Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day – 2015.

Today, September 9th, is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FASD) Awareness Day.  FASD Awareness Day takes place around the world with communities traditionally pausing at 9.09am, the 9th minute of the 9th hour of the 9th day of the 9th month of the year, representing the nine months of pregnancy.  I’m feeling like this isn’t happening in enough communities, so I’m turning on a bright light in my corner of the world.

What is FASD?  I’ll let the CDC explain.

Different terms are used to describe FASDs, depending on the type of symptoms.

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS): FAS represents the most involved end of the FASD spectrum. Fetal death is the most extreme outcome from drinking alcohol during pregnancy. People with FAS might have abnormal facial features, growth problems, and central nervous system (CNS) problems. People with FAS can have problems with learning, memory, attention span, communication, vision, or hearing. They might have a mix of these problems. People with FAS often have a hard time in school and trouble getting along with others.
  • Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND): People with ARND might have intellectual disabilities and problems with behavior and learning. They might do poorly in school and have difficulties with math, memory, attention, judgment, and poor impulse control.
  • Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD): People with ARBD might have problems with the heart, kidneys, or bones or with hearing. They might have a mix of these.

FASD became deeply personal the day our family received the phone call that a precious, 6-week old baby girl needed placement.  The next day, the “bonus baby”, our Emma Rose arrived, and so did our new way of life.  It would take at least 3 blog posts for me to explain the details of our life, especially the first few years.  Suffice it to say, we were blessed with just about every Early On service available and multiple physicians from multiple specialties.  My words of  “I will never take a fetal alcohol baby.   I will never take a Crack baby” became, “She’s a fighter.  She will overcome.  We will do whatever it takes.”  Here is the humbling thing:

God has a way of turning our “nevers” into “forevers”.

It’s then about our embracing and celebrating them instead of resenting them.  Oh, the blessings we would miss if we had it our way!  One look into those endless eyes, one diaper change, one feeding, one night in our crib, one snuggle and there it was….she was ours!

I wish I had kept a journal of all the people who were instrumental in her early years so she could read the stories of love poured into her and prayers poured over her.   Countless stories of our oldest daughter always being the second mom and being my backup caregiver.  Our oldest son swaddling her tight and rocking like a mad man while he watched Monster Garage until she could finally relax to sleep.  My Mom weeping over her, holding her stiff little body while she screamed in pain while Mom prayed for her healing.  My husband and I never feeling more in God’s will than when bonding with, loving, and nurturing our wounded baby.  Our neighbors loving her always with unconditional love and acceptance even when finding  this child, unannounced, in their house.  (She was an escape artist in spite of alarms on doors!)

So, today, on FASD Awareness Day 2015, I honor my very brave and strong survivor daughter by exposing a piece of our family’s fabric that sometimes looks pretty tattered and worn.   We aren’t always good at the challenges FASD offers but today, I honor her by being a voice.

Some who live with FASD were basically “pickled” throughout their prenatal period by alcoholic moms, and in the past we have focused on those easier to diagnosis, well-documented cases.  Now, we must be proactive in our education of women.  We know so much more!  NO time is a safe time to drink.  A college student’s ONE-TIME weekend of binge drinking  can result in a child with FASD.  Physicians used to look at kids with certain facial characteristics and make an FASD diagnosis based on whether or not those were present.  Now, we know that those facial characteristics are found in a very small portion of kids who still have FASD.  The damage to the brain in the quickly dividing cells of an infant happens at all stages of pregnancy, and oftentimes, Momma doesn’t know she’s pregnant when she partakes.  Alcohol, the great toxin:

Of all the substances of abuse (including cocaine, heroin, and marijuana), alcohol produces by far
the most serious neurobehavioral effects in the fetus.”
—Institute of Medicine Report to Congress, 1996
Consider this too:
Alcohol can trigger cell death in a number of ways,
causing different parts of the fetus to develop abnormally.
 
Alcohol can disrupt the way nerve cells develop, travel
to form different parts of the brain, and function.
 
By constricting the blood vessels, alcohol interferes with
blood flow in the placenta, which hinders the delivery
of nutrients and oxygen to the fetus.
 
Toxic byproducts of alcohol metabolism may become
concentrated in the brain and contribute to the
development of an FASD.
– FASD Center for Excellence.
Fellow moms, please have these conversations with your teens.  You don’t have to have the big, scary sex talk to educate them on the dangers of alcohol while pregnant.  Your future grandchild will thank you.  That’s a sobering thought, right?   I’m pretty sure most of us are completely unaware of the devastating impact even a small amount of alcohol has on a developing brain.  Below is a link for more information:

http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/documents/fasd_english.pdf

So, what to do if you’re pregnant and have consumed alcohol?  Be honest.  Tell your OB/GYN and then tell your baby’s pediatrician after his/her birth.  If you are making an adoption plan for your baby, tell your caseworker.  It is imperative that they document the information.  Here’s why…..getting a diagnosis of FASD is incredibly time consuming and difficult without Mom’s honest admission of alcohol use.  Children go years without the proper treatment and worse off, the proper education, discipline, and care.   Love your baby unconditionally by making that a well-documented part of his or her medical chart so that if problems do arise in the future, your baby will have the benefit of a quicker diagnosis and hence, appropriate services.

