Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Gift For My Dad

What do I give you? You never want anything and grumble when I buy you something...or, as is the case this year, just being financially squeezed to the point where I know you would be disappointed if I even made an attempt to give you a present? I think about the alternative and realize that the ONLY gift I can give you is something that I think of daily but do not find the words or the "right" time to say: My life is blessed because you are in it. When Mom married you I had never known any dad that I could claim as mine. Consequently, my desire for a dad was great, but my understanding of a dad's role was intimidating to me since I only knew the affection of my mom and grandparents. As I reflect on who you were at that time to me: you represented security. You gave me a life I could only dream of. I was used to chicken 4 nights a week because it was inexpensive, cutting coupons, used cars that were always littered with newspapers and driven by Papap who I spent most of my drive time with and ironically enough, since that was all I knew, it wasn't until I was living in the new reality that you had created for us that I realized I could dream even bigger. I began to realize that the lonliness of my childhood was being filled with opportunities that led me toward a future that didn't have to look gloomy as the days that I sat waiting for my mom who never seemed to be there for me in the way that I longed for. I could now hope for more in life rather than be limited by life.

I realize that I very well may have worked even harder to have opportunities as I got older, but the opportunities that you created for me were gifts that I am so thankful for. Perhaps that is why I desire to indulge my children in opportunity. Our life's paradigm is one we can choose to create, but it is also one we can be gifted with and when we recognize the gift, we can appreciate not only who we are, but who we have the opportunity to become. You know the desire of my heart is never to forget where I came from as my core values were created out of little else but my Papap's determination to point me toward God and His truth and yet as I have been exposed to more because of your gifts in the form of opportunity and trust in my judgment that gave me more freedom and my heart's desires have increased to a greater scope of purpose beyond survival to purpose.

While I find myself challenged as a mother of 5 children, all of them intentionally being raised to be independent as well as leaders equipped with an understanding of the human condition, I also believe my determination to further indulge them in opportunity was planted within me through you. You may not realize that your generosity has revealed that to me, but I have given much thought to this: How could I come from where I began and be overwhelmed with challenges and yet still determined to expect and trust God for His provisions (which come not just through opportunities, but through people) as I am waiting for His next prompt for our next step in my own life as well as my children's futures?

There are promises that God has given to me that keep me encouraged through the difficult times of this season of my life and my ability to realize that God desires to give good things to His children (aside from the fact that the Bible says so) in a practical way is because I have experienced you doing this for me. Had you not been in my life I would not have been able to connect with this possibility. The absence of a father would have left me empty and disbelieving in how much our Father in heaven desires to give good things to His children. "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 7:11. God brought me a perfect compliment to my personality with patience for my urges, an ability to see beyond the wounds of my childhood to my heart with desire and determination to live life with passion and purpose, and a steadfast support that still to this day keeps me.

There is no better time to tell you this. While Jesus was born into this world in order to be offered to us for the sacrifice for our own weaknesses, God has allowed me to see that He has given you to me so that I can accept the gift of opportunity you have given to me so that I could aspire to become more than I would have been able to without you. This Christmas I am blessed to share this part of my understanding of your role in my life. It is never overlooked or underappreciated.

Merry Christmas to the Greatest Dad any girl could ever have asked for! I love you!!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Reflections

As most people know, and either connectedly or absently celebrate Christmas, it is about the birth of "The Christ Child". As SAFE as that term may be when reading about or considering the impact of Christmas, is it NOT one, in my opinion, that allows Jesus the role of Lord and Savior. To me, that phrase feels distant.

When we celebrate, we commemorate an event. That means that the event has earned a rite to be significant. How is it that so much of our culture celebrates Christmas, but does not allow Jesus the role of Lord? Not only is this the norm, but additionally, the focus has become (for children and the parents that endorse fantasy over reality), Santa, flying reindeer, elves and other fictitious conjecture all the while not acknowledging Jesus as being born into this world, for the sole purpose of saving mankind from himself...the inherent sin that is within each one of that we can spend eternity in paradise with The One who created us rather than eternally separated from His love and hope and His intention for the children He created for the purpose of loving Him back? That is a very long sentence...perhaps even a run on, but it wraps my whole theme into one or two concise lines filled with words that tug at my heart....and if it tugs at my heart, what must it do to our Heavenly Father's?

He is our Daddy. He desires a relationship with what He has created. Our lives have pushed Him out and replaced Him with not only the distractions of life, but the fake figures that have robbed him of His rightful role on this planet. The word sad comes to mind. So does appalling. I believe God to be merciful because the word of God says He is. Therefore He understands our plight that pushes and pulls us away from Him. No matter. When we take the time to be honest with ourselves, I also believe we can relate to the ways that life gets in the way...the very life that He has allowed us to have. Every breath we take is given and appropriated. If we can take the time to become introspective I think we can all admit what it is that we have allowed to replace Him.

I am so grateful that learning to love Him in a way that satisfies Him is not about my performance. If it were, I would have failed miserably from the start. I am glad that I do not have to be immersed in His word every day or have the politically correct response in every situation so as to not cause another to stumble because they found me in some way to be offensive. I have learned that as this world goes around, there are various people, personalities, opportunities, subjects, passions, needs, etc. that bring our disfunctional selves to places where He uses us. I have also found that in those places and spaces in time I have become satisfied. I do not stop being me because I am surrendered to Him, but I become a more content me. My purpose becomes more clear, my frustration less, my hope more evident, my love more genuine.

I wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas and found that I could not do that without revealing who I am as well as who I am becoming as God allows me to be worked over. While being tested I want to be proven worthy of being useful. Not because of what I am lacking, but because of what He is equipping me with and for. Where I used to find myself pushing forward out of holes in my soul or obligation, I now find myself looking back and realizing that it is through the holes that He has used what He has allowed or chosen for me to become satisfied. He filled holes with loss. He filled holes with hope. He filled holes with determination...and that is where I find myself...determined to be useful, so that I can honor His call, not just as a wife and mother, but also for others who find themselves where I have found myself...frustrated with circumstances (one after another) in which I was forced to action that pushed me and pulled me to dig deep and try harder and as I examined myself there, I didn't feel the peace that I knew God has reserved for those who trust Him and accept challenges with open hands and arms.

This Christmas, remember who He is: THE SAVIOR, IMMANUEL (GOD WITH US), KING OF KINGS, LORD OF LORDS! If any of these words resonate with you, ask Him to show you Himself. That will translate into different realities for each of us. One thing I can say for sure: you will not be disappointed or sorry. You will be invigorated. You will be satisfied. Your soul will be satisfied. He will be honored. Honor Him. He is so worthy of our praise.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Mom's Eulogy--August 21, 2007

As I reflected, I wrote down my thoughts.
With God’s help, here they are:

Volkwagens and Bobby Pins.
Germaine Monteil and Bonnie Bell.
Her hair in a bun and a scarf around her neck.
McClarens and the Jaye Shoppe.
The Ritz Shoppe and Joseph Hornes.
Royal Secret and Royal Oak.
Puppies and Pretzels.
Her hair in a bun and a scarf around her neck.

These are the things I think of:

Lonely, dreary days.
Waiting for my mom to come home.
No neighbors, no friends, just my mom.
HeeHaw, Lawrence Welk.
Mister Rogers and Sesame Street and Zoom.
Waiting for my mom to come home.

My mom was beautiful. She was fun and she was strong.
She spent as much time with me as she could.
I lived for her time with me.

Papap and Gramma.
A trapeze swing and a tractor.
Playing cards and Myron Cope.
Digging for worms and digging for potatoes.

If I was with them, I wasn’t with her.

As I grew, Papap took me to church.

I sang in the choir, endured boring services and knew Jesus was Lord.

Through my mom’s journey and hopefulness for better things for our life, she met my dad—the only dad I ever knew and from the first day of our new life—he was MY DAD.

Expectations aren’t always met and life is often NOT what you plan….we ALL know that to be true.

My mom struggled with unmet expectations but maintained steadfast devotion to the one who loved her most.

During her battle with cancer I watched God transition her mind from earthly concerns to eternal perspectives.

The sorrows she had turned to matters of trust to the one who saved her.

He doesn’t disappoint.

Her biggest concern was for my dad:

She told me a few months ago, “if I had to get cancer so that your dad could come to know the Lord, then it is worth it.”

She truly lived out the scripture, “My grace is sufficient and my power is made perfect in weakness.”

So often we came to console and found ourselves being consoled. And convicted.

Watching her suffer was hard for all of us, but seeing the peace that surpasses understanding that was upon her enabled everyone that looked on to know that this was not the woman that entered into this battle. She wasn’t going to let this disease take her life and her opportunity to overcome this world.
That is God’s promise: He says in his word, “I have overcome the world.”

We get caught up in so many issues of our days.

When faced with the reality of the conclusion of our lives, very little of our concerns actually matter.

