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. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

From What Well Are You Drinking Today?

I've picked up running again and it is so good. Those cool mornings watching the sky unfold as he paints it to life for another day never cease to hand me mercies anew. The air is crisp and the trees are part of his gallery too. I worship and reflect as the dog pants at my feet. We are an orchestra down below bringing sound to His show.

In the praises and the pleas, I have been panting too, I think. And no, not just while running, though my sounds probably far out-sing the dog when I trudge up those country hills. The panting—maybe not so loud but inside the weariness and brokenness of life has gained and I identify with the woman at the well, the one who came from the dirt like me. 

Don't we all pant after water which satisfies straight into eternity? Enough of this processed stuff. Give me the real deal. I'll take the whole spring, in fact.

I spent so many years drinking from the well of midnight fast food runs and ice cream by the half gallons. Bags of peanut-butter M&Ms and trays of doughnuts which have absorbed into my body in some attempt to satisfy this unceasing thirst unmet. Hours and days and weeks of glaring down into the well of my stomach upturned beneath me. Those moments of stilled breath waiting for the number to reveal how good or bad my day—I took shots from that glass too. I've tried to fill up with cup after cup of starvation and thirsted for the miles beneath my feet, as they grow in number and frequency and drive me to more and more to satisfy just a moment. 

But they aren't the spring washing me anew and flooding me back to life; rather the sewage in which I find myself stuck. 

The satisfactions never came for long. So within days and hours, even minutes sometimes, I would  have to search for it again. Maybe some Reeses this time, with a milkshake to help em go down. I remember feeling trapped in a pit and some days I could eat thousands and thousands of calories only to throw them up, but just find myself sinking deeper into the muck and mire—and I smelled really bad. 

Part of me grew content in the sewage too—I deserved this because I was a dirty girl and dirty girls deserve to live in dirty places. Some dirty girls are too nasty to ever clean up, I remember thinking, and you are just one of those girls. 

The woman at the well is still in sin—with another man to whom she is not yet even married. Christ is bold in his revealing of her sin and we see His sovereignty through it. He was like that with me too. One day He offered to forklift me out from my sewage and He made me clean. Like, for real clean and new too.

Like the woman drinking from the well of her sixth husband, I also attempt to find satisfaction and fulness in the things that drive me toward emptiness, again and again and again.

By the sixth time you'd think she would notice a pattern or something, huh?

After eight years of being consumed in bulimia, you'd think I might have noticed it wasn't working either?

So why is it so easy for us to forget, even after He clothes us in white and calls us by a new name? I think life is hard and messy and busy. We lack eternal perspective and we are so easily ensnared by this glimpse of the world that fails to tell us it is ending. Though, sometimes we just wish it would—we want to be free that bad. Good thing Jesus sets captive free—and He offers it to us freely.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

So I ask, from what well are you drinking today? Is it satisfying into eternity?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

On That One Time I Asked for a Dad {Learning Trust}

Please read part one over here first...

Fast forward a week and it is late at night. We are in a meeting room at the apartments, all four of us. Coffee in hands, sweat dripping down my back I move uncomfortably in my seat. My leg bobbles—faster—as the moments of silence settle in, uncomfortably so. I look up and smile awkwardly, trying to assure them I am not this crazy person, trying to assure myself mostly.

So, just tell us a little bit about yourself, Courtney. He voices.

Well, I stutter. How do I say the right words? How in depth do I go? What if they hear my brokenness and decide I'm too messy, too much to be redeemed through such a relationship. I just begin to talk. A little bit about my past leading me here. A lot about the here and now, this desire for a dad. He is quiet but attentive. She is constantly giving me reassuring nods. I get through it and it can only get easier from here.

We agree this is a God thing and we all want to walk on this journey together, totally unsure of what it looks like. So he talks logistics and bible and she covers me in affirmation and we pray. We decide I will just get to know them in life on life time—going out to the house and hanging out with their family of eleven. Yes, nine kiddos.

So I go. The very next week. And the next and the next. I trust that the Lord knows better then I do.

Truthfully, I can't remember much about the first time, except that I came home and wrote about it. One day, I will share because it makes me laugh and cry all in one breath.

Time with their family was easy—a little too easy. They welcomed me as a guest only a couple times, before I found myself covered in soapy water in front of the sink rinsing a dozen plates and belly laughing with the girls. Not a guest anymore, just a part of life. They became the same for me—until one day it started feeling like home. Not the house perse or the windy road up the mountain—just them, being with them, learning and laughing and crying sometimes.

It was nothing like I expected but everything that I needed—and of course the Lord just did that.

