Friday, December 28, 2012

On Christmas and The Flu

Unfortunately all my dreams of an entire day of playing with new toys and eating all the sugar my belly can take were short lived after a little encounter with the flu bug on Christmas. 18 hours of my day/night was spent sleeping, however I did press through to watch gifts being opened by nine littles and that was a sweet time, pile of kleenexes and all. I am going to miss this life in the country with eleven, going to miss it so very much.

After sleeping it off and fever breaking I woke up the next day just in time to spend some time with my best friend expecting twins in a couple of months! What a blessing that time was. They make me want to be pregnant. I'm telling ya what...I think this is the year of meeting my hubby. Maybe just maybe. 

Feeling those boys kick was the most incredible moment. I couldn't get enough. This mamma-to-be has walked through so much life with me and now two boys...blessed boys they are. Cannot wait to meet you Silas and Elijah. 

I think I was expecting this Christmas to be really emotional for some reason...knowing it is some of my last days in family life before moving out on my own...knowing it is just about a year since moving here and being so overwhlemed by all God has done....knowing my own dad is still in rehab--and still sober....knowing that God has so gracefully softened my heart twords my dad....knowing that the Lord is allowing me to feel uncomfortable in having no idea what this year will bring....knowing that Christ was born that He might die that I might live....knowing that one day the trumpets will sound and He will come once again.

And yes, while confined to the four walls of my room in silence thinking about all of this combined on Christmas evening I found myself heeped over my pillow snot pouring and tears flooding my face. And that was all short lived because my head felt like it might blow up from the crying--so I just had to be tough and pull it together.

I just had to trust when nothing in me felt like it. 
I just had to be still and know.

God's grace I think, abundant grace this Christmas.

Yes, this hat was in my stocking. And yes I got tears when I saw it. Proud to be a country girl. 

I adore this picture. I got him Duck Dynasty Season 1 and Mamma thought it was hilarious. 
They make me want to be married so badly. 

I made the girls these legit coupon fun date with me every month for the year. Midnight Waffle House runs, rolls of cookie dough, tennis lessons, Love Comes Softly Movie Marathons.
And they thought they could get rid of me...

Love these little sisters. 

                                      Had to post this one too...boys and their guns. #countrylife

                                                                  Twin bump beauty

Thursday, December 13, 2012

It is a Choice--And it's Not Over

I remember like it was yesterday as we stood in the dimly lit kitchen late into the night. I held myself up on the counter top because my whole body aged. He leaned against the sink and she stood across from me with eyes that exposed my sin. He has just come in from cleaning out my car. It had been building for a while by then, the lying and covering sin and the confession only to give in again.

We're done with the lying. Your words are empty and meaningless. If you choose to continue in your sin, even just one more time, you're out. 

I had battled it like this for years at this point and I remember believing I was free. God met me at Mercy Ministries three years back and from then on His grace held me. I wouldn't be alive if it weren't for what God did during my time at Mercy. Through the years from then to now, I was continually lured and enticed by the desires of my flesh--and I chose to let them rule me. A week without throwing up and a week consumed by it. And just six months ago I believed that throwing up once a week was freedom. Mostly because I was living life fuller and God's provision was evident. From the outside, no one knew. Because I wasn't consumed like before—its not like I was doing it twenty times a day, I rationalized.

This is not that big of a deal. I know you guys don't get it, but this is nothing compared to how it used to be. I really am okay. Great even.

So, thorn in my side I wrote off bulimia as something that I would just have to learn to manage. Yes, I was learning to manage my sin. And I really did think it was the victory promised.

Until this night where we stand together and yet very much separated as the consequence of my sin left me with a decision to make. Them or food. This mom and dad and siblings who love me or a number on a scale.

I don't think I need treatment. I can do this. I'll stop.

The truth is, I didn't want to give it up. Their counsel went against what any professional would say. Quitting anything cold turkey never brings lasting results? But I knew that God had worked a miracle to bring me to this house in the middle of no where Arkansas to restore me to Himself through the love and grace this mom and dad were giving me, and so in the quiet of my room I humbled myself before Him and told Him to fight because I didn't think it was possible. All I knew was that I wasn't ready to leave this family. Rules were put in place for my good and while it was hard, the discipline was in love and it was exactly what I needed.

When it was all over and all the hard words were swallowed down, a little bitter still stinging in my throat and a list unending of my failures and comparisons in my brain, they held me tight and that's when I realized just how much God loves me. That night it became real. Vision for a hope a future mattered more then food and the size of my pants.

Today as I look back six months or so, I am so grateful for God's grace in my life. The grace this mamma and daddy lavished on me. And more then anything, the way the holy spirit lived (and continues to live) inside of me. It is simply a miraculous work of God that He would equip me to walk in full freedom from an eating disorder. He really does fight for me because I couldn't do it.

I still can't do it. But today, His grace is sufficient.

This week I watched a mamma choose Jesus over her baby girl. I watched her hug her (not so) little girl goodbye, knowing that this might be the last time she saw her alive. We gave this little girl, my friend, my sister in Christ over to her sin because God does the same with us. Because we can't do this for her. Because she has to choose. I still don't fully understand how this is love, but I know God is and I know He calls us to be obedient to love her in this way. We love her so incredibly much it hurts. I helped her pack a bag and stood in the doorway as she went off into the dark night, unsure where she would sleep. We were going to move in together in a couple weeks. One choice and everything changes.

Whether it is what movie to watch or what to make for dinner--we all make choices and they lead one of two places. Life or death. God urges us to choose life, that we and our children may live.