The investments that are eternal are people, perspective and possibilities.

My mom struggled with her weaknesses—as we all do.
But she devoted her heart to the people that she loved. She also devoted her heart to her Lord, even if not always her perspective.

I am almost 40 years old and can recall my childhood and see that who I am is largely due to the investment she made in me—even though I do not think I could ever have gotten enough of her—God made up for the rest.

My faith, as hers, is always hopeful, always trusting and always expecting.
That is her greatest gift to me and I didn’t even realize where it came from until I saw God stripping away the junk and revealing what I always hoped was there and secretly knew it was.

Many times through this journey she has made back to her Lord, I would cry and tell her how bittersweet it all was to me….the mom I always knew was in there was finally being revealed but it was through tragedy—but ultimately triumph. She is triumphant. I, unfortunately have to wait until this life is over before I can experience the gift He gave her.
The gift He gave to me was to know the mom who I always expected as a little girl finally emerge in her time of death.

She has, as Jesus did, overcome the grave.

She sought forgiveness and asked for mercy and He gave it to her.

Her regrets caused her to persevere for God’s touch. He touched her.
This is not what the world considers healing, but it is a far greater healing than a physical one.

Of all the images I have forever etched in my mind, the greatest one to me is when my mom, at her weakest, would reach out for my dad and he would lovingly respond to her. The distance between them forever gone and the commitment they shared revealed.

Interestingly, the same thing has happened in her relationships with me as well as God too.
I am sure there are others who can boast the same. And as the bible says, we are not to boast in our strength, but in our weakness, because His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

People who know me well know that I always try to find the good in the difficult circumstances of life. I know now, where it comes from. It is just yet another gift she has given to me that surpasses everything I personally can accomplish.

It was just a few days ago when in her most pathetic state, seeing the decline of her strength, vitality and ability to communicate with words at its absolute worst, I sat by her side, tears rolling down my face and told her I never would have expected watching my mother die be such a beautiful experience.
She lifted her arms and touched my face and simply said, “I love you.”

She refused almost all pain medication in the final days before her death. She seldom grimaced and the peaceful countenance that was upon her face became the norm and not the exception as recent years have indicated.
God redeemed her. He redeemed me as well.
Our faith, always strong is now even stronger.
Our hope, always expecting, know knowing.
The possibilities of victory, the battle is over and my mom and all who saw it through God’s eyes, are the victors.
I thank you Jesus for the greatest gifts I have received in my life—a mom that loved me and a Savior who loved her so much that He redeemed her life, even when there was barely any life left—it was the most alive she has ever been. And it is only the beginning….

My Mom's Last Birthday July 29, 2007/19 days before she died from cancer

Once you asked for shelter from above; Now you feel the embrace of His love.
Once you hoped to have deliverance from the pain; Now you know His comfort as you wait for THE DAY.
Once you questioned whether you were His; Now you know what is in THE GIFT.
It isn’t relief from the storm; But anticipation of a new morn.
You are blessed to see Him shine; In your darkness and in His time.
He LOVES you so to not take it away; But soon you will know the brightest of days.
For those who still do not know; Perhaps is why you still are waiting to go
He knows what He is doing; You know that now
It will soon be over and your understanding is proof; He is the author and we are the ones who have everything to lose;
If we do not accept His son's death on the cross; Our life is as a moth’s.
YOU are the victor in the battle he has chosen; To usher in eternal life and end the war in this world’s strife.
So I honor you Mom for all you are; Jesus is your hope and your destiny secure.
Praise be to the One who gave his Son.
Your time is almost nigh; But I will NOT EVER say good-bye; But “see you later” as I cry.
You are the Mom he chose for me; And blessed am I to know your destiny.
Forever our relationship is secure; Because His love is forevermore.
I thank God for securing your place; As you wait to see the glory of His face.
The stars of night that bring forth the day; Are the sign to me; Of God’s patience for our slowness of speed as we do not heed; And as we tarry and do not trust; His every prompt Which should be a must.
In this life we live and in return must give; Our striving to Him; As He makes treasures Out of men.
I LOVE YOU MOMMY --here and in eternity too

Monday, December 13, 2010

Postural Correction Is Not Just A Term We Use In Our Office :-)

There are times when being misinterpreted can be very productive. It will allow further expoloration into what motivates us. When challenges motivate, we can become short-sighted and therefore not ultimately successful. But when the motivation gives way to inspiration, we are committed forever. Our reality begins to take on a new shape that enhances our vision. We can posture ourselves for success. We can position our headspace from a perspective of hope as we invest our heart and soul into every challenge God allows in our life.

If we do not allow anger and resentment for what cannot change and do not allow it to destroy the opportunities (often found in the form of obstacles), I do not believe we would allow anyone or anything's attempt to villify our course of action and we would hold even faster as we embrace our difficulties with FAITH. Remember that each challenge that enters our lives is sifted through the hand of God and therefore will ultimately be used for our benefit, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes us.

I have postured myself. Doesn't everyone? Each position we assume can either make us bitter...or better.

I love Mark Twain's quotes. I find him insightful and witty. One of his quotes that suites me is: "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear."

While I have tried countless attempts at bridging gaps or internal struggles within, it is a difficult place to be found when having to abandon self for the sake of God's purpose is the ONLY solution to restoration. While I cannot assume credit for living life discreetly, I certainly believe my positions in my inward as well as outward appearances, are within my scope of understanding both internally and externally and as Mark Twain has also quoted a statement that resonates with my personality "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." While your appearance may be judged and your intentions criticised, you do not have to accept criticism or judgment. In fact I would caution you that if you do, you will never advance to your God-given potential. He chooses us all according to His will. He creates us uniquely with various purposes, personalities, gifts, desires and tastes just as he has the animals on the earth.

I do believe my trust in the power and purpose of my God for His direction in my life is appropriated according to His will for my life. I have learned the hard way since I was a little girl experiencing abandonment and lonliness and fear that there is very little in life that we actually have control over. Our best position can be taken and we can be most prepared for whatever battle we find ourselves in when we are filled with trust in the larger plan that I believe is one in which He alone is responsible for. I have chosen to embrace rather than cower in the face of adversity. I realize that is counterintuitive to many...and particularly irritating to some who feel life owes them something for their challenges.

I can only speak from my own experiences and it is with determination that I posture myself to not just endure challenge but create purpose from it in my life. Alas, Mr. Twain: "Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first."

I can honestly say, of three significant battles I have had or am facing, another of Mark Twain's quotes speaks: "Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain." I fear sickness. It is a driving factor in my understanding health. I see a hurting world. I see it occurring with such unnecessity. I see it occurring with such prevalence. I see it occurring with such a lack of explanation. When my "healthy" husband first got sick, I remember posturing myself from the perspective that it was an opportunity for all of his gifts to be used together to make a difference in the world on the topic of heaIth...and that is EXACTLY what we now do with our life's work. I also would run from certain uncomfortable scenarios in which I would have to embrace difficult circumstances in my life because it evoked a fear of losing control for the plans I had for my life. What did God allow me to be challenged with as a result of me holding tightly onto MY objectives? He forced me to open my LIFE and all that was/is within it for a greater purpose than I would have ever believed could have been achieved. If I wasn't 7 years into my reconstructed family I would never believe those challenging circumstances could have worked for the good of every one within its definition. My initial motivation was that I feared being imprudent in what I have been entrusted with. I wanted to honor God by rising to His call...regardless of whether or not I was comfortable with it. God was enhacing my life by giving me 2 additional children and whatever was connected to them...therefore we trusted others that were supposed to know more than we could have, would have or wanted to to direct our steps. Some of that direction was invaluable and some has proven to be pathetic. In any case, the challenges created yet another twist in the life we live and another quote by Mr. Twain becomes relevant: "Don't let schooling interfere with your education." I could have never learned in a thousand lifetimes what I have learned in my one but rather than allowing the circumstances to shape me I am determined to get as much as I can out of the process so that as this ONE life that I have been given is lived out, a richness brews...sometimes unseen...sometimes quite visibly seen...but when the aroma is being sent beyond myself through those who God chooses for us to cross paths with or into my children and into their life's reaches, there is something to be purposeful about. There is a remembrance of cross roads, of choices, of perspective, of trust, of faith, of hope and most importantly of what we are cultivating which ultimately is rooted in love. This type of love is not one that is caught, but it is one that is taught. As God allows certain circumstances to be walked through, there is going to be an aroma left behind. I do not want mine to be a stench of what was stolen, but a fragrance of what is possible when beauty is birthed out of the ashes.

