Friday, January 31, 2014

Who Will Break the Spell?

 

As I was recently repenting to our little girls over the crazed Mama I had become after a long, bizarre 6-hour car ride in our SUV.  Our little bitty 3-year old fell into my arms and I heard her muffled sing-song voice say these words into my shoulder:  Only Jesus can break the spell.  Jesus is the boss, not you Mommy.   Seriously?  How do words like this flow so freely out of the mouth of a 3-year old?   There's nothing I did to make her this way-- I can't claim her as my own-- I didn't teach her any of this (shout out to Steph).   But, in God's tenderness, He spoke to the depths of my heart.  

Only Jesus can break the spell.

In her child-like way, she was reminding me of deep theological truths.  She was saying: Mommy, your way of doing things doesn't work.  Only Jesus can change you.  He is mighty and bigger than you can imagine.  He is sitting on His throne.  He is sovereign- not you, Mom.  And this stuff that we all do over and over-- Jesus is our only hope. 

There was a lump in my throat and the tears flowed-- and wouldn't stop.  When words returned, I hugged that precious one and reminded her how very much I love her.  And I told her she was right...I do things I don't really want to do and I need Jesus to deeply change me-- over and over again

So now let's get to the part about the crazy woman that lives inside me.  Like I said, the day before this conversation I spent 6 long, bizarre hours trapped in my SUV with my two little girls -- the day our governor ended up declaring a state of emergency for the state of Alabama because of ice and snow.  Birmingham was expected to get a light dusting, people.  It turned into Snowmageddon.

That morning, I had one child home sick, along with our 3-year old.  One of our cherished alarm clocks as parents is the startling 4am wake-up call of vomit and loud screaming.  You know, when you fall back asleep repeatedly and are woken again and again and again by more hurling, cleaning, holding back of long hair?  That was us.

Bless my girl.  We began the day exhausted.  Every parent knows that feeling.  Thankfully my husband was available to run the boys to homeschool co-op, while me and my two girls huddled ourselves in the basement, officially declaring it a pajama-movie day, with intermissions taken for more tossing up (as my sweet grandmother used to phrase it) into the toilet.  We were oblivious to the approaching Armageddon for southerners-- ice and snow.

At one point, I peered out the basement window to see a whirlwind of white swirling that did not line up with the light dusting meteorologists were predicting.  A few minutes later I received the recorded mass phone call from the co-op telling parents to pick up children by 11am.  It was 10:35.  No problem.  I can make it to the church within 15 minutes from our home. 
 {insert insane laughter here}


For the record, I saw many people with similar helmets/goggles as above on our 6-hour adventure...some walking, some on ATVs, and others riding bikes.  Yep.  It. Was. Crazy.  So here's a mini-breakdown hourly:

One hour- into our trip of navigating our neighborhood, managing multiple hills, phone calls from friends-- a mamma's multi-tasking of bouncing conversations from the backseat-- from the moaning stomach-virus infected passenger and the other one who was whiny, hungry, and tired.  We weren't even out of the neighborhood yet, so I decided to kick up the rap music and turn on the 4WD.  I can do this.  I got it.  Yep.  Yep.  Little sedans and minivans were having to turn back, as they were sliding all over the hills in our hood.  But, my 4WD had it.  I was on it.  Mamma was large and in charge.

Two hours- into our trip, I made it about a mile from our house-- down an extremely steep hill with cars sliding and being abandoned.  We are still rocking the rap and 4WD.  I was still feeling confident in my abilities as a rock star driver.  The girls are beginning to whine and moan more, but thankfully there is no vomit.  It is lunchtime and we are all hungry.  I manage several other calls from friends desperately trying to reach the co-op-- roads are starting to close down.  We agree whoever makes it first will get each others' kids.  By this point, I also call my husband to try to get to the school to get our boys.  He is sliding all over I-20 trying to keep his truck on the road.  I pray I make it to the boys first with the 4WD.  I am convinced he will kill them all in his truck since he doesn't have 4WD.  In fact, I tell him: you're going to kill them.  I try convincing him to spend the night at the school with the boys and be safe.  {Insert more insane laughter.  My man is a warrior.  An adventurer.  A man after God's own heart.  He is also crazy.} 

