Thursday, April 24, 2014

more than a daughter

March 13, 2004
God sets the lonely in families” Psalm 68:6

I remember the last time I hugged my Dad. He was wearing a purple Catholic High School Alumni polo shirt. I'll never forget it. I didn't want that hug to end because I didn't know when the next hug would be. Honestly, I never dreamed it would be the last hug.

His eyes were filled with tears as he smiled at me and I tried to soak in every moment. My Dad had such a sweet smile. It always had a way of melting my heart. This was his last night home on a furlough from his military training in Fort Polk, Louisiana. He would soon go on to serve with the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team at Camp Cooke in Taji, Iraq. I knew he wasn't telling us everything about how dangerous this would be, but I really didn't anticipate what was about to happen next. I left a teary mess on his shoulder that night; that one last hug.

My Dad was a Chief Warrant Officer. He was set to retire but couldn't stand the thought of letting his men go to war while he stayed back home, so he put off his (much deserved) retirement. His guys, most of them young, called him “Chief”. He told me he thought of these soldiers as family. He had promised their mothers he would bring them home, a promise that weighed heavy on him. He loved these guys and he was so proud to serve his country along side them.

So off he went on this new adventure. Two weeks had gone by and unbeknownst to us back home, Camp Cooke had been receiving mortar attacks on a daily basis. Early one morning, the camp was hit with two separate attacks. I've heard rumors that during the first attack, Dad was trying to get his guys into the safety of the bunker. It sounds like something he would do.

When they all thought it was safe, they emerged from the bunkers and that's when a second attack took them by surprise. The medics did all they could to save my Dad but his injuries were too severe. He died on the helicopter ride to the hospital in Baghdad. Three of his buddies didn't make it either. April 24, 2004 was the end of my Dad's journey in this life. He was 49 years old.

On a rainy spring afternoon, I got the phone call no one wants to get. It rocked my world and it shattered my heart. I threw the phone. I yelled obscenities. It was awful. The next two weeks were a blur. There was a lot of confusion, a lot of paperwork, and a lot of waiting. (It would be May 5 before we even had the funeral.) There were meetings at the funeral home, hard conversations with the Casualty Officer, and disoriented interviews with the media.

A few days into this nightmare, I remember sitting outside on a beautiful sunny April day. It was almost cruel; the fresh green leaves against a clear blue sky. Dad loved days like these. And I thought to myself, “Where are the dark clouds? It should be storming today, this week, this year. And the world should stop because this amazing man has been taken from us.” But the world didn't stop.

I graduated from college just weeks after Dad's funeral. Graduation was a day my Dad had been especially looking forward to. I would be the only child of three to graduate college. It was a really big deal for my Dad. I was supposed to video tape it and send it to Iraq. On that graduation day I felt the reality of it all. There would be no sending him a tape of this day. He really was gone. He really wasn't coming back. That day started my journey of healing from the grief and finding a way to move forward. My relationship with the Lord was still new at that time. I didn't have the maturity yet to understand the role of my heavenly Father, so filling the void of my earthly father was a struggle. And I'll be honest with you, sometimes it's still a struggle.

I went on to have two beautiful boys that my Dad will never meet, which added a new dimension to my grief. I'm very blessed that my boys have my husband's parents as grandparents (and they are amazing grandparents!), but I deeply feel the absence of my parents on holidays, at the boy's birthday parties, soccer games and graduations and on random days of any given week. It's a lonely feeling.

I miss being a daughter.

Since my Dad died I've searched for Scriptures about how God relates to daughters. It used to bother me that I would find amazing passages speaking about sons but no daughters. One of my favorite passages is Galatians 4:4-7. You must read this. It's beautiful.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”
(Galatians 4:4-7, emphasis added)

Wow, I love this passage for so many reasons. We are adopted as God's children and He loves us as His own! But why no mention of daughters? In Jewish culture, being the firstborn son was a big deal. The firstborn son received a double portion of his father's inheritance, but their was typically no inheritance for the daughter. So where does that leave the daughters of God?

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

The obvious conclusion is that, as daughters, we are looked upon as having the same significance as firstborn sons with full rights to the father's inheritance!

I'm more than a daughter.

That is powerful! Despite what your family (or lack thereof) may look like, you are not an orphan. If you've lost a parent or both parents at any age, you can certainly feel like an orphan. But the truth is, God is a Father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5). For us who are in Christ, we are in the family of God. For us women, we are more than daughters.

