A Missionary shares her story of addiction

Laura Andrew is someone I want you to meet. She’s married to Rodney and they have two daughters and a son and they are serving God on the mission field in Costa Rica. I went to the same church with Laura growing up. She was quite a bit younger than me but we knew each other and went on youth group outings, etc. I never knew of her struggle with alcohol until I interviewed another lady about her addiction. Laura shared her story with me and I asked her if I could share it with ya’ll. She agreed to let me interview her as I did Elizabeth a few weeks ago. 

I think this interview and this topic is important because I believe the place of the local church can be a healing tool in the life of an addict. Not a cure all. But a tool. But I think we need to listen to each others stories and ask for God to open our hearts to what he wants us to see. So I pray this interview might help us all in this way.

Do you remember your first drink, how old were you?

Yes – I was a sophomore in high school so probably 15.

If so, where and what was it?

I was at an end of the year party at a friend’s house and an older kid was able to buy beer for us. I remember that I drank until I passed out on my friend’s front lawn. It didn’t take much because I didn’t have much of a tolerance at the time. But my drinking was out of control from the very beginning.

Can you tell us what happened with your drinking after that? (next drink, age, where)

I took a “break” after that first time because I was scared and humiliated. It was later in high school – I think after my junior prom that I drank again. And once again I drank until I blacked out.

Does anyone in your family drink?

I think when you look back at our family tree there were quite a few heavy drinkers especially on my mom’s Irish side. I have a close relative that has struggled for years with alcohol.

Although you take full responsibility for your own choices in your alcohol addiction do you look back on any early contributing factors?

I think one of the biggest contributing factors for me was an overwhelming need for acceptance from my peers. The desire to fit in and be accepted drove me to do whatever everyone else was doing. Although I became a Christian at an early age I lacked the understanding of my identity in Christ.

Were you aware at the time your behavior might have indicated you had a problem?

I think I always knew in the back of my mind that my drinking was not “normal” and that it was problematic. I certainly knew it was a sin issue.

What were your thoughts?

I enjoyed drinking and the partying lifestyle. I liked the feeling of getting that buzz and getting more out-going at parties and places. But always somewhere along the way an imaginary “switch” would be flipped that took me from in-control/having fun drinking to out of control/dangerous drinking. There were very few times in my life that I could “control” my drinking. And once the switch was flipped there was no telling what was going to happen after that. And from there the feelings of shame and guilt overwhelmed me. It was a cycle that I went through week after week after week.

What age and situation was your drinking obviously increasing?

When I went away to college is when things started to decline. Being out from under the watchful eye of my parents, church friends, etc. gave me the “freedom” I thought I wanted to do as I pleased. I got a fake I.D. and started going out to bars and clubs with older people and I got very involved in the hippie music scene. At that time, I started experimenting with other drugs but alcohol was always at the center of it all. I all but failed out of college, couldn’t hold a job (because I couldn’t get up in the morning to make it there), alienated friends and increasingly ignored the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

How did your drinking impact your family?

My parents knew that I was struggling but they never knew the full extent. I missed family gatherings, continually broke my promises to “do better next time”, and left my parents in a continual state of fear and worry.

Did anyone ever mention you might be drinking too much?

At one point, after I missed my sister-in-law’s baby shower, my family had enough and they held an intervention. They actually picked me up at a bar took me home and tried to set me straight. They knew I was out of control. The next day they moved me out of my apartment where I was living and moved me back home with my parents. I did well for a while but didn’t really have the desire within me to change. So, after a while I went back to my old ways.

Were there times you ever wished someone had approached you in a loving, grace-filled way about your drinking?

Yes and no. I mean, I’m not sure it would have mattered because I wasn’t ready until I was ready. I like to think that if someone had come alongside of me in a loving grace-filled way, with no shame, no condemnation, and offered me a way out that I would have taken it. But at the time I felt (like any addict would) that the intervention was an attack. I felt like they didn’t understand me and what I was going thru. I had the desire to get rid of all the negative consequences of drinking but I wasn’t ready to give up the drinking. Because I didn’t know who I would be without it. I didn’t know what I would do, who I would hang out with. My identity was wrapped up in my drinking and partying.

Did you hide your drinking?

Absolutely – but only from my parents and people I knew from church because I was ashamed and afraid of “getting in trouble”. And in a certain way I hid the full extent of my drinking from my friends. But I didn’t sit around drinking in private. I thrived on being out and about in “the scene”.

Did you do drugs?

Yes.

Was your family concerned?

Of course – they were agonizing over the choices I was making. They saw me self-destructing.

What was it like just before your quit?

My parents had moved me home and I was doing pretty well with life. I had changed universities and was going to class and doing well. I also picked up a part-time job at a local store. On the outside I was holding it together pretty well but occasionally I would still go out with friends. One evening after my shift was over at work I went out with some co-workers. The night started out under control and we just had a few drinks together. But then someone suggested we go somewhere else and that “switch” was flipped in me. I often thought about what would have happened if I had just gone straight home after work. But we continued drinking into the night. And on the night of January 11, 2002 I was involved in a one -car DUI accident. I am so thankful that I was not injured and I did not injure anyone else. I was arrested that night and put in jail.

What made you quit?

When my dad came to bail me out we rode in silence on the way home. My mom was waiting there for us. My parents gave me two choices – I could either get help our get out. Faced with the possibility of being out on my own with nowhere to go I chose to get help.

How did you quit?

My mom took me to my first AA meeting the following Tuesday night at a local church. At that meeting I picked up my first white chip. It was a symbol of surrender and being ready to make a change. I continued to go to as many AA meetings as I could. I stayed sober by realizing that my higher power – Jesus Christ – was the only one that could restore me to wholeness, in HIM.

Was it difficult and for how long?

Yes, it was difficult – but I was ready and willing to do whatever it took to stay sober.

What did treatment look like for you? As a program how would you describe it to readers?

