Cling to what is good….Part One

Sometimes you have to be willing to dig through the mud to find something worth holding on to.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud., but be willing to associate with people of low position.” Romans 12:9-16

If you are looking for a guide on how to live a godly and fulfilling life, this passage is it in a nutshell.

Cling to what is good. God is good. Gratitude is good. Hope, love, faith are good. Forgiveness and selflessness are good. When I hear the word “cling” I think of a baby chimp hanging on to his mother. Trusting her to take him where he needs to go, keeping him safe and warm. He has to cling on to her because she is using her arms and legs to keep moving. God is moving, we have to cling to him. We have to choose Him. You have to cling to Him as if your life depends on it, because it does. Because darkness is constantly trying to steal the good. And too often we let it.

Can I just say that “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer” is becoming my new anthem? I often find myself skeptical of hope, impatient and angry in affliction and impassioned in prayer. Am I alone in this? I don’t think I am. I see/hear it all the time around me. People have a hard time clinging to good.

I want to be joyful in hope. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 1:19) I had so many years of false hope, hope for a change that would never happen. So when I started my new life, I shied away from hope. I didn’t dare hope for anything beyond surviving. I couldn’t bring myself to hope for financial stability, for resolution from my past, for a true and godly love from a man. Hope hurt too much. But now I feel the stirrings of hope building up in me again. And it is bringing me joy, because I am seeing God’s heart for me. He could do “just enough” to help me survive. He could be hands off and let me do my own thing, but he isn’t. He hears my silent tears in the night. He answers my prayers in such a way that makes me feel more cared for than I have ever felt in my life. I have learned to be specific and detailed in my prayers but also holding everything up to him with open hands and praying for His will because I have seen that His way benefits not only myself but those around me as well. This last year He has continually given me a way to provide for my kids. It is a responsibility that I never thought I would have, to be the breadwinner of our family, and it is a mighty hard task for someone who with no education to speak of. But he is faithful in his care for us. I am joyful in my hope for a home of our own one day! And while I am quite content (most of the time) as a single woman, I am finally willing to “tentatively” hope for someone to share my life with. Of course this is the most complicated part of my healing and therefor my hope is often challenged by fear and self doubt and just a dash of “Hell no!” Kidding, but not really…. But that is why I am surrounded by good friends who so kindly remind me that not all men are life sucking predators, lol. So I will bite my lip and try to hope for better than I believe is really out there for me.

Patient in affliction-ummm hello 2020….I am defiantly not alone when I say that this year has been one of affliction. I can’t even go into all the hell that this year has let loose but I can say that I have not always been patient in it. I just want it to end. I want schools to be open and normal. I want to be able to shake peoples hands and give hugs (yes even in public!!!). I want us to be able to see each others faces and smiles. I want to not be worried about riots and hate and division. I just want something to feel consistent and stable. But we are told to be patient. So I will turn my eyes on the Lord and wait patiently for him. I will try and be flexible with the ever changing landscape of this life and be grateful for what we have. Affliction is not the end. It is a great teacher though. Through affliction I have learned compassion, resilience and the power of forgiveness. Patience is not learned without inconvenience or affliction.

Faithful in prayer. My favorite part of this passage, maybe because it is the one I don’t struggle with so much, haha. Prayer is a healing balm to my soul. It gives me energy and passion and drive. Prayer is an all day every day kind of thing. Sometimes it’s what my grandma Betty used to call “pop corn prayers” because life as mom is busy and fast and draining so all we can manage is quick “help me Jesus” prayer. Often its an hour long conversation with my maker while on a hike or walk. Sometimes its what lulls me to sleep as I lay my burdens down at his feet at night. Whatever prayer looks like for you, the goal is to be faithful in it. Not to only remember to pray when big hard things are in front of you. Being faithful in prayer means fighting for others who need support, who maybe can’t fight for themselves at the time. Prayer is going to war against the unseen with a mighty weapon. Prayer is a release of pretense and a time when you know you can truly be who you are and say what you really think and knowing that God loves you anyway. Prayer is the front line of the battlefield. I am sure to have drawn some funny glances from people who pass by me when I’m out on my prayer walks. My arms moving, talking out loud, usually a few tears on my face, sometimes singing and yes even dancing a little (if you can call what I do dancing, my kids would probably challenge that definition). The point is that faithful prayer warriors are vital, we need all the warriors we can get in this crazy, unpredictable world. So be a warrior.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer. Yes Jesus, let it be so.

