Monday, December 1, 2014

A Search for Sunshine

It’s behind locked doors, in the darkness and stillness of her bedroom that her thoughts, her feelings, her fears come alive. She sits, she stews, she wonders, what will happen; what will come next. As she hears the rumble of intense conversation seeping in from her parent’s room next door, she struggles to escape her reality. It wasn’t long ago, family took on a different meaning. Now torn, fractured, undone, the past only leaves for memories and envy.

The torment of change, life long adjustment, was swarming in the thoughts of this young girl God had placed in my path. In this moment, it was her inside out, upside down life that carved our conversation. Her loneliness, confusion, and anger seeped into our discussion, her goal; to appear tough, unaffected, and normal. But how is that possible when your parents, the one’s you’ve put your trust in, the two who so long ago became one, were about to divide?

Her reactions, her reflex, took her down a road of harm, not harm of self, but of spirit. Turning to earthly comfort, rather than heavenly. Allowing the negative influences to effect personal decisions; music, friends, movies, language… She recognized the lack of God and godly choices in her life. I challenged her. She shared her need to return to youth group at church, engage more in her Christian School’s weekly chapels, and the desire to stop hanging out with friends that detract her from her focus. Aside from making these adjustments to her environment, what she shared next left me feeling empty, frustrated by her tainted reality.

This sweet girl, through her loneliness, felt she had to go to these certain places, hang with certain people, and sing certain songs to find God. This broken little heart, so lonely, so lost, spent several months in this family storm, feeling a distance from her maker. I had good news to share…

It was at this point in our conversation God threw me a little nugget of His wisdom. A thought so clear, a thought I, personally, have never even considered. I shared with her about my husband’s accident when he was 18 years old, leaving him unable to move, laid up in a hospital bed for months as his body healed. During these many days, God was there with him. Although he could not physically attend church, or flip through the pages of his own bible, God did not leave his side. God is not a place! It was through my husband’s stillness, inability to lift his arms and legs, moving only his head, that he felt the thick presence of God. Not only a time used to heal his body, but a time God strengthened his heart. Many nights and moments left in his room without visitors, lost in loneliness, discontent about the future, and grief over reality. God met him there and turned his tragedy into a testimony of grace and love.  

Sometimes we need to be in a dark spot, a dark room, for God to show us light. Sometimes we need to be lost, lonely, afraid, to hear his voice leading us closer to him. It’s never a fun moment to share such hurt in the life of a friend, let a lone, a teenager. My heart throbbed, but God replaced it with joy, as he was able to shed light on her dark situation. Through his love, through his grace, he cares. We will hurt, we will stumble, He will pick us up, and that day I got to witness just that.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Set Free

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”- Mark 4: 35-41

I remember teaching this particular story in Mark a few years ago in our Children’s Ministry. After reading the scripture and talking about these verses, I recall the children responding in shock. Totally baffled by why the disciples, who time and time again witnessed the power of Christ through his love and healing of people, would still react in doubt and fear. Even the children recognized Jesus’ presence in the boat, questioning the disciple’s lack of faith.  

It seems so obvious. It’s so easy to recognize where the disciple’s fell short in this situation. I too, reacted that way, thinking out of my “oh so mighty” mindset, “if I were a disciple I would have totally recognized Christ and not been the slightest bit worried.” Sometimes it takes personal experience and individual storms to bring you to the foot of the cross, humbling you and focusing your attention on Christ, and not your own abilities. It’s out of our own fear, doubt, hopelessness, and worry that our reactions are based.

Recently, I have leaned on these verses differently, a bit more realistic, recognizing my personal weakness to trust in Christ, not far from that of the disciples. After my husband Jeff and I completed the adoption process of our son Arie, we couldn’t help but reflect on the flawless process and experience we were blessed with. No hiccups, no setbacks; God poured his blessing on us in a way that was truly amazing.

After riding that wave of excitement and being absolutely amazed of what God had done for us, fear began to creep in. It was nearing the time when we said we would apply for our second adoption. There I was, like the disciples, just leaving the shore where God so obviously revealed himself through his faithfulness to my family. The farther I got away from that experience, the more I grew weary of what was next, anticipation of a storm was weighing on my heart. Could God really do this again? Would he do it again? It was so perfect the first time, why would he make it so easy the second?  Questions of doubt filled my mind. The application for the adoption sat on the table. Every day I would pass by it, my nervousness grew.