I am learning to choose life. To speak life. And to believe that God does redeem lives--even the ones that I deem impossible or way too lost to ever 'get it.' Because that was me. Because apart from Christ in me, I am the bulimic, the drug addict, the liar, the murderer. But He gives me a new name--redeemed. It is a choice to believe it. It is a choice to live it. 

It's not over for T. It's not over for me. And it is not over for you. Let us choose in Christ.

But exhort one another every day as long as it is called today, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. Heb. 3:13

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Seeing Fatherlessness From the Other Side

We lingered in the kitchen a bit longer then the rest. Just the three of us, me and these dads.

We had just stood up from praying, interceding on behalf of my friend who lost a baby and his brother in need of a job. We are the body, even here in this office. Even here in the middle of the business world, with all of it's bidding and deception and hunger and gain. I see the Bride getting ready—oh glorious day. And it's not all ugly, not like I thought.

He was filling up his coffee mug and he turned to us just a little more angled and his face took on a gaze, ever distant.

Pray for my kids please. I haven't seen them in two years. And I really miss them, but they don't want anything to do with me. 

The depth of his eyes shed tears untouched and pain that has yet to simmer away.

My heart does a little jump and I wonder about him now, the man behind the glasses. I didn't know the burden he bore. I didn't know about these kids of whom he spoke. I didn't know. I missed the pain and the anger and the regret. I lost sight of the bride inside the business.

I am still and listening and the other dad, he pipes in. Yeah, mine moved out a few months ago and I am just so frustrated with her. I want her to come back and yet I'm mad too. 

She moved out? I didn't even know until now, months into the turmoil. I am quiet. 

At least 75% of the girls in my life stand beside me in this fatherless generation—and there is hope in the Abba Father, the one who adopts even the fatherless, even the fathers.

But it is not often I give much thought to the dads that make us girls without earthly fathers. Until now. And maybe we change the focus from cleaning up the devastation of the fatherless one to preventing it in the first place?

Maybe, the fight for the fatherless generation starts with the father?

What do we do to engage the men of this generation in the battle? How do we enable them to recognize the battle that rages and the weight of their role in it?

We can’t change the past—but the future, well the future is me and you, it’s us. It’s our brothers and our nephews. It’s our husbands and fellow youth guys. It’s our grandsons and our sons. It's our co-workers. We are the bride and He is coming for us, soon I hope. This is where it changes. It matters.

Today my big sis found out she is having twin BOYS! She told me about the blessing it is, that she gets to raise up godly men, the weight and responsibility, but the gift. She get's it—she is fighting in her own way. Moms of boys, raise up godly men.

What does that look like for the rest of us? Us 20-something, single, fatherless women? The grandmas and moms? The wives and the sisters, just as broken and unsure as the rest of us?

I know that God is sovereign and perfect as my Father. But dang it, life sure would have been far less painful, far more right if I had a dad who loved the Lord and raised me up like a dad is called to in scripture. Granted, the past is the past and I am daily thankful for it, pain, sin, struggles and all because it led me straight into the arms of a perfect Daddy to whom I cry out Abba Father. I am thankful that He restores the years the locusts have stolen too—that He is doing that through my adopted dad even right now.

But would I wish my journey, my daddy issues, my hurt, my decisions, my rebellion, my struggle to submit and trust, my daddy hole upon the next generation of young women? Heck no.

James reminds us to be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving ourselves.

So, ladies…what is our role?

Friday, November 30, 2012

On Learning Discipline

My new shoes are hot pink and black and I think I can conquer the world in them. But they make me get up and out and I am finally putting my feet to the pavement once again.

This was a few months ago and unlike most things in my life, this one is still a near daily discipline. 

Those early mornings watching the sun wake up in the cool of the breeze I pass horses and llamas. My three running buddies are the outside dogs near my house and they guard me with their lives. I feel slightly invincible on these morning jogs, and the hope and the future are mine. My feet move so smooth and my core is stronger because of these miles.

Those gangster dogs down the gravel way jump out teeth flaring and slobber swinging and they come at me. I speed up at first and then I stop. I growl back. Oh yes. I really do. Their tails fall and they recant. If only I could be so aggressive twords sin and such. 

Each step I take builds muscle in my brain and truth paves its way across my ever-deceitful heart. I am stronger because of these minutes each morning and my post-run hours prove it. As a woman long-enslaved to bulimia I know what slavery tastes like and no longer am I bound by pints of ice cream or that broken scale whose digits defined my worth. 

I run and ask things in Jesus' name and guess what—He answers. Not always in hours or weeks but I see months of prayers so tangible today. Life is less about me and it is so good. A life and body, no longer mine and the fruit is growing because of it. I am a temple and behold the Spirit lives here. I think I forget that too often as I cower back in fear of the unknown.

So I pray for revival in India where I left my heart and my big sis with babies in her belly and my dear friend in Virginia who I miss desperately and for the bible study that is coming later this night where my Korean friend will come to know Christ any second now and I hold my breath and beg to not forget. And none of this matters but it all does because I am a temple belonging to Jesus and He is working. 

I feel so good and lively on the days I run and I know that discipline is good for me. This is good for me. Not because it makes me look a certain way or an escape to another place or even because I am more alert. It is good for me because scripture calls it good and God established it for my good.

Learning discipline has been painfully sweet and tested my faith many days. Today I run a little more steadfast. 

The winter is upon us and I feel the weight a little bit. My body and brain hate the cold and the dark and food seems to taste better under all those layers. Yesterday I joined the gym and bought some vitamin D. I learned how to juice last night and this is how I flee from the sin that so easily entangles me.

