always running around, jumping from one thought, idea or plan to the next.

So you see, I lost another childhood. I didn’t get to relish in his infancy, or his toddler years (in fact, I don’t remember one thing from when he was two!). And next month he’ll be six already, and I feel as if I lost those six years. I have no idea who this child is half the time. It’s as if he just one day appeared and replaced the baby we once had that left us frazzled, and we’re still a bit shell shocked by this small boy.

And yet, Tavin is also one of the most thoughtful, loving, sensitive boys I’ve ever known. He is kind and generous to a fault! He has the power to make people smile and feel beautiful. And the other day as I explained what a hysterectomy was (because he asked, as he does about everything), he began to cry as he complained that he wanted a sister. He doesn’t want me to have my uterus taken out because he wants a sibling.

“You can always adopt…” Is the next thing people like to say now. Sure, if you have thousands upon thousands of dollars to spend. We’re lucky to pay the rent each month. And now with all of our medical bills, most of our extra money (ha ha!!) will be spent trying to pay that off.

I feel ripped off. I feel gipped. I feel like my life has been stolen from me. I feel like all the joy has been taken from me. I feel like I never had a chance with Tavin. I feel like I missed so much of what most mother’s get to feel with their newborn or toddler. I didn’t get the joy. I didn’t get the fuzzy feeling of being a new mom. I got thrown into the lion’s den with a child that roars from before sunrise to sunset. I’m an exhausted, worn out momma. I don’t smile much. I don’t do much, because my body and mind is so tired. I try so hard to just enjoy the little moments with Tavin, but they usually—most always—turn into a battle and an argument. So I stopped trying. I don’t have the energy…

So I messed up one child because I was reckless and out of control in my younger years, and now I’m messing up another child simply because I’ve exhausted all my resources in trying to make it right. The second chance at being a mommy was taken from me from the day he was born, and now I have no more chances. I just have to live with the fact that I’m just not very good at this.

And that just about destroys me…

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The World is Angry

“In your anger, do not sin.” Ephesians 4:26

smash

I’m usually pretty outspoken when it comes to current events, but lately I’ve been staying out of it as much as possible.

The ALS ice bucket challenge. The riots in Ferguson, MO. The controversy over the football team, Washington Redskins. You name it. It’s happening. It’s unfathomable to me how this world is fraying at the edges, and sometimes over such ridiculous things. And then it dawned on me…

I just get the feeling that the world is simply...ANGRY. And the world is looking for outlets to release and express that anger. I don't believe the anger is about a cop, or race, although I do believe the media uses it as such. However, anger boils over after a series of events and this country has undergone majorly hurtful, shocking, horrific changes since 9/11.

This country is suffering under the hands of politicians who are trying to control every aspect our lives. Everyone is facing the pressure of life today...everyone, regardless of race, sex, class, or ethnicity. And it's beginning to explode. This country is divided, not united. And everyone believed Obama would be the cure-all for that very problem. But he has only made matters worse, and now we see real racism in action as anger is being exploited and used against us as a whole.

I don’t think things are getting better, because the media wants (needs) us to fight one another, hate one another, kill one another, all so they can manipulate the storyline to make you ANGRY/ANGRIER. The angrier you are the better their ratings; the better their chances of winning the next election. It’s just one big lie piled on top of a million other lies, and if you’re not paying attention to reality, those lies WILL become your reality, and then wars on the streets break out and it’s “us against them.”

It’s okay to feel anger, but it’s not okay to act on that anger to the point of destruction and division.

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. Proverbs 29:11

Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. Ecclesiastes 7:9

Ironically, I’ve been working on Tavin’s homeschool curriculum the last few weeks and recently put together a lapbook about controlling anger. Since then, I’m paying much more attention to my own anger and the anger in our home and the anger that surrounds us on all sides of the world. The anger is infectious. It’s as debilitating and deadly disease as ALS. It’s as stupid as trying to change a football team’s name and mascot. And what it really looks like is riots in Missouri. Not pretty.