Submission

This word makes me cringe. It makes a flood of emotions run through my brain, my heart and my spirit. A ball of conflicting thoughts rage within. I have always believed in submission. As a child of God we must submit our will to His. I get that. I have lived that. As a wife I believed I had to submit to my husband. It is what good Christian girls are taught. And abusive “Christian” men learn to use as a weapon.

This weekend I was really wrestling with the Lord about this subject. I panic when I think of being in a relationship with a man (not that there is anything on the horizon at this point) for many reasons, but this idea of submission is definitely at the top of my panic buttons. Let me explain what submission in an abusive marriage looks like.

Submission meant I had no say in my own life. It meant I had to bend, twist and hide in order to be “in line” with his expectations. If I refused his advances at any time, I would get scripture quoted at me to submit. It did not matter if I was in pain, had just given birth, was about to have my appendix burst, was grieving a loss, or any other reason, if I refused him I was an ungodly, rebellious, unloving, disrespecting wife. Even if I had the courage to refuse, he used force. So I submitted.

Submission meant lying for him. Lying to his boss or employees about why he was not at work, lying to the state about his sobriety when driving, lying to friends and family about his addictions, his abuse. If I refused or dared speak up, I was not being a good wife. I would get punished. So I submitted.

Submission meant never talking about the pain he caused me. It meant taking all the responsibility in the brokenness of our relationship. It meant not being allowed to challenge his ultimate god-given authority over me. After all I am the weaker vessel right? So I submitted.

Submission meant that as parents, He is right, I am wrong. That if he yells, cusses, hits our children it is his right to do so. If I dared get in the way of that, well it’s time to call the pastor and set me straight. I was ruining the children’s chances of becoming “real men” if I got in his way. He is the head. I am to follow. So I submitted.

I am sure I could think of many other ways that submission played a role in our marriage, but this gets the point across, right? My issues with submission in a nutshell. So the very idea of ever getting remarried, causes fear, rebellion, anxiety to well up inside of me. Never again will I submit to a man! That is what my heart screams! Even when I am lonely and wrestle with my own desires and dreams of a happy family….

And then, God whispers to my very broken heart. When I ran away from my husband, I was submitting myself to Christ. I was following His voice, His calling, His will. For the first time in 15 years I was willing to obey Christ more than my husband. It was not God’s plan for me to submit to an ungodly marriage. A marriage that mocked God. That is not the submission God had in mind when he commanded wives to submit to their husbands.

A godly man would not demand submission to himself and his every desire at the cost of his wife’s spirit. A godly man would encourage a deeper relationship with Christ and lead by example. A godly man would lead a life in submission to his savior, and would therefore encourage me to do the same. A godly man would take responsibility for himself and recognize his head of household position as a privilege and a responsibility to live in righteousness. A godly man would not use scripture to punish, guilt or ridicule his wife, all the while living in complete disobedience to scripture himself.

A godly man. Not a perfect man. Not incapable of selfishness, mess ups and causing pain. But a godly man who fixes his mess ups, who apologizes for the pain, who ultimately knows how to empathize and show compassion. A man who continually seeks the Lord, seeks spiritual growth and loves his wife the way Christ loves his church.

So maybe I can finally be at peace when I think of that word. Maybe there will be such a man for me who can restore my faith in the idea of a godly marriage, and maybe there won’t be. I am ok either way, because I KNOW that I am living my life in submission to Christ and His will for me. I KNOW that I am doing the best I can with what this life has given me.

I can submit to Jesus. He has carried me, he has loved me, he has provided for me. He is my heart, my song, my strength, it is an honor and a privilege to submit to him.

Homesick

You know that feeling of familiarity? It is comforting and warm. It can be anything from a homecooked meal to the scent of your grandmothers perfume. It can be something wonderful like a place, a person, an item or a meal, but it can also be something dangerous and toxic. Familiar is not always good.

For so many years my heart and my body were in a state of chaos. Conflicting emotions, an unstable and hostile environment, anxiety was my closest friend. But what took a while to understand since being free, is that this chaos was actually comfortable to me in that it was familiar. I knew how to survive in it. I knew how to live with the certainty that I was going to get hurt. Even with all the pain, at least I knew what to expect. It was familiar. I wish people would understand this about victims of abuse. Sometimes it is hard for us to get past the hurdle of leaving our abuser because it has become our only sense of security. It is the only familiar thing in our lives. Chaos. We don’t know how to exist with out it.

