You are the God of My Salvation…You are My Hiding Place

Psalm 25:1-7 ESV
Of David.

[1] To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
[2] O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
[3] Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

[4] Make me to know your ways, O LORD;
teach me your paths.
[5] Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.

[6] Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
[7] Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!

You are my hiding place
You always fill my heart
With songs of deliverance
Whenever I am afraid
I will trust in You

K is for “Choose a Name that Begins with K” #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter K“Please try to choose a name that begins with K.”

It never occurred to me until that moment that naming our child could become controversial.  It never crossed my mind that she would ask to participate in the naming, even if it was as simple as asking that the name start with a certain letter.  For the record, that was not a simple request.

We have discussed names numerous times over the past five years, trying out different name combinations and trying to come up with something we both liked.  This is nothing new…not for us, not for any couple who is expecting.  The sticking point for us was that when we named our first son, I reluctantly agreed to let my husband use a name for our second child (assuming that child was a son) that I didn’t particularly like, provided that it was a middle name, and not the name by which he would be addressed for the rest of his life.  So though I wouldn’t get to choose a full name that I liked, I would get to choose his first name.

boy names kThe birth mom’s request derailed the direction we were going completely, and I (we) had to start over.  She made the request because she has two other kids, both of whom have names beginning with K, and even though she wasn’t keeping this baby, she still wanted to have this connection.  And though I didn’t love the idea, I was sympathetic to her desire.  So we started experimenting with new name combinations, still incorporating my husband’s choice, and we came up with something we liked.  I told our birth mom at her next doctor appointment, she seemed to like it.

whyAt the meeting with the counselor (where we met the birth father for the first time), we learned that she (they) had vetoed the name.  They didn’t like it.  Not only that, they had chosen a name they liked, something they thought would go well with our choice for a middle name.  Wow!  I was not prepared for that, and I left that meeting – an otherwise positive meeting – feeling very irritated about that change.  It ultimately boiled down to the fact that I got removed from the name choice entirely, and it hurt my feelings and made me angry.  I wanted to be involved, and if we decided to accommodate them, I didn’t get to be.  This never occurred to them, obviously…they were simply thinking of something that would make them feel connected to their (our) baby.

Whats-In-a-NameI talked to both our social worker and our birth mom’s social worker, and I learned something else about naming.  When it comes to adoptions, names can cause huge problems.  HUGE.  And they can derail an adoption plan.  They have derailed adoption plans.  No one felt that it would in our case, and we had no obligation to use the name they wanted, but I was reminded that, when measured against the fact that they were surrendering their child to us, the name was not that big of a deal.  They were right.  I didn’t want them to be, but they were.

I talked to my husband.  I asked my husband if we had to use the name he wanted.  His response?  “You promised.”  He was right…I did.  I just never anticipated not getting to choose at all.  we continued to discuss it.  He knew I was really, really hurt by this, and ultimately he became, “Whatever.  Choose whatever you want.”

do what is rightI didn’t want that either.  I didn’t want him this to be a point of contention for us, which it would have been for a while, and I was really struggling with doing what I knew was the right thing.  After some real soul searching, and some begging (yes, begging) God to turn my heart on this and make me OK with what I knew I needed to do, I agreed.  The caveat was that I got to choose the order, and that he would be called by the other name regardless of the order.  My husband agreed, though he did say at first, “Well, I’ll just call him “…”, and you can call him “…”.

No.  Really, no!

In the end, the birth parents got the name they wanted, and that was the right thing.  My husband got the name he wanted, and that was the right thing.  I got to choose the order and the name by which he would be addressed, and yes, even that was the right thing.  And the truth be told, the name – his whole name – suits him perfectly.  It is masculine and strong, just as he is and will be, and it is just right.

 

 

 

J is for Jail #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter JBoth of our birth parents spent time in jail during her pregnancy.  Her stint was the result of some really bad decisions that cost her a fairly good job, and resulted in fraud charges.  She was in jail for about five weeks.  While she was there, her on-again/off-again boyfriend (and our baby’s birth father) hooked up with her sister, and her sister (we think) stole all of her clothes.  It seems her sister had access to her (temporary) home while she was incarcerated, and took full advantage of it.  I mentioned at the beginning of this #AtoZChallenge that dysfunction is very common in birth parent situations, and that often extends to their families as well.

fraudIf my memory serves, I believe our birth father was incarcerated twice during the pregnancy.  When we met her, he was not in the picture, and I seem to recall that is because he was in jail (they had also – temporarily – broken up).  About half way through, he was back in the picture again, and wanted to meet us and be involved from that point forward.  He signed all the pertinent paperwork, and our social workers arranged a meeting with a counselor that included our birth parents, her mom and sister (the one who stole her clothes, and who was also pregnant), and his mom (who ultimately did not show up).  The meeting went well.  Questions were answered, fears were put to rest on both sides, and though it was stressful, it was very productive.  I did eventually meet his mom, and several more of her relatives, the most stable of whom was her grandmother.

