On the No-Shower Days

Battle-weary from warring with worry, dazed and confused from the hard fall after the rug got pulled from beneath your planted feet, and insulated in isolation from the human interaction you desperately need, you find yourself staring at that familiar image in the mirror.  If only you could sneak in a 5-minute date with the tub.  A little too familiar?  A few too many no-shower days?

When life is providing challenges, it’s easy to fall into a few of Satan’s well-hidden traps.  If we learn to become vigilant and become skilled at recognizing and disarming them, we stay steady on our journey, and the no-shower days don’t hold as much power as they otherwise would.

Let’s visit a few of the deceiver’s favorite go-to snares otherwise known as lies.

Catastrophizing.

This is where you imagine the worst of outcomes.   Your inner Buzz Lightyear is screaming, “This will last to infinity and beyond!”  This present affliction has to be the absolute biggest and baddest of all big and bad things.   In this place, convincing yourself that this difficult day is destined to be repeated for the next 365 comes easy.  Words like “never” and “forever” and “always” ricochet in your brain space, piercing any positivity you might cling to.  You obsess over the current cause of your hygiene hiatus and believe you will never again shower.  Each of us have our own bait-lines that when swallowed, pull us into the abyss of despondency.  What are yours?

Ruminating. 

In an article titled “Rethinking Rumination” in Perspectives in Social Science, the authors give an excellent definition for rumination…

“rumination is a mode of responding to distress that involves repetitively and passively focusing on symptoms of distress and on the possible causes and consequences
of these symptoms. Rumination does not lead to active problem solving to change circumstances surrounding these symptoms.  Instead, people who are ruminating remain fixated on the problems and on their feelings about them without
taking action.” 1

If your thoughts have become the equivalent of a bad vine on YouTube, identify them now.

Enumerating.

Keeping track of your woes?  Adding up insults?  Tabulating troubles?  Multiplying misery?  How often do we count our burdens when we should be counting our blessings?  Becoming an accountant for the adversary is nothing but nonproductive.   It’s easy on the sans-bath days to start a lengthy list of all you do for the others in your life.  What are you logging into your mind’s ledger?

Generalizing.

Sweeping generalizations, the labeling of all of life.  One terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day does not mean they all will be.  Even if the present circumstance does permeate more time than we would choose, it will get better.  It will get easier.  We become healthy when we accept, adjust, and adapt.  Have you painted over a brilliant fine line of promise with a wide brush stroke of generalization today?

Victimizing.

It is far too easy to adopt a victim mentality on the hard days.  Human nature seeks to place blame on someone or something tangible.  We step right into the snares called “If only” and “why can’t”.  Here’s the deal;  bad things happen, people fail us, not everything comes with a labeled reason.  No matter what the source of your pain is, you get to choose whether you will live as a victim or victor.  Taking control of your thought life is the first step in becoming the latter.  Who do you tend to “blame” for your no-shower days?

The Solution:  Spirit-filled mindfulness. 

Mindfulness, apart from spirituality, is defined by Psychology Today as:  “a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”

Mindfulness tells Buzz Lightyear that he’s overly dramatic.  When truly mindful, we can be aware that this no-shower day is actually a no-shower hour because we are simply in the moment, hour, day.   It grounds us in this truth:

Therefore, don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself.  Matthew 6:34

See, even the Father instructs us to stay in the present!

With spiritual mindfulness, we can purposely list our blessings,  identify joy in mundane moments, cultivate a garden of gratitude as children of a loving God who holds the future we fear.

Rejoice always!  Pray constantly.  Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1Thessalonians 5:16-18 (HCSB)

Here’s the best part!  As Christ-followers, we have an abundance of help.  We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be discerning of our thoughts and motives.  He is waiting to gently and graciously expose those destructive thought patterns which make us so vulnerable to Satan’s lies.

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit – the Father will send Him in My name – will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.  Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.    John 14:26 (HCSB)

When we allow The Spirit to control our thought live vs. dialing him up for damage control, our no-shower days aren’t so distressing and the image we see as we pass the mirror is not that of a worried and worn-out woman, but that of a gentle and quiet spirit who just happens to be tired.  Big difference, my friends.

In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings.  And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  Romans 8:26-27 (HCSB)

So, you there with the greasy hair and the baggy sweats, know first that you are loved fiercely by your Father God.  Become obsessed with that.  Ruminate on that.  Count the ways He loves you.