So, on this FASD Awareness Day, I wanted to educate in general and be a voice for individuals and families with FASD, and  I wanted to be a cautionary voice to women.  If you are struggling with FASD yourself,  I want to leave you with God’s voice straight from HIS heart to your’s, to our Emma’s heart,  to every man, woman, teen, and child who was traumatized by alcohol or other substances before birth.  God has a love letter for you!  Read Psalm 139.  Below is my very loose paraphrase from verses 13-16.

I created your inmost being; I know exactly how your mind works even when others don’t.  I know your heart.

I knit you together in your mother’s womb: I planned you even if she didn’t.

Praise me because I fearfully and wonderfully made you and I don’t make mistakes: You are an exquisite masterpiece.  I adore you.

You weren’t hidden from me as the toxins took their toll.  I knew this was happening:  Trust me enough to be okay with not understanding the whys.

I saw the consequences of her choices:  Know that I cried.  Hating her will destroy you.  Choose forgiveness.

From the beginning of time, I have had big, amazing plans for you regardless of your beginnings. Rely on me, hold my hand.  I’ll walk you into the future.

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Wrapping Mercy House in The Mom Quilt of love

I will wash clothes today, flush toilets, shower, and let the water run while I brush my teeth without even thinking.  I’ll drink fresh, cold water from my own kitchen faucet whenever I want.  I am so privileged.

What do we do with that?  What do we do with the knowledge that there is nothing that separates us from our brothers and sisters in third world countries?  That it could just as easily be my child, my grandchild who needs precious water.  And what about the message of Christ?  The Lord placed me in a home where I was taught the gospel message from day one.  Do I fully comprehend that gift?    What do we do with that?  Why, oh sovereign Lord, do we have this life of luxury?  I don’t know.

 What  I do know, is that the resources I have, be it finances, time, spiritual gifts, etc., better be held out in my open hands for God to use.

The Mom Quilt is that.  It is a book of 60 stories of motherhood extracted from our hearts and held out in our open hands, being used as a fundraiser for Mercy House in Kenya.  It is from Mommas, to mommas, for mommas.  It is an offering.

One of the stories is mine, but the real story is much bigger than the 60 of us.  It’s the story of how God will use this group of women to help provide a ministry with life-giving water.  Physical needs met, spiritual needs met. That is immeasurable and the far-reaching results will not be seen on this side of heaven.  The real story will unfold, not just with the drilling of this well, but with the unseen hand of God moving in lives across an ocean.

Below is today’s blog from The Mercy House regarding The Mom Quilt.  Please join me in being the hands and feet of God as we fund this well.  You will find all the information there needed to assist us in digging this well, one book at a time.  At this time, it is a e-book so that 100% of proceeds can go to Mercy House.

Double click on the picture for more information

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http://mercyhousekenya.org/node/621
Please join me in being the hands and feet of God as we fund this well.   At this time, it is a e-book so that 100% of proceeds can go to Mercy House.    Please feel to contact me with any questions, and I also suggest taking the time to watch the video on Mercy House, especially in regards to Fair Trade Friday!
While the cost of the book is $9.99, you are welcome to pay over that, it still all goes to Mercy House’s well project.

buy now
https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?c=cart&i=1445034&cl=298991&ejc=2
 

Validation versus Valuation

I saw her on social media.  She was beautiful.  Young, fresh faced, and glowing.  She had a cowgirl hat on and a cute plaid shirt but was pulling her shirt open to one side to expose a lacy, blue bra.  A blatant tease for any male that happened upon it.  A begging for attention albeit only the sexual kind.  She was very validated by men and women alike with comments and “likes”, but all I could see was the longing for someone to value her for what lies beneath the beauty.

It looks  different for us older women, but I fear it is much the same.  Our audience changes and most probably our activities, but the desire for validation remains.

Any of us who spend any time on social media or television see it all the time.  We read it all the time.  As a woman and mother to daughters and granddaughters, I have this urge to scream at the screen…..”you’ve got it all wrong!  We’ve got it all wrong!”
I could expound on the evils of social media, television, advertising, the movie industry, objectification of women, the music industry, the porn industry, etc. all of which feed female insecurity about our bodies, our choices, our style, our individuality, our interests, but I won’t.   That’s all been hashed out hundreds of times.   I don’t want to distract you from the issue at hand:

Validation is not the same as Valuation.

We are allowing Satan, the Father of Lies to confuse us.  He wants you to search for validation from the world, from people.  He wants you to believe your worth is tied to being validated in the here and now by those around you.   He wants to make you forget your true valuation is found in Christ alone.  You can be validated by words of affirmation or the click of a “like” on your Facebook page but you will never be valued by other humans like Abba values you.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

Having others find your words and actions valid is not what your soul desires.  Validation from others will never quench that thirst.  Your soul cries for the deep, undefinable value that comes as a grace gift from God.  Can you accept it?

We live in this global world where lives are on display more than ever before.