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”
(Ephesians 1:5)

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of his household”
(Ephesians 2:19)

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12)
Over and over again God reminds us that we belong to Him, adopted into His family. When I miss my parents and I feel the loneliness of it all, I remember that I belong to a family that will never be torn apart. I remember that Jesus has conquered death and that He makes all things new (Rev 21:5)!

God sets the lonely in families” Psalm 68:6

Monday, September 23, 2013

the least of these

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40

I know the day is coming when my seven year old will be faced with the sad reality of bullying, cliques and the "popular" kids in school. For now he's in the blissful world of second grade where the seed of social tension has not yet blossomed. Part of me wishes I could shelter him from this but I know that's not practical or healthy. It's so hard for me to look at his precious face and know the days of his innocence are numbered.

I still remember what it felt like for me as a young girl when I first experienced the cruelty of my classmates. It broke my heart as I listened to the popular girls call me ugly. They thought it was funny to leave me a hateful note in my Valentine's box or to make fun of my hair and clothes in front of other students.

Although I've forgiven these girls, some of the memories still make my 32 year old heart heavy, proof that words are indeed powerful. Those girls had no idea what was going on in my home; no idea what I was facing in my personal life. They were completely unaware that they were adding new wounds on top of existing wounds as they tore me down to lift themselves up. I often tell my boys "You never know what's going on in someone's life". It's true.


     If someone is socially "different", then there's usually a good reason. And if the only reason they are "different" is because God made them that way, then that's all the more reason to love them, even if it's hard or out of our comfort zone. 

Last year, Isaac told me about a boy in his class who gets in trouble a lot. He told me that the boy had behaved so badly they had to call his dad. I could tell by his tone of voice that he was confused about this boy's behavior. He just didn't understand why a child would act in such a way. I then told him that not every child comes from a loving home and that some children are going through a lot in their lives that others can't see. I explained that these personal struggles can cause them to misbehave or act strange. I asked Isaac to imagine how hard that would be for a young boy. Isaac's face looked sad and compassionate. I then told him that he should find ways to love this "misbehaving" classmate of his.

A couple of weeks later Isaac told me he had learned that the boy was from a foster home (he knows what that means) and that his dad was actually a foster dad. Life had confirmed what his momma had taught him and I could see the light bulb had come on in his young heart. I then lovingly explained that it doesn't matter if a child at his school misbehaves, dresses strange, acts weird, talks funny or even smells bad, you don't EVER make fun of him or her. (I knew he hadn't teased this boy but this message needed to be said before the temptation ever arises.) I also taught him how to cope if he is ever teased or bullied and to stand up for himself without being violent. Then, I looked him in his beautiful brown eyes and told him what I wish someone had told me at his age:

...that his identity is completely found in Christ, his Creator, and that no one can touch that or take it away.

I could tell he understood what I was trying to say. In that moment I realized God was using my past hurt to slowly mold and shape this sweet young boy of mine into a godly man. It's one of my favorite things about God. He takes our pain and turns it into something beautiful.

Now it is up to Isaac to make a choice. Will he listen to the wisdom of his mom or will he succumb to the social pressures he's sure to face? I have confidence that he will do just fine and I can't wait to see what God does through this amazing child (and his equally amazing little brother!).

Thursday, July 11, 2013

"supermom" is a myth

One of the reasons I started this blog two years ago was because I wanted other moms to know they aren't the only ones who struggled with motherhood. I was going through a rough time with my youngest son and I felt frustrated and alone in the daily battles that I faced. It has been a privilege to stay at home with my boys and I am grateful for that blessing. But even blessings can sometimes come packaged in sacrifice and humility. Staying at home and serving the needs of another does not come natural for me. (Yes, that means I'm naturally selfish) When my second child came along I didn't expect him to have issues. So when he started exhibiting symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) I was blindsided. Before his diagnosis, I had no idea that his biting, kicking, spitting and constant fussing could be explained and corrected. And so I just kept believing it was all my fault. I must've done something wrong. My consistent disciplining was not working. Everything I tried with my first son was useless with my second child. Andrew's behavior was beyond just the "terrible twos" and I knew something had to be done. That's when I got on my knees and begged God for help; a prayer He faithfully answered. Thank God for Kidsource Therapy and the team of therapists that worked with Andrew. It was such an answer to prayer and he has come such a long way!