BE MINDFUL OF HIM WHO LONGS TO FILL YOUR MIND!

For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth , or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39 (HCSB)

Make a plan for your next no-shower day.  Right now!!!  Here’s your have-ready list:

  • Scripture verses that hold great meaning to you personally.
  • A positive statement in BIG letters for a prominent place.  i.e. “This too shall pass” or “I am loved by the King” or “He knows”.
  • A dry erase marker for your bathroom mirror.  Draw a happy face every time you visit that room.  Don’t forget to smile back at it.
  • Start a blessings list now and add to it ON your rough days.
  • A play-list of your favorite inspirational music.

Blessings my friends!

 

(1) (http://drsonja.net/wp-content/themes/drsonja/papers/NWL2008.pdf)

 

 

 

 

 

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No Man’s Land

The World of White Parents with Black Children

At that moment, when nothing I’ve done or will do matters more than the fact I’m White, I stand completely unable to defend that which they can’t see beyond, my color and my privilege.

Those were my words  after a painful encounter where as the only white in a group of black women, I was given a firm admonition (I’m being tactful) regarding my perceived inability to understand my Black child.   A well-meaning Black sister told my daughter she wished she could take her in, as if MY child I’ve had since infancy needed to be taken from my whiteness.  As I recalled the previous day’s conversation and the raw emotions it produced,  the tears were as willing and hot as they had been the day before.

I am white.  I have children who share my skin color, and I have children who do not. Some were born of my womb, some of my heart.  If you were to line us up, we create a landscape  from the palest of creams to the richest of browns.  Eyes from bright sky blue to a dark chocolate so bottomless you can lose yourself.

A black woman recently asked me why we decided to adopt Black kids.  My answer is 21 years old now…because I didn’t specify my first babies outward appearances  and I’m not placing an order this time either.  We simply wanted to  grow our family by His divine intent and by His good will.

A white woman has poured praises over me for taking in children who were not our own and “giving them a good life”.  On the contrary, they were blessings we received not the other way around.  From the moment we first laid eyes on each of them, they were entirely ours for always and in all ways.


There is so much beauty in our story, so much of the Master’s redemptive plan for each and every human is revealed through adoption.  The ability to sit back and watch God  work out a vast array of details and seemingly insurmountable circumstances to place a specific child into a specific family is just one way He has of fulfilling His plan and purpose in our lives.  The ability of a man and woman to accept and fully embrace a child not conceived by them as their own is the same as God accepting and fully embracing us as His own despite our birth into sin.  I believe every Christ-follower has the capacity to love another in this way through the power of the Holy  Spirit living within us.  What would seem unnatural to the world is innate to believers; a no-brainer, so to speak.

Beautiful and ordained, yes…simple, no.  And so, I drift between the world I know of White privilege and the world my children know.  I’ll call their world Skin First.  I have the privilege of being known for many things before my descriptive race while they most often, are known first by the color of their skin.  What’s worse is when that is all they are known by.  I live in a zone between a White world unwilling to admit there is such a thing as privilege and a Black world unwilling to see their own racial prejudices.  I row my little boat between these two land masses on a sea of angst while bitter voices scream at each other from the shores.  I want my children to be a part of both worlds but neither land has a friendly port for our interracial crew.  We sail on, to No Man’s Land.

Back to my experience as the minority.  I sobbed on the way home.  My daughter, upon seeing and hearing how the encounter had made me feel,  grieved with me.  She was able to tell me that hearing me share how vulnerable I felt solely by the color of my skin made her think I was truly understanding her struggles as a black child in a white community and school for the first time. Over and over she assured me, I am HER mom, the only one she knows, the only one she wants.

This isn’t the first such encounter and it won’t be the last, so what’s the goal in this writing?   I guess I hope to reach my sisters and brothers from both races with this message:

