Removed pt.1

me-and-c-2“But when she could no longer hide him, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with asphalt and pitch. She placed the child in it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile.”   Exodus 2:3

Throughout my journey with God, I have felt his yes and no answers.  I say felt because His voice is not audible, but more or less a pounding in my soul.  He told me yes when I prayed about marrying my husband.  He told me no when I was a part of a church that I needed to move from.  Sometimes the obedience is easy.  I desired to marry my husband.  My heart loved him deeply.  I felt God leading me away from that church and calling me to somewhere different.

In my journey, there have been times where God’s no was not welcome.  Obedience was the last thing I wanted.  The sacrifice was too great.  Four years ago, I was living and breathing “Women’s Ministry” in my church.  I enjoyed leading Bible Studies and speaking before groups of women.  I was passionate about breathing God’s truth into the lives of women, that He is greater than all of their struggles through womanhood, marriage, and parenting.

Upon expecting our fourth child, God pressed in on me to give it all up.  He asked me to lay down all that I felt called to do.  Give it all to him.  Its as if I had to relinquish my deeply loved child, as Jochebed surrendered Moses to the reeds that day.

I cannot imagine her pain.  I dare say she made that basket and placed him in it with a smile on her face.  I mean, aren’t there crocodiles?  What if the Pharaoh did find him?  Would he die anyway?   Hebrews 11:23 says that Moses parents hid him for three months because they did not fear the king’s edict that all baby boys must be killed.  They are mentioned in Hebrews 11, known as the Heroes of Faith.  If they weren’t afraid of the edict, then they must have had complete peace about placing their beloved infant in that basket.

God, what about my gift, my calling, my passion?  Why would you give this to me only to take it all away?  Remove it he did. Every last bit.

to be continued…

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Ensnared

anxiety

Anxiety.  It can be an UGLY word and an UGLY emotion.

Anxious: full of mental distress; greatly worried

According to WebMD, anxiety is linked to mental disorders, panic attacks, and social disorders. The site also includes symptoms of extreme anxiety include:

  • feelings of panic, fear, uneasiness
  • problems sleeping
  • not able to be still and calm

Leah MD would like to add upset stomach and/or the increased desire to eat junk food.

I am no doctor or therapist, and have no degree in anything related to this topic.  For those who have diagnosed anxiety disorders, I applaud you for getting help.  It takes a great degree of humility to reach out for support.

On top of all of the beautiful havoc anxiety can wreak on your life, it can also have a serious affect on others.  Fear alienates and destroys relationships, especially with those closest to you.  Anxiety is such a strong-hold that it turns you into someone you were never meant to be.  We hear one news story or a political fiasco and we lose all sense of composure. Fear engulfs our thought process and ability to hear truth, so all we hear is satan whispering “fear” into our ears.

This post is something I felt the need to write after observing the affects of anxiety in my own life as well as the world around me.  Our world is riddled with it.  The media loves to provoke it.  I’m here to tell you that it’s one of satan’s favorite tactics.  There aren’t too many emotions that can make us lose all self-control and keep us from relying on God. That’s what satan wants, to remove our dependence on the one he fears most.

Peter writes, “Cast all of your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”(1 Peter 5:7, NIV) When I read that, I think of the fishing nets being cast out to sea.  Peter is telling us to throw all of that worry and fear onto God.  You have to throw it in order for God to retrieve it.  He’s not going to pull it from your clenched fists.  You’ve got to recognize the issue so you can cast the net.

“He cares for you.”  Who do you “care” for?  Your children?  Your family? When your they are sick, do you wish you could take on their discomfort?  Do you wish you could take their pain away?  God wants the same thing for us.  He cares for us.  He wants to take the anxiety that ensnares our lives.  We were created for much more.

As I look at our world today, I see it as one big battle of good and evil;  God and satan; courage and fear; Narnia against the Snow Queen; Middle Earth versus Mordor.

Which side are you on?   I’m going with God.  He cares for me and I matter to him.  I care too much about the people in my life to allow anxiety to ruin my relationships.  Don’t let it rule your life any longer. Talk it out with a friend.  Find a pastor to pray with you.  Seek out a counselor who can rid you from the strong hold fear has on your life.