Even though I was getting help for Andrew, I was still feeling alone and friend-less. I can still remember it vividly, the looks from other moms at Andrew's Mother's Day Out. I was now the mother of the "biter". Not many moms want to have play dates with a kid who bites and his mom who can't get him under control. I often picked him up from school and left in tears. It was a dark time in my journey as a mom. Sometimes when you're in a dark season of life, it can start to seem as if everyone else has it all together. Deep down I knew not everyone "had it all together", but it sure seemed like I was inferior in my mothering abilities. I would look around at other women in my church, my kids' school, or even the grocery store and secretly wonder how they did it. How did they hold a full time job, raise three kids and on the side acquire a Master's Degree? I was barely holding it together and these "Supermoms" were flying around wearing a cape, holding a diploma in one hand and a diaper in the other. God bless these women. The world needs them! But there had to be other moms just like me and I felt it in my heart that something needed to be done to reach these women. Since that time, over the past two years, God has shown me that I am indeed NOT the only one who has had this struggle. I have heard many stories from other women about their struggles with motherhood and feelings of isolation and loneliness. Women are experiencing a lack of authentic friendships. There's a disconnect somewhere and it begins with a lack of authenticity. What are we accomplishing by being "perfect" in the eyes of others? How can we expect to really change lives if we're constantly maintaining our spotless self-image? I'm still working on this. Honestly, it's hard for me to even write these blog posts. It's no fun to bring all this back up and publish it for everyone to see. But I do it for the woman who's reading this with tears in her eyes and taking comfort in knowing there's someone out there who has walked a similar path.

Let's be honest, "Supermom" is just a myth (although some of you moms come pretty close!!). She only exists in our imagination. She's a lofty expectation we strive to attain but she always evades us. Let us never forget that we're not called to be perfect, we're called to be authentic. "But [Jesus] said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 
(1 Corinthians 12:9)

If you don't get anything else out of my ramblings, please remember this: us moms need each other. Being a mom means being responsible for another human being's physical, mental, and spiritual well being. That's a lot of pressure! We weren't designed to do this alone. We were created to be in community with one another. We should be willing to carry one another's burdens. "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2


Monday, June 24, 2013

journey through the toil

It's summer time and everyday I fight the temptation to let my boys zone out in front of the computer or television. So, after a lot of coffee this morning I decided to get my boys outside and do a little gardening with them. And I do mean a little gardening. Is it really even gardening if your husband already did the prep work? But moving started off with me telling the boys about my plan for planting beans. I had envisioned them smiling and reacting with joyful enthusiasm. Okay, that might be a little optimistic, but my boys really do love to garden so I expected they'd be somewhat excited. Instead, my youngest wanted to run in circles in the living room and my oldest acted indifferent to the idea. Hmmm...

Already, this wasn't going how I pictured it would in my mind. I guess I had hoped we would gather around the garden together and laugh while we dig in the fresh dirt, all the while I would be sharing motherly wisdom about life. If only it actually ever worked out that way. I then decided that their indifference was okay. I would just head out with my gardening tools and hope they would follow. My oldest joined me as I figured he would. It was fun for maybe five minutes until the mosquitoes decided they were hungry for the Legate breakfast buffet that featured me and Isaac as the main course. On top of that there were gross white bugs that had infested the garden soil. Ugh.

As I watched my itchy little boy head for the house, I couldn't help but feel disappointed for him and for myself. This whole gardening thing had gone differently in my mind. I was frustrated that even the simple little things in life can easily turn to disappointment. Add the little disappointments to the big disappointments, and one can easily start to feel frustrated. I was determined to complete this planting fiasco, despite the gross white bugs in the soil and the itchy bites that now covered my legs. As I was left alone with the garden and the mosquitoes I began to think about how this world really is cursed. From the little things in life to the big things in life, so much can go wrong. I pulled at the relentless weeds coming up around the tomato plants; a reminder of the story of the fall of human kind in Genesis. To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat from it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life."