Mr. Twain also says, "Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest." While I only have a few people (besides God) in my life that I am interested in truly gratifying, I do not really care how "the rest" perceive my life's agenda. I only have hopes that the ones who matter will see my efforts for what they truly are: sincere and determined to produce a yield beyond the sum of my fragmented life of insecurities, abandonment and sadness as a child, into one that richly blesses the world God has called me to live within. We will find the life God blesses when we live within our purpose. While it will be filled with distractions, distortions, deceptions, deletions; it will also be filled with substance that drives out our fears and replaces them with hope and purpose.

I would encourage you to remember what matters: our intentions which we have to acknowledge to ourselves and our Creator. Intentions affect how we live in relationship with others. Intentions will get us where we desire to go in life. When I looked at the definition I was surprised at how many definitions there were and they are all appropriate:
an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result.
the end or object intended; purpose.
purpose or attitude toward the effect of one's actions or conduct.
purpose or attitude with respect to marriage.
the act or fact of intending.
Logic .
Also called first intention, primary intention. reference by signs, concepts, etc., to concrete things, their properties, classes, or the relationships among them.
Also called second intention, secondary intention. reference to properties, classes, or the relationships among first intentions.
Surgery, Medicine/Medical . a manner or process of healing, as in the healing of a lesion or fracture without granulation (healing by first intention) or the healing of a wound by granulation after suppuration (healing by second intention).
meaning or significance.
the person or thing meant to benefit from a prayer or religious offering.
Archaic . intentness.

I began this post awhile ago but it wasn't until the other day when a friend sent me this with the introduction "just saw this and thought of you" that I realized how appropriate this was to the conclusion of my ponder.
Poise: "Poise means holding fast to your principles and acting in accordance with them regardless of how bad or good the situation may be. Poise means avoiding pose or pretense, comparing yourself to others, or acting like someone or something you're not. Poise means having a brave heart in all circumstances." - John Wooden's Pyramid of Success
I think this could also be the definition for courage. Courage refers to qualities of spirit and conduct. Courage permits one to face extreme dangers and difficulties without fear. Courage keeps us staying the course despite the circumstances. Our posture CAN be interpreted in many ways. There will always be those who want to draw their own conclusions based on "appearances". That is not your concern. Those that matter, know the truth and those that don't...well...they don't matter.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful on Thanksgiving

Each year, as we have celebrated Thanksgiving, we have always implemented asking our kids to think of something that they are thankful for and share it before dinner. Our answers have always been the ones you would expect: First and foremost, we are thankful for Jesus, who laid down His life so that we could spend eternity with Him, Danny and I would next prioritize each other, then our children and our families.

We have endured unique challenges that have forced our attention toward our hope in those challenges as birthing a mission and purpose that we trust God to reveal. After each transitional period (or survival through them), we have attempted to exercise our faith as well as our hope that we have in Him. I don't question God's wisdom being greater than any I could understand, but I do fear at times His allowance of the burdens I am learning to let Him carry.

Each burden, while I can understand God giving me my personality and perspective that I seem to have; as well as trouble controlling this personality of mine oftentimes, I have allowed it to be an "excuse" for my reactions to things that rub me wrong, as well as the very blessing within me that allows me to embrace those challenges. Each burden or blessing (depending upon the day), I have shared with Him, carrying it within His plan, but I still felt the weight of it. There is a balance to be accepting of, but feeling the weight to the point that I justify my toil, which is NOT part of His plan. The bible says, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:29-30.)

It is only in weakness of doing it this way, His way, is possible. I recently realized that while each challenge gives direction for life, it also can bring a greater sense of self. My thoughts and actions have often gone spinning as I attempt another plan, another level of resourcefulness, another way of either escape or embrace...again, depending on the day or the ability to adapt.

Our recent challenge, having the stamp of the enemy all over it and counterintuitive to my fiber of being, has enabled me to see with a new lens. Where past challenges have enriched my perspective, this one left me speechless within my internal reconciliation of understanding. It was in that space that I learned more about Thanksgiving than I ever knew possible. I learned how to let go. I let go of my gifts for optimism, my determination for truth to be "heard", even my expectations of what I thought was a nearing of the end of our valley that we have been in for so long. I am more thankful now than ever for Who I serve, Who has called me to purpose and Who has perfectly orchestrated my weaknesses for His glory.

Because I have no where to go to create another plan, find another path, commit another day, I am surrendered. Surrendered to Him. The fears I have had in letting go are beginning to bring me peace. I am not the same wife, not the same mother and certainly not the same child of God. While I have let go of my natural perspective to remain determined to dig deep within, I now trust God for just enough grace for the day. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." 2Corinthians 12:9

He has allowed me to placed in a situation that I can only look at how my life can honor Him. I have begun wondering whose life I am meant to speak into as I walk out His road to mission and purpose. I can assure you, I do not relish the pain, but I am focused on the purpose. I hold onto the expectation alone that our Father wants great things for His children. Matthew 7:11 says, "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!"

He knows my heart is bent toward Him. He has entrusted me with a God-fearing man with a tremendous anointing on his life and 5 incredible children who are all uniquely blessed and burdened as well. I have failed plenty, but I have not avoided the challenges in physical fear, although there have been times when the emotional scars of my youth have stood in the way of all I desired to be in those places of purpose.

I have also learned that the place of purpose is right where we are. It is not in the next chapter. It is in the one we find ourselves in today. Trust Him with your life. Trust Him with your marriage. Trust Him with your children. Trust will NEVER understand His ways, but you will always rise above your circumstances if you surrender your heart to Him. "...hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." Romans 5:5 That is where my hope is. I cannot help my expectation, but it is no longer in MY plan, but in His. I walk each day out in His grace and expect one day He will show up and show off as any father would for a child determined to have her Daddy's best!

May we “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.” --Psalm 100:4-5

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

To My Wife Merily, On Her 43rd Birthday

I wanted to honor you in a special way during this difficult time. At the most stressful time of our lives, I believe God is showing us what is most important-"RELATIONSHIPS".
Our relationship with our Lord being at the top and then our relationship with each other. Our relationship with our children will be determined by our dedication, commitment, and our love for each other and our love for God. With that said, I want to honor you by reading this in front of our children to show them my love, admiration, and respect I have for their mother.

I love you! I do not say it enough perhaps, but I hope my commitment to you and the actions I live out on a daily basis speaks it louder than my words.
I can't imagine a more perfect wife for me. God knew I needed a strong woman-strong you are. During my time of illness you were more than there for me. You reminded me of who I was and what God had called me to. You took our vows seriously, "for sickness and in health". You have honored me in both and stuck by my side. Not many people could have stuck by me during that time. You know I always said it would have been easier if I had had cancer. Only you and God know how difficult it was at that time. And just when we thought we were clear of that challenge, we were facing another. This time, the decision to take on 2 children after we just had a new baby (Simon). I was wavering but you never did. The media, "The Grandmother" or anyone can say what they want, but I saw your commitment to Dylan and Olivia from Day One. Again, no one but myself and God know what you have done for me and those children. NOBODY! God knew, just like with me, exactly what they needed to be whole. Satan used grandma to stop you from being their mom but God said, "NO!"
Nothing can stop what God puts in motion. His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
People give me credit for getting Dylan well when it was really your dedication and stubbornness that got him well. He would not be where he is today in school without your determination to make him independent. Any other mom, especially in a situation like ours, would have allowed him to dictate the pace-not you. You reminded him of who he was as well as who he could become-like you did me.
Olivia would be lost without you. You never allowed her to control as she tries and fall victim to Satan's plan. I would never have been able to do what you did and are doing for her. I just do not have the strength to do so. I do not know another mother who does. God knew. The very thing you are criticized for is the very trait God saw that this family needs. I can speak for us all and say thank you and we all love you.
The three boys all need you in different ways. Daniel needs you for his anchor to keep him grounded. He, like you, has to talk in order to do life and also talk "it" out just to stand firm. He also needs you to badger with-I just can't keep up. Izik needs you to keep reminding him of who he is and that he can do whatever he sets his mind to. Izik is me so only you will fill that something "us Pompa's" need-especially during breakdowns. Simon needs only a whole lot of love that only you are able to give him. God has great purpose for him and that needs to be nurtured. That too, is being provided by you. That boy is anointed for God's kingdom.

I am not the greatest writer and struggle to put my feelings on paper, therefore this is only a fraction of my feelings for you. Our times have been hard the last 10 years but I know that God has purpose in it all. Nobody will ever know what you are to this family outside of God and to some extent, myself. I have to believe that is why you have it so hard. I love you Merily and I could never make it without you-nor could these kids. God knows.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

VOICES: Danny's 45th Birthday Tribute...A Crechendo of Pain And A Crechendo of Purpose

There is a voice inside each of acknowledges our potential as well as our fears. It is easy to listen to the voice that speaks the loudest. I have been in the life of a man...who for the first decade of our relationship (5 years dating and almost 5 years of marriage) easily heard the voice of potential. In fact, if he ever forgot it was screaming at him, all he needed to do was to watch our wedding video where the videographer asked me the question as I was going in to the wedding chapel, what is was about him that I was most attracted to? My response? "His potential!"

