I’ve heard a saying or something somewhere. “We don’t say lies in church, we sing them“- so true. But what if we could reverse that saying? What if you really did mean those lyrics when you sing them? What does the heart cry of the believer mean to the Lord? What does He do with a heart yielded to Him?
As I am writing, I am listening to my Gungor station on Pandora. “The Stand” is playing by Hillsong United. It is a great song. I vividly remember one day about 6 years ago shutting the door to my home office, kneeling on the floor, lifting my hands in the air and pouring those words of that song out of my heart to the Lord. I meant, “I’ll stand with arms high and heart abandoned, In awe of the one who gave it all. I’ll stand my soul Lord to you surrendered. All I am is yours.”
At that time, I was a newly wed with a nice brand new house. I loved my job and was even working on starting a new business. We were apart of a good church with loving friends. My husband had a good job with a lot of promise for advancement. We were working on our “debt snowball” and making pretty good progress. We were young and enjoying life.
Over the course of the next 6 years God has taken us through the fire. We were asked to surrender all of those good things I listed above except our marriage (we almost surrendered that on our own… but that’s another story). Our “story” is a mess. We have moved 9 times since that day. Faced times of very little money, a lot of disappointment, hurt, pain, sickness, stress and CHANGE.
Sometimes, I look back over the last few years and I think, “What the heck, Lord? So, we surrender our lives to you and then You wreck it?”. (I know that sounds really audacious. It is. I am thankful, however, that the Lord allows my honesty and questions.) It is hard not to grow bitter for what I feel was lost in our attempt to follow Him.
I don’t see the whole picture though.
I remember sitting in church one day not too long ago when things seemed pretty dismal and hopeless. I don’t remember the song that was being sung but I do remember God answering my bratty prayer. He said, “How do you think this is supposed to happen Trisha? “make my heart your home” “give me on pure and holy passion” “make me more like you” “captivate me” – “How do you think I do these things in the heart of someone who genuinely desires My work in their life?” I was then reminded that He refines through fire. He strengthens through difficult times. He makes us more like Him through trials not the safe and easy times.
I so wish I could share the nitty gritty details of our journey. Maybe over time I will. But I can say this. As I look back over a very rough season, I rejoice! I am so thankful because I can see the work the Lord has done in my life in just this short time of refinement!
I am content in times I would normally be unsatisfied. I have peace in situations I would normally have anxiety. I am thankful for things that I used to think were due or owed to me. There is much, much more work for the Lord to do in my life…. because let me tell you…. I am a serious mess! But it is so good to, for a little while, to be given the treat to look and see His work.
So give careful consideration to the words you sing on Sunday. Do you really mean what you are singing? He knows, rather you do or not. But if you do mean the words you pour out to the Lord, don’t be surprised when trails arise. He is working. He is making those words and prayers a reality in your life!
“Count it joy, my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
Hillsong United. “The Stand” United We Stand (live). April, 4 2006.
If you have been friends with Mark and I for any amount of time over the last few years or even if you have just been friends enough to stalk us on facebook, you must be aware of the fact that our life is an unpredictable mess! I mean there is just no denying it. Shoot, I called a customer service rep. at Georgia Power the other day to have our service transfered and he saw it!
He said, “so you lived in Atlanta, moved to Savannah, moved back to Atlanta and then back down there? Why did you do that?”. I’m thinking buddy doesn’t even know the half of it. He can’t see like three other moves that are sandwiched in there some where. For a second, it almost got real with ‘random GA Power tech.’. Because in my head I was thinking, “I. DON’T. KNOW. We thought we were following God but maybe instead He is playing this mind game with us and has secret plans for us to do ministry in the loony bin…. because I’m so confused right now I might be headed there!!!” But you will be glad to know, I instead, laughed awkwardly and proceeded to stay focused with the purpose of my call.
I find myself getting mad. And this my not be “Christianly correct” to say but I get mad at God. (With all due respect to my Lord, I say that. I am forever and ever grateful that He allows me to be completely honest and human with Him!) I don’t understand because surely if you do what He tells you, life will work out peachy and clean. I don’t like messy. Again, ask my mom. I didn’t finger paint in preschool… I didn’t play in the mud as a kid. I like clean. I so want this clean cut, easy to follow plan from God. I want to follow Him and keep my life in tack.
