Posted in Faith

I Have a Frenemy. Her Name is Anger.

I have a frenemy.  Her name is Anger.

SHE POPS IN OFTEN

I’m just going about my very average day and WHAM, there she is.  It doesn’t take much.

A phone call from a friend who has been hurt (and unfairly, I might add).
The news.  (You get that right now.)
A driver who cuts me off.
My bathroom scale.
Social media rants about the latest fight we are all having about the latest thing we all feel so strongly about that will change to something completely else in just a few days.

SHE RILES ME UP.

My brain gets all aflutter.
I feel immediately called on to protect the well-being of myself or my people.
I get the sudden urge to do whatever it takes to MAKE.IT.RIGHT.
Even if it means lashing out and back and meting out my own broken system of justice (which looks more like revenge).
I pause. Calm down. Wait. Have a long talk with her about why she is visiting.

SHE HOLDS MY “IT’S-JUST-NOT-FAIR” AND BROKEN HEART.

I yell at Anger. In my head. Out loud.
Tell her all the ways it’s awful for me, my people, the world.
She lets me do it without judgment. In fact, he welcomes it.
She grants me space to work it out and shouts back, “I hear you and you are right! It’s just not fair!”
I love her for this. I need her for this.

BUT SOMETIMES, SHE DRAGS ME DOWN A PATH THAT MAKES MY BROKEN HEART SHATTER A LITTLE BIT MORE.

I lash back and out.
I plot and scheme against the perpetrators.
Bitterness creeps slowly in and then seeps slowly out to all those around me.
In my thoughts, my words, and my actions.
My well-meaning, justice-seeking self gets lost in the hubbub. Anger’s no longer my friend. She’s my enemy.

WHEN WE ARE AT THE BEST PLACE IN OUR RELATIONSHIP, SHE LEADS ME TO A BEAUTIFUL SPACE.

I get to work.
Listening. Learning. Problem-solving. Mobilizing goodness and restoration.
I speak truth to injustice. In my head. Out loud. It’s necessary for hope.
The Tender Lover of My Soul finds me with Anger and assures me she’s visited Him too. He was good at keeping her His friend. And wants to show me how to do the same.
The space is filled with quiet waters and green pastures and the true restoration of my soul.

I have this frenemy.  Her name is Anger.

She’s always welcome to come for a visit.

And hopefully, we’ll keep learning how to be ONLY the best of friends.

Posted in Faith, Grief, Motherhood

What Kind of World Are My Kids Growing Up In?

What kind of a world are my kids growing up in?

The question that plagued me on that dreadful morning 20 years ago.

I had four little ones scampering around at the time, one toddler half-naked and being potty trained (we all remember exactly what was going on that morning, right?).

Is it a world filled with consuming hate?

ONLY and awful hate?

How would I tell them that their friend’s dad had been killed?

How would I shake my own fear of it happening again and this time it would be their dad who had worked in NYC for most of their young lives?

How? How? How?

How will they know love?

ONLY and wonderful love?

The love that casts out fear in the form of a firefighter saying “I’ve got you. Come with me”?

The love that wins in the end as yellow ribbons don every mailbox for miles and miles and miles for months and months and months?

Today, my big kids are still scampering around, albeit fully-clothed, and the world still often seems consumed with hate.

ONLY and awful hate?

But it’s not true.

It’s not ONLY.

Both hate and love exist, intertwined in all of our hearts.

Along with a million other parts.

Mine. And theirs.

All I have to do is look back at these 20 years to see all the ways hate and love (and a million other parts) have shown up as I’ve raised my fearsome foursome.

They’ve brought harm.
Pain. Heartache.

But also…

They’ve brought joy.
Healing. Hope.

What kind of world are my kids growing up in?

The question that plagued me for a lot longer than that dreadful morning and still does often.

The answer is simple. And also super complicated.

It’s the wonderful, messy, awful, sacred, hateful, loving, broken, brave, and still healing world.

It’s a world filled with us.

Every single one of us.

Posted in Faith

Worth the Read? (you decide)

Want to know what I’ve been reading?
Want some reviews so you can figure it out for yourself?

Check out these books I’ve spent some time with (and keep doing so).