Potential drives us. It ignites our passion. It speaks to our soul. It trusts in our call...especially when it is a mandate from God. What it cannot do is unwind the wounds which are nothing more than ways we have coped, lies we have believed, and roadblocks to our destiny.

As I sit and think about those voices in my own head and compare them to my husband's, I realize that Danny is anointed. While that term used to intimidate me, I now realize that what God selects for each of our surrendered hearts is perfectly equipped in every way to fulfill its destiny. For Danny, his anointing focuses on the call. Nothing detracts from his focus except enormous and painful distractions that hold his heart hostage, like birth pains in labor. Because he is fallible the process of learning to surrender to the dance is the greatest challenge. It supersedes every wound. I often remind myself that while each blow to his body, soul and spirit have wounded him, they have been wounds that are being healed by God Himself and they were allowed for a much larger purpose than what we can understand with our limited ability to conceive of God's ways.
1 Corinthians 2:9 comes to mind: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him." We are not able to know exactly what that means in our trials, but God knows that in our finite ability to understand the pain we endure during this life, His promises give us hope.

The second half of our marriage...the next 10 years, has shown the other voice's determined whispers and clanging for the purpose of creating fear. Fear of the unknown.

The knowledge he gained through his sickness has taken him on a journey into places of understanding of the workings of the body that he otherwise never would have visited. God Himself allowed the once virile man to fall captive to the law of diminishing returns. I can remember the places and spaces along the way that anticipated a healthy body again one day...and expectantly on this side of Heaven. The statement Danny would make was this..."if I could just regain my health...." (concluding that all else would be insignificant by comparison)...every challenge with our constitutionally corrected family, disappointing business ventures, rises and falls of various kinds, have all merged to a place where there is nowhere to turn except to the only voice that matters...His voice.

My husband is now well!! Physically. The process God took him through to teach him what he needed to learn to teach others has served its purpose. And now there is another challenge we walk through for another dimension of healing. It threatens aspects of our life that additionally challenges our family and it is perhaps even more painful than the physical aspect because it criticizes our efforts to restore our family to wholeness from the emotional as well as the physical wounds of that befell each of us. Once again, there is a journey that we are forced to travel with variables that aren't based on science. The battle for relationship has even more dimensions than the physical path of restoration. I have learned that both types of suffering have their roots in lies. The goal my husband has in his teaching reveals where and how those lies began. It takes the body's ability to heal back to the cellular level...where life begins and ends. In our emotional healing, we also must go back to the place our healing begins and ends...with our Creator who desires a relationship that is built on trust, freedom of choice, and evidence of love and desire for blessing those who choose His direction regardless of the consequences or uncertainties.

I sat down to write this as a way to honor my husband on his birthday, and realized that this is a message every one of us that trusts in God with all of our heart needs to dissect. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take." We often stop there in our quoting, but verse 7-8 bring it all together: "Don't be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones."

The understanding that my husband sought was not just for his own benefit or healing. It is a message that the world needs to hear in a time when our understanding of imperative issues involving our health is absolutely coming apart at its core. The institutions that are supposed to have this understanding locked down have failed us. Our leaders are profiting from their self-imposed and self-righteous agendas. Why is it so challenging for logic to retain its place? I still wrestle with my frustrations that I believe have that exact perspective creating turmoil within me. And as the challenges become greater, the more I realize there is another agenda that desires to undermine the effort that this anointing was given for.

I know God will intervene at exactly the right time and with every lesson learned and with each blow that frustrates our effort, a greater determination arises within that swells our spirit to persevere. The lesson we are learning is that while we have this mission to carry out, we cannot do it in our own strength. "...This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don't be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God' will not even need to fight. Take your positions, then stand still and watch the Lord's victory. He is with you...Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!" 2 Chronicles 20:15-17.

We are AS ONE in our posture to take the message to the masses. We have an amazing group of people that also have inflated hearts for this mission and who see far beyond the distractions of our foes. What we are now learning is only going to be found in our surrendered posture and learning to dance with Him in the lead as there is no where to turn. There are no words to be spoken; the position is already taken and now we wait for Him to set the captives free. The captives are not only people, but burdens for freedom. They are stolen dreams, unmet expectations and frustrated efforts. There is much at stake: Freedom from bondage.

What God desires for His people can only be found in the greatest of measure when we cannot do anything but wait. Coming to the end of our own efforts is a foreign concept that we could not even comprehend until we ran out of our own natural resources: whether physical strength, finances or ideas. We are now understanding what total surrender means and while we didn't abandon our inclinations to fight, God allowed our circumstances to force our surrender. His mission is not our own. And because it belongs to Him, and we are merely his messengers, as in any battle of biblical proportion, we must allow Him to fight it for us. And as we surrender in the battle, we learn it is really a dance. He is in the lead and we move according to His direction. If we really desire to trust in our Lord, He will not have it any other way to mature us in our faith and our character than to allow nothing but His grace to lead our dance.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hearing and Doing

I had an incredible "Mom Moment" yesterday. The word incredible may not even be sufficient enough. The mental challenge of helping Daniel to "welcome" Olivia into his heart as well as our life has been a monumental and agonizing process. For a child to be expected to understand the "whys" of life when as adults it is hard to reconcile such difficulties in our own mind's eye. I know there are days when I have taken extraordinary amounts of time and offered perspective that I know will help to shape him into the man he will one day become even though he has heard only half of what I have said and offered even less application. There have also been days when my "suggestions" have been less than empathetic. I have never questioned God about why I was chosen for this role, but I have wrestled with Him on more than one occasion as I have certainly grown weary under the various burdens within it. Mothers wear so many different hats as it is and raising kids on a good day...well I am just not sure there are ANY of those until our kids are standing on their own two feet and able to understand for themselves why some days we asked them to go to bed earlier than others.

I never wanted to be a mom that sung her children's praises in each and every area of growth and development, but at this particular juncture in my life, I cannot help but recognize the painful stretching my own challenges are having on every area of my own life as well as the obvious effect it is having on my kids and to see them thriving within it is something that brings me to my knees where I find a God that refocuses me on my objective: to grow through my calling as a mother of 5 incredible and uniquely gifted kids who never leave my mind without heartfelt emotion, a wife of a man destined by God Himself with a mission of healing for a hurting and foolishly arrogant world, as well as a woman with desires as well as ambition that seem to emerge and then become somewhat strangled under the weight of the various hats I have been called to wear.

This reality leaves me empowered as well as helpless at the same time. I am learning who I am in God's eyes, in the eyes of those who "used" to know me as well as those who God is bringing into my life to support the transition as the next phase of our life unfolds. I am humbled by the new, frustrated by the old and while I would like to say patiently waiting for more opportunities to thrive, I am imperfect as well as impatient.

I have also learned through the process that the more we are called to the more we have to prove. I am not referring to proving ourselves to God, although I am quite certain He allows the challenges for purposes we may not always understand nor do we need to. We are simply called to trust Him. I think the concept of proving is something that is allowed for our own benefit. It doesn't build self-confidence...quite the builds God-confidence, and that is something that is not only severely lacking in our culture, but absolutely required for serving Him.

As I have put the time into Daniel and Olivia's relationship with little return, or so it seemed, yesterday was a day that proved something to me: our growth, while it is a part of our destiny, it may not always be a path that is pain-free or self-controlled. If we remember who we are within that process, who we trust, and who trusts us to demonstrate His character, we can rest assured He will guide us. And as hard as we may "try" to respond correctly when we are faced with difficulties, we always have room to grow. Yesterday, Daniel showed me he is growing.

I had been at a seminar with my husband over the weekend. I was picking Daniel up at the bus stop and when he got in the car, he began telling me about his weekend. He and Olivia had gone to "Rec Night" at their school. She had spent the weekend at a friend's house but they saw each other there. He told me he had danced twice...with 2 different girls! I needed straightened out since I was thinking that balls would be bouncing on the gym floor all evening (another blog, another day ;O). He said Olivia danced all night but not with any boys. I reminded him of something that is spoken of in our home and that is that Olivia is faithful! Faithful for God to bring the right person into her life when it is the right time and in the mean time she just will not compromise her trust in His goodness for her life. It is something that I respect her so much for. Daniel told me something else I already know and that is that Olivia is a great dancer! He went on to say: "Everyone really likes Olivia...the girls as well as ALL OF THE BOYS! We have the same friends and I actually have to admit I missed Olivia this weekend!"

(SILENCE.) (TEARS SLOWLY FALLING DOWN MY CHEEKS.) I looked at him and said, "Daniel, you have NO idea how happy that makes me. It makes ALL of our challenges completely worth it!" I have a feeling that God feels the same way when we grow in our understanding of our own challenges in life that He allows for our growth. Add to that statement all of the changes this family has recently (as well as continually) been put through and it was a moment where God showed ME that He really is in control and really does care about my feelings of occasionally growing weary as if my faith is waning under the pressure of those many hats I am forced to wear.