But this is the battle, friends. We flee from sin of our flesh in this world by running the opposite way. We run onward towards Christ because the victory has been won and blessed is the man who remains steadfast for the namesake of He who has overcome.

So today as my hot pink shoes carry me up the gravel roads towards home with the frost slicing across my face, I have to pause only to growl at the dogs and listen as the lies recant along with them into the bushes gone brown. Then onward we run...

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, andmake straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. -Heb. 12:11-13

Thursday, November 22, 2012

And Today, I Give Thanks for My Dad

My dad is still in rehab, just over a hundred days sober I think.

He is still there and for that I give thanks. Grace must be swallowing him up hard and there is overflowing gratitude in that too. 

When I think about Thanksgiving, I hear my story, the one God has been writing from day one. The one that really began right here on this day, and now six years has passed. 

Time flies and God is faithful, that much I know. 

Dad birthed us all and by that we share the same blood. God knew in my conception even, that someday the blood passed down from my dad would flow through the very lips that would speak of this Savior, this Messiah who was and who is and who is coming. These would be the same lips that would speak hope into my blackened heart. Dad gave the lives that spoke me into eternal life and it all started with a hug on this Thanksgiving day six years back. 

And that, this relationship with my three siblings and in-laws, that makes me thankful for the man that gave us shared blood and similar faces, for the one that links us tight into some grand melody that is playing. And today, I hear it loud jumping across these walls as I write in the quiet. And oh I am swimming in Thanksgiving.

Dad, lately I miss you. I miss the moments I watch these girls have with their daddy and I miss playing spades together. I had to go out this morning and buy my own Thanksgiving ads because you're not here. Today I realized that is one thing you never forgot. I see glimpses now, glimpses of sweetness that only the Lord could give. After walking through this tough year, I am so very thankful for the glimpses. Oh, dad. I am thankful for the moments that brought dimples into my cheeks. I am thankful you're alive.

I saw this movie the other day and the words are still etching in. This man, he lost it all--his wife, his son, his career, his friends, his integrity, his reputation. He was sentenced to time in prison for flying a plane while drunk, though lives were spared though him, even in his drunken stupor. He is behind bars a year or so and his words are wiser becuase of it.

Because sometimes we have to lose it all to contemplate life and death--and sometimes it just makes us want to live. Makes us want to live free because anything less is death anyhow. Yeah that's it I guess--a life lived in pursuit of death is not a life worth living. And so we search for something more.

So what if you lost it all and you found yourself surrounded by bars and scary looking men and even still you made the following remark.

I am in jail locked behind these bars and I deserve it, but I have never been more free in my life.

It sounds a lot like Paul. In chains for Christ and counting it all joy for it results in steadfastness and remember he used to kill Christians. He lived a life in pursuit of death and soon realized it was not a life worth living. Sin in the garden resulted in death for all and yet even still for this murder God made a way. He made a way for us too. Yes dad, for you and for me.

So let's know freedom in the safety of where God has us, know it so good and choose life.

In this movie, the closing scene, his son (whom he'd hurt deeply) came to prison to visit him and he wanted to interview his dad for a class. The prompt of the interview is Someone You Really Want to Know. "Who are you?" I want to know you, he tells his dad. Redemption.

Dad, I want to know you. I want to forgive you, I mean I do, most days I have to choose it. I want to know you a hundred days sober and a hundred months sober. And in God's grace maybe that will happen someday. But more then anything, I hope that you will ask yourself--"Who am I?" Who am I when I'm not drunk, who am I when I have a purpose so much bigger then myself, who am I when all the rest of it falls away and I am sitting behind bars with no one and nothing?

Who am I that my sin hasn't yet resulted in death? Who I am that God chose me and set my apart? Who am I that in His abundant grace, He gave His Son that I might be free? It's true. 

Not who was I but who am I because of my past and because of the grace that far exceeds it? You know it's not vain, the past that is. God is using it.

And so tonight I think of you. I hope and pray that as you are "locked behind bars" in a half way house this Thanksgiving, that as sobriety reaches over a hundred days at this point, I pray you are being set free by Christ, that you are learning who you are in Him because apart from that it's all fleeting and failing.

Today, I am thankful for you, dad. I'm thankful for the suffering and pain of this year because I know Christ more today then I did a year ago. I am more of a mess and I need Him more too. 

And I look forward to the day when I can sit across from you and find out who you are, redeemed and bought and new.

What are you thankful for today, friends? 

Monday, November 19, 2012

On Signing a Lease and A New Season

Yes, I am moving.

It wasn't really planned quite this soon but then God spoke over and over and over again—and eventually I had to listen. I am excited and scared and sort of freaking out and it is all to His glory!

We were on the beach when it all started and I think the sand and the sun just does something all funny inside. You start talking crazy talk, that is. The real world it buried in voicemails unheard and emails unopened. You remember how to dream big, outside of the mundane. It was close to my birthday and my adopted mamma and dad took me out to celebrate. We talked serious for awhile and we all left encouraged. Everything seemed to make sense and looking back a year, God has worked miracles—and still continues to do so. We all agree my time in their home has been purposeful and life-giving. Maybe next fall it will be time for the next thing—back to Lightbearers or back to India or something else.

The next day he is driving me to the airport and we have more then an hour uninterrupted to talk while the kiddos are watching a movie in the back. We are just sitting and he is off dreaming like always. Sometimes I get so frustrated because I can't tell if he's just processing these dreams or counseling me to act on them. And if it is the latter, does that mean now or ten years from now? He watches my face pale and my eyes flood and he slows down a minute.

