How the church can walk beside recovering addicts

I am learning from a new friend who is serving God by showing up weekly and walking beside women recovering from various addictions. Our conversation started with a few questions about how to help those who are struggling with drug and alcohol addictions. What started as a conversation ended in this blog post. Thank you, Sally, for writing this so that we can all have a better understanding of how to help others. My prayer is that God will keep using you and us to love each other well. 

Those People: How the church can walk beside recovering addicts

If it’s Wednesday, I’m in rehab.

I don’t go alone. A bookkeeper, a housekeeper, a horse trainer, and a nurse go with me. Usually we drive separately, then meet in the dark dirt lot in front of the sun-weary blue flat-roofed building so we can enter together. One of us grabs the clipboard from the nail on the wall to sign all of us in. (For some reason, we sign in, but don’t sign out.)

Inside the room to left  are two sets of  bunk beds. A menagerie of bedding and personal items clutter the space. (But, the rules state to keep personal space clean and tidy, or something like that.) There’s another sleeping room, then on the right is the meeting room, or the Black Sofa Room, as I call it. Six 8-foot long sink-in-deep black pleather (plastic leather) couches surround the room, like they’re guarding the walls. They’re cold in the winter and slippery in the summer.

There’s no carpet.

Sometimes, when we enter the “sofa room”, women are gathered in the room already. Sometimes, we sit alone, waiting to see who will join us. Through the picture frame windows we watch the people traffic pass by and by. Will they come in?

In time, the door will open. One will come in. Another will follow. Another will follow.

Introductions.

Handshakes.

Hugs.

They’re hungry and thirsty, so we start.

But, first we open in a thanksgiving prayer to Jesus for making a way for my friends and I to bring a study of God’s Word into this house, to nourish those who come to be fed.

I Don’t Know What to Do Either

Wednesday night is Bible Study Night in this home to women residing here temporarily while they work to overcome their addictions to drugs and/or alcohol. Some come here from jail. Some are brought here. Some walk many miles to get here. All are here by choice. They have a lot on the line: their lives, their children, their marriages, their jobs, their homes….That perspective makes it pretty easy for my ministry partners and I to give an hour or two of our time each week to bring hope to those who are searching for it. What we do is not a big deal, really. But, I’ve learned some people (Christians, mostly) think it is.

My ears have caught cast-out comments like:

“I wouldn’t know what to do,”

“That’s quite a ministry you have” and

“I’m glad you are reaching out to those people,”

Is there an invisible barrier between “us and them”? I wonder, is there a wall that separates “Christians” from “those people”?

Those People

Those people? Naively, I never considered the women (and young children) living at the home as different from me. I never considered that stepping into their lives would draw attention–or not. All I knew when I joined 3 other women was that those struggling to overcome addictions are

Someone’s daughter

Someone’s mother

Someone’s wife

Someone’s sister

Someone’s granddaughter

Someone’s friend

They’re hurting

They’re lonely

They’re scared

They’re lost

That’s about all we know when we show up on Wednesday night. That’s really all I need to know because God knows and He says He equips us for what He calls us to. I believe that. Do you?

My only hope in writing this post is that I am able to give you just enough courage to reach out to women just like you who got hurt, then got lost. This is not a how-to post; it’s more about bringing some understanding to who “those people” are so you can ask God what, if anything, He asks of you.

Let me share insights I’ve gleaned over the years of walking beside women in recovery, working to overcome addictions:

Be A Safe Person

Trust is earned and addicts trust slowly because they’ve been burned by so many. Remember we’re all wounded; some of us just show it more than others. Maybe you can relate. But, you do not need to know what to do or say in every situation. Just let them know (by showing not telling) that you’re a safe person so they can be honest with you.

Practice listening and reserve judgement.

Be Available.

This doesn’t mean you need to meet every single request yourself. (Read ahead to the part about boundaries.) A little goes a long way. There are several little things you can do to help women in recovery build a bridge back into mainstream life:

  • Invite her to church, if she doesn’t have transportation or doesn’t want to go alone. Encourage her into a safe body of believers where she can enter into a supportive community and find fellowship. (We all need that.)
  • Invite her to an event.
  • Ask casually if she needs anything. (Anything practical!)
  • Always pray with her and for her.

Walk with Her

Bringing a new friend with you to church or an event attracts attention. Trust me. People are curious and they want to know who’s with you. When asked, I try to help her protect her privacy by simply saying “this is my friend so-and-so (first name only).” I think it’s important that each woman is seen as my “friend” and not labeled as a resident of the local drug and alcohol recovery facility. If they want to volunteer that information, they can.