Women who come out of or are trying to come out of an abusive relationship can be misunderstood as hysterical or crazy. They don’t make sense in a world where everyone else exists in relative calm and logical thinking. They might not be able to see past the scary idea of being on their own because they no longer know who they are without the abuser. Their world does not make sense without the gaslighting, accusations, doubt, threats or the constant pit of fear in their stomachs. There is a sense of guilt, shame and doubt when they step out on their own, this takes a very long time to overcome.

Victims of abuse, especially long term abuse, need constant affirmation that they are doing the right thing. That they are loved, that they are capable of making a new life for themselves. They need the wisdom of a good trauma therapist, they need financial help, practical help, and lots of time to process everything. They need to not feel rushed to “get over it” or “move on” or “just forgive”. They don’t believe in themselves, they desperately need others to believe in them and walk with them through all the murky waters of healing. It can be exhausting walking along someone like this. I should know, I exhausted a few friends to the point of no return. I don’t blame them, it is a long weary road. It takes incredible patience, love and a willingness to be repetitive and constant for someone who is suffering with CPTSD or other trauma related issues. I am eternally grateful for my tribe of friends and family who have so patiently walked this path with me.

But, while to road to healing is long and seemingly impossible, you eventually start to see little pieces of hope. And as always, I want to focus on that hope because it is all that really matters.

Normally, whenever I have to return to my hometown for the children’s visitations with their dad, I get a knot in my stomach. The whole weekend is filled with anxiety, fear of running into him, fear of him stalking me, fear of what he will do or say. A flood of mixed memories fill my mind. Some memories so sweet, like birthing my two babies or going on incredibly beautiful hikes…but more often the memories of crying myself to sleep next to a drunken man who had threatened to take my children from me, or memories of being called names and being monitored at all times take over. His voice in my head my constant companion.

But this weekend, for the first time in a very very long time, I drove up to my little mountain town and experienced no anxiety. Instead I felt homesick. Homesick for the friends and the town that I have loved for nearly 20 years. For once, my abuser was not in the forefront of my mind. He was a blimp on the map. I am finally able to see him for what he is. A coward and a bully. While he had me believe for so long that he was powerful and smarter/better than me, I now (finally) see the truth. His power was instilling fear and knowing how to inflict pain to my soul. His power was words and threats. But I have taken that power away from him now. I have proven that I will not back down when it comes to protecting my sons. I have proven that he does not determine my worth. He no longer has power over me.

I can’t believe it has taken almost 2 years to get to this point. Two years that have felt like an eternity. Two years of constant hard work and therapy and tears.

Sometimes his words still hurt, and his voice is still very strong in my head, but I am free from the fear.

So this weekend I got to actually miss my home, yet truly know in my heart that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. The boys and I needed a fresh start, a new home. We need my family around us. We did the right thing by moving away, I am just thankful that we still get to go back every once in a while, and from now on I will be able to focus on the good memories made there.

The place where both my sons accepted Christ and we baptized, the place I went to bible school, the place I have met some of the most amazing people, the place I found a job, the place I have hiked for endless miles, the place I came face to face with God’s goodness.

See the Battle

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

For the last several weeks, there has been a battle going on in my home. I have been mentally and emotionally exhausted from the constant fighting, arguing, policing of my two sons. I know all siblings fight, I know boys can be extra destructive and aggressive at times. This was not that. I am overwhelmed with working from home while trying to parent and navigating the relationships between grandparents and grandchildren. I am anxious about the school year, knowing it will be unlike any other before it. I am angry at the powers that be who are dictating what school will be allowed to look like, with so little consideration for those who do not have the option to homeschool full time. I am frustrated with child support checks that either don’t show up at all or bounce after I deposit them. My life feels like a battleground, because it is. But this is not just a battle against hard circumstances.

We are in a spiritual battle. It is all around us, all the time. Sometimes it fades into the background and you hardly even notice it, other times we are on the frontlines and have to fight for our survival.

I should have seen this recent battle coming. After all, I did just have a victory a few weeks ago.

As I stood in that courtroom, with as much bravery and courage I could muster, I fought for my children. I fought for their safety and protection. God stood with me. Truth was seen and heard by the court. It was denied/minimized by the abuser, but in the end we had victory! Now there are court orders in place to protect my babies. Their visitations are reduced to once a month and must be under the eyes of a supervisor. Hallelujah praise the Lord! Relief washed over our household. Joy with grief all mixed together, for this is just not how life is supposed to be.

But victories always bring new battles in the spiritual realms. The dark forces of this world will stop at nothing to try and devour and destroy God’s children. The wounds inflicted onto my sons cut deep. The constant rejection they face from their own father, the lies and manipulations they have to navigate confuse and anger them. Is it any wonder my home is fraught with tension and emotional outbursts and sibling conflict? Is it any wonder that anxiety has taken root? Am I really surprised by this?

