Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Wild Ride, A Wild God



"He leads us step by step, from event to event. Only afterwards, as we look back over the way we have come and reconsider certain important moments in our lives in the light of all that has followed them, or when we survey the whole progress of our lives, do we experience the feeling of having been led without knowing it, the feeling that God has mysteriously guided us."[1]


Last summer felt as if I'd washed ashore amongst 25-years of rubble- nearly drowned and breathless.

Tossed upon the sea.

Beaten by years of crashing waves. 

Some years I tread water, others I lay hopeless in the soundless depths, my heart and lungs crushed. 

When My children and I washed ashore, I grasped for their hands, reached to turn their faces towards One bigger than our circumstances. 

The shoreline produced relief, as waves of peace lapped the shore of my soul. But, tidal waves of fear flooded my mind as I thought of the future. I tend to be self-reliant, to isolate in times of need; but, the Lord propelled me beyond my comforts. I had to open my hands and ask for help.



Open hands led to provision. Miraculous grace and beauty emerged in ways that humbled me- food, childcare, and prayers. The body of Christ made repairs to our home and provided yard work. A family member paid off our minivan. Neighbors and friends welcomed my children into their homes, more often than not, feeding them dinner. Teachers were the hands and feet of Christ when my children were too heartbroken to enter the school doors. Teachers wrote scripture and sweet encouragement on test papers for which my kids were to weary to study. We were surrounded, loved, consistently and specifically prayed for. Friends wept with us and held up our arms. A youth group leader took lunch to my teenager at school. Administrators extended grace when he also missed over a month of school due to heavy grief, which led to multiple medical tests and hospital visits.

It was crushing for my mama heart to helplessly witness my children suffer. It.was.absolute.hell.

Sometimes my kids lashed out at me, other times they just wanted me to hold tight as they wailed into the darkness. As hard as it was, it was an absolute privilege to be the one chosen to grieve with them, hold them, and point them to the only One who could rescue. We were carried by a gracious and merciful Father. 

As I began to gather the shards of our lives, and put pieces back together, the menacing clouds began to be swallowed by the morning sun. Light broke through the darkness.



As my new life became my new normal, I sometimes juggled up to four part-time jobs. I struggled with guilt, often not present to help with homework assignments or make dinner. I constantly felt like a failure as a mom. During the months of June and July last summer, I trained as a school bus driver. This meant more time away from my kids. And it also required some of the hardest studying I've done since college. 

Every other weekend, my soul was snatched down an unrecognizable quiet, as we began the back and forth swap of the kids visiting their dad. Hardwoods, which normally echoed with horse-hoofed feet of four children, were now silent. One weekend, I could no longer put up with the walls caving in on me, so I headed to a local coffee shop to study for my CDL license. I buried myself in coffee, air brakes, axles, and the stopping distance of vehicles over 10,000 pounds.

Somewhere in the hours of studying, a deep voice of a man caught my attention. A comment about my school bus manual. Another remark about my choice of pumpkin bread, because apparently I got the last slice, and it was his favorite. He had kind eyes and we talked about his yearly cross-country road trip to visit his parents in Connecticut, how he would take a different route each year. This was his first time to navigate into Birmingham. Years prior, he had also studied for a school bus license to drive his soccer team to games. He was a Government high school teacher in Texas, 14 hours away. 

As we talked, we discovered we both majored in political science in college. It was a delightful conversation, and I was a bit caught off guard when he asked for my phone number. I didn't think we'd really stay in touch due to the 1,000 mile distance, but the Lord had other plans.

As the weeks turned into months, David and I developed a sweet friendship. He prayed regularly for me and the kids. His divorce, 13-years prior, had produced a wisdom and tenderness for my situation that was unique. He had battled cancer years prior, and his heart was full of amazing tenderness and compassion.

David and I discovered we had many shared interests and life experiences... which was truly surreal. One of many bizarre commonalities was that we prepared identical breakfasts for years... the same smoothies, down to the almond milk, vanilla whey, flax and frozen spinach. We also became believers at similar ages, in our 20s. I could go on and on about the various ways the Lord moved in our hearts, but the bottom line is we regularly were led to weep together in gratitude for His providential hand in bringing us together and binding our hearts in such a sweet friendship.

We spent 10 months corresponding and traveling back and forth to visit one another, as our friendship blossomed to dating. I've never felt more pursued or loved by the Father, or by a man. We've walked together through some difficult circumstances in our own lives and those of our children. The Lord has continued to answer prayers and provide.

In April of this year, we met with my church and counselors to discuss the plan to marry. David listed his home for sale, and had it sold within 10 days. The Lord continually held us and confirmed every decision and step of the way, including our children supporting our relationship. Even more surreal, my ex-husband shared a meal with us, and testified that it had to be the Lord making his heart open to receive such news- he also supported our decision to marry.

It has indeed been a wild ride. So, last week, I boarded an airplane with a one-way ticket to Texas to help David load a trailer and head east to move to our home in Birmingham. But, first, we traveled west into New Mexico to marry.


 

Would you please pray for this new journey? Please pray for our transition as a new family. We still stand in awe at our Savior and HIS tremendous love and kindness to do something this wild and crazy in both our lives. 