I was fortunate enough to not have needed a detox program or in-patient care. I focused on going to as many AA meetings as possible. I found a sponsor that was a wonderful Christian woman, who shared my belief that Jesus Christ is our “higher power” as described in the AA program. I also came to realize that I needed to work on my personal spiritual relationship with the Lord so I started to go to church again with my mom. It was so hard and awkward at first. I felt dirty, ashamed, and embarrassed sitting there. I felt like somehow, everyone was going to find out what a horrible person I had been. I felt like a fake and a hypocrite. And I think most of all I felt like a total disappointment to so many people. I had grown up in the church and had always been such a good girl. I was involved in children’s ministry, choir, youth group, etc. So, how had I come so far from all of that. And to be honest it took years after I got sober to deal with all those feelings. I truly had to reconstruct my identity, in Christ. I had to acknowledge that everything bad I had done, every sin I had committed, had already been forgiven the day I accepted Christ. I had to realize that He knew every sin I would ever commit and loved me (despite them) enough to die for me. I had to realize that there was nothing I could ever do to repay God for those wasted years. And that I didn’t need to DO anything to make him love me more.

It has been a very long road, and to be honest, I was in my 30’s before I really became completely “whole” again. It was when I finally put away the whole performance mentality and accepted the finished work of Jesus.

What do you do today to not drink?

Well, first I try not to put myself in situations where it is a temptation. I constantly remind myself that there is not one thing that alcohol will fix and there is not one positive thing that alcohol can add to my life.

How do you handle going out with friends who drink socially? Do you?

Only occasionally am I around people who drink socially. It doesn’t really bother me anymore. Currently, in my circle of friends, no one drinks socially so it’s not an issue.

Would it help if your Christian friends who normally drink socially withheld from drinking when they go out with you?

In my early years of sobriety yes, it would have helped. The longer it has been the easier it has gotten.

What advice would you give to a Christ follower who is still struggling with an alcohol addiction?

First, they need to really decide whether they are willing to do whatever it takes to get sober. If the true heart-felt desire to change is not there it’s never going to work. It also must be something more than just a desire to avoid the negative consequences. Getting sober is not just about behavior modification. It’s about fully surrendering to the will of God, to allow him to change you from the inside out. I would say to look for a Christ-centered recovery program like Celebrate Recovery, but don’t rule out Alcoholics Anonymous. A great deal can be learned from AA. But always remember at the center of it all, there is a loving Savior, who knows you and is waiting with open arms to restore you and redeem your pain and hurt and suffering.

What advice would you give a Christ follower who does not struggle with an alcohol addiction but wants to help those who do?

Wow. First, pray for the addict as often as you think of them. True change will come from a spiritual awakening so we must invoke the power of the Holy Spirit. I know that sounds a little mystical but I don’t know any other way to put it. The battle over addiction is won in the spiritual realm. Also, I would say be loving and withhold any shame or judgement in your dealing with an addict. Don’t pretend to know what they are going thru. Don’t pretend that you have the answers or solutions for that person. Build them up, love them, speak the truth (in love). And above all, don’t enable them. If you are really interested in helping an addict read up on co-dependency so you can learn what NOT to do as well!

Enabling is the number one enemy of an addict. Loved ones often continue to help (or repeatedly bail out) the addict. My husband and I often describe it as the addict falling towards a bottom (consequences) and the enabler provides a trap door that opens at the bottom. Thus, allowing the addict to escape a consequence that very well could have been a turning point in their lives. Every addict must reach the point where they acknowledge their addiction and realize they, in their own power, are powerless to overcome their addiction. In that moment they have to reach out to a higher Power, in my case, Jesus. If we never feel the full weight of pain and consequences we never reach that point of desperation and brokenness. It sounds awful but people who want to help addicts should pray for them to be broken. That’s where the good stuff begins.

Will you talk about the role of your church in your healing once you shared about your addiction?

I never really revealed anything about my addiction to anyone in the church I attended when I first got sober. The only people that knew were my mom and a couple of the pastors. However, the head pastor of that church supported me and even took me to an AA meeting one night (since I’d lost my license after the DUI). It was a special night and I felt very loved and supported.

However, after I met my husband, we started going to a church that offered a Christ-centered recovery program called Celebrate Recovery. And that was a total game-changer. Celebrate Recovery was a tremendous ministry offered by the church and we were never treated as outsiders or kept hidden. That group became our closest friends and were like family. I learned more in those years participating in and leading small groups, than I have at any other time in my Christian walk.

What advice would you give someone who has a friend or loved one who they believe is drinking to a degree that is impacting their life and family negatively?

Confront them in a loving way and offer help. But know when to back off. Just like the old saying goes “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”.

Do you find it hard to attend social gatherings where alcohol is served?

No

How long has it been since you had a drink?

After a short relapse in 2011, it’s been 6 years since I’ve had a drink. Before that it had been almost 10 years.

What do you attribute most of this to?

Understanding who I am in Christ and realizing that I have no need for alcohol in my life.

How do you see God using your past addictions in your life today?

We are currently serving as missionaries in Playa Jaco, Costa Rica. Among our many other ministry responsibilities we offer Celebrate Recovery in a one-on-one format. Our town is FULL of addicts – to alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, you name it. We are constantly crossing paths with hopeless, desperate people. To those who are truly ready for a change we offer Celebrate Recovery.

Any other thoughts or input for Christians who are struggling with an addiction?

To that person sitting in the pew (or chair) who is silently suffering…It doesn’t have to be that way forever. There are resources out there to help walk with you through recovery. But at some point you are going to have to acknowledge your need for help and take the first step in surrendering YOUR will to the will of God. It is a scary and painful road at times. However, remaining in addiction will destroy your life: physically, emotionally and spiritually. The God of the universe created you and knows every inch of you. He knows your secrets, your flaws, your addictions and he LOVES you anyways. He loves you so much he died for you. And there is nothing you could have ever done that He can’t forgive if you ask. And I think equally as important, there is nothing you can ever do in the future that could ever separate you from that love. The road to recovery is hard and most addicts will relapse at some point. It’s part of the journey. But we have a loving savior who will carry us through it all!

Thank you so much Laura for sharing with us. The depth of God’s love is evident in your life and in your message. May he keep using you and Rodney to show and speak of his love to others. 

 

Could Holy Communion trip up brothers and sisters in Christ?

A question came in for Elizabeth who did a brave blog interview about her alcohol addiction and recovery. The question was centered around Communion being served in churches and how this could effect one recovering from an alcohol addiction when the grape juice isn’t grape juice but instead is the real deal wine. Would this be hard for one who is in the middle of recovery? Her response was really interesting.

