After the Battle

The custody battle that has occupied too much mental, physical, emotional and financial resource for two years is finally over. My oldest is now living and going to school in London.

Amazingly, this is actually almost okay. Relatively okay.

I’m not thrilled, but here is the thinking:

– I still unfortunately suspect the motives of any father who would take an eleven year old away from three younger siblings, but he has been a painfully critical father for all those elevent years. Let him parent. We shall see.

– There are a lot of responsibilities to go along with parenting a child, and a nearly-teenaged one more so. It looks easier than it is. Not all of those responsibilities are immediately apparent. What happens when there isn’t anyone or anywhere to take a vacation from those responsibilities, which might be strongly desired for someone who has never been a full-time parent – what then? We shall see.

– God loves, adores and takes wonderful care of this child and has ever since she was the size of a grain of rice. He has not stopped. While I do not pretend to understand the liberal court craziness that led to this decision, it is a decision that was from the hand of God and I would not for the world step out of His grace or His plan. This part is painful, but sometimes He does that. Better to see what the longer term vision is, because it will be tons better than anything I could have come up with.

– Truth? I would not change a single thing – the comments of our friends and family validate that our family is healthy and strong and much loved, and we are parenting our little flock with all the care, love and service required from good parental stewards. So the court did not judge by the same standards – this isn’t a surprise, is it! This is the same structure that unleashed OJ isn’t it! Whose opinion am I really concerned about? Not any judge!

– Besides, hope does not disappoint and I know there is more to this story that I can’t see. I do not think for one minute that my God would have me go through this – and my family, and my friends – without honoring the humility it has required, the obedience and the trust. Especially the trust. That was big.

So while I do miss her and her silliness and thinking too much about it can reduce me to tears – go away Accuser, and leave this mama be – I am generally at peace. I have discovered that the compassion that used to terrify me is more accessible now and I can hear or read awful stories without thinking, NOT MY CHILD…no, it isn’t about my child but the right response is to pray for whoever is in the awful story, not take the bait from Satan that it is a sign of impending doom, and move on.

The most liberating things out of all of this are the biggest surprises. The fighting is over – my first husband is daily sending awful, vicious, gloating emails and they just flow past me. (Thank you Lord). The fighting is over! He can’t pick any more fights – and we don’t have to rise to all this bait! (Thank you Lord). My worst mama nightmare is realized in a much less awful form than I had feared – and I’m walking this out and actually, pretty darned okay. It could have been so much worse. THIS is manageable. (Thank you Lord). I have learned how to fight, I have realized part of my calling in life is to be a warrior even though I’m a woman, and I am perfectly capable of any fight that comes my way but only because my God is able. I just sort of have to turn up. (thank you Lord, that one especially is a really good deal).

And…we are looking at the positives. That my daughter is attending a very swanky British private school that I am not paying for, and this is a huge experience for any kid especially an American one. That she has the opportunity to be very close to her father, if she chooses, or she can evaluate for herself who and what he is, without my influencing even unintentionally. She seems to be doing okay. We are going to let her sit for a while – let’s see how this plays out.

In the UK, she can decide at age 12 what she wants to do and the courts will honor it. She should have a pretty good idea by then, and we will honor what she wants too. I am letting her be a little more than I’d like but in the interest of letting this play out – her father needs to learn the same as I did – how you handle the little issues, and the big ones, how you handle the day-to-day drama of raising a child, what you do when you want to go out or be quiet or read in peace but you have a child and it just isn’t going to work that way.

If he is a different person than I think – this will work out great, and he will have a good relationship with her. That is a super outcome.

If he is the same person that I think – it will get old, fast. That’s okay too.

But the best part of all of this – I am not in control and there is not one single thing I have to do right now except trust. No fights. No worrying. No fear. Just trust. Amen and Selah.

He Has Not Retired

I am just wrapping up Ecclesiastes in my brave ventur into the Old Testament.

It is thrilling to read. Amazing things happen every few pages.

Everyone – even those who haven’t cracked a Bible in years – know about Moses (all those plagues) and Joseph (dream interpretation) and Daniel (lion bait). We know Joshua marched around a fortified city and its walls fell, we know Gideon and his fleece signs.

Most of us who are Believers accept and expect miracles in the New Testament too, where Jesus does amazing things with bread and fish and demons and sickness. We get excited about walking on water. We even go as far as understanding that Paul got busted out of jail, and people who didn’t even have a basic education were suddenly fluent in dozens of languages.

Two thousand years ago, really neato stuff happened.