I must have really been neglected as a child to have to learn all of these lessons as an adult! But I am thankful that God loves me enough to not have left me where I was! I am still ever-hopeful in the best that life has to offer, but I am far more focused on the best that God has to offer!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hanging By A Thread

What occurs in our hearts when we reach places in our lives that we aren't equipped to understand or know how to fix? What keeps us going? What inner strength and hope takes over? Against all odds....

I have found myself in my own perplexing circumstances in which the odds reflect one word: RUN but the voice that stabilizes me: HIS VOICE assures me it is under control and beyond my expectations of power and hope. In those moments where the challenge of maintaining order amidst the chaos seems a daunting task, God stands tall and mighty.

Next week is a big week for us. It will either give way to our singing praise to Him with ease or it will cause us to force a song when the gross distortions of the truth become an added paradigm to our existence for awhile longer.

I began this post on May 31 but I didn't publish it...nor did I finish it. Our appearance in court was June 9. We took our children and sat before an arbitrary process that was so foreign to our reality, yet with out the ability of our voice to be heard. We were there physically, perhaps even symbolically, as our presence hopefully gave each "player" in this game a deeper sense of conviction to realize that this is a family that is already being "tried" in life...without choice or escape. If those in their seat of power really desire to make decisions that are lawful, then they would go beyond the circumstantial evidence to the details of truth from those who we sought help from, who did offer advice and counsel, and even directed the processes that we are under scrutiny for.

Unfortunately, nothing was resolved that day. "More time" was needed. Needed for what was my initial thought? For prolonging our anticipation of freedom from half-truths and distortions that do not reflect the reality? And then I remembered what I know to be true: when every lesson learned from a process is painful and has achieved its goal, it will be resolved. When the ultimate goal of further deepening our faith is fortified and established, that chapter will be closed so that our next level of living can be established.

I read this fragmented post this morning and realized that I am grateful for a God that can be depended on when others fail us. When circumstances stretch our reality and offer nothing in return that brings peace, the only hope that can be found is in a God that has challenged us with circumstances that will exceed our comprehension and prove to be purposeful beyond our imagination.

Adversity is meant for maturing our faith. It enables God to reveal Himself in ways that prove not just His existence, but also His love for those that trust Him. It brings our purpose to light in a way nothing else can. We have each been called by Him, but not each one of us answers His call. I remember my initial thought when faced with the reality of gaining 2 more children at an already difficult time in my life. What went through my head was a repeated phrase: "I do not need swallowed by the 'whale' (as Jonah was due to his running from God's call upon his life), this is big enough."

And now, almost 7 years later, and under an even greater challenge than that, I find myself thinking of Jacob when God said "you will not be called Jacob any longer. From now on your name will be Israel" (and God renamed him in Genesis 35:10. This past decade of our life has "renamed" us. It has taken so much from us, but it has given us so much more. The space we are in, as we hang in the balance between the call and the promise is one of uncertainty in our circumstances, but more importantly, one of His calling, which purposes it all.

I know we will look back on this chapter of our lives and realize how necessary it has been. The teaching is unlike any we could ever receive any other way. The emotional pain, while it seems unfair, is a reminder of the suffering that Jesus endured and He was without sin! There is no comparison but there is an analogy to be drawn. When we understand, like Jacob, in order to answer the call, we must leave our comfort zone and be "called out" of any and all complacency to become a useful tool for God, we do not walk by sight, but by faith. We maintain a posture of trust that doesn't always have words to define.
While we desire an end to the hardships of the process, we witness first hand the ability of God to provide for His children. There is a supernatural component that edifies the challenges within the struggle. And as we wish it away, we realize that it is priceless in its role.

And so we move forward and we know that "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."
2 Corinthians 8-9

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Between Revelation and Manifestation