(This blog post is about serving wine for communion in light of the recovering alcoholic. It is not about denominations so please keep that in mind with any potential feedback. Elizabeth herself humbly admits to being a learner in her understanding of some of these things. Feel free to chime in gracefully.)

This is a great question!  I’ve only gone to “grape juice” churches so this is something I honestly haven’t thought about before.  After rolling it around in my head throughout the day I did some quick research on Catholic mass and the use of wine.  Man do they have a LOT of rules surrounding communion.  Didn’t Christ come to free us from the law?  From these rules and legalities that the pharisees held in such high regard.  Jesus shows us time and time again that people are what mattered, not the law.  From what I gathered there is a “legal” type of grape juice that has been fermented at the very minimum length of time allowed by the Code of Canon Law and the Catechism of the Catholic Churchso.  The argument I read was that the alcohol content was so low that it was safe to drink even by someone with an alcohol addiction.

For me, just tasting wine would be a trigger.  So, I’m trying to be careful here because I really know very little about Catholicism, but it looks like their hands are tied as far as offering an alternative to wine. From what I can tell, the episcopal church changed their rules surrounding the Eucharist a few years ago and now allow a non-fermented grape juice option (due to a bishop who was under the influence and hit and killed a bicyclist, it brought to light the wine culture in the Episcopal Church and some changes were made.)  It seems as though Lutherans are also more lenient about using grape juice as an option.  Methodist and Baptists tend to only use grape juice.  Catholics believe that the wine and bread actually becomes Jesus’s blood and body, therefor their rules are stricter I suppose. They believe that the “consequence of changing the elements is that it has the potential to introduce doubt concerning whether the Sacrament is valid and capable of delivering the blessing God has promised.”  One the other hand, Baptists, for example, believe that it’s just symbolic of His blood and body.

The church I attend has grape juice and even a gluten-free option for the bread.  It’s all symbolic anyways, right?  If I regularly attended a church other than Catholic (who again, seem to have their hands tied on this matter), I would absolutely mention to the pastor that they needed a non-wine option for communion.  If they didn’t offer that option, I would just never partake of the Lord’s Supper and that would bother me.  So, that was probably more than you wanted to know, but I found it interesting to research all the different opinions of some major denominations on this!

Thanks Elizabeth for sharing your heart on this matter! 

If you have other questions for Elizabeth feel free to shoot me a message or contact her directly. 

Alcohol addiction is no respecter of persons.

She stood up on the last day of the Christian women’s retreat I was attending and shared with us how she was celebrating two years of sobriety. Up until then she shared her struggle only with her husband and a few close friends who, thank God, gave her the support and encouragement she needed. She has a relationship with God who was her main help through her struggle with alcohol. In this interview you’ll meet Elizabeth Overman, Christ-follower, wife, and Mom to three boys. She has been gracious enough to answer some very direct and raw questions about her struggle with alcoholism. She shares for the purpose of bringing glory to God and helping others. May we read with a humility of spirit and a willingness to see ourselves in her story even though our struggle may look completely different. Even greater than this will be our ability to see the grace of God in her story. And may this lead us to look for his grace in our own lives. 

Do you remember your first drink, how old were you?

My junior year in highschool

If so, where and what was it?

A friend of mine’s family had a lake house, so we went up there for the weekend with the specific plan to drink.  For a couple of us it was the first time.  We had jello shots and beer.  I didn’t drink too much because I was just kind of scared of what it meant to be “drunk.”

Can you tell us what happened with your drinking after that? (next drink, age, where)

I drank a couple more times in highschool but I was always the “responsible one,”  even when drinking.  I was always more worried about watching out for my drunk friends than I was about getting drunk myself.  Once I got to college, I drank more frequently but I still always felt liable for my friends I was out drinking with.

Does anyone in your family drink?

I remember my dad drinking beer when I was little because sometimes he would have me throw his beer can away and as soon as I rounded the corner to the trash can I would take a sip of flat backwash beer.  I think I just wanted to see what this “adult drink” was like.  I don’t remember him ever drinking to excess.  I accepted Jesus into my heart at age 9 and when I walked down the aisle to talk the pastor, my dad was right behind me, also having asked Jesus into his heart.  I don’t remember him ever drinking after that.  I’m told that I have uncles and great grandfathers who struggled with alcohol, but no one that I knew personally growing up.

Although you take full responsibility for your own choices in your alcohol addiction do you look back on any early contributing factors?

I struggled a lot with social anxiety.  I’m very tall and always felt uncomfortable in social situations.  I recognized that a few drinks helped me relax and be more “fun” when I was around others.  I think it was an early indicator of using to alcohol to self-medicate for my anxiety.

Were you aware at the time your behavior might have indicated you had a problem?

My drinking appeared to be “normal drinking” to me throughout my 20s.  I had 3 children in 4 years and in between the pregnancies, the drinking seemed to increase after each pregnancy ended.  My first son had colic and I remember the pediatrician telling me to pour myself a glass of wine to drink during my son’s last feeding of the evening to calm myself.  I just remember feeling like that gave me permission to use alcohol to handle my nerves.  By the time I was pregnant with my 3rd child, I kept telling myself that since I could go the whole pregnancy without drinking, I just wouldn’t start up again after I had him.  I think the mere fact that I was negotiating this with myself meant that on some level I was beginning to recognize that it was a problem.

What were your thoughts?

There was definitely a time in the last few years of my drinking that I just couldn’t fathom going a night without alcohol. And while I knew that wasn’t normal, I told myself that I wasn’t hurting anyone.

What age and situation was your drinking obviously increasing?

By the time I had my 3rd child my drinking really began to pick up. I would set rules for myself. For example I wouldn’t drink until after the boys were in bed. And then it became I wouldn’t drink until 5pm. Occasionally I would try to only drink on weekend nights, but that wouldn’t last past Tuesday. And plenty of times I didn’t even make it through Monday.

How did your drinking impact your family?

It made me emotionally cut off. Even though I could talk and “act” sober in the evenings with my husband, we would get into a lot of little arguments. When I went to bed I was basically passing out (Whereas now we lay in bed for a while and watch a show together or talk) When I started drinking in the evenings to “calm myself” I would ironically notice that it just made me more irritable with my kids. And even though I recognized that, it didn’t stop me. Thankfully I never hurt my kids, physically or emotionally, but having a mother who was trying to numb her life meant that I wasn’t the best mom that could be for them. You can’t numb the bad things in life without numbing the good.

