Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Puzzles, perplexes, frustrations and then there is God!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Do you like jigsaw puzzles? I do, well, sometimes. I don't like the ones that are all one color. That is way to tedious for me. I need something that is challenging but not so detailed I can't get it done in a day or two. But when you open the box all the pieces pour out on the table and you start to organize them. The ends pieces in one pile and the middle pieces in the other. Each piece uniquely fits into some unknown piece. You place them in groups too if you can. You are hoping to find those pieces that relate and fit together.

Life can tend to be that jigsaw puzzle. Some problems you pour out on the table and try sorting to piece it all together. You know God holds the box with the picture but you can't quite make out the different lines and shapes that color that picture into your life. So you start putting things in different piles to see what might fit together.

For the last several months I have been trying to put together this puzzle of explaining God's plan for Olivia. I have hit that table more than a thousand times trying to get the right pieces to fall into place to help her understand how this life isn't always easy. We don't always get the road travelled well but, we get the road less travelled. That being angry with Doctors, or God…while is understandable is not healthy and will eventually lead you down a path of bitterness and unforgiveness. Discussion after discussion. She sits there listening. I know she is thinking "great! I got it! This is lecture 4,780!". She listens and most of the time is respectful but you see that in her eyes and head this is not getting to the heart of the problem. My words are only correcting actions not attitudes and definitely not heart motives. Her head understands but her heart is covered with the muck and the mire of disappointment, pain, emotions, and never ending struggles that seem to have a promise of hope and yet those hopes get dashed.

Then one day I do something completely unrelated to this situation. I have no idea why I was frustrated but that frustration led to a big piece of the puzzle that will unlock that girl's mind and open her heart.

I accidentally walked into God's plan. I was not praying and had an epiphany. I was not reading the Bible and the Holy Spirit whispered the answer to me. In fact I was completely in a frustrated place. It totally came from my frustration rather than a Godly place. I will insert here that I have been concerned and praying about this problem for a while so I can feel a bit better about the situation. The sad thing is that it was still my frustration that allowed me to see what God was doing. (insert a V-8 moment here).

So on to the problem of the day! Olivia loves to read. She has a passion for reading. I always approve the books she reads but I try and encourage her to branch out and read other things. She seems to get set on a series and will not put it down until she finished the whole series. When she is enveloped in a book she loves, that is all she talks about. That saying "you are what you read" characterizes Olivia to a tee. I do understand that most kids have so many other outlets going on and she is captured inside her room but still it makes me crazy at times. So, the other day she is going on, and on, and on, and on about a book she is reading. Oh, did I say she was going on and on…as a Mom I hope you get the implication. If you have girls in your house, really at any age, you completely understand. Girls are chatty. So, as she was telling me about the dragon book she was reading, the conquering hero, the size and shape of the creatures and the complete plot of the book, all 600 pages, I asked her about a devotional she was supposed to be reading each day. Of course she had forgotten, had been tired, had left it in the car and the list went on and on. I had purposely bought that book for her to do a daily devotion so she would be pouring in some about God each day. Did she not understand I was trying to help her with that anger problem she has been having? Did she not get that God was not going to talk to her if she spent all her time with those stupid dragons? Oh, did she not know that Mom was not trusting God at that moment but trusting Mom to help her? The answer to the last question…neither one of us got that point. Shhh…don't tell Liv the answer to that question because I was the only one privileged enough for God to show that answer to me.

The girl had promised me she would read the book. She had promised! I was so frustrated. In hindsight, not because she did not read the book but because I was desperately trying to open her mind to a more world view. The book had several stories about other kids that had gone through some devastating stuff and God had walked them through it. She was not getting it if she didn't read them. It seemed those other books were such a hindrance. I was hopping mad on the inside. So out of frustration I find my favorite book, besides Oswald Chambers, "Hinds Feet on High places". If you have never taken the time to read it…you will regret it. I search the whole house to find my copy and I march into Olivia's room and announce that she will not be able to read anything else until she finishes this book. I knew she would immediately jump on it and start reading so she could get to her next book in the series she is reading. That would fix that problem. She would have to read something about God. The book is set in a story manner like the Chronicles of Narnia so I knew she would not be "brow beat" by reading something too boring. But at least I would know that she was spending time, kinda, with God on her own. Insert here that obviously that might have been the point but God was using it in so many other way.

The funny thing. I forgot the significance of the story. I had forgotten how the story weaves the role of Jesus in our lives. How, when we are afraid and having to walk through the hardest valleys, He is there. His role is there to love us, to help us, to walk with us up that mountain. I had forgotten the whole premise of the book actually. I was too busy concentrating on getting a book I thought she would read than realizing the impact it could have.