The morning after I worked all night putting that anger lapbook together, I was tired and cranky. I hadn’t slept a wink, and as a mom I don’t get those nice moments of resting or sleeping in. I was angry. And I wanted the world to know how angry I was. I yelled at my husband. I slammed doors. I snapped at my son. I was in a full blown rage against the world because I hadn’t slept and felt everyone deserved to know it. Suddenly I began to think about the very things I had put together for that lapbook. God quickened my heart. “Anger is a choice. What will you choose today?”

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

In that very moment I chose NOT to be angry. I changed my mind! I decided that anger doesn’t need to control me, because God gave me a spirit of self-control and I was going to exercise that power. And it changed my heart. I walked up to my son, kissed him and told him I loved him. The rest of the day was quite literally, a miracle.

A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel. Proverbs 15:18

I know you’re angry. But is your anger “deserving” of hurting others? Who will be brave enough to be the patient one that can calm these quarrels? Everyone. Don’t believe me?

My dear brothers (and sisters), take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,  for [man's] anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. James 1:19-20

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

When You Keep Expecting God

“Be brave. Be strong. Don’t give up. Expect God to get here soon.” (Psalm 31:24, The Message)

I have spent the majority of my life expecting good things to happen. Things that never came to pass. I’ve been waiting for years to see my eldest son get saved, and now I’m waiting for my little boy to show some kind of interest in God at all.

I’m constantly expecting the goodness of God, which seems to never arrive. I keep expecting God to make the wrongs in my life right, as He promises. I keep expecting justice in the areas where we have seen the bad guys win and we’ve lost everything. I keep expecting God to get us out of poverty. I keep expecting God to show me what my calling is, because every time I get close to what I think it may be, the doors are shut. I keep expecting my in-laws to do the right thing. I keep expecting my husband to be honest with me.

I’ve been brave. I’ve been strong. I haven’t given up. But I’m close.

I keep expecting God to get here soon. And He never shows up.

Every time I get a glimmer of hope, it’s snatched away. Every time I think something might change, it’s only just another disappointment.

I keep trying to find hope where there is none. I keep trying to build my faith and just “believe” God’s got this. I keep trying to trust God only to find that when I do I end up in worse places than I was before.

Expecting God reminds me of how I used to wait for my father to come back home after he left us to start another family. It reminds me of how many times my mother used to leave me home alone when I was five and instead of comforting me, she’d get mad at me for being so scared. It reminds me of all the times my eldest son waited for his dad to come pick him up but he never did. It feels a lot like that. This waiting. This expectation.

And yet, here I am…still expecting God to get here soon. I’m either a fool, or I trust God more than I care to admit.

Monday, February 17, 2014

My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

jesus-on-cross

For six solid years, my husband and I have been on the front lines of a full-on war with the enemy. If I listed everything we’ve gone through in six years, many people would wonder how we survived and lived to tell the story. And if I told you the story we just encountered over the last few weeks, it would take up several pages of heartache and disappointment.

Just recently we went through a series of assaults, one after another. We have seen very little rest or peace within the last several months. We found ourselves in a constant battle that never seems to end and our faith was on incredibly shaky ground. And that’s probably putting it lightly. Because for me…I was saying goodbye to God forever.

Valentine’s Day was my breaking point. I was already teetering on the edge and was praying desperately for God to let up and let me see His goodness. I prayed, “Please God, I need something to hope for. I need to see Your goodness because I’m losing hope and I’m losing faith. I’m so weak and heartbroken.” No sooner had I prayed this prayer when my husband walked in with more bad news—bad news that left us spiritually and financially bankrupt.