Did anyone ever mention you might be drinking too much?

My husband would say things like “why don’t we just drink on the weekends.”  (he said “we” instead of “you” just to be kind.  He rarely drank)  Every now and then he would start a conversation about it and I would immediately get defensive and storm out.

Were there times you ever wished someone had approached you in a loving, grace-filled way about your drinking?

I honestly think that anyone who would have talked to me about it would have just pissed me off.  That’s just the place I was in.  I was full of so much shame myself that if anyone else had brought it up to me, my armor would have been immediately thrown on and defenses up.

Did you hide your drinking?

Absolutely.  I had a cooler in my closet, extra beer and wine hidden in the back of a kitchen cabinet.

Did you do drugs?

Honestly, not even once.

Was your family concerned?

My husband was, but I think he felt like his hands were tied as far as expressing his concern.

What was it like just before your quit?

I quit in September of 2014 and the summer leading up to that date I had begun to drink during the day.  (Up until then I had only drank at night)  I was no longer able to fool myself into thinking I didn’t really have a problem.

What made you quit?

I had wrestled with the idea of quitting for a long time, but one Sunday my pastor was preaching on “slaying your giant” and in the middle of that sermon I just broke.  I began crying and I knew without a doubt that I HAD to stop.  Everybody’s rock bottom is different and I am so thankful that mine was more shallow than so many others who struggle with alcohol addiction.  I didn’t lose a spouse or my kids or get a DUI, but emotionally, I was absolutely bottomed out.  My shame and self-loathing was a weight I could no longer bear.

How did you quit?

After that sermon, I went home and looked up a local AA meeting for that night.  From then I just had to take it one day at a time.  Some days it was one minute at a time.

Was it difficult and for how long?

It wasn’t easy, but it was simple.  My only focus for a while was to simply not drink.  Everything else came second.  I took a lot of walks and started taking yoga classes.  My husband and a few close friends who I had shared this with were instrumental in helping me stay sober.  They were all so supportive.

What did treatment look like for you? As a program how would you describe it to readers?

I attended AA religiously for the first 6 months, going to 3-4 meetings a week.  After about 6 months I was only going to 1 a week and it eventually got to where I only attended about once a month.  I never felt like I needed to jump all into AA like others may need to.  I had my husband and friends supporting me, I felt strong in my own God-given power to stay sober.  I think AA, and many other recovery programs, are extremely helpful, and AA kept me sober those first few months, I have no doubt.  I will be forever grateful for that, but I don’t feel the need to attend meetings any more.  I know it’s there if I ever need it again though.

What do you do today to not drink?

At 3 years sober now, it’s just not something I think about much anymore.  At times I’ll think “oh, it would be nice to have a glass of wine right now” but it’s so immediately followed by the thought that one glass of wine would turn into two would turn into 6 and I just know I can’t go there.  I don’t want to go there.  It’s taken a while, but I have learned how to lean into my feelings of anxiety and depression and other feelings that used to trigger me wanting to drink.  I had to learn how to feel those feelings and deal with them in a healthy way.  That’s something that I’m still learning how to do better every single day.

How do you handle going out with friends who drink socially? Do you?

Thankfully none of my friends are really people who drink a lot, but it wouldn’t have been uncommon for them to get a glass of wine at dinner.  First the first several month, my friends just wouldn’t drink when we were together, which I appreciated more than they’ll ever know.  I eventually assured them that I was totally ok with them drinking around me.  In the rare cases that I’m in a social situation where people are drinking a lot, it honestly just makes me thankful that I don’t drink anymore.  I just know I will wake up feeling a lot better than they will!

Would it help if your Christian friends who normally drink socially withheld from drinking when they go out with you?

It definitely did help in the beginning!  Now I’m completely ok with it.  In the beginning, the fact that they wouldn’t drink around me just showed me that they respected and loved me.  It represented that I was more important to them than a glass of wine.  It may sound silly, but at the time it meant everything to me.

What advice would you give to a Christ follower who is still struggling with an alcohol addiction?

Find someone you trust, someone who has earned the right to hold your secret with you and confess to them that you are struggling.  Don’t make any promised to them that you are going to quit, just let them know it’s a struggle for you and ask them to pray for you.  To check up on you from time to time to see if you need to talk anymore.  Don’t be scared to ask a friend for something that you need from them.  If this person is a true friend, he or she will value being “your person” for this and want to help you in whatever capacity you need.  If you don’t feel like you have someone like this in your life, tell a pastor or email me!  You’d be amazed at how much just saying the words out loud can lighten your heart.

What advice would you give a Christ follower who does not struggle with an alcohol addiction but wants to help those who do?

Just be there for them.  Love and encourage them with words and actions.  Shaming someone for their addiction rarely works.  Help that person feel loved and worthy of recovery.  Lift them up, point out their beautiful qualities, help them know they are worth treating themselves better than they do.  And let them know they are not alone in struggling in this life.  Compassion is the biggest word I can think of for this question.  So many of us have addictions, it just might not be alcohol.  It may be watching the scale or numbing with food.  It may be excess exercising or over working.  It may be people pleasing or purposely pushing people away.   So many of us have feelings we want to avoid and numb and alcohol is just one way to do that.  Unfortunately it’s a coping mechanism that can come with more dire consequences that others, but at the root, the pain is the same.

Do you find it hard to attend social gatherings where alcohol is served?

I did for a while.  My husband would always be with me though and he wouldn’t drink, which helped me tremendously.  Now it doesn’t bother me at all.

How long has it been since you had a drink?

September 8th was my 3 year sobriety date.

What do you attribute most of this to?

God, my husband, my friends and yoga.  And believing that I’m strong enough to do it and worthy enough to do it.   Letting go of the shame of drinking for years and now turning my mess into my message.  A message of God’s grace and love, power and strength that he gives to us freely.  We are so dearly loved and cherished by our Father.

Elizabeth, thank you for sharing so candidly with us. I appreciate the courage and humility it took to do so. It’s a gift to us. 