So, as we are walking through the Suwanee Square I ask her about the book. She is telling me that the character names are weird but that she can really relate to the main character "Much Afraid". She also talks about the The Great Shepherd in the book and how that is Jesus. She starts talking about the things that Much Afraid is going through and how that is exactly what she feels and understands. When I wasn't lost in my own thoughts about what God was doing, I was mesmerized by the depth of understanding my daughter had. It was truly amazing to hear her talk. Then it hit me. It hit me like a ton of bricks.

There I was, standing stunned with my mouth wide open, realizing that Olivia's main problem was not anger at all. Her main problem was fear. And without me even realizing it, God was answering my prayer. He knew all along that the explosive volcano spewing out at times had nothing to do with being angry. He knew her more than I ever could and had the answer for her all along. He just needed me to step out of the way and let Him work. That moment of realization walked me into a few new places as a Mom.

One, Olivia was taking that next step of independence and two, it was time for me to start letting go a bit and let God do His work in her. That she had reached that age of accountability in some area's and that He was able to reach in and be her God, her Father, her Teacher, her Comforter.

In that split second of a moment, my little girl grew into a young lady. Most importantly, a young lady of God. She had always gotten it. The anger was never the problem. It was the fear of walking through those dark valleys over and over. Through this book I know she will start seeing the wonder and amazing grace of God that will help her. I just pray that I step out of God's way and learn to be her guide now. But that transition is awfully hard.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Facing our Fear

Facing our Fear

Sunday, October 03, 2010

What a statement. Fear just starts rising up thinking about facing those things in our lives that we try not to think about. Then that fight or flight wells up in us and we are ready to go. We either start running or we pull out the armor.

This past year has been a multitude of fears and challenges for me. Most of the time I did not get the choice to run or fight, I just had to stand there and hold on, fighting with what seems like every breath I had. Praying harder than I have ever prayed and trying to listen to the Holy Spirit whisper every step of the way.

For me this is not so unusual though. Most of my life was and is a serious of situations that are fearful, out of my control and yet I have to face them head on. But there are times though, we get to choose. We have the opportunity to say, "no thank you, I will pass on this one" or "I am going to pull my big girl pants up and let's ride". Unfortunately or fortunately, I happen to be one of those girls that live in the "let's ride" category. This can be a blessing and a curse. You feel life more. You see life more. But you bleed more, you self evaluate more, you love harder, you expect more but it is so hard to keep yourself in a cage.

I think something changes in you when you have a choice. For so many of us our fear is a result of bad choices. I was sitting in my "Chasing the goose" class with Pastor Chuck last week and he was talking about the cage of guilt. All of us in the class could relate to the cage of guilt. We may have dressed our cage up so beautifully that it blends in with our lives. We have so eloquently positioned it in our lives that blends in with our view so that we do not even see it anymore. We know it is there, we heard it rattle at the beginning of reading this. But we have chosen not to face it.

Another view for me is fear is usually related to that guilt cage in some form, sometimes. That the conformity of our "church life" allows the devil to not only create guilt in our life from some bad choices but also creates fear that if anyone really knew me? That fear keeps us bound inside the cage of guilt. Our perception of what the Christian life should be keeps us bound by our own fear. Oh but the freedom to open that cage and choose to face it all and use it for God's glory. Real freedom. And that is a whole other thought.

As adults we can all relate, can we not? We have, at some point, created our cage. But what about a child that has faced fear and guilt with no baggage. No cage that has been built around her from bad choices, just life has created the fear and the guilt. What does this look like through their eyes. This weekend I was mesmerized with God, with people and with Olivia. It never occurred to me how much she would have to face being a part of the youth retreat. I never realized how much I would have to face allowing her to go.

When we arrived, Olivia was having a hard time finding anyone to really "hang" with. She was really new in this group of 127 kids heading out. Her friends were there but by now, after a year and a half of not being there, had created their cliques and she was outside the circle. I see her walk from one group to another as they walk off to see yet another friend. I saw her hope dash several times as she moved around the crowd and tried to fit in. As a Mom my heart just fell. I had to hold it all in and let her sink in that ocean of kids and it was killing me on the inside. At one point, I was about to cry so I had to move about talking to my friends to get myself steeled against the flight mode. Finally, she came up to me and just stood. I knew in that moment if I just mentioned she could ride with us instead of the bus, she would and that would be the wrong thing. How did I know that, all I can say is the Holy Spirit and prayer cover because this Mom wanted to scoop her up and protect. I am sure none of you have had that moment, LOL.

