this one time at band camp…

ryan and me

Those of you who had the awesome privilege of being a 90’s teen totally get the “this one time at band camp” reference. It’s from a highly inappropriate movie…funny…but very inappropriate…totally wouldn’t recommend it. But it makes me laugh, and thankfully my this one time at band camp looks a little different…

So…this one time at band camp…I totally shed some proud happy tears over how amazingly polished and handsome my Ryan looked and acted. He’s just flat out awesomeness. It’s hard for me to express the feelings I have when I see him do something that seems simple for other kids – going to camp, getting dressed up, and performing at a concert – but for Ryan, it’s a big deal. At times life is tough for him. He thinks different, processes slowly, has next to zero working memory, and his impulse control is pretty much non-existent. But times like this, he pushes past all of it and blows my expectations out of the water.

Now before you go thinking, she has the perfect special needs kid, I want to fully and completely assure you that I do not. I cannot even begin to explain the things we have experienced with Ryan over the past year, and especially the past few weeks. Things that disturb, worry, and totally freak me out. Big scary things.

And it turns out, the gap between my fear and my faith is much smaller than I first thought. I have been very very afraid.

But here is what I am learning…

Blind faith can be damaging. I’m talking the stick your head in the sand, stick your fingers in your ears and yell na-na-na-na-na, basically avoid the reality of what is going on kind of mentality. I think well meaning people do this because they know God truly is all we need. And they are right. But He also didn’t make us stupid. We have to balance out blind faith with a little healthy “fear”.

I put fear in quotes, because I’m not certain it’s the right word. Maybe it’s more like healthy concern. There are situations we must do our homework and everything we can practically to manage risks and outcomes.

And I’ll be the first to admit, there are times I have used my “faith” as an excuse to ignore things I didn’t want to accept. I chose not to look at them, telling myself God would take care of them, when in fact God really needed me to take some healthy initiative. But here’s the thing…avoidance and laziness is not faith. Faith is active. It is moving. The Bible even says faith without works is dead. We have to combine our faith with cognizant, decisive, wise God fearing action.

So this one time at band camp…God showed me that because I have taken some difficult but active steps with Ryan… because I have pushed him to do things he thought he couldn’t do – he experienced huge success even amidst difficult circumstances. And because God gives me faith – I will choose to continue in action, believing that the outcome can be far greater than what my psych textbook or an article on the internet might say.

So hear me friend who is wondering how in the world God can redeem this mess…

Lean heavy into your faith. God is far more powerful than any action you could take. But don’t let faith be an excuse or reason not to fight, especially when it comes to your kids. Sometimes you need to put up your dukes and say not here not now…this crap doesn’t get to win. Sometimes your kids need help balling up their own fist and showing their circumstances who’s boss. Sometimes you need to see a doctor, a psychologist, a therapist, a pastor, or a whoever to help you figure out positive action steps to take. And all the time, you must take the most important action/battle stance of all…for you and for your kids…and that is down before the throne on your knees.

fear seemed rational, but she chose faith…

IMG_20150711_064532Sometimes it seems more rational to have fear than faith. The statistics look grim. Everything you read points towards destruction. And you know Jesus defies the odds. But what will He choose to do? Allow suffering? Or whip up a miracle and alleviate the pain?

We just don’t know. And not knowing is hard. We are thirsty for answers. Hankering for a release. But there is one thing we are not…we are not afraid.

Because even if the very worst of scenarios comes to pass…God will still be God.

We might hate it. We might not understand. We might grieve it something fierce. But God will still be God.

He still sits on the throne.

He still loves you.

He still loves your family.

And because of love you do not have to be afraid.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. Psalm 20:7-8

Trust Jesus in this place. Because it’s a slippery slope and the only way to gain sure footing is by digging tired heels down into the sovereignty of His decisions and grace.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

Worry will not serve us well. It only drains the energy necessary to stand up and fight.

To come through this successfully, the measure of success might need to change. It might not look like the outcome we want or expect. Life might take a turn we never saw coming. We can be blindsided so quickly and easily.

Success must and can only be choosing to know His love did not, has not, and will not change. His love is the only sustaining water – the only perfect outcome.

Faith in this place might be irrational. It might look strange. But it’s the one horse we can saddle up to and ride until the end of the road. Others might fear, but we have God on our side. We will not tread lightly or shrink back and hide. Moment by moment, we will not be afraid.