  • Adopted children are God’s children first.  He defines them, not their race. Only when we teach them the value of who they are in Christ, will they be able to withstand the icy winds of racial divides.
  • Adoption happens once.  Do we call ourselves children of God or adopted children of God?  I AM a child of God, its a done deal.  Let us live that way.  We are aware our color differences point out that an adoption took place but we really like to forgo the intrusive questions.
  • Transracial families are both Black and White.  Do not make them choose.
  • Skin color does not a mother (or father) make.  We can all agree Southern White children who were raised by Black “help” were well, well loved and cared for.  Can we be tolerant when that scenario is flipped in our present times?
  • Society is bound by the chains of our History.  Racism as well as reverse racism is alive and well and both our our cultures feed it.  This is a burden each race owns and must first recognize; second, reveal; and third, revolt against.
  • Children do need healthy relationships with people of their own race, but those relationships must always honor the parents’ place in that child’s life.  If you are mentoring, never assume the white momma doesn’t get it.  She may not have personally lived it, but it is her beloved child….believe me, she gets it.
  • I find certain cultural trends in both races unhealthy and denigrating.  Rejecting some form of cultural expression from the Black culture does not equate with me rejecting a Black brother or sister.  Unwrap it.
  • There is a disproportionate number of Black foster and adoptive homes compared to White homes.  Step it up Black friends!
  • White friends, you ARE privileged.  Until you have spent quality time with a Black man or woman and listened to their experiences, do not even pretend to think you can speak to this.
  • We have to lay the fear down.  It is my belief that we have become so fearful of each other, we build fences instead of bridges.  Emotionally, physically, socially, etc.
  • I touched on it earlier but want to reiterate.  As White parents we oppose our Black children being viewed as mission projects or attention-getting tokens.  This devalues them as it suggests they were obtained for our psychological gain vs. them being truly desired by parents who were creating a family.

It is time for the church to take the lead on this.  These relationships need to be born and nurtured within the safety of a community of believers.  This is a call-out.  What can you do in your corner of the world?   Have a discussion with your church leaders about creating a safe place for Transracial families to connect with fellow believers of other races who would be willing to embrace them as a family.  Mentoring relationships will naturally spring from this.  If you’ve been part of such a community, please share with the rest of us what has made your experience successful!

This Sunday is Sanctity of Life Sunday.  A date  which is poignantly special since it would have been so “convenient” for three birth mothers to end our children’s lives.  I would like to end by honoring the bravery and sacrifice of these women and the countless others like them.  For them, I am so grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blunt thoughts on Supporting Foster/Adoptive Parenting

What foster/adoptive (FA) parent hasn’t heard the “Oh, it’s so good of you to do that”?  Or, may this one, “Oh,  she/he/they are so lucky to have been placed with you”?   It kind of makes me cringe and shiver just typing it.  Here’s the deal, if you are an FA parent and you don’t cringe or shiver at that, check your motives because it has nothing to do with you being a super hero but everything to do with us having a super God, right?!  It is only through the Lord’s  supernatural intervention that broken pots like you and me are able to be anything more than a hotel for these kids.

If you are a friend or support person for an adoptive parent, let me clear up a few things.

#1) Some of you are not called by God to raise children not born of your own flesh; BUT, you are absolutely called to support those who do. Please let the family you are helping dictate what is most helpful to them.  Ask for an honest answer to the question, “What would speak love and support to you as tackle FA parenting?”

#2)  Know that you may get a “good feeling” by helping out an FA family, but please know it may not be a “good time”.  We cannot predict our child’s behavior.  Please supervise them at all times.

#3) Know that the stories of the wild child with the downright demonic behavior we have described to you will probably never be seen by you.   Please NEVER question that it truly happens. The kids tend to save that for us.  We are the ones they want to attach to.  That means we are the ones in the relationship with them that must be sabotaged.  Don’t bond, don’t bond, don’t bond.  It won’t last, it won’t last, it won’t last.  But maybe, maybe maybe. No! NO! NO!    You get the picture.

#4) Know that no matter how early in life our children come to us, they are damaged.  Sound harsh?  Yes, it is.    I won’t bore you with the scientific details of the damage done to the amygdala at the loss of a birth mom, let alone early childhood separation, abuse and neglect.  Please, just trust us.  Please, don’t judge us.

#5)  Never, ever ask us which ones are “ours” when we have our whole crew together.  They all are for whatever time God gives them to us.

#6)  When we experience the loss of a tough kid, and we do, we may look horrible, be exhausted, cranky and battle weary.  Please don’t say, “you must be relieved” or “its probably for the best”.  No, it is never, ever a relief to have a failed placement or to return a child to a dangerous situation.  Even if it is in our best interest, it is a loss and we shoulder heavy guilt over the decision to call it quits.

If Foster/Adoptive Month makes you contemplate becoming an FA parent, know this:

#1)  Some of us were called by God to raise children not born of our own flesh.  It’s a calling, not a playdate.  There are days when there is absolutely not one “good” feeling you can scratch out of the crusty mud left from the deluge of raging emotions.  There are days when, despite your very best efforts, you can’t summon up the strength to find any “good” in your decision to heed the call.  You fail.  The child fails.  The system fails.  The school fails.  Callings aren’t easy.  They never are.