Problem is, so many think God has somehow retired. That He closed up the miracle shop and now He just does some healings and the occasional surprise check in the mail when you need it.

Do we forget why all those things are called promises?

It means if it was true for Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Jehosephat, Abraham, Ruth, Esther, Sarah, Joshua, Paul and the centurion with amazing faith – it is also true for every one of us.

So why don’t we see more of those kinds of things happening?

First of all – I think we do – but with science and technology, we may be slower to recognize them. Ask a missionary in a third world country if they have seen miracles, and I suspect many of them would say they have. We perform everyday magic with our advances, and we’re a little jaded. But it only takes one trip to the ER where a relative is mysteriously healed, or one narrow miss, and we question our science and our technology and remember Who is in control.

So if we are told over and over that our God is the same – then the difference must be us. And why is that?

We as a generation have a habit of putting our faith in other things. We take sick children to the doctor and have faith they will be cured. We trust Google to find our answers.

A few weeks ago, my four year old daughter had a sudden sharp stomach ache and a spiked fever of 103. We took her to the doctor who had no answers – all her tests showed up clear. The hospital couldn’t tell us anything either, even after the MRI. She looked fine, she tested fine and yet she was screaming with a scary fever. Our deacon showed up and annointed her with oil and instantly – literally – her fever left and she went tothe bathroom – after which she was fine.

Our custody hearing finished up with the opposing side’s lawyer struggling to complete a sentence and gulping for water every few words. We still don’t know the result, but I know my God was there and he was doing things in my favor.

And today – here in NYC – the earthquake. No one is hurt, and yet the earth shook. Do we have any doubts about Who is in charge?

I think what has changed is simply our faith. We don’t expect or look for miracles as much as our long ago ancestors. We aren’t as easily amazed, and we’re too quick to find a ‘rational’ explanation.

I’m still fine tuning my inner senses on this – but I have seen enough to know: my God hasn’t retired. He’s still very busy. And he is everywhere. So it is up to us – do we move in the mundane, and forget Him, or do we decide instead to move in the miraculous? And take Him at His Word?

Isaiah 40 – Read It Again, This Time as a Mother

How many Christians know Isaiah 40, or at least parts of it, without even having to look it up?

This part especially:

30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Appears in how many of our worship and praise songs. Especially the eagles part. We like that.

There’s some other stuff that had not caught my eye or my heart until today, that I think bears reading again (and again and again) if you are a mother.

It’s scary to be a mother. I work 90 minutes away from my children and I have recently realized this is not by accident – yes of course I took the job because I was 100% certain this is where God was sending me, although I have no idea why. Partly, now I see, is that I’ve been very controlling and anxious over my children’s safety. They are small. Yet where was I when he hung the stars? What can I do, even in the same room, to keep them safe? Read Job once and you realize – nothing.

So that means I have to trust, which is an ongoing and recurring thing in my mama heart, and I’m learning so painfully slowly. But I am learning. I don’t have to and I should not feel that I must keep those babies safe. Do you know what is convincing me of this more than any other day? Look at this:

11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

That’s the NIV translation. My children are carried in his arms, close to his heart. That is a safer place than I could ever give them. I have been reminding myself, almost daily, that I am a stewared of these little lives that I love so much, but they are not my possessions. They are HIS and that is how they will grow and thrive. He has plans to prosper them, to give them a future and a hope. Plans to prosper them and not harm them.

Just yesterday I began to talk to my oldest about warfare. She’s the one in the middle of the custody drama, and I have see the way Satan is answering my total trust in God for our custody battle. He is attacking her. Mean things have been coming out of her mouth, about herself and about others, that I know are not from her heart.

So I sat her down – after disciplining her for very loud, yelling back-talk – and asked her about her thoughts. She insisted they were her own. So I explained to her – our enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy. Part of destroy is all the filthy lies that try to teach us we are not talented, we are fat, we are bad, we are incapable and unworthy. Already my precious baby has felt the “slings and arrows”, the fiery darts.

She really did not know Satan could invade her pretty little head with lies that sound like her voice. You know what, at her age, I did not either and that accounts for a lot of pain.

The other Good News for Mamas is the last bit, that He gently leads those with young.

How vulnerable are we when we are so attached, so utterly amazed with our wonderful children and so terrified for their safety and well-being. How much we need wisdom and discernment, not just for them but for ourselves. We will be led, and it will be gently. Awesome! I’m such a rebel in my flesh, that settled right over me light a snuggly blanket and I thought, wonderful, I need all the wisdom and help I can get and feeding it to me gently will make sure I receive it too.