The Shack, Wm. Paul Young. (4.8 stars)


I had always viewed God as a someone who was up there to “get me” or “save me” and not as a God who loves me, period, end-of-story.  This gave me a whole different viewpoint and helped me to actually want to get to know God more.  Plus, I made my whole family go to the movie with me when it came out.

Bittersweet, Shauna Niequist (4.5 stars)

I lived my life pursuing the “sweet” side and avoiding the “bitter.” Shauna helped me to embrace all of it and she did it by telling her own stories of heartache and hope.  Very short chapters.  Easy to read one at bedtime or in the morning.  I used it as a devotional and in my women’s group.

What is the Bible, Rob Bell (3.6 stars)

This book felt a little choppy to me, but I enjoyed stepping outside of my own comfort zone of “what I believed all my life” and exploring someone else’s thoughts.  It tackles some hard things, but I wish it would have gone a bit deeper.  However, I love the way Rob Bell gets me to ask myself the difficult questions and not avoid them.

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Peter Scazzero (4.6 stars)

Looking to dive deep?  This book explores how our emotional and spiritual well-being are very closely tied together.  I went through this book with about 60 other people and it was fabulous.  It explores the more contemplative side of faith as well as working through our own wounds from our pasts.

The Next Right Thing, Emily P. Freeman (5+ stars)

I am reading through this a second time.  It’s that good.  Emily’s wisdom and ability to communicate through story about how to make decisions (which we all do about 35,000 times a day) couldn’t be more effective.  She is gentle and kind, strong and helpful.  I’ve recommended this book to every single person I’ve come in contact with.  Short, yet very packed-full-of-goodness chapters.


Reading brings me to “far away” places including my very own heart!  I am changed by what I read.  I hope you are too.

Posted in Faith

Unraveling

godly husband + passionate wife = great marriage

great marriage + good parenting = well-behaved child

well-behaved child + strong youth group = wise-choice making teen

wise-choice making teen + strong college = successful adult

successful adult + other successful adult = godly husband + passionate wife

And the formula goes round and round.

______________________________________________________________

ME:

I love this formula.

It’s perfect.

Just do it all right and make all the right choices and life goes the way it should.

I’ve heard it my whole life from preachers and family and professors and authors and friends and repeated over and over to myself.

It must be true.

Tom Sawyer says it.

“We proved to ourselves that when you do things right, good things happen.”

It must be true.

I repeat:

Just do it all right and make all the right choices and life goes the way it should.


ALSO ME:

EXCEPT.
WHEN.
IT.
DOESN’T.

What happens then?

What’s true? Actually and for real true?

Life’s “formula” often looks more like the crazy scenarios below.
Mine and lots of people around me.

______________________________________________________________

godly husband + passionate wife = messy divorce

great marriage + good parenting = child with Oppositional Defiance Disorder

well-behaved child + strong youth group = teen substance abuser

wise-choice making teens + strong college = struggling-to-find-or-keep-a-job adult

successful adult + other successful adult = distant husband + depressed wife

______________________________________________________________


ME:

I should try harder.
It must be something I’m doing wrong.
Maybe I don’t have the equation right?

There’s got to be a way to guarantee a great marriage, well-behaved kids, wise-choice-making teens and successful adults, right?

I have that book I can read.
I can make long prayer lists on color-coded index cards.
I will sign up for that seminar. In fact, I can lead one.

It must be true.

Even the Bible says it.

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in step with the wicked…whatever he does prospers.” (Psalm 1)


ALSO ME:

It’s not working.

My family is struggling. So am I.
My friends are a wreck. So am I.
All my formulas around me are unraveling. So am I.

My carefully-built-rubber-band-ball-of-how-life-works is snapping.
There are pieces all over the place.

If it’s not true, then what?
What do I do now?
How do I live?

I’m UNRAVELING.


HOW I HEAR GOD:

You are going to be okay.
You can re-ravel when the time is right and you are ready.

There’s a very different way of looking at people and relationships and what matters.

There’s a deeper truth and with that truth comes slow steps toward freedom.
Your formulas can and are allowed to be stripped away.


ME:

This uncertain place sounds like a curse.
I’m freaking out a little on the inside.


ALSO ME:

Sounds like a lot of work.
Lots more time.
Lots more complexity.
Lots of mess.


HOW I HEAR GOD:

But it will be good.

