Life After the Trial

Oh, beautiful cherry blossom tree. You do not hide your condition. The winter has taken its toll on your beauty. On your branches. On your shape. On your structure.

The broken branches strewn about the ground. The sharp, ruggedness of the fracture, left on your trunk. Your dead leaves scattered around your base.

But, yet, God’s work in you is not over after the harsh winter. No.

Fall came and went. Your leaves changed. Dried up. Fell to the ground. The wind played a game of havoc on you.

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And, then the cold of winter came and finished off what life was left on you.

branch and leaves

But, deep inside, underground in your roots and in the marrow of your branches, life remained.

God protected and nourished that life deep within you all through the brokenness of the winter.

And now, in all your glory, you blossom your purpose, your fruit, your God-given beauty. Life is emerging on each branch. In each bulge brimming with life. In each blossom, opening for all to see. In each branch, stretching out further than the season before. You show your healing. Your life.

blooming cherry tree

Through the trial of the winter, the tree remained. Through the harsh reality the tree faced, the Creator’s plan never changed.

Winter still holds on. The bitter cold of the night still remains. The frost still appears each morning. The temperature and shorter days still threaten the growth of the tree. Yet, the Creator’s plan remains.

The evidence of the plan is seen in the tree: new life, new growth, new beauty.

cherry blossoms

Are you looking for the evidence of the Creator’s plan in your life? Even in the trial, the evidence is there. Sometimes it’s deep within. Like the sturdy roots of the cherry blossom tree, holding it in place, securing it through another trial. Yes, the evidence is there, Dear One.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

 

Big Feelings and the Truth that Will Set You Free

Emotions in children are obvious. They do little to mask their feelings. They are unaccustomed to reigning in their emotions. Watch a tired, hungry toddler try to cope with a change in plans, and you won’t be guessing what he/she is feeling.

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Somewhere along the lines some of us were left alone in those big feelings and then those feelings began to loom over us like giants. It began to feel like if we let the emotions be fully experienced we may get stuck in them, therefore those feelings became scary.

In learning about and healing from anxiety, I was faced with my own fear of feelings. I literally had no idea this was a problem. I was fully aware of my fear of heights, small spaces, and impromptu public speaking. But, a fear of feelings?

I first noticed some patterns in my daughters. One was beginning to “act tough” in certain emotional situations. The other was “freezing” in other emotional situations. Getting curious, I had to look at my own tendency to deny certain feelings when they came up, even if my family asked me, “Are you okay?” This denial of my feelings sent the message, “certain feelings are scary and should be avoided”.   I noticed my tendency to harden when people around me began to experience big emotions.

During this period of reflection, I was listening to a podcast (Anatomy of Marriage) in which a woman kept repeating the phrase, “A feeling is not truth. Just because I am feeling it, doesn’t mean it’s true”.

Something about that resonated with me and I wanted to apply it to my life.

Here’s what I found:

  • Just because I am feeling afraid, doesn’t mean I am weak.
  • Just because I am feeling overwhelmed, doesn’t mean I am alone.
  • Just because I am feeling dumb, doesn’t mean I can’t learn.
  • Just because I am feeling sad, doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless.
  • Just because I am feeling embarrassed, doesn’t mean I am unworthy.

In my search, I am drawn to the Psalms in the Bible. David did not run from his big feelings. I can read an entire Psalm of David in less than a minute and read about feelings of despair, fear, hopelessness, joy, hope, peace, and strength all within one Psalm. David doesn’t deny his feelings. He doesn’t shame himself for his feelings. He doesn’t cast blame.  I notice a lot labeling of his feelings, vulnerably speaking his feelings to God, and seeking God for help.

I have to imagine there were times when David feared being stuck in an emotion such as sadness or fear. But, he kept the process going of taking his emotions to the Lord. He moved through the big feelings because he brought them to the light…to the Lord.

Friend, are you hurting today? Are you facing a scary situation? Are you feeling stuck? Might I encourage you, that they are just feelings. It may feel really scary and dark, but there is Truth that is real. There is Truth that heals. There is Truth that will set you free. And that’s the truth.

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Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32

Complicated Contradiction

Mothers' day

When you are involved on any side of adoption there seems to be this complicated contradiction. The joy is unbelievable. Yet, the pain is unbearable at times. Each person involved experiences it. There can’t be adoption without loss. Yet, there can’t be adoption without gain. The biological family experiences it. The adoptive family expriences it. And the adopted child experiences it.