So I had this all out pity party a couple weeks ago. . I was looking through my phone…. because if you are in need of the Lord, where else do you look?! Ha! I wasn’t looking for Him. I wanted to whine and play the comparison game on facebook. But this is who my God is, people, He reached out to me in my pathetic misery through my phone. I stumbled across this video from Andrew Peterson, called “the Silence of God”. The song is incredible and honest. At the end of the video He references Hebrews 12.
“For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrew 12:3
And somehow it hit me… Exactly, who did I think I was following? Look at scripture; Look at Jesus’ life. His journey was not pain-free. It was not clean. It was not easy. And His followers…. they gave up everything to follow Him. Their life, careers, families and all that they held dear, were sacrificed for the opportunity to follow Him. They could never predict what Jesus would do next. They just followed Him.
I get caught up on my “calling”. It’s like I want Him to lead me somewhere or to do something and then just leave me alone. I think I want Jesus to be my host. You know, show me to my seat and sit down kind of thing. “I’ll follow You to my seat, Lord, thank you.” But that is not the gospel journey. It is never ending on this side of eternity. My first “calling” is to follow Him….. wherever that may be. I do believe God places ‘callings’ upon our life but I don’t think it is our job to interpret. Look at Abraham. God said he would be the “Father of many nations”. His descendants would “out number the stars”. My way of handling that information from the Lord would be to well… get busy…. because that’s my ‘calling’. God, however, had a far greater and more beautiful plan for Abraham. And through his journey, he came to know God so much more intimately. But it was a journey.
So I am reminded of these things:
#1 – We are following a messy God. “Consider Him…” Hebrews 12:3
#2- In that, we are simply called to trust, obey and follow Him.
“And He said to them, follow Me…” Matthew 5:19
Its good He never asked me to figure it out. Because I don’t have one piece of our life figured out at the moment. Our life is messy but I can assure you of this, to our best knowledge and understanding, our family is following Jesus.
And like one of my favorite books well describes Him,
Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” – Chronicles of Narnia C.S. Lewis
Mark and I watched a great moving tonight, “What to Expect when you are Expecting”. The movie is about 5 couples that go through the process of adding a child in their family. One woman has the “perfect pregnancy”, no stretch marks, no real weight gain… “that” girl. One is the fitness guru. One has a realistic, terrible, uncomfortable, nauseating pregnancy that ended in a C-section. One couple goes through the process of adoption and one couple unfortunately looses their baby around what I would guess is the middle of the pregnancy.
I did not at all identify with the first two girls. My two pregnancies were almost exactly like the “Wendy” character… I gained a lot of weight. I was very sick. I was bloated- with my son, I could not even walk. I was an absolute emotional wreck! And I also ended up having C-sections. Her character made me laugh! I so identified!
The last two couples tugged at my heart strings more than I thought…
I had purposely been avoiding the topic of adoption for a couple months now.
Our family was in the process of adoption for the majority of this past year. We really got the ball rolling last November. We started attending some informational meetings, decided on an agency and a direction. In January, we started the paperwork. We spent a lot of time at doctors offices. In March, we completed a 20 hour required class for our adoption path. It was a very emotional and time consuming class. Then we started the “real paper work”. A packet of papers about 6 inches deep came to our house. We spent hours upon hours filling out the questions about every nitty gritty detail of our life… every single detail. I drove all over the city of Atlanta collecting documents and fingerprints and who knows what but somehow we finally finished.
And our hearts and dreams grew. I did not have stretch marks and didn’t have monthly doctor visits but the process was so similar to my pregnancies. I fell in love with a child whom I did not know. We changed our plans and life to accommodate this little one. We were getting excited and expectant for another child in our home. I made Mark a desk calendar for Christmas last year. I left some spots blank toward the end of the year, in hopes and expectation that we would have #3’s pictures to fill in there. I felt all the emotions of a pregnant woman waiting to meet their child. Fear, love, peace, anxiety – heart burn, and exhaustion. We even had a name and picture of a potential child. Our family had all the excitement of an impending arrival!
But then around June, things came to a gradual stop. Long story short, we knew we were moving to another city but unsure of when and where. Our caseworker advised us to place the adoption on hold until we got settled. I was hoping to be settled by the end of July. We were hoping to by a house. But neither of these things ended up being able to happen. Without getting in to too much… due to many small un-forseen issues, it looks like the “pause” button will need to be pushed for much longer than we thought. There was so much momentum and now here we are in October at a complete stop.