When I take my eyes off of Christ, even for a moment, my world starts sinking. All I can see is the darkness, the depression that is trying to steal one son, the anger that is trying to burn the other. All I can feel is scared for their futures. All I can think is how I have failed them, how I should have protected them sooner, better. Will they turn out like their father? Will addictions and entitlement rule their lives? Will they understand and live by God’s word, full of empathy and convictions? Will they end up entrenched in a Narcissistic Personality Disorder from which there is little hope of recovery?

Tears have flown freely, almost daily, for weeks. But yesterday my perspective changed. In the midst of the fight to survive, I forgot about the spiritual forces at war. This battle is not about the children just not loving each other enough. It is not about feeling insecure about the future. It is about Satan not wanting us to have victory. It is about Him trying to steal our hope our focus. It is about His lies and manipulations trying to overtake us. As long as he can keep us distracted, he wins. Distracted followers of Christ are ineffective for the kingdom.

Realization of this hit me like a ton of bricks as I was driving the kids to their various appointments. We stopped everything and prayed together. I reminded the children who the real enemy is here. It is not each other, the government, the virus, or even their father. The enemy is Satan, who makes no secret of his contempt for us, his relentless pursuit of us. Each child repented for sinful behavior, asked for God’s protection and forgiveness. I repented for taking my eyes off the truth and letting myself become distracted. We prayed against the forces of depression, addiction, hopelessness, anger and fear. It was as if my compass got restored and my life came into perspective again. After our prayers, a calm came over us. My frustrations at them dissipated. The rest of the day went much much smoother. I am amazed at how quickly I feel disoriented, scared and angry when I take my eyes off the real battle, even for just a few weeks or even days.

I am praying that our eyes stay open, that our hearts stay engaged and encouraged. The battles raging against Christianity, against morals, against unity are in full swing all around the world. Hate seems to be escalating, chaos is abounding. It is easy to feel overwhelmed, disgusted and scared when we see all this evil in the world. But I challenge you, to see the real battle. This is a battle for peoples souls. We are to be a light in the world of darkness. How can we be a light if we are too distracted from God’s word, God’s truth. How can we be a light if we let fear reign? See the forces at work, see the way distraction from Christ derails your sense of peace. See the real battle….after all we are fighting along side the one who already has claimed the victory! And that alone is reason for hope, joy and peace.

A Field of Hope

A field, covered in rich dark soil, ready for a life of beauty and color. Seeds of wildflowers sprinkled into the dirt, watered, bathed in sunlight, begin to grow.

The flowers begin their  journey of rising to the surface. The water in the ground feeds the roots and give the plants strength. Finally, the flowers reach their faces to the sun,  blooms beginning to open as they feel the warmth of the light. Rejoicing in their potential and hoping to share their joy with the world.

While the flowers anticipate the warmth and glory of blooming, other plants start to appear close by. The flowers, unsuspecting, welcome the plants as friends, hoping to share the warmth with them. The flowers, full of love to give, give too much. The weeds grow too close, they loom over the flowers, blocking the sun and it’s warmth. They steal the water from the ground and create a dark shadow over the flowers.

The flowers try to reason with the weeds, to reassure them that there is enough space for all of them to grow and flourish. The weeds mock the flowers and their beauty, calling them weak and insignificant. They thrive as they deplete the flowers of all hope and joy, all color and luster for life.

Soon the field is covered in weeds, chocking out any life besides it’s own.  Overtaking, overgrowing, delighting in their cleverness and strength.

But the farmer sees the field and burns with anger at the weeds. He has compassion on the flower and longs to see it’s beauty.

Diligently, carefully, he gets on his knees and pulls the weeds out from the soil. He removes one at a time, being careful to not let any seeds fall between his fingers.

He smooths out the soil and waters the flowers, encouraging them to not give up. He speaks to the flowers, in a gentle, kind voice.

Timid and afraid, shaken and broken, the flowers resist at first. They cower and refuse to look into the light, ashamed at their weakness, ashamed of their colorless blooms and wilted leaves. Still the farmer tends to them. Nothing but love is poured out over them. Slowly, meekly, the flowers turn their faces to the voice. They drink in the farmers words and soak up his water.

Little by little they gain strength, the color returns to their blossoms. They dare to hope for a joy they had once had, a joy that had vanished in the shadows.

The farmer, is vigilant in his protection over his flowers, yet weeds continue to try and take root, they threaten to overtake the field while promising to change and share the space.