It has been ten years since the inception of Danny's illness. A whole decade. The internal battle for an answer or an end was a long, painful process in which I needed to reconcile God allowing the challenge of this process with the additional purpose He called me to of raising a family. The emotional support of encouragement throughout his journey was the key ingredient to his sustenance. Thankfully, only one thing in particular was needed in which I was gifted in--encouragement.
Looking back I realize that was a gift I possessed. I did nothing to earn it. I just naturally did it. There were definitely many times throughout where my words felt empty...the ones spoken as well as the ones received. The times I was particularly discouraged in my role as his wife was when he would tell me, "You always say that and NOTHING has changed". The ONLY thing I had to offer was that God assured me through a deposit He made into my spirit that my husband would be healthy again, and a message of hope to a hurting world would be his offering after his restoration.
When Danny and I had been dating for almost 5 years, without a lifetime commitment as part of our relationship plan, I began to feel insecure. How could I know in my heart that this was the one I could easily spend my life with without him speaking about our future with the same perspective? He would tell me that he was waiting for God to "show him" with absolute certainty that it was to be me. I wasn't sure what would have done it for him...fireworks going off over my head perhaps as I used to jokingly suggest. I had done enough reading and listening on the topic to know that there were certain elements that were undeniable: mutual respect, the same goals for life, philosophies that were congruent, and most importantly a faith that was built on Jesus Christ as the cornerstone of the blueprint for this life. We had all of those. In fact, early in our relationship, when Danny was challenged by a friend about his unsettled perspective of the meaning of life, through a process of scientific investigation (which initially revealed to me his mode of learning truth) the undeniable reality of Jesus as the son of God and therefore being who He said He was and that is the ONLY way to God became evident. As a result Danny hung his hat (as well as our physical relationship) on the hook until the appointed time of marriage. (We did not have sex again until 5 years later after we walked down the aisle.)
There was always one issue that weighed heavily on me in my dating relationships and that was whether or not those relationships that I was involved in were right. Were the men in my life truly valuing me as a person or was the relationship driven by the physical aspect of the man's desire for sex?
When Danny realized that he had no idea how he would be able to accomplish no sex before marriage when he was accustomed to that being a driving force in his pursuits, I simultaneously knew that it was ME that he valued. To have been sustained in the relationship for the "right" reasons left me an obvious conclusion of him being "the one for me". It was disturbing that his brain needed a different assurance. Perhaps that was the first obvious place to me that we were wired differently. I had to release feeling insecure and trust that God would bring him to the same conclusion that he had me but I had to respect that it would be through a different process.
When I began putting the pressure on him near the end of chiropractic school and feeling undervalued with little effort (it seemed to me) of him searching for the solution as he did for meaning of life, it further added to my frustration. I began spending less time with him and more time with friends. I somewhat selfishly used it as an excuse to pursue my own ambitions without searching for God's purposes in them. Then I came to a crossroads. I saw Danny's faith grow in God's purpose for his life. There was an assurance about God's word--all of it--being true. It was the manuscript for life which wasn't open to interpretation; and the bible, in its entirety, was the infallible word of God.
I already knew this to be true but something happened to me when I saw the truth of this being applied to his life. Simply put: I didn't want to miss out on the life God blesses because of my own selfish desires. I told Danny this. I think it may have been the first time that he saw hope in me as becoming the woman for him to spend his life with; knowing that even though I did not necessarily know how to trust and allow God to mold me, I was willing to admit it was the only way to life a life that had purpose and meaning that would become an investment beyond my limited perspective.
Trust was a difficult concept for me. It is defined as having faith in another person or entity. Signifiant people in my life had let me down beginning with my biological father. Next my mother who was supposed to be there for me not just emotionally but also physically but never seemed to be. I understood her limitations but nonetheless I was impacted by the void that was created. As I encountered friendships from 1st through 12th grade I experienced many additional disappointments that further challenged the meaning of trust.
How then could I trust Danny to the point of feeling at peace with his character as the man I desired to surrender my heart to?
The only answer that fits is that in our relationship, this was the first gift God gave to me. I did nothing to earn it other than be myself. And this self was obviously the perfect one for him...handpicked by God Himself for the purpose he had for him.
It didn't take long to own that perspective when he first began experiencing strange and scary symptoms that squashed the personality of the man I knew and loved and revealed a threatened and threatening character underneath.
I quickly jumped roles from the one being protected to the one protecting. I protected our children, I protected myself (the best I could) but mostly I protected him from himself. This untrusting woman, who trusted no one but my husband, became epitomized by the circumstances that I now found myself in.
As God called me to trust in His work in our marriage I remember wondering what role I would play once Danny was restored. I now understand that due to being disappointed so often as a child and adolescent I had a theme of apprehension that had woven itself into the fiber of my being.
Again I had another opportunity to be healed myself from this hole in my own soul. It may not have been a physical wound as my husband possessed but it had consequences that were equally devastating.
God gave me another opportunity to trust. He brought Dylan and Olivia into my life. Ironically He did so when I was trudging through the emotional pain of having my husband not being able to "show up" for me. During this season of our lives, Danny was running from himself. He didn't like who he had become and he wasn't completely sure he would ever be himself again. His mind had only one way of searching for truth and this was the second time in my life with him I watched as this scientific process manifested itself once again in a most critical space in time. His relentless pursuit for answers did not disappoint him. Initially the process that led him to answers wasn't forthcoming as it led him down what seemed like empty pathways. Looking back, it was evident that God allowed that as well as it not only taught him to persevere with God in prayer but it also taught him about many different processes within the body that unless fully understood would only lead him to become a doctor that managed symptoms, even if naturally and without consequence, as opposed to the doctor he has become which is one that addresses the root cause and looks at the life of the body beginning and ending at its foundation: the cell.
The three years before he understood where in his body the breakdown occurred was the most difficult for both of us. For him, it was a trial of trust in God whom he had learned held the answers to life and death and controlled mankind's purpose if we trusted Him to do so regardless of where we started. For me I had to put my husband on a shelf and trust that the God who chose us for one another would return him to me in better condition than before.
I also had to trust that my life as a mother to two children who weren't wired in the same way I was or what I had learned to adapt to were not only going to make me more effective in my purpose as a wife and a mother but were also going to bring me joy and completeness that I have never known within myself.
Luke 9:24 (a verse I had always feared) says, "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it." I am now learning that embracing God's call, while the process of being stripped is brutal and at times even seemingly unfair, there is victory if we surrender to it. When we remember that once God declares something to us whether spoken aloud or in our heart...IT IS SO. Just as it was revealed to me about Danny's future being one with hope and tremendous purpose, I had to learn that fearing God's word, while a healthy perspective to our understanding, can lead us to doubt Him if we misconstrue His intended meaning.
I must admit it has taken me walking through adversity where there was no where else to turn before I began understanding that trusting God is not something to be feared but embraced. He alone is the author and perfecter of our faith and therefore He knows our breaking points as well as our strengthening points as well as the delicate balance between the two. Just as a muscle needs to be torn down to grow so we need to be torn down to mature.
I have clung to the deposit of God in my spirit, expecting our future to be an offering of hope to others just as God has given us hope in the midst of our pain. However waiting is required between what we know and what He reveals. We must wait on God with a posture of expectancy until He manifests the destination of our calling. And as you wait, expect a spiritual battle unlike you have ever known! The more times you are attacked release those attacks to the power of God and remember that it is giving Him yet another opportunity to show up and show off on your behalf (see my previous blogs for how this occurred in our life).
Another extremely invaluable component to your trial is praying your blessing into existence. There is a powerful verse in the bible in Isaiah. Chapter 54:17 says, "No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment God shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me, says the Lord." If we take God in the literal sense that He intends for us, this is a verse that can offer tremendous hope. It indicates the spiritual reference of the battle you are going through and helps you remember that just before the release of your blessing as a resulting suffering and proven worthiness there is going to be an attack from the adversary unlike you have ever known. In fact, this is why it is so important to maintain this posture as we wait.
The final element that must be dealt with is the removal of sin from your life. These are events God ordains that prepares us to receive the blessing within our purpose.
And finally, remember, that when you are waiting in the space between your revelation and your manifestation, it typically will not happen quickly, but it will happen suddenly. What you have sown in tears you will reap in joy (Psalm 126:5). When we were faced with the legal investigation regarding our children's trust, I remember being in the attorney's office in utter disbelief. We had done all that we knew to be functioning within the laws of the trust much so that we paid for the services of others to guide us through that process so we would never be where we were physically finding ourselves. (the complete story is in my blog titled How We Got Here...Where We Are...Where Are We?...Mother's Day 2010)
Once again I had to remind myself of the original intent of God through our suffering and He was giving us another opportunity to grow, first within ourselves and also as a family and beyond. What kept coming into my head was God's reminder to me which was becoming a theme: "Do not look at your circumstances, just look to Me." This statement was running over and over in my head just as it had in my heart through first my husband's sickness and also through my challenges with integrating Dylan and Olivia into our family. I am grateful as God has returned my husband more whole than He allowed him when he was taken. I have experienced becoming more at peace with myself despite my too numerous to mention challenges as a mother with one child much less five. And again, as we wait, I have to trust Him.
A pervasive theme of trust. Trusting that while God doesn't always choose our method for our maturity in our faith and our purpose, He certainly does allow those challenges to make the best of us for Him.
While we have had many opportunities to be sifted for His calling and having the requirement of trust as the prevailing element of our faith, in these past several months of legal turmoil God has shown up suddenly. While it certainly has not happened quickly, it is happening suddenly. Suddenly the phone rang the very same day we sat in the attorney's office at the beginning of this whole debacle and we were asked to meet with the owner of a direct marketing company that we had been involved with as a result of our appreciation for the quality of their products. Their interest in us was for the possibility of our mission being infused into it as it sought to become more purpose-driven. The story of our life had become most intriguing to those that desired to make a difference.
During that visit, the conversation also addressed the possibility of this company, Zylene International, manufacturing my husband's cellular detoxification product that would help so many that suffered without understanding, but through education on the scale of a successful direct marketing company, that we had the opportunity to become the voice for, we immediately saw the sudden move of the hand of God. While it was not something that occurred quickly, it certainly happened suddenly. While we were being shamed by the media, God was revealing yet another scripture that has shown up more than a few times as we have cried out to Him. Joel 2:23-27 says, "Be glad then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God; For He has given you the former rain and faithfully, and He will cause the rain to come down for you...I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust and the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the Lord your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; and my people shall never be put to shame. Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I AM the Lord your God and there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame."
Is faith required to believe these words? You better believe it! Faith is a confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea or thing. It is belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. Trust is a synonym of faith. Is it any coincidence that God has given me faith while He challenged me with trust. How is that even possible? How can I further understand the dichotomy that exists between these two words that have such a powerful pervasive presence in my life and in the lives of so many Christians today? My mind is expanding as I type! The human condition is one of survival in times that are tough. We are faced with a challenge and we dig deep. It isn't until we have exhausted our natural resources that are within our reach that we are faced with being overtaken by our greatest nemesis that we are able to fully surrender and trust in our God through faith in Him alone. Unfortunately that typically does not happen until we are in dyer straits. In fact, when we finally release our greatest burden(s) to God we find our freedom and our peace. This cannot happen unless that process occurs fully. Ultimately. Finally. And with that release, we give God the carte blanche to act. Until that time, we are withholding His power. He will not be released in the spiritual realm and act on our behalf until we release Him to do so. Under His authority we have partnered with Him. We can now personify the principles of God by becoming the word of God in action.
If God has a specific purpose for those who love Him, and He does, and He alone is the giver of the gift, and He is, then we must prove worthy of it. We also must demonstrate trust that He can do it and posture ourselves expectantly. Within the confines of this world there are many stagnant places that need His influence. It is time for the wounds that prevent trust from delivering might to be healed. It has come into my life through a process of great pain but it has left me more whole. Yet another dichotomy within the plans and purposes of God.
Do not run from the places of life that challenge you. Embrace them. Relinquish your control. Know that by losing your life you are gaining your purpose. The scripture that used to scare me now excites me as we are about to be released for His glory, not our own. I will leave you with this: "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly (2 POWERFUL adjectives; not by accident is any word chosen by God himself for our internalization as we read His word), above all that we can ask or imagine, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen" (Ephesians 3:20) NOTHING is impossible for Him, but until we trust Him alone for it, we will not fully see the purpose for which He has called us. Lay your burdens at His feet. The process of being proven worthy is costly, but it is also a revelation of the closeness of God to the hurting soul as well as the power by which He desires to change the world.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

How We Got Here...Where We Are...Where Are We?...Mother's Day 2010

As our family came together: me as a young woman with many plans of my own: the most important one with ME at the center which is the only perspective I have ever known; while also having a heart to serve God as I intended to raise my family to trust Him, I soon realized that God not only gave me 3 children of my own and a challenging set of circumstances to go with it but He also called me to sacrificially become a mom to twins who tragically lost not only their parents but also their own foundational identity. If I was going to bring God into their lives in an authentic way I had to lose MY plan. It took me awhile to realize that it would be within the heart of God to teach me what I couldn't read about. I could not run from it and expect it to occur because the task is least from my understanding of hard work and ONLY He could take credit for it as I believe with all my heart only He can; but He also handpicked this challenge for me alone. I could not talk about it as a future tense reality, but in order to honor Him in it, I had to experience the pain of being stripped of myself and my agenda and finding the glory that lay beneath the unearthed heart and soul that God planted within me. ME? How could it be that my insecurities would end up becoming places of strength that would see this family through the uniqueness of our pain and also our desires. All we wanted was to "feel" normal. To restore Dylan and Olivia while edifying our 5 year old son Daniel that their arrival and integration made our family better, not worse. Reminding Him that God doesn't make mistakes and regardless of how challenging it seemed at the time it will improve. God created him and He made him perfectly suited to adapt to this particular family dynamic. I reassured him that God would be able to do something so amazing with his life as a result of the challenge He allowed so early in it. I told Dylan and Olivia as well that there is a difference between God's blessing and favor and we had his favor. Even though my own mom struggled greatly with my acceptance of my new role because of her concern for Daniel and also of her understanding of what would come against us with my aunt, I stayed focus on the sovereignty of God. He didn't choose this fate, but He did allow it with a greater understanding of His mercy and favor as a result.