I have seen so much hurt, brokenness, and sadness in my friends who have experienced a different God-given adoption journey. Their pain became my fear. I doubted God. I was sinning through my lack of trust. Could I have really forgotten all he had just done for my family?

It wasn’t until recently I was in a worship service where God brought me to my knees. It was that moment, Christ stood his ground; shouting in my ear, “Have you still no faith?”  As I sang and laid my burden at my Lord’s feet, I surrendered to the lyrics:
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns,
Unending love, Amazing Grace!

I felt God’s presence, I still do, his peace and unending love for my family. That peace, that grace, does not mean there will be no storm, but I’m ready! My chains are gone. I am no longer carrying the burden of my sin. I have been set free. The adoption application is in no longer on the table; it is signed and mailed. Because of God’s grace, love, and peace we are entering into uncharted waters, that only He can control. God’s love for me has no end. He can do it again. He will. In his perfect way. In his perfect timing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A View From Above

It was a friendship that began at the age in life when crooked teeth didn’t matter, expressing yourself through fashion meant mismatched socks, and our hairdos were still a part of mom’s morning schedule. Slumber parties, horseback riding lessons, band concerts; what more could two friends do together?

It was in the same third grade class where the two of us first met. She quickly became one of my best friends. I was tall, she was short; she had long hair, mine not so much; she had sisters, I was an only child. We were different, but it worked.

When I was entering the eighth grade, our daily interactions abruptly came to an end, as my family relocated to Michigan from California. After our move, each summer I had the wonderful opportunity of spending a month in California, reconnecting with family and friends. During this time we would catch up chatting about boys, school, neighborhood drama… the endless list of a teen’s diary.

I will never forget, when she shared some information that would forever change her future. During her mid-teens, she was left with some heavy news that would need processing for years to come, her inability to have biological children. Of course news like this shared between us youngsters felt incomprehensible, it was hard to express empathy.

The years continued, and our friendship began to drift away. We no longer had long conversations over the phone, summer nights out when visiting, or letters sent via mail. It was the occasional phone-call on June 2nd or October 5th to wish one another a happy birthday. That was about it. Our lives were on the go, our journeys in different directions; we had new relationships to fill our void. There were many changes, but that did not mean I didn’t often think and pray for her. I always wondered, as we grew older, how she was dealing with her ever-evolving reality. I always regretted not walking through that with my best friend.

Until now…

Close to three years ago we reconnected for lunch, having no idea where our life’s had taken us. What she didn’t know was that Jeff and I were two years into our struggles with starting a family. What I didn’t know was where they were in their journey to becoming parents. That day, that moment, (I still get chills thinking about it) God revealed so clearly why so many years ago he introduced the two of us. Those many elementary years were all for THAT day!

She and her husband were just starting the adoption process. Jeff and I had always been open to that idea but were stalling because our feeling a lack of hope. God used their story, their faith, their pursuit to kick start our adoptive ventures! It was only weeks after our time together that Jeff and I jumped on the ‘Adoption Train’; the best ride of our lives.

Now both our families have been blessed with sweet little boys who are only three months apart. The two of them met for the first time recently, although, looking very different, share a very similar story. Much to our surprise the friendship that God planted twenty four years ago was not just about our awkward teenage smiles, or making squeaky noises on our flute and clarinet, but rather something much greater. Sharing an experience that we could have never prepared for, one we would never want to travel alone. A friendship brought back together, forever bonded, by gifts given through God’s endless grace. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Gated Community

After weeks on our toes, cameras in hand, the inevitable occurred. Of course while mom was gone, dad was working, and no one other than grandpa was in sight. The “first steps”! Arie decided the lack of pressure and audience was best for his debut of strolling across the living room, leaving a total of fifteen footsteps behind.

Since that moment, our lives, and better yet our house, has never been the same. From raising Grammy’s “pretties” to the top shelf, closing every door while exiting, to removing every reachable glass from little fingers. Now in every turn there is a gate to step over, openings barricaded by random objects, and stubbed toes from the ever-changing furniture layout to accommodate Mr. Mobile.

I never envisioned living within the perimeters of a gated community: however, I’m starting to see that more clearly!  