#2)  This is not for the questioning heart.  This must be a hard-core, extensively prayed-over, sold-out, WELL-EDUCATED decision.  Talk, talk, talk to FA families.  Sit in their homes.  Spend time listening to their hearts, not the process.

#3)  It will take a toll on your birth children.  Do not doubt for a minute that your “unexposed kids” will be unaffected by the “exposed children” you bring into your home.  Spending time with FA families will educate you on the challenges you may face in your home and with your children.

#3)   Outcomes for children in care are pretty poor, and you may feel as if you didn’t make a difference but  God still reigns.  We have known that one of ours aged out in a detention facility ravaged by the same mental illness her mother had.  Holding each other, crying, my husband and I walked down the long dark halls of the mental health facility we left her in, well knowing she would never come back to our home, but God was still on his throne.  Fostering, especially, leaves questions unanswered on this side of heaven.  Know that some can’t be saved by you.

#4)  Mommas, hear me….you will not be enough for this child.  Ouch!  You, as a mother with all your momma heart, momma love, and momma skills will not be “enough”.  I don’t care at what age this child enters your heart and home.  While you need to claim your place in this child’s life, you also need to be prepared to search out others to fill in the gaps left by trauma, separation, abuse, loss of birth parent, racial differences, etc.  You will need to find mentors, professionals, service providers, respite providers who can augment your momma love and devotion.  It is okay that you’re not enough because the truth is….only Christ is.

#5) You will age quickly.  You will look for hoarded food in bed sheets.  You will wipe poop from places poop shouldn’t be.  You will learn from the professionals how to take down and restrain a child.  You will shrug off the destruction to your property after a child’s rage.  You will lock children in their rooms at night for safety reasons.  You will gain weight because you hide the chocolate treats in your bedroom closet where only you can get to them.  You will loose weight because you are worried sick.  You will cry.  You will swear.  You will fall on your knees in submission to God who gives you the strength to get up and do it again tomorrow.  And then, one precious day, this will come:

“Thank you! And you had a hand in my up bringing, you were very good to us through it all. You were there when it all began to unfold. You loved and supported me and helped me heal, I’m so thankful that God lead you and dad to be foster parents, I can’t imagine not having you in my life! I love you so much!”

 And, you will hear God whispering,  “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ Matthew 25:40.

So, if you are considering FA parenting, is it worth it?  Absolutely it is.

starfish_beach_story

 

 

Venues of Vulnerability.

A little backstory.

I like to write from the promise in my life, from those jagged, rocky places where you come across reminders of God’s goodness, His grace.  Places in the journey where He brings you comfort and peace in His everlasting word.  I write in the hope of encouraging, maybe challenging my reader.  I write to keep myself accountable and tuned in to that which I know is true.

Today, I write from a dark place.  I open a door that common sense says is better left shut.  I let words drip off my fingertips onto the keyboard that are oh, so hard.  It’s time, though.  When the Holy Spirit keeps you up long into the night, and He stirs such a fiery restlessness in your bones, it’s time.  I have chosen to write from an intellectual and experiential place.  Leaving my desire to insert God’s word in all my posts is difficult; however, not all readers will be able to get past their resistance to “religion” to join me in thinking….good old thinking, contemplating, considering.  So, let’s hash out reason.

I am a fully-healed, yet ever-changed victim of childhood sexual abuse.  Not once.  Not twice.  Repeated over the course of my 5th year of life.  I’ve never written or spoken publicly of this because I want to honor my parents who did not know of it at the time.  I waited years to tell them.  So, please allow me to make this very clear, I was blessed with healthy men in my family who loved and nurtured me as God intended .  I was the victim of an UNRELATED male offender.  I’ve even worried about unintentionally implicating all the healthy men I grew up in close contact with.    That’s a victim mentality, I challenge you to look for that in your own life or in the lives of ones you love.  I challenge you because given the statistics,

1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old (NSVRC),

many of you reading this have also been victimized.   Here’s the deal though.  You simply can not debate the gender-neutral bathroom push on only an intellectual level.  There is an experiential component to this that, in the world of an abuse victim, supersedes legal arguments.  That, my friends, is why I bare my soul.