Life is messy and no amount of doing the right thing ensures complete safety and success.

It sounds harsh and hopeless at first glance, but it can be helpful and freeing.

You don’t have to tackle life as a problem to be solved.
It can be a mysterious adventure to be enjoyed.

(I know, it’s like action-thriller enjoyment, which is scary and fun all at the same time, but you will do well. Plus, I will be with you.)


ME:

Gotcha. Sounds great.


ALSO ME:

I’m still freaking out.


HOW I HEAR GOD:

You don’t have to have certainty to be okay.
You can wisely place your trust in Me, even it it feels really scary.

I am completely good and utterly safe. Plus, I love you.

And I’m with you. Period. Even if and when it all falls apart.

How does that sound?


ME:
 
You mean I don’t have to have do all the right things?
Or have a perfect and guaranteed formula?
I can just be?
 
 
ALSO ME:
 
I actually might like this.
In fact, I might love this.
 
 
HOW I HEAR GOD:
 
It’s called unconditional love. It’s what I have for you.
It opens the door for vulnerability and trust.
 
Healing is much more likely to happen in this safe space.
 
Those formulas that you counted on are not love.
And that’s why they don’t work.
 
Unraveling (as freaky-outy as it’s felt) might be the best thing that ever happened to you.
 
Plus, I get to have a front-row seat to watch you re-ravel.
 
And as you do, never forget this little tidbit that might make all the difference in the world:
 
“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (St. Paul)
Posted in Faith, Friendship

Who belongs? Do we?

It starts so young.

We ask ourselves: Who belongs? Do we?

My heart broke as my five-year old came home from kindergarten one day with tears in her eyes.

“They won’t let me in.”

“Into what honey?” I asked tenderly.

“Into the blond club. I have brown hair.”

UGH. REALLY?!?!?!?

Having been the only “red head” my whole life in many circumstances, this exclusion hit me right in the deepest part of the feels.

Who belongs? Do we?

And it’s not just hair. NOT AT ALL.

It permeates our whole life.

Middle school lunch tables.
High school sports teams.
College application processes.
Belief systems.
Interest or life-status groups.
Even families.

Who belongs? Do we?

Sometimes, the answer is a hearty “YES!”

We saved you a seat!

You made the team!
You have a thick envelope waiting for you in the mailbox!
Please be on our governing board!
Join our club!

Take my last name!

YOU BELONG! YOU BELONG! YOU BELONG!

The looming question is quieted and we feel all safe inside.

Until…

Something goes amiss. Awry.

We wear something unacceptable to the leader of the lunch table.
An injury ends our season.
The tuition is too hefty.
We begin to question what we’ve been taught all our life.
Our new job schedule doesn’t work with the club meeting dates.
We do something unforgivable.

Then the answer becomes a very loud and emphatic “NO!”

YOU’RE OUT! YOU’RE OFF! YOU DO NOT AND CANNOT BELONG!

We are US and you are THEM!

We are INSIDE and you are OUTSIDE!

It’s no wonder we hide and do whatever it takes to fit in and forgo our true selves.

We just want to belong. To be on the inside. To be loved. To be accepted.

It’s a God-given part of being us. Human. Our crucial need for others.

Remember that phrase, “It’s not good for man to be alone” right at the beginning of the whole Bible? I have a crazy feeling it’s a lot more than a girl/boy thingy. It might just be a human thingy.

So what’s our answer to: Who belongs? Do we?

Jesus’ prayer at the end of his life that “they are ONE just as He and His Father are ONE” is serious. He means it.

Jesus’ reminder to His disciples that “as the Father has loved Me, I too have loved you.” is serious. He means it.

God LOVES us and wants us to LOVE each other. To be ONE.

Not OUTSIDERS and INSIDERS.

ONE.

Not US and THEM.

ONE.

We BELONG to Him and He BELONGS to us and we BELONG to each other.

The question is finally answered in the deepest parts of our souls. My soul.

By LOVE HIMSELF.

I am LOVED. I BELONG.

No thing can ever ever ever separate me from that LOVE.
No thing can ever stop me from BELONGING to the Tender Lover of My Soul.

It’s the same for you too.

From my heart to yours.

P.S. You belong to me, my reader friend. No matter what. End of story.