For people like me who were not raised in a particularly Evangelical or Charismatic church, the idea of warfare and battling it out is pretty radical. So I’m a newbie. But that made me notice this part too:

2 “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her,
That her warfare is ended,
That her iniquity is pardoned;
For she has received from the Lord’s hand
Double for all her sins.”

When I see “her” in a passage that God has called to my attention repeatedly (this chapter in Isaiah showed up in not one but three different places the last two days, I think I’m supposed to be looking here!) it makes me take notice. This is the NKJV (the NIV has “hard service” for warfare and that is pretty interesting to think about too).

Notice it says “is ended”. Not “will be”, not “might be”. This not hang in there and see what happens. This is rest, trust – your battle is done. I know I have one more week of court in July, so my battle still lies in part a head of me – so my reading of this is more about what God also said to Jehosephat (and directed me to last time we were heading to court).

12 O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.”

13 Now all Judah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children, stood before the Lord.

They were about to be attacked by a much stronger enemy, and Jehosephat wisely remembered the promise from God, that He would defend and protect his people if they turned to Him, so that is precisely what Jehosephat did – no panic, no stress, just cry out to God for help. Notice it’s not just the warriors in the line of fire, it is all the people including their precious children. And here is what God told him:

“Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

That’s what I think this passage means for us as well. The battle is not ours, but God’s. That idea of being thankful for the victory before the actual fray. If God is battling for you, is there really any question about the outcome?

So if God is protecting your children, it is time to trust. Even when you have to battle whatever is troubling you – trust and understand. He is your strength, your helper and your glorious sword and he will make your enemies flee – you will trample on their high places.

I think I have been guilty of discounting this in my own life, worried my choices in my first marriage would mean I somehow got left out of the battle help and other good things. But right there it is, God is over it and I should be too, and it is really well and truly time to trust.

Micro Manager

Most of the time, being micro-managed is a very bad thing. I have never worked well for managers who hover or worse, forcefully encourage me to adopt their methods and means to an end. I like better: there’s the galaxy, padowan, go to it.

Except when I’m wrestling through a very big trial, and then I appreciate the in-depth, detailed knowledge and insight my Holy Father has into my world. Tiniest details. I can’t grasp a mind big enough to hold the personal data I can’t keep up with myself times the billions of individuals in the world (and that is assuming we are it, for all I know He has dozens or more of these worlds to keep up with).

I am learning the warfare value of memorized scriptures. I can quote my handful of favorites back at the Enemy when he’s trying to do his thing and he goes away. But the arsenal isn’t very big yet. I am reading, voraciously, but memorizing is a time-investment and I will have to work on it the rest of my life.

So right in the middle of my court trial, I had one of the Christian stations on in the background during the night. My brain is so wired, our tv makes great white noise to drown out the screaming so that I can sleep. And then right in the middle of the night, a preacher (Baptist, definitely – it was a wild sermon) was shouting “If God is for you, who can be against you!” at least twenty times. Changing the emphasis…if GOD is for you…if God is FOR you…if God is for YOU…loved it. This is one of the few big guns in my arsenal – Romans 8. I love every word of it.

And earlier that same evening, same channel, different Baptist…the story of Jehosephat. Which I had been led to only a few weeks before in 2 Chronicles. Jehosephat who only had to show up and sing. It’s not your battle, Jehosephat. It’s not my battle either. I had been doubting how much I was supposed to do and then Jehosephat came up again.

I’m amazed at a God who goes to this much trouble to uplift a struggling daughter: ensuring two separate preachers on the one Christian channel I regularly watch would have sermons on, time them when I was awake (one in the middle of the night!), referencing scriptures I would easily recognize and have read during this particular ordeal, and play them on the very night I was agonizing about what I needed to do.

Amazing!

I’m sure I’m not the only believer who enjoyed or needed those words but still, powerful confirmation.

Here is what I learned from this micro-management moment between me and my loving Father God: sometimes I have to fight, but He is always there. I will be given as much reassurance as I need and I should not be so reserved about asking for it. He doesn’t want me to look at them, those I’m fighting. He wants me to look at Him. It will not be a matter of uncertainty, of what do I do now – it will be a matter of I am YOUR GOD and my part is obey Him and praise.

I can do that. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Take the Cup Away

This Easter – as Lent ends – I’m learning a couple of new things, as usual, not the easy way.

First of all, I haven’t regretted leaving my old job for one second but…the new job feels a little smaller in some ways even though financially it is a lot better place to be. My title isn’t quite as cute. I’m not sitting around the big table (the big table is smaller, frankly). But the people are a lot nicer and I’m a lot saner even with the mess they hired me to clean up.