Moving on to the issue at hand…

Venues of Vulnerability is a term I’ve given to a place or places where a predator can hang out to gain easy access to his or her prey.  These avenues of assault are everywhere thanks in big part to social media.  A venue of vulnerability can be a sleepover, a bar, a frat party, a bonfire, a car, a taxi, Facebook, Snap Chat, Twitter, Instagram…..etc.  Now, it seems we want to add public restrooms and locker rooms to the predator’s playgrounds.  Who gets to join me in the bathroom?  Who gets to sit on the toilet next to me with large cracks in stall walls and doors while I am exposed and vulnerable?  Worse yet, who gets to be there with my young ones?

Can we just lay down angry agendas and this crazy need to categorize ourselves so we can blow the stall door off the bathroom bills and expose the danger lurking under the guise of “freedoms”, “rights”, “sexual identity”?  We can’t “vet” every man that walks in a woman’s bathroom.  We can’t “vet” every woman who walks into a men’s room.  No one is  going to hire security guards for bathroom patrol.  More and more innocent victims of sex trafficking are being enticed by other victims in venues of vulnerability.  We have to close this loophole!

  I am not scared of a transgender in my bathroom, but I’m terrified of the pretender! 

All of us should be, no matter what our sexual identity is.

One of the sadly ironic things that we see often in our society is media-fueled, attention-seeking activist’s agendas to “further the cause” of a group who has decided their desires trump other’s rights which in the end, actually bring chaos and destruction to the very groups screaming for equality.  I do not believe the greater LGTBQ community believes these are healthy legislations.  How can they?  Let’s look at how many of them have experiential knowledge of victimization:

46.4% lesbians, 74.9% bisexual women and 43.3%
heterosexual women reported sexual violence other
than rape during their lifetimes, while 40.2% gay
men, 47.4% bisexual men and 20.8% heterosexual
men reported sexual violence other than rape during
their lifetimes. (NSVRC)

Please, LGTBQ citizens, SPEAK against the machine driven to destroy you in the name of advancing you.  Are you all okay with earning the right to use whatever gender-labeled bathroom you feel most comfortable with if that very privilege costs just one precious child their innocence? Many of you are parents.  Are you comfortable with making your daughter available for the sexual predator to gaze upon in a restroom or locker room, perhaps see him performing a sex act on himself while he does so?  Gross?  You bet!  She won’t unsee that, and she won’t unfeel the disgust that the sight of her incited that.  If you feel squirmy reading it, I feel the same writing it. Folks, it is our reality.  Are you really okay standing on the front line of pushy political preference when your freedom to use a certain restroom trumps  religious freedoms of that of a Muslim woman who can’t even uncover her head, let alone share a bathroom with a man?  How does it sync with the greater belief of the LGTB community that everyone is entitled to their rights, be it sexual, reproductive, or religious when I lose mine for you to gain yours?   Private bathrooms?  I’m all for it.  I would prefer that to sharing any day, but we all know how quickly public facilities will be jumping to construct multiple private restrooms.

I truly hear the cry of the bullied.  I just don’t know how a male child dressed in female clothes who insists on using the girl’s restroom or locker room will be any less exposed to suicide-inducing bullying.  Can anyone answer that?  Talk about a Venue of Vulnerability!  Then, to add to the far over-reach of government; here in Michigan, we have a bill that would allow our children to use any name they choose, pick their sexual identity, and the parents will not be entitled to that knowledge.  I was under the impression that our sophisticated society was working to create healthy families where children learned and thrived yet, our schools will help them harbor secrets from their parents encouraging the child to live further underground in their fear and shame.  So, are we assured that suicide rates will drop when the district helps the child hide out?   There is no prescription for how a family deals with finding out their child is gay.  How dare a broken educational system dictate what the one-size fits all fix is and when that occurs.  How dare the system want me involved in homework and academic performance yet my momma hands have to be off my child’s sexuality during formative years.  No!  Can anyone explain that?

One of the things that prompted me to write this now was a “lively” debate with a stranger on social media.  She asked that I read an article titled: Who’s Afraid of Gender-Neutral Bathrooms? by Jeannie Suk for The New Yorker, published January 25, 2016.  I read it.  I laughed.  Let me provide you a quote from the article:

“Perhaps the point is precisely that the public restroom is the only everyday social institution remaining in which separation by gender is the norm, and undoing that separation would f eel like the last shot in the “war on gender” itself.”