We had some intentional time that fall, some hard conversations. I had to hear hard Truth and decide if I was willing to submit or not. It's funny looking back, it really wasn't all that grand in the scheme of life. Things like what to do if my car breaks, how to love my roommates well, what it looks like to be a young single woman, how to pay off debt, types of boundaries to put in place with my parents back home and so on. Praise Jesus He is patient and does things little by little because He knows us so well.

After a Christmas with them, they were family and I was beginning to trust. 

Then life happened and I slipped from offense and fell pretty hard. Mainly, the consequences of decisions that hadn't been mine which led me to choosing sin over Christ to cope with it all, because that's what I knew. There were consequences, all the same. They stepped in, this dad and his wife and they told me I wasn't going to stay in this place, the battle wasn't over and something had to give. I kicked and screamed and wrestled them on it too. Patient and gracious, he told me it would take the flip of a calendar and accountability and Jesus.

That's when they told me to come live with them.

The months to follow God began asking me to trust more and continue submitting to the process. He began challenging me to trust them with more of my heart and my life, to ultimately trust Him through them, this authority that He placed in my life for this season of time. What a scary thought, I remember thinking. Looking back, we really didn't know much of how this all works and still are no experts, but He was the author of it from day one.

Then the submission became harder. To trust him in things that were so deeply woven into me, to trust him (them) with it all. My relationship with my biological dad. My financial independence from my mom. My education and goals. My debt and my time. Even just beginning to learn my role as a woman, the way that changes everything I had planned. 

As I trusted and submitted, I experienced so much peace and blessing. Dont get me wrong, it was and continues to be one of the most challenging battles—giving up control. Trusting that the Lord really does know better then I do—that His plans are perfect. Even His plan to provide this earthly dad to intercede on my behalf for this season of time, to bear some of the weight, this earthly imperfect man that God has called me to trust and submit to. Not because anyone told me I had to but because even the SON OF GOD submitted to His earthly parents for a season, knowing all the while He had the Perfect Father.

"And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man."   -Luke 2:51-52

And yet, no longer having to bear up under the weight of it all, of always trying to figure it out and hold together the pieces shattered from life in a fallen world, from not growing up with a dad who protected me, from seeing too much and rebelling against all authority for so many years, that is a blessing.

The good news—He restores. Yes, even through a dad and mom and family that have only become mine because God spoke and it was so. Because He burdened their heart for the mess I am, and me for a need not being met apart from them.

I don't claim to be an expert and neither do they. We are in a process of learning how to do this well, how to trust and talk real and how to redeem this biblical principle in a completely fallen and messed up world.

It's so not perfect and neither are we, but God is being glorified and I am safe here.

"My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof,  for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights."   -Prov. 3:11-12

I am just a girl learning to submit in a generation that says run. Just a girl without a [God-fearing] dad learning to let one in. Just a girl with some hurt and a whole lotta pride learning to heal and be humbled. Just a girl who asked for a dad and got a whole childhood redeemed through this family of whom I make a dozen. Just a girl who desires to run a home some day and raise babies and submit to a husband. A girl just learning to inhale hope and exhale brokenness because we all have to breathe.

Just a girl learning to write gospel and breathe in the future promised because hope lives here alone.

And if this is you, there is hope for you too. To see God's redemption in a tangible way—to know Him as the perfect Father. For you, maybe this means seeking out some type of "fatherly authority" in your life as well. Perhaps it is just spending time around families living it out. Maybe it is God redeeming relationship with your own dad. Maybe it is a friend you want to support.

Whatever it is, I pray sister, that you might know this:  And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ; He redeems and makes new and it is good, but it's never going to complete until we see Jesus. Let's rejoice in this hope when all will be perfected!! 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

On That One Time I Asked for a Dad {The Beginning}

A year.

That's how long I have been walking in this I really need a dad journey.

I know I am not alone and sometimes, I get the weird looks and secret phone calls revealed among concerned family members. And no, I am not in a cult. I figured it is time to share about my journey this year and I hope in doing so, we all find some hope in the perfect Father working through our earthly or adopted ones.

I was curious, what this fatherlessness issue is doing to this generation. I was shocked by what I found. Here are just a few stats that I want you to take in. I heard on the radio last night 60% of kids today are growing up without dads. That's more then half.

> 63% of teen suicides come from fatherless homes. That’s 5 times the national average.   {SOURCE: U.S. Dept of Health}

> 90% of all runaways and homeless children are from fatherless homes. That’s 32 times the national average.