Posted in Faith

Be Afraid

We keep selling fear.

Everywhere.

Politics.

If you vote for the other side, your good life as you know it will be over. BE AFRAID. Vote for me. I will save you.

Education.

If you don’t sit still and get good grades, you will never amount to anything. Your life will be in shambles. BE AFRAID. Conform. Conform. Conform. We have the answer.

Family.

If you don’t love what we love, do what we do and say what we say, you will be the black sheep, always wondering how and if you fit in. After all, who else will you have? BE AFRAID. Blood is blood.

Church.

If you don’t believe exactly what we believe or act “just right,” then you are out of the group. You can’t lead. You shouldn’t serve. BE AFRAID. Choose us above all else, including your own integrity.

Media.

If you don’t watch this, buy this, listen to this, you will be missing out. Did you hear me??? Missing out. You might lose your friends, your family, your self. BE AFRAID. Keep clicking!!

You know why we keep selling fear? Everywhere?

It works.

It keeps us voting.
And sitting.
And staying.
And going.
And buying.

Probably far too often. Far too long. Far too ___________ (fill in the blank).

When we dare to ask even the smallest of questions, we are shut down.

Who are you to doubt?
We know better.

You’ll mess it up for everyone else.
BE QUIET!!!

BE AFRAID.

When we take one little step “out of line,” we are herded right back.

Be like everyone else. All the good ones.
You are just not allowed. Period.
We know better.
STOP IT. STOP IT. STOP IT.

BE AFRAID.

Selling fear works.

And when we have so much fear, we don’t have room for much else.

It swallows us whole.
It keeps us locked inside a prison of sorts.
It prevents us from living our most true and beautiful life.
IT DESTROYS. From the inside out.

So what are we to do? What is left?

What sets us free?
What encourages us to create, wonder, be curious, change and grow?
What helps our hearts to come fully alive?
What allows us to be our very best and whole selves?

NOT FEAR.

That’s for sure.

BUT LOVE.

Fear works in the short-term.

But tears us down in the long-term.

Love can be messy and nuanced and difficult and just plain H-A-R-D in the short-term.


It takes time.
It takes down-and-dirty, nitty-gritty relationship.
It takes peeling back the layers of the outer and seeing what’s going on inside.
It take stepping out into discomfort.
It takes work.
It takes a slow sifting through all the grays.

But LOVE WINS in the long-term.

Hands down.

Period.
End of story.

DO NOT BE AFRAID. (Jesus)

LOVE > FEAR.

Posted in Faith, Health

What I’m Really Fighting For

INTEGRITY.

A word I have always used to describe my husband.

He’s even won awards at work for it.

Me.  Not so much.

I’m sneaky.

And I struggle to always tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth when it does not fit my “get ‘er done” mentality.

TRUE STORY AND CONFESSION:

My son’s health insurance needed to be cancelled and I called up and told the people on the other end of the line I was him and cancelled that baby on the spot.  They didn’t even, or probably weren’t allowed to, question my high voice and my masculine name not matching.  He gave me permission to do such a thing, but I didn’t really think long and hard about this little fib.  Not a good look for this Dolly Mama.  Not a lot of integrity for sure.  I kind of feel bad about it as I write this.

NOW BACK TO THE POINT.

My husband doesn’t tell little white lies or big whopper ones. He’s as honest as the day is long.

No wonder he’s won awards at work for integrity.

No wonder I trust him implicitly.

But did you know that honesty is not the same as integrity.  Yes, it’s a natural result of integrity, but it’s NOT integrity.

INTEGRITY is when we live according to our deepest values.

When our outsides match our insides.

When all the parts of us are working together in harmony (they are “integrated”) and not separated and fighting against each other.

When we are the SAME in our homes, in our church, in our neighborhood, in our activities, in our workplace, in our social media posts and in our time alone.

INTEGRITY.

A word I would like to use to describe myself.

Maybe even win awards for it some day.

Recently, the rubber has met the road.

I have not been living with integrity.

I believe and value one thing and then I live, work, spend and serve as if I value something completely different.

It’s been kind of awful.

I have been hiding.
I have been pretending.
I have been trying to please others.
I have been anxious.

It’s come to a head.

I can’t do it anymore.

But the pressure to continue to do so seems insurmountable.