Keep Clearly Defined Boundaries

Just so you know, addicts usually don’t have clear boundaries, particularly if they were born into a family of addicts where there were no boundaries. So you need to establish a few, in love. There’s nothing fancy needed here, simply “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” Keep roles and responsibilities defined. You’re the grown up in the relationship. It’s OK to say no.

One word of caution: If you’re a people-pleaser, rescuer, co-dependent or enabler personality, you may want to support a recovering addict from a distance. The path in and out of addiction is often writhe with lies and manipulation. If you have trouble with boundaries you might get tangled in a web of manipulation while thinking you’re just being helpful. Know thyself.

Speak the Truth in Love

No matter the conversation or situation, love conquerors all. Speak the truth in love. Addicts have lived a life of lies. They need Truth and they need Love. Just like all of us. Bring strength, not pity. Bring encouragement, not condemnation. Be supportive, not enabling.

Keep It Simple

Our human nature is to complicate things. But, God’s way is simple

In the Book of Matthew, Jesus said: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)]

I know God cares deeply for the the lost and hurting and He rejoices when we care too. So, as you’re praying about what God is calling you to do, please pray about:

Who is God to you?

How does God see “those people”?

Then you will know what to do.

If you enjoyed reading this post, please share it with your friends.

Disclaimer: I am a layperson. I do not have a formal theological degree or training, I’m not a counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist, or ‘ologist of any kind. I am not a specialist or have any formal training about drug and alcohol addiction. This post is written from my personal experience and insights. Nothing more.

Sally Olson is a writer, blogger, wife, and battle-­proven homeschooling mom to sons. God, good words, good coffee and honest country living refresh her soul. She blogs about apples and country life at Garden Valley Homestead.

 

She asked: is it wrong to lie about your faith when faced with death?

You’ve probably heard the horrific news of yet another school shooting – this time on a Community College campus in Oregon. Our kids saw the news and of course this brought up questions. From news reports I’ve read, the gunman asked people if they were a Christian and if they said yes he shot them in the head. If they said they weren’t a Christian he shot them in the leg or somewhere else allowing them to live.

Image 10-2-15 at 5.53 PMImage 10-2-15 at 5.57 PM

We prayed for these victims’ families and asked God to pour out his peace and comfort over them.

Then Sophie asked the question we’ve all wondered at one time or another, “Mom, would it be a sin to lie in a situation like that? To know in your heart you really are a Christian but to just say you’re not so that you can live?”

If you scroll through Facebook you’ll see people amen-ing the people who stood up and said they were a Christian and how they would do the same thing. The confidence and certainty is really quite intriguing to me. Sort of reminds me of Peter in his utter confidence that he would never deny Jesus – let alone three times. And that’s without a gun to his head. And one of the times was a little girl asking him if he knew Jesus.

What would I do in a situation like that? I can’t answer that. Nobody can answer that. I pray that my faith in God would not waiver but I honestly can’t say for certain it wouldn’t. My heart desire is to proclaim my love for Jesus and my commitment to Him wherever I am – even facing death square in the eyes. And if I did do that it would only be because of the strength of Jesus Christ.

So what’s the answer to Sophie’s question?

We started by looking at Matthew 10:32-33

32 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.

“It is a dangerous thing for any to deny and disown Christ before men; for they who so do will be disowned by him in the great day, when they have most need of him: he will not own them for his servants who would not own him for their master: I tell you, I know you not, Matt. 7:23. In the first ages of Christianity, when for a man to confess Christ was to venture all that was dear to him in this world, it was more a trial of sincerity, than it was afterwards, when it had secular advantages attending it.” Matthew Henry’s Commentary

“Note, It is very encouraging to think, that whatever we leave, or lose, or suffer for Christ, we do not make a hard bargain for ourselves. Whatever we part with for this pearl of price, we may comfort ourselves with this persuasion, that it is well worth what we give for it. The terms are, that we must prefer Christ.” Matthew Henry

I read these verses and MH’s commentary and told the kids they needed to think about these things. Pray and ask God to show them His thoughts on this question. They should also talk to the godly leaders God has put in their lives in addition to me and Randy –  but the bottom line is what God’s Word says about this subject. That is our guide.

I don’t want to scare my kids by any means but I believe that their kids (if not they themselves) could face potential persecution in ways we never have. We need to be talking about these things. In addition to drills and conversations of the practical – like hide under your teacher’s desk, get out of sight, don’t panic or scream, etc. we need to address the spiritual and difficult issues at hand.