The contradiction between the loss and gain of adoption. The loss, the gain.
The bittersweet, the beautiful.
The loss. She lost her baby. My girl lost her connection of 9 months. I lost my chance to carry my child.
The gain. She gained the family she desired for her baby. My girls gained a family to grow in. I gained my purpose.
Both times we brought home our babies I felt caught. Caught between imagining the sorrow of their birth families and living the joy of having a precious baby in my arms to hold. Knowing my gain meant another woman’s loss. Knowing my loss meant a shattering in my child’s life. Knowing my child’s gain meant turmoil they couldn’t possibbly understand. Knowing my child’s loss leaves an emptiness I can do nothing about in my own strength.

Each time my baby cried, I wondered, I still wonder, are they crying fresh tears or are they lingering tears of the life they once knew. The first season of their life. The season their hearts remember, even though their minds do not.

The bitter with the sweet.

The trauma with the healing.

The loss with the gain.

The shattered with the reconciled.

What Satan meant for destruction, God used for His glory.

Dear One, I know Mother’s Day or any holiday for that matter can be painful. It’s supposed to be one way, yet you look at your life and it’s so far from what is “supposed to be”. Can you ask God to show you His glory? Right in the midst of messy? Right in the midst of the broken? Lord, show us your glory. Reveal to us Your sweet in our bitter. More of you, Lord, Less of me. 

Attaching

My child doesn’t trust me. My child doesn’t trust me. My child doesn’t trust me. The words haunt me. Torment me. Cause an unending grief.

My child whom I gazed at all hours of the day and night as a newborn. My child who cried for hours and hours each night in my arms. My child who stole my heart from the moment I heard of her existence. My child who captivates my attention with her many gifts and talents. My child who serves her family.

My child was wounded before ever making her presence known on this earth. My child’s heart and brain were told this world isn’t safe. My child’s fight or flight response was on alert when she should have been experiencing the safest place she will ever know.

My child lost innocence too soon. My child faced toxins too soon. My child experienced stress too soon.

But, my Father is faithful. My Father is gracious. My Father is healer. My Father is hope. My Father is sovereign. My Father is true. My Father is righteous. My Father is all-knowing. My Father is all-seeing.

My child doesn’t trust. My child doesn’t trust. My child doesn’t trust…yet.

Looking in my child’s eyes each time we speak. Carving out one on one time, devoted to her. Refusing to engage in arguments. Seeking to understand her past and present. Becoming a consistently safe, available person in her life. Verbally and physically reminding her that NOTHING can separate her from my love. Praying daily to my Creator…her Creator.

My child comes to me. My child opens up to me. My child seeks me in times of trouble and joy.

My Father listens. My Father heals. My Father brings unity. My Father holds all things together and

my Father has not and will not ever leave my family. Amen.

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What I Learned in November

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

outreach path

What We Are Reading in Our Homeschool:

The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos
The Story of the World Volume 1
The Aesop for Children by Milo Winter
Indescribable: 100 Devotions abut God and Science by Louie Giglio
A Tree For Peter by Kate Seredy
Tree in the Trail by Holling C. Holling
What I Am Reading or Listening To:
20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge
Joni by Joni Erickson Tada
The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller
Sacred Parenting by Gary L. Thomas
The Honestly Adoption Podcast
Learning in November:
  • Eye Contact
Just simply looking my children in the eye and requiring them to look me in the eye when we are having a conversation is bringing about healing and connection. This past month, my husband and I learned that some of the struggles we are facing as a family are due to a need to improve attachment for our children. A parent coach we are working with explained how eye contact conveys and builds trust. Our goal is to not talk to our children unless we are looking them in the eye. The other half of that, is requiring them to also look us in the eye when they speak to us. This requirement initially brought about frustration for our kids at times when we told them, “I am sorry, I cannot hear you,” whenever they forgot to look us in the eye. But, as time has gone on, the frustration is gone and we are each reminding each other of our goal to connect through eye contact.
The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. Matthew 6:22
  • Jumping on the Trampoline