Outright pressure.
Unspoken pressure.
Internal pressure.

So I am on the mission to fight for it with all my might.

Have all the parts of myself aligned and working with each other.

My inside and my outside.
My feelings and my actions.
My heart and my mind, my soul and my spirit.

What I’m really fighting for is me. The real real me. The me that God made and loves and cheers and delights in. The one that is an absolute beautiful mess.

So here’s my first step. Speaking out what I value.

It’s scary.
I am afraid of being judged.
I don’t want people to think ill of me.

All the normal-ish and crazy reasons I keep going down the lack-of-integrity slide.

So here goes.

Right now, in my life, these things are what I value most:

  1. Freedom (mostly the inside kind)
  2. Becoming my true self and helping others to do just that
  3. Living with and under radical grace
  4. Questions more than answers (a posture of constant learning even if it’s downright hair-raising)
  5. Allowing God to be Himself, and not who I’ve told myself He is (mostly to fit in with others)
  6. Living in the gray, nuanced, complicated, and messy and forgoing the black-and-white
  7. Eliminating hurry and scurry
  8. Being present to joy
  9. Telling others about the unconditional love of God AND deeply knowing it myself
  10. Becoming healed, whole and integrated (there’s that word)

Looking at this list, it seems easy, right?  NOT SO MUCH.

Because, I like to: 

  1. Stay safe.
  2. Protect myself.
  3. Judge others to make myself feel better.
  4. Have all the answers
  5. Tell God who He is.
  6. Live in the BLACK and WHITE.
  7. Hurry and scurry.
  8. Think about the past and the future (I spend most of my time there).
  9. See #5.
  10. Stay in the same, comfortable place I’ve always lived in.

I know it’s going to be a rough road ahead.

I have some big changes to make.

Both outside ones and inside ones.

I’m a wee bit terrified.
I’m also a whole lot excited.
I’m wondering what my next right step is.
I’m trusting God will show up as I take one. He always has.

And I’m beginning to see the INTEGRITY light at the end of the tunnel.

The one I might just get an award for.

Even if I have to give it to myself.

From my heart to yours.

P.S. Want to hear a funny story about my lack of integrity this week?

I’ve been on vacation and posting all the wonderful pictures of sand castles, family time, ice cream, and sunsets. Meanwhile, I’ve been riddled with an outbreak of horrendous poison ivy for most of the time, been miserable and staying in the air conditioning.  I only went to the beach once. So there you have it. Finally called the doctor today and got me some meds.  Never have I ever had poison ivy on my nose and a few other unmentionable places.  YIKES!  I don’t think the foraging for blackberries was worth it.

Posted in Faith

11 Questions

My nighttime prayers were once filled with berating myself for the day past.

Making sure I got all my ducks in a row before the Almighty.

Rehashing my sins and confessing them so that I could be “right with God” once again.

It was probably born out of a belief that God was crazily concerned with my right behavior (according to what and who, I’m not sure) instead of my broken, but wanting-to-heal heart.

Somehow, even though I was his daughter, my evil deeds from the day could somehow catapult me into a severed relationship with Him.

So, before I slept, I made sure I was all “good” again.

No wonder I kind of secretly hated this process.

I could never be sure I had remembered and confessed them all.

What if I missed some?
Would He be mad at me?
Would our relationship still be “on hold?”

So one day I just quit. I needed a break from the shame, guilt and fear I felt at the end of every day.

I spent the time scrolling my phone (which I sometimes still do, TBH).

I also spent it snuggling with a murder mystery book.
I mostly spent it avoiding this God who I supposedly had a wonderful relationship with.

Time marched by.

Enter my cute husband. Talking about things like his “Daily Examen.” How he ends his day much of the time.

Sounded a little old-school for me, but I new-schooled it and looked it up on the “Googler,” as my one friend calls it.

This is what I found out about it:

“The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us. The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience.” (ignatianspirituality.com)

The basic goals of it are to:

1. Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
5. Look toward tomorrow.

It all sounded like a big relief for me and a good way for me to redeem that precious time I have right before I go to sleep.

I’ve been doing it in fits and starts for a few months, even keeping track on a spreadsheet (I get it…I’m nerdy like that).