The average Josie can plaster herself all over the world-wide web with a quick selfie and a click of the post button.  She begs for valuation but only gets validation that yes, she is beautiful with all kinds of emojis to go along.  God does not value outward beauty.  He values your eternal,  inside self.   The part of you he wants in eternity with Him.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  Proverbs 31:30

The average Josie can blog…average self included.  Why all the bloggers out there?  Why thousands of opinions on how to stop a 2-year-old temper tantrum or successfully raise a teenager….Well, we are quite possibly looking for validation from the masses that we do, indeed, have great wisdom and skill.  It is possible God does not value our faulty wisdom, especially that which he has not imparted.  He values our minds and desires that we seek to find Him in every portion of our day, Him!!

The average Josie can share her successes, and those of her kids with all her devoted friends who will in turn be awed and amazed at the stealthy way she navigates the challenges of daily life while they salivate over the delicious meals she serves her family (insert Instagram) while their family eats yet another cardboard pizza.  She is validated by the likes and comments.  God does not value your meatloaf and get this….probably not even your child’s math grade.  He values you!  He values your heart!  He values your child’s heart!  How sadly we unknowingly teach our children to seek validation for works and effort instead of teaching them how very precious they are to Abba both in failure and success.  Visit Mary and Martha in Luke 10.

C’mon ladies.  Be honest.  It feels good to have validation.  I’m guilty as charged!

I’m not saying you need to dump social media, and I am not saying you dump personal responsibility because God values you in any state.   I’m saying you need to know what matters.  I’m saying you need to know WHO matters.  The lover of your soul, that’s who.

Let’s break it down.

Validation is to recognize, establish, or illustrate the worthiness or legitimacy of *you*.  Merriam Webster until the *you*.

Validation is something we seek to obtain from other human beings.  It is self serving.  It feeds our hunger to succeed. It is usually self contained and doesn’t place God in his rightful position.  The need for validation increases as we lose sight of our valuation.

Valuation, on the other hand, is how much something is worth, and the estimator who holds the precious object in His hands determines that worth.  You are so highly valued by God that he paid for you with the life and blood of his only son, Jesus Christ.

For God so loved the world (You) that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16.

  We freely speak it, but do we believe it?

When we let God’s valuation of us start to sink into the cracks of our public facade, it is God honoring.  It is at that moment when His radiance shines through us and our actions. More of Him and oh, so much less of us.  It is at that moment when our value in Christ Jesus is apparent for our families, our friends, and the world to see.  What great hope for all the wounded and empty women in our upside down world.

Take a moment to ask yourself where you are looking for validation.   Are you chasing it down as some kind of idol?  Now, consider who you are as a daughter of the King who formed every cell in your body by divine design.   Is there anyone you can imagine valuing so much that you would hand your child over for sacrifice to save that person?  No, but you are!  God values you that much.  If we were to start living out this knowledge, what would our homes, families, marriages, churches, jobs, etc. look like?

FOR THE MARRIED ONES:  A reminder…

Far too often, I look to my husband to be the one to value me the way only a Holy and Perfect Abba can.  Women, we need to take that pressure off our men.  They are but mere humans just like us.  We set them up for failure and set ourselves up for a stream of resentment when we look for them to fill the role of God.  I look at my own marriage and must ask myself, “what emotional energy do I require my husband to expend trying to prove I am valuable as Jesus holds his hands out to me with my pricetag still showing on his flesh”?

When God says No

What is your no?

Maybe a dream job?  A relationship?  A desired goal?  Maybe it’s that negative pregnancy test.  Maybe it’s the confirmation of disease  delivered in the hard words on a pathology report or bottom line of the MRI?   The slow shake of a doctor’s head?

No is never easy.  No angers us.  No disappoints us.  No devastates us.

Sometimes the reason for the No will show itself in time, and we are blessed by the insight and wisdom we gain through being able to capture the whole process in our minds.  We can see exactly why God said no and we are all about praising Him for working it out on our behalf.  Much of the time; however, the bigger plan for the greater good is cloaked and in this life, goes unrevealed.   Unrevealed because the beauty in the No would be lost on us.  It’s infinite, extraordinary, eternal and we are finite, ordinary, and so temporal.   Yes, it would be lost on us.

I would be amiss to not address what I will call the Consequential No.  We are sinful, “stiff-necked” people. We come from the original “don’t tell me no” folks.  Some of the No’s we get are a direct result of our poor choices and/or the sin of others. While God wants to lavish us with all things amazing, we continue to exercise our free will and that gets in the way.  Natural consequences in this natural world result in a hard, cold No!

This is not heaven and there will be injustice and heartache and plenty of No.  This is just our temporary home.

It’s the No that comes after prayer, seeking, searching….. The No that comes after we have been obedient to resign our desire to God’s will.  That’s the No that we mourn over.  The one we long to find understanding in.  We think if we can just find God’s reason, it will somehow be an easier pill to swallow.  That is the No we have to resolve before it dissolves our spiritual and emotional well-being.  So what do we do with this heavy-weighted No?

First, know this:

You’re not at war with No, you are at war with Acceptance.

