Monday, December 31, 2012

Ringing in the new year

Soooooo, what does one get when one openly complains about the abysmal Thanksgivings of the past? Christmas with the flu, that's what. I assume it was the flu anyway. It was the kind of illness that smacks you flat on your face in bed, one leg hanging over the side while you snore with your mouth open until it's as dry as the Sahara Desert. Not pretty, Friends. NOT PRETTY. The kids got hit with it too (all except Will). It was pitiful. They felt really bad on Christmas day. The reactions to gifts were tainted by the feeling that they wanted to die. They looked at Christmas dinner like I'd just served them the innards of a dog...and opted for saltines and water instead. Then they slinked off to my bed (thanks, kids) where they slept most of the day. Where are the photos of them opening gifts and smiling? There aren't any. I'd just cleaned up vomit (Ben) so I decided to forgo the candid shots of early December 25th. Merry Christmas.
So Will's first Christmas didn't turn out how I wanted. Our first Christmas with my parents living here in Birmingham didn't turn out how I wanted. Welcome to Birmingham. Here's the flu. Thanks for coming over. But, somehow it was all alright. We got better. The children began to enjoy their gifts. Leftovers were eaten. Jesus still came--the fact that we were celebrating in our pajamas mattered not!
And so here comes the New Year. No, we're not doing anything special. Are you crazy? Have you been reading? No, we're sitting here on the couch pretending it's just another normal night in hopes that a piano doesn't fall out of the sky. No holiday here. However, I just can't help but think about this past year. It's been a remarkable year for us as we watched God grow bigger and bigger throughout our adoption journey. He revealed His glory in major ways and it left me loving him more and standing in awe of a God who commands everything and everyone. It's been a year of seeing His followers serve us in remarkably sacrificial ways. We're still humbled. Grateful. And this year we met our son. We've watched him change over the past four months and begin to melt into our family and into our hearts. Here are some of the high points:
1. He no longer picks at his fingernails--a nervous habit he's had since the first day we got him. We haven't seen him do it in several weeks.
2. He no longer cries when we discipline him or runs to the corner. He's able to apologize.
3. He doesn't throw 45 minute fits anymore. He does still have tantrums, but they are seldom and short.
4. He kisses mommy on the mouth and readily accepts lots of affection :)
5. He initiates play and understands playfulness.
6. He loves the bath--took us three weeks to get him into the bath tub.
7. He is slowly learning to take turns and to trust that we will be fair and just.
8. He still has food issues, but they are getting better. S-L-O-W-L-Y.
   I just can't express to you what mothering him is like. He is not wired to want us or love us--in fact, he's preconditioned against it. So the fact that those defenses are lowering and he will fall asleep in my arms and holding my hand makes it so so sweet. When he reaches for me in the morning and says "hi momma" in his sweet voice, I know it's only because of Jesus. Oh how much I have learned about love- God's love for me.
   As this new year arrives, I'm not making any resolutions. I'm re-committing. I'm ready to follow Christ into 2013 and ask, what now? Once again, everything is on the table. We've been praying about big stuff--selling our house to make less of us and more of Him. Adopting again. Supporting ministries we care about. Beginning ministries. What next, Lord? Show me. So I'm just re-committing to loving Him everyday and serving him everyday no matter where it takes me. It's scary exciting. Because when we ask, He will answer.
  Tonight I'll hit the pillow with a heart full of thankfulness and I'll say: Wow, God. You are amazing. Thank you for all you have done for us this past year. Thank you for the friends and family who love us so well and serve us so fully. Thank you for the gift of our children and for the redemption taking place in the little life of Will. Continue to change me into who you want me to be. Give me wisdom in my role as wife and mother. Help me to listen and obey when I don't always want to hear your voice and when I don't always feel like yielding to your way. And when things don't go as I would have liked in 2013, help me to remember that you are still God. You are still my God. Don't let me fear. Don't let me run. Hold on to me and show me your greatness.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Trusting in the Sovereignty of God

     I had already been thinking about writing a blog focusing on the evil of man....and then yesterday happened. The news of the elementary school shooting propelled my mind back to Columbine, September 11th, the sniper shootings, the movie theatre shooting, various shopping mall shootings, and numerous other horrific events that our country has endured. I have a tremendous fear of somehow being involved in a catastrophic act of violence. I know what you're thinking--who doesn't, right? But I think my fear runs deeper.