To make a long story even longer, I came up with 11 questions I talk to God about at the end of every day. Here they are:

1. What event happened, small or big?
2. What gifts did I receive?
3. Where did I show courage?
4. Who showed me love and support?
5. Where might I feel stuck?
6. What challenges did I face?
7. Where did I pause?
8. What emotions am I feeling? About what?
9. How did I sense God’s presence?
10. What is my response to the God of my life?
11. With what spirit do I want to enter tomorrow?

It hasn’t been magic, but it has been helpful.

ESPECIALLY NUMBER 4.

You see, I tend to want my poor husband to be my constant and ever-faithful person who loves and supports me. All by his lonesome. And I get a little annoyed if he doesn’t measure up to that impossible standard I’ve set for him. This question gets me thinking about all the people and ways God shows up for me, one loving and supportive act, thought, prayer, choice at a time. It’s been so good to end the day reminding myself about how God has provided for me in ways I may have missed. I also think my husband is a lot happier because I’ve let him off the hook from being my one and only source of love and support.

OH! AND NUMBER 7.

I am the “Esthergizer Bunny,” always going and going and going. But I secretly want to be the “Take-It-Slow Turtle,” knowing that hurry seems to cause worry and rushing seems to cause restlessness. So PAUSING at least once a day to breathe (imagine that, it’s my Word of the Year) and be present to God and what’s right in front of me, has been a gift beyond gifts.

So there you have it.

Nothing grand. Nothing monumental.

But good. Very good.

From my heart to yours,

Esther

P.S. For a deeper glimpse into my sometimes all-over-the-place brain from last night, here are the answers to my questions:

1. I had a stay-at-home day. I wrote. I listened to hurting friends. I met with a couple I am marrying. I had a continuing conversation at dinner with my family about something hard we are going through.
2. A FaceTime from my daughter. An electrician who put in a bathroom fan…he came on time…woohoo!!!
3. I asked some hard questions of my hurting friends. Uncomfortable. But brave of me.
4. My daughter. My husband. A friend who prayed for me. Another writer.
5. I don’t know exactly what to do about this hard thing. I am going round and round in circles.
6. See number 5.
7. I took 20 minutes to do Yoga right before dinner, ending with breath prayers and the phrase “God loves me with an everlasting love.”
8. I am feeling them all right now (as usual), but especially doubt. Not sure what’s the next right thing to do.
9. God showed me Himself in the wineberries we found and ate on our walk. He’s just fun like that.
10. Help me! HELP!
11. Clarity and direction. Peace and comfort.

Posted in Faith, Family, Motherhood

It Wasn’t Pretty

It wasn’t pretty.

What started out as a kind gesture on my part turned into a knock-down, drag-out fight with my teen.

On a summer day, as he slept in, I snuck his keys and took his car to the coin-operated car wash and vacuum place around the corner.  I wanted to surprise him with a clean car full of gas just to send him a mom/teen son “love note.”

As I opened his trunk, that sweet, knowing fragrance that I had often smelled in my brother’s car wafted to my nose.  POT.  It was P-O-T.

My mom heart did flips of fear, anger, shock, and shame.

What if he gets caught?  What if he ends up in jail?  Is he dealing?  How often is he using?

How dare he?!?!?!?  After all we’ve done for him!  Just wait until I get home!!! This is the end of the line!  This car is not going anywhere for a long time!  Neither is he!

What in the world?!  How did I not know?  He’s such a great kid!  This just isn’t happening.  UGH.

What am I doing wrong?  I must not be _______ (fill in the blank) enough.  What if they find out at church?  Or almost worse, on his team?  What will they think of me?  And him?

As I finished up the vacuuming and slid the wet wipe over the final seat, I drove home still flipping through all of those emotions, my eyes wet and my heart pounding.

I raced up to his room, threw open his door, and began to yell.  I mean yell.  He woke up dazed and confused.

It was NOT my finest parenting moment by a long shot.

All my fear, anger, shock and shame came tumbling out in words and threats I don’t care to share.

He fumbled back with excuses and “relax Mom.”  Needless to say, that didn’t help at all.
After I was done with my rant, I made my way to my bedroom closet and just sobbed.

What am I going to do?  How can this be fixed?  How can I make him stop?

At first, my controlling, black-and-white, formulaic parenting reared its head.