Secondly:

The burden isn’t on God to provide you with detailed, palatable explanations. The burden is on you to eventually, after appropriately grieving the No, acquiesce.  Please hear my heart – There is a time for grief, for honest conversations with the Lord,  for torrents of tears, even for anger, but only a time.  Eventually, living in that state will destroy you.  

We have some options.  We can throw ourselves on the ground kicking and hitting like a 2 year old.  We can scream until our voices fail.  We can even bang our heads on the floor, but none of that changes the No.  What it does do is further hurt us and drag those in close proximity into the scalding heat of our rage.    After the ashes from the volcanic eruption settle, No is still No.

We can beg God.  Moses did.  He got one of those consequential No’s.  A devastating blow.  In an incident during his 40 years of leading the whiny, stubborn, demanding Israelites through war after war, hardship after hardship,  He disobeyed God, bringing glory to himself instead of the Almighty.  God right then and there said No seeing the Promised Land for you and your brother.  Nope.  The time came when Moses begged God to change his mind.  “That is enough,” the Lord said. “Do not speak to my any more about this matter”.  (Deuteronomy 3:26)  No was still No.  Moses died only seeing the Promised Land from a mountain top miles and miles away.

We can run from God.  Jonah did.  He ended up in the belly of a whale before doing exactly what God had asked him to do in the first place.  In his case, Go was still Go.  Jonah’s No was an answer to the old do I have a choice question.

We can test God.  Gideon did.  If you are really going to do what you say you will Lord, I need a sign, and then another.   We can do that.  Intellectually, we can find every reason why blind trust is for the stupid when really, a simple mind is exactly what we need. Choose trusting not testing.

We can imitate our Lord.  Knowing all that was bearing down upon him, Jesus went into prayer.  Let his words settle into the corners of your mind and the hurting parts of your heart…”My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”……. “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  (Matthew 26:38,39).  No begging for a different outcome.  No running away from his purpose.  No testing the trustworthiness of the Father’s plan.  Acceptance.

Acceptance is your burden, not the answer No.  Pick it up, carry it, embrace it.  Offer it to others.  Show them how to do the same.

Acceptance must be invited.  It is the beginning of God being glorified through your No.

Acceptance is letting go of control, even when there are no answers.

Acceptance is an offering of praise.  When I am at the end of my angst over the No, when I’m exhausted from the search for answers that cannot be found,  it is then I can rest in Him.  It is there where I find my peace.

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters,  I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through  the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  Isaiah43:1b, 2

Seven ways to minister from the sidlines – Staying active in ministry from home.

We all fight it.  The feeling of  uselessness.  The hollowness of helplessness.  The longing to live unhindered.  Depression quickly consumes hope and all our focus becomes inward.  We start to lose any other-minded thoughts we should act upon, and we can sink into despair. We have nothing to offer.

It is a lie. 

No one ever, ever loses their value or worth in ministering to others just because it looks different.  Nor, are you off the hook because it’s “atypical”.  We may adjust how we carry it out, but it’s just as important as corralling toddlers in the church nursery or running casseroles to the sick or grieving.  Grab your Bible and read Paul’s story.  I would venture to say the thorn in his side caused some “adjusting” of how he ministered.  God didn’t say he couldn’t use the weak and weary, the frail and fragile. If we believe otherwise, we are believing Satan’s lies.  Take a moment to ask the Lord for forgiveness for not trusting him to use you where you are in whatever shape you’re in.  Ask our Father God to show you the ways HE has in mind to use you.  I’m starting you off with seven ministry ideas.

1.  Pray.  The greatest help you can ever be to another human being is to approach the throne of God on their behalf.  I  cringed as the words tumbled out of my mouth, “I’ll be praying, I wish there was more I could do”.  How dare I, a mere human, think any of my efforts (i.e physical work) could equal or surpass that of carrying another’s burden to the Lord in prayer.  Don’t be fooled into believing a plate of cookies is more beneficial than the prayer of a sincere heart.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:6

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  James 5:15, 16

2.  Hand write a note of encouragement to someone.  A good old fashioned, penned letter that someone will find delightful  when sorting through the bills and junk we retrieve from our mail boxes.  Those notes are keepsakes, heirlooms.  Hand written encouragement has a way of turning up months and years later, often at times when we need it the most.

 I thank my God every time I remember you.

  Philippians1:3

3.  Choose one thing to be thankful for and start to praise God for it.  Obsess on it.  I promise it will lead to another praise and another.  Today, before the day is done, share it with your family or caregiver.  They will be BLESSED by your positivity.  It is impossible to be angry and downcast while praising the Lord!  Be contagious.

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings(I) and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

Psalm 150

4.  Get on your social media and be the bright spot to all your contacts.  Facebook, Twitter, whatever it may be gets pretty ugly.  I think the green-eyed monster lives there.  It’s where comparisons start and harsh words flow.  Grab your phone or computer and set out to bring The Light of the World to some of those dark posts.   Maybe it will be in the form of your favorite scripture, a recognition of your gratefulness for the friendships, or a picture of a kitten.  Seriously, who doesn’t get a smile out of a baby animal. If a thread has gone sour, be the person to stop the flow of poison.

