Losing color, looking limp, and barely hanging in there • • •

Have you been there friend?

This plant has looked tired and worn down most of the last year. I’ve almost given up on it too many times to count. When I finally gave it some dedicated attention I realized it literally had no roots; it was just sitting in soggy dirt. “No wonder it’s so pale and lifeless.” I thought and I finally threw it away.

But in a last ditch, heart inspired, rescue and recovery plan I snagged it back out of the trash and whispered, “Let’s try this again”.

Incredibly it did just that.
After a lifeless year, it’s coming back, I see new, fresh growth!

The old soil was wet and a little moldy. I dumped it out, washed the pot and put in fresh stuff. I tenderly placed it back in the pot labeled “grow”, and moved it to a new window.

And so lessons appear from the tired, fading plant ~

• let’s check our soil. What are we sitting in? Is it saturated with the wrong stuff?

• what am I rooted in? Do I even have any roots, or am I simply sitting on top of moldy soil in a pot I didn’t choose, falling over from time to time?

• do you need a fresh perspective? Do you need to change the window you’re looking through?

• and just in case you need someone to whisper this to you, here it is, “Hey there love, let’s try this again.”

See (and be) a Helper

While driving on a stretch of interstate recently I saw several cars pulled over onto the median on the other side of the highway. As I drove by I saw a car smashed against a bridge support and people running to the vehicle. Running so fast, to someone they didn’t know, to help.

In a time where divisiveness, being rude and mean is easily recorded and splashed before us, it’s easy to believe we’ve lost our good nature. It might seem that a thin veil covers a deep well of a negativity; that an angry outburst, from even the most mild-mannered among us, could happen given the right topic, time or forum.

As we marked 9/11 a few weeks ago I was reminded of Mr. Rogers. Do your remember his mother’s wise and calming words to him when he was a boy? On that sunny September 11th, in the midst of unspeakable evil that unraveled before our eyes, we were encouraged to tell our kids (and maybe even ourselves) to “Look for the helpers.” There were so many helpers in the rubble, in the air, on the ground, in the stairwells, on the street, on the phone…they were everywhere.

I heard those very words in my head as I watched several men running toward the highway accident; there they were, the helpers. My heart lifted and my spirit was reminded that it is our very natural nature to be a helper. We instinctively run to our fellow man in need.

There are many helpers all around, we need to look for them…and we need to be one. When have you last seen a helper? Or have you been a helper? Would you share it in a comment? Your story might just lift someone else’s heart and renew a tired spirit.

Before I do or say anything post election…

Before Facebook is opened, before I see how far the markets have tumbled, these words are aching to get out of me…

If your party won in the wee morning hours –  be full of grace for others.
If your party lost in the wee morning hours – be full of grace for others.

We ~ collectively, all of us, we the people must not spew crass words, arrogant statements, angry posts to each other. (I read Facebook posts at 4:00 AM was so discouraged.) We the people ~ WE THE PEOPLE have to choose another way. The hatred, lies, lewdness, vulgarity, yelling and more has got to stop with US. WE have to show the way back to each other. The leaders are far removed from us, but we are close to each other. We read each others words and feeds while drinking coffee in our pajamas, your words and my words show up in each others newsfeeds because we are close to one another. We the people have to lead the way in this. We the people have to heal our nation. It has to be us. There is one President, but there are 324,955,349 of us.

Consider not defending, yelling, being sarcastic, or praising God. It’s hard to imagine God would have anointed such a leader. We the people put two of the most unfavorable and disliked candidates on the ballot. We did that. We cannot now turn to them and count on them to lead us out of the stench that has been created. It has to be us ~ we the people.

Let us not spew fear, let us not continue the many deep divides among us. Let the world – who is watching – recognize us by our love as we rise out of this election cesspool. Fellow Christians ~ this absolutely, without delay and without question begins with us. It does.

