Friday, December 17, 2010

Giving and Gratitude

Every year our office provides Christmas gifts for children from the Deveraux organization here in Central Florida. Last night was the Christmas party where we got to give out the gifts we had all so carefully selected for our adopted kids. The girl I pulled this year loved gospel music and crafts so it was an absolute hoot to pick out things for her. I found makeup, a jewelery making kit, watercolor pencils and some really cool clothes. I also included a modern version Bible and a Winnie the Pooh journal and wrote in it describing how I would prayer journal with my Friend. She had written that she loved Winnie the Pooh.

This is the first year I've gone to the party. Our office manager mentioned that the kids often look around for who the gift was from so I wanted to be there for her. Kate and I went and we had a blast.

When I met the child I sponsored, it was a delight. I remember being 14--the acne, the friends, the joys, the struggles. I noticed that she was limping a bit during the night and her counselor told me that it was from a suicide attempt earlier this year. My heart both soared and sank. I've struggled with suicidal thoughts starting at age 10. For the longest time I thought everyone did. I know the constant war that goes on and the struggle she will face, probably for the rest of her life. She's in good hands there, but it was even more of a reminder of where I've come from and where the Lord has taken me. Still, my heart breaks for her pain because I have known it well.

One of the words the Lord has given me for the year is Joy. I'm not sure what that will mean, but I'm looking forward to finding out. I know my Friend has been there through all of the past pain. He will be with her for all of her current pain and he will provide Joy at His right hand. In His presence, there is the fullness of Joy and I am grateful for that continual presence.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween parenting...

I hate Halloween--I hate everything it stands for. I hate the position it puts me in. I hate the temptation and the sugar rush (ok, I love the sugar rush--but I'd like to be able to get into my jeans).

PJ again asked me why he couldn't go around with his friends tonight. We made that call several years ago and PJ has been content with his own "give a treat" tradition--his idea. This year, it was more about going around with friends than anything else, which makes my heart hurt. On our weekly shopping trip we talked again about making choices between honoring the high holiday of our enemy or remaining loyal to our Father and Friend and trusting Him to provide. We talked about all the lack we've never experienced and that God is faithful and trustworthy and will honor those who honor Him. It still felt hollow, I'll admit, regardless of how much I trust my Friend to provide. A fun time with friends is hard for me to turn down, regardless of the occaision.

We had been trying to make it to Awana at a neighborhood church for several weeks and this seemed like as good an opportunity as any, so I piled a pouting PJ in the car and left for church. When our pastor friend walked us in, one of the adults from PJ's school immediately recognized him and gave him a truly warm welcome. He had a great time and memorized 4 Bible verses. Not only that, they walked around all of the classes in their own candy give-away.

I don't know that PJ noticed, but he probably got more candy and connected with more people there than if he had gone out with the neighbors. It was well worth the trip.

Thanks, Lord! You came through on the promise I made my son that You would honor those who honor you. It's one thing to come through on promises to me--Coming through for my son means even more to me and to his fledgling faith. There truly are none like You.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

God winks...

This has been a month of secret winks from the Holy Spirit.

You know the scenario...It's the climax of the movie. The hero and damsel are tied up in an old warehouse with the villain about to complete his catastrophic evil-doing. Suddenly, the hero winks at the heroine as you see that he is not only free, but now has the upper hand. The day is all but saved and the obligatory fist-fight hasn't even started.

As you get to know someone intimately you begin to share little names, secret phrases or inside jokes that have meaning to you because of the history you share. The month started out on a fairly critical note, with minute failures and simple mistakes blowing up with cataclysmic impacts. The wrong printout gets used wrongly and the resulting conclusions cause everyone great embarrassment. Then we were submitting a large proposal for a multi-year contract only to find that key parts of the text were printed withoutanyspacesbetweenthewords (aaaakkk!!!)

Still, as I turned the proposal in to the jurisdiction (with a heavy heart) something surprising happened--God winked. How he winked is between us, but suffice it to say that no one else would have ever noticed, but it was as obvious to me as a neon billboard flashing in front of my nose. Then later in the process, He did it again. I had no idea what the result would be for all of our prayer and effort, but I knew with utter certainty that His Hand was in action and it would not be long before something amazing happened. Several people said things that could have discouraged me as we prepared for the face to face interviews, but I couldn't erase the impact of that secret communication. My heart rested in complete trust. In the end, we scored as high as we possibly could have and won a space in the contract--my very first interview in my entire career and my very first win.

I get the feeling that our Heavenly Father is constantly trying to communicate His boundless love and His power to intervene on our behalf. I am so grateful for the years that we have come to know each other well and that we have little secrets between us. It has been worth every minute.

He's waiting to share His secrets with you too.

Friday, July 9, 2010

two steps forward, one step back...

If I'm going to share the progress, I guess I have to share the victory in the regresses as well...

Counseling didn't go so well this week--not a fluffy, happy time, but (duh) that's what we're there for. The issues were longstanding and unresolved and though we walked in there together, we left as distant as ever, maybe more. I guess John just thought we had completely fixed everything in one fell swoop and was shocked to see it wasn't. I hated to bring up the places where we still need work, but pretending everything is ok is what got us here.