So it’s an ego check. My ego is a naughty secret – it’s huge if I let it get that way. I am proud of my PhD – and sometimes that can turn into prideful. I was very proud of my previous leadership role – and that can get prideful if I’m not careful. Vigilant.

There’s not much chance I’m going to get prideful about this job. I have to watch for an attack of the smuggins about my finances and not go crazy, forgetting my stewardship responsibilities. I think after years of lack, I’m probably less susceptible to that type of slippage – which is exactly why I have to be extra careful. The hits will come from places I don’t expect them.

At the same time, I have been listening to family, friends, clergy fretting about Courtroom Drama Part II, starting next week.

This is the same ordeal that I had total certainty and peace about.

Then the clergy told me I needed a lawyer. And my parents. My husband was the only one saying, no, I don’t think you do. You got this. (well, not *me* but it can be handled without the legal help).

So I thought about that old joke – the guy in the flood – police car, row boat and helicopter come to rescue him…he says no he’s waiting for God. He dies, and gets mad at God…God says, I sent you a car, a boat and a helicopter, what do you want?

I wondered if this was my cop car and my boat and I didn’t want to send the helicopter away too.

So we tried, and I prayed, frantically – don’t let this happen if it isn’t what You want. So we met with the lawyer (nice guy, especially for a lawyer), we discussed fees, we made a plan. Then the judge refused to give us the delay we needed to work with his schedule.

So we don’t have a lawyer, and after a week of working on it – I’m going to have advice, help, planning, strategy…but it’s going to be me versus my demons (with my ex husband sitting there).

I was crushed, but not for the reasons one would expect. I didn’t think I needed a lawyer (if God is for us, who can be against us). I felt pretty confident (you will trample upon their high places). I’m trusting in Someone a LOT more powerful than I am (I am your shield, your mighty deliverer).

I was crushed because in the face of this whispering worry, I didn’t stamp my foot and say GO AWAY, we got this. I let them make me concerned. I should not have done that and I repented bitterly and just…crushed. I knew that I had heard from God but if the Bishop is making noises…well, you see the miter and you doubt, or I did.

Lesson learned: I DO have a prophetic gift, however nervous and self-conscious I feel about it right now. God has blessed me with the gift He wants me to have, not one I picked out of a Gift Catalog. This means I hear from Him, and what He tells me, I need to trust. He’s happy to validate it for me (Thank you Lord) because he knows I’m still a little wimpy and unsure of myself and hesitant to trust…yes, I can really do this in Him. By myself, I’m like a pretty unplugged lamp. No shine. No power. Nothing.

But plugged into my Power Source…I shine. It’s not my light. But I shine.

And so I’m polishing up my weapons, feeling a little pressed for time (all I can find are these five rocks), shaking off the armor that was too heavy anyway (I have to do this the way I’ve done it before, like with the bears and the lions). That giant is big and scary and of course I am very nervous – the stakes are my oldest child who I adore, deeply and dearly. And my God knows exactly what that is about…the worry over your child, and the walking out a terrible ordeal. In comparison, my three days will be a lot easier than His. But He knows what I’m dealing with.

I adore this child of mine, and having her future to bargain for is scary because of how much I love this hard-fought child. But so does my God. He has both of us in the palm of his hand, and we are resting there. Selah.

My Lord, I pray that I will be your witness in the courtroom, that the words of my mouth will reflect Who I belong to, not my feelings or thoughts.

My Lord, I pray that You will show Your mighty favor and presence, giving me strength that I do not have, wisdom that I do not have, words that I do not have.

My Lord, I pray that your will prevails, that my family remains intact, and that I can walk out of there having obeyed and pleased my God, who I serve with gladness and singleness of heart.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done. If You will take this cup from me…please do…but if You won’t, I’ll drink it and trust You.

Send your warrior angels, my Lord and my God and we will fight! Who is like us, a people saved by the Lord? Who can stand against us?

Broken

2 Corinthians 4: 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

My husband has damaged his knee. He is hyperactive, and a superb athlete. But he didn’t injure it doing any of the fairly dangerous things he loves to do (rock climb, ski jumps). He injured it moving oh so slowly training our four year old on the ski slopes.

I have the privilege and the pain of watching God court some one He and I both love dearly. My husband grew up poor, so he relies more than he should on his bank accounts.

He grew up lonely, so he is fiercely independent.

He doesn’t trust people easily.