> 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes. 14 times the national average.  {Justice and Behavior}

> 85% of children with behavioral problems come from fatherless homes. 20 times the national average.  {Center for Disease Control}

> 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. 9 times the national average.  {National Principals Association Report}

> 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes. 10 times the national average.   {Rainbow’s for all God’s Children}

> 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes. 20 times the national average.   {U.S. Dept. of Justice}

6 out of 10. I cannot hear that, read these stats and remain quiet and content to deal with my daddy issues in silence. I don't know what it all looks like yet, I just know we are called to defend the weak and fatherless. {Ps. 82:3}

Let me preface this with—God is sovereign and perfect and completely in control. Thus, fatherless women who love the Lord can make it without a dad who knows Him—yet I see nothing but protection and safety and redemption in the story He has written in my life this year. Enough that I pray it offers hope to a fatherless generation.

Last fall, after watching my former roomie go through courtship and then marriage, the holy spirit flooded the depths of me with this desire for dad, this conviction that this whole thing isn't going to work how it should without such a need being met in my life first. Proof of how the south is meshing into my previously liberal perspective on relationships and quieting much of that. Yet, it is sweet and right. I actually don't believe in dating anymore {but that is another post entirely}. That said, the whole picture of dad and brothers on the porch with a rifle as this suitor approaches to ask dad's permission to get to know me—that makes sense to me. Until I began to realize that when you take out the dad—that picture can never be painted just right. Thus, began my journey.

60% of kids today are growing up without dads and I am not alone.

You know, we all are birthed with that daddy hole, the one only His love can fill. And when our earthly daddys fail to do so and we don't know our Heavenly One—well, this is the testimony of so many of us who have waded into the depths of darkness, searching for love in all the wrong places, only a matter of time before we can no longer hold the broken pieces together anymore. But then, then for those He has called comes the little glimpse—a light, a hope, a future, daddy love.

Yet by this point, we just can't receive it freely, because we don't understand that. 

Nothing is free—especially the love of a dad. Especially when men have hurt us, when our dads have fallen short time and time again. When the only dad we have ever known got swallowed up into his bottle of VO or walked out and never came back or worked his way up in the job world as we took our first steps and just forgot to look back—we all know the same pain, the same hunger.

We become comfortable with the hole that festers in depth with each passing year.

All I can do is laugh thinking back to the early days of this whole deal. I remember thinking—what in the world, God? Do I just stand outside Walmart and start asking any man over 50 wearing a cross if he can be my dad? It's not like I could go up to someone I know—they would look at me and run. I mean, I wouldn't blame them.

So, what do I do? Well I process...and talk to sisters I trust...and pray...and doubt...and talk some more. Then I begin to hear His voice through the words that begin to echo again and again. He is patient and I am thankful.

All I heard real clear was this—find 'a man of peace' in this body and tell him you are looking for a dad. After being in a discipleship program for two years at this point, it made sense that the director of the program might have some ideas of who could meet such a need in my life—and he just so happened to also be a member of this new body I had recently joined. I told a friend who told a closer friend who talked to him on my behalf. Okay, I couldn't do it myself—perhaps I am a chicken, but mostly I just felt straight-up crazy.

After the initial plea on my behalf came a month of silence. I took that as confirmation that I was indeed mentally lacking somewhere. At least I didn't know him, I thought to myself. Good thing I only see him from a distance. I don't have to fear facing him, didn't have to fear the look which probably crossed his face when the friend of a friend pleaded my case.

Then she calls, out of the clear blue as the idea had nearly lost all meaning in my life. She tells me they want to meet me. They want to talk about it. They want to know me. Who? I ask, caught off guard. K and M, you know the man of peace and his wife. Can you come? Yes, okay, I'll be there.

Part 2 to be continued...

Monday, October 1, 2012

On Community in the Unexpected

Okay twenty-something year old, post under-grad, full-time employed, studying some more, waiting for husband/wife, trying to love Jesus more brothers and sisters—how do we do this whole community thing well? It's something I've really been battling lately.

Trying to migrate upwards, out of the late nights and nap-filled days of studying and living way too close, I find myself lost in a world that I spent so much time waiting for. Now I wonder why?

There is work confined to hours which start far too early and extend way past my own personal ability to remain still and alone under the freezing AC vent that looms over my head with this screen as my company, and yet I am growing up. There is the studying that lingers, the studying to finish my degree that seems to fall about the 25th hour. Then there is a bit of sleep, not enough argues my adopted mamma who teaches me to value it. Those are the necessities.