Seriously?  She tied this to LGTBQ rights why??  I’m not sure gender-neutral bathroom proponents even know what they are fighting for!  I’m positive they don’t want what they are going to get when these bills pass UNLESS they are just in it because they like a fight, a social cause.  You might win the battle but lose the war at the cost of our innocents.   I can’t even address my opinions on this nonsense because women’s rights and equality should include safety.  The author refers to segregated bathrooms as being a “Victorian phenomenon”.  Not in my 2016 world, so let’s get back to the real issue.

Every 107 seconds another American is sexually assaulted.  Every 107 seconds! (RAINN).

In an article written by Emily Thomas by the Huffington Post in November of 2013, she cited a report from the National Research Council.  Within the pages of stats compiled in the book Estimating the Incidence of Rape and Sexual Assault was this statement.

“Rape and sexual assault are among the most injurious crimes a person can inflict on another. The effects are devastating, extending beyond the initial victimization to consequences such as unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, sleep and eating disorders, and other emotional and physical problems. Understanding the frequency and context under which rape and sexual assault are committed is vital in directing resources for law enforcement and support for victims. These data can influence public health and mental health policies and help identify interventions that will reduce the risk of future attacks. Sadly, accurate information about the extent of sexual assault and rape is difficult to obtain because most of these crimes go unreported to police.”

Sadly, we will never know the real statistics on rape and assault because it’s estimated that only 12% of child sexual abuse is reported to the authorities.  Combine that with rape being the most under-reported crime; 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to police  (NSVRC), this is not the time to provide Venues of Vulnerability.

How do I end what is an emotionally-charged piece?  Experientially.   Maybe with a request.  At age 5, I did not know how to keep myself safe, and it would not have mattered if I did.   I get we can’t stop all victimization, but all of childhood and some of my adult life was lived under the shadow of fear, mistrust, vulnerability and shame, acutely aware that this world was so unsafe.   It has been through God’s grace and freedom that I am that “fully-healed, yet ever changed” woman.  While I am thankful that my abuse has been redeemed and has provided me with great understanding and insight, I will lift my voice in  a cry of warning and plead with my fellow citizens to shut down this Venue of Vulnerability.  If my words can save just one child, one adolescent, one adult from living under the shadow, then let it be.

National Sexual Violence Resource Center – Info and Stats for Journalists

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network

Opting out of Halloween. We did, should you?

I watched my almost 20-year-old carve a pumpkin for the first time this weekend, and it was quite humorous. We joked about how he was deprived of any prior experience due to his parent’s opt-out of Halloween and anything related. We giggled and had fun at his expense, but it did take me back to the years of parenting after our initial Halloween-boycott decision. It was actually this particular child of mine who brought me to turn a sensitive ear to the Holy Spirit’s conviction after watching him spend a fearful Halloween night as a toddler.

I’m in quite a comfortable place on this subject. I’ve found that, after somewhere around 18 years of parenting five kids sans Halloween, I have absolutely no regrets. I have absolutely no apologies. I have absolutely no room for arguments on how silly our stance is. What I do have, is the confidence to speak frankly to fellow Christians. I’m passed the years of having to explain to other parents, teachers, and yes…fellow believers why my children will not be in attendance or participating in anything that so much hints at Halloween. They are now all old enough to hear the Holy Spirit speak over them in regards to decisions such as this. But, here’s the thing, some of you are in the midst of that stage of life, and I remember the conflict. I remember the odd looks that spoke, “Woman, you are one paranoid, religious freak”! If you are there, stand firm, do not for one minute compromise on a conviction the Lord has laid upon your heart.

I’ll share with you where we came from. You can choose to agree with me, or you can choose to lean into the “What’s it going to hurt, it’s all just fun” camp. YOU get to choose and YOU also get to answer to God as to why you participate in things that fly in the face of His Word. Whoa! I just said you might be operating contrary to His word. Are you readying your darts, girlfriend? Stop now, take a deep breath, and pray that beyond reading what my possible inflammatory words, you hear the Holy Spirit. Listen very carefully for his direction for you and yours in this matter.

First off, we took a look at the origins of the holiday. How is it there came to be a Halloween? Let’s go back 2,000 years ago. The Celtic people from what is now Ireland, the UK, and Northern France, had a new year which began on November 1st. On that eve, October 31st, they celebrated the Festival of Samhein. This was a full out invitation to participate in and acceptance of pagan (that means satanic) practices. Let me share one of the more concise explanations I’ve found and take note, I’m quoting Encyclpedia Britannica, not a religious source of information. I chose this description so it is void of “religious distortion”. I want you to first look from a history student’s viewpoint.