Another piece of learning the parent coach is helping us to understand has to do with our children’s brains. Due to our children’s unique beginning in this world, their amygdala is quite sensitive. We are learning it’s like an overly sensitive smoke alarm, constantly being on alert. The amygdala is responsible for the perception of emotions. One way to help activate the front portion of the brain and build on logic and problem solving is simply jumping on a trampoline. This brain learning is so exciting and it’s really another chance to be amazed and in awe of our Creator. He truly is a master creator, full of creativity, wisdom, and love.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

 

  • Sharing in Grief Brings Healing

About a year ago, our oldest daughter came to me and asked, “Mom, aren’t you sad sometimes that you never got to be pregnant and have a baby?” I thought for a minute and my mind immediately went to the idea of not having my children as my children. I looked her in the eye and replied, “No, I am so thankful for the children I have. If it happened any other way, I would not have you two!” But recently I began thinking about her question once more. I started to see it as an invitation from my daughter to share in her grief. Of course, in an ideal world, she could have stayed with her biological parents. They would have been healthy enough to care for her and she never would have had to suffer separation from them. But, that is not what happened. So, she has grief. My new response to her question is now, “Yes, I am sad I didn’t get to be pregnant with you. I am sad I didn’t get to know you in my own womb. I am sad I didn’t get to feed you healthy foods. I am sad I didn’t get to protect you from stress and other toxins you had to face in the womb. Yes, I am sad.” We cry and hug and then our bond is more pure, closer, filled with more trust. Thank you, God!

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4. 

 

What have you been learning this month? What is the Lord doing in your life?

 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

 

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Wrestling Through the Proof

The overwhelming emotion from the night before is lighter. Sleep has a way of softening us. Meeting eyes. Last nights eyes filled with anger, self-preservation, and hurt are softer after a night of sleep, now gentler, able to see what is truly in front of her.

orange fall tree

We hug, an embrace neither of us want to let go. I hold tighter. Praying the love from my heart will penetrate her‘s. Fill her emptiness. Fill the hurt places. Fill the untrusting places. I won’t be the first to let go. This time she’ll leave my embrace confident of my love. Last night’s hurting words just a memory. A forgiven memory. No longer stinging but lingering. Longing for healing.

Oh, girl, that you would know the depth of my love. That you would know the tears cried. That you would know the prayers uttered on your behalf. That you would know the longing for you before you even existed. That you would know that what you seek from me will never be enough. That it’s the eternal love of the Father that your soul is longing for.

Whether adopted at birth or later into childhood, it seems that children must wrestle with accepting the love of their adoptive parents. They must learn to trust. It’s not a given but instead it’s a working out, a wrestle to determine that although their basic needs were not met by the ones who were supposed to meet those needs, nonetheless, their needs are being provided for.

Our children have never once lived a day on this earth without their needs being met. They have always had enough. Enough food, enough water, enough warmth, enough cleanliness. When their little cries were heard, their needs were met.

Yet, there is a need. A need to prove they are safe. A need to prove their family can be trusted. A need to prove they have enough.

It’s the same wrestling I have done for years with the Lord.

He tells me, “He is the bread of life and if I just come to Him, I will not be hungry.” John 6:35. And my response is, “Prove it.”

He tells me, “You were chosen by me before the creation of the world.” Ephesians 1:4. My response is, “Prove it.”

He tells me, “I loved you first, even while you were still sinning.” Romans 5:8 and 1 John 4:19. And, again, my response is, “Prove it.”

Finally, I feel her shoulders start to drop, pull back slightly. I hold on. And then take a step back, look her in the eye and plead, “Just trust me. I am for you. My love is never-ending.”

Just as Jesus through His Word and through His Spirit pleads with me, reminds me, brings me back to, “Just trust me. Trust me. I am for you, not against you. Just trust me.”

jeff, me and mikayla at lake chelan

 

Where Was God in All of This – Part III

Years went by and I continued on with my rare disease of aHUS (Where Was God in All of This–Part I). Each birthday that passed, I thanked God for another year. I would soon learn that many with my disease had not been so fortunate.

Around 2013, 12 years after my original diagnosis, my kidneys began a further slow decline. The doctor could offer no specific reason for the decline, just that my kidney had been suffering a long time and they were probably beginning to tire out. We decided our goal would be to avoid dialysis so I should begin testing for a future kidney transplant.

I left that appointment and at least 5 more future appointments in denial but also compliant to my doctor’s wishes.