 A cheerful heart is good medicine,
    but a crushed spirit dries up the bones

Proverbs 17:22

5.  Phone a friend.  Yup, old fashioned phone call. You are blessed with the time to listen. This form of ministry helps you to stay in that other-minded frame of mind as you must engage in their life story.  Don’t you sometimes get tired of people asking you how you are fully knowing they probably don’t really want to know, and they would need a medical degree to understand?  Here’s your chance to minister through authentic interest in another person’s life.  Ask, listen, engage.   Maybe there is an elderly relative you rarely see who lives far away or maybe there is an elderly shut in your church or neighborhood who knows the heavy grey of long and lonely days.  Break up their time with an unexpected treat of attention.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  James 1:27

6.  Minister to your family by putting your household in order.  Yes, it is ministry to those who help care for you when you organize the tasks you can no longer do.  Make a menu and the shopping list to go with it.  Organize it so your shopper can efficiently get through the store.  When chronic illness takes hold of our physical selves, we tend to allow ourselves to believe the lie that our usefulness and vitality have walked out the door with our health.  Do not fall into Satan’s trap to trick you into complacency or total dependency.  Put that brain to work and minister to your family by overseeing!

She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”

Proverbs 31:27-29

7.  Prepare yourself for more ministry by storing up God’s word in your heart.  Open up that Bible, friend!  Read!  Soak it in!  Suffering people are often drawn to other suffering people as we look for understanding. What a gift!  What a responsibility!   You will need to have scriptures ready to roll off your tongue or fingertips at a moment’s notice.  Hurting people need the hope we find in scriptures.  While our words are helpful, they are nothing in comparison to our Lord’s.

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path. 

Psalm 119:105

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Psalm 55:11

Pray and ponder how God might use you in ministry from home. Look for ways to become other-minded.  Because we are all uniquely created with individual gifts, I’m sure many of you will have awesome ministry ideas.  Join me by sharing your experiences and ideas in the comment section.

Emerging from the fog: Thoughts on deployment from a military mom.

This is the very the flag waving in the breeze atop the pole in our yard.  She defies all the rules about what shape “Old Glory” should be in.  She should be retired to our local VFW to be properly disposed of, but I can’t.  She will eventually come down and be replaced by the unweathered, but she has earned a special place in my heart.  I see me in this tattered fabric.  I identify with this version of Old Glory in ways I never thought possible.

Sending a child, no matter their age, to war is indescribably difficult.  There is something about the knowledge your child is placing themselves in harm’s way that undoes you.  All the threads I had carefully sewn and knotted tight since the beginning of his service began to unravel as my mind whipped from fear to fear.  So far away from his loved ones.  So much danger.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  Psalm 139:9

The pole is set too close to our house, and the winds whip her edges into the shingles on the roof.  She is frayed on the ends,  tattered.

I was set too close to war, and the winds of Afghanistan whipped my mother edges into hard reality, shredding them.  No amount of careful stitching up loose emotions had prepared me for actually living through a deployment.

We had raised her on the pole brand new,  not faded, intact, pole newly planted deep into the soil soon after he deployed. We proudly sent pictures of the process to Afghanistan.   We displayed her 24/7 with a solar light to present her even in darkness.  I was determined I would not let fear consume me while in reality, I was barely clinging to God’s promises.

Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Deuteronomy 31:6

She stayed there on that pole in all weather, through all seasons.  She hung as crimson leaves fell, as Christmas lights were hung, as birthdays were celebrated. Days and nights passed with a degree of forced normalcy.  She was sometimes wet and limp and frozen cold by the winds, but she was constant. 

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:23, 24

She stayed on that pole when we as military families were cautioned to “de-identify” ourselves in every way.  No bumper stickers, no social media, no markers on our homes, etc.  Old Glory just stayed there waving in the wind of uncertainty uncaring what unwanted attention her display could bring.  Oblivious was she, to the tears in her stripes.

She rippled over beautiful children who walked in and out that front door waiting for their daddy to return.  She rippled as his devoted wife hauled them to and from the car in subzero winds as she prayed for her man to make it home safe.  She flew over all my children in their comings and goings, and I fought my battle to not let the child who was at war become my entire emotional priority.   Even with the great knowledge that we were ALL in the Lord’s righteous right hand, I knew that there was no guarantee we would be reunited in this lifetime.  Faith and Trust do not purchase freedom from pain.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

She flew like any other flag in any other yard reminding me that I’m not given the option of steeping in my fear of the painful possibilities or listening to the evil one’s shouts, not even when my edges are fraying and I feel the weakening effects of the wear and tear.

We stay.  We endure.  We pray.  We push back at the fear.  We support them with abandon.  We stay planted deep in the soil of God’s Word because we know how feeble our fabric really is.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Ephesians 6:10

She’s pretty as she slowly waves against the blue sky and the green of the trees, but she is even more beautiful hanging limp and wet under the weight of wet.  Beautiful for still being there.  Beautiful for taking a rest.  Beautiful for being affected by the rain yet remaining a constant symbol.