He tells me it makes sense to walk out a season before the season. It makes sense to return to the Lightbearers community. It's safe and full of fellowship. And it makes sense to meet a practical need of a friend in need of a roommate and to do life together. It makes sense that there is sweet accountability in this friendship because we need each other and words shared as I pour into her apply to me too. And it makes even more sense because during this car ride a two bedroom opens up.

The lies swoop in like a pelican plunging for a fish and I am blindsided.

You guys don't want me anymore. I'm not really a part of your family. I knew someday you would get sick of me. I am not welcome anymore. I'm gunna move out and you guys are never gunna talk to me again. It was all too good to be true. I can't do this. I'm not ready...blah blah blah. 

He repeats the lies out loud as though he were reading my mind. I see grace and I am so thankful for him. He hears me even when I don't talk and it is a gift. The lies are exposed and it leaves room enough for breathing.

So I do. I think about what he is saying and I am scared that he is serious.

Am I really ready to spread my wings and fly? Am I really healthy enough? Am I really equipped to walk though life with another?

By the time we get to airport he tells me I'm kicked out as of January 1st. Half way joking, I think. Half way not at all.

I start listening to voicemails and responding to emails and celebrating my birthday and somehow the dream begins to become less a remnant of my tanned-skin high and more so a very alive reality and it's not me doing a thing. 

It's funny to look back and see the speed of some prayers being answered so abruptly, like my move to Arkansas two years ago. And how others seem to be unclear still—like my husband!

Four days after the dreaming began, we signed a lease and God just did it all. Little doors seemed to open every hour throughout those days, and confirmation and affirmation were overwhelming wisdom of those near.

This transition from one of a dozen to just one is going to be a challenging one but oh so good. Obedience is a sweet place to be and I know God is preparing me for a season of further refinement and walking out life outside of my country, one of a dozen bubble.

I would not change this season for anything in the world. I continue to gawk in awe of God's faithfulness through my dozen and my time under there protection. To some degree, it won't change.

And in other ways, everything will change. I love change. I actually despise it.

January 1st, 2013. Bring it on, for my God is faithful. 

For you shall not go out in haste, and you shall not go in flight, for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard. -Isaiah 52:12

{I hope you will stick around and walk out this new journey with me.}

Monday, November 12, 2012

On The Day I Was Born

I don't remember it of course, but my mom says I was perfect. Though it's rare my thoughts drift to my other half, I am a twin and I think reflecting on my birthday brings me back here.

My other half died in the womb we shared and though we never got to play barbies or open presents together, I always want to be the best at things. I feel misunderstood by the world a lot. My love language is physical touch and I crave close friendships. Gaining three older sisters in my teens was a dream come true. When someone has my personality, I air on the side of freakily telepathic. 

Last weekend we celebrated my birthday with one side of the family and I heard my mom so loud and clear, a sort of sword piercing my heart.

"It's a good thing I only had one. I don't even like kids." she said it just like that. And of course she was talking to my best friend pregnant with twin boys (who lost a triplet). Over the years she has joked a lot. About not wanting me and screwing me up so bad. Sometimes it doesn't sound like a joke but it is not her love nor her provision for a child I doubt. 

It is how a woman could honestly not want children--not like them. It is that I am alone and I shouldn't have been but God ordained it and it and was. Mom says God knew she couldn't handle two of me. I say life is ever precious and I wish we shared a room. Sometimes, I miss this baby that should have been, that was. I miss memories we never had and I miss the loneliness that would have never been.

Today as I celebrate twenty-two years of life I remember the preciousness of it all and yet it is fleeting, the blink of an eye I remind myself.

Hearing my mom for the third time in a couple weeks boldly proclaim her dislike for kids last night, her thanksgiving for losing a baby. Realizing that I spent a third of my years trying to die. All of it weighs heavy like my suitcase I lugged inside after getting back from the beach last night, sunkissed and more alive.

Even in a year where my dad jumps off the deep and plummets into rehab for the umpteenth time, in a year where the secrets that have tied me down are loosed and brought into the light, in a year where this family in the country changes my world, in a year where my best friend is hiding two humans under her growing belly and my adopted momma is mourning a year of great loss and my mom is thankful that God only allowed me to live. I breathe the cold air as I run through these country roads and I have to stop to weep because I am alive at the age of twenty-two and life is straight up messy.

This year, my flesh drives me away from hope and yet He has a plan and purpose and He counts the hairs on my head and I live. Deep breathes of grace, not by anything I do or deserve. Grace abundant.

I am thankful for this day because God's grace is so incredibly evident in this celebration. Because He gave me life and now my life is for His glory. Because whether or not I was really wanted from the start is irrelevant since I am here, since He chose me and set me apart before I was a day old. Since His ways are higher then mans.

Because even if my mom doesn't like kids, these twenty-two years she has loved me hard. Grace.
Because the Lord allowed me to live even if my twin never took a breathe outside of the womb. Grace. Because even at the age of eighteen when I tried so hard, He just wouldn't let me die. Weeping grace.

And because at that age of twenty-two I feel ancient and withered like the tree out my window and sometimes I blow with the wind. Life has hurt and even this year I have been close to the fire and so much has been burnt away with the leaves I smell in the icy breeze this morning. Oh I know the suffering of the year and I think some days it lingers thick and musky on my sweater.

But today, today I say strip down the layers and dance because the victory is coming--it's here too, in these twenty-two years of life, in living life with Christ and learning to be free and learning to trust for He has made a way. And one day it's all gunna end and He will stand victorious and I am redeemed and bought and He calls me beloved.