Samhain, also spelled Samain, (Celtic: “End of Summer”), one of the most important and sinister calendar festivals of the Celtic year. At Samhain, held on November 1, the world of the gods was believed to be made visible to mankind, and the gods played many tricks on their mortal worshipers; it was a time fraught with danger, charged with fear, and full of supernatural episodes. Sacrifices and propitiations of every kind were thought to be vital, for without them the Celts believed they could not prevail over the perils of the season or counteract the activities of the deities. Samhain was an important precursor to Halloween.

It would take me more words, and you more time than we have here so, I challenge you to do some research on your own. Just about everything we see in our present day Halloween observance is taken from the pagan practices of the Celtic people. Masks, bonfires, bobbing for apples, candy, carved pumpkins….it all originated from this. That scary mask or face paint? Yeah, that’s to trick the evil ghosts roaming the earth on the 31st into believing you are also dead. Really, take some time and research this.

People, if it’s not of God, then it’s of Satan. Its black or white. If it incites fear, it is Satan!
Since that time, the church, yes, the church (i.e. All Saints Day), has tweaked the practice, twisted the intent, made it more palatable, and in our day, made it a mega-million dollar business.

Halloween is the 2nd most commercial holiday coming in only after Christmas, the celebration of our Savior’s birth! It is estimated 6 BILLION dollars are spent on costumes and candy here in the United States.

Let me ask you this, what would happen if that 6 billion were spent to further the kingdom of God in missions and outreach? Another question, how is it that a celebration founded in a pagan religion has become endearing to Christian families?

Beyond the money, though, is my deep concern for our want to flow with societal “norms” when God gives us very clear directives in his word about those things we should align ourselves with and those he finds detestable. I’m concerned with the ease at which we become stupid sheep following a cleverly disguised lion wanting to devour us.

In Deuteronomy 18, God is reviewing his laws with the Israelites and reminding them of the covenant of love he has established with them. They are going to be encountering all sorts of pagan neighbors in the promised land. He says this:

Deuteronomy 18:9
When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord, and because of these detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God.

This scripture is not intended to be “no longer in effect” after Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that freed us from law. This isn’t a “what meat you can eat kind of scripture”. This is absolutely not in the “freedom to do or not to do” category. When we read this, we should be seeing our Holy, Pure, One True God demanding our total devotion to Him and His ways. We should see his instruction to not defile ourselves by adopting detestable ways. Is endorsement of Halloween imitating such a thing?

Ephesians 5: 6-13
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.

And then there is this.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

If you shine the light of the Word over the practice of Halloween, do you still want to partake? Maybe. Maybe not. I can tell you this, I have five kids, some are adults now and none of them are traumatized by not dressing up in costumes and gorging on candy. Two of them were well indoctrinated in Halloween fun when we cut them off. In fact, those of ours who are parenting have made some of these same choices. Together, our kids, my husband, and I learned how to unashamedly explain our decision to be “different”, to leave school on party day, to not do certain art projects, or read certain books leading up to Halloween. We had frank discussions about why we chose this and what God’s word says about these things. That included haunted houses and slasher movies. Often, that meant me being very direct and firm with teachers but that’s okay. I think God is being very direct and firm when he tells us this:

1 Thessalonians 5: 21-22
But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.

Remember who made the apple and all the power of knowledge that came with the crispy bite so attractive? Satan is a master disguiser. All things look good when we view it through the deceiver’s lens. Has he camouflaged Halloween and draped it in the costume of innocent fun? Has he whispered the originations of the day don’t mean a thing to our generation? Because if you believe that, then why should Easter be relevant?

Look, all of this can apply to so many areas of our lives, so why am I picking on good Ole Halloween? Well, it’s that time of year. Haunted houses popping up everywhere, gruesome decorations, trips through the store setting off all sorts of ghoulish sounds from scary things, and because it is blatant. We may have to seek harder, pray more fervently, and be entirely more transparent to fellow believers to tease out other areas of our lives that are out of line with God’s call to purity but this one….this one is a sell out. It is loud and proud! Satan makes it easy to fall in yet God has made it easy to sort out. Maybe it’s time for you and your’s to get out.

I was once trying to plan an alternative to Halloween at a church we had attended when a woman sharply said, “Your children are only going to have a problem with Halloween because you’ve planted that seed in their heads”. I am proud to say she was right! Dear parent, that is your job! Plant the seeds of nonconformity to worldly standards and societal norms in your kids’ heads! Show them throughout your precious and fleeting time with them that non participation in things the world sees as oh so benign is exactly what world changers do!