We military families walk through dense fog as the stark ugliness of war rests on our hearts.  We hold our heads up and we walk step by decided step even when that fog threatens to blind us. We go about business as usual and determine we will not let the next however many months determine our peace.  THAT is not what the great I AM wants.  THAT is not what our soldier wants.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1

I’m emerging from the fog, slowly, tentatively because this momma will need to fly that tattered flag again.  I’m not the same. I don’t want to be.   There is beauty in the fray.

  

My Jealous God, My Zealous Response

The conversation started free and easy, but my spirit took a sharp turn as the words between us added up.  It was a texting session with my grown daughter and myself.  We were chatting about my grand babies when I brought up a recent incident where one of my wee ones was trying to figure out who this “Grandma” was who had visited.  Here’s the back story.

I was divorced.  It was ugly.  It was traumatic.   It was devastating.  It caused and continues to cause, 20 years later, toxic waste to sprinkle down on our everyday lives.  Nuclear family meltdowns change the relationship DNA of your family for generations.  But, the subject of divorce and its fall-out is for another blog.  God gifted me with a very special man who took broken me and the two little fractured lives I had in tow, and created a family.  My innocents became all to wise, all too young, as their father remarried and divorced multiple times.  One of those marriages did provide my children with a woman who was loving, generous and who cared well for them.  Hence, the Grandma I spoke of earlier.  Enough said.

Emotional upheaval or trauma of any kind is an open door.  You can choose to slam it in God’s face or you can choose to prop it open with your heavy baggage so the winds of chaos don’t blow it shut, take a seat and wait for God to reveal that very good gift he has for you.  Twenty years later, I got one of those gifts today.

We long to know our Lord intimately.  We want so badly to feel his presence in our lives.  We study to know His heart and His thoughts in hopes of understanding this deity who defies understanding!  Thankfully, Yahweh doesn’t mind inserting his thoughts into ours, causing us to do a spiritual 180.  Just when we want to run from him, he turns us back around in ways only possible by our loving Abba.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts

Isaiah 55: 8-9

I became jealous beyond the uncomfortable twinge, when I started to dwell on the fact that my grand considered this sweet lady to be  “Grandma”.    I became indignant.  I felt a solar flare of angry jealousy, for lack of better words.  That is MY child’s child!  I AM the mother…..THE grandmother!  Every thought became an adamant claim on my child and his offspring.  Memories of the years of  dealing with my children spending time with their other mothers, who were often in competition for affections, came flooding back and I was jealous.

Jealous means “apprehensive or vengeful out of fear of being replaced by someone else.” It can also mean “watchful, ” “anxiously suspicious, ” “zealous, ” or “expecting complete devotion.”  (Taken from the website Diffen)  Websters defines it as “ intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness“.

This morning, I experienced the “intolerant of rivalry AND the expecting complete devotion” jealousy.  Gone are the days when I am afraid of being replaced by another woman.  Time has proven that won’t happen.  However, I so acutely felt intolerance toward rivalry.   The beautiful thing is, as quickly as the human emotions rose like bile in my throat, I was overwhelmed with the knowledge that this is how God, my Abba, feels about me!!  He feels that way about you!!  Allow yourself to go, just for a moment, to a place where you are in a fight for the devotion, adoration and unfettered love from your man, your children, your parents….. maybe its a friend you are jealous for.  That righteous and possessive jealousy you feel is the tip of the iceberg compared to the depth of God’s desire for your all.  We don’t even have the capacity to love as our Father loves.  With His love comes a righteous expectation of us to make him the object of our passion.

 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Matthew 7:9-10

Our God is a jealous God.   Let’s take a look at a scripture that speaks to his desire for your total and complete worship. Did you know worship is synonymous with devotion.    I’m talking worship in every way….your walk, your talk, your time, your lifestyle, your priorities, your relationships, your money….the list goes on.  God asks that you be single-minded in your devotion to him.  He wants your faithfulness.  What are you having an affair with?  Busyness?  Work?  Pride?  Self?

 Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Exodus 34:14

I am no theologian but when I did a word study on “jealous” from this passage, I found the great I AM expects us to be zealous and know that his jealous streak runs fiery hot.  He expects we pursue him with intense fervor.  He demands we exalt and glorify him above all that we find value in here on Earth.

God let me experience a taste of his jealousy this morning through my fleshly desire to be THE Grandma, and then he gave me a full helping of “understanding topped with realization”.   After that, I had to measure my unadulterated commitment to Him on his yardstick.  I didn’t measure up.

Do you know how jealous God is for you?  For your passion, your devotion, your fidelity?  Just dwell in His affection and desire for an exclusive relationship with you for a little while, then go out and worship him with the zeal he designed you to have!

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.

Jeremiah 31:3

Dark Days: Finding Footholds in Troubled Times

I need to write. I need to write because if I do that, maybe the screams that sit just beneath my vocal chords will fall back into the pit in my stomach. Maybe the depression that weighs on my physical brain and all it’s attempts to be positive will lift and float away like Pooh’s little black rain cloud. Maybe, just maybe, I can write away the reality of the evil in my world that has become my personal tornado, blinding me with stinging sands  and sucking me into fear of uncertainty. I want to write the chaos into calm.