FEAR was beckoning and overtaking my mind, my heart, my soul, and even my spirit.

He is grounded.  He can’t have a door to his room.  No more car!  I will drug test him every week.  He could really mess up himself, his future, and us!  I am going to fix this!!!

Guess what?  My natural, very unhealthy, unwise, go-to way of parenting did not work.

I couldn’t control him.  I couldn’t fix him.

I was at an absolute loss, one of the first times in all of my motherhood journey that I couldn’t figure out.  Or solve.

I needed something.  Something different.  Something new.

A friend began to pray for me.  I began to pray.

Not prayers that sound fluffy and happy and like I have it all together.

More like prayers that were filled with curse words and “help me” and guttural sobs on my knees.

One day, a still small voice spoke to my heart.

“This isn’t about him, my Sweet Mama.  It’s about you.  I am here to help you.  You are not alone.”

I sat right there and cried.  This time, not the tears of despair, but ones of hope.

“I am the Lord, your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”  (Isaiah 48:17)

I paused.  Listened.

I sought counsel.  From my friends.  From my spiritual mentors.  From a counselor.  And from the Holy Spirit, the most trusted Counselor of all.

In fits and starts, fear raging back at times and supernatural peace overwhelming at others, I got HELP.

HELP in the form of wisdom, not having it all figured out, and all my controlling ducks-in-a-row.

HELP in the form of guidance, being provided only the next right thing to do on any given day with this sweet child of mine.

HELP in the form of comfort, knowing that God can reach into those places in his heart that I have never been able to, no matter how much I have wanted to.

Lastly, HELP in the form of a beautiful, soul-resting, peace-bringing thought, one for my beautiful, but hurting mom heart:

Even if my ‘brain-hasn’t-fully-developed’ child makes a wrong or foolish choice that seems life-altering in all the worst ways, God can weave it into their story so that when it comes down to it, it’s the “right” one. He’s just able to do it.

This has not been an easy road. It’s been an up-and-down, twisty-turny one.  It’s been one that I wouldn’t have chosen.  But it’s one that I’ve needed and has allowed me to grow into a much larger space with this God who loves me and loves those I love even more than I do or ever will.  I am truly grateful.

So today, my friend, remember that God’s got you, no matter what crazy and hard road you are traveling right now.  He’s got your child.

Take a long, slow, deep breath with me, resting in His tender and loving arms, knowing that He is WITH us and FOR us, and we are not alone.

**first published on Liquid Church Family Devotional**

Posted in Faith

God in the Box

God I want to know You.

Not the version of You I was told about since I was a tot.

Not the one that I have used to “keep myself in line.”

Not the vending-machine god that I’ve pursued for my own sake.

But You, God.

The real You.

I just want to know You.

I have a feeling that we’ve all gotten You wrong for as long as You breathed life into us.

We’ve made You into our image.

We can’t help it. We are suffering. We are broken. We have so many limitations. We are human.

We desperately want a God who fits into a neat little box that we can understand and control. That’s happened since ancient times, when we literally put You in a box of wood, overlaid with gold and carried You around with poles and used You to fight our battles and convinced all the people around us that You were inside that box.

Funny thing?!? You weren’t. No matter how hard we tried to put You there and parade You around like we owned You.

We still do it.

We create constructs and circles and books and doctrines and contracts and churches and tell ourselves that You fit into those places. We keep others out of when their version of our god doesn’t match. We love having You in our neat and very small boxes. Ones we can control. Ones where we belong. Ones where we feel safe.

It’s so easy for us.

But I don’t want the easy way anymore.

I want the path that leads me to You.

The real You.

Even if it’s wild and full of adventure.

Or twisty-turny and complicated.

Or confusing and filled with more questions than answers.

The God who does not fit in carefully constructed and horribly restricted and finite boxes.

I’m a little nervous. How could I not be?

This is new territory for me.

But it’s not the same nervous where I’m wondering how it’s all going to fall apart and I’m going to be swept away right along with it.

It’s the hopeful butterfly-in-my-stomach kind.

The one where I might not belong to groups and systems that make me feel good inside.

The one where You live way outside of the box.

The one where it’s the start of a grand adventure of goodness and love and intimacy and creativity and all the fullness of life.

The one where You can be You and I can be me.

*Image from Raiders of the Lost Ark*