Dear one, God cares for you and so do I. Cast out that net.

Transitioned

This is the point in my blog, where I need to move beyond the impact of the move on our family, to the funny, quirky, everyday happenings that make me smile, because life goes on (Ob la di ob la da life goes on bra).  It has been 5 months since we moved, which is completely ridiculous, because I feel like I have been here for WAY longer than that.

I used to write another blog, before the move, that was entitled “Mommy Block”.  I loved sharing real life stories to hopefully make my readers laugh and feel completely at ease that there is another mom out there who really doesn’t know what she is doing.

So, part of this post was written sitting in the…..wait for it….DMV.  Be jealous, I know. This is the one thing since moving that I have been dreading.  I hate going so badly that I drove 30 minutes to the most hole-in-the-wall DMV I have ever visited.  I refuse to battle the traffic of Baton Rouge.  I will stay home all day long if it means I don’t have to enter that realm.  I am not kidding: “Baton Rouge ranks 3rd in the country for most congested, “medium” sized city in the country, according to the Texas Transportation Institute’s Mobility Report.” On top of that, I may have already had my first accident here and it was a hit and run, twice.  I.DON’T.DO.TRAFFIC.

The DMV and I go way back.  My father was a long-time employee and first started his career there when I was in high school.  It was about the time I had to take my driving test. Multiple choice tests have never been my strength.  I can overly rationalize each answer until they all sound right.  Why couldn’t there have been an essay based test? Why must there be specifically correct driving answers?  (I am sensing the majority of the drivers in Baton Rouge feel the same way.)  I flailed the written test horribly.  I didn’t FAIL, but was one question from that, so lets just say I FLAILED.  I don’t know how I didn’t fail except for the fact that my dad worked there.  He has never admitted to having anything to do with my score, but seriously, I know I did quite badly.

My drive to the DMV was quite lovely.  Really.  One feature of this area that fascinates me is the Mississippi River and the bridges.  Ya’ll, its like driving up the incline of a roller coaster.  I hold my breath and can not look down, but I love the majesty of the bridges. (Dad, I found these pictures online, I promise).

I’m glad I enjoyed my drive, because I get to revisit the hole-in-the-wall DMV again seeing as although I had every piece of paperwork I could possibly imagined I needed, I still was missing some key pieces.  Clearly, the DMV wants to continue our relationship whether in Virginia or Louisiana.  Somehow, I am not comforted by this.

Captured

It had to be done.  I missed my people.  My kids missed their people.  We had to make a visit to Virginia.  Four kids.  One adult.  15 hour road trip.  Its enough to make you NOT want to attempt it.

The day after Christmas, we hopped in the car, fully stocked with snacks, movies, and books on CD.  There was one rule.Don’t lose your mind and we’ll all be okay.  I prepared myself for all sorts of behavior and nonsense.  Let me just say that as long as we stopped EVERY 2 HOURS, no exceptions, whether they had to use the bathroom or not, we kept it together.  Also, flavored candy sticks from Cracker Barrel are fantastic incentives for maintaining sanity.  8/$1.00 bought a lot of peace in my van.

I can not tell you how elated I was when we crossed the border into Virginia and I saw the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Comfortable. Familiar. Home.

captured3

Each of the older kids had a buddy to spend 24 hours with.  In other words, we needed a 24 hour break from one another.  They all had their people again.  That was enough to make me teary.  Not that I was sad to be home, but happy they could have their time, just for them.  I was fortunate to spend the night with a dear sister, whose family gladly took my baby girl for the evening so we could enjoy time out with other girlfriends. Within 24 hours, I eeked out as much time with my people as possible.

The rest of our time in Virginia was spent with family.  It was lovely to just take a deep breath, stay in my pajamas and allow the grandparents to do what they do best, spoil my children.  I couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas gift.

I knew the visit would be physically exhausting.  I was fully prepared for a long recovery from the whirlwind week and a half.  I was not prepared for how I would feel.  I honestly believed that I would have a harder time, emotionally.  I missed my family and my friends. I missed the beauty of Virginia.  However, I was not sad.

