Hurricane Update (after)

Because some of you are asking, we are sending a little update from O-town. We fared well through the storm. The climax of Irma began around 6 last night and continued through the night with continuous tornado warnings, one of which passed right over us. These created some tension within us. Wind howled, belting trees in every direction and rain pummeled the earth as we drifted to sleep, hoping and praying for protection from these forces of nature. We awoke to light winds and sun peeking through this morning. Thankfully, we fared well as did our neighborhood. Some trees and fences are down. There are roof shingles here and there, but the damage is mild given the destruction others have experienced from Irma. Here are some photos from around our house.

This was a common sight around our neighborhood. This is our backyard.  

This was a common sight around our neighborhood. This is our backyard.  

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Out of a case of cabin fever, Brockman studios produced a few videos.

We are grateful for your prayers and that God is a protector. Had the damage been worse, He would still be our protector. We were incredibly blessed to never have lost power. Sooooooooo thankful for this! We have friends whose yards and streets are flooded and are without power. Our neighborhood seems to shine in its drainage abilities. Whew.

As Keegs and Dennis walked around the neighborhood this morning to survey the damage, a police officer told them Orlando is under a curfew until 6 pm and to go home. Glad there’s only one day more we are under a curfew and we enjoy so much freedom in America.

Thank you again, for your thoughts and prayers. Our Father generously answered.

Tectonic Shifts in her Soul

It was just the two of us home tonight. The college kids haven't yet returned for the summer break. Her sister was eating dinner with at a friend's house. And here we were. She walked toward the kitchen as I put something quick together for dinner.

 "Mom, I'm nervous....well...not nervous...well...maybe I am nervous about my test tomorrow."

Her end-of-course math exam will greet her early tomorrow morning. She offered her fear to me.

She offered.

For almost five  years, I have pursued and wooed and been met with a hard, cold heart. Lips tight, holding inside the tender things. Her fears, her delights, her dreams, her crushes. Offering those to me didn't seem to be a thought. They were vaulted tightly away. I'd come to a place of surrender through these years. Surrender to the possibility that she might never open; that her soul might never come to a place where she could see me as a safe mom rather than boxed-in with her step-moms from her past. Not the tender kind. Not the nurturing kind. They were all surviving the best they could. I really believe that. But our girl came to us all fearful and vaulted-up and detached because this was survival. And she is a survivor.

I have thought through the years if I'd been different, if I'd mothered her differently, if I wasn't me--she would open. Eighteen months ago a counselor let me know that it wasn't about me as much about her view of women. Through play therapy, her sister had shown that women are in power and they are all evil and wicked. I exhaled. It wasn't just me and my inability to love them well. We were all part of this drama. My inner critic struggles to remember and see that in the storm.

We took our dinner onto the back patio and talked. When disconnection has marked our relationship for so many years, I'm amazed at how acutely aware my mind and senses are to the most minute details of our relating. Before the past few months, a night with just the two of us would have felt like a lead blanket covering me, suffocating me. Heavy. Exhausting. Longing for relief or escape or something to ease the ache filling my soul and the untouchable child on the other side of the chasm. Home no longer offered comfort, but felt like exile.Tonight, we were comfortable and we were home.

We bantered about life. She offered some more and I shared stories. Her face lit up with laughter at times. Genuine uncontained joy filling her and overflowing. It was a year ago, this June, that I showed her a picture of a heart made of stone. Dennis and I shared with her that that is how we experienced her as she related to us. We saw that almost everyone in her life but us she blessed with her soft heart which embraced them.

But not us.

We then showed her the stony heart with red peeking through cracks and fissures. We shared with her that this was our vision for her in relationship with us. We told her that we are fighting for her heart and won't stop until we die. She has the option to choose to allow God to open it to us or not. But that we will fight with everything we have in us for her heart to grow permeable to us. Then we made her world very small so that we were all she had. She fought hard for months. And more months. And we knew she could do that until she left home in seven years. She is a fierce survivor and her heartened heart was "life" to her. We were asking her to open to us. To her, that was "death."

The past two months, her hard edges are becoming soft. Her soul is growing permeable. She's no longer fighting her invitational design. And I am diving in. Drinking in every opportunity to know her, explore her, delight in her, comfort her.

She's getting baptized on June 4th. As I was asking her about what baptism means to her and her relationship with Jesus, she said,

 "Mom, I don't know how to explain it. I have a relationship with him. I know that. But it's not like yours and dads."

 "Do you mean you don't experience the intimacy dad and I enjoy with God?" I asked.

 "Yes, that's it."

 "Do you want that?" I asked her.

 "Yes, I do, but I don't know how to get that."

I told her that it's our job to teach her how to develop a relationship with him, and that I am so excited about her longing to know her Father. That was a few weeks ago. We haven't begun our bible study yet. Tonight she asked when we were starting because she really wants to get to know God better.