And I feel a great deal of loss. A great deal of sadness. Possibly that similar to a physical miscarriage.
Kids being kids, don’t understand. My son still asks, talks about or prays about his “brothers” almost every day. He would get mad when we would look at houses because he said they were too small for all his brothers… I’m not really sure how many “brothers” he plans on having but still I love his heart.
I know all the “God answers”: “It will work out in God’s timing” “Maybe you weren’t ready” (- that one is true but with that being said, I’m not really “ready” for the first two I already have!) “All things happen for a reason” “Maybe you can do the adoption thing when your kids are older or out of the house”. And you know what? All these things are true! We aren’t ready! Everything does happen for a reason. And maybe we should wait on this whole thing and adopt when we have more money and our kid are older.
However, despite it all, our heart has experienced a loss. And it sucks (sorry mom)! I don’t understand why we went through all of that just to be here in a two bedroom apartment and no adoption. We wasted a whole lot of time, a whole lot of money and a lot of heart ache to end up empty handed.
I don’t get it and I don’t like it.
I’ll end with this little story from my whimsical, free spirited daughter.
While we were driving to church today, I reminded her to act like a princess. I did this because she may or may not be known to hit, kick or push on the rare occasion. She said she promised to act like a princess. I then proceeded to tell her she really was a princess. She was God’s princess and that God was the King of all Kings. She was His child making her a real princess! Then she said, “I’m gonna dance on the stage with God. And God’s gonna hold my hand and I’ll go round and round on the stage.”
Oh my goodness, my heart melted! I love it!
I had this visual image of God dancing with my baby girl. It was beautiful. I love this visual and thought of Him holding her hand and Him holding mine. And some how in that sweet moment, I was reminded that He is with me, holding my hand, dancing with me through all of life’s junk. I don’t have to understand Him or even like all that He is doing. I just have to keep hanging on!
So I don’t really get what He is doing in so many areas of our life right now… not only adoption. But I think I’m gonna hang on and dance. Because even through all the disappointment and let downs of life, I still would rather be with Him.
Adoption has been our goal since we got married. Our dream was to have a big house and adopt as many kids as space (and sanity) would allow. God blessed us (like crazy blessed us) with our two biological kids coming along for the journey! Adoption, however, is still our goal we will just have to trust God with the timing.
My husband, his cousin and I did something crazy last year. We took 4 children to Disney World by ourselves! Did I mention all but one of these children were under the age of 3…. a trip to Walmart would be dumb enough…. a trip to Disney… clearly we are crazy! We were out numbered. I think for Disney World, you should double the adult to child ratio, especially if those children are preschool age!
Anyway after a long exhausting drive to Orlando and luging all our luggage in to our hotel room, we threw the children and three strollers on the bus and made our way to “the happiest place on earth”. We stepped off the bus, pushed our way through the line and finally made our way through the gate. We had arrived!
How do our children thank their tired, worn out parents for bringing them to this “magical” place? By having an all out MELT DOWN! They were acting like those kids that make any non-parents say, “my kids will never act like that”. We didn’t know what to do? Clearly, these children did not realize they were at Disney World?! So we drug them crying and screaming all the way up Main Street. I remember yelling to our cousin, “Hurry, find something fun! We have to show them this is fun!”
Luckily, Disney World helped us out. A parade was turning the corner right as we got close to the castle. The kids stopped crying. The looks on their face seemed to say to me, “Ahhh, my parents were right. They didn’t drag me through the heat, crowds, and confusion just to torture me. This might actually be fun.”
Work with me but this crazy moment somehow makes me thing of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego….
I love the story recorded in Daniel of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego! What triumphant faith and courage! These three respectfully stayed faithful to the Lord under insane pressure and in the face of almost certain death! They faced death by fire because they stayed faithful to the Lord and did not worship an idol. They made big claims as to what the Lord might do.
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. “- Daniel 3:17
And honestly who would not remain faithful to a god who would definitely save them from the fire?! But the problem is God does as He pleases. And Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not know for sure if God would choose to save them from the fire or not. This is implied in their next statement.
“But even if He does not..”
This is the reality of God that scares me. He is unpredictable by human understanding. I can’t just claim that He will do this or that. He has certain promises in His word but the way He chooses to fulfill those promises is up to His discretion… because He is God.