There is so much I am thankful for in Louisiana.  When asked how I like Louisiana, without hesitation I said, “The people, I love the people.”  This place has captured my heart.  I have cried with this community.  I have felt the pain and the heartache of all they have tried to overcome.  This was God’s plan from the minute we arrived, to open ourselves to a place that desperately needed all of the support they could get.  Its not that we have done anything spectacular, but who doesn’t need an extra person praying for them or another smile on a dark day?  I am learning to open myself up to the work God wants done, even if that means moving from everything comfortable and familiar.  Being captured isn’t such a bad thing.

Unexpected

Image result for fireworks images“What do you want for Christmas Eve dinner?” I asked my husband while we were sitting in our bedroom. We were watching TV and trying to focus over the relentlessly barking dogs on the other side of our window.  I had focused Christmas Day prep along with packing for our trip to Virginia and had completely forgotten to plan dinner.

“Hot Dogs,” he replied with a hint of sarcasm.  Those dogs have barked more days than not since our move and love to position themselves on the other side of the fence outside of our bedroom window.

I laughed off the reply until I found myself at the grocery store a few hours later.  Nowhere else was open, so I had to come up with something. He wanted hot dogs?  I’ll give him hot dogs.

I began serving them up and my oldest ran into the kitchen, “Mom!  The neighbors are shooting off fireworks, let’s eat dinner outside in the driveway!”

So we did.  Never in a million years would I have pictured our family sitting in our driveway on Christmas Eve watching fireworks and eating hot dogs.

Earlier that week, a radio station was sharing unconventional Christmas traditions.  So many of the stories had just “happened” and the family continued the tradition to carry on the memory.  In a new place, we needed new traditions to happen, without me trying to plan it out.

I am thankful for those crazy dogs and a culture who celebrates life at every turn.  God always knows when we need a little humor in the midst of the crazy and stressful.

Redefined

I wasn’t ready. Uprooting and relocating is one thing, but completely redefining how you celebrate the holidays is another.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I wasn’t grieving, but I wasn’t ready to do anything different.

I tried to avoid Thanksgiving at home.  At first we attempted a trip to Houston, then a trip to New Orleans.  Work called and both fell through.  I was forced to redefine our first holiday.

We came up with nothing spectacular, fried the turkey, cooked all of the normal sides, and made my grandmother’s famous chocolate meringue. We pulled out some of our favorite games and tested our Disney movie knowledge, laughed around the table and talked about this and that.

Looking back, I think God wanted us to redefine a few things.  He’s been doing that since we arrived.  I think he wanted us to stop the busy and the planning.  He wanted us to slow down and refocus on our family.  A trip would have been fun, but we would have been distracted by all of the sites to see.  I would have been stressed by all of the planning it would have entailed.  God knows.  He sees.  We needed time as a family, without all of the bells and whistles, so here is where we had to be.

Friend-ed

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“Mom, will I ever have a friend at school?”

She had asked me the question before, but each time was like a kick in the gut.  No answer would suffice.  No response would make everything better.  This girl of mine left several close friends behind in Virginia; girls she has known most of her life.  This girl has a big heart for a ten year-old.  When she is accepted, she holds on and never lets go.  She is the most devoted friend, when she has the chance.  When she is rejected, she feels it deeply, to the bottom of her core.

I haven’t shared how this move has affected the children.  The “littles”, our five and three year old, just roll with it.  Kindergartners aren’t very selective about their friendships, they all seem to love each other without hesitation.  My three year-old daughter has two little girlfriends from our Tuesday morning Moving On group.  They love all things princess and babies.  Their mamas love to visit with one another.  Perfectly matched.

When we moved , forming friendships has been more challenging than I imagined. You meet some really great people, but many have lived here their whole lives and have long-established friendships.  Its as if you need a sign around your neck that says, “Hi!  I’m new here and I really need a friend.  Will you make room in your life for me?”  It may seem simple, but it is a lot to ask.