 

Putting down the perfect stick…

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On summer mornings, I like to sit outside and drink my coffee. It’s relaxing, plus there is so much entertainment. I love to people watch. There is this one dude that walks by everyday with a gigantic stick – more like a tree limb. He carries it around I suppose to beat off a dog or something. This morning as he walked by I thought, wow, that seems like an awful lot to lug around – but I suppose it helps him feel secure. And then God beat me over the head with his own walking stick, and said – EXACTLY!

I may not carry a stick literally, but I do seem to carry an imaginary one. It’s not for dogs, but more for things that threaten the perfect life I seem to want so desperately. If my kids mess up, I want to whack them with the stick and say, get it together! If I mess up, I beat myself relentlessly with the stick – saying you should have known better! And if anyone else messes up, I take away their stick and beat myself with it telling myself it was probably my fault that they messed up and I should save them from their shame.

It’s a lot to carry. And it get’s heavier the longer I carry it. I wonder what would happen if I just chose to put the stick down and enjoy my walk? I’m honestly not certain what is going to happen, because I just set it down today. And I am tempted to pick it back up – and know I will be tempted so many times in so many ways over the next few days, weeks, months, and years. But I really want to put it down.

Maybe you struggle with this too. Maybe it’s just me. Either way, God showed me something this morning that I hope will provide some guidance for this process. It’s Psalm 64:10 and it says this, The righteous will rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him; all the upright in heart will glory in him!” 

If we look at the entirety of Psalm 64, David begins by talking about those who are verbally attacking him. They are slandering His name and calling him everything but the dude he wants to be known as. And isn’t that why I carry my stick? I want to beat off any chance of anyone thinking or saying anything bad about me. If I just present myself – and make everyone around me present themselves – as perfect, well what bad thing could they possibly think or say? Then my internal security will never be threatened because my life will finally be perfect.

Problem is, I can’t be perfect. I can’t beat myself into perfection, and I can’t beat others into it either. And honestly I don’t want to. I just want to feel secure, and for so long this is where I have based my security. But Psalm 64:10 gives us another way to find our security. Even when others threaten us and say horrible things!

Instead of beating myself or others with the perfect stick I can:

1. Rejoice in the Lord – I can choose to enjoy the present moment for what it is and praise God that I am alive! I can enjoy my life right here, right now. I don’t have to wait for it to be perfect, because if I do I am going to be waiting until the day I die. I wonder how much of our lives we miss out on because we are waiting for it to get better? What would happen if we chose to enjoy the fullness of the here and now?

2. Take refuge in Him – Life is going to hurt. There is going to be pain. We live in a fallen world full of broken, hurting, fallen people. Crap happens and people say and do crappy things. We cannot take refuge in our circumstances or in other people because circumstances and people will change. However, God never changes. His Word tells us that He never changes. His love is unconditional. Even when we royally jack up everything and everyone around us, He still loves us the same. His love never fails. I wonder what would happen if we choose to actually let ourselves rest in Him and His unchanging love?

3. Glory in Him – Sometimes I walk around with my head hung low, ashamed and disappointed of my mistakes. I think I should have done better, been better, be better. But Jesus doesn’t see me that way. He sees me healed. He sees me whole. He sees me in the fullness of His glory, which He has given me. I can walk in it if I choose to, or I can continue to walk in shame. However, these walks will lead to very different outcomes. If I walk in shame, I rob myself of life and rob others of His presence. However, when I Glory in God I allow myself grace to make mistakes and then learn from them. I wonder what would happen if I choose to see myself as He sees me?

The stick is an awful lot to carry. Some of you even sleep with it. I do. I sometimes even beat myself and others in my sleep and then wake up sore and hurting.

I know it may feel like like it’s super glued to your hand, but we are going to have to scrape off that glue and set it down…and set it down…and set it down…as many times as it takes. Because it’s not worth carrying. Number one, perfection is impossible, number two, it’s way overrated. Seeking perfection is seeking security that we will never ever find. Instead, let’s base our security in Him and pick up the power of His grace and love. His yoke is easy and His burden is light, and that’s a load worth carrying.

where your wild things are…

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Let me just go ahead and assure you, satan attacks where your wild things are. You, your husband, your children, your friends, perfect strangers – none are exempt. Your enemy knows where they are. The good news? So does your Jesus.

I’ve personally witnessed more attack on my family in the past year than in my entire lifetime. And it hasn’t let up yet. A few weeks ago I considered us fairly safe. I thought the storm had passed. Then it came again with a vengance – for all of us.

And then I saw it come for another.