So we're on day 3 of silence again...oh well. So how do you sleep next to someone who hates you for bringing up the hateful things he has done in the past and continues to do?

As my friend posted this morning, "I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord." The Holy Spirit, our comforter and friend, brings news of Christ's love and the Father's tender care, and sleep is sweet. It's ironic that the times that I am least loved in a human sense are often the times I am overwhelmed by the magnitude of God's love for me. He loved me (and loved John) when we were truly enemies of God and sent his son to die for me. So even when the one I love is in a 'mood,' I can feel and give the love God has for him, and I really feel the love I channel from the Father and admire the man God made him to be, even if he isn't living up to that right now. The pipe can't help getting wet.

Does that mean I ignore the issues that got us here because it is upsetting? No, but until John is ready to deal with them, I can love him anyway with the Father's pure, unsullied love. When he is ready to heal and reconcile I'll be delighted to go forward. Till then, the stiff silence is his alone. We need to replace the very foundations of our marriage and that will be difficult with a whole household sitting on top of the crappy foundation we laid at first. That is no easy task at any time, but after 20 years it is not likely to be simple. Our Father is in this for the long haul and so am I.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A quiet moment

Through the last 8 years, the life John and I have lived has been dominated by an oppressive silence as we have avoided bumping into each other's wounds. Many who know me personally would find that bizarre since most people can rarely get me to shut up. Of late the silence had calcified into a bitter avoidance as we grew farther apart. We fought to hold it together with classes and medication and finally counseling. Nothing seemed to breach the walls of animosity that we had built. Ironically, within the last week, we have come to realize that those walls came from our deep desires to care for each other.

Our counselor sent us home with the videos from the Love and Respect conference. The primary thesis of the teaching is that without love women respond with disrespect and without respect, men respond in an unloving way. When Katie was born, nearly 8 years ago, John seemed overwhelmed and frustrated. We found out she might have Down syndrome before they even handed her to us in the delivery room. I fell into caring for her, researching her issues and doing everything in my power to buffer John from all but the most wonderful things about our new daughter. As time went on, I carried more of the demands from Kate and PJ and anything else as John went into more and more physical and emotional pain. Unbeknown to me, he began to resent what he saw as a lack of confidence on my part toward him and his ability to lead and care for us. All love feelings evaporated from our relationship as I felt the stress of all I carried and he resented my independence in action and thought.

Then, something changed in the middle of the first video. As John reached over to put his arm around me, I could tell his heart had finally gotten it. After our friends left, he apologized and tenderly held me. I know we still have much work to go. Since that time, I've still seen flashes of irritation that surprised me but I'm much more aware of what I have done to make him bristle. For that matter, we still have 4 more videos to go in the series.

Still, this morning, when we moved around each other, it was not silence that was felt but quietness and for that, I am grateful.

Friday, April 30, 2010

20 years...

I'll be the first to admit this last year has held more than it's share of challenges. One of the biggest challenges has been a gradual, painful retooling of our marriage. Next week is our 20th anniversary so I'm going to take the opportunity to publicly brag on my husband. We are both very wounded people and often hurt each other in our pain, but he has done some pretty amazing things through the years.

We married in our (very) early 20's while both of us were in college. Soon after we married, we decided to return to Gainesville for me to finish my undergrad. We knew this would be a sacrifice for him (he hated it there) but didn't realize that he wouldn't find a job in his career for the nearly 3 years we were there. He gladly put aside his career to bring out the best in my career, and has supported me professionally throughout our marriage.

When we moved to West Virginia for my graduate school, the Lord blessed him with a job quickly and ultimately provided him with friends and a new career he still loves to this day. During that time, I became increasingly depressed--I was sleeping 16 hours a day by the time I got help--and though we were both understandably puzzled, he stood by me and supported me even when I couldn't get the laundry finished. He loved me patiently through medications and their side effects and supported my need to move back home to sunnier skies.

Again, the Lord blessed him with a job here in Orlando, close to family, in his own company, doing the same thing he had done in WV. We lived with his family for 6 months while our house was being finished and he was very kind and supportive during that tense time. Our careers settled into dependability, and we started to try to have children. It took 9 months to get pregnant and 3 years to have a baby. Our losses were more painful for him even than me. When PJ was finally born, he acquiesced to my desire to stay home with him and supported me through an unbelievably difficult labor, delivery and a nightmarish week afterward.

We were both delighted with our new son and the Lord sent me back to work from home a few months after he was born. As I was carrying Katie, he was very protective of me, sheltering me as much as I would allow. When a child very near our neighborhood was molested in his own home, he set himself to looking for a new home for us. When Katie was born and we were shocked by her diagnosis, his concerns centered around our long term health and prosperity, even offering to forgo our plans to move. When we did move, he had to handle the entire move nearly single-handedly.

To this day, we have a home that is warm and welcoming, even though John is a very private person. I am working nearly full time with his constant support and our children are doing quite well in light of some fairly serious difficulties. We have more than enough to overflow to generosity and I never have to get out of the car in the rain. He is again active in service at church and is admired as a spiritual leader in his workplace. All this, in spite of nearly debilitating back pain. He is a good man who does everything in his power to make our lives as comfortable as possible.

There are many things we are learning to do better and is willing to try even when it is difficult.

Happy anniversary, handsome...