John 14

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I’m sure you relate. You can plug your own story into the print, because we suffer in the same way.  Situations differ, but not the consequences of living in a fallen world with fallible people and failing bodies.

Stress, self-imposed or placed upon us, wreaks havoc on our physical, mental and emotional selves. When unchecked, it erupts like the scalding, poisonous lava from the Mountain of Resentment.  Sadly, that angry river of lava holds the heat for years!  It sears the words we speak into the minds of those we love. The smoke blinds our way to the rational path of sanity. The more we suck in the poisonous gases and ash of our own meltdown the more toxic we grow. Depression grows in the desolation left behind.  How toxic are your thoughts, your words?

Psalm 94

17 Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. 18 When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your love, O LORD, supported me. 19 When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul. 

I’ve been front-line parenting for a long time since we have children from 12 to 28.  We will be old before we experience empty nesting.   I have seen such a disintegration of society during my active years of parenting, that when I summarize it in my psyche, it resembles a dark and twisted sci-fi flick from childhood.  What once would have been the far out imaginings of an author are now the news headlines, playing out in real life before our eyes.   While taking in the horrific atrocities occurring daily throughout our world, combined with the realization that I am watching crime shows depicting gruesome rapes and murders for nightly “entertainment” , I feel the wind pick up.  The skies of my complacent day turn threatening and I want to gather my young and run for the basement. Our spiritual/mental/emotional well being ….. our innocence is at stake. As a military and law enforcement family, our very existence is threatened. I am grieved that my grandbabies will never experience the level of freedom we enjoyed throughout our childhoods.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Helen Lemmel 1922

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Discouragement seeps under the door of my fortress as I realize my mother’s love, my grandmother’s love, is not enough. Regret for all the failures, from becoming inpatient with a toddler to major deficits in sound parenting with teenagers, flood in. The Father of Lies doesn’t whisper but screams “you haven’t done enough, you haven’t been enough, and any bad that visits them will be because somewhere, you failed.” The tornado grows in strength, engulfs me and I digress.  Which of Satan’s lies are you listening to?

Ephesians 6
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

I beg God when I don’t ignore him.  I’ve developed a spiritual bipolarity where I can lift my hands in praise one moment and be angry at Him in the next.  I feel HIS joy.  I feel HIS presence.  I feel MY sadness.  I feel MY pain.  Guilt is a byproduct of my flimsy spiritual backbone.  I kick myself for stepping out of His Word and what I know to be true, to mentally explore the possibilities of our present times.  I have grown acutely aware that while I know I don’t  grasp how high and how wide and how deep my Fathers love for me is (Ephesians 3:18), I also can’t comprehend the evil Satan injects into the hearts of men.  Oh, how I am grieved.  If, as a mere human being, I feel this way…how does my Lord and Savior feel?  How does this pervasive evil grieve HIM?  How does my spiritual bipolarity break HIS heart?

Romans 5

8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I will run to him like the prodigal I am every time I find myself squandering away his riches of peace and safety in the city of my sinful thought life.   I will run to him every time I wake up in the squalid conditions of fear, anxiety and distrust.  I will run to him.

Facebook, Faith and Friends; Weaving a scarlet cord.

I hate social media.  I love social media.  I am repulsed by it.  I am addicted to it.  Today, however, I write about the profit to the Kingdom of God and each other.

Facebook, one of many social media outlets, has become the public arena where the tongue, a world of evil among the parts of the body”, is unleashed through texting thumbs.  There is very little filter, if any.  It is a breeding ground for cowardly bullies who would never have the courage to speak to a face what they type with their fingers.

James 3

3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Ouch!  Are you uncomfortable?  I am.

Now that I’ve started with the negative, I have been compelled to share the beauty of the blab when it is Christ-centered and not driven by human nature.  Since being “compelled” to do something  means being forced to do it, it is my prayer that I will be obedient to the Holy Spirit with each and every word.  Sidebar:  If you can’t sleep due to a relentless burden or thought, that might just be the Holy Spirit compelling you.

For months now, I’ve been in cyber contact with a precious woman who has become a valued friend.   After being made privy to the details of her trials, I enlisted a few other women who could come alongside her as well. We, our little group, ONLY share through private messaging,  do not enjoy geographic proximity and as a matter of fact, we represent a few states.   We do share similarities in our past and present circumstances, but what is profitable in this social media circumstance……hear this…….  is a thick cord that binds us, running through the tapestry of our collectiveness.  It’s the scarlet cord.  You can feel the silk and the strength of the scarlet cord in our conversations.  It’s just we few women, our Heavenly Father and our Christ Jesus.  He is the scarlet cord, woven into this raggedy little clump of “us”,  which produces  a work of art that only the Master can truly see the value of.  Without our scarlet cord, we women could not possibly benefit from the relationship that God has gifted us with.  It transcends our technology. It transcends space and time.  It defies our understanding.

Colossians 1:15

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Shhhhh, soak it in.  Our scarlet cord.  Isn’t He all that is good and lovely?