     I was student teaching when Columbine happened and it shook me to the core. I had never allowed my mind to contemplate such an act and when I saw it played out on television I was gripped with terror. What if I couldn't protect my students? What if I wouldn't protect them? What if, when placed in a similar situation, I fought to protect myself instead? My fear made me feel tiny. One little seventh grade boy had seen coverage of the event and from that day forth, spent the school day underneath his desk. If I could have, I would have crawled under there with him, held him, and told him that I understood.
    September 11th deepened my fears. I was obsessed with the television coverage to the point that Brent had to intercede and tell me to stop watching. I've feared flying ever since. The fact that I have flown to the Czech Republic and to China is nothing short of a miracle. If I never flew again--I'd be perfectly happy.
     I haven't been to a movie theatre since the heinous shooting during the premiere of Batman. What if I was sitting unsuspectingly in the dark when chaos broke out? The thought makes me sweat. It's safer to just stay home, right? I can hide from evil. It won't find me.
         When I was thinking about yesterday, I realized that my fears are leading me to dread Satan's power in way that is overshadowing my assurance in God as Victor. This should never be. While many wars have been won for evil in the days past, the ultimate battle is already won. We already know history's ending. We have a Rescuer who will thwart evil and hurl it in to the pit of hell....and yet I still struggle. I really really do.
      So, how do I fight against a debilitating fear of man? It helps me to remember that there is a purpose to the heartache felt on earth. I believe that God is slowly removing his hand of grace and boldly showing us our need of him. He wants us to turn to him. To find peace and hope in him. To yearn for his arrival. Yesterday's shooter shows us the version of ourselves when God's hand is not evident. The question shouldn't be: why did this man do this? More appropriately, the question is: why aren't more doing this? It is a wonder that more horrors aren't played out when so many men live depraved lives outside of the Shepherd's care. God has a number. And until that number of souls is claimed, we will continue to mourn over cancer, stillborns, rapes, overdoses and all such atrocities. Evil will not be stomped out until that last precious soul is secured. Is it worth it? I've often wondered. But what if salvation found its way to my presently unbelieving loved ones through this Connecticut tragedy?
      Besides remembering that suffering is not arbitrary, I try to blot out the disturbing imagery that I can't stand to watch and yet can't seem to turn away from. I replace them with this image-- that of the arriving aid. Think back to September 11th, or Columbine, or yesterday. What did you see? I saw men in full stride, faces set and teeth clenched, sprinting towards the evil one. What type of person does this? Are they crazy? No. They believe that evil can be stopped. So did Jesus....when he ran towards evil for the sake of saving my life. That's what I think about. Someone always has to run towards evil in order to conquer it. Everyday Jesus runs towards the enemy for me; a soul counted in the number.
      In the weeks to come, things will quiet down. The event may slip to the recesses of my mind. I'll begin to forget that there are people in the world who elevate themselves to a God-like status and go out and commit sheer evil. Until the next thing happens. Then, I'll start back on the carousel ride of reminding myself that God is in control. Pain has purpose. Aid is coming. What else can I do?
      For those of you who think this world is all there is, where do you find your comfort? No one is coming for you when the ultimate battle begins. But someone wants to. Someone wants to come and get you so passionately that he climbed up on the cross and proceeded to absorb every last shred of evil. Turn your fear into faith. You may struggle, like me, to trust in the sovereignty of God when it seems like evil is presently winning. But the day is coming when all we'll see is Jesus running towards us ready to take us out of darkness. My fears will be slain forever.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fa La La La...Fail

      It was the Thanksgiving holiday that broke me of having high expectations for any seasonal celebration. To say that our Thanksgiving festivities have been cursed in the past is a vast understatement. They have been downright disasters. Example 1. Family visiting for Thanksgiving at my house. Turkey cooking. Aromas of casseroles wafting through the air....when all of a sudden a suicidal squirrel climbs my power pole in the backyard and gets electrocuted. Power out. No turkey cooking. No casseroles baking. Which lucky Alabama Power employee gets to come out and restore power on Thanksgiving Day?? A very unhappy one.