So yeah, it’s a heavy conversation but I believe it’s worth it. It makes one think of their own faith and true identity in Christ. I pray with all my heart I would stand up for Christ and say aloud in the face of death, “Yes, I know Him and He is worth dying for.” because it’s what I truly believe in my heart.

Let’s be praying for the victim’s families in Oregon and the victims that are recovering. They need to feel the love of Jesus. And what’s beautiful to me? Is that Jesus appeared to Peter first after he rose from the dead. Yes, Peter the disciple he loved so very much even after denying Jesus three times. That’s who he went to first. Grace and mercy when we least deserve it. Oh I love him.

 

Putting into practice “soul talk”

Our weekend was a great one topped off by me getting to go to church Sunday morning. Oh how I missed being there these last 7 weeks so it felt wonderful to sing and worship with my church family. The next morning we sent Sophie off to overnight camp and had a great day at home.  Monday night I went to bed and out of NOWHERE I started feeling weird. Panicky. Just all around strange. It mimicked the feeling I had when I came home from the hospital. A panic attack I guess? Yeah, I think so. It felt like all the blood in my body rushed from the top of my head to the tip of my toes. It felt either cold or hot – I’m not sure which. And then I felt like jello. My heart was not racing and I didn’t feel like I couldn’t breathe. I just felt weird.

My Mom was upstairs and I didn’t want to call her. Mitchell was playing a game in the other room and who wants to call on their teenage son to come comfort the fears of his grown up Mother. So I  sat there and prayed to God. I prayed the feeling would go away.

Then I remembered my Bible Study homework I did that day – Fight Back with Joy by Margaret Feinberg. We talked about “soul talk” and how when we get in a position that is really difficult we can speak to our souls using scripture. Part of our homework was to write out a “go-to verse” for those times of fear and frustration. I quickly found my homework and turned to the verses and read them  aloud. The white board that sits next to my bed with lists of medications and therapy reminders was quickly erased and filled with my soul talk scriptures. As I wrote them out I claimed them aloud and told God I was trusting Him. Around the border of the verses I wrote out attributes of God that I could remember.

IMG_2075

I texted a few people who prayed for me right then and there. My mom came downstairs and we prayed together. And about 20 minutes later I was asleep.

I am still baffled by this occasional fear that I’m dealing with since the accident. My sister asked me what I was thinking about when the episode came on and I told her “nothing. I was just getting in bed to go to sleep. I wasn’t worried about anything.” But I guess subconsciously I was insecure without Randy being here. He’s done SO much for me the last 7 weeks and I believe I had more security in him than was probably healthy?  I don’t know.

And here’s the reason I am sharing these things on this blog. Quite a few people have thanked me for sharing what I’m going through publicly. It has helped some people in their thought process as they too walk through a difficult season of life. It has made some people feel like they aren’t the only ones going through tough stuff. If I can help point others to Jesus through my struggles, mistakes and even fighting my fears then may it be so.

So if you think about it would you pray for the comfort and peace of God to wash over me from head to toe as I go to bed? That fear would be trumped and demolished by God’s perfect love. I would love to return the favor and pray for you as well so please let me know how I can pray specifically for you tonight as I crawl in bed. I promise to do it.

On a random awkwardly funny note…… I’m learning to navigate instagram a little more and the other day I posted something about church and added a #bodylife and then later realized that I had posted a picture of me and Randy and our churchy selves in the midst of a collage of half naked body builders. Oh yes I did. Picture huge musclemen in speedos and then there’s me and Randy. #veryawkward #notthebodylifeIwastalkingabout

 

 

 

Fighting fears of domestic violence with scripture

I’m speaking on a subject that is extremely serious and one in which I have no personal experience except walking with people through this horrifying experience. There are things that I don’t understand fully and I’m thankful for trained domestic violence therapists who are helping women every day move to freedom.

But what I do want to talk about today is what to do when fear overcomes a woman who is or has dealt with a violent man in her life. When “he gets out of jail” or when “he moves back”. When you realize a violent pattern has begun but you’re too afraid to get out of the situation.

There are clear first steps that need to be taken. Tell someone if you are being hurt or taken advantage of in a relationship. Make that call to a Domestic Violence Shelter. Share with one person and seek wise counsel. It is never okay for a man to hit you or harm you or your children in any way. Never think, “It only happened a few times and I deserved it because I provoked him.” That is victim thinking and will only foster a continued cycle of abuse making it that much harder to stop.

But while you’re taking action I want you to know there is hope as one puts their trust in Jesus Christ. Scripture is full of truth and advice for when we are in desperate situations. Life and death situations. Situations that suck the life out of us but aren’t killing us physically. For when we are being pursued by the enemy and feel there’s no way out. God has us covered with truth for these times in our life. Here are just a few promises we can all cling to during desperate times. Knowing we are not alone in our struggles helps. Never think you are the “only one.” People have gone before us with similar struggles and God knew we’d need counsel and advice from his word to help us.