I would argue, though, that even more then the salary and the degree and the shut eye—I need community. I need people. I need people who are messy and don't have all the answers but talk hope into my weariness. I need the body and the Bride and I need to hear the gospel lived out.

And in this awkward stage of life it is hard to know where it is, and yet it is everywhere.

We all need it more then we want to admit because hope in brokenness breathes life when we are one. 

Community is everywhere--and so I ask, where do you spend most of your time?

For me, my time is at work, at home, with my international friends, and in the church. In that order, too.

I never saw it coming and while I've been busy searching for it everywhere but here, it has found me and reeled me in. I have fought and unlatched only to get bound up and find myself in the midst of it, of this community of saints and sinners, brought together by a paycheck which bears the same name. It's funny how God just does that sometimes. Puts you with people you would see on the street and pass right by.

Some of us have more hurt then words will ever tell, breathing grace in and out. Others are so blinded and broken, suffocating without it. But here we are, a family God ordained for this season of time. Truthfully, it's not the customer or the big deals with Walmart or the craft competitions that bring me here everyday--its the people, its the community, its the body and my need for it, my role in it.

Community seems to be actually quite unpredictable, but on purpose.

I am thankful for that, that His ways are higher and that the Bride comes to life in the business world as much as she does underground. We get fifteen minutes a day to read some bible and pray together corporately and this time gives me eyes to see these people like the body that they are. It is a sword that pierces and we live because of it. It always reveals something, I learn too.

Community is inescapable. No matter how much you screwed up last night or how dark your morning--it knows when one is missing and seeks him out until he is found. Community is confrontation in love because it's outpouring of truth preveils past the sting of death and points us heavenbound.

Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. -Romans 12:9-10

When we ask for prayer requests, they are never lacking. Neither is the praise. We approach the throne, all in need of grace and mercy and wisdom. A cord of us unbroken, so much stronger then going at it alone. A voice echoing praise and thanksgiving, grief and pain, answers and a will to be done. Meanwhile the chorus amening in unison. Some days I don't feel like talking to Jesus and yet community is not about me, so I open my lips and He fills them with praise. I am so thankful.

Four of us ladies (and wives of co-workers), we gather at BSF every Tuesday night and during lunch we trudge through the homework. We are all in such different seasons of life, have such different stories and yet here we are...brought together by this company but only united by Christ.

We are serious most of the time, serving in the mundane and working for the glory of God. But I know that as we pass one another in the hall and smile, even there in that moment the light cannot be overcome. Let's walk to the bathroom, to the printer in prayer, we all need Him more and some of us have never met Him. Community is continually interceding and not about me.

Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. -Phil. 2:4

At work community happens outside of the office too. It means birthdays celebrated every month as we gather around our table and bow our heads to give thanks for the one we celebrate this day. It means a trip to KC to watch the Chiefs lose in celebration of our five years of existence as a business, as a family. It happens in the Razorback games and sweet summer nights around my boss's pool as the kiddos splash and joy lingers well into the night. It is the babies we bless with gifts and prayers, the child in India in need of a new hip. We give sacrificially and we trust God with our giving. Maybe the boy will walk again. Community.

It helps us all remember to press on sometimes.

I see it in the lunches with his wife as we talk real life and I am encouraged in my youth. It is there as kids come by and call the co-workers aunt and uncle because that's our family. We watch each other's dogs and we don't like cats much. Our company is growing from it's meager start, and so we rejoice. We pray for meetings and we try to get ahead of the trends. We pray for his daughter to return home and for my friend who lost a baby and for sickness and jobs lost and international students. We walk through it together and we know the behind the smile.

Community is everywhere and I am beginning to see it, in all of it's unstructured, unpredictable, unrelenting glory.

Tonight as I write six little ones are asleep in this house and I get the joy & responsibility of watching them for the weekend while their mamma and daddy are in Haiti. They are my boss's kids and we go to the park and I watch little boy football games and we stay up late watching movies and eat cookie dough straight from the tube and this too, is community.

I love these kids and I am so thankful for this because it is changing me and refining me and calling me out and talking hope and life and I know love here.

Community serves as a shepard for the lonesome and a tomb unblocked for the dead. Community points us to life in Christ, for He is the perfect Shepard, the risen King.

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." -John 13:34-35

Thankful for Amber—no one writes quite like her. Check her out over here and her series on Community over here. 

and a few pix from the weekend....
Samantha and I watching lil man play football

This is how you take 15 kids to the park...on a rope

Yes, 15 of them!!

As we walked to the park, they were singing songs and all the old people at
the nursing home came out to watch us walk hilarious.

Cookie dough inside a cupcake...yum.