In my human mind, I get scared and fearful of following Him at times because of this truth. I forget that He is a Father and that He is good. I forget that all though I may not understand, he works all things to the good of those who are called to His purposes. (Romans 8:28)
I could stay trapped here, never moving forward in my ‘faith journey’ because I’m too afraid of what God might or might not allow to happen. But at some point there has to be a choice.
I find myself here again at this point in my life, a fork in the road. The plans I had in my head for the next season in my life are slowly unraveling. I could get mad (not to say I haven’t) and bitter. I could turn to the “idols” in my life and do things my way OR I could say like Shadrach, Meshach and Abedeigo, “BUT EVEN IF HE DOESN’T”. Even if nothing else goes according to “plans” or nothing else works out as pretty as I want it to, I will still trust Him!
So how in the world does the Disney story connect?
It boils down to trust.
Our kids did not trust that we had brought them through all that confusion and mess for their good and their enjoyment. They thought we were mean parents who just wanted to torture their children (okay, maybe not but I’m just judging from their actions).
Just like the Lord, I think He sometimes has to take us through some confusion and mess for our ultimate good and joy. We don’t realize where we are. We can’t see what is going on.
Maybe He is bringing us through to catch a glimpse of a “parade” or maybe not.
But at some point we have to trust Him. We have to stop fighting. We have to stop having melt downs (okay maybe that’s just me) and trust Him “even if He does not“.
He is good beyond our own perception. He is God. And He is trustworthy.
Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. 2 Why do the nations say, “Where is their God?” 3 Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. 4 But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. 5 They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; 6 they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell; 7 they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats. 8 Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them. 9 O house of Israel, trust in the LORD– he is their help and shield. 10 O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD– he is their help and shield. 11 You who fear him, trust in the LORD– he is their help and shield. 12 The LORD remembers us and will bless us: He will bless the house of Israel, he will bless the house of Aaron, 13 he will bless those who fear the LORD– small and great alike. 14 May the LORD make you increase, both you and your children. 15 May you be blessed by the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. 16 The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to man. 17 It is not the dead who praise the LORD, those who go down to silence; 18 it is we who extol the LORD, both now and forevermore. Praise the LORD.
We are early in the adoption process. We have felt led to adopt for years but recently felt like God gave us the “green light” to start the process!
We are planning on adopting through our State via a private agency. We want to adopt a child under the age of four. A child has to be in the State system a certain amount of time before the State will relinquish parental rights in most cases. So anyway all that to say, if we get to adopt soon, our son or daughter is born and “out there”.
So, I was thinking about this the other day. I was wondering what they might be doing. What is he eating for lunch? Is playing out side? Is he sick (like their soon-to- be brother and sister are far too often this time of year)? Does he have a favorite animal like his silly sister? Does he still have a pasie like his sweet brother? Does he have a favorite meal or drink too many cups of chocolate milk like two other kids I know? Does he love to dance (if not he will-we dance a lot in our family!)?
Most of all does he know we already love him or her so much? Does he know we think about him all the time? Does he know that every time we pray his big brother thanks God for him and prays for him? His brother is crazy about him! Does he know that his Daddy and I have been to several meetings in preparation to adopt him, that we are about to spend start going on a weekly basis to a training class ? I got lost trying to find one of those meetings, drove all the way around Atlanta on 285, and cried thinking about him or her all the way around the city!
I paint custom art and started as a consultant of a direct sales company to help with some of the financial needs of adoption. I work late at night and sometimes (and only if necessary) early in the morning. I have even made sales calls – something totally out of my comfort zone – but the whole time I thought of him and it was worth it! We have even started cleaning and arranging our home in a way that would be conducive for our impending home study. His Daddy has rearranged his work schedule to go to meetings and training at the adoption agency.
Just as I would do anything imaginable and more for the children God has given us, we will do whatever we need to do for this little boy or girl whom we have not even met! It doesn’t make sense but we already love him so much! We already think about him! And we are working in every way possible to make him apart of our family!
But I am sure he has no idea! He has no idea that there is a family out there who loves him like crazy and is working to what we need to do to get him in to our family! I can’t wait to one day tell him what all was going on “behind the scenes” before we meet! I can’t wait for him to see how we pursued him, want to know him and make him apart of our family!
So this got me thinking about God’s love.
Sometimes I doubt His love. Sometimes I wonder if He really cares about me.