Three hours- I am still about a mile from home and beginning to fade emotionally.  Rap music is dull.  Prayers aren't coming.  4WD doesn't amount to much when you are stuck in traffic.  I lose all calm and began to panic.  I watch a Paw Paw in front of me slide all over the road.  Sweet college boys help the Paw Paw by pushing his car back onto the road.  Trucks are off-roading it through the snow and ATVs buzz by with emergency vehicles.  Cars are being abandoned everywhere.  People are getting out and walking.  

At this point I should mention I am wearing pajamas, a rain coat, my glasses, and flip flops-- with no makeup or cute accessories.  The girls are in their pajamas with no shoes.  We are not snow-walking material.   

I am convinced that I would rather freeze and die inside my car than be seen in my pajamas and flip flops walking on the side of the road, carrying a 3-year old and walking with my barefoot 7-year old.  

We are also tired of each others' presence at this point of our snow journey.  Hearing each other breathe has become annoying-- random shouts of  stop it!,  leave me alone!, stop touching me!  are heard from the backseat.  By the way, some of those shouts are also coming from the front seat.  Mother of the Year.  I ramp it up a notch and yell back at the girls how serious this is and {pause} we. might. die.  It went over well because now they start crying for their Daddy (nice).  

Ok, I have become the crazed mom.  I have lost it.  3 hours, people.  I have 1/4 tank of gas left and have already visually pictured us freezing to death in the SUV with the 4WD and rap music blaring.  People would find me dead and wonder why I was in flip flops and a raincoat.  


Four hours- A new insanity and strong will emerges-  I am now embracing death and willing to die trying to get us back home.  We turn the SUV around in the middle of the snow-covered road after someone stops to tell us there are four cars blocking the road ahead from sliding on ice.  My husband has almost made it to get the boys.  The girls are asleep in the back of the car (too awesome for words).  

Out my window, I see a man walk by carrying a case of Coors Light on his shoulder.  People frolic by walking their dogs (why are people happy to be walking in snow?-- seriously, WHAT is their problem?), some man passes on foot wearing his Russian fur hat (what in the world?), lots of people walking under umbrellas.   I may or may not be hallucinating at this point.  Both sides of the road have become a parking lot of cars people have left behind.  I am a flip-flop driving mamma with a 4WD, who is going to make it home.

Five hours- I am officially dedicated to killing myself trying to get us home.  The closest way home is back up the humongous hill ever known to man, covered in slick ice-- it is blocked with abandoned cars on both sides, some in the middle of the road, blocking the way.  People are out of their cars walking up and down the hill, many slipping and falling hard on the slick ice.  But this hill has become my only hope.  It is an obstacle course on ice.  I was hell-bent on getting up that hill-- dodging cars and people to get home. 

I begin thinking of the main character in the Fast and Furious-- you know the version they haven't made yet called the Slow and Serious where the Snowpocalypse happens and there's snow and ice everywhere.  I became that person-- the main character climbing an extremely dangerous icy hill.  Of course, in the movie version they would probably add zombies and exploding cars; but, nevertheless, all mental faculties had left me and I was the main character in the Slow and Serious.  
 

Some well-meaning downhill passer-bys in a truck roll down their window to warn me to turn back-- find. a. better. route.  Ha!  Like all the other roads are clear, people.  Their words haunt me like a thriller movie... turn back....turn back...find a better route.  I just laughed hysterically in their faces and say:  I have 4WD.   They obviously didn't recognize who I was.  I have lost touch with reality.



Six hours- we survive the big hill with cars sliding towards us from different directions.  My role as a movie star has come to an end.  We are reaching our church and closer to home.  I begin to slow down and sanity is re-emerging.