Friends, I am so thankful for you and the way you speak Truth as the winds blow hard and in the quiet and the storm I hear the echos loud and continuous and here we are...twenty-two years and I pray He is glorified until my last breath.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

On Family Photos & Wondering Where I Belong

The thought of these family photos on the beach is perfect—white against jeans and tanned faces. And yet every single time the subject comes up I want to burrow away like those little clams on the beach.

As more moments pass throughout the week and I watch dad sneak girls out the door for a secret date and mom spend the day with a broken-armed boy. I see a business trip cancelled so both can be there to get a cast on broken-armed boy. They celebrate his upcoming birthday and they calm his fear. I take pictures with three sisters and when mom looks at the pictures, her eyes search for the three she birthed to be gathered in single shot. And I guess all of those little moments I watch, just make me remember I am not really one of a dozen. I am just me and today that doesn't feel like enough.

Today I want to belong. I want a daddy-daughter date where I secretly disappear and I want a birthday lunch smothered in affirmation. I want to be a sister on the other side of the lens and when I blink awake I don’t want it to just be a dream from the night before.

I live with them everyday, so I don’t know why this lobster red skin and sandy soul is just bringing it out of me but it is and it is painful.

This morning I cooled off from my run by meandering up the seashore. My routine of running and walking and digging in this sand peels off layers of dead skin beneath my feet. A task I have been meaning to get around to for months now, and yet the fun of it all hasn't quite drawn me in.

As I sit cross-legged writing now, I feel the smooth perfection of my soles and I am thankful for the sand. Even if it doesn't feel good at first--even if it will linger in my clothes for the next six months. I think this sand is peeling off more then dead skin on my feet though. I think it is rubbing hard and holy against my heart too. 

And yet dead skin is just that—dead. Dead skin blocks the new skin from forming and so the only way to pave a way for newness is to get rid of the dead. And it doesn't feel very good--and it might linger.

Six years ago this very sand peeled off layers of death and disease from my soul. Looking back I never saw it happening and yet it was no accident. The raw skin gave me eyes to see and ears to hear and as I saw the waves turn under the sand and heard lyrics ringing out His mercy and desire for me, all of a sudden that raw skin began growing new cells, cells that enabled me to see such beauty and praise God for all of it.

I remember being jealous during family pictures then too. I remember wearing white like everyone else but not really belonging in some of the shots. The one of me with my siblings I hang an idol on my wall. I guess I never really knew it. 

I want my dad to be free and I want to be good enough for my mom and I want to grow old with my siblings and I want Jesus too. I want to belong on earth first and one day in Heaven. I want to be in these family pictures tomorrow, not taking them. I want to belong here in this family on the beach and the reality is I don’t. I didn't fully belong six years ago with my half blood family and now today I still don’t. I weep writing this because the truth hurts and my identity from the world is being washed in the waves with my dead skin. 

It hurts and oh it is so good. Holy sand for the soul. 

Jealousy leads to death and I see it as I study Genesis and see a whole family line tossed and turned by the waves, destined for destruction. There is polygamy and murder and consumption in the things of this world. All because a lamb was accepted and fruit wasn't. All because Cain chose to walk away from the presence of the Lord in His anger. 

I am angry I never got daddy-daughter dates and I am jealous that these little sisters have parents who put life on hold for a broken arm and I so desperately want to find my worth in a photo of white shirts hung on my wall that tells me I have a place in this world, that I belong. Most days I don't think my offering comes close to that of a girl brought up in a God-fearing family.

And as my anger and bitterness and sorrow build it all comes crashing down as I realize--my offering is not better or worse because of my past but because of my past I have an offering to give.

Because six years ago on this very stretch of sands and seas I offered up my belief in God for the very first time and instead of running from His presence in that moment of great fear and much darkness, I ran to it. God's grace alone. It's grace that God would even allow me the privilege of doing life with my siblings--that through them I would eventually come to faith in Christ. It's grace that I would be "adopted" into this family of eleven for this season of time. Grace that years lost are being restored through them and that I am learning and being set free. 

Unlike Cain, the generations to come from my womb will not head into destruction and yet that is not based on my own belonging in this world. 

It is only by the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ in my life that the generations to come might also run into His presence and not from it. It is grace for me too.

And in these words of Truth  I see the joy of my salvation being restored and my belonging solidified.

And whether in the sandy shores of Alabama or the winter chill of Arkansas, belonging found is not worth comparing to the belonging given freely through the death of Christ and the confession of lips.

It seems sinner in need of Savior is enough to belong to Jesus. And go figure, His color of choice is white too. 

Pensacola, 2006
Orange Beach, 2012

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

On Overcoming Halloween & An Eating Disorder

The years start off innocent with princesses and homemade bliss. Then adolescence hits and the material shrinks away as gobs of makeup are an undeniable must. We start to cover up the imperfections and flaunt the rest because we want to be loved, especially on this dark day.

I remember trick or treating in my youth—I remember being dorothy in fifth grade and I remember  dumping it all out and just looking at it for hours. We would gather tight in a circle and trade. I was (and still am) a chocolate kinda girl. Reeses are certainly the way to my heart. I don't quite recall the year but I was young. I remember it because I lost one of my red slippers in my mad dash for candy.

 I remember hiding some of my candy in the basement after the fall festival at school so my mom wouldn't be able to take it all away from me after my night of sugar bliss. She was strict about food—especially candy. After my allotted 3 pieces a night, I would sneak down there to eat it some nights, when I had a bad day. You won't tell me what I can and can't eat. I remember thinking, before I gorged myself to the point of sickness on that chocolate candy I stashed.

Long after I was {supposed to be} in bed she tip-toed over to my bag and pulled out her favorites. Lots of them. One time I caught her. She got so mad. This is one of those vivid times when I recognize her food issues unconfessed that probably fed into mine.