But now, girded with love and truth, the flowers resist the weeds. They do not cower or shake or give over their field. They have overcome the shadows, they have seen the goodness of the farmer and put their trust in His provision. They keep their faces pointing towards the sun, knowing that the sun is their strength, their courage and their life.

The farmer has given the flowers everything they need to flourish, bloom, and bring joy to the world. What once was  field of darkness, is now a field of beauty. A field of hope.

“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Matthew 23:12

(For those of you who didn’t pick up on the imagery…. The field is life, new life, filled with wonder and hope. The flowers are your soul, your heart, your mind. The Sun is Christ, who gives strength and warmth. The weeds are lies, toxic people ripping you down, the farmer is God the Father, protecting and providing. The water is the Holy Spirit, nurturing, guiding, refreshing your soul. )

A teepee, a fire, a smile

Firsts…my life over the last 20 months keeps revolving around this word. Every time I embark on something new, I think, this is a first for me as a single Mom. Sometimes the firsts are so scary and intimidating that I freeze up, unsure of what my next step should be. Some first surprise me with joy and a feeling of “I’ve got this!”. And other firsts leave me weeping because life as a parent should never have to be done alone.

This week is full of firsts. I have been working so much and have been busy with relocating us, fighting an ugly custody battle and trying desperately to find friends for my boys in our new home, that my boys have been missing me, even though I have been working from home, the stressed out version of mommy they have been getting is not cutting it. So I made a plan. We might not have a lot of money right now, but that does not mean we can’t take a little vacation.

And tonight, as I am laying in a huge Teepee in South Dakota, my boys snuggled by my side, all of us smelling of campfire and sticky s’mores, I smile.

I smile when I think of our road trip that entailed no road rage, angry music or cussing. No anxiety in our stomachs, just lots of worship music, chatter and junk food. I smile at the memories we just made visiting long time friends on their ranch in Nebraska. Riding horses and ATV’s, going turtle hunting, lighting fire crackers, watching 8 children laugh and play late into the night. I smile at being able to provide my sons with education about the presidents as we visit Mt. Rushmore, seeing them be more impressed by the huge ice cream cones than the marvelous sculpting of our forefathers. Kids just allowed to be kids.

I smile at the excitement they had about camping just the three of us, eager to help me set up, even more eager to jump into the pool. With big eyes and huge smiles they keep thanking me for the “best vacation ever!” when all I can think is that it is so little. It has been a good reminder that what they really treasure is time with me. Time uninterrupted.

I am thankful they don’t see that my nights have been fitful and my thoughts often consumed with how and when to file the modified parenting restrictions against my Ex. The tear filled conversations with lawyers and counselors as I try and navigate this next week. They are not concerned with what next weekend with their dad will look like, at least not yet. For this I am grateful.

So bring on the firsts! My first road trip as a single parent. My first time visiting friends that had been good friends to both my ex and I, my first time reaching out and visiting with my Ex’s relatives as we pass through their neck of the woods, my first time taking the kids camping on my own. My first time going into a old gold mine (had to swallow some claustrophobia!!!) because the boys were so excited to see a real mine and get to do some panning! First time panning for gold with the boys and getting just as excited as them when we collected tiny bits of gold dust. Let’s face it, little boys are a lot of fun and always up for adventure!

I don’t always love firsts, often times I truly hate them. But today, this week, I am thankful for them. They remind me that this life is good. That God has got us in his palm, and He knows what we need. I will always remember this first. I will remember all of these firsts over the last year and a half, because they have shaped me. They have encouraged me to keep going. They have shown me that I need not be so afraid, that I am stronger than I think I am and that as long as my eyes on on Jesus all is well with my soul. No enemy can steal what I have built between myself and my boys. The bond is stronger than I ever could have imagined and their love for me and for each other (while not always evident in their bickering) is deep. I have watched them play and laugh and yes fight a little as well, but also encourage, help and support each other these past few days especially on Fathers day when they both felt that deep cut of not having a good and loving earthly father.

I smile, even though I am exhausted from driving, lugging all the suitcases and bags around, planning every meal, snack, route and activity….I even smile when I realize that they kids left their scooters back in Nebraska and we will have to make a detour back home to pick them up. I love these boys and all of their craziness. And I am thankful that God is allowing me to experience these firsts, but mostly I am grateful that He is walking through them with me. Because with out him there would have never even been a first step in the right direction.