Within this gated community can be found every toy, every blinking light, every buzzing noise one could ever imagine. After pouring money, time, and strategy into this evolving play space, where do you think this kid would rather be? Where better, then the other side of the fence. The many places and spaces that scream, “danger”, “hot”, “don’t touch”, “NO!” Why must it be that his less than content mind, wanders from the area that is designed for him, that is most safe and will best assist him in growing and learning? WHY?!

I can’t help but compare this visual, that I feel God has put in my path, to a lesson in my own life. Focusing on my own boundaries, the ones God places around me to keep me safe, maturing, and within His plan, I sometimes find myself at the gate crying to be let out. Not in a literal sense but figuratively, wanting what I can’t have, whining over something God does not intend for me.

I have to be careful because if not paying attention, evil will seep in, tempting me to focus on what’s “lacking”. In God I lack nothing, but this world tells me otherwise. Over the course of the past 11 years of my marriage I have had to learn to not make comparisons with other’s relationships. If I allow myself to see what my friends have in their marriages, I find my partnership with Jeff drifting away from God’s path. Sometimes, if watching couples too closely, I see what I can’t have; a husband pulling his wife into his big embrace, lovers slow dancing during a wedding celebration, two holding hands strolling in the sand.

God has gifted Jeff and I with something unique, a relationship that is unlike many others. It is easy to look out, and concentrate on the many blessings given to those around us, forgetting the thousands upon thousands, God has lavishly heaped upon us!  

Although I may say we are unique (and physically we are) God reveals through other’s journeys that we are really all one of a kind. This can be hard to recognize when focusing so intently on one’s self, but I find that most people share these same feelings, they’re just specific to each situation. God is faithful and will provide everything we need within your OWN “gated community.” We just have to focus on what’s been placed at our feet, not the feet of others, trusting in God’s perfect plan. So stop rattling the cage. Take a seat in the center of where God has placed you. Then savor the glory of all He has done!    

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Wishin' for a Ramp

For the most part, and by God’s grace, I would like to believe that Jeff and I live this life with a good amount of positivity. Although daily challenges arise and frustrations occur, we have learned to hunker down, say a prayer and march in forward motion. But…there is one thing I must admit that tends to leave us in a bit of a rut, literally sometimes a ditch, not just emotionally but physically; that being issues with “the” ramp.

Before marrying Jeff and seeing this world through a lens of someone with a disability, I never knew what an inhibitor a non-functioning ramp could be. Now, you see, there are different situations we face around the ramp. We have our personal one that mechanically functions by the push of the button on the van (well theoretically). Then there is the portable ramp, that we cannot forget to take to our friend’s house; if forgotten, it means facing the embarrassment of moving the entire party to the backyard just for our sake. There’s the permanent one you wait two months for to be built in your brand new house, causing you to switch to a manual push chair, just so you can be lifted in/out each time you want to enter or leave your home. And then there’s the blue striped ramp that leads through the curb cutout, allowing accessible entrances to and from parking lots (usually blocked by bad parking). You see, this can be frustrating, can cause strife in one’s relationship with their spouse, causing us to react to all the other challenges that extend beyond the ramp. It’s a trigger, waiting to be pulled on a loaded gun.

Staying positive through these obstacles takes work, it takes prayer and forgiveness, it takes looking outward and viewing other’s challenges, humbly accepting you aren’t the only one. We fail at this a lot. We fight, we argue, we cry…we move on. Much to our surprise, people are intrigued by the life God has blessed us with.

While departing from an amusement park a few weeks back, we were reminded of our differences, and how by being positive God can work in and through us. As Jeff was backing up into the van, via the ramp, a little boy passing by stopped. As he tapped his mom’s shoulder he yelled out, “Mom, why can’t we have a car like that?” With a huge smile Jeff and I waved and encouraged him to watch as Jeff continued into the drivers side.

What that little boy saw that day was not what the world tells us to see. He saw the good, he saw the positive, he saw the ramp; and he wanted one! This is something Jeff and I pray for, we want our ramp, not only do we want it to work, but we don’t want to hate our need for it. We are who we are, we are who God is intending us to be. We have to embrace that, even through the storm, and allow that to work for the good. We need to encourage those around us through our story, share our ramp with those who fall, and not pull the trigger on that loaded gun, relying on patience and love in our partnership.

So here’s to that little boy who’s Wishin’ for a Ramp: Stay positive, don’t let the world taint your view, you can do mighty things when you allow God to use you! And remember life’s ramps aren’t all that bad…heck often times they give you a lift.