Let us not be defined by this time in our country. Let’s use our small voices to collectively change the narrative of the United States. Let’s be responsible and graceful with our words and actions. It seems as if it is more important than ever.

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,when it is in your power to act.  Proverbs 3:27

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,live at peace with everyone.
Romans 12:18

He Can Move the Mountains

In the course of our adoption journey, when I have been at the end of myself, with nothing left to give and seemingly nothing at the bottom to even scrape, God would give me this song ~

Everyone needs compassion
a love that never fails
let mercy fall on me…

~ and something within me would stir. When at church, I’d glance at our angry boy standing in the front row, right across the aisle from our pastor, and despite my anger, frustration, sadness or emptiness, I knew those words were true.

Savior, He can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save

I could feel the mountain inside of our boy’s heart and mind. It was a massive, seemingly immovable barricade. The weight of that mountain and it’s jagged cliffs were hurting him, and me, and the rest of our family. It was impeding forward movement.  Each time I heard those words I was reminded God could move that mountain, that He was mighty to save.

So take me him as you find me him
All my his fears and failures
Fill my his life again…

Those are the words I would sing.

Shine your light and let the whole world see
We’re singing for the glory of the risen King…

In my darkness I could sing for the glory of the risen King.

In October of 2012 my husband flew 1,500 miles with our boy, leaving him in a program that was to allow him time and space to mature and heal. 1,500 miles away. In a foreign country. On a mountain. It was the next thing that was presented to us in our journey. It was not what I had expected. It never occurred to me when we adopted him that we would send him away. But maybe, just maybe God knew He could trust us to make this hard, right choice. I don’t know that, but I wonder.

CMA ChurchMany months later when Kevin and I flew down for our first parent visit, our boy was still angry. The last day of our visit was a Sunday and we went to church with him. The church is on the campus of the academy; a simple but beautiful little church. The pews face a wall with a large window, and out that window is a stunning view of a very large mountain. As I stood next to our boy with his own mountain, the visual was not lost on me. An obscure verse we read on a screen recently while visiting a friend’s church in Denver  ~ which spoke to me about our boy ~ was now put up on the screen in this little church facing the mountain, while I sat next to our boy. “OK, God, I see you.” I thought. Then the worship team led us in “Mighty to Save”. My heart lurched and tears streamed down my face, I put my hand compassionately over our boy’s hand with a love I hoped would not fail him; he stood there rigidly. But I was at peace because I sensed God was once more affirming that He was in this whole thing.

Even with this perceived affirmation I wasn’t confident we would ever see this mountain move. But I also knew my Savior had the power to move it. I prayed through that song that God would take him ~ with all his fears and failures and fill his life.

When we returned home my heart was heavy. That first Sunday as I stood in our church I pictured our boy in his church so many miles away. My mind wandered to that mountain out the window and the one within his heart. Then our worship team led us in “Mighty to Save” and tears streamed, I was reminded once more that my God is mighty to save.

On March 22, 2015, after two years and five months, in which our guy   s l o w l y   completed the program, he stood next to me in our home church once more, no more than a few inches separating us.

I quickly had this little conversation with God as we stood to worship:

God,
I know you brought our boy home. I know it’s true because he’s standing next to me. But right now, right here, it would be really cool if our worship team led us in “Mighty to Save”.

Wait…sorry God, it seems I’m always asking you, “Please give me a sign so I know that it’s you.”  I don’t need another sign. I have it ~ the sign is life size and standing next to me. Only YOU could have moved the mountain within this boy. I am grateful. I do not need more of a sign than that.

I started thinking of God telling Moses “…this will be the sign to you that it is I that have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” Genesis 3:12

I was at truly satisfied and at peace.

And then our worship team launched into “Mighty to Save”. I felt my knees go weak and there was no stopping the floodgate of tears as my husband reached for my hand. How could God be so compassionate to me? I don’t deserve it, yet he takes me as he finds me, all my fears and failures and fills my life with the lyrics and timing of this song again and again. How Great is our God?! Oh yeah, we also sang a chorus of that at the end of Mighty to Save.