Simultaneously , we were working on the restoration of Dylan on yet another level as well--which was from the damaging affects of vaccinations--specifically the MMR shot. My husband was too dealing with his own battle with neurotoxins that invaded and deprived him of a life that could be completely normal. The irony that there were two of them, one who learned as I watched and one who had to learn to trust as we watched, not only in the process of healing but also in the role we filled on many levels regarding his recovery if he could stay the course and hope for a brighter tomorrow. How could there be two boys, one I loved with everything I was and one I learned to love as God's faithfulness showed up, took over and gave us all hope? The road that took us closer toward the call was painful. It stretched us, it twisted us, it gave others reason to doubt our motives and it also gave us favor.

As much as the circumstances proved to be challenging and in addition to the above mentioned struggles, there was yet a 3 year old and a newborn that I needed to be mommy to. They had no understanding of the difficulties and nor should they have. I tried with all my might to be all that God called me to be. I thanked Him for the amazing helper he gave me in a woman he gave me to model what a godly mother looked like--she had all the qualities I could identify with: she was funny and happy and adorable. She had one quality that I didn't: she LOVED to serve. She served us for almost 6 years. I refer to her as God's gift to me who came alongside an already underqualified woman and showed that despite my weaknesses He lavished His mercy upon me. Her name is Esther. I watched her spend endless hours and energy cooking and ironing and loving and praying for all of us. I watched her shoulder my burdens and my husband's and cry out to God on our behalf. She is no longer with us, but she still shoulders our burdens. She will never not be with us--forever in our heart and only a visit or a phone call away. She knows our heart and she knows our pain that is giving way to purpose. She knows our desire to raise our children that despite the odds, shows God's mercy and

The first week after the death of Dylan and Olivia's parents proved to be a fast reconciling of reality. We quickly remembered that their mom (my cousin and best friend) Lisa had asked us a few years prior if anything ever happened would we take the kids. Without a second thought we answered yes. When Simon only 6 weeks old, my husband and my dad flew to Florida to bring them to their new home. It was the only way. As their legal guardians no one was authorized to escort them except for either my husband and/or myself. My aunt and uncle (Lisa's mom and dad) were there, staying in the house that their daughter was murdered in and making plans while Dylan and Olivia were in the arms of their next-door neighbors being comforted.

The first obvious plan occurred when my husband and my dad walked in and my aunt said "meeting out back". They walked out by the pool and as soon as they sat down she said, "Well, we decided to keep the house." My husband's response was, "Whoa...we are going to wait until we talk to people who know more about this type of thing than I do." She proceeded to try to sell him on the idea.
After the memorial services my husband flew home with the kids. My aunt and uncle were busy loading a UHaul truck with as many items with monetary value they could fit into it and left behind most of the kids' personal effects that required us to take a trip a month or so later to select items that were important to them to feel as if a piece of their home was coming to Pennsylvania with them. It was hard to conceive and the bank that handled the estate told us we should put a stop to her ridiculous behavior. We knew her irrational tendencies and decided to stay out of her way and if this was the way she grieved then we preferred to stay clear and give her room to do so.

I can remember as a child my mom called her demented as a result of her anger that lashed out at my mom for allowing me to use a toy (a lemon-twist) that my mom bought for Lisa's birthday present. I was only about 7 years old but I still remember how upset my mom was at my aunt's over-exaggeration to my trying a toy that she bought for her niece. It was a moment in time that for whatever reason is forever ingrained in my memory. It was at least a year that they didn't speak.
I am not sure if it was that incident or the fear that my aunt evoked as a result of watching how she treated her kids that scared me. We always seemed to be punished by her. I still have pictures of all of the cousins lined up on the couch as a result of her wrath. Whatever it was, it stuck.

My husband and dad arrived home New Year's Eve 2003 with Dylan and Olivia. We began 2004 with 2 new children and a life of challenge that we NEVER could have predicted--even after all of the things we had already been confronted with.

It was within a very short time that I realized my aunt's anger for Lisa's decision in choosing my husband and I for the task of raising her kids was more than she could swallow.
I didn't know until they were already with us that there was a trust that would help with their support. I was thankful for that but it wouldn't have changed our accepting of Lisa's decision regardless. Along the way I am glad I didn't initially know when others have tried to raise issue with why or how we took the kids. Honoring God is not enough for many people without expectation of a return. It was enough for me. I remember telling my husband when we were processing the magnitude of the task at hand that I didn't need to be swallowed by the whale as Jonah was. There were many places in my life that I struggled to honor God completely but this was one undeniable role and call that couldn't be dealt with half way.

My aunt threatened our decision becoming permanent by telling us that if we accepted this responsibility she would do everything within her power to "ruin" us. My response was as steadfast as the call. I told her to take it up with God. That He chose us for it, and that we had no choice but to honor Him in it. I empathized with how hard this must be for her to handle under the circumstances and that even her other daughter, Lisa's own sister, who was 6 years younger than I, wasn't chosen. I was not insensitive to their reality but I was unable to offer a solution that satisfied her. I tried to help her see the positive points as she now had the ability to see her grandchildren without the distance between them. I assured her I would do everything possible to support their relationship. I found this particularly challenging as she began working behind the scenes on the kids' emotional and psychological pain. I attempted to communicate with her about it while being sensitive to her pain while at the same time adamantly insisting that she not create more for them or us. Ultimately I feel as if she knew she wasn't up against me personally but my resolve and determination to step up was a result of my trust in His call upon my life and it seemed to incite her all the more.

It didn't take long to realize that the experiences they were having while in her presence were absolutely not of the standard that we lived by. There were little things that became known to us. She only wanted the kids for a whole weekend while there were times that 2 nights made plans we tried to make as a family difficult. I welcomed some of those times to "feel" like the family I had lost and the kids I was most comfortable with had some time to feel that ease with us...mostly being sensitive to how hard it was for Daniel. We did explain that going to church was something we did and it was important to us that they do that as well. She began going to church. What could we say except that having her under the influence of God would not only help them and us, but her as well. So there was a stretch of time that she saw them many weekends. It was hard to conceive why Olivia came home happy to be back and Dylan came home disconnected. In fact, he always came in the house well after Olivia and would walk the long way around the house to avoid walking through the family room where my husband and I typically spent Sunday evenings. They always came home at 8:30--never earlier--which was a time we requested as it was their bed time.

The first 2 days of the week Dylan barely spoke at home. He seemed extremely hostile toward his environment and emotionally void of caring about the family. It was sad to watch a child that already was so compromised emotionally become void after a visit with his Grandmother that I had hoped would offer a place of solace and fill a void that I expected only she could. She was supposed to love him unlike anyone else on the planet and after what had happened I really trusted that my inherent fears of her would be put to rest as she found a newfound purpose that had a calling of love all over it. How could it then be that the opposite emotion was showing up after his time with her? And what about Olivia? She was fine. She was happy when she was with us...all the time. She didn't morph into an emotional recluse. I know Dylan always had certain challenges with his diagnosis of Sensory Integration but what was already an obvious part of his emotional status became exaggerated with his time with her.

He became obsessed with money that he claimed he had lots of. He talked about it with Daniel in particular. I couldn't imagine that she had revealed to them aspects of their financial reality when I specifically asked her when I found out that I absolutely did not want to discuss that with them...or anyone else for that matter. I knew money not earned was the fastest way to ruin anyone. She assured me she would not. She attempted at first to get information from us about the financial matters but we told her that we had asked the bank, who managed the trust, to handle every detail and there were attorneys and counsellors in place and associated with that task so that we would never be criticized by anyone, not even the kids, who we soon realized were potentially under her spell. As time went on we realized that she was working against us on every level. She even discredited my husband's knowledge and understanding of how best to care for Dylan's process of recovery. She questioned it, shed doubt about it to the kids and occasionally sent "other" information that was partially what we were doing but without the fullness of our process. Anything other than what we were doing was still managing symptoms and we weren't interested in just managing his symptoms but restoring the whole child. For a long time I thought that perhaps what he ate when he was with her was causing his emotional separation for the first half of the week and this is what I told his teachers when we spoke about the potential cause. Occasionally the kids themselves would let their guard down and tell us that their uncle was watching things on his TV that were not what we would approve of. They graphically described certain scenes to give us examples as they wanted us to know as all kids want to be found out. It amazed me how much of the bad things a child's mind could retain after just one exposure but when it came to the positive teachings it seemed that the reinforcements were endless and the fruit was sparse. I quickly learned that is how evil infiltrates.