You can hear more from Elizabeth’s heart on her blog Simply Grace. You’ll laugh and come away encouraged and inspired by her wisdom. She has a little something for everyone.

Also, if you are in the middle of an addiction struggle and want to reach out to someone you heard Elizabeth say you can email her. She means that. If you have trouble finding her email on her blog email me and I’ll give it to you. I’m also available if you just need someone to pray with. If you need help to the tune of a program I want you to look at a ministry in my town in NC. I know the Director personally. She’s “been there, done that, has the tshirt” and has now opened a facility to help women in the midst of their addiction. You can see more about this ministry at Genesis Ministry. It’s never too late to get help. 

 

5 ways to survive Mother’s Day when you want to be a Mom but aren’t.

Mother’s Day is a sweet day of honoring our Moms and our children. Flowers, dressing up, pictures, cards that share our heart’s message and on and on the celebrating goes.

But there are women most likely in your midst who are having a hard time celebrating because of an ache inside. A deep ache that can’t always be explained. She might be the woman who is barren and longs to have a child. She is the woman who has lost her Mother. She could be the woman who never knew her Mother or was abandoned by her. I know women in all categories. I was that woman in one of the categories for years. And she’s the one I want to address today on this blog. The woman who longs to have a child but can’t or hasn’t.

So to the woman who understands this ache within her soul,  I want to give you five things to hold on to this Mother’s Day season.

  1. Remind yourself that God knows and sees your situation. He is sovereign and in complete control of your/your husband’s body and it’s ability to reproduce. He can change your situation with his voice. He is this powerful. And because our Creator God is a good and loving God you can trust that his ability to do all things or reverse anything is good news. Trust him with your infertility. Don’t refuse to be comforted by God.
  2. Don’t stop praying for your baby to come unless God leads you to stop. Pray specifically. Write your prayers down and date them because I promise you God is at work in ways you can’t see or fathom. As you look back on your prayers you will be able to trace the fingerprints of God during this incredibly slow, painful wait. I say don’t stop praying for your baby because, for us, we had prayed for God to change the desires of our heart if he didn’t want us to have children. We earnestly prayed and felt a confidence and a peace from God that he wanted us to have a family so we continued in praying for a baby. But God does shut this door for some in various ways. But until he clearly shuts that door I would say pray and don’t stop.
  3.  Ask people to pray for you.  It’s not always easy to share our personal stuff with people and especially when it relates to infertility. I totally get this! Like who wants to add their ovaries to the church prayer list. And who wants to raise their hand at church and say, “Ya’ll pray real good for us because my man’s gotta give a sperm sample tomorrow.” Sheesh that’s just creepy uncomfortable to type let alone say out loud. If you’re going through IF you understand this is base line IF lingo. Even though it might be slightly uncomfortable I’d encourage you to ask God to give you a small circle of trusted friends and family who will commit to praying for you specifically. A prayer “task force” if you will. I still have a prayer team that I call on periodically during the year. And guess what? Many of them were a part of this prayer team when we went through infertility. Prayer is your lifeline. It’s worth talking about the uncomfortable for the peace that comes with entrusting our womb to God. And may I say that if you are reading this and you want me to pray for you I would love to. I have a heart for praying for women struggling in this area and I’d be honored to pray on your behalf. Email me and tell me how I can pray for you.
  4. Ask God to help you know and rejoice in the fact that He alone is enough. This is one of the main lessons I learned through infertility. God alone is my salvation and if he never provided children I would still have the greatest gift I could ever have and that’s my relationship with Jesus. It didn’t make the pain or the desire for children go away but it gave me a comfort and a security in what I already was given.
  5. Ask God to help you see what nugget of truth he has for you through infertility. Because he has something. Sometimes it takes hindsight to see that nugget of truth but the power of God’s word along with his Spirit many times reveals powerful truths to us in the moment of reading scripture and praying. I encourage you to ask God to show you unique treasures in his word during your baby wait. They will be life lessons that will carry you all through life. Psalms is a great place to read. Psalm 77. Psalm 63 and the book of Job are great sets of scripture.

Friends, I am here to tell you that you can survive Mother’s Day this year even though you’re walking through infertility. If you are overcome with emotion on Sunday morning and can’t sit through another Mother’s Day sermon then sit it out and don’t be hard on yourself. But don’t allow yourself to wallow in self-pity either. Be honest with friends and let them pray for you. And can I tell you that there is another chapter to this story being written. You can’t see it. I know it feels like a blank page that won’t ever turn. I don’t know you but I know my God and He will not leave you hanging. It might feel like things will never change right now but the fact is God is working out a plan and already knows the ending. For us his plan included bringing two amazing children to us through adoption. We had no idea all that was unfolding during the days that felt silent and still. It was nothing short of a miracle. Be encouraged. Our God is working in the silence.

I am praying for you friends.

 

How we’re handling The Shack and Beauty & The Beast as a family.

Hi friends – this post is to share where we’re coming from on two movies Christians are talking about right now. We might land in different places on one or both of the topics and it’s okay to do that. It’s the beauty of respect within community.

I read the Shack when it first came out but have not seen the movie. I’ve watched a few interviews with the author to better understand where he’s coming from. The story is fiction. My main concern with this book/movie is that some people are watching it and drawing conclusions about God based on this author’s representation. And his representation is heretical. On numerous accounts. One overriding theme is Universalism. Basically that all roads lead to God and that Jesus is walking with all people in their different journeys to God. The author asserts there is no need for faith or reconciliation with God because all people will make it to heaven. The real heresy of the book/movie is modalism in the portrayal of God.

My husband told me in talking about these things, “I’ve always seen the problem with the Shack being a (probably) good guy trying to help God out by taking it upon himself to explain God better to people. The problem is you have to be very careful to line your explanations up with Scripture.”

This is an author who claims to be a Christian (not saying he isn’t) writing a fiction story but supposedly with truths based on scripture and to help people have a better understanding of God. I think as Christians we have to be extremely careful in the things we portray as truth – even in fiction stories. Some argue that people aren’t walking away with a new understanding of God as a result of this movie. I disagree. I think it is shaping people’s thoughts about God.