It happened while we were swimming. A leisurely day at the pool. My husband took a nap in the chair while I chatted with friends and watched the kids. It was great…until satan showed his ugly self – trying to permanently rip the life rug out from under a sweet family.

A kid went under. A little kid. And for a long time. He was unconscious. My husband, being an EMT, immediately woke and rushed to the scene. He opened the kid’s airway while others performed CPR.

Keep in mind, as a policeman and fireman, my hubs has seen a lot of death. He’s even worked a child that ultimately died of drowning. He knows the eyes of death.

Countless individuals around the pool prayed as the scene unfolded. The kid started breathing and my husband walked away when emergency medical staff arrived. We walked away in shocked silence.

And then we drove home.

Having recently reviewed a training on secondary trauma, I was worried how this might affect him. His prior experience where the child died was very hard. He blamed himself. I was fearful how satan might use this to attack his wild things.

But Jesus knows my husband’s wild things too.

And this is what he said, “Stephanie I’ve never seen anything like it. God breathed life back into that little boy. He was dead. His eyes were fixed. And then the breath of life saved him. God brought him back to life. This has changed me.”

Bad things happen. They just do. Although this story had a happy ending, they don’t always. Satan finds the most wounded hurting places in our mind and hammers them. Hammers them hard.

But Jesus is greater.

If the story wraps up with a big red bow, or if it doesn’t – Jesus still wins. He knows your wild places.

He heals the hurt and bandages the wounds, even when the life is sucked out and grace seems impossible.

He provides more than satan could ever take and won’t ever abandon us to our hurting, wild, aching places. He stands there with us. He’s our defence. Even when it looks like satan has won, he hasn’t.

God pours out the floodgates of heaven upon us. The wild places are tamed in Him. Even if they must be tamed again and again. His presence is, has been, and will always be – more than enough.

Adoption, the inevitable loss, but the ultimate gain…

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For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. Ephesians 1:4-5 NIV

He was chosen for adoption. And it was fantastic. A different life full of stability and things he wouldn’t have been offered otherwise. In this place, opportunities exist in abundance. But he couldn’t help but wonder what could have been…

How might it have been if his parents made better choices? What would it have been like if they hadn’t been hurt and wounded and thus chose to hurt and wound him? What are they feeling? What are they thinking? Do they wonder about him? Do they care about who he is and who he is becoming? Would they be proud of him? So many questions remain and will remain unanswered.

It’s not much different for us. You may not have been adopted as a child. You may have been raised in a wonderful family and have excellent relationships with your parents. But if you have a relationship with Christ, you are adopted as a son or daughter of the King.

And there are days this is excellent. Days we bask in the freedom His blood afforded us. Days we are filled with praise and hallelujahs. Opportunities exist for us because of the sacrifice He made. And yet there are days we mourn the loss of an identity we had before. And we wonder – what might it have been like if we kept walking the path we were before?

We look at our previous life and maybe we miss some of the relationships we had. Relationships we chose to step away from because they were unhealthy and led into sin patterns that caused hurt and pain. Maybe we miss the addiction or the habits that used to help us escape. We walked away from them but aren’t certain what to do with our feelings now. We look back at so many things that we have lost. Good losses, necessary losses, we recognize that, but loss none the less.

And we know we have made the better choice. We know Jesus is the right thing, but there are days our past calls weather we want it to or not. Days our flesh cries out to us and tries to scream louder than the Word of God. Days we have to lean heavily on Biblical community to help us make decisions as a part of this new family we have been adopted into.

And maybe you don’t miss relationships or sin patterns, but maybe it’s your thought patterns. We know some of them are unhealthy. We recognize that we need to leave them behind as part of our new identity in Christ. But even though we hate them, there is a part of us that just can’t seem to part with them. They are comfortable, familiar, and we truly struggle to let them go.

I will tell you the same things I would tell a child who is adopted into an new family. There are some amazing wonderful qualities that you got from your parents. Just because they made unhealthy decisions does not mean they were not valuable people in some way, shape, or form. You have their genetics and you got some good things from them. Be it your ability to love, care, your passion, or maybe even the ability to perform an art or skill. The beautiful parts of your parents live inside of you.

And I tell you this as an adopted daughter or son of the King as well. There are some amazing wonderful qualities God has implanted in your flesh. You were born with them. Born into sin with them. They are a part of your genetics. Again, maybe you have a personality that is deeply caring and loving, or maybe you have excellent physical or mental traits that lead you to excelling at certain crafts or arts. But because it was not healthy for you to remain in a life of death – a life harnessed to sin – God afforded you the choice to become part of a new family. His family. A family where these things you were born with still very much exist, but now you must choose to harness them in a different way.