Another customary and particularly disturbing occurrence after Dylan's time at his Grandmother's house was that he would have terrors in his sleep during the night--either on Sunday or Monday without exception. He would run through the house flailing his arms and screaming frantically: "Mommy! Mommy!" He would run to me every time. It was awful to see this already starving child for his mother's love behave from such a subconscious level of pain. And why only after visiting his Grandmother? This troubled us more than anything. What could we do? How could we possibly ask her about their visits? What did they talk about? How could we and expect her not to become completely hostile toward us (even though from what we could ascertain she was already)? Was it presumptuous to think that the woman who emotionally loved them most could also be intentionally harming them the most as well? We asked Dylan's counsellor what we should do. Without knowing the details, he felt that she was clearly keeping us from becoming a unified family. His advice was too hard to take. How could we possibly separate them from her? They had lost so much already. So had she. They would resent us for doing such a thing. It would surely cause another horrendously painful wound that no child should have to endure, especially after what these 2 children had already suffered through and were learning to live with. It was also hard to conceive and therefore there was doubt that she could really do such a thing. I always knew her to be angry and resentful...she would even get upset when Lisa would come home for an occasional visit and want to stay at my house instead of with her. She would put up such a fuss and Lisa wouldn't want to confront her further so she would stay with her mom and within a few days she would be regretting her decision but mostly her inability to confront her mother's desire for control. It was the very reason Lisa needed to leave Pennsylvania. Her control and her anger was stifling. There was a pervasive oppression associated with all of her relationships. Perhaps that is why the relationship with her Grandchildren was not capable of being normal. If she cannot control the significant people in her life, then she starts trouble. An example of this is that she has been divorced from my uncle for over a decade and my mom told me when she was still alive, which has been about 3 years, that mail still goes to her house and she still writes his checks. Her son, who is a year older than me still lives in her home at the age of almost 44. It is a very sad reality. It also seems to be the men in her life that have been most affected by her control. But for me, I am caught in the middle of accepting a role that is supposed to be life-giving and being frustrated by a woman who is life-taking.

My husband and I have talked this through so many times without resolution. We finally agreed that as long as she didn't cross a line, we would not interfere with their relationship. We understood that while we were risking our better judgment for the sake of a relationship with their Grandmother, despite our experiences with her, perhaps we were just being overly paranoid. She, like us, had to be concerned with their final destination that was under her influence: that of adults. Or did she?
It was a year ago when I received a phone call from the school. My 3 oldest children, Dylan, Olivia (who we had at this point adopted 3 years earlier) and Daniel had been pulled out of class and questioned by Children and Youth Services! I didn't even know what CYS stood for before that day. The principal of the school didn't owe it to me to give me notice of what had occurred but he did. It spoke volumes to who he knew my husband and I to be and it also spoke of who he knew my kids to be. That very same day, my son Izik answered a knock on the door to find 2 police men standing there asking if everything was ok. He told Esther of them wanting to see her and she laughed it off as she walked to the door thinking he was joking with her. They questioned my kids about the food they ate, the way they were disciplined and the conditions in which they were living. Their conclusion was that they were living and eating better than they or anyone else they knew. Esther invited them to a Mexican dinner and/or stuffed chicken. With their apologies they were on their way.

I considered this to be the time when the line was crossed and our family was put in jeopardy. The kids felt the same way. I was thankful that we did not need to assert our authority and have them resent us for opting to keep their Grandmother out of their life. She did it. They saw her motives for what they had been all along and now we had no doubt about whether or not she was sabotaging our efforts of restoring these children. Right after that occurred the kids started sharing many disturbing emotional and psychological plots that allowed her to attempt to lure them in to a depraved emotionally unstable world filled with manipulation and paranoia. When CYS finally made a visit to our home to complete their report they told us that they would most likely be back again because they were told that she would keep calling UNTIL they found something on us.

I received an email that was most disturbing from her a month or so later and then another and another. The accusations were horrifying and even frightening. She accused me of being "responsible" for Lisa's death! She said I always wanted everything that Lisa had and now I think I have it! WHAT?!! WHERE did that come from?! Could her mind have distorted my respect for Lisa as my cousin who was 4 years older than me and naturally someone I looked up THIS?! I just couldn't wrap my head around the degree of torture to which she lived within her own mind! THANK GOD!

Needless to say as my uncle and her daughter who began making attempts to connect with the kids and were turned away...unless it was done on our terms and under our roof, the kids told us emphatically they wanted nothing to do with any of them. It was significantly noticeable how instantly at ease they became...especially Dylan.

In one of her emails to me she assured me if I did not allow her to see her Grandchildren then I could anticipate spending all of my time in court "instead of at the gym". It did not phase me. Within a few months of that email we were served papers in the state of Florida where the trust was initially held and because it had been moved to Pennsylvania within the year, papers were served in the state of Pennsylvania and by the D.A.'s office. It was more than shocking since we had NEVER had "control" of the trust (or at least we thought not). We trusted and requested the attorneys and counsellors to guide us through that process anticipating needing to protect ourselves from her unstable and jealous tirades. We felt at some point she would attempt to turn the kids against us...we just didn't expect it so soon.

I cannot say for sure whether or not she actually planted seeds that began the investigation, but I do know for certain that she did call the newspapers and the media who dredged up the past and how the kids came into our lives in the first place. So my question of doubting but struggling with how she could not protect Dylan and Olivia after everything they had been through was answered definitively within an evening with 2 major news channels and 2 major newspapers report gross distortions and inaccurate information about our character. My husband, who had a successful practice was shamed in an instant. The man who would give the shirt off his back to protect another was suddenly being portrayed as a doctor who was "siphoning money out of orphans trust fund"!! We didn't get a new patient in our chiropractic office for more than 3 months. It was almost too much to bear and if it weren't for our faith in God who ordained our role I do not know how we would have handled the challenges of this legal process in addition to the pain that we suffered through finally getting to a place with them that revealed why it was so hard in the first place.
God does promise to work all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28-29.

I have been speaking that verse over our family for the past decade and needless to say a few others have shown up to keep me hopeful in the midst of our circumstances. Psalm 91:14 says: "because he loves me, I will rescue him." I often wonder if our story will ever be "heard" in the court system. I have my doubts. I do hold on to the fact that God knows our heart, He knows everything we have done in order to honor Him and maintain a position of integrity. He alone knows that as we were instructed, we trusted. There is a saying in chiropractic that says "as the twig is bent, so grows the tree". The way we were bent was according to people in positions that have knowledge and expertise in their field. I would never admit to understanding the position I had been called to as a trustee as well as a guardian and therefore I requested the support of those professionals to always be in compliance with my role.

Again, I learned from this particular challenge, within this overarching position of restorer of hope, family and future that regardless of the amount of effort that is put into a job, even if it is well done and protected, evil can infiltrate without substance. It can devastate and disseminate every protective mechanism in place to avoid the very evil it creates.
When life is lived at the level of what lies beneath the surface of one's outer shell, I have found God uses certain trials to show even us what we are made of and who we ultimately trust in. When we are shaken what comes out? Who will we be found to be in our adversity? Are we worthy of the call? I have been challenged on yet another front and I can only pray I will not remain who I was when this all began. I desire to become a woman of influence to offer hope to a hurting world. How can I be able to offer it myself if I simply adopted 2 children I didn't choose and who didn't choose me but merely applied what I knew to date about mothering and neurotoxins? However my story has become enriched and I have become enriched with the depth of pain at a level we didn't earn, but have had to defend with every ounce of my fiber and still have nothing to show for it. How will this all turn out? I honestly do not know in the courts but I do know in light of our family: we will continue to be strengthened and prosper as we have since the last day they spoke to their Grandmother, our determination to seek God and trust in His redemptive power alone will see us through regardless of the outcome. I will trust in God alone to restore what the enemy has stolen--in this case, our reputation and our children's security at a certain level. The more we are afflicted, the more we will multiply for a greater purpose than ourselves.

Our family has a gift of restoration. We have already been restored. With any gift there is a responsibility of earning its worthiness. Are we worthy of influencing others? When Jesus had to feed the multitudes He had to break the loaves of bread and put it in baskets and pass it around. It never ran out and there was plenty left over. How is that possible? It is the result of being broken that produces supplies that are unlimited in others times of need. If this family is going to feed the masses then we need to be broken, even in ways we didn't deserve so that our gifts can be shared to encourage others and offer hope.