Monday, November 20, 2017

Thankful for the Hard Stuff

When I first started, and I mean two-feet-WAY-IN-started, my healing journey, I was challenged by someone I had grown to respect. She very blatantly asked me if I had "thanked God right where [I am]." I looked a her like she was absolutely insane. No semblance of a poker face on that one... I gave her the "you're joking right?" look that let her know I was so not ready to receive that godly nugget of advice she had for me.

I was not willing to thank God for my depression. I wanted relief. I wasn't ready to thank God for my loneliness. I was desperate for connection. I was too angry to thank God for the fact that I had to parent a child all on my own. And I sure wasn't about to drop to my knees in prayer and thank the Lord for my destructive marriage, the pain I felt, the deceit I experienced, or the hopelessness that enveloped me. In the moments I did use to speak to God, I wasn't THANKING Him for those things, I was asking Him, begging Him, to take those things away. And all the moments between the begging and the bargaining, I was just trying to survive....just keep my head above the water that was rising so so fast.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to be thankful in all circumstances. This piece of scripture kept popping up for me shortly after I had been challenged with this idea of thanking God where I am. I read it again, probably for the 10th time in a matter of a week and it hit my heart. I had completely missed it. IN our circumstances... not FOR them.

God doesn't CAUSE depression or loneliness or hopelessness. God doesn't create destructive marriages, and I knew that to be truth - so He didn't need me thanking Him for those things! But all I could see was my hurt and all I could do was frantically wave my arms for the life preserver, hoping God would throw me one. He was trying to.

My life preserver was 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Be thankful in all circumstances. For this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

I remember the day I finally got it... the thankfulness bit. I even remember where I was standing. My best friend's daughter had been recently diagnosed with diabetes. There were a couple months of just high stress confusion as we sorted out how to best care for our Stella and what that meant. In a helpless momma moment, my bestie needed some prayer and I remember holding her hand in the Family Life Center at church and praying in complete vulnerability.... "Heavenly Father... thank you. Diabetes really sucks and I have no idea what you are going to do with this, but you already know, God, and Your word says be thankful in everything. I'm thankful that You have a plan bigger than us and bigger than diabetes."

.... thank you. Thank you, Lord, that you are bigger than depression, and loneliness and anger and hopelessness and fear and deceit and .... all of it. Every overwhelming piece. I found myself thanking God that I didn't have to know how to parent alone "perfectly" or how to "get over" the hurts I was feeling. And as I began thanking God for His plan to somehow use my pain despite the fact that He hadn't let me in on it yet, I began to see more things that I was thankful for. My prayers became "thank you, Lord, for the friends you place in my life that are speaking Truth into me daily, and thank you, Lord, for Godly men in my small group who are loving on my boy in the absence of his earthly father. Thank you, Lord, for your financial provision when the numbers do NOT add up..." I was soon shouting thank yous from the roof top. My life preserver was saving me.

Brene Brown reports from her research that practicing gratitude, actually speaking it out or writing it, invites joy into your life. Research backs that up! And, I don't know about you, but it seems pretty straight forward to me -- joy trumps depression, loneliness, hopelessness, anger.... those feelings cannot pervasively exist with Joy on the loose. And how cool is God that He gave us a road map for joy in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 - Be thankful in all circumstances. For this is God' will for you in Christ Jesus.
God wants us to be filled with JOY.

Proverbs 16:20 ... for those who trust the Lord will be joyful!

Trust God. Practice gratitude. Feel Joy. And the crazy part is.... now, with some time, distance, and a whole lot of heart healing, I can say, "Thank you, God, for how you grew me in that incredibly hard season." I wouldn't wish the hurts I've experienced on another soul on this earth. But I can honestly say, I am more joyful and more whole, more me than I may have ever become had I not walked through that overwhelmingly dark time. I'm not thankful I was drowning.... I am thankful I am sitting where I am now, on the other side of the drowning... I'm thankful I noticed the life preserver. In those moments when I could barely breathe and "one day at a time" seemed way to difficult a task, I was not thankful for what caused it, but I am NOW thankful I walked through it toward something better.