Just as a child from a family who mistreated him must harness his passion and zeal for life in a way that is healthier than the ways of his parents, you must harness what God has given you in ways that glorify Him. Not because He forces that upon you, but because He wants you to live in the fullness of the adoption gift you have been offered.

So grieve and mourn for your past. It’s okay to hurt. But don’t stay there too long. Because you have been adopted into something new, fresh, and beautiful. It doesn’t mean you leave the good things that were already inside of you behind. It just means you learn to harness them in a different way.

You are a new creation in Christ. Own it. You are adopted into a family of power, kindness, love, and self-disicpline. You have a new room filled with blessed gifts from the Holy Spirit. He has planned for you, and even though it has been a tough journey and some things must be left behind, He is so glad you are here. That you have chosen this place with Him to be your home.This place is where you belong. It’s who you are. Your true identity lives and breathes inside of Christ. 

 

Saved soul…you dwell set free…

IMG_20150703_143853The freedom to be found in Christ is precious to me. Priceless.

Because I could be found in so many places…

Cowering under a rock of sadness. Stuck in sin patterns. Tied up to the restrictive walls of shame. Pressed down hard under my circumstances.

But I am found in none of these places.

If you look there, you will not find me. The only place you will find me is hidden in the transformative joy and restoration of Christ. This is where I reside. This is my dwelling.

And because I am found here, this is the place I choose to park my thoughts. In joy rather than despair. Relentless celebration of what He is doing even in moments that lend themselves to desperation. I can park here because I know He is weaving this tightly into the fiber of my redemption story. And the end of the story does not change. In Him I get to win…period.

Therefore, nothing is wasted. Nothing.

Everlasting to everlasting are His ways. It’s all redemption. Everything in my life, everything in yours, it’s all redemption.

Don’t look for me in despair. I will not be found there. When my thoughts try to park there, they are quickly backed up by a conscious celebration of the good He has done and continues to do.

What about you? Where are you parking?

You can and must abide in the freedom He has for you.

Spend your time, your thoughts, your energy dwelling in this place. Instead of going through all the bullet points of worry from your day, spend your time making bullet points of joy! What is He doing that is amazing?

Nothing is beyond His repair and nothing is beyond His reach. He works all things for good. This is where you park your mind. There is freedom in this place. This is where we will find you. This is where you are free.

You could be found in so many places. This day and every day, make it your choice to be found hidden deeply in the joy of Christ, far above your circumstances. Free, because He has saved your soul.

if God is good, does His nature change when our situation is bad…

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If God is good, does His nature change when our situation is bad?

The church lady answer is an emphatic, “Of course He is always good, even when life is tough!”

But if we get honest with ourselves, I think we would all admit when a crapstorm sets up shop over our home…we begin to wonder…

Is He really good? Does He really listen? Does He really care? And if He does care, why doesn’t He help me out a little…

James 1:17 says this, “Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven’s lights. Unlike them, He never changes or casts shifting shadows.”

If God does not change and goodness and love are His nature…if we believe this…then there’s an inevitable tension. Do we lean into the promises and constancy of God’s Word, or allow ourselves to be swept away by emotion?

And it’s not an easy decision to make. I can’t tell you how many times I want to swim away from emotional currents and move into the smoother waters of His Word – but I just can’t seem to get it done.

Pain swirls about me and shreaks, “this hurts and I just can’t stand it.” Anger swells because it seems unfair. Anxiety reminds me of all the things that have gone wrong and could continue to go wrong. And sadness presses hard against my face, sucking away my smile and replacing it with deep, heavy, pain filled tears. It’s very very overwhelming, and there is only one way out – choosing to believe that God is in fact who He says who He is and that He loves you as much as He says He does.

So is God still good when life looks really really bad? My answer is yes. Not because I grew up hearing it in church. But because I choose to believe it truly is His nature. He is love. He cannot stop loving His beloved. He does not change, and He is our one and only constant.

Our circumstances, and all the pain surrounding them, must surrender themselves to His perfect love and unchanging nature. We may not understand. Life may not make sense and there will be times it just seems flat unfair. But it doesn’t change who He is, and who He is is the only constant we will ever have. He will never let us down, and when life is painful we always have the option to swell deeper into His love.