There’s a huge danger in forming our own thoughts about who God is. We don’t get to do that as God’s creation. He is our Creator and He tells us who he is all through the Bible. It’s right in front of us. I believe we experience our Creator God in different ways and explaining that to others might be difficult at times. But God will never contradict his nature and who he says he is in scripture. Never. And I believe the Shack, although fiction, is taking dangerous steps in helping people form an idea of God that isn’t true. This is what modern day idolatry looks like.

With this said I personally am not opposed to seeing the movie. In fact I thought about taking our teenage son who is becoming more grounded in his Christian worldview to see the movie and discuss afterwards the areas of heresy. It would be good practice in discerning truth from heresy. However I’m not sure the time is right. I think there’s a time to purposefully examine heresy with the intent of being able to recognize and discern truth….and for the purpose of knowing what our world is hearing and swallowing. But it can be a slippery slope (a good ole’ churchy term) to go down that path. It should come at a time when there are solid biblical principles already established and rooted in ones soul and a deep love for Christ. I thank God that our son and daughter are being exposed to excellent Biblical training at home, at school,  in church and youth group. I’m seeing the fruit of this in their life right now. They have a desire to know, love and follow Jesus but they are both still tender in the faith. As for me and Randy – we don’t have a desire to watch the movie. We’re both afraid we might throw up in our popcorn bucket. Sorry for that visual.

So why are we not going to see the Shack but we are going to see Beauty and the Beast – The Disney movie with the first gay character in it? Here’s why. Disney has never claimed to be a Christian company producing Christian movies with Christian themes. They represent the world and the world is not concerned with portraying Biblical truths. We are exposed to worldly, non-biblical truths every single day unless we live under a rock. We put money towards secular establishments every single day. To see a movie with a gay character in it is not condoning or supporting homosexuality. And I don’t think it’s dangerous because having a continual conversation with our kids about a godly lifestyle and a Christian worldview should be happening all the time.

So how are we handling this with our kids? We’re talking about it. Talking about the fact that we’re disappointed that Disney is choosing a gay character in Beauty and the Beast. But also that we can’t expect the world to act like Christians. We have ongoing discussions about homosexuality openly. We believe  scripture teaches clearly against a lifestyle of homosexuality but that God still loves that person and so should we.

So we’ll be heading to Beauty and The Beast this weekend but we won’t be looking down on anyone who is choosing to see The Shack instead. Or staying at home under a rock.

 

 

 

Infertility, Miscarriage, Still Birth and Abortion Support

Infertility, miscarriage, still birth and abortion are hard topics with deep, unique wounds associated with each.

We have experienced infertility and miscarriage and those were difficult days. I had a miscarraige very early in a pregnancy that resulted from IVF. My Doctor explained early on that my HCG levels were not normal and that the pregnancy would end naturally. Instead my HCG levels kept rising after daily checks to the point that we had a valid 8 week ultrasound report. Two weeks later I miscarried. These were painful days.

I can’t begin to imagine the pain related to having a miscarriage later in a pregnancy, having a stillborn child or having an abortion.

By God’s grace in our personal situation of years of infertility we were surrounded by an incredibly loving family and church family. Both sets of our parents prayed for us, encouraged us and supported us in big decisions we had to make. In addition our church family prayed for us and supported us also. God also used his Word and the Holy Spirit to minister to us through this time in some of the most profound ways. This blog is based on a verse that God showed me during those years of pain – Job 2:10 “Shall we accept good from God and not adversity?” So while those years of infertility were so painful we survived without becoming bitter or resentful. We had hope in the painful process.

Recent stats tell us that infertility effects 1 in 7 couples. And 10-20% of women who know they are pregnant have a miscarriage.

This means that if you have any sphere of influence other than your own backyard then you most likely know a woman who is going through infertility, has had a miscarriage or had an abortion.

Maybe she’ll share her struggles with you or maybe you’ll stumble on them.

What will you say? How will you encourage her?

This is where we make things harder than they need to be all because we don’t know what to say.

And I get it. I’ve said untimely strange things to people in an attempt to express my love and concern during difficult times. If we’re honest we’ll admit we’ve all said stupid things before. But can we just put our big girl panties on and acknowledge it, apologize if necessary and do differently next time?

Refuse to let your past awkward words paralyze you in such a way that you decide it’s just better not to get involved at all for fear of saying the wrong thing.

Loving others will be flat out awkward at times. But it’s totally worth the risk. The more we do it the less awkward. Or perhaps the less afraid we become of being awkward in our loving of others.

The other side of this coin is extending grace to others when they say something to us that is well intended but wounded instead. It happens. The quicker we realize this the better we will love each other.

There’s a resource I’d like to tell you about that I have found to be helpful over the past 15 years in dealing with these topics. From receiving personal help to knowing what to say and what not to say to people during times of utter pain.

Caleb Ministries  is a Christ centered ministry that addresses what we’re talking about at LIABOW today. Rarely do you find a ministry that deals with all of these issues specifically and in such detail.

One of their many sweet resources is a P.A.T box – Providing A Treasure

It includes a handmade burial gown, knit booties, baby hat, and a baby blanket. Also included is a book called “Morning will Come” by Sandy Day, Founder of Caleb Ministries. It really is a beautiful treasure for a young Mom and Dad who have just lost their baby.

Maybe Caleb Ministries is a resource that could help you or a friend. Being aware of these resources is helpful because we never know when we or someone we know will walk through a journey that involves these painful things.

Have you walked through any of the things we talked about today? If so, how did God meet you in the midst of your pain? I’d love to hear. 

 

 

 

Seductive Senior Pictures

I’ve started this post a million times not wanting to tread on sensitive ground yet want to talk about something that has been concerning to me.

I’ll just get it out there.

I’m concerned about all the seductive senior pictures I’m seeing in facebook land.

Girlzzzzzz…….some of you are pulling off sexy really well but what you’re doing is dangerous. You’re setting yourself up for harm later on.

Before your eyes roll all the way in the back of your head just listen for a few more paragraphs please. I care about you. Enough to say this stuff because we both know it’s kind of awkward to talk about.

There are some way cool trends in Senior pictures lately. The possibilities are endless. You can choose a location that makes you feel most in your element – an urban setting, a park or beach, sports field, or performing arts center. Really cool stuff.

And while there are some amazingly creative options in photography there will be choices you need to make.

I know this seems like a peripheral issue compared to the big things in your life right now like boyfriends, getting your license and making college plans. But this little issue can set you up for some bigger issues down the road.