Last night, after living here for 3 1/2 months, my ten year-old had a friend over and my 12 year-old was out with her youth group from church.  They both had time with friends. When you move and have no one for 3 1/2 months, it is such a precious gift for your daughters to have someone.  Someone to laugh with, be silly with, and sing “Frozen” songs with (a complete production with costume changes requiring me as an audience…sacrifices people).  Both friends moved here the same time we did.  They are in the same place, just asking for anyone to make room in their world for a new friendship.

My girls and I have talked about going through tough times means God is growing your character.  This tough time is creating a sensitivity in them to reach out to the friendless. Although I feel like I have always encouraged my kids to reach out to those who are alone, now they “get” it.  They are the friend-less and they understand how it feels to have someone notice them in their alone-ness.

Perhaps our character building moments will be our greatest blessing here in the bayou.

Immersed

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As a child, I loved swimming.  I remember teaching myself to swim and the invigorating feeling of being submerged, racing to the bottom of a pool to retrieve a diving stick or a shiny coin.  I have no memories of being afraid of water.  I have been snorkeling in the Florida Keys, diving below the surface to view God’s miraculous handiwork on the coral reef.  There is such beauty beneath the depths of the sea.

Thankfully, my children also love the water.  The older three are able to swim very well. The youngest is on her way as she has no ounce of fear in her.  Our rental home has a pool and we have eked out every bit of swim time as possible since the Louisiana heat has lingered longer than we are accustomed.  For some reason, they can fight like animals all day, but once they are in the pool, they transform into mermaids and mermen, allowing the water to expose their imaginations and leave all animosity behind.

Just as some have a fear of water, I once had a fear of immersing myself in relationships; deep friendships.  For a long time, I struggled with getting to know women on a level below the surface. I was scared to reveal too much of who I was because I didn’t want anyone to see my flaws. For years, the seamless cracks of my heart kept getting bigger and bigger.  My pain ripped me in to so many pieces until I was a big pile of brokenness.  I couldn’t keep up the facade any longer.  It was exhausting.  There, however, in my shattered mess, began piecing me back together.  He did that through friendships with other broken women. God brought women in my life who didn’t necessarily share my specific pain, but were broken in their own way.  Through our shards, we could feel one another’s wounds.  One friend suffered the loss of her four day old infant.  Although I have never lost a baby, I have felt the piercing pain of loss.  We grieved different circumstances, but we shared in our grief.

There is a lot I miss about home.  I miss family, my church, and the beauty of the valley in the fall.  Above all, I miss those ladies I chose to dive deep with.  I still talk or text with them regularly, but there is nothing like the physical embrace of a friend, a sister, who knows your hurts as much as she knows her own.  Part of me feels like, when God started piecing us back together, he placed a few of my pieces in them and I have a some of theirs as well.

I broke through my fear of vulnerability and chose to dive in.  My world forever changed because I now have a burning desire to see past the facades of others.  I want to see their pain and their brokenness, because I can meet them there, better than I can on the surface.  Slowly, here in the Bayou, God is bringing women into my life who are not afraid to share their shattered pieces with me.  This is happening gradually because our fragments can be delicate.  You can’t trust those pieces with just anyone.  The relationships are not the same as those I left behind, but have their own intricate details that bless my life abundantly.

Dive deep.  There is too much beauty under the surface for you to miss.  God wants our relationships to be a blessing to one another.  Hold your breath and slip below the surface. You may find more than you ever imagined.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

Encouraged

After the Boxes are UnpackedThe God of Angel Armies, who went before us to prepare our way for the move, not only cared for us physically, but put plans in place to care for me emotionally and spiritually.  He gave me a group of women who have become more precious to me than I ever thought possible.  When God bestows a blessing that you never even realized you would need, its indescribable.