Heading into this Thanksgiving Holiday, I'm needing to invite in more joy and I'm practicing more gratitude. Thank you, Lord for family, those that share my blood and those that don't. Thank you, Lord, for grace and mercy and peace that I know you will pour over me these coming days. Thank you, God, for being a God of calm and not of chaos, a God who quiets the storm, and who silences the voices of the enemy that try to speak anxiety and doubt into me. Thank you, God, for the beautiful reminders of my worth that you sprinkle in my days and the assurance that I get to walk in joy. Thank you for mashed potatoes and sweet tea and felt safety. Amen!

Living loved,
T


Monday, October 30, 2017

Peter Pan-like Vulnerability

The entire month of October has been.... intensely busy. Both through work/school and with personal plans. My calendar basically had NO just sit and be lazy days.... to the extent that I only had ONE day option to squeeze in our annual trip to the pumpkin patch! Thank the Lord for good weather on that day. But one of those things that was on my to do list this month was to speak at the Champions of Hope Luncheon - the annual fundraising event for Gateway of Hope.
I am intimately familiar with Gateway.... its the women's ministry that breathed life back into me in my darkest moments of the last couple years. And I found myself completely honored (and terrified) when the executive director of Gateway of Hope asked me to speak... and not just to speak to this group of prospective donors... but to share MY story. To be hugely vulnerable to a very (VERY) large group of people that I've never met before. My initial response to being asked was "YES! Of course I will! I want to help Gateway any way I can!" Then fear and doubt and more fear began to creep in. Fear of public speaking, fear of being transparent in a room full of people who haven't earned the right to hear my story... fear of what those people might think of me, fear of what those who came to support me might think of me. Fear of hurting feelings or stepping on toes... FEAR. Fear does not come from the Lord.
 I spent 4 weeks preparing for this. I had two weeks to put my story on paper and two weeks to get comfortable enough and fluid enough to throw away that paper when I picked up the microphone. (MICROPHONE!) During this time, I sought God. I wanted to be completely true to myself. No shying away from the hard words or the uncomfortable eye contact. I wanted to be authentic and I hoped God would use me. I felt confident and slightly anxious, but mostly excited in the days leading up to it. I had to battle fear each night before bed, but my God is big and He got me through it. Then, the morning of the luncheon came and I was overcome with anxiety. I changed clothes 3 times. I nearly lost what little breakfast I was able to get down. I didn't have a prayer of eating lunch with the nerves I was trying to calm. I was so fearful that I'd get up to the front of this room filled of 200 strangers and I'd freeze. I'd fail Gateway. I'd fail my safe people. I'd fail me and I'd fail God. Fear does not come from the Lord.

I spent 45 minutes before I arrived early to the event space in worship and prayer. I cranked some Lauren Daigle and I landed on these lyrics of hers... 
You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation
The rock on which I stand
Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There's not a place where I'll go
You've not already stood


There's not a place I'll ever go that God hasn't already been. I don't have to be steady. He is. I don't have to be strong. He is. I don't have to understand the why. He does.... 

Way back in June, Liam chose to be Peter Pan for Halloween. A boy who never grows up... I think our world tries to grow kids up too quickly, and "child-like" is a word not often used in positive light these days. But God tells us to have a child-like faith. To jump without fear of what happens next. To TRUST. To pick up the microphone and tell my story. That even though the world has grown me up with hurts, I can run to my Father and be joyfully HIS... fearless, unwavering, completely trusting. Child-like. I remember the weight of the microphone in my hand and how loudly my heart was pounding... I felt certain the whole room could hear it. And I took a breath, reached for my conveniently stashed tissue (thanks Amy), and let God drive. In my first 3 words, God steadied my hands, strengthened my voice, quieted my anxiety and healed another place in my heart. And immediately after, I felt like Peter Pan flying. 
Brene Brown says that "owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we'll ever do." Fear does NOT come from God, but He fought fear for me last Thursday. I have no idea how much money was raised for Gateway of Hope at that luncheon. I don't know if there was someone there that needed to hear my story because they are walking a very relatable road and in need of help. But I DO know that standing in front of all those people, owning my short comings, accepting my hurts, and being transparent about controversial issues was healing for me. God was doing work.... and I'm reminded to view the world with child-like faith in God's purpose. Trusting His steady hand to weave together the threads of my life.... speaking at a luncheon, embracing vulnerability, trusting God's purpose in it, and Liam choosing to be Peter Pan for Halloween. Child like faith. 
Living so dearly loved, 
T



Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Divorce.

If you would've asked me 10 years ago if I "believed" in divorce, I would've said no. Honestly, if you would've asked me 2 years ago, I would've said no. 

No one gets married and says "I'll get divorced one day!!" ... quiet the opposite- I heard the divorce statistics of this day and age and I said, "but I'm not that. This is forever. Statistics don't matter to me." But it wasn't forever... and I have to "believe" in divorce. It happened to me. And more than that, it happened to my son. He is now a "child of divorce."

I had a long time to grieve my marriage. It broke years ago and some piece of me started grieving way back then despite most of me being desperate to fix it. It took years to grieve. And in the last 8-9 months, I grieved the heaviest pieces. My heart caught up to where my head had been. It was a long process for me... but see, Liam is still grieving it. He's grieving the loss of a two parent home. He is a 4 year old that uses the word divorce and tries to fit it in its spot on the shelf of our daily life. Not exactly sure where to put it, or when to use it, or how it functions, but totally aware that it's his now. And mine. That it belongs to us and it's not something we picked out at the store with great anticipation. Instead, he asks about when we can return it.... Erase it. He asks about a time when we won't be "divorce" anymore. He asks big things. And I struggle to find answers to these big questions coming from such a little boy. Age appropriate honesty with a 4 year old who is asking "why doesn't daddy live with us?" 

I stare at my ceiling from my bed at night after a bedtime of big asks from my boy and I wonder if he'll be okay. I wonder if he'll resent me for walking away from a dangerously destructive marriage and ultimately dividing his home. I wonder if he'll ever fully trust anyone, or forgive anyone... or if he will be able to navigate in a healthy way the big emotions he's experiencing right now and at every developmental milestone from here on out. I wonder how he'll process the truth of his situation at 5, at 12, at 16 years old. I wonder if he knows how deeply loved he is... I wonder... and I worry... and I fear... 

I've experienced deep hurts in my life.... but seeing and feeling my son experience deep hurt.... I don't have words for that. Sitting on his bed, holding him as he sobs... as he try's to decipher the how and the why and what's next... and I'm helpless. I'm crying too. And we just hold on to each other. I climb down from my perch of "authority" as his mom and sit with him as a fellow broken-hearted person. 

Liam asked to spend his birthday money today and already had the dream toy selected. He went inside Toys R Us with purpose and we enjoyed our time there. I love these moments of "average/normal" life. I think all too often I'm so aware that "regular" just isn't our current season. Afterward, we were driving back to the church for work tonight and from the back seat, I hear, "momma, you're always with me when I cry and I'll always be with you when you cry." 

I was utterly speechless. I felt so much so intensely right at that moment. I guess Liam felt he needed to go on because I hadn't spoken in return yet because.... how..... and he said "I love you very muchly and you love me very muchly and God protects us from inside our hearts. God loves us so much, too." 

I don't know if Liam will struggle with forgiveness or trust or boundaries... I don't know if he'll resent me or bottle up his emotions. I don't even know what next week looks like, let alone his adulthood. But I do know one thing and it's enough. Liam isn't a child of divorce. He's a child of God. Recklessly loved. Fearlessly protected. Fiercely sought-after. And so am I. I'm not saying I will never have moments of worry or fear, I'm just saying in those moments, I may need a reminder. We are children of God and THAT is enough. 

Living Loved, 
T