Thank you, God for your compassion and love that never fails. Thank you for your faithfulness and providence over these many years and in the years to come. Thank you for the healing you have done in this boy that you grafted into our family. May we shine your light and let the whole world see, we’re singing for the glory of the risen King!

(We’re on day 8 of the reunification and it’s going well. He has matured much. He actually wants to be here now. He finally trusts us. He’s letting us in. I’m not naive, I’m aware there are likely to be challenges along the way, but with the mountain moved, the journey likely won’t be on such rugged terrain.)

Mighty to Save by Laura Story
How Great is our God by

Coming Home

It’s happening. After two and a half years, our boy is coming home.

Yes, I am excited.
Yes, I am a little anxious.
Yes, I am confident.
Yes, I am at peace.

After his being away for so long, it does suddenly feel like it’s all happening quickly as I hurry to wash sheets (we’ve been using his room as a quest room), make sure I have a jacket that will fit him in the car (the winter weather we have is quite different from the warm weather he has been living in), and plan a menu that will bring him sweet reminders of our home.

On top of all that this week, I took my youngest, Erin, on her final college visit on Monday and yesterday she has made her decision for the fall. It’s all a little emotional here for this momma this week.

Last night Erin and I went on our first weekly dinner date, just the two of us. We needed a plan to maintain our bond and dedicated time together once Kyler returns, so weekly dinner dates it is! It’s my job to balance his needs and her needs. Before he left for the program things were chaotic and there was MUCH focus on the squeaky wheel that was coming off the wagon. She needs to know that in her last few months before she leaves for college, when her emotions are also all over the board, that I’ve got her back and she has my attention. Then there is my oldest, Courtney, who is graduating in a few short months from college. She is in a phase where nothing is exactly solid, where her whole life is about to change, so yeah…I need to be there for her too. And of course, Zach, my 20 year old, going to school 10 hours away…he sometimes also needs me.

Today I am pondering and resting in the timing of the reunion of our family. Courtney and Zach, though at separate universities in different states, are on Spring Break at the same time…and they are both coming home. Courtney is traveling with me, what a great blessing this is to us. My mother-in-law is traveling home with Zach and will also be here when we arrive back home. Kevin took the week off from work and will be with us all week as we re-establish this family unit. I believe the timing is not coincidence. I believe it is a nudge from God reminding me he’s in this. And of course he would be, he is the one who grafted this broken branch into our family.

This is the life of a momma ~ my momma life, your momma life; balancing needs of others, knowing it’s all going to be OK, even when you can’t see your counter-tops. Pausing in the midst of a swirling season of motherhood and treasuring up all these many things and pondering them in your heart.

Today I’m carving out moments to do just that, because tomorrow I begin the travel to go bring our boy home.

Hope Rising

photo(13)It had been a  l o n g  and discouraging 19 month journey with our youngest.

At the end of May, Kevin and I went and spent some days with our boy who is so far away. It was an amazing visit – he was engaging, relational,  entering into healthy conversations, reading devotions to me, laying on the bed with me while I read the Bible to him. We hiked, laughed, shopped, ate pizza, enjoyed ice-cream. It was just so good.

We came home and he dropped back into the sludge again, but not as deep and he didn’t stay there long; it didn’t panic us, we expected this.

He seemed to look up for the following 8 weeks ~ 8 amazing weeks.
He walked into the most healthy mindset we had ever seen from him.
We saw his actions match his words, and we felt his spirit reach for ours.

It was 10,000 prayers answered.

Then the descending began again about 4 or 5 weeks ago. Suddenly he didn’t care once more – he was making poor decisions (but not his worst decisions). He expressed a fairly hopeless mindset and seemed disconnected again. This time, I fell too. My heart has been heavy and I have felt discouraged.