By the way, I don’t advocate staying at home in the dark and requiring the kids to clean the basement during Trick or Treat hours. I may have tried that one year. Oops. Plan some amazing family time. I have a feeling the memories from precious time spent together will last far longer than the memory of what costume they wore in 2015.

Becoming Nothing for Everything: An open letter to mothers of special needs kids.

Dear Tired Momma,

As I sink into the hot water, exhausted, and all is silent except for the ticking of the wall clock,  I also feel myself sinking into the nothingness that comes in battle.  It’s a familiar place yet one I hate to revisit. ” Again, Lord?”  “But Lord, I thought we were good!”

You know it well.  Life was operating at the status quo, your norm, and then……

So, as I soak in this tub, I start strapping on psychological armor, turning off emotions, allowing nothingness to envelope me, I’m struck by the contrast of emptying myself to the soothing warmth of the water covering my weary body.

Nothingness asks for you to be clinical, concise, goal directed, and it often turns you icy.  Nothingness is when your own fear means nothing.  Your own desires mean nothing.  Your own future plans mean nothing.

Your own desires are nothing….because Everything is on the line…again.

Everything is what you do.  Everything has come to define you even when you fight for your freedom.  Everything needs the systematic, robotic approach.  Everything requires all of you.  Everything results in you turning into a cold and calculated assassin, taking out what ever threatens your EverythingEverything can turn you into the crazy mother, fist pounding the table, steely-eyed, and demanding words spoken in a voice that doesn’t sound like our own while glassy-eyed professionals watch you, but you know that Everything needs you to fight with every ounce of strength she doesn’t have.   

Everything survives when you are willing to become Nothing.  THAT, sister, is sacrificial love.

I’d say that’s pretty Christ-like parenting, right there.

Momma of a special one, your shoulders drop and you sigh as you read this because you know, don’t you?

I’m not writing to be psychologically correct, I’m leaving that to the professionals.  I’m writing because it’s when we are raw and honest and transparent that our struggles can be used for good.  It’s when we get brave and share what we hold in secret that we can give another momma some hope, something to cling to!

Yes, I know you don’t feel anything but a bone-deep fatigue.  I know you don’t feel that sweet momma love that comes with our tiny innocents.  I know you can’t find joy in your Everything right now.

Yes, I know you feel enormous guilt because you can’t find that all-consuming love and that palpable joy that is instinctive to mothers.

Yes, I know the tears flow in spite of a disconnect to any true and identifiable emotion.

Yes, I know that in spite of covering those previous battle wounds with the band-aids of experience, the scabs are getting scraped off and the oozing is just a slow trickle of sadness from somewhere deep within.

I want to suggest you don’t feel tender love at this present time because God is holding your heart out of your chest.  Its weight is simply too much for you.  Its wild beating must be calmed by the very One who created it, by the One who created your Everything.  Its screaming, raw emotions are too much for you to comprehend, to contain. You can’t be directed by it!  So, He holds it while you and your nothingness go to work…to battle.

When you are ready, He stands with his open hands, holding your beautiful, intact heart, and releasing it back to you. He has infused it with all His love, and it is overflowing, ready to abundantly pour over your Everything.  That’s the beauty of it!  We never have to remain in that empty place!  God has all you need, oh he is champion of HIS beloved Everything.  Remember, it is His Spirit within you who has given you the strength to wage war on His child’s behalf.

  Your Everything was His Everything before the start of time.

For now, allow yourself to crawl up onto Abba’s lap.  Allow Him to wrap you in his arms.  When a quiet moment comes, and it will come, go there.  Sit with Him while he holds your heart.  Cry with Him.  Rest in Him.  Accept His peace.  Give him Everything, for he loves her more than you do.  Give him your nothingness, and he will give you your full and rested heart.

Sister, this is a way of life we moms of special ones need to embrace.  Our Everythings require much, but our Abba is bigger than all the heartaches, disappointments, failures, and flat out scary unknowns special needs can throw at us.

Know, this day, that what you are doing will always make a difference, even if you don’t see it on this side of heaven.

Know, this day, that all the days you become nothing to benefit your Everything are pleasing to your Lord.

 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’  Matthew 25.40  NLT

Know, this day, that you are not alone.

With love,

Everything’s momma

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.