Enter God’s Court

Here we go again. I am once again in the throws of interviewing lawyers (this time one who can specialize in Domestic Violence, Coercive Control and emotional abuse issues), seeking advocacy help, filling out forms, gathering evidence. My head is spinning from the last week. After hearing of my ex’s arrest for domestic violence and child abuse towards his girlfriend, I had to fly into action. Maybe now the court will believe me that my children are not safe in his care. Maybe now someone will help me protect them! But I am afraid. Afraid of being held in contempt of court if I do not bring my children to their visitations. Afraid of the cost to them if I do. Afraid of the sure to come verbal/emotional/spiritual abuse. Afraid that the judge will be charmed by my ex, as he was the last time. Afraid that I will end up in worse circumstances than I am now. Fear based on past experiences, threats and knowledge of other women being mistreated or accused of lies by the court.

Then this moring I was reading in the Psalms, my favorite place to linger…

Ps. 100
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness, come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his COURTS with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good an his love endures forever, his faithfulness continues through all generations. “

His courts. Thank you Jesus for those words. I may not have any confidence in the court system here on earth, I stand in fear and anger at not being heard or understood. But I am able to stand in full confidence in God’s courtroom. I have no fear there. He knows me, he loves me, he cares about my heart and the true safety and well being of my children.
God is just, he is righteouss, he is love.

In God’s court I have freedom. I can bow at His feet, in humility, in awe, full of hope. In God’s court my mothers heart will be understood, my courage to protect and provide for my children will be seen as strength and righteousness, not disobedience, disrespect or selfseeking.
My joy in the Lord throughout all of my hardships will please the Lord, He is delighted with me, His daughter, for never turning my back on him, for being bold in my faith, for loving others well.

I have confidence in His love for me, for my boys. I have confidence in His protection, His provision. I have confidence in His strength, in His judgment.

I am reminded of all the ways He has led the way for me. Providing a job when I had no education, providing a house when I had no money, providing friends when I had nothing to offer in return, providing a lawyer who navigated Jason’s tricks and manipulations, providing a vehicle that meets my family’s needs, providing godly and lovely counselors for both myself and my children, providing prayer warriors to walk with me, providing worship opportunities for my soul to find joy, and most of all providing wisdom and strength to face each day as a wounded single mother, trying to raise wounded boys.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Fo those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn, among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called, those he called, he also justified, those he justified he also glorified. .What, then, sall we say in respones to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:18-19, 28-31

I will stand in God’s court, justified, glorified, and loved. To Him be the glory. I will praise his name, even when my heart is heavy.

My trauma kids

While the world spins from the effects of this pandemic, and our lives have been forced to change, I have wondered at the resilience of my trauma kids. In the last 3 weeks we have been isolated, then made a whirlwind decision to move in with my parents, 2.5 hours away from the only town my children have ever lived, started down the curvy and untested road of homeschooling (or crisis schooling as I like to call it), transitioned my work to being a remote position but with half the hours, left all of our friends and church family, to draw near to our actual family during this uncertain time.

How many times have I questioned how this would effect my boys? Will my soon to be teenager turn into an angry teen being forced to leave his friends? Will my willful and emotional 9 year old clash too much with his grandparents because he doesn’t want to be told what to do? Will I fail at homeschooling? Will the money be enough from the cut hours to pay our bills? Will it be too difficult for me to live with my parents after having left home at 18? Will there be enough patience to go around as we adjust to a new lifestyle?

Then today, on Palm Sunday, I look around the room at all of the smiling faces and say thank you Jesus. You have done it again. My 12 year old is thriving. He keeps saying how he is just loving this new reality. Not having a tight schedule, but still having structure. He is maturing in front of my eyes, reveling in the extra attention from his grandparents, rising to the challenge of spending more time with his younger brother, drinking his tea and playing cards as a family makes him laugh and smile and makes my heart so happy. Maybe this quarantine will be a blessing in his life, a time when his age kids usually start pulling away from family, he is drawing closer. Today as we went for an exploration drive through the countryside, our conversation shifted easily between light banter and deeper spiritual truths. As we sat in our “church” this morning, watching the sermon online, he seemed to not be paying attention, but our conversation in the car proved otherwise. This son of mine, heart open to the Lord, recognizing this time as a chance to grow stronger and deepen your faith.