Clearly, this is not our home. Sometimes this fact is painfully obvious to us. There are times we feel like a foreigner in this land and we scream in our hearts, "Why is this so hard!?". Other times we feel too at home here, sheltered from the storms of life. Too often we forget that God gave us each other for a reason; to encourage one another through the "painful toil". Community is so important. There are real people in our community, families, and churches who are drowning in disappointments and sorrows, too afraid to show their true burdens. They walk around with the mask of perfection firmly fastened, pretending to be unaffected by the painful toil in this life. (I know this because I used to be one of them.) And who can blame them? The pain of rejection and fear of being judged has shut the mouths and hearts of hurting people. This will be something I mention in my next post because it's a real problem in the church today and something I'm passionate about.

Mosquitoes and weeds in my garden are the least of my trials in life. The weeds I fight the most are not in my garden but in my marriage, my family, and friendships. I toil in these "gardens" every single day. And my whole reason for this blog is to show you that you are not alone in your toil. I am not perfect. None of us are perfect. And we need to be okay with that; with being perfectly imperfect. Does this mean we should be okay with living a sinful lifestyle? Never. Because that's not what God wants for us. He wants us to strive for holiness. "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship." (Romans 12:1) But we don't get there by pretending. We get there by taking off our masks and letting God use our stories of how we've journeyed through the painful toil.

"...for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." (1 John 5:4-5)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

giving our best

So it turns out I'm the worst "blogger" ever. I'm okay with that. I'm learning to be okay with all the things I'm not good at. It has been a long time since I posted on here; a seriously long time. Why is that? It's mostly because I'm a busy wife and mom. Honestly, I don't know how all the other blog moms do it with the regular blog posts and pictures to go along with it. I think you're amazing and I salute you! 

What have you been neglecting lately that you wish you could spend more time on? I think as a culture what we neglect the most is our family. Our spouses, children, parents, etc. are feeling busy but alone in a world of technology and over stimulation. I look around and see marriages dissolving and kids out of control. None of us have this life completely figured out and no one is perfect at parenting or family life, however, I have to ask one important question. Are we giving it our best? I mean REALLY giving it our all? I confess, I fail at this more than I'd like to admit.

I've made it a habit to check on my kids every night after they fall asleep. I use this time to pray for them, to reflect on what I've done right or wrong in my parenting that day, and to ask God to forgive me where I have failed. I ask Him to watch over these precious creations and to give me wisdom in my parenting. I confess that most days I am humbled by my failures and lack of effort. I end up asking God for forgiveness and grace to face the next day. In those moments I realize the battle we face as parents. Our families are a precious thing. I want you to reflect on that. Stop and really let that soak in. Family. It's powerful. When a mom and a dad are serving God and loving their children, so much good comes from that. We are able to overcome many things when the family is healthy and whole. Not only do we benefit, but our society benefits. Our children grow up with a solid foundation, an accurate picture of what a family looks like, and a sense of security just to name a few. And the hope is that this is passed on to future generations. We all want these things for our kids, but this doesn't just happen. We have to invest in our families much like we invest in our careers. If you're serious about your career, you're not just going to quit when it gets tough. No, you persevere and fight to climb the corporate ladder in hopes of a reward. What if we all fight with similar passion to keep our families together and healthy? Anything in life worth having requires hard work and sacrifice. It's no different with our children and family.

We'll never be perfect while on this earth but we can still give our best. Are you giving your best? I challenge you (and myself) to look to the Author of our days, Jesus Christ, for strength and guidance on how to love our families more. My prayer for you is that you would fight for them. Step into the battle every day and never ever give up. Grace and peace to you!

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

brokenness = a new perspective

   Broken….boy have I been broken. That is what humbled me into changing my perspective. I'm now less judgmental, less selfish, more loving, and dare I say….tougher! Am I bragging on myself? No, because it's not me but Christ living in me. It's only possible when I stay connected to Him (John 15:4).  When I do things with my own effort then I find myself slipping into my old ways of thinking and then I'm back to being judgmental, selfish, less loving, and irritable. But, back to brokenness. I'm going to step out of my comfort zone a little and show you my heart. My heart is for the broken of this world because I know how it feels to be utterly broken. There are those people in my life who know what I've been through, but only God knows ALL that I've been through. It is amazing to look back and see the incredible work God has done. God the Father is a Master Mosaic Maker. He has taken all these ugly broken pieces of my life and turned them into something beautiful. It's what he does. He makes all things new. And only He can do it. I have literally seen this verse lived out in my life...