I want to encourage you to make wise choices in how you pose and what outfits you wear for your Senior pictures. Your countenance and facial expressions – you know what I mean. All these things have a part in the message you’re sending in your picture. Even if you feel that your photo session is not something that represents you typically – it is still you in those pictures. You are sending a message whether you realize it or not.

When your time comes to dress and pose for Senior pictures think about this – if someone had to describe your picture at first glance in one word what would it be? And do you really want it to be “sultry, provocative and sexy”? Because that’s the word I would use to describe quite a few of the Senior portraits I’ve seen.

Of course people may interpret things differently than we intend. And we can’t be all about what others think of us. But we do need to be responsible in the message we send by how we conduct ourselves. And this includes how we dress.

There’s a time and place to look and feel sexy. And I promise you it’s not in your Senior pictures or on Prom night. There’s unique treasure and delight in saving all the sexy for one special person in the future. Your husband.

If you know me at all then you know I’m not suggesting you throw on a pair of polyester culottes with a  turtleneck and wrap your hair tight in a granny bun and sport some white reeboks & tube socks for your photo shoot. No, please don’t even. We’d all throw up.

Know this about yourself – God made you beautiful. You’re already chosen and accepted by Him. You don’t have to prove anything. You don’t have to one up your friends. It’s not necessary to dress a certain way to impress your boyfriend. You can trade in provocative and sultry for confident in Christ and already accepted.

Don’t get sucked into current trends of our culture that block out who you really are. Some girls don’t know who they are in Christ. But some do know and they are falling into an easy trap that we must all guard ourselves against.

As Christ followers we are different. We will look different – even in the little-big things like Senior pictures.

Sometimes we do things and look back on them and realize we’d do it differently next time. Our God gives us grace and we need to give grace to others as well. So if you’re one who has learned or is learning the hard way – don’t walk in shame. Don’t feel condemned. But be encouraged to do differently now and to encourage others on a right track. This is what the body of Christ does for each other.

Good luck girls to finishing out your school year. May you radiate Jesus Christ, your creator. May He fill you with a satisfaction in Him alone so that when you go to pose for Senior pictures it’s really not a big deal. It’s just someone snapping a pic of who you really are.

 

 

 

 

Powerful words to frame our circumstances

img_3720

This spoken from a friend Mama whose little girl has CF and is fighting for her life right now. This spoken from Jesus to his Father as he faced death by crucifixion.

These are hard words to utter sometimes. Because God’s will isn’t always what we desire or want. We can’t see the whole picture and understand his ways and so life just won’t always make sense to us. But the reason we can be okay with these words “Thy will be done” in every single circumstance in life is because of who our God is. Even in the midst of not understanding his ways He is good. He is faithful and won’t ever leave us. He is compassionate and His mercies are new every single morning. He is fully aware and knows everything about our circumstance. The details of the valley you’re walking right now – I’m walking right now – He knows it. And while He might seem distant and far away, He is not. In His silence He is not punishing you or me. He is working his will and his plan. Trust that he is good and his love for us is individual and intimate. This is why I can say, “Thy will be done.” It might come with tears streaming down my face and a meltdown on the front porch but I still want these words to reign in my life. These words to hover and frame every single circumstance and season of my life.

It’s not easy to do. I’m preaching to myself friends. My Mom is very sick in the hospital and being six hours away and unable because of my own surgery recovery to be there has been extremely difficult for me. My sister and brother live within 5 minutes from my Mother so they are giving me updates and keeping me in the loop all throughout the day. My Mom fell a few days before coming to help us with my bowel resection surgery in August. A CT scan didn’t reveal anything going on with her head and her back injury wasn’t addressed through X-ray or CT scan. Three other Dr. visits and Urgent Care visits still didn’t reveal the hairline fractures she had in L2-4 in her back. It was when she was taken to the ER and admitted that they did a CT scan of her back and realized this. But she has now developed something called “Ogilvie Syndrome” which mimics a bowel obstruction. The Dr is 99.9% sure this is what it is. If medication doesn’t take care of it then she’ll have to have surgery removing a large portion of her colon. She’s been through so much in the last two weeks and experienced pain like she never has before. There are risks with the medication and there are risks with the surgery. And all I can do and the best thing I can do is pray and tell God, “Thy will be done.”

I had my meltdown moment for the first time yesterday on the front porch. I was hiding from our daughter because I didn’t want her to see me cry and then upset her on behalf of her Grandmother. I texted my sister and said, “Mom’s going to be okay, right?” She called me a few seconds later and I answered all sniffly and she said all big sister like, “Quit crying. She’s going to be fine.” And I laughed.  And I got my head back on relatively straight. You see sometimes I replace those powerful words with “My will be done.” And so it’s a process of speaking Truth to ourselves and to each other. Reminding our hearts of what our heads probably already know. Walking in those Truths and knowing we won’t always get it right.

Well, friends, I would be so touched by your continued prayers for my Mom, Sue, and my sister, Linda, who is her main caregiver right now. Will you pray specifically that God will heal my Mom? But at the very top of that specific request let’s tell God we want what He wants because we trust him more than we do ourselves.

Thank you so much.

 

The hard stuff I’m dealing with right now – the stuff I don’t care to talk about.

So here’s the deal and the low down about the stuff I don’t care to talk about but it’s a big part of my life right now. I want to remain transparent on this blog and not just in the good times.

I’m having surgery on August 22nd to have 20″ of my colon removed and resectioned. I have ischemic colitis as a result of a recurring volvulus. That means my colon has been twisting and kinking and forming a blockage preventing blood flow in that area so it has to come out. Yeah. Not fun. And no, I don’t have to have a bag. Thanking God for this because I just really don’t think I could handle that. I was scared to type that because you know how sometimes things go after you say something like that. Yeah, but we’re not doing to dwell on that are we. Nope, cuz it’s not going to happen. No bag. Just a simple little resection procedure. La-lah-la. Ha! Okay, this is where I get weird. Randy tells me I get weird whenever I have surgery. I’ve had a few. More like six. And apparently I start making jokes and act like it’s nothing but then I do what I’m doing right now which is just being totally weird and all.

