Monthly Archives: May 2015

Derailed.

Some weeks we mosey into church, smiling and greeting others. Some weeks we tumble in, barely having our whole family clean, dressed and fed. Other weeks we go in soul thirsty, with purpose, seeking a word from the King. The latter was my heart this past Sunday.  And in his faithfulness, God spoke.

That whisper in your soul that can only be the Holy Spirit: Fix your eyes on Jesus.

As my week has unfolded, the meaning of this word has become more clear to me. I’ve been charging forward in this whole writing gig, trying to minister to others and share God’s truth with those who are reading, charging forward in writing for the youth at my church. Last week I kind of found myself looking around apprehensively for the enemy. Because usually when we’re doing something right, working for the kingdom, all he wants to do is derail us. But things have been going rather smoothly around here.

And then the trichotillomania reared it’s ugly head (no pun intended). And I was completely derailed.

Maybe that sounds shallow to you. Ok. It is just hair. But for some reason, it is utterly heartbreaking to me. I know others whose children suffer the same affliction, and they agree that it is heart wrenching to watch.

sophie haircut

Sophie sporting her new short haircut.

If you’re getting depressed by this post, please keep reading. This is not a pity party for Catherine and Sophia. Not at all.

For the past three days now, I’ve been so far away from my metaphorical train track that I didn’t even know how to find my way back. And I’ve shed so many tears. I realize in moments like this that while some parts of me are doing very well at accepting the life that the Lord has for Sophie on this earth, there are other parts of me that are still totally angry and sad and just bummed out. Hair-pulling is a major bummer. I’m sure ten years down the road I will look back and wonder why I stressed out so much about whether or not Sophie had any hair at the moment. At least I hope so. Still, living with it is tough.

But way out here in my metaphorical field, far off from my train track, that word resonated in my soul: Fix your eyes on Jesus. It’s a choice, a resolution. I may allow myself to be sad about this, and I may allow myself to grieve (yes, for hair, and for what it represents, more importantly), and I may even allow myself to be angry. But I refuse to allow myself to be derailed any longer from the purposes and plans God has for me. Three days is long enough to sit in a fog of confusion and anger and fear and sadness in this metaphorical field of mine. It’s time to get back on the track. It’s time to press in, to move towards what God has for me. If I stay over here in this foggy field, then the enemy has won. He has effectively distracted me from what God has me doing. And I refuse to allow that to be the truth.

So I will fix my eyes on Jesus. I will dare to look past my circumstances to the one who loved me enough to lay his life down for me. And I will keep moving forward. I may shed tears along the way, but I will not allow the brokenness of this world to derail me. It will not, cannot, capture my gaze to immobilize me. My eyes are on Jesus and I’m moving towards him.

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The Strength You Have

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The epic struggle of my life has been feeling inadequate. I’m sure I’m not alone. When I was a working mommy, I felt like I wasn’t able to give 100% to either my job or my family. I felt horribly inadequate. Even now as just a stay-at-home mom of littles, it’s so easy to feel inadequate. Just this week Sophie was nearly mauled by our neighbor’s dog because Micah had fallen and was crying, and I turned my back on her for just a minute. Like greased lightening she ran around the end of our unfinished fence, unaware that our neighbor’s dog, while not mean, might just take her out. Fortunately I am swift of foot and long of leg. Poor Micah was abandoned, crying on the ground, as I sprinted to rescue Sophie. I’m sure my mad dash into the neighbor’s yard and my frantic yelling did nothing to help the dog stay calm, but my mommy adrenaline was in overdrive. For about 10 seconds, we were all terrified and unsure of what was happening – myself, Sophie, the poor dog. How many times have I wished that I could multiply myself into four or six more Catherines so that we could all take care of everything and everyone. I especially felt this way right after Micah was born. A newborn has so many needs, and a confused two-year-old who has just been unthroned in the family as the sole reigning heir has many as well. I always felt like I was neglecting someone. What a juggling act we undertake as mommies. I learned early on that I was not going to feel like enough, but I refused to allow those feelings to define me as inadequate. Yes, there are still many days that I feel inadequate, but I know that God has chosen me for this task, me specifically, for Sophie and for Micah, and he has equipped me for this purpose.

Great news for you if you’re not a mommy — this is true in all aspects of life! No matter what you spend your time doing, I’m sure many of you, like me, have felt inadequate at one time or another. But, God has chosen and equipped you for the purposes he has in mind for your time on this earth. This is another gem I’ve discovered in my study of identity. God has created each of us with unique talents, passions, gifts, abilities, etc. If you like fitness or nature or sports, great! You don’t need to be a librarian in a long skirt to fit God’s plan for you! He’s not asking you to be something he hasn’t made you to be. I used to think that I had to figure it out, to fit in this box that was what God had for me. Now I see that he’s created in me a love for certain activities and certain people groups, so it’s what’s already in me that tells me what he wants me to be. He created us each differently because he has different places and people for us to reach in a unique way. Maybe we are too concerned about figuring out who we’re supposed to be. Maybe we should just do what we love doing (not destructive things, ahem) and share the love of Jesus with those around us.