My 9 year old, while still adjusting to new rules and routines, is also thriving. It was so fun to watch him yesterday tackle the demo work Grandpa had organized, using tools and being told he was a valuable help was a healing balm for his heart. He was proud of himself. Out of the blue this week he has started a “homeless fund” jar, that he put ALL of his money into (even the $20 he got for working so hard on the barn demo), he wants to bless somebody who is hurting. Then today I overhear him talking to my parents tenant, a sweet woman who does not know Jesus but has taken a real liking to my boy’s chatter and enthusiasm . They have been hanging out a little every day, but today he spent the afternoon sharing the gospel with her. I teared up as I listened to his passionate voice tell her about creation, about king David, about Jesus. He ran and got his bible so he could show her the stories. She listened and asked him questions, at one point I heard her say that this is the best lesson she had ever had on the bible. Now I don’t know if she was just humoring him or if she was genuine, but it doesn’t even matter. My heart nearly burst with pride that this boy was not ashamed of the gospel, not shy, but bold and encouraging her to read it for herself, and telling her how amazing God is and isn’t is just so cool what he did for us? This would not have happened if we were not quarantined, if we had not decided to move in with my parents.

So yes, there are some hardships, we all miss our friends so much, and there is some worry about future finances, but when those creep up I remind myself of all the times God has been faithful and provided for us. I know He will continue to do so.

As for me, I am learning what works and doesn’t work so well with the schooling. I am learning that it’s ok to let some things slide while encouraging other things. I am doing my best at my job, making sure that my boss and my clients are taken care of. I am trying to spend time in the mornings by myself reading God’s word, doing some light yoga, meditating on the truths that will not be shaken. I enjoy long walks on these dirt roads praising Jesus that this quarantine is not happening in January when the weather discourages outdoor activity. I am learning to be flexible with expectations, to say yes more to my kids. We have discovered to joy of throwing a baseball around, going exploring, playing games. While I get frustrated with some of my current circumstances, like all the stress eating….., I am also thankful for the rest. For the first time in 18 months I am getting enough sleep. I am not having to be hyper vigilant, I am able to leave the house for walks of grocery shopping without having to stress over leaving the kids alone or finding a sitter. I know they are being loved, they are being guided by more than just me, I can relax a little.

It is not all rainbows here, there are sibling squabbles, lost tempers, frustrated schooling, tears, unrest and fears, but today, Palm Sunday, I say thank you Jesus. Thank you for your life, your sacrifice, your presence here with us. Your love and your unending grace. Thank you for my boys who are growing up not as traumatized individuals but as survivors who know that YOU are the answer and the source of life. For parents who have spent their lives loving and serving you. For a family that prays together, that worships together and who genuinely enjoys each others company. Thank you Jesus.

Looking for the silver lining…

Jenga. You know the game, a neatly structured tower, strong and secure. Then piece by piece it is weakened, wobbly, just waiting to come crashing down into a heap of a mess.

That is how my life feels right now, except this time it is not just me who is feeling this way. It is all around me. Everyone I talk to has concerns, financial, emotional, stressful and overbearing concerns. Our world is changing around us, we are no longer allowed to meet with friends, go to work, go on vacation or to events, go to church, send our kids to school, find supplies in stores, the list goes on. We don’t know how long this will go on, two weeks, two months? Longer? So how can anyone see any silver lining here? I urge you, take a closer look. Notice how people are encouraging one another, notice people finding creative ways to connect through the online world, notice kids and parents having time freedom to spend as a family, notice the great outdoors that is not as of yet “canceled”. Notice people taking care of our elderly, notice everyone working together for the good of the masses.

If my life were a jenga tower right now it would have more holes than solid walls. It would look as if the whole thing could come tumbling down at any moment. But it isn’t. Because my life is not in my hands, or the hands of this government or this country or even this world. My life is in God’s hands and He is navigating this storm. He is letting things fall in and out of place. He is faithful to his children.

Due to this pandemic, I am forced to stay home in isolation (we have minor cold symptoms and have therefor been self quarantining for 6 days). This has let me catch my breath and get some things done around the house that needed to get done. My kids and I have spent hours bonding, going for walks, baking, cleaning and watching movies together. Time that would have been spent running around from one activity to another is now free. Watching the boys play outside, make drawings, play with their legos has been a silver lining. “slumber party in the living room” is now my 9 year old’s favorite thing.

I have also been forced to miss work. I am a single mother of 2, I need to work. For the last few months I have been trying to figure out how I could work from home so that I can be available to the boys more and have flexibility in my schedule. My boss is a very understanding person and had said he would look into a way but had not done so yet. Now he was forced to figure out a way! Today was the first day I was able to work from home. Granted I only got 2 hours in due to homeschooling demands, and internet issues, but still that is two hours of paid work that I didn’t have last week! Silver lining. And how great is God that he gave me a job that even offers that kind of possibility? Bookkeeping, who knew it would be such a blessing in my life.