But He reminded me that I too am adopted:
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have recieved the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry “Abba Father!”
And He has pursued me more than I could know! He paid a much higher price! When I have no idea and can’t see Him, He is there. He is working. Even when I can’t feel Him, He is working and He is pursuing me with His love!
I have the flu. I have been slowed down over the last couple of days…. and it is killing me! I know I should be grateful for some “down time” but lying on the sofa all day reminds me of when I was on bed rest. And I hated bed rest. I need to be up doing things or I go a little crazy.
On that note, I have been able to check back in to the blog world. A world I have kind of been avoiding lately.
I was researching some ideas for my little diva princess’ birthday party on Pinterest. One click led to another and I was neck deep in the perfect mom’s blog. There are so many of them out there. She was a graphic designer, party planner, caterer, pastor’s wife, quite the decorator, stylish, fit, mom of three and, of coarse, an active blogger. I was hoping her kids were like at least teenagers and she had built this dynasty over ten or fifteen years but they were not. They were preschoolers. Although I was gleaning some fabulous birthday party ideas, I was very nauseous from guilt and comparison. I am not the perfect blog mom.
The guilt reminded me of an exercise I recently completed. Under the advise of someone wise. I compiled a list, on paper, of “what it meant to be a ‘good mom'”. I started with the obvious: “loves her kids, protects her kids”. But as my list went on, I got honest. I started writing down the things I hold no one else to but myself. These things included: “does weekly school lessons, goes on one fun outing a week, has a well decorated house, has a clean/organized house”. These things maybe aren’t too bad but when they are added to the already page-long list, my “list” can start to get ridiculous!
I have many friends who don’t do half of what’s on my list and I consider them to be great moms! I, however, place myself under such a different standard. I would never tell a new mom that she needs to workout, have a clean house, coupon and cook nutritiously every day. But I expect myself to do all these things and more on a daily basis.
Writing all of my expectations for myself on paper made me take a second look. Some how it freed me up and made me realize the insanity of my list.
It feels, sometimes, like the Proverbs 31 woman was a “perfect blog mom”! She “work with her hands in delight”, “rises while it is still night”, “from her earnings plants a vineyard”, “makes coverings for herself in fine linen and purple”, “she does not eat the bread of idleness”. A good friend pointed out something wise to me recently: no where in Proverbs 31 does it say she did all the things in the same day or even in one season of her life. Did rise while it was still night after she had been up with a cranky newborn all night? Did she buy a field with her earnings when she had three preschoolers at home? Did she make coverings of fine linen and purple when she had a baby with reflux who would undoubtable throw up all over those “coverings” six times a day? I don’t know, maybe, but I doubt it. It seems chapter is more of an epitaph, like praise given to this woman that sum up the majority of her days.
So should I crumble up my list and replace it with Proverbs 31? I don’t know, maybe. I can’t think of one thing in that list that I would not want to be named of me at the end of my “days”. But the Lord gave me peace in another epitaph, Jesus’ epitaph.
“I have glorified You on earth accomplishing the work which You have given Me to do.”- John 17:4
As Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, He knows His hours are short and there is peace. For He has done the work which His Father had given Him to do. There is a lot of freedom in realizing what Jesus didn’t do while He lived on this Earth. He didn’t heal everyone, He didn’t preach to everyone, He didn’t eat a meal with every sinner but He did do the will of His Father!
This is the verse I want to present to the Lord at the end of the day. Some days, the Father’s will is for me to help serve at a local women’s shelter. Some days His will is for me to take dinner to my neighbors. Some days His will is for me to share His Truth with a stranger at the bank. But sometimes His will is for me to play hard at a jumpy house with my “cabin fevered” children. Another day His will is to clean my house and organize my junky hall closet so my family can function a little more efficiently. And some days, like today, His will is for me to rest on the sofa.
I may never own my own business again. I may not finish my college degree that I left hanging. I may never blog consistently, cook a perfect organic meal, or loose another pound. But if the Lord asks me to do any of those things I better get on it! My life is about obedience to my Father! I may fail at everthing on my “list”. Instead of measuring myself up to an imaginary list, I need to keep myself in check with the will of my Father!
He is the one I am to please! And let’s face it, my “Mommy list”, is mostly about me and becoming “that perfect mom”. Living for perfection is vain and will always leave me empty! In serving and obeying the Lord, however, there is peace!