I’ve turned and leaned into God. I’ve taken the line “And when I cannot stand, I’ll fall on you, Jesus you’re my hope and stay.” to heart. I’ve had to go back to what I KNOW and have experienced as true ~

  • God has been faithful in our 8 1/2 years with our almost 17 year old son.
  • God has a good plan for our boy.
  • Although I feel like 8 years is long-suffering, it is not.
  • There are others who walked longer, more painful and utterly confusing roads.
  • God Himself has renewed my heart and hope for this boy too many times to count. I am not this sustaining on my own. I grow bitterness and resentment and exhaustion. God wipes it all away over and over and plants seeds of hope, love and steadfastness.
  • I believe God gave me a vision several years ago of this boy standing in freedom as a young man. He’s getting taller and older – I’ll hold that as hope as he stretches into young manhood.
  • I cannot give in, give up, quit. I will stand in the belief that he will heal.

Today I prepared my heart for our weekly Skype therapy session; lower my expectations, meet him where he is, don’t get ahead of him in this process. Last Sunday at the end of our weekly call I asked him three questions – What is the hardest part of being you? What is the best part of being you? What does God think of you? Today he opened the session with telling me he was prepared to answer my questions from Sunday – and then he did. His answers were honest and well thought out. He went on to hold a healthy, pretty vibrant, connected, open, honest, eye-contact, hour session. He told me one of the students was going home – early. His perception is that the boy’s parents were taking him out of the program early. Curiously, I asked if he thought we should take him out of the program early…he said “Probably not. I want to feel like I accomplished something. I don’t want to waste two years.”

June 2013And a light began to shine again.

19 long months of a lot of dark.
8 weeks of light and hope.
4 weeks of holding my heart so it wouldn’t bottom out.
1 day of hope rising again.

My heart is full. I can hear freedom calling.

 

Anger, Frustration and Forgiveness

The last few weeks of parenting the youngest has caused some disruptions in my heart, and it’s messed with my mind a little bit. If you’ve been reading here for awhile, you may know we were foster parents to him when he was eight, after a year and a half he was moved to try a reunification with his birth mother. When that failed, (after trying for a year and a half) he returned three and a half years ago and we adopted him into our family.

That “into our family” part has been tricky. It’s hard to pull in someone who is resisting. But, a few months ago, much of his darkness departed and he began to make good progress. Less argumentative, more peaceful. Brighter eyes and an open attitude towards many issues. My sister recently told him that she had heard he was making some good choices lately and that she was happy and proud of him. He told her “Well, I’ve been doing some healing lately.” Good, good stuff.

Then a few weeks ago it began to feel like everything was coming undone. Anger and deception were back. Arguing and manipulation resurfaced, and then sabotage followed, even an in school suspension this week. But that’s where this post will stop describing him.

Here is what began happening to me, I became full of anger, fear, frustration and bitterness. After so many years, and so much effort, time, tools, therapy, mentoring, teaching, techniques, prayer, prayer, prayer and more prayer, why and how is this happening all over again??!! I was sucked back into the vortex of what seemed dark.

I felt justified in this anger and frustration. For everyone who ever wants to come right out and say “Well, if you just did it this way…”, I invite you to come into my world and parent into this for as many years as I have and then tell me which way to go. (Do I hear a little resentment too?) Which isn’t to say I don’t need direction, I do…oh my gosh…I do.

A few friends – who love me and love the Lord – spoke into me. They allowed me my feelings of anger, frustration, even bitterness. Then they boldly told me those feelings needed to be dealt with so that they could not take root. This was truth, and I knew it.

I needed to open my Bible, Where to begin, what do I need to read? I wondered. I was led, by what I believe was the Holy Spirit, to go right back into my already established reading plan. I know where you are in the Bible, I felt God would tell me.