That was the night I said goodbye to God. I convinced myself that it would be so much easier if I just didn’t believe in this “God nonsence” anymore, because if I believed in God anymore, and had to listen to how He’s a “God of love” one more time, I’d have to believe that this God of love despises me! And then I had this thought: If I’m supposed to be in a relationship with God, then I must be in an abusive one, where God is my cruel and tyrannical husband who hates being married to me. These were the only things that made sense to me anymore, and I knew it would be easier for me to just not believe, as most atheists have come to do through their own disappointments and heartaches.

When I discussed this with Jared he said, “I’m beginning to feel like the only book in the Bible that makes any sense or could possibly be real is the Book of Job.”

That night I felt the Holy Spirit leave me, because I demanded to be left alone. And this sudden feeling of despair and darkness encircled me. My heart felt so heavy and cold. And while I was a tad scared about the choice I had made, I didn’t care…well, not until I began to envision my life without Jesus.

I began to see what kind of mother I’d be, what kind of wife I’d become, and what kind of human being I would deteriorate into. The outcome was not pretty. I could already feel myself losing interest in our son, dreading having to be a mother. I could see myself drinking and partying again, and possibly committing adultery. And then I saw myself simply not caring for anyone but myself ever again. My heart was crushed. But what hope did I have anymore?

Jesus was my only hope. And while it may not seem like much at the time, the consequences of giving up that hope were far worse than what we’re facing now. So I gave in and confessed my sin and tried to find hope again.

And then today while my husband and I were sitting in the doctor’s office, he said to me, “The Book of Job is real life. Forget all that other stuff. That’s what life is all about. And even Jesus cried out to God, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Mark 15:34)

And then this light went off in my head: Even Jesus—the Son of God, the Savior of all Creation, our only hope and comfort in this world—at that very moment in time, hanging on the cross and bearing our sins, thought His God had forsaken Him.

He knew the Book of Joshua. I’m sure He knew the scripture, “I will never leave you nor forsake you…” And yet, Jesus, God in the flesh, the very Creator of the universe, felt alone and abandoned by God. And then Jared made a very interesting statement: “He didn’t call God His Father at that moment. He called Him, God. It was rare for Jesus not to call God His Father.”

My husband doesn’t fully know how often he ministers to my spirit, but this was one of those moments when peace swept over me and hope found a place back in my heart.

Jesus felt alone on that cross because He was utterly alone. Even God had turned His back on His Son…for a very short period of time. Jesus knows what it’s like to feel hopelessness, even when He knew full well what the outcome would be. But He had a moment. A moment in time when He felt the deepest loss of all—feeling forsaken by His God and separated from His Father. This moment is a defining moment for us, there on the cross where He hung, emptied, torn apart inside and out. It looked like the battle was over and the enemy had won—at least to those standing by on the sidelines. Where had their hope gone at that moment? Who would they now turn to in their times of need? What could they now look forward to? We know. The Bible tells us they were hiding out, afraid for their lives, unsure of what they would become or where they would go.

The night Jesus knew everything was coming to pass, He was scared. He felt alone. He begged for God to save Him from the upcoming misery He’d have to endure. He felt betrayed. He felt helpless, and even possibly hopeless. The God of Hope…feeling hopeless.

But it’s on the cross when He cries out loudly: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” when we can honestly say Jesus knows our disappointment and pain. It’s that very moment in time where we can find our own hope being restored and renewed, and we know the battle is not lost, but instead we will come out on the other side in absolute victory! But we have to hang on…just as Christ did on the cross that day.

No Formulas

Yesterday we listened to a sermon on love. One of the things the pastor claimed was that if we’ve faced difficult times for a long period of time and we haven’t seen our prayers answered, it’s probably because we aren’t “loving enough.”

Jared and I instantly became heartbroken. We love beyond most other people we know. We live in a racial conflicted neighborhood where most of our neighbors don’t like us because we’re white, but instead of getting angry with them, we instead show them love whenever possible. When people have betrayed us or hurt us and they then found themselves in tough times, it was my husband and I who extended a loving, helpful hand when no one else would.