Psalm 17:7-9 Show me the wonders of your great love,
you who save by your right hand
those who take refuge in you from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings
from the wicked who are out to destroy me,
from my mortal enemies who surround me.

Psalm 18:16-20 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.
20 The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.

Psalm 18:29-30 With your help I can advance against a troop;
with my God I can scale a wall.
30 As for God, his way is perfect:
The Lord’s word is flawless;
he shields all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 18:32-35 It is God who arms me with strength
and keeps my way secure.
33 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
he causes me to stand on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for battle;
my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You make your saving help my shield,
and your right hand sustains me;
your help has made me great.

These are just snippets of powerful truth that are at our fingertips. God’s word is powerful in times of struggle and in times of ease. We must run to it for our strength. The more we do this the less we look over our shoulders in fear and trembling.

I’d like to pray for in general but specifically for women dealing with domestic violence today.

Father, for my sisters in Christ and those who don’t know you yet, who are in the middle of a domestic violence battle, I pray for their rescue. I pray they would take refuge in you. This takes action on their part. They must run to you. So I pray you would help them run in your direction and Father meet them when they can run no longer. Let them find shelter in the shadow of your wings and to find comfort knowing they are the apple of your eye. Be a shield to them and let this truth sink in and give them a new sense of strength. In Jesus Name, Amen. 

 

Blogging through the real and the hard #anxiety

I desire to be as honest as I can be in this blog space for the glory of God and building up of others. Okay, and for my own sanity because I process life many times through stringing words together and slapping them down on paper. There are things of course that I can’t always share in this space for confidentiality and respect issues but I want to speak from the depths of my heart as I feel God leading me. Even the hard stuff and the messy stuff. Today involves some hard stuff.

We’ve been home from the hospital for almost a week and it’s been a wild ride getting used to the new, although temporary, normal.

My sweet Mom made a bedroom in the dining room since all our bedrooms are on the upper floor of our house. Randy has slept on the floor next to me every single night. Bless his soul. This is just one of many many less than desirable things he does for me right now. He never complains. He just keeps on loving me “through sickness” like he said he would the day he married me. So the care I’m receiving from my husband is priceless. It couldn’t be better.

My Mom is filling in the gaps while Randy takes care of me. She gets the kids up, makes breakfast, gets them to school and picks them up. Does the laundry and keeps up the house. Our church has been as much a powerful support as my family. The prayer support has blown me away. The meals have been incredible not to mention daily. They built us a nice wheelchair ramp while I was in the hospital. I’ve had offers to clean my house, grocery shop and do whatever we need done. My heart has been echoing, “We are loved.” It has truly been amazing.

Yet despite the amazing God-sent care and favor I am receiving right now I am still struggling in some areas. It started yesterday afternoon as I took a nap during the day. An overwhelming graphic visual of what I went through when I fell came rushing in my mind and heart. And tears just started rolling down. I was soaking in more of the trauma of the event. The trauma of what I saw. Of waiting for help and not being able to get anyone’s attention. The cracking of my bone. The pain. The additional 15 minute wait for the EMT’s. It was all catching up with me. I told the Lord as I cried that I didn’t know what to do with the thoughts. I told Him I trusted Him and He’d need to show me how to process all this stuff. Up to that point I was just viewing it as a fall down the steps and I broke my leg. It happens to people all over the world every single day. And it happened to me. It hurts. It stinks. But I will get through it. But over the days and sleepless anxious nights my view was now changing. With Randy’s help I was able to realize that my body is responding to the extent of the trauma I faced which was significant. And I need to allow myself the time and space to deal with it. The injury was sustained instantaneously but the healing would be a long process. Even emotional and mental healing.

This anxious at night thing is new to me so I’m not totally sure what’s going on. It seems to show up at night and in my breathing. Lightness of breath, shallow breathing, restlessness and an overall insecurity. At first we thought it was related to my high blood pressure and pain meds. Now I’m not so sure. I believe prayer has made a huge difference the last few days and my nights are getting better. The last two nights have been the best two nights of sleep yet. I’m hopeful we will work through this and get on top of it in time.

If anything I have a greater understanding of people who deal with anxiety to some degree. I’ve never experienced this before but now I have a taste of what some people go through on a regular basis. May God use this in me to bring greater glory to him and to be a better servant of his.