I remember adolcence and the way it became less about the jokes and more a perfect excuse to stay out late with freinds. I didn't really party nor did I bear more skin then the average person, not even on this day. I remember covering up my body actually. I hit puberty and the pounds seemed to mount themselves to my hips and thighs with each bit I took back then. I don't even remember what I was wearing that year but I probably didn't need a costume since I wondered through the neighborhood with my friends clothed in a mask of shame daily. I had daddy issues and he disappeared.

My costumes never had blood or gore or a scary mask. I always wanted to clothe myself in beauty and just pretend for one night that I really was.

By high school, mom was alone and she always turned off the lights and hid in the basement because she didn't want to spend money on candy—or eat it. That first year as the dreaded freshies we disguised our age and ran from door to door. Free candy, yes please. No one questioned us either. By this point I was throwing up a lot and Halloween was free fuel to my fire.

By the next year I was all lost and consumed in my own darkness that the pursuit of free fuel was far too much work. I locked myself in my room and watched my friends pass by down below, laughing and free. I didn't understand how they could laugh in the dark—how they could eat candy and be free. I grew jealous and bitter and lonely. I told them I was sick. I was—though I wasn't going to admit it just yet. I remember the hoards of candy and orange treats I bought on clearance in the days to follow. Stocked them up in my closet and slid deeper into my dark world of bulimia.

The years to follow I remember Halloween in a treatment program for girls like me where we sat for hours staring darkness in the face before any of us dared to even smell that piece of chocolate out of fear our hips might grow at the scent.

What happened to me, I remember thinking?

I wish I could go back to Dorothy just for an hour and tell her the stash in the basement isn't worth the instant gratification because no matter how much you eat or how skinny you get, it's never going to fill that hole. Food is never going to satisfy. And if you continue on, in just a few years you will be here, staring death in the face and really believing this piece of chocolate is deadly.

I wish I could tell her to just eat those three pieces and go be a kid because innocence is a gift and a little chocolate isn't a death sentence. 

By next year, Dorothy, you won't care about your red slippers or little dog because you will be in the hospital and you will be reaching for death because the scale controls you now and you are tired.

Dorothy, you're never going to be pretty (or skinny) enough for your dad to come back because he is a drunk and someday that might change but you have a purpose and it is bigger then the size of your butt, so stop counting. Your mom might always be a slave of these things, but you are not her.

You sure have a had a messed up start to life little girl, and more bad things might happen to you like the tornado and the witch but just follow the yellow brick road because narrow is the road to life and the Emerald city is closer then you think. It won't always be this hard, I promise.

It hasn't been easy and most days I still battle with food, but I am no longer a slave to it, by God's grace alone. I was bought with a price and Jesus' death on the cross ransomed all my sin and now there is nothing I can do to escape His love. In fact, His love has conquered the hole deep down, the one that food and daddy issues and beauty never did quite satisfy. Daily I must choose life or death and today I choose to walk in the light that I may live.

One day your butt will be bigger and you won't wear a mask and you will spend Halloween eating a few Reeses because you love them and you will wear your red slippers and oh yes—you will be free. 

...for Christ sets captives free. -Isa.61:1-2

Monday, October 29, 2012

Naked Glory and All

It is cold and I crouch down atop a rock in the cover of the bush. I live in the shadow and no one sees me. Sweat drips down my cheek. Darkness conceals my figure so I linger a while.

The orange and red and yellow crunch beneath my steps. As secret as I try to be, my costume is unmasked but their ears are blind in the dark. My breath is heavy and my adrenaline fully alive. They don’t recognize the leaves crunching or my steps getting closer. The night sky is lit as the ball glows a little too brilliant to hide me.

I wear the brush and tall grass a disguise and I think of Eve in the garden. I feel the weight and I am so thankful it is not mine to bear and yet I do so often. Even under my layers of fabric I feel a little shame, even now.

They pass in squeals and whispers and I crouch down low to the dirt. I came from the rib that came from this ground and laying here I remember. The shame distracted by purpose. That rib had a purpose and now so do I. Oh glory!

I wait. Wait for it. Breathe. In and Out. The seconds counted with pulse and my mission is sure. I linger in the dark a bit longer.

Then, finally. They hit the dock and I take off running...

Okay, maybe it wasn't so movie like. Maybe it was more stumbling my way through the dark woods with a great limp on my left and adrenaline thrusting my body into some summersault of forward motion. I trip and rise and the prickles wedge beneath my flesh but none of it matters because my mission is light and the end is getting brighter.

Along the way there is a clamor of screams as their skin splashes across that cold water and then silence.

They are under and drowning in the rush of nakedness beneath the lake and I think they are being set free down there. Chains unlatched and shame unscrewed as I watch the fig leaves float away. I remember and I want it. Heads begin to bob and arms are reaching and voices are raised with praise as their breath filters in puffs through the cold air.

My feet tap across the dock and I make a clean sweep for the towels and a shoe lingers somewhere too. A few are pulling up onto the dock now all clothed in glory and I pivot and run back into the darkness, arms full as I am swallowed up once more.

I drop it all in the dirt just at the edge of the dock but they don't know it. I wanted to take it all the way back but that would be mean. And slightly hilarious. But this is enough.

I hear them, their heated whispers and scrambling shuffles as the panic spreads. The dock shakes some and I chuckle in the disguise behind the shadows. Success. Watching them realize they cannot cover up their nakedness brings me to the ground in laughter.  Soooooo funny.