On Tuesday mornings, from 9:30-11:30, I gather with a group of ladies who have all been through the process of moving.  That’s it.  We have moved.  Some have moved multiple times,  others have moved internationally.  Some of us have only come from one state over.  We have all been through the relocation process and lived to tell about it. Our fearless and hilarious leader,  felt God calling her to begin a group for women who were new to the area.  She has experienced this so many times herself  and was inspired by, “After the Boxes are Unpacked” by Susan Miller.  This book guides readers through the physical, spiritual, and emotional aspects of moving.  She had always wanted to be a part of a moving group, but instead, God wanted her to start one.  Several years later, the group is still going strong.  Some have moved away (because movers move) some have been in the group since its birth, hanging in there to help other new movers.  When you go through a move, only fellow movers can fully relate.  I had no idea the impact this group would have on me and how much I desperately needed it.

Moving is an emotional roller coaster like no other.  To have been born and live your entire life within a few hours of your home, then all of a sudden move 13 hours away, I never imagined the emotions I would feel.  No matter the mindset you try to have, the grieving will come, in waves, then you think you’re over it and you feel it all over again.  Someone may have on a t-shirt of your college rival, or you catch a glimpse of a passerby who looks exactly like a familiar face from back home.   This group of women gets it.  The unfamiliarity and frustrations,  the sadness and pain. They feel it with you and are there to pick you back up again.  These friends walk with you as you help your children grieve because someone in the group has a child who has gone through similar emotions.

Yet another blessing in the midst of uncertainty.  A blessing that I had no idea I would need, but God knew,  He always does.

Undefeated

World War II airplanes - pictures, facts, history, and display models

I can not imagine what it must feel like to go to war, to physically enter a combat zone, flying full force into enemy fire.  I do know what it feels like to go into a spiritual battle.  At times the enemy of fear surrounds me.  When it was confirmed that we would be moving 13 hours from everything comfortable and familiar, the enemy pressed in, looking for an opening in which to infiltrate my soul.  Fear of: the unknown, “what if”, how it was all going to come together, and being away from family and friends who happened to be the greatest support a mom of four could ever have.  Enemy artillery surrounded me from every side.

There have been countless times God has used my love for music to speak scripture into my heart.  Every time I am walking through dire circumstances, God creates a “playlist” of songs that breathe scripture over me.  During our preparations to move, Chris Tomlin’s song Whom Shall I Fear brought me to my knees every time it was on the radio or sung in worship.

I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

His lyrics come from Deuteronomy 31. Moses is speaking to Joshua and the Israelites about crossing the Jordan River and heading into the promised land, the home they had been anxiously waiting to enter for 40 years.  God said to Moses, “The Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you.  He will destroy these nations before you, and will take possession of their land.”

I am sure the Israelites feared numerous foes.  They considered the “hows” and the “what ifs”, but God was going before them.  He was crossing the river first, to prepare the way for them to enter and not be defeated.

God went before our family as we prepared to enter the Bayou.  He made a way for us to come here and not be defeated.  I am sure He will reveal to me countless ways he prepared our path, but already I have seen evidence of his hand and his angel armies that had gone ahead.

Two weeks before we were to move, we had a change of housing.  The original rental home to which we were assigned was not to be.  We had circulated the address and had friends send us pictures of this home.  The school system within the district was a concern, so we went through the arduous process to secure alternative schooling.  We made many accommodations to live in this house.  For whatever reason at the time, we were moved to a second rental house 10 miles away from the first.

Three days after moving in,  our alternative schooling option fell through. We made the choice to place our kids in the public schools.  Originally, this would not have been an option, but the second house happened to be in a better school district, one of the best in the area.  Despite the new curriculum, school, rules, and location our children are excelling.

A few days later, after the flood, we drove through the neighborhood of the original rental and saw piles of debris from flooded homes.  Had God’s army of angels not moved us to a different location, we would have been flood victims.  The debris would be our belongings and would have added a whole new level of stress to our already crazy situation.

The God of Angel Armies went before us and prepared a way for our family not be defeated. He placed us precisely in the house and location we needed to be in, for our family to thrive.

Are you about to cross the Jordan River into an unknown place or circumstance?  Does fear envelope your every thought?  If we were sitting down together, having coffee, I would look you in the eyes and tell you, without a doubt, that the God of Angel Armies has already crossed over ahead of you.  He is preparing the way and you will not be defeated.

Chris Tomlin Whom Shall I Fear