So, I gave her a minute and then I suggested she ride with us. Never in my life have I seen such fear and determination in my life. She rose up and told me that there was no way she was not getting on that bus. Wow. A girl that age, feeling lost and alone, having a back up plan. She could have run but not my girl…she bolstered herself up and got on that bus. If you are a girl reading this you can just imagine how much that took to stand there, take a deep breath and choose to face that fear. That fear of being different, not fitting in, not being accepted. She chose to face that fear head on. She knew the kids knew she was different. If not, well you couldn't miss the nose tube across her face and the tube hanging out her side. She knew she was a little awkward sociably because she doesn't always understand that teenage code because she has been growing up with adults and in the hospital. But instead of shielding herself from the fear she put her big girl pants on and went on that bus. I wonder if Jesus at some point always knew He was different He would always stand out and be different for the rest of His life. I wonder if, through His eyes, He saw more, He felt more and yet He chose to face it all. Choice is a freeing thing. It lets us soar...

That first fear was only the beginning. The challenges and the fears kept coming this weekend but Olivia and I had a huge step of growth. She was determined to keep up just like everyone else and that first night was a good one. She went to the first session, came back to her cabin and they played games, and she was making some head way into friendships. She was hurting and did end up coming to our cabin after everyone was asleep and tried to get some rest because the morning came very early. After the morning session and lunch they had free time to climb the Alpine tower and the alpine swing.

My first thought and really I was quite vocal with Liv about this.."You are not doing that!". It is 25 feet up climbing tower, you are harnessed but the climbing is difficult and well, she has all these tubes that could come out. The better part of parenting would be to say absolutely, emphatically, "No!". But, when you face so many things life, death, being different, things are way out of your control, as a person you have to be able to face that fear and know that you can face it and conquer it. So, Olivia pleads her case of facing her fear of heights. How simple that sounds to her but in reality she was facing so many more things than just that. How easy it was to see that my fear of protection was what I had to face. And well her Dad, he went along with it because he has two girls that keep him off kilter just enough to give in every once in a while. Somewhere deep inside I knew she had to do this if there was anyway possible. Because she is like her Mom. Face it, move on. Face it and live!

So we worked with the volunteers to get that harness just right. We worked with the other volunteers to make sure she was secure and off she went. Up that climbing tower. The first hard part she hit, she wanted to stop. It took all I had in me to keep urging her on. My Momma's heart wanted her to come down but my other Momma's heart knew she had to do this. Not because she was afraid of heights but she needed to conquer her fear. Her fear of dying, her fear of being mad with God, her fear of being different, her fear of being alone. There were so many things she was conquering in that moment because she had control and a choice. You see, those other times she was courageous because she had to be. There was no choice. She had to walk through them because what else could she do.

But, that day she had a choice. She chose to conquer her fear and have the control. So, she took that next baby step and kept going. I was cheering her on but then all of the kids were cheering her on. She was so proud of herself and yet still pretty terrified. But she made it! She faced her fear and won. She would not build a cage around her and allow the devil to take away her life. She was going to live it. Wow.

No one but me was able to witness all of that. Olivia has no idea that is what happened on Saturday. She just knows she did it and something changed in her heart. All of those kids have no idea how much it took for her to even take on that climbing tower. The month before she could barely lift her head off of a pillow. Physically, emotionally and spiritually it took five times more strength for her to conquer that tower than all of us on the ground. They never saw the accomplishment like I did. Most of the adults around were happy for her and loved seeing her but I realized how much they could not relate to where that child has walked. The depths of pain and courage that she had if she never even attempted to climb that tower. And no one will ever know the depths it took this Mom to push her on. To conquer instead of live in that cage. I know some of you know that depth because you do the same thing. Whether you send a child off to college, to the military or to give them a chance to move on in life the letting go is so hard. The dying to yourself is more than you ever imagined. But once they take flight….and you see them leave that cage…Wow.

I sit here reflecting on all of this I see how much God sacrificed for us through Jesus. So much more than we can even imagine. But, He had to let Jesus go. He had to let Him make the right decisions. He had to watch Him sacrifice Himself because God could see the bigger picture. That picture of all of His children knowing Him. Not lost and forgotten. Not different and alone. Accepted, loved and adopted into a family that allows mistakes…that allows sin to be forgiven…that allows us to free ourselves from our own cages of fear and guilt. And when we soar, all heaven rejoices! Can you even imagine.

Pastor Chuck, thank you for the inspiration. Your class has helped we walk back into that deep relationship with God that I have so needed for so many years. I have felt revived, energized and challenge to finish well.

Pastor Richard, thank you as well. For reminding me to always be a Christ Follower and not a Christian. Because I think sometimes we truly have forgotten that Christ is the one to follow, not each other.

Dean….thank you for always being there and always challenging me on what I believe.

Donna…thank you for challenging me to do even more. Girl, if I could just keep up with you I think I would be alright.

Barbara D...my dear, dear friend.  Thank you for always reminding me to look to Jesus and to get off my rump and walk and always speaking truthfully into my life.  No matter how hard it is...I love you for that.

Olivia…if you ever read this, thank you for being you. Because you are the reason that I know how much God cares for all His children.