I am blessed. Things I’m praising God for today:

  • My MIP group praying at my house today – love these ladies and our time together! Our attribute? God is Healer. Bring it!
  • The sweet visits I’ve had all day from people in our church who love us and care for us so well
  • My Physical Therapist who is awesome
  • My husband who is serving me with such incredible strength and love
  • My Mom who is working so hard to keep things running as smooth as possible
  • That God is my healer and the fact that He will heal me in his perfect timing and in the way He wants to heal me. It will be good.
  • A sweet visit from a good friend out of town. Good laughs at her kids funny videos and her willingness to share with me her own past struggle with anxiety.
  • The prayer covering we are receiving from our church family and friends. It’s HUGE. It’s making an incredible difference in our lives every day.

Enjoy your weekend everyone!

 

This is the story of how karma bit me

So back in good ole college days I was in a prayer group every year with different students. Every year we’d introduce ourselves and tell one thing we would like the group to pray about. Every year I’d wig my classmates out by saying something to this degree:

Hi my name is Melody. When I was young I broke my leg. We were poor and had money for the surgery or the metal rod they needed to put in my leg. But in an amazing twist of things we found a Doctor who would work with us and use a windshield wiper from one the cars in my Dad’s auto salvage yard. They sterilized it up real good and put that baby in. And it cost us nothing! The only draw back is when it rains and my leg starts to move back and forth (My leg goes back and forth in motion like a windshield wiper.) Half the people realize immediately that it’s a sick joke. The other are still trying to figure out if I really just lied about a prayer request or not. And then I tell them and we all laugh out loud together. Fun story. I did get a few “you better be careful how many times you tell that story lest it happen to you!” Ha!

And here’s the Ha Ha not funny party of the story. On Monday morning of this week I sent the kids off to school, had my personal quiet time with the Lord and put my journal down and closed up my Bible and called for Dooley to the dog to come on a walk with me. I wasn’t planning on a long walk so I left the front door open and out the front door we went. I stepped down three steps and then I don’t know what happened. I crumbled to the ground and heard a loud snap. The thing I realize is my lower leg is hanging the wrong direction. I knew I couldn’t look at it any more or I’d pass out. So there  I am laying flat out on my back with my head on the last step screaming in pain and for help. I didn’t know at the time I had broken two bones in my leg about 4 fingers above my ankle. The bone punctured through my skin making it an “open wound” and in need of surgery as soon as possible.

Nobody was walking their dog that day so for about 7 minutes I screamed and waved my arms like a laid out pentecostal. Finally a man with his window down hear me yell “HELP” as he drove by our house. He turned around and walked up and said, “Oh good Lord!” He called 911 and then he and waited for 20 minutes until they got there. I couldn’t remember my husband’s work number so I was trying get the kind stranger to find my cell phone inside but he kept bringing back the kids iPods and such. He finally was able to get Randy by phone and he came over with one of our associate pastors.

Finally after writhing in pain for 20 minutes an ambulance shows up. And then they all got a nice good gawking look at the injury and gathered their own composure and tried to figure out the best course of action. They started cutting my pants and that’s when it got a little too close to home if you know what I mean. I’m surrounded by men and they are cutting my favorite pants off. I said, “Hey, you can’t do that these are my favorite go-to black pants with pockets so I don’t have to carry a purse.” Kind stranger man laughs out loud. EMT guys says, “Mam. we have no choice. We have to stabilize foot.”

They finally get me all packed up and on a stretcher and took me down to Greensboro where I had surgery late that night. And got a …….get this…….wait for it……..

A metal rod put in my leg! And screws and wires that look like twisty ties. You gotta be kidding Melody! Nope, I got it. I played that joke on one too many people and it caught up with me. Ha! No that’s not why it happened but it is also ironic to me that the last words I wrote in my journal that morning before my walk were, “Lord, help me to be still and sit more this week.” For reals I wrote that. I have a hard time sitting. I’m always going and doing. I wanted to sit more and be still more. Welllllllllllll I got wish worked out for sure.

I’ve been in a lot of pain and my family and church family are praying for me and I can see the impact. Randy has been so good to me  – he takes great care of me when I need him. And the kids have been very sensitive to me as well. And my Mom drove up from GA when she heard about it. She is holding the home front down with the kids while Randy stays with me in the hospital.

I was supposed to go home today but PT and OT and I all decided I needed one more day of practice. Transferring is extremely hard because on good ankle is severely sprained. So we’re figuring it all out.