Example 2. Family risks visiting again for Thanksgiving only to find one of my children is vomiting with the stomach bug. No problem. Except for the fact that she's too young to run, take aim, and deposit in toilet. She's a lose cannon and we have no washer and dryer because we decided to replace them a few days earlier. Stroke of brilliance. Thanksgiving Day spent washing puke sheets at someone else's house who DOES have a washer and dryer. **please note that when new appliances are delivered, they bring gas dryer. We have electric. Thanks. Try again.** Example 3. We have power. We do not have pukers. All major appliances are in the house. Unfortunately, a small family altercation breaks out and all of a sudden it's Jerry Springer. Voices are raised. Tears are flowing. People are exiting into the darkness. Brent and my dad just keep on staring straight ahead at the History Channel as if absolutely nothing is happening. Example 4. Not hosting Thanksgiving. What are we fools? Decide to drive to North Carolina and descend upon my brother and sister-in-law for the holiday. What could go wrong? Drive nine hours straight with three children, but thankfully we borrowed my MIL's comfy ride (loaded new Suburban). Joyously arrive and greet relatives. (Wait for it) Ben begins puking and sprays the living room. Sister-in-law is pregnant, and my parents are there, and so we get back in the car and drive nine hours home immediately so as not to infect others. Thanksgiving dinner consists of Funyuns at a gas station rung up by a cashier with a snake tattoo slithering down her neck. Tried to redeem Thanksgiving a few days later by going out and buying all the goodies to have our own at home. Wreck MIL's Suburban by driving it into the side of my own house instead of into the garage.
And. I. Am. Done.
So when Christmas rolls around, I'm usually still trying to recover from whatever catastrophe has occurred the month prior. The tree goes up. The shopping gets done. However, I'm usually dreading the stress, the busyness, the anticipation that it's just not going to be that great. And this year is no different. The Christmas tree was overpriced and underwhelming. A giant branch-less hole looms on the left hand side, making the tree look very much like nature's interpretation of Donald Trump's hair. My kids looked like hobos in the church Christmas program because I didn't have time or money to get new outfits. Two hundred Christmas cards arrived with the wrong year of Will's birth printed on them. According to the card, he's a very giant 4 month old. Ugh. I bought Brent an L. L. Bean backpack for Christmas. Nice, huh? When it arrived I discovered that it's for a small boy....,or a Hobbit.
 What is my problem???? I'll tell you what it is. I'm not concentrating on advent. I'm not thinking about the tiny savior who was born to free me from the bondage of all this other junk. I miss talking to Jesus. I haven't opened my Bible in days. And I'm longing for time spent with my Father. So in a few minutes, I will put this blog to rest along with everyone else in this house who is sleeping and I will read and pray. Let the story of Christmas overwhelm me in a such a way that the mishaps of the season shrink to nothingness. Yes, I want this to be the best Christmas ever, but not because I've constructed a beautiful experience around me. I'm striving for a heart that is set on the Lord and the wonder of His birth.
Sometimes I like to write out my prayers. Here is my prayer tonight:
Dear Heavenly Father-
  Where would I be if you hadn't come? Why do I live like you didn't come? Lord, forgive me for shifting my focus away from you, my King. Help me to quiet the world around me so that I can hear your voice during this advent season. Help me to find renewed wonder in the story of your birth. Help me to put you back in your rightful place--as Lord of my life and the center of my days, hours, minutes, seconds. Make me comfortable with failure because failure makes me want and need you. In whatever successes I do experience, help me to credit you instead of stealing fame for myself. Lord, please change my heart. The ugliness in it is not what you want for me. Only you can help me. Make me yearn for you as I yearn now for earthly things. May your opinion of me be the only one that matters to me. Make me a daughter worth of your inheritance.