To tell believers these types of things can bring so much more disappointment than they are already experiencing! Again, Jared brought up Job and I found myself thinking about him and what he went through.

The reason Job was under such immense, intense attack was because he was a righteous man of God. He suffered a great deal of loss and he had no special formula that would get him out of it. In fact, it was his own friends who were trying to convince him that he must have done something wrong in order for God to inflict such horrific pain in his life. But who did God scold in the long run? Was it Job, who was angry and frustrated? Or was it Job’s friends who kept insisting that he “do” something to win God’s favor again?

After the Eternal had spoken these words to Job, He turned and spoke to Eliphaz from Teman. “My anger is burning against you and your two friends because you have not spoken rightly of Me, as My servant Job has” (Job 42:7 the Voice).

Job didn’t sit back and take what was happening to him as punishment for something he did wrong or some rule he couldn’t live up to, despite his friends accusations and advice. Instead, Job kept insisting that he was always in right standing before God and that he didn’t deserve his suffering. While God did put Job in his place, He didn’t deny Job’s quest to find the truth.

We know that God “allowed” those terrible things to happen to Job, but we also know why. God trusted Job enough to handle it. God knew Job could be trusted not to turn his back on Him. And God found him to be honorable.

[Job] was a very good man—his character spotless, his integrity unquestioned. In fact, he so believed in God that he sought to honor Him in all things (Job 1:1).

That’s it. Plain and simple. Job didn’t do something wrong, nor did he not do enough of something good. He was just a godly man of integrity and spotless character.

Job has always been one of the books in the Bible that I least liked, but it’s now becoming the book I need to turn to in terms of redefining my hope and reclaiming who I am in Christ.

God must trust me enough to handle all of this, and I now believe that God finds me to be honorable in His sight (thanks to Jesus!). And I will be like Job, demanding truth and justice for all of our suffering, praying endlessly that God will someday soon restore all that we have lost, too. His Word says He will, and I choose to believe that today.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Quitting God and How God Beckons Us Onward Instead

“Friends, don’t get me wrong: by no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus” (Philippians 3:14 MSG).

Have you ever tried to “quit” God? I have. Numerous times. Way many more times than I care to admit. But I have. I can empathize with the atheists’ anger towards God. It’s why I understand them so well.

Life never seems to go right for me and my family. It is a constant uphill battle that to me, simply feels like a losing struggle. I often find myself too weak to continue the fight. I just can’t.

A few years ago, the battle waged on for far too long. I had put my trust in God and at that moment, God didn’t show up. I was angry, to put it lightly. I had decided I was done with God. It was finally over between us. Well overdue. I packed all my Bibles, prayer journals, and Christian books into a pile and threw them into a dark, cold attic cabinet. I needed God to see that I meant business, and figured that should have shown Him.

stop talking to me GodBut guess what? I didn’t hear God’s wrath beckon me. Instead, I heard a loving voice beckoning me onward. Granted, at the time, I would stick my hands over my ears (and yes, I’m a mature woman with child-like tantrums) and yell at God, “Stop talking to me God! I’m not listening to you anymore.” But God never shut up. Not once did He stop beckoning me. Relentless love. That’s how King David once described God’s love.

This constant conversation with God continued for about a week until I finally realized God was not going to let me go…thankfully. E. Stanely Jones, in his devotional, Victorious Living, explained it best: “You conquer me with Your persistence” (pg. 24).

Just recently when I was telling this story to a very dear friend of mine who truly has her ear to the Lord’s lips,she  interrupted me with a laugh and declared, “God loves that you expect Him to be who He is.” Right as she said that, I felt the love of God embrace me. I had long forgiven God for this one incident, but now I was carrying a grudge of new gunk and turmoil on my shoulders, only this time I am continually reminded that walking away from God isn’t that simple when you truly know Him. Thankfully God never shuts up, shuts down, or shuts us out. Even when we throw infantile temper tantrums when we don’t get our way.