How I’ve seen God work:

  • I could have laid there for much longer until someone stopped by
  • He heard my cries for help and sent a kind soul to help
  • My injuries could have been so much worse – broken neck, back, blacked out, etc
  • Used my family to minister and encourage me
  • Used our church family and friends to rally in prayer

Well, please continue to pray for us. This is not easy. I’m struggling to get on top of pain and it’s easy for me to get discouraged at the amount of time they are saying it could be for total healing. Pray that I will be patient and that I won’t miss what I’m to hear from God during this “sitting still” season.

Btw: I’m on major pain meds right now. The screen is double and I’m pretty sure I’ve repeated myself a few times or at least misspelled words throughout. So thanks for bearing with me and reading anyways. I am requesting your prayers for me though this healing process. That I will heal and mend with no complications. That I will be able to get on top of the pain and see what He wants me to see during this time. Thanks so much!

Go break another leg people!

11193438_10152910242753178_2847081642586110577_n

This was my first leg break when I was in kindergarten. Five years old and in a full body cast for 6 months. The tombstone that fell on my leg was my Great Great Grandfather’s. True story.

Kids at our school have been sending the cutest cards ever. My favorites – because there have been more than one – are the ones that say, “I hope you fell good” or  “Fell better soon” Oh bless them. We have really gotten a good chuckle out of those.

I know I’m rambling but the truth of the matter is when I finish up this post I have to go and pivot on a very very sore foot and I’d rather write about it than actually do it. I need prayers for endurance which ironically people have already prayed over me so that’s really cool.

 

 

What Infertility Taught Me About my God

So where in the world did the blog title “Life is a Bowl of Wedgies” come from? The theme behind my blog relates back to years of intense infertility treatments, unanswered prayers (according to our wishes) and what seemed like hosting a gazillion baby showers for everyone including old people in Europe. It was during that time that my seemingly perfect world became tainted.

When you endure pain…..not just pain of infertility but with ANY kind of intense pain it’s easy to find yourself asking these three questions repetitively:

1) What did I do wrong?

2) Why am I being punished?

3) How can I get out of this situation ASAP?”

And if you’re not asking those questions, most likely,  someone around you is. It’s interesting to me that many people in the Bible asked these same questions.

The “dark night of the soul”, as John of the Cross put it,  bring us to a place of raw vulnerability before God. And He’s okay with our questions.  As I came to God with my questions in a place of sheer desperation, I found several things in scripture that encouraged my heart greatly.

One was the life of Job. He was a wealthy, godly, well respected, REAL man. My mind wonders if he could be compared to Billy Graham or Mother Theresa (well, that one breaks down pretty quickly because of the gender thing) anyways, God gave satan permission to test Job. Actually, God initiated the dialogue with satan that led to the testing of Job.

Why am I so uncomfortable with that? But it’s the truth and I accept it as such.

So satan has permission and a recommendation from God to test Job.  And we all know satan plays dirty. Here’s what he did to Job: All in the matter of hours Job lost all his cattle (his livelihood), servants, and his children. And this was just the first test. There was more where that came from.

Job’s  response to the first test was utter despair yet we are told he fell to the ground in worship.  He just lost all ten children while eating together at the oldest son’s house. And after he tore his robe and shaved his head, He worshiped God.

Um, wow.

His second test involved painful sores from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head. He was taking broken pottery and scraping himself with it. And it was at this moment that Job’s wife says to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!”  I have to wonder if she thought she was going to be “next” on the test list. This would be a natural concern because Job’s day wasn’t going so well at this point. But that’s the skeptical side of me that I wish wasn’t there. Maybe the reality is that she was a wife in extreme pain watching her husband suffer.  Either way, it was bad advice.

Job’s response captivated me from the first time I read it. He said, “Oh foolish woman,  shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” And get this….he didn’t even get in trouble for calling his wife a fool. It says “In all this, Job did not sin.”  He was spot on in putting her in her place because who are we to curse or not accept what God has purposefully put in our path?

Sometimes our thinking assumes the hardship is coming as a result of sin and it’s a punishment directly from God.  And while God is just and he does allow consequences to draw us back to himself this is not always the case behind a painful situation. Sometimes God puts hardship in the life of a devoted Christ follower for the simple purpose of bringing glory to himself or for deepening our ability to relate to and comfort others with the same sorrow.  Sometimes it’s to prove to satan that he really does have devoted followers that will stand up under intense pain and pressure for the sake of Christ.

Reading these words from Job almost gave me a release and permission to stop emotionally/mentally fighting the hardship of infertility. It gave me the understanding that God allowed my infertility. He may have even invited it or suggested it.  And it wasn’t something I was being punished for. Don’t get me wrong: infertility sucks and it still did after my discovery of Job’s response to his hell on earth but it gave me a different perspective which helped the pain of the guilt that I battled at one time.