And then the spirit touches me like a match to a wick and I get it, fire aflame deep inside because the enemy himself is just up that hill behind the tree laughing at me in the dark, the fool who wouldn't jump off that dock, the one who wouldn't strip down to my skin because the shame is too much to bear.

Because without fig leaves I want to hide in fear as I hear his footsteps gaining. Oh, I wish I could have jumped. 

Satan is the father of lies, a thief in the night and most of the time you wonder around in the dark just waiting for him to remind you of which tree you cannot eat, only so that you give yourself permission to take a big ole' chomp. You want to be like God on the outside but your heart is clothed in shame. He is sneaky and hides in the darkness, and yet his tactics are nothing new.

And so often that is me—too busy trying to free myself by covering up that I don't even hear the enemy prowling in the night. 

It is the reason that even under all these fall layers and brown boots, covered in color on my face and curls around my neck—even in these glory moments where I breathe in the fearful and wonderful of my making, even here I bear the weight of the shame because he is a thief in the night and I have missed his footsteps and let him steal my covering over and over again. 
We feel the weight of the apple and the nakedness and the shame. And so, we hide in the trees because it's safer then jumping in naked. I am thankful for this weekend with these sisters who jumped and joyfully watched their fig leaves float off into the morning rising. So thankful.

I deserve to return to dust and instead He makes me garments and clothes me in righteousness. Then He protects me from eating the apple of eternity, that someday I might be free from my shame, shame that ultimately He never intended for me to bear. He gives an end to the shame {a way out} and some day fig leaves will be a fashion of a life long past.

Too often, I forget that He made me a covering and gave me death that I might have eternity to wear it. 

And at the sound of His coming, let us not be found hiding in fear and covered in shame. Let's wear righteousness like a gown and maybe then the shame will fade as we endure on this earth,

and then one day soon dirt turned rib turned woman can be redeemed to naked glory and all.

And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
(Genesis 3:21 ESV)

He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
(Genesis 3:24 ESV)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Where Oh Death, Is Thy Victory?

“I think we’re losing the baby, girls. I’m so sorry.”

We all still. The pin drops and you hear it all the way down. It crashes across the floor. Time must have stopped because no one breathed. Like the floodgates falling open the tears began to plummet. In silence at first. Littlest eyes fan into mine and it all burns. It took a whole thirty seconds for us to find a spot on the bed and hold on to something—someone’s arm or leg or foot. Heads buried and words non-existant. Touch felt safe in these moments where the sting settled in. 

I heard her words and I knew it in my heart hours earlier but I wanted to avoid it like the plague. I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to cry. I didn’t want it to hurt me. I needed to study and clean and sleep. I needed to keep going. And I tried for awhile. But it ate away until I sought out her words and the pain and now here we are and the truth is setting us free, even as we weep over life lost too soon.

It lands hard like Niagara across the still waters and I just let it fall because sometimes we just can't heal without the pain, without being washed and sometimes the washing just stings like death.

For He wounds but he also binds up.

But she a lioness and she speaks out loud that we trust Him right now and we all hold on tighter and I hear her roar through the prayers whispered from her spot on that pillow from which she can't quite lift her head.  It hurts and she prays grace like ointment that heals.

She is courage when fear shackles us and I feel them loosen. 

Two mammas very close to me have lost babies this month and I hate it so much. Eloquence of words aside, I just don't count it joy in this flesh. I count it...anger, doubt, depression, pain. But not joy. Not in the moments so raw. And yet I know God allows it, ordains it really, even though the whys and whats still float out of my grasp. They both love the Lord and they testify to His glory amidst their pain.

 "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." -1 Corinthians 15:56-58

It seems, for these mammas, the sting of death echoes praises to the giver of life—and the taker too. Crowned in victory, they choose praise and trust and hope secure even when the washing of the Word stings and life doesn't turn out how they had hoped.

But hope they do because hope doesn't belong to the world but to the God who spoke it to existence and called it good.

They teach me to hope here too. To wear the victory like a crown. Mostly because even after Eve disobeyed, God made a way for us to hope in the promise of His Son, the one He himself crowned in victory on the third day.

He gave us a way out, a promise who was, who is and is coming. So we have hope. 

Even as we grieve the loss of these precious lives, we have hope in the one who conquered death and is coming back to crown us with life eternal, the one promised to those who love Him.

Rise, And Christ’s light will shine on you.

These women RISE. You and me—we can rise too. It all starts with hoping in Christ, hoping in the promise yet to be and still fully alive. Struck down but not destroyed.

Today, I must remember to hope in Christ. 

"Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and werejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly." -Romans 5:2-6

Friday, October 19, 2012

On A Weekend with My Family

I feel his eyes watching me even as I sleep. Something deeper lures me to life and he is standing there, all two feet of him. "Aunt Corney?" he whispers. "Aunt Corney!" I rise from my sleep.

My heart races and I sit up and it all comes back. I am in a little bed so near the floor at the apartment in town and my family is here to visit. The sun is barely awake and my nephew isn't sleepwalking. He is ready to go and we look at books and crash trucks while mamma makes waffles into giraffes and elephants and the sun rises. The boy likes some waffles with his syrup and my brother can't watch the mess and we are more alike then I knew. I cannot stop laughing.

He is talking and running everywhere. He is so big and I just adore him. These moments are precious and I will remember forever. He calls me Aunt Corney and he is the first of my nieces and nephews to say it and it is a melody in my ears all day long.

We go by the farmer's market and my nephew wants to be just like his daddy. I am quiet and God is redeeming right here as we walk circles around the square. We drive out to see my life in the country. All fifteen of us gather around the table and it is absolute bliss. My nephew and my lil adopted ones all close in size and they love to tattle on each other. I look around and I hear the words shared from my family visiting and my adopted one and I just bask in God's grace in my life—the way He has surrounded me with this family right here and the rest I wish could be here too.