"...but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And 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 5:3-5

   It's not me who is able to do this but God working in me that even makes this miracle possible. And it is not an exaggeration to say it's a miracle. As I write this I feel inadequate to explain to you all Christ has done for me, but I shall try. I could name the many things I've suffered but that's not my focus. Suffice it say I've cried many tears; from losing loved ones, to being rejected & betrayed by those who are supposed to love me most, to parenting struggles, to sitting in a doctor's office waiting for test results; just to name a few. If you are breathing, you can relate. Because we all suffer on some level, and if you haven't suffered, you will. I say that not to be negative, but so that when the trials come, you will lift your eyes to the only hope we have in this broken world and that is Christ. He doesn't make our problems magically disappear. He doesn't always give us what we want. And sometimes you wonder if He's even there. In those moments when I am looking up to God and saying, "Really? Come on!" I have to CHOOSE to believe in Him and trust Him. And after that is when He honors me for that choice. After that comes the tidal wave of joy and confirmation that He is there, He does love me, and I do belong to Him. He always honors us when we choose to believe and trust. On your hardest, darkest, most lonely day, I encourage you to choose Him. It is a choice. I could have chosen differently and I sometimes wonder what would've happened if I had not made the choice to trust in Christ. Would I have even survived? I am certain of one thing, even if I would've survived, I know I would be depressed and miserable, stumbling around in darkness, making poor choices and suffering from the consequences of those choices. But praise God that's not how my story turned out! Instead I have JOY!! 

   I realize there are those of you reading this thinking that Christianity is my coping mechanism. I completely understand your point of view. However, I challenge you to search your heart & mind right now and think of what gives you joy. What is your identity? If you lost your job, your possessions, your loved ones, your beauty; how would you make sense of it? Who would you turn to? God says, "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5) He also says that NOTHING can separate us from Him (Romans 8:38)!! It's supernatural. You just can't understand it, until you've received it. And you can't receive it until you ask for it. I know I sound like a religious nut to some, but those who have the Holy Spirit know just what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the gospel. The "good news"!! If you haven't chosen to trust in Christ and follow Him, I would love to talk with you about that. Message me. I welcome your questions. You're reading this for a reason and God has placed me here as His ambassador to you (2 Corinthians 5:20). I am here to love you! I could go into a long explanation of salvation but to put it simply, we have all sinned. Remember the old saying, "Nobody's perfect"? That is why Christ died. Because we are sinful. Even if you are the most moral person on the face of the earth, your heart would eventually fail you in that you would become proud. And pride is sin. We just can't escape sin. Christ became sin for us. He took the punishment. And Christ is the ONLY way to the Father (John 14:6). 

   So there it is!! That is how I gained my new perspective. It didn't happen overnight. It was a process. Be patient with yourself and let God do what he does best….which is transform us, sanctify us, to be more like Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18).

   For my brothers & sisters in Christ who are struggling or suffering. Remember this, you are not alone. God will never leave you or forsake you. And whatever it is that He has been doing in your life, he will carry it on to completion (Philippians 1:6). I would love to pray for you. For now, I leave you with this prayer/Scripture:

   "For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
    Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 4:14-21

Be blessed and much love to you all!!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ever feel like you're the ONLY one?

You are not alone! I think one of Satan's strategies is to get us to think that we are the only ones going through whatever it is we're going through. One thing I've learned about this…you are NEVER the only one. No matter how strange or unique the situation may feel at the time, there is always someone out there who has gone through or is currently going through your same situation. I experienced this a lot when my two boys were babies. For some reason I got it in my head that I was flawed as a mother and as a human being for thinking that motherhood was not for me. Some days were so hard for me that if there had been a "QUIT" button, I would've hit that sucker!! Of course, my feeling that way had a lot to do with my maturity level at the time, but that's another post. Looking back on it I have learned that I needed to give myself more grace, especially considering the crazy trials I was living through at that time (yet again, another post!). Let's face it: Motherhood is hard. Life is hard. And we are flawed human beings. Things got a lot easier for me the day I got on my knees and cried out to God to give me wisdom; to have mercy on me and to grow me into the best mother I can be. I can honestly say He has answered that prayer. It changed my life. Christ has changed me, sanctified me, through my kids. It's been the hardest time of my life, but I'm so grateful for how God has refined me and made me into something more beautiful. I now enjoy motherhood because my perspective is different. More on that new perspective in my next post! Stay tuned...