[1] Tournier, Paul. Reflections on Life's Most Crucial Questions, New York: Harper & Row, 1976.

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

The D-Word: when life crumbles



For your Maker is your husband,
    the Lord of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
    
the God of the whole earth he is called. (Isa 54:5)



Divorce.

Seriously?

I’ve been writing about broken families for years. Foster children scooped up barefoot in threadbare clothes, tossed into a car and taken to a stranger’s home. Severed hearts, torn lives. In an instant, all of life spinning dizzy. Tantrums, guttural sounds, anxiety. A heavy fog of grief emanating through the hallways of their foster home.
Now the guttural sounds are here, within my home.

And it’s not my adopted daughter, but my biological children.

We suck in air deep, and try to breathe this new life. It’s hard.

As a young girl, I twirled, I climbed, I ran. My legs pedaled fast on my banana-seat bike. I played hard in the dirt. My only worries were not missing the timing of the ice cream truck's melody as it circled our neighborhood.

I never thought of middle-age life delivering this.

This crazy dichotomy of deafening quiet mixed with ear-piercing chaos. The drumbeat of horse-hoofed children’s feet on hardwoods sandwiching the every-other-weekends of me sitting in a cavern of silence.

My breath the only sound bouncing off the walls.

My feet the only ones to walk hallways, soft.
Alone for a weekend.

Like wisps of my daughter’s ballerina tulle skirt twirling beauty ‘round her small frame, I’d always pictured my life would be like that sheer, gauzy dream of happiness.




Throughout the summers of my childhood, my bare toes clambered up the body of the magnolia near my grandmother’s home. Year after year, my cousins and I dodged evergreen waxy leaves to go even higher. Our fingertips and toes brushed the aged letters, hearts, and drawings we’d carved into the trunk with rusty pocket knives over the years. A random limb would split here and there as we went higher to the thinner, frail offshoots.

And now, I feel like that old tree.
Worn. Aged. Frail. Broken.

My soul carved deep. Scrawled with shame-words.

Worthless. Quitter. Not good enough.

 
And I’ve questioned…

How do I even begin to write again…about these frayed edges of my life?

How do I effectively write about divorce? With courage. With hope. With beauty.

Without sugar-coating or diminishing the pain?
Without cheapening the grace of God?

I shut down my blog over a year ago because I couldn’t write anymore. Nothing would flow. I questioned my life.

Somehow, I felt like a fraud because I was a Christian going through a divorce.

I’ve always been a staunch supporter of fighting for marriage at all cost. Christians who got divorced, in my mind, somehow didn’t try hard enough. Didn’t trust the Spirit enough. Gave up. Please understand, I’m referring to cases where there are biblical grounds for divorce.

My faulty mindset left no room for the fact that redemption often comes through the severing.

Love is often the hard choice of walking into the dark, holding the hands of four children. Entering the unknown. Naked, barefoot, the feeling of being beaten bloody. Trembling hands and raw feet treading along paths strewn with shrapnel. Land mines hidden along the way.

What in the world do we do when everything has been stripped away? How is a mama with four kids supposed to go on, alone?

I never thought I’d be the one staring through blood-stained tears, realizing there was nothing left to fight for. Nothing. The truth of our marriage was buried so far under places I didn’t even know existed.

Like an archaeological dig, I’ve chiseled through decades of caked-on falsehood. My hands ripped and clawed at the years of pretense … I really believed the glossy photos hanging on our walls were true. Our smiling faces, ethereal glow of sunlight, open field, holding hands, leaning in for a kiss. The reality of over 25-years began to seep from under the crust of my mind like magma. Slow at first and then a volcanic eruption to my soul.

In the midst of the explosion, I’ve often felt as if I were sitting in the lap of the Father. Him whispering, singing, rocking, holding me near. Zephaniah 3:17 and Hosea 2:14-15 have become the anchors which have held me still.

My brain can't comprehend it all. I only know that I’ve experienced Him like never before.

His chest has been the One I’ve lain my head against night after night. His breath the One to whisper truth above the lies. He’s my husband, my love, my Jesus. The One who’s held me all along.

As this is Holy Week, I've been particularly struck (again) of all the betrayals. Christ's dearest friends turning their backs, closing themselves off from Him. And, the Father turning His back on Christ's plea for rescue.

Because Jesus chose to be our Rescuer. Spill His blood for us.

Today, I was hanging out in the driveway with my second born, the sunlight burning hot on our faces. He was climbing the pear tree high. He gazed down and questioned, "Mama, will you climb the tree with me?"

My hands grabbed limbs scarred by holes from years of a woodpecker's search for a meal.

No matter how crushed and shattered I feel, He gets it. He understands. He was crushed for us.

How does a 44-year old climb a tree? Carefully. Slowly. Un-childlike. Messy. Awkwardly.

But, eventually, there I was beside him. Our legs swinging. My boy's head resting on my knee. The breeze rustling bright green leaves dappled with sunlight.

And, I saw it. One of many reminders of who I am, scrawled permanently across my foot. Beloved.

Indeed, there is constant beauty and love poured out over me. I am His and He is mine.

And, I am so very grateful that the tomb was empty. My Jesus is alive.


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