If you were to read what we share without any identifying markers, you wouldn’t be able to differentiate one of us from the other.   We redeemed ones are all white cords.  What stands out from the ordinary mesh of white threads, are the bold accents of the scarlet.  Its deep scarlet.  It’s the deep scarlet hue of your own deoxygenated blood.  The blood that courses through your veins, full of waste products and lacking in the oxygen that keeps you alive, desperate to return to the lungs and heart for resuscitation.  Christ died with your toxic, worn out, near-death, dark red blood pouring over his head as he suffocated on your behalf.  Scarlet, my friends…..beautiful scarlet.  I pray we continue to let HIM be the only color we see in our ongoing sisterhood.

That brings me to yesterday.  We were sharing raw feelings of loss, isolation, layers of grief that get fossilized by time, and I suggested we throw scriptures at our topic.  One of my sisters started posting beautiful scriptures that addressed the wound so appropriately, but something happened!  God was so in the technology that he kept pushing the post button!  Yup, that’s right!  Believe it or not, He is able!  I want to share was God was driving home through our screens yesterday.

 

1 John 5:14

1I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him

Do you approach God first, before you hit the text pad?  Do you invest in other women’s lives to the extent that they can have confidence in approaching you to join them in prayer?

 

Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew Henry, in his Concise Commentary, says our Lord Jesus’ yoke is “lined with love”.  I would venture to say, the lining is scarlet.  I would venture to say if you choose to be yoked to a sister in Christ, you don’t have to share the love, it multiplies.

Be the white to your friend’s tapestry.  Know that Jesus died for you to be white so he can show his intricate love through the scarlet.   Learn to love scarlet.  Look for it in every conversation, be it typed, texted, posted, tweeted, whatever.  Weave the scarlet into EVERY conversation no matter the engine you speak  through.  Cling to the cord that binds you to your sisters for this life is not a journey we are meant to travel alone.

 

 

 

Why it isn’t so different. A military mom’s perspective on the war at home and abroad .

 

We just sent a son who is a young husband and daddy into a war zone.   The fear of us losing our son, the fear of my grandbabies losing their daddy, the fear of my daughter (in-love and law) losing her beloved, mixed with the gut-wrenching realization that his greatest act of bravery was walking out his own front door, has been overwhelming at best. He is off to fight the evil that is devouring the Middle East.  Some call it ISIS or al-Qaida.  The name changes by country and tribe. I call the evil, Satan.  The father of lies goes by many names.  Why allow him delight by letting him assume we think it’s anyone other than him? The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  John 10:10

What makes this so different, we ask.  So cognizant am I of the fact that each of my children could walk out the door and never return.  So cognizant that the beating of their hearts can be silenced by one swipe of tragedy’s sword.  So, why, after months of preparing for separation and being gifted the opportunity to speak with this son from deep places, why is my mother’s heart only able to groan?  What makes this so different?  I force reason upon my irrational thoughts, yet I find myself in tears and I can feel my soul tracings fluttering in my chest, they are out of healthy rhythm.  They are out of sync with God’s intention.  It becomes a complete physical reaction and then I shame myself into reasoning this truth:  Any of my precious ones could walk out the door for the last time….today.  Yet, I return to the “but this is so different” plea.

So, as I am flying my Stars and Stripes, searching the web for yellow ribbons and being all proud Army Mom, I am praying like I never have before.  I am dreaming up things to mail and ways to honor him. I am hypervigilant in regards to Satan’s work “over there”.  I’m just on it, learning about tribes and regional conflicts and maps.  Because this is just different, right?

But wait……..”WAIT!”, cries out the Holy Spirit within…….He, The Comforter, the Holy Spirit given to me through Jesus’ death on the cross, had to go beyond the gentle whispers that he prefers to communicate with.  He had to cry out, to yell over the noise of my fear.  

This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 1 Cor 2:13

And so I listen………

Don’t be so deceived.  Don’t be so ignorant.  Your precious son chose this in obedience to God’s calling over seven years ago.  He is in OUR (sweet trinity’s) WILL FOR HIS LIFE!  Woman, you are misguided right now. WE LOVE HIM MORE. You, momma bear, are wrong. IT IS NOT DIFFERENT! You will not like what I need you to understand, but hear this and let it soak into every fiber of your being until you embrace it.  Let it dictate your every matriarchal thought, prayer and reaction, for in MY wisdom is the peace you are looking for.  In MY wisdom I’m going to show you that there is NO difference between the son sent to war in a far away land and your children here at home.

Momma, honor your Army son in a way that will make a difference, by recognizing his sibs on American soil are also soldiers.  Your son wants that.  You have the choice, Momma, to make his service benefit more than the strangers he fights for in a foreign land,  He is fighting for your entire family’s freedom to speak freely in his homeland, to boldly claim The Cross without being beheaded. Teach them they are in a war zone in America! SHOW them how to be my warriors. Recognize that every day, they are in danger of the same Satanic schemes your grown soldier is at war with.  Have a righteous fear for the dangers at home.  Work with me, dear mom. Continue reading