I'm in awe. When God was wooing us to adoption, something He clearly whispered to me was that nobody but He could pull this off. The entire journey from adoption to our last breaths--only He could do it. This I know to be true.

 "For He who calls you is faithful, and He will do it." 1 Thessalonians 5:24

It is hard. It is good.

This Lenten journey... it is a doozie. I penned my last blog entry about God inviting me to release my young adult children in a deeper way to HIs care on March 1st. Fibromyalgia was ravaging Madison's body. She was on edge, feeling like she could no longer persevere at college. Then I got a phone call from Dennis on March 3rd.

"Madison's been in an accident." My fists clenched, my chest tightened again. To keep hands open to the Father when everything in me wants to hold them tight—it's war. He had just unfurled my fingers two days earlier, peeled them off my older two. With gentle force. In the blink of an eye, I was off my axis. Ungrounded. Clenching and tight again.

"Grace to trust you this moment, Father," had been my moment by moment mantra the previous two days. Feeling like I was just learning to walk after all these years of spiritual journeying. Then the crash.

Madison was driving home for spring break in her newly purchased 2007 Prius. As she was on a 360-degree exit ramp, she felt something shift in her car. She and her friend both commented about it. Then her car seemed to take on a mind of its own. Suddenly, they were hydroplaning on dry ground into a 180-degree spin, landing them head-on into the guardrail. They were going too slow for airbags to deploy. The accident was full of mystery.

The fallout of Madison's beloved "Mushu" (she named it).

The fallout of Madison's beloved "Mushu" (she named it).

So Madison's much-anticipated spring break was full of more doctor appointments and MRI scans. She has added some bulging discs and a herniation to her fibromyalgia and is racked with muscle spasms, swelling, pain, and fatigue.

As I climbed into bed that night, reciting my eucharisteo, my thanksgiving for the day...

"I can't yet genuinely even by faith thank you for this, Father. Not today! What the heck?!? I can say the words, but they will mean nothing, so I won't bother."

How I wrestled with my God, my breaking heart, my fatigue over more doctor appointments, and my battle to live in "unforced rhythms of grace" while watching my child suffer more. I'm finding nothing more unnatural than attempting to embrace this reality. I can finally "be" in my own suffering, for I resonate with Job's stunning confession after unfathomable suffering,

"Then Job replied to the Lord:

I know that you can do all things;

No purpose of yours can be thwarted.

You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?'

Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.

"You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak;

I will question you, and you shall answer me.'

My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you." Job 42: 1-5

Through suffering, my clouded vision grows clearer. My intimacy with my Maker grows deeper. Mysteriously, my love for Him is kindled through the ache and emptiness because I can see Him more clearly. But when it's my child suffering...clarity is but a vapor. And God was so close, so with us. Nicholas Wolterstorff said,

"Suffering is at the burning core of everything because love is. We need not feel alone in suffering because God is a suffering God who pulls close at our call. We can receive it if we want--there is always more God. In tears is intimacy. God understands because He stands with us." 

On day five of her break, she laid her head in my hands. I held her head, massaging lightly, hoping to infuse some life into her weary, banged up body. To my surprise, a guttural laugh, on the edge of crazy burst out of me.

"This all feels like some cosmic joke."

She echoed my laughter.

"At this point it's either I scream or howl laughter." And laughter was more healing at the moment.

We laughed out our grief, our pain, our ache, our frustration, our sadness...until there was no more laughter.

And then we talked about God. I told her I'd noticed how active she'd become this year on our Bible app. We are "friends" on the app and can view each other's activity. I told her how it looks like Job and the Psalms had become her friends. She exclaimed how she loves them.

"Mom, I love the Bible," Madison said.

"When did your love for the Bible happen?" I asked, cradling her tender head.

"When I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and in bed for five months."

Through her suffering, she is falling in love with Him. I drank in her words.

"Then it has all been worth it, hasn't it?" I whispered.

"Yes, it has." She said.

At 21, she's embracing theology that I wrestled with at 35. I'm watching my girl stay tender amidst growing chronic pain and fatigue. She is falling in love with her Lord, while she suffers. This mysterious way of the cross. Death and life always intertwined, holding hands, co-existing.

My Father is so tenderly de-tarring my vision of Him once again. "He is love. There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear." I say it again and again, a mantra needing to go deeper into me. Rooting me more deeply in His love. This Lenten path...it's hard. And it is good. 

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We hit Cocoa Beach for her last day of spring break. Almost had to carry her out there, but it was worth it for the much needed ocean air and vitamin D. 

Soul amnesia and unforced rhythms of grace

This came onto my phone screen at 12:53 pm last Friday...