The other verses that have been a good reminder to me that there is purpose in the pain are:

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. You are good, and what you do is good…..it was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” Ps. 119:67 &71 (NIV)

“…..and in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” Ps. 119:75 (NIV)

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1: 2-4 (Message)

I guess my heart just goes out to the person who is walking a painful journey and possibly wondering, or worse,  has been told, “you don’t have enough faith” or “your sin is blocking the blessing”.  There’s a place for self examination. And if and when there is known sin hindering our lives, then by all means, lets ask God to help us with that. He would love to. He’s totally in the business of forgiveness. That is the very reason he gave up his life for us. And when we deal with that lets be encouraged that God is not punishing us. Out of all the people he could choose to walk the path, as hard as it may be, he chose YOU/ME for a purpose.

Job couldn’t see the other side when he was in the middle of his “stuff” but God would eventually give him back twice as much as he lost.  He would bless him with ten more children. He restored what had been broken down and made it even more beautiful.

So right when you think your life is nothing but a bowl of wedgies try to remember that God has ordained everything that happens and it’s for a specific reason. And it’s good because God is good. All the time!

When prayer is enough

While I sip my coffee and hear the pattern of heavy rain on my window this morning my heart is so heavy for two dear friends who are facing serious life changing diagnoses.

Parkinson’s and Alzheimers.

I don’t understand it. Both amazingly strong Christian women. Who love the Lord and have served him with all their heart. One in ministry. The other who has supported ministries both financially and through prayer for decades. One a young Mother with kids at home. The other welcoming a Grandchild into the world.

And all I know to do is to pray over them by name. To take them to Jesus, the Name above all Names. Their Creator and Sustainer. Their Rescuer in a time of need. Thank God, their Savior. Because where else is the hope in a life changing diagnosis?

I am tempted at times to think and say aloud, “All I can do is pray” but quickly I am reminded that is truly the greatest thing I can do on behalf of my sweet sisters in Christ. Prayer is powerful and effective. It changes things. It’s a gift and a tool that believers have access to and what a privilege to give it to the world around us and especially to those in the Body of Christ.

So today, I stand firm and hopeful, in the God I am praying to on behalf of my friends. I pray for healing for them and at the same time I proclaim God’s goodness should He say “No” to the complete healing. And I ask for Him to show me any part He has for me outside of prayer in these dear ladies’ lives.

We never know when our diagnosis may come and should it come I pray God will give us prayer warriors to come along side and intercede specifically and boldly.

Who are you praying for today? Consider letting them know. 

Happy Birthday Son – Here’s some Porn!

If you are a parent and you are not proactively protecting your child from what they have access to on their phones, iPods, iPads and computers then chances are your kids have been or are being exposed to soft or hard core porn.

It’s not necessarily because kids are looking for it although kids are curious. Today instead of having to look through a dictionary for dirty words they can google them and see lots of pictures along with the definition. I think many times exposure to porn starts as an accidental occurrences of pop up porn and then curiosity follows.

I’ve talked with many Christian parents and grandparents in the last year whose kids have been exposed to extremely graphic hard core porn – videos on youtube. Pictures on google. They were devastated to find such explicit material and to know their kids had been exposed to that.

This stuff is in the palms of our children and it’s only one click away. And while training our children to have a heart that loves and follows God is what will ultimately keep ourselves and our kids away from this junk we hardly have time to get through the training process without them being exposed to it so early.

That’s why I believe it’s imperative to have safeguards in place. There are a lot of ways to do that. We have found http://iparent.tv to be extremely helpful. They offer filters and guidelines for parents. In just a few minutes you can find out how Snapchat, Badoo, Instagram and other popular social media sites work. I bought the app for my phone because I want to know what’s out there and what kids are into these days. I’m not a social media expert but these people are and they know parents don’t have a lot of time to go research this stuff out so they have done it for us! It’s awesome. So worth the time in snooping around their site.

Don’t have the money to purchase a filter? No problem. There are good ole fashion, free ways like simply saying, “No” to your 4th grader who is begging for an iPhone with Youtube on it. Or maybe you feel your child is old enough for a phone but you don’t want access to the internet – simple, don’t install it. You have the power to take off those apps. Surely there will be push back on your kids end but it’s time to step up and be the parent in this area.

I hear over and over an attitude from parents that they have no choice in the matter when it comes to their kids devices. They feel powerless. Like it’s a domain that can’t be touched because it’s so personal and because they don’t understand how some of the apps work.

Two things to remember here:

1) Get educated. Use sites like the one I’m recommending (no kickbacks for me on this – I just believe in it) Go to a phone store of the Apple store and have a conversation to find out the questions you have about your child’s phone.