What continually surprised me over the months was how much her family remained involved, despite the fact that it was a constant whirlwind of drama & dysfunction.  Once they met us, they were supportive of her decision and never (as far as I know) sought to change her mind.  I am grateful to them for that, because they certainly created enough drama otherwise.

jailThe birth father said several times throughout his (temporary) involvement that he wanted to be present at our son’s birth.  Ironic, but not totally unexpected, that when the time came, he was in jail again.  This time for drug possession with intent to distribute, though he claimed repeatedly that he had no use for drugs.  Of course they had broken up (again), only to get back together after she gave birth, only to break up again.  It’s a bad, and painful, pattern for her.

posession-drugs-sale-lawyerA sad detail that I believe (but do not know for certain) was connected to our birth father’s eventual drug incarceration:  our son was born exposed to methamphetamine.  I touched on this previously, but not on this angle.  Our birth mom stayed clean for so long, and then when stress (and bad influences) overwhelmed her, she did what she knew would relieve it.  I doubt it flitted across her mind that it would create more stress than it relieved.  It did, but for those terrible moments, she was able to be numb.

Jail is not uncommon, especially when stupid decision and drug habits are involved.  It is sad, but sometimes a relief as well, because at least (for the duration of the jail time), they aren’t using, and birth mom is getting regular prenatal care.  In our case, our birth mom was diligent about going to the doctor, so the only impact jail had on that was that she could not see her regular doctor.  I know that we had a better situation than many, and that God was a constant factor in protecting our baby.  I am continually grateful for that, because I know how different (and how much worse) it could have been.

Writer’s Block

stressI am stressed these days…in fact, I am a walking illustration of what stress can look like.  Every skin issue I struggle with has flared up.  My back pain has flared up.  I wake up frequently with a headache.  My shoulders & neck feel stiff and sore all the time.  I grind my teeth at night.  My energy level has tanked, and even working out (which I do) does not give me the boost it usually does.  Sometimes I can’t sleep, sometimes I sleep to much because I can’t turn off my thoughts and quiet my frustrations & worries.  I eat the wrong things…comfort foods that don’t really comfort.

writers_block_400

The problem with stress is that, when I least want it to, it leads to writer’s block.  So the very thing that has provided relief for me on myriad occasions seems just beyond my fingertips at the moment.  It is frustrating, and made more so because of part of what is troubling me is a personal brouhaha over my writing.

I want to sit down and spill it all a the keyboard.  I can’t…I can’t find the words right now.  Instead, I internalize everything and then talk my husband’s ear off in the middle of the night.  To his credit, being the incredible man he is, he understands that those late night rantings are sometimes necessary, and he listens…or suffers through them…until I wind down, or he kicks me out to the couch because he needs to sleep.

god healsThis will pass.  I know it will, but in the meantime I’m muscling through the anger, anxiety, frustration, and sadness the best that I can.  If you pray, please say one for me.  God is a miraculous healer, and I could use some heart healing right now.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

It was last night, at 11pm, that I really saw the light at the end of the tunnel.  The Bible passage I read yesterday included this verse:

Exodus 14:14…14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

If that doesn’t give you hope for the future, I don’t know what will.  Here are the children of Israel, finally freed from their slavery to the Egyptians and leaving Goshen after 400+ years, and what do they see but the Red Sea in front of them and the Egyptians in their chariots in full pursuit behind them?  A hopeless situation to an observer who was not privy to the thundering proof of God’s sovereignty that had just taken place in Egypt.  And yet God tells them, “I will fight for you, you need only be still.”

There are days when that voice is so trampled in my own conscience that I can not hear it, but I heard it last night.  At 11pm, and it gave me hope.

Psalm 119:114…You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.

The Mirror Moment

Or What I Need (and Want) to Do, but Have Not Yet Succeeded in Doing

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Matthew 18:35:  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Mark 11:25:  And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Luke 6:37:  “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;

Luke 17:3-4:  Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

1 John 1:9:  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

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cs-lewis on forgiveness

C.S. Lewis talks at length about forgiveness, and what it means to really forgive.  It is a task much more significant and difficult than simply uttering the words “I forgive you.”  It is a radical action, like love, that when done with the same desire and fervency that God has shown, wholly reconciles the relationship.  It is not forgetting, but putting it in the past and leaving it there.