 

*The last line reads "But I really don't think I can finish school"

*The last line reads "But I really don't think I can finish school"

The ball dropped. My chest tightened. Text messages that followed questioned if she'd ever be able to graduate from college, and informed that she was declining to the place we had encountered her when we brought her home last May...bedridden. I couldn't hop in the car and head to Palm Beach to care for her because we were blessed with family in-town over the weekend. The tension within me mounted and invaded every corner of my heart, mind, and body. It's been one of those weeks when I forget how powerless I am to bring peace to our reality. Fear of Madison bottoming out gripped me and I clamored inside, thinking there must be something I can do to prevent it.

Why does it feel like torture to watch my child suffer?

Why does everything in me want to prevent it from happening?

...Even when I have seen the God of the universe grow so real to me through my own suffering. 

Sleep became shallow. The dark circles beneath my 47 year-old eyes grew darker. People even told me I looked tired.

Years ago, as I read this in the Bible,

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
— Matthew 11:28-30 (Message)

I was stopped in my tracks. Tracks forged from living any way but "freely and lightly."

Unforced rhythms of grace. What was that?

I had been following Christ for a good 15 years, and he had been working His grace through me. But He had so much more in store for me. I wanted to live freely and lightly. I wanted it with everything in me. I backtracked to verse 27, curious what preceded this unknown reality to me.

“Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. “The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I’m not keeping it to myself; I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.”
— Matthew 11:27 (Message)

The intimacy the Father enjoyed with the Son and the Son with the Father was the source of living freely and lightly...unforced rhythms of grace. And He was inviting me into that intimacy. I began to realize that perhaps God had so much more of Him He was anxious to reveal to me. And I became hungry to receive a deeper knowing of Him. I was more than willing to listen. Deep tracks in earth made that obvious. The earth of my soul was parched and deeply imprinted, and so thirsty for this reality.

He has infused His grace into my soul these past 12 years, through a great deal of suffering and struggle. Seems like in the suffering, my eyes are de-scaled so I can glimpse Him more clearly. In the suffering and discomfort, I am softened to Him. In the suffering, space opens within my soul to contain more of Him. If I lean into it. Open myself to it. Not fill the space with other stuff. In His suffering, He created space for us to enter into the intimacy He enjoyed with the Father. Because of so much grace, unforced rhythms of grace are becoming my real.

Then Madison sent that text, and I was like a train derailed. Before I was aware, I had taken up a burden "heavy and ill-fitting." After many restless nights, I became aware of how I want to prevent Madison from unravelling. Ann Voskamp captured it for me this morning in her book, The Broken Way:

"Our strained and knotted shoulders can feel wind beaten, trying to hold bits of our broken world together. But I keep telling my chronic soul amnesia to surrender the idea of being the mortar that holds all our mortal lives together and simply let go, believing that the broken bits of a heart are sand in His wind to carve a better life."

Because a good part of my days, I trust in my God's love, seasons like this whiplash me. Soul amnesia...how perfectly those two words capture the root of my clamoring heart.

My shoulders are literally strained and knotted. Jesus carried that cross and was the only one fit to do it. Receive--I inhale. Receive--I exhale. God is inviting me to a deeper place of surrendering my children to Him in this season of young adulthood. Argh. How I resist in fear.

Madison shared with Dennis on Saturday that a classmate had approached her on Friday after class, after she'd sent me that text message above. He's someone she didn't know. He asked her how she was doing. She shared honestly about her health struggles. He shared with her that God had told him to ask her how she was doing. He didn't know her. He told her he wanted to pray for her and they met in a prayer room. He brought with him another guy and two female students. The four of them, people she'd never met before, prayed over her for 90 minutes.

Ninety minutes. A random student who didn't know her. Gathering an army to lift my girl up to the Father, Son and Spirit. I had gathered my army of people to pray from a distance, which was all I could do. Then the God of the universe calls forth his army of four college students, strangers to Madison, to physically enfold her, cover her in their prayers. His hands, his body, his heart, his love all around her. They carried her fearful, broken heart to the throne of grace.

Another friend brought her dinner on Sunday.

Madison is seeing her Father's kindness toward her and experiencing His care in my absence. Had I been there, I would have filled the space He so ached to fill.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of lent. A season to prepare to celebrate Jesus's death and resurrection. So timely. As I take my first steps into this season, I will give up more of myself, to create more space in my soul for more of Him. It's what I hunger for most.

Lent comes from the Old English word Lencten, which means Springtime. In this season, we begin to see something new spring up from winter’s cold earth. We begin the journey to death, the cross and resurrection."

An upside down gospel...the dying makes space for the living. The wonder of Christ is that a resurrection always follows a crucifixion. I die, in a deeper way, to my desire to be the brick and mortar to my children. Slowly, I open my hands and offer all five to Him. Again. Still a little tentatively. I've done this so many times before. But this time, it feels deeper. Grace to journey this Lenten path. Grace to keep my eyes fixed on the Cross and resurrection.

Grace to "surrender the idea of being the mortar that holds all our mortal lives together and simply let go, believing that the broken bits of a heart are sand in His wind to carve a better life." Unforced rhythms of grace weaving their way more deeply into my soul.