The story of Gideon (Judges 6-7) is a beautiful reminder that God sees more in us than we see in ourselves. Gideon, and Israelite, considers himself the lowest member of his family, in the weakest branch of the family tree. When the angel of the Lord finds him, he is hiding from the Midianites, threshing wheat in a winepress. He is not exactly the picture of strength. And what, you may wonder, is God calling him to do? To deliver the Israelites from the captivity of the big bad bullies also known as the Midiantes. Yikes! I imagine that Gideon must have had one of those moments of looking around for somebody else in the winepress: “Oh, you’re talking to me? You mean me? You do see that I’m hiding down here, right, Lord? Why don’t you go ask Steve over there, he’s from a much better family than me!” Oh, Gideon. He doesn’t want to do what God is asking him to do. He clearly sees himself as inadequate.

Even after Gideon accepts what the Lord has for him, he continually asks for signs and encouragement from the Lord, because he is still afraid. And what I love about God is that he gives it to him. He gives him even more signs and encouragement than Gideon asks for. In this, I see how good and how loving our God is. He’s not mad at us when we feel fearful or inadequate. He longs that we would trust him and know that he is calling us not into something we aren’t designed for, but into a purpose that he created us exactly to fill.

I love some of God’s first words to Gideon when he’s calling him forth: “Go in the strength you have and save Israel.” He already sees Gideon’s strength, even though Gideon himself doesn’t see it. God has gifted each of us and he sees precisely how we are gifted and why we are gifted that way. If we follow his leading, we will find his gentle guidance moving us into what he has planned for us to do. He is the source of our giftings, after all, and he is the power behind them. In the end of Gideon’s story, he does take victory over the Midianites, but with only a measly 300 troops, who never really even attack. They just make a bunch of noise and, as the story says, God confuses the Midianites and they basically defeat themselves.

God sees your strengths. He is not calling you into something that he hasn’t created and equipped you for. You don’t have to have it all figured out right away. Just walk with the Lord and take the next best step. When it’s time for another step, he’ll show you the way. Go in the strength you have.

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Hi, My Name is Mommy

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When I became a mommy, I had a huge identity shift. Before Sophie, my biggest identifiers besides my faith were my status as a wife and teacher, a friend and daughter, a sister or sister-in-law. But somehow all of those other parts of me shrunk down to ity-bitty little pieces when I gained the title of mommy. And being a mommy is all-consuming.

I remember talking to a friend whose children are already grown up, telling her how I had become known to many now as “Sophie’s mom.” She told me to embrace it because that’s how I would be seen for many years to come. This new part of my identity has been so wonderful for me to discover, as it is for any new mom. And eventually the balance returns and we emerge from our houses with our new little babies and once again find out how to be a sister, a friend, etc.

When Micah was born, my identity shifted again because I decided to quit my beloved job as a teacher to stay at home with my babies. Teaching is like breathing to me. I can’t help but teach. I feared that I would suffer an identity crisis of sorts when I identified myself as a stay-at-home mom rather than a teacher. But I found that I didn’t struggle nearly as much as I anticipated because my teacher-ness was still oozing out of me in other ways. That has never changed.

One of the ways that I continue to enjoy teaching is through working on Sunday school curriculum for our high school teens at church. This has literally been a lifeline to me as my roles have shifted. Our most recent study has been about identity, and I’ve gleaned some very important reminders from my study of this topic. Below is the first gem that I definitely want written on the tablet of my heart.

God knows my name. My true name. Not what I call myself, not what others call me. But who I truly am. I was touched so deeply as I re-read the story of Jacob in Genesis 27-32. Jacob was a terribly deceitful man. Most of the things he had in life involved deceit either on his part of the part of someone in his family. But one night he wrestled with God, and everything changed. I love all of the images and feelings that are conjured up in thinking of wrestling through the night with God. In my heart I have spent many a day and night wrestling with God, so I feel what Jacob must have felt that night, the fight, the angst, the fear, the determination, the surrender. Jacob was never quite the same afterwards.

My favorite moment in this story is when God asks Jacob a simple question: “What is your name?” In one simple question, God cuts through all the nonsense. “Jacob, tell me who you are.” It’s not that God didn’t know his name. Of course he did. But he’s putting his finger right down on the issue that he wants to address with Jacob, the issue that they’ve undoubtedly been wrestling over all night: Identity. “Jacob, who are you?” Jacob, whose name means trickster, must tell God who he has become because of his own sinful choices and the sinful choices of others. When he answers God, he is saying, in essence, “I’m the trickster, the deceiver.” He has to be honest with God about who he is. But then God does something that just blows me away. He cuts right through all the lies that Jacob has believed about himself and lived out in his life thus far. He says, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and men and have overcome.” When God looked at Jacob, he saw the trickster, the deceiver, but he also saw something so much more. He saw a fighter. He saw an overcomer.