Talking about weird……..at my last colonoscopy I told the dude that was going to knock me out with sleepy medicine that I was afraid of not being totally out during the procedure. So I asked him to make me count to 10 before doing anything to me. He said, “Nah, it doesn’t work like that with this medicine. You’re awake but not awake.” Apparently this answer didn’t satisfy me and I talked to him incessantly and looked at him with eyes wide open during the entire procedure. CREEPY!!! I don’t even want to know what I said. How do I know all this? Because after the procedure he came and told us.

So yeah, I get weird when big things like this come up.  So if you see me and I’m being weird it’s because I’m trying to pretend that everything’s perfectly normal when it’s not. My hubs is helping point this out to me. Like when I got really sick one day with this colitis stuff and wasn’t able to finish some VBS work I was doing in decorating. I didn’t call or text the person in charge to let them know why I wasn’t there. Because I didn’t want to talk about it. Rude and weird. But I wasn’t ready to acknowledge it.

Getting to the point of recognizing the weirdness is a long process. I’m stubborn. It takes a 2×4 to show me where I’m wrong or being weird. So after years of trying to convince my man that it’s perfectly normal to play counting games with your anesthesiologist…. or to send out dress up accessories (wigs, sunglasses, etc.) to your family in the waiting room while I’m having surgery with a note of who to give the china to if I died. (Seriously yes. Don’t even ask. First surgery.) I’m finally realizing that it’s true. I get weird.

So these days I’m trying not to be weird about this upcoming surgery. I’m talking about it in this space which may or may not be weird. But it’s my blog and I can write about my colon if I want to. Ha! Yeah, I’m pretty sure this is weird again. But I want to thank you for journeying with me as I learn how to un-weird myself.

Here’s how you could pray for me if you’re willing:

*For the surgery to be a smooth procedure with no complications or infections.

*For my husband and kids as they walk through this with me. It’s not easy on the caregiver. My husband has been by my side with every single surgery. And while he is willing to point out my weirdness he has allowed for my weirdness ALL these years with incredible grace. Cheers (holding up my miralax cocktail) to the hopefully new unweirded me!

*That I will tolerate the pain meds okay – I have issues with medicine.

*For Sophie & Mitchell not to be worried. They will have one week of school under their belt when I go in for surgery. New routines and schedules will still be under way so I’m asking God for grace in this process for them. Sophie has already shed a few tears over this.

I am thankful that according to the Doctor taking this section out will take away the issues I’m having completely. It’s a mechanical problem and so having this area removed removes the problem itself. This is a huge blessing. My stay in the hospital should be 2-4 days. Recovery (if done laporoscopic) will be 4 weeks or longer if an incision is made. I have a lot of adhesions and scar tissue so that’s why we don’t really know if it can be done laparoscopic.

I thank God that he has provided us with an amazing support system through our family, church and friends. We will be covered in prayer and encouragement in this time and that is a gift directly from God.

Thank you for your prayers friends! And thanks for putting up with the weirdness. I’m pretty sure there was plenty of it in this post. Ha!!!

4 things to the Woman still waiting to be a Mom:

To the desiring woman still waiting to be Mom,

It’s hard, isn’t it? Still waiting. Hoping that this would be the Mother’s Day you celebrate as a Mother with a child in her arms. While you’re still hanging on to hope and know God has a plan there’s still a deep ache inside your heart. And you wonder if you can make it to Sunday morning service where all the Mother’s are recognized. The oldest, the youngest – if it’s like our church there will even be some sassy and fun categories that you can’t help but laugh at. The prizes of course are fun to win and you’re happy for your friends. But you still wish it could be you this year.

I have some words for you based on real life personal experience.

God has not forgotten you. He is working out a plan for you that is far better than you can possibly know. It doesn’t feel like it but it’s true. One day you’ll be encouraging others with the same words as you look back and see all that God was doing while you were waiting.

A few things to consider during your wait:

It’s okay if you cry. I didn’t do this well. I hid my tears many times and felt like if I cried that I was in essence saying God wasn’t enough for me. And that is so far from the truth. One year on Mother’s Day – soon after a failed IVF cycle –  we celebrated Mother’s Day at my Mom and Dad’s house with all our family. As soon as we got to their subdivision the tears starting welling up. I held them in all morning at church. But as soon as we pulled in they gushed. I asked Randy to back out of the driveway and do circles until I could pull myself together. And of course the guys don’t know what to do with us when we cry and it’s just all around awkward. But looking back I wish I had been more willing to cry openly.

 Don’t beat yourself up if you simply can’t make it to church on Mother’s Day. I know this goes against the grain of so many in my former circles of friends. You just don’t miss church – like ever. I never missed a Mother’s Day due to these reasons (probably more out of pride than anything) but going back I’d give myself more grace. One young woman struggling with infertility called me up one year and explained her struggle and how she didn’t think she could sit through a service that coming Mother’s Day Sunday but she was feeling very guilty about it. I told her to stay home and don’t feel bad. You’re not a wimp if you need to sit Mother’s Day Sunday out because the pain is so great. Not everyone needs to do this but if you do – don’t feel bad!

 Keep a journal. If you’re waiting on a baby through pregnancy or adoption start your journal right now. Include specific prayers and ask God to show you Bible verses for your child. Record these things because when you look back a few years down the road you will be amazed at all the things God was doing behind the scenes – on the Mother’s Day when you sat holding back the tears; on the days you looked at yet another negative pregnancy test. God was working through all of that to accomplish something greater. You may not see all of it but you I promise that you will clearly see traces of it if you start recording and then look back.

Don’t totally roll your eyes when someone says, “But you can still be a Spiritual Mother.” (Spiritual Mothering could be defined as bringing one under your arm through discipleship.) A little eye roll, yes. Because I get it – and you get it – Spiritual Mothering is great and all that but you still really want to be a physical Mother with baby hanging on hipster hip. But don’t let this baby wait distract you from why you’re here on this earth. It’s to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. So keep praying and asking for God to work his way in what Motherhood looks like for you but don’t dismiss Spiritual Mothering – bringing others under your arm of discipleship – it’s not second class Mothering.

Lord, for my friends still waiting – let them know you aren’t waiting. You are actually working a plan you have for them. Help them to trust you in this process. To cry when they need to cry. To cling to scripture and record their heart’s cry so they can one day look back. In Jesus Name, Amen.