Have you been trying to quit God recently? Have you thrown away your hope and faith in exchange for bitterness and anger? Stop for a moment and just listen. It’s okay to be angry…even at God. He understands. But He will never, ever leave you, nor forsake you, even if you have separated yourself from Him. He can’t. It’s not who He is, and that’s not how His love works. Just expect instead, that God will be just who He promised He would be in your life.

“O God, I dare not close my heart to you. You conquer me with Your persistence. How glad I am to be found. Thank You. Amen” (E. Stanley Jones, Victorious Living).

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Innocence of a Four Year Old’s Panic Attack

He tore down the stairs, panicked! “WHERE’S DADDY?” Tavin cried. “He just left for work, sweetie,” I said. “NO! I DIDN’T GET TO GIVE HIM LOVIN’S OR SAY GOODBYE,” he burst into full blown anxiety.

I ran, full force up the stairs, grabbed my cell phone and dialed Jared’s cell. “Wherever you are, you need to turn around right now and come back home. Tavin is panicked that you left.” Jared said, “I’m turning around now.”

Fortunately he was only two minutes into his hour commute to work. As I headed back downstairs I noticed Tavin’s  blanket lying on our bed next to my pillow. He must have ran into our room from his nap, and frantically watch from our bedroom window, his daddy pull out of the driveway for work. In his four year old panic attack, he left the one thing he NEVER leaves behind: the comfort of his blankie.

SAM_0917I came back downstairs and told him daddy was coming back to tell him goodbye, so he waited patiently at the window in the dining room. When Jared pulled into the driveway Tavin jumped down and ran to the door. As Jared opened the door, the wind whipped snow around behind him, and the two most precious people in my life clung together for dear life. As Tavin’s head rested on Jared’s shoulder, he quietly sighed, “I love you, daddy.”

That’s all he needed. He just HAD to tell daddy he loved him. He was panicking because he didn’t get the opportunity he has every single day to tell his daddy goodbye with tons of love as he heads off to work. That really upset Tavin; this notion that he didn’t tell Jared, “I love you, daddy.” This one day—this rare moment in time—that he couldn’t give daddy lovin’s really hurt Tavin to the core. His tiny little panic attack was so innocent, real and raw.

How many of us don’t even bother showing our loved ones how much we love them for fear of being “innocent, real and raw”? We don’t want to open ourselves up to that kind of vulnerability. We don’t want anyone to see the soft side of who we are.

Because my husband works so far away, there are nights when he’s not home at his normal time (around 2 AM or so) that I begin to panic that I, too, didn’t give him the lovin’s he deserved. And the vision of my life without him sends me into a full blown anxiety attack. When I hear the car pull into the driveway, my heart stops pounding and I fall fast asleep promising to love this man with all my heart and not be so afraid to show him my love. But when the sun rises in the morning, I’m the same selfish, guarded woman I was before I went to bed.

I don’t know why or when we lose that innocence and become so cynical and hands-off. I just know that watching this tiny person give love so freely, often takes my breath away. He doesn’t even think about it. He just gives love without a care in the world, and he’ll give it to anyone willing to accept it…anyone!

When Jesus told his disciples that unless we were childlike we wouldn’t see the kingdom of Heaven, he wasn’t talking about simply being innocent. Jesus was telling us that we need to run into the arms of our Father without any thoughts of being fully and utterly exposed to our own vulnerability. He was telling us that we need to be fully dependent on our Heavenly Father, at all costs. Jesus wants us to love our Father so much, that if we were out of His presence for one second, we would be in a full blown panic attack.

My faith has been on shaky ground the past week. I have teetered on not being so vulnerable with God and putting up my guard against Him. And just in the knick of time, He shows me love beyond my wildest dreams, and I realized that without His love for me, I would be a lost child, aching for my Daddy.

Lord God, I would be lost without You. I never want to feel the anxiety of not having You with me at all times.

Fun in the Sun