So I opened my Bible and read Matthew 8, Jeremiah 42 and Isaiah 52. And the prayer flowed….Lord, if you are willing, take away my fear, bitterness and anger…as I continued my prayer – straight from scripture, confessing both my unworthiness and my need for forgiveness, I asked boldly for a calm to the storm – not the one on the outside, but the one on the inside. That I would awake and clothe myself with strength, that I would remember that the Lord goes before me, and is my read guard.That I would act wisely. I confessed my inadequacy and my limitations to parent this one from such a broken foundation. And I placed my eyes back upon Him and asked in His great love, mercy and compassion, that He would hear my prayer.

I was talking to a friend this morning about this and as I shared my prayer, she asked if I would be willing to send her this prayer. She said in her own parenting struggles she could really use this to begin each day.

Maybe those of us who sometimes really, really struggle – maybe we are not alone. But in the darkness, it’s easy to feel alone, and embarrassed, by our feelings – or lack of feelings. I’m here to confess to all of you – sometimes I’m off track. Sometimes I lose hope. Sometimes I do not know what to do with the feelings that well up within me. But then I am reminded, sometimes by a good friend, that Someone knows my course, I have a God in which to place my hope, and He knows exactly how to dispel the feelings as well as shed light on the darkness.

If you need to know this today, then consider this a message from a friend ~ Allow for your feelings, then make sure you deal with them so that they do not take root.

Love,
Sheri
You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. Psalm 86:5

Thank God!

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you might remember that in May our pastor was diagnosed with a malignant glioblastoma, grade 4. It dropped many in our church, in our community, and because of his influence, literally around the world, to our knees. I first wrote about it here. It’s been a long five months of taking this in and praying…constantly.

With the amazing blessing of Stan’s return to teaching this fall, (after surgery and a summer of recovery as well as treatment) we’ve been learning about Living with Dying, (we’re all doing it) Healing, Strength in Weakness, Hope, Prayer and more. I’ve experienced deeper worship, lifting my hands without knowing the outcome has forced me to lean into this God who I believe is good – all the time. We sing in one song that the Lord gives and takes away, and so we stand with hands lifted in gratitude or surrender, or pleading. The giving is easy to accept, the taking away…not so much. (Here is a link to page with the above messages that Stan Buck preached.)

Well, last week Stan had his first MRI scan since the removal of the tumor, and he is cancer free! It absolutely is a miracle. When I first heard the news, tears sprang to my eyes and just flowed and flowed. I was immediately aware of how different those tears were from the ones I shed in May, they actually felt lighter on my cheeks.

I am overjoyed! I am beyond thankful for him and his family, and thrilled for our church. (You can read what he posted about this news on his CaringBridge site here.) As I drove by our church today, this was the marquee. It gripped my heart (as much as the one in May did that simply said “Hope”) and I wanted to let out a WHOOP!! I wanted to yell at all the drivers around me “Did you see our sign?! Have you heard our news?!” Instead I drove home to get my camera, I knew I wanted to share about this news here. I took the picture and then understood in my spirit that I needed to drive up to the church and stop in our Prayer Chapel.

I felt drawn to my knees once more and realized it was to give thanks to the Lord. I dragged a kneeler in front of the alter where there is a very large Bible. I put my hands on the Bible, my head down, and said “Thank you.” Immediately, I began to sob. I continued to pray – the only words were…Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you

I wanted to share that because I didn’t expect that response from me, and it made me wonder how often do I want to shout to others….“Did you see that!? Have you heard what God has done!!?” Which is great – wonderful – we should share what God has done. (1 Chronicles 16:8-36) But how often do I get down on my knees, I do mean literally, and simply thank God for who He is or what He has done? The answer: not often enough.

I’m learning a lot through this.

Thank you Lord, for setting our pastor into remission. Thank you Lord, for comforting those who love you the same yet do not receive this same news. Thank you, Lord for who you are. Because of Jesus, Amen.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34
Previous posts: Face Down, Getting up to Follow, He’s Back!