It feels right and we talk and explore the country and I take my sister on the four-wheeler. More importantly, she lets me! And no, we didn't tip over. My sister now has five girls who are still talking about how much they love her. Especially her hugs. She fits here, here in the south where we hug big and I really hope she says ya'll sometime this week and misses me.

I am sitting on the steps and looking out over the red and orange and yellows painted beneath the clouds and it is beautiful. Fall is here and so is my nephew. The kiddos are laughing and some of my favorite people are all gathered in my favorite place and I just bask here because life is hard and this moment is peace because the Lord is gracious and I don't deserve it. So I sit and breath it in.

We go out to dinner and my sis takes this picture and Facebook says I look more like him as I get older. I read those comments and some tears fall because God did this. He gave me this family and redeemed so much brokenness and they were there with me and now we look alike and it is just a lot of glory and I love my brother more and more. Mostly because he tried my pumpkin bread {and didn't spit it out} even though he doesn't like it.

Meg and I eat pumpkin everything and she drinks the milk with three quarters froth because I got a little excited about my new frother, but she lets me live it up without complaint. Dinner is washed down with some pumpkin frozen yogurt and a few of my international friends join us. We play games and my lil bubby cuddles in my lap while we read. I want to freeze time because it goes to fast.

My brother and sis are leading the youth in their church back home and I love hearing about it. They are learning so much and God is being glorified. Oh I want to stop the moments adding up to their departure and yet I am so excited to see where God leads them in the days and years to come because He is up to something and I can't quite see it all yet but it is only His grace in all of our lives.

We talk some real life too. Our dad is in Joplin now in rehab. He write me a card and he is seventy-five days sober. We haven't talked in months and my brother guards my heart so well.  They stopped there to see him on the way to see me and on the way home and I am so thankful God's given him the grace to care for our dad while my wounds get bound up as time heals. And let me tell you, He wounds but oh sisters, he binds up as well.

This weekend was that for me. It was wounds sealing a little deeper as the scars continue fading. 

My sweet sister also posted over here...I cry reading this and just seeing how God is at work in both of our lives and revealing glimpses of His love and His purpose in our lives being meshed.

I am so thankful for time with my brother and sis and lil nephew—so blessed. 


All the boys loved him

Reading with Young Hye

My adopted mama and dad

Love him more then words.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  -James 1:17

Friday, October 12, 2012

On Finding Home

Tonight as I sit here, I must hold back the tears.

We are all dozen in a room and it has been awhile. We are singing praises to Jesus. He strokes the guitar and the little boy squirms across my lap. Little fingers twist my hair and those little toes with dirt infested beneath the nail lock close to mine. I squeeze him tight and I know Jesus is here. The babies are dumping towers of blocks across the floor. It makes a big bang as it crashes over the wood. There is pushing and tears and little guy screams.

He just keeps strumming and oh, how his voice draws me back.

As I hum along to the words so foreign I can barely contain myself.

Memories flood—the bad of the past so contrasted against this moment here and now. Nights of yelling and cussing and kicking and running. Nights locked behind a door so entangled and trapped and dark. Nights of horror movies and love scenes. Nights accompanied by the TV and microwave dinners. Lifetime helped me dream happy endings. Nights of roaches and gun-shots. Nights of innocence dissolving and childhood ending. There just weren't ever nights like this right here and now growing up. I get lost here and I feel all the ugly conceive and begin to birth all over again. Sin surfaces high as my throat.

Then his glance my direction pulls me out of the darkness and the light is just so incredibly light.

And so I close my eyes and soak it up and I feel Him giving me back my childhood nights, redeeming them in some weird way. But it is Him doing it and I don't deserve it.

His fingers across that guitar strum grace right into my bones and I feel the cistern being sealed. 

My steady flow interrupted as he asks us to recall times in scripture where God acted immediately. Like Philip dissolving into space after baptizing the Enoch and Christ walking on water and demons launching pigs over the cliff and even sending a wife to water the camels. Sometimes, he told us, God is quick to answer our prayers and quick to confirm our decisions. Other times, we don't know that we made the right decision for awhile, we don't always see an immediate answer. Like when Christ promises He is coming back—oh we can be sure He is. It just hasn't happened yet.

He read Psalm 150 which talks about praising the Lord...with lute and harp. (As Hannah is strumming her new harp!) Let everything that has breath, in fact, praise the Lord! So we praised as blocks collided with the floor and lil guys jumped off furniture. A year ago I was yet to even glimpse such a life, such a home, such a moment.

Unlike Philip disappearing in a blink, home has taken time for me—it has been much more a promise not yet seen. 

But tonight, tonight I realize I may be a Philip in flight, but my home is sure. My home is here and yet not. So for now, this place where we sing loud and blocks plummet with a crash and little boys snuggle--it is drenched in grace and dripping mercy, something I don't deserve and never foresaw but completely Jesus, completely where He wants me and a complete promise of home that is coming.

Home is the heart and the people and memories--but it's more.

What a gracious God, to ordain decision after decision that led me here, here to this home in the middle of the country for this season of time. Here where these parents are pouring and kiddos are loving and Jesus is being praised by all. Here where the flip of calendar actually heals and Thursday night worship redeems years stolen. Oh I am so thankful for this family, for this time, for this God who knew I needed a glimpse of the home that is coming.

So home, I think, home is the promise not yet fulfilled and the longing that keeps us finding. Home is coming, keep finding Him.