I begin to think about all those people walking and falling on the ice-covered asphalt on that hill...I whisper a prayer for them and all the people on the roads.  As cars continue to move slowly towards my neighborhood, I think of all the parents still separated from their children.  People walking home.  It hits me how dangerous that hill was-- if a car had slid into me, it could have been very serious-- my SUV careening all the way down to the bottom. 

I think about the servant-hearted citizens on that hill, slipping and falling trying to direct traffic (risking their lives) and scraping ice off the road for cars to pass- also helping steer and push cars up or down the hill.  Oh Father I have much to be thankful for.  We were almost home and I hear from my husband that he and the boys were safe and warm at home-- after a very scary trip with lots of sliding all over the road in his truck.  I am thankful they are safe.

As I look back at my mental fade and emotional breakdown of 6-hours trapped, I see such a nasty mess in my heart and actions.  My orphan-mentality and lack of trust in God's sovereignty--  I was hell-bent on relying on myself and my own abilities.  I was acting and reacting like it was all up to me.  My prayers had faded into a strong determination and self-will.  I was going to save us.  I was the rescuer.  I was crazy.   My 4WD was going to save us.  I had gone into survival, panic mode-- the mode we all take when we think it's up to us and our abilities to rescue ourselves.  

It was ugly.  I screamed and yelled and scared my girls.  I freaked myself out.  I deadened my heart to God.  Also, where was my gratitude?  My main focus was on getting home.  I had friends still stranded and spending the night in their cars and at schools.  I had forgotten all that I had to be thankful for-- four children who were home and healthy, two cars undamaged, a safe warm home, a pretty uneventful 6-hours compared to many who ended up walking (shout out to my sister) or sleeping in random places.  We had much to be grateful for and I was an Israelite-- complaining and whining in the midst of all the blessings.  I could have been forced to walk with two girls had we been hit by another car or slid off the road.  We could be hospitalized or worse.  Forgive me Father.

Looking back, I also saw how the gospel was everywhere in this mess-- all around me.  We are all made in His image.  God has hard-wired the human spirit to serve and give mercy, and it often comes out best when a crisis like this happens.  We saw it when the tornadoes hit a few years ago, we see it all over the world whenever disaster strikes-- the human spirit shows mercy and kindness and sacrifice in the midst of hardship and tragedy.  That is a reflection of the One who made us.  It is the gospel-- the laying down of life (John 15:13).   

Our Birmingham snow storm involved story after story of random strangers stopping to help others, direct traffic, pushing cars out of ditches, scraping roads, offering homes and meals to strangers...miracles all around us in the midst of mess.  That is the hope of the gospel...not in our own strength, but His-- the laying down of His life for us.  We have nothing to offer Him in return (Rom 9:16)  We are a mess and in much need of His mercy and kindness.  We have no hope without Him.

My little girls were no different than me-- frustrated and frightened  during that car ride.  And they may have been slightly scared by my panic that we might die.  (I know, I know).  My only hope is to run to the One and Only, the great spell-breaker of all time.  The One who can Redeem and Rescue and Forgive mammas that panic and run away from Him on a daily basis.  Because every morning I begin my day doing the things I desperately do not want to do.  The same patterns over and over with my children and my husband.  I don't need an ice storm where I'm barricaded in an SUV for 6-hours to show me my lack of faith and my sin.  I know it's there.  As Paul says in Romans 7: 24-25:
 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

This life of contradictions is hard.  Gut-wrenching.  Praise God that He holds me and forgives.  Praise God that He runs after me.  He runs after me.  Over and over and over again.  And praise God for children that remind me of truth.  We, as believers, are new creatures.  Free from the law of sin and death.   He has broken the spell.  All glory to Him! 

  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1)

So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:  See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic. 
 (Isa 28:16)


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Our Groaning and Waiting


This is a long post and I hope you stick with me until the end to hear how our new precious one is teaching us.  Be sure to listen to our new sweet girl's song at the end.  My friend Joni reminded me of Psalm 8:2:  Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.  The Father is teaching us so much.