I had a mirror held up to my face heart over the holidays, and realized that I have become that which I hate most.  I seek forgiveness from Christ for the most inexcusable in me, yet I have not done this for others.  I seek reconciliation and redemption from Christ, but I have not offered this to others.  I ask for God’s mercy and grace in my life, but I am reluctant unwilling to spare even a measure of it for others, even those who have granted me an undue portion.

cs lewis obeying godWhat do you do when you realize that all the navel-gazing in the world…that which you thought would give you a release from the bitterness, anger and frustration that has plagued you for so long…does so only minimally, but has the very real consequence of hurting others more than helping yourself?  When the mirror was held up and I saw SAW, I realized the bill of goods that I’d been sold…and believed.  In the effort to make others see, really SEE, I failed to see for myself.  And what I see…finally…is this:  I can not claim forgiveness for myself until I am willing to forgive trespasses against me.  I can not be reconciled to Christ unless I am willing to be reconciled with those in my earthly life.  With my family and friends.

forgive others

And it is HARD.  I have had this crutch, this safety net of anger & pain, for so long that to try and break it down is unbelievably daunting.  Tim Keller talks in Counterfeit Gods about how we don’t realize what becomes a false god to us until we recognize that we have made it more important than God Himself.  Why can’t I trust God to protect my heart?  I know He will.  Why can’t I rely on God to show me the way to redemption?  He always does.  Why can’t I lay at His feet the shackles of hostility, bitterness, pain, grief, anger, frustration, worry…and know that He is bigger than all of those barriers, that He is more than enough, and that He has only been waiting for me to cast aside my counterfeit god and truly rest in Him?

I hate being vulnerable.  I hate being in a position to be attacked, vilified, and ridiculed.  I hate feeling as though knowledge about me constitutes ammunition that can be used on me later.  There is a sense of protection in putting things out into the world in writing, so that I can say what I need want to say without immediate repercussion.  So I have taken the easy road.  I have written about the litany of hurts and slights in my life.  I have wallowed.  And I have hurt others.  I have made targets of people in a manner that allowed (I thought) for as little consequence as possible.  Except that now it is out there, and the bell can not be un-rung.

no-new-years-resolutionsI stopped making New Year’s Resolutions many years ago.  What was the point?  We all start the new year with expectations that it will be different from last year, and from the year before that.  2013 was no different for me…I started the year with no list of things to do better, no list of changes to make, no list of goals to meet (other than to try for the gazillionth time to read at least 100 books).  Then came the mirror moment that reflected how empty my soul has become, because I keep digging at the bottom instead of turning around and letting God fill me up.  I am tired.  I am tired of only partially trusting God, and in still thinking that I have to do the heavy lifting in my life.  I am tired of propping myself up with grudges and grievances.  rather than laying them down at His feet and moving on.  I am tired of what so much navel-gazing has rendered in me…which is nothing.  I am tired of being empty.

Here are my resolutions for 2013…a very different lot than had I made them 17 days ago:

  • Make God the biggest part of my life, rather than the grudges I have held onto for so long.
  • Think of others before myself, care for others before myself, serve others before myself.
  • FORGIVE.  My single, biggest impediment to quieting the personal demons, and to reconciling relationships that have been hurt by my inability unwillingness to forgive.
  • Understand that forgiveness is both an action and a process.  Do it daily, sincerely, and continuously.
  • Read my Bible every day.  Let it infuse me, and change me.
  • Stop making excuses.
  • Be joyful always.  In fact, do just as 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us:  16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

be silentPractically speaking, this means the blog will change.  A number of posts will go private, and I will not publish them again.  I have hurt and angered others by writing them, and that stops now.  I will not publish new posts airing grievances against others.  If I can’t find a way to focus my thoughts in an uplifting way that points no fingers, it will not go live.  I want to do something better with my time and my passion.

reconciliation-lizbydesignDoes it seem strange to look at this chain of events and thank God for the crushing blow of clarity?  Sometimes – MANY times – it takes exactly that to get it.  How many times do I need the mirror to be held up before I realize my brokenness is by my own hand, and I am crushed by the weight of my own sin?  I don’t know…I’ll let you know…this year…as I let Him help me out of this spiritual, mental & emotional pit I have dug for myself.

I believe, Lord.  I truly believe.  Please help me to take it to heart and live it out.