2) Remember this: Your child doesn’t have a right to privacy. I know that’s what you hear them say. But until your child turns 18 and doesn’t live under your roof they have NO right to privacy. Feel no guilt over this. It’s the way it should be. Yes, even if they are a teen and paying their own cell phone bill they have no privacy.

I believe with age should come more freedom and so while accountability is still in place – whether it’s a filter or a tracking app or you checking their phone – you can still grant more freedom and space with age so they can learn to navigate through mistakes and actually have the chance to exercise discipline in the area of guarding their eyes.

I feel very passionate about this stuff because I’ve talked to way too many people with kids my age and younger who have been exposed to such graphic sites. There are such deep consequences to this stuff and I don’t want to see a culture hindered from God’s work because of an addiction that led to failed relationships all because of a little 4×5 wide open device parents handed over with such excitement.

May God give us wisdom in training our kids in a culture that is rushing them into sexual perversion and immorality. Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. Let’s hang on to that and know that our God is more powerful than the images satan is trying to throw in our faces.

Linking with Kristin, Jennifer and Holley today.

Adoption – “a little bit sad and a lot a bit glad”

I love my husband for writing this post because he’d rather have his nose hairs plucked than sit down and write anything longer than a text message. But in this post he shares openly what we are experiencing in our household right now in terms of adoption issues. I started the post but knew my heart was too raw and vulnerable to write without his input. I am thankful he took over for me. 

In our house adoption is awesome. We love adoption. Our family is designed by God through adoption. We celebrate adoption. It’s not something we talk about all the time, but we don’t run from the topic in any way. We are parents who have adopted. Our children have been adopted. They know about it because we started telling them their adoption story from the time we were rocking them to sleep before they could walk or talk. But adoption can be, in our son’s word……complicated.

Adoption is beautiful. Moses was adopted. Eli was adopted. Jesus was adopted. Hey, Steve Jobs was adopted. And if you are a Christian, Ephesians chapter one tells us you are adopted too! But as beautiful as it is, it is also a complex issue with complex emotions. Let’s face it, it is wonderful but it is not natural. Mixed in the beauty of being chosen and intentional love there is the experience of loss.

In our home we have been talking about how adoption is “a little bit sad and a lot a bit glad.” The challenge for us as parents is that while we love and delight in the adoption of our children and we have a genuine love and sense of “family” in our family we don’t want to deny the pain of loss that our children do and will feel. While they have gained what we like to think as awesome parents they still have undeniably lost a connection with their birth parents. That loss is deep and primal. There is a temptation to feel a bit rejected when they grieve their loss (“but aren’t we enough parents to make you not sad about that?”) but that is not fair to them. On top of that, to not give them the freedom to grieve their loss robs them of the dignity of processing the whole complexity of the issue. See, I told you it was complicated.

We have been talking about these issues with our son. Our daughter has not quite matured to the point of tackling these issues, but our son is being confronted with them through different avenues. One avenue is from a direction that we should have seen coming but we were blindsided by it nonetheless: school curriculum. Of course they would talk about genetics and inherited traits in life science, we just didn’t anticipate it. So our son is faced with the task of listing the characteristic he inherited from his birth parents. His conclusion is that he doesn’t have any, but that’s not right. We have to talk through how he does have them, we just don’t know what they are. That is a loss for him. Then there is the kids in his class asking him “what did you do to make your parents not want you?” That cuts really deep. The follow up questions of “did your mom do drugs, that would explain a lot” followed by conspiratorial laughter of how funny the inside joke is piles a lot of weight on his shoulders. And then there is the natural internal questions that comes to his mind in his quiet moments of “I wonder what she looks like?”, “I wonder what her voice sounds like?, “I wonder if she would like me?”.

These are heavy and painful questions, but we are so glad to be talking about them now rather than when he is 23 and on his own. It’s hard but I think it’s healthy.

Everybody has their “stuff”. This is just our “stuff.” To not do the hard work of working through your stuff is a recipe for disfunction and eventual destruction. The crazy part is that, like all parents, we have never gone through this before. We feel so out of our depth but that is where the guidance of the Holy Spirit is so necessary and so hope filling. We don’t have the wisdom to know how to deal with this but God gives wisdom to all who ask for it (“please, please, please God…more wisdom!).

I love adoption. My home is crafted by God through it. I couldn’t imagine not having the exact children we have which wouldn’t happen outside of adoption. My children are exactly where God wants them to be. But one of the most interesting things is how the complexities of adoption cause each one of us in our family to lean into God to make sense of things. Well, what else would you want?

Linking today with: Jen andLaura