Last week I providentially started a bible study on the book of Romans.  I missed last semester's study of Chapters 1-7, so last Tuesday night, I sat in a room of women to begin studying Romans, Chapter 8.  God knows just what we need at the perfect time, doesn't He?  He meets us just where we are.  Romans 8 is about suffering, groaning, and waiting.  It is about so much more than I can go into here, but it is beautiful and so timely for my weary and tired heart.

You see, tomorrow was the date set for us to sit outside a courtroom and wait, while a judge decided the fate of a mama her 3 kiddos.   


Could you imagine... being a mama sitting before a judge
 hearing testimony of all the things you've done, right or wrong? 

Your children and your future hanging in the balance?

Don't get me wrong, we are always advocating for these precious children and their ultimate good-- a safe place.   But, in a perfect world, there would be no foster care system.  This is not our home and this is not how it was meant to be.  I feel deep grief  for the brokenness-- oftentimes generation after generation of families stuck in cycles-- abuse, addictions, bad choices.  Many are alone-- with no support network.  Isolated.

 We know that the whole creation has been groaning
 as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
 (Romans 8:22)

And, inwardly, I groan- for a reversal.  Redemption.  Heaven.

...we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
 groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship,
 the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23)

Sweet baby girl is 3-years old.  She has two older brothers, who are in another foster home.  The court date was originally set for October, one day after her 3rd birthday.  She had a party that was an eruption of hot pink, glitter, crowns, and wands.  And a crowd of people gathering round... to love and celebrate, oohing and aahing as she eagerly blew out her candles and ripped open piles of presents.  She was a Princess.

 

So the day after her birthday in October, we sat waiting in family court for 2 hours and were eventually told to go home -- it was being postponed.  We knew this was the life of a foster parent-- uncertainties.  Not only do we deal with the result of broken families, but also a very broken system.  Social workers fight hard for these kids, but the truth is that there is much turnover and things fall through the cracks.  There are long days, high caseloads, and just hard work-- dealing with case after case of abuse and neglect. 

Weeks later we heard we had a new court date for January (tomorrow, actually).  We waited.  We prayed... for months.  We asked prayer warriors to pray alongside us, as we continued to live our life as a normal family with a new little bitty, spunky girl.

This morning I received a phone call from our social worker -- more paperwork had fallen through the cracks and tomorrow's court would not happen.  And so we wait again for another date.  We groan and trust and pray for patience.  It truly is a grace that we feel Him holding us...interceding for us.  We know we are being held.  And as we rock and hold our new little bitty, we pray for her and and her brothers and their mama.

As I was putting our sweet one to bed tonight and was praying over her, she burst out spontaneously into the song God Is So Good.  I've never heard her sing it before.  But there she was, covered under her fleece blanket, singing loudly, and my prayer fell silent.   


Because her song was the prayer.  

A 3-year old was worshipping.  Hot tears streamed down my face and I worshipped, my hand on her fuzzy little head.  The first version she also started singing Jesus Loves Me and said "Mommy, Jesus is so good."   I ran for my video camera and asked her to sing once again for me in the darkness (listen to video below).   This little bitty has ministered more to us than we could ever possibly minister to her.  I am amazed by the spirit He has given her.  She teaches all of us.  Isn't that the way it is with all our children?  They teach us more than we could possibly teach them?  God is good.  He is using a child to teach us how to worship as we wait.




video


Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God 
like a little child will never enter it. (Mark 10:15)

   Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.  
(Romans 8:26-27 the Message)

  

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Inked

This quote pretty much sums up why I got a tattoo a few months ago- yep, at 40 years old . I am now permanently marked with the word "beloved."  I need a constant reminder because I easily forget WHOSE I am and WHO I am. 

Henri Nouwen says: Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the 'Beloved.' Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.  Amen.

I will forget over and over again, but maybe having it permanently marked on my foot will remind me a little more.