I began the testing process at the UW Medical Center in Seattle. I looked at each step along the way as something I was just doing “just in case” the time came. In my mind, I wasn’t really going to have a transplant. God would spare me from that. After all, He had kept me for the last 12 years.

When I finally met with the nephrologist (kidney specialist) at the transplant clinic, my delusion came crashing down. “You are now wavering between 13 and 20% and most of the time closer to the 13% range. We don’t see any reason to wait to do the surgery. You are healthy, aside from your kidney disease, so this is the time to do it.”

I left that appointment shaking. In fact, much of the time over the next few months, I found myself shaking.

My loving brother-in-law endured all of the necessary testing and would be my donor. We were all set in January 2015. A date was chosen, plans were made, and peace flooded my heart.

But, God…Doctors, nurses, coordinators, myself, my family, my brother-in-law, his family, our employers…all of us here on earth put our hope and plans on that transplant date. But, God…(Read about His plan here: (A Welcome Interruption)

In  Genesis 22:1-19, one of the ultimate “But, God “stories is told. Abraham is asked by God to sacrifice his beloved, long-awaited for son, Isaac. Abraham is given specific instruction on where to go and what to do. I imagine Abraham shaking as he prepared for the journey they would take up the mountain to the place of the sacrifice. I imagine him hesitating at times, waiting for God to intervene. Whatever fear or uncertainty Abraham faced, he didn’t allow it to deter him from his obedience to God. He traveled the 50 miles to the appointed spot, without knowing what the next step would be. Abraham proceeded just as God directed him, without knowing how it would all turn out.

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In the end, just as Abraham raised the knife to Isaac, the Lord sent an angel who called out to Abraham to, “Stop!” Can you imagine the relief? But, again, Abraham didn’t know what would follow. But, again, his trust was in God. He would continue to obey each step as God led.

Ultimately, God spared Isaac and now we have the beautiful example of Abraham’s trust in God to encourage us to obey each step without knowing what will happen next.

When my transplant was cancelled, I had no idea what God intended. Was it just a delay? Was he going to lead me to dialysis?

My Abraham/Isaac moment came when my transplant was cancelled and then through some research online, I discovered a medication called Soliris (Eculizumab). The Lord led me to a Facebook group for people with aHUS. Having never met anyone face-to-face with aHUS, I was so excited to connect with people who shared the same disease. I learned that almost all of them received Soliris, a bi-weekly infusion that kept the disease under control. Many of them experienced increased kidney function through the use of the medication.

Lord, is this from you? Is this medication like the ram you provided for Abraham to sacrifice rather than sacrificing his son?

Each step that followed was directed from the Lord. I walked forward with my trust in God.

If this is your plan, Lord, you will provide a doctor in my area with knowledge about this medication. Through the aHUS Facebook group, I discovered there was a doctor just 30 miles from here that currently provided care for 2 other patients with aHUS and prescribed Soliris for them.

If this is your plan, Lord, you will make a way for me to continue to homeschool, while receiving this medication. Part way through my meeting with the doctor, he asked me if I knew that he had another location where he sees patients. I discovered his other location was exactly 3 miles from my home and I could receive the medication there!

If this is your plan, Lord, the side effects from the medication will be tolerable so I can continue in my calling to teach and parent my girls. Even during the very first infusion, I felt no different during or after the treatment. No negative side effects at all. Praise God. My girls come with me to my infusion. We work on school work at the clinic and finish at home.

Why did the Lord lead me all the way up to the week before my scheduled transplant only to cancel it?

Why did the Lord lead Abraham all the way up the mountain, only to cancel the sacrifice of Isaac and provide a lamb instead?

When the angel of the Lord stopped Abraham up on that mountain, He said, “Now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

If the Lord had stopped my transplant when I was still in the fearful, denial, shaking stage, He would not have known my trust in Him. I would not have known my trust in Him. But, in walking each step, I loosened my grasp on my life and began to hold it out to the Lord. Finally, I was at peace with what the Lord called me to do, fully lay my life in His hands. That’s when He could call out, “Stop! Do not continue! I see your trust. I have a different plan!”

And, I could reply, “Here I am! I am yours, Lord. Finally, my life is yours!”

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Read more about my aHUS journey: Where Was God in All of This–Part I and Where Was God in All of This–Part II