The study of this passage led me to question my students and myself — What false names have I given myself? What sins have I allowed to define me? Who does God say that I am? I think if we can be honest with God about how we see ourselves and the faults we are living in, then he can rename us, too, just like Jacob. I love what he sees in a scoundrel like Jacob. I love that he could see beyond my faults to who I really am, to who he made me to be. So often we listen to so many other voices to figure out who we are. And we hear so many other names: failure, unloved, terrible mother, not a good friend, unattractive, unwanted, not smart enough, not good enough. The list goes on and on. We call ourselves these things. But what has God spoken over you and me? Loved, wanted, beautiful masterpiece, created for a purpose, overcomer. I want to choose these names for myself. I want to live under these beautiful identities rather than letting my sins and the sins of others define me. I choose to let God name me.

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To Mommies of Special Needs Children

IMG_2051(1)Today as I picked Sophie up from school, I watched another sweet mama try to handle her special needs boy. He was screaming and carrying on, and I, being some distance away loading my children into our car, glanced over, just on the off chance that something was amiss and intervention was needed. I saw her speaking softly but firmly to him, trying to convince him of whatever she wanted him to do, probably just to walk to the car. As his tantrum swelled, she hardened her face with determination and strength, and swept him up off his feet, trying to control his body that is getting too big for her arms. She held him like a baby and walked with purpose across the field to her car. My heart was moved watching this mama. I would never want her to think I was gawking, but I was far enough away that I let my eyes fix on them for a moment. But soon my vision was clouded with tears. Oh, my heart aches for this mama. When she drops her son off every day, he doesn’t want to stay and has a tantrum. But then when she arrives to pick him up, he doesn’t want to leave and has a tantrum. And she drags him to the car. I don’t know what her son has, but there is a clear communication barrier — he’s locked inside himself for some reason.

Another sweet little girl in Sophie’s class is also three, and she can’t walk or talk. She’s learning to use a walker, currently. I see her mommy carry her into the school each day and set her in her wagon so that she can go to her classroom. She always has a smile on her face, but I wonder what her heart must feel as she watches all the other children walk into school with their mommies.

Just this week, a friend at church was telling me about a coworker whose daughter has developmental disabilities. She spoke of how this mommy struggles, often feeling so alone. She doesn’t have a support system.

Of my six closest friends in college, 3 of us, that’s 50%, have children with special needs. What are the odds?

And there are so many other mommies who bear this load, and loads much heavier than mine, too.

My heart aches for these mommies.

It’s not pity I feel. No, just the ache that comes as we see the talons of sin and brokenness digging into our children’s lives.

I know the fear, the anguish, the rage that can overwhelm the soul of such a mommy. Because I am one of them. Being a mommy of littles is tough, even without the compounding weight of a special needs child. I am even more aware of this weight now that I have two children, one of which is developmentally typical. I don’t fear for Micah’s future. I don’t worry in the same way over how he will make friends and how his peers will treat him. Maybe that’s silly, because I can’t see the future, and his road could be rougher than his sissy’s. Regardless of the evident or hidden obstacles in our children’s lives, we are commanded not to worry. Still, there’s just not the same ache in my heart over Micah’s sweet life. My heart aches for other mommies who bear this load with me. It’s not an ache I can explain. I just know it because I feel it in my own heart for my own sweet girl with an “uncertain future.”

Us mommies with the special needs kiddos just want them to be loved and valued, treated with the dignity and respect that any other child is due. Sophie is SO blessed to be surrounded by people who do love her in this way. She has an extended family and an entire church family who adore her, pray for her, and cheer along side our family. What a precious gift. If you are part of our extended family or this church family, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for always treating my little girl as the treasure that she is.

So I guess part of my ache for these other mommies is because I wonder, is there anyone cheering their family on? Is there anyone loving on their special little ones? When they feel that sadness creeping in as they see the differences of their child’s life, do they have a friend to cry with? Do they have the love of Jesus helping them carry this load?

Maybe this is the point of Sophie’s journey for me. I have joined the ranks of a very special group of mommies.

I applaud these mommies.

I want to remind them, “Sweet mama, you were chosen for this child. You do have what it takes. Keep going!”

There are so many days where it feels as if we don’t have what it takes, even when our children are developmentally typical. But day after day we make it happen. Because we’re mommies, and that’s what we do to provide the best for our kiddos. And it’s hard. But there’s no other option. So we trust the Lord, and we move forward, one day at a time. I can face tomorrow because my feet are firmly rooted in God’s truth. Because I know that no matter what Sophie’s life does look like, her future is secure. Her little heart belongs to Jesus. I trust in his plans for her future. And I take joy in each moment of her life.

If you are reading this and you are a mommy with a special little one, I want you to know with all my heart that it is going to be ok. Mommies, I have bled with you. I have felt your pain. But Jesus is my peace. I know that Jesus loves Sophie even more than I do. Jesus loves you and he loves your sweet little sons and daughters. He has GOOD plans. You can trust him with their little lives. He is and will be good. He has chosen you, mommy, to raise this little child, because he knows that you DO have what it takes when you put your faith in him. You CAN do this. And if you need a friend to cheer you on, you’ve got one in me.

If you know someone who needs this encouragement, please consider sharing my blog with them. My heart is for these mommies.

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