Prayer, Plan, Hope

October 30, 2010 was a day in which I found myself looking in the mirror and seeing someone who was coming up blank. I wasn’t tired, sad, angry, not even particularly empty. Blank is the word that fit. Kyler had had his most violent and destructive rage to date. I was at the sink and just looking in the mirror; thinking about absolutely nothing. It was then when I “heard” these words, “Its almost over.”

I have been beyond asking God for some time now for an answer or an ending. I do ask him constantly to show the next step. These words that floated through my head were something I wanted to grab and claim, but…

We have been as proactive as we can be. We had finally received approval for a full psychological evaluation, the testing had occurred and in two days we were receiving the results. We were hopeful for a new direction in therapy but his being accepted into this practice was contingent on what the evaluation revealed.
I like a plan. (nodding yes right now if you know me, right?!) Get the evaluation 4 Get the results. 4 Get the referral for the new therapist. 4 Get accepted into her practice. 4 Begin new therapy. 4 Wait in hope for new behaviors to emerge.

“Its almost over.” Right. I want this more than anything. For him. For us. Lift Up Your Face keeps playing on the radio in my car. I receive this song as hope. I want to believe its almost over. For him. For us.

Back to The Plan: Get the evaluation. a Get the results. a Get the referral for the new therapist. a Get accepted into the new practice. a Begin new therapy a(first appointment is in nine days) An added step – yesterday we had an appointment with the psychiatrist to review his medications. Based on the insight provided in the evaluation, there has been a change in his medications. (It’s almost over ran through my mind as I sat in her office and listened.)

As we drove home Lift up Your Face played again. I almost cried. I reached over and patted him on the leg. I want to hold him, but a pat on the leg is what he can take in. So this is what I give.

Why share all of this here? I ask myself. The answer ~ I’m a writer; its how I work things out. This blog is to share my journey in this year of wearing the National Young Mother of the Year title, and this is indeed part of my journey. Some of my journey is quite funny, some of it uplifting and good and I promise you – some of it is hard. Is this not true of all of our lives? If sharing in real and raw ways helps anyone else on a difficult journey than I have done my job as a writer.

If its indeed almost over, how awesome to be able to come back here and give God the glory. If its not almost over, then I will still come back here and give God the glory. I feel as if have been in the furnace a few times already and I have not burned up. God’s faithfulness is evident even with the fire still going.

Standing in hope. a

A Bad Word – and – a Word of Hope.

I received word late last night that a friend, who is a part of my very fabric, heard the C word in relation to her own body. I am saddened for what she is going through. I am grieving for the loss of peace she feels in her mind as she waits for a report that will set the course for what is next.

It was an odd mom moment. I was in the kitchen when Zach walked in to find me crying. He came over and put his arm around me and just waited. I could hear Erin tell Kevin that I was crying. Then there were four of us in the kitchen. Mom in the center crying, kids comforting. Odd.

After I had crawled into bed, Zach came down and taped a note to my door. This is what it said:
Thyroid Cancer:

a Only 3.4% of women diagnosed die from it each year
a Most common cancer = easiest to treat
a Where only part of the thyroid is removed, no further treatment is necessary
a 95% cure rate
a More drugs have been made to cure thyroid cancer
a Even if the cancer has metastasised it is easy to cure
a Just some encouraging facts to help deal in a rough time.

I’m not even sure what the point of this post is. Maybe to express what a humbling and grace-filled moment it is when your child gets to a place where they reach out to you in what you hope have been ways you have reached out to them.

Maybe it’s that we’ve all been in those awkward places where we just are not sure what to say. Was it awkward for my son to see me cry? Possibly. But Zach lent a word that gave some hope. We could all take a lesson from Zach and be encouraged to say something in those times…if even to tape it on a door. Last night I said little (in sticky note terms, one sticky notes worth) and hoped it felt like an arm around her shoulder. Thanks Zach.

And friend, did you see that note up there? We’ve got this. I will be there soon.