The house. It was put on the market the last weekend in February. Trying to keep a house ready for showings with two kids at home is a challenge. Not going to lie, it’s been stressful. But there is interest in the house and the market is good due to low interest rates. Silver lining, I am sure it will sell pretty quickly.

The next house. My parents found a house to buy that is just 4-5 min. from my brothers house. It is perfect for my boys and I when we move, complete with a big back yard and newly remodeled kitchen! Silver lining, knowing the next step.

Loneliness. Oh man, this is a hard one. I have often had struggles with loneliness over the last 18 months, but all of that seems mild compared to what I feel now. I love people, I need people. I need hugs and shared laughter and company on walks. Day 6 of being alone with my kids has been hard. I cry myself to sleep, hating this weakness in me. I get jealous of my friends who, yes are also self quarantining, but at least they have a partner in this chaos. Someone to share the load, to help ease fears and take care of the kids so you can take a breather. Someone to wrap their arms around and let them cry on their shoulder. So where is the silver lining in this? I am not quarantined in a house with an alcoholic abuser. Silver lining. My life right now would be filled with so much tension, anxiety and fear, if I was still in my prison guards grip. My heart breaks for those I know who are facing this pandemic while also facing the pandemic of evil in their home. And I know that I can get through this. That is one benefit of being a trauma survivor, we are well versed in survival mode.

My Ex. After two months of back and forth I finally have a signature agreeing to a new parenting plan and the go ahead to relocate! This is bigger than all the other things. I won’t go into detail the amount of navigating, tension, anxiety that went into this process. I am now free to submit this relocation to the court and can be on my way (barring any complications of course). The timing of things getting serious with his girlfriend has been a silver lining. He has someone else to feed his narcissist hunger, he is letting me go. At least for now.

So yes, I have my moments of tears and frustration but I also am deeply grateful for the ways that God is at work. And it’s not just in my life. I bet he’s at work in your life as well.

There is a huge learning curve for this homeschooling/work from home thing. A balance that I have not found yet. But I will. There is stress with trying to move, not sure of when that can or should happen, dealing with the courts, loosing income and trying to stay healthy, but we will overcome this as well. Because these boys of mine and I, we are strong. We are filled with faith. We are listening to God’s voice and His calling. Silver lining.

Time

How much more loved do I feel when someone gives me a gift that cost them effort, time or thought than something that was of no consequence to them. And what do people value more than anything in the world? Time. We all want more of it. We resent others who take too much of our time, or waste our time. We value people who make time for us, to listen, attend to or desire time with us. So, if I am made in Gods image, why would he desire anything less?

I don’t believe God is selfish for asking this of us. It is an exercise in trust, building of faith and a huge display of love for our Father. God who holds time in His hands is asking for my time. Time spent in His presence, fully focused on His will and His love.

Over the last year and a half I have gone to the Word in desperation, looking for comfort, healing, guidance, wisdom and truth. It has been almost as if I couldn’t breathe with out it. But somewhere along the lines, maybe 3 or 4 months ago, I noticed a decline in my urgency. And in it’s place, a desire for sleep like I have never had before (unless you count those months with newborns). I had moved from desperate to contentedness or even perhaps, laziness.

My depression deepened, my fears ran rampant, my insecurities thrived. Oh Jesus, I was drowning again! What short memories we have as humans, what stupidity and arrogance! To think that I could wage war against evil without my daily saturation in the truth! How can we stand and face lies when we don’t remind ourselves of the truth of who we are, who He is, every day?

Time with God requires sacrifice of other things, like sleep. But my mornings with Jesus and my coffee are sacred. My children know that when they wake they can find me with my Bible or journal in hand because it is what sustains me. It is not about doing the “right” christian thing, or one more thing I get to check of my “to do” list-oh man do I love checking things off my list though! No, this is about so much more. I cannot be a warrior for Christ, a warrior for my children, if I am not armed.

We are called to be men and women of the truth, people who love others enough to put all else aside and dedicate time to pray for them. To be on our knees on their behalf. And because we have a loving and gracious God, he uses that time that we dedicate to Him, to bless US! How undeserving we truly are.

And my prayer for you, my readers, is to pray for urgency in your heart. Pray for a deeper desire for the knowledge of His will. Pray for your eyes to see and your ears to hear the truth that he is proclaiming. Don’t be blind to your own sin, don’t let your life slip by without taking a stand. Wonderful things happen when you surrender yourself to the one who holds all things together.

Give God your firsts, first moments of the day, first fruits of your labor, first place in your lives.