I am watching as our Father deals with him on these things. For several days, all he could do was weep and mope. I have been on the broken end of this courtship more than once and it is painful. I have been carefully ripped limb from limb, only to be put back together better than new. But the breaking part is awful. Everywhere I have had doubts, mistrust, self-reliance, laziness, pride or a host of other sins, I have been broken and sometimes to my shame more than once.

This is where my husband is right now.

Then he realized he could still coach T-ball, albeit on crutches. He can still play drums in the worship team. He can drive.  The list of “can” is much longer than the list of “can’t”.

And I have watched as a joy I recognize is stealing over him. He’s laughing. He expressed trust that God would walk us through our upcoming court case. He just looks stronger.

There are so many wonderful things about him, that I could never explain to a non-believer my mixed feelings at watching this occur. I know the necessity of the breaking process. Clay jars have to have cracks in them, so the light can shine out. I know the absolute need for pruning, breaking, refining, and what it feels like to be the lump of steel in the forge – between the hammer and the fire – turning into a polished lethal blade.

And so I’m watching my husband have the same experience. I hate it for him, on the one hand, but on the other, I know that he will be immeasurably better for the changes this will cause. WE will be immeasurably better.

And so I am waiting, using this as a wonderful opportunity to adore and serve a man who doesn’t usually sit still long enough for me to do much more than feed him.

Peter had to be broken, suffering anguish when he denied his friend and our Messiah three times, before he was bold enough to proclaim the Gospel and receive the Holy Spirit.

Paul had to be broken, starting with blindness but also with jail, injury and pain, so that he would have the inspiration and grace to write and share and preach as he did.

Jesus himself was broken, not by temptation in the desert as we sometimes are, but by nails and a cross, and sometimes we have to share in that broken, damaged, painful state to participate with Him in the life, the glory, the rising again.

 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Adventure Magnet

Yesterday was my last day at a job I have really loved.

Sure, I frequently wished to dispose of a few of my colleagues in an untidy fashion but it has taught me that I can in fact work quite productively with people I’d rather see as lawn ornaments.

I learned I can work side-by-side with handsome thirty-something chaps and realize my husband is the most adorable of all, which would never have happened in my twenties, or marriage number one.

I stretched my brain a  little and my patience a lot.

I learned how to negotiate from the master of negotiation. I think I taught him a little about being less obvious about it. I learned that it is okay to be tough and a girl at the same time. And I got things my way, a lot.

I learned that my transferable skills are not what I thought they were, they are better than that. I learned that most people can’t do what I can do. I learned that the more I respect what they can do, the more they will do with excellence.

It’s not okay to cry at work, so if you cry a lot, it is time to move.

And that is just what I have done. Monday starts a new adventure.

So today I agreed with the Handsome One that I would go skiing (history of some trauma and drama there). I am the lodge-sitter and snack-dispenser and I have chunks of time to read my Bible and talk to people.

Not today.

Today, Handsome, who is an expert ski bunny, fell over the little one and ripped the patootie out of his knee. Badly. Crying badly. Not his usual thing.

So we had a race-car ride to the little dinky mountain village hospital, then another one home to call Doctor friend, and another race to next big town to see orthopedist and another race to get the MRI. I’ve never seen an MRI.

Considering I just learned some new things about my gifts at the women’s retreat (the same one I did nto want to attend), I stayed right beside him and alternated between admiring the HUGE machine and laying on hands. It was awesome and could only have been more awesome if it had not been a family member in the MRI.

My children were uninjured. Blessing number 1.

My husband will be at home (albeit not in ideal circumstances) so my nanny’s hours aren’t a stress source my first week at work. Blessing number 2, although I’d rather have the knee intact.

All the doctors we needed to find were RIGHT there, even Dr. Friend, who never works on Wednesdays and amazingly was in the office on Wednesday and has an orthopedist right down the hall. Blessing number 3, a big one.

We got all the last appointments of the day. Blessing number 4.

Our friends could take our kids. Amazing Proverbs 31 friend FED them and entertained them and returned them here. BIG blessing number 5. What amazing friends we have.

Husband is sleeping under the influence of three Advil and an exhausting day, having fretted about everything he can’t do for the next couple of months. But he is Polish and I have learned Eastern Europeans do that, it is how they process. By Friday, he will be ready to talk about what he CAN do, not fixate on what he can’t. But for now he is sleeping.

I do not have to be up this late, but my mind is at rest. This is the most amazing of all. We were under attack for the court stuff this week, my husband has a major injury, my job situation is changing and I’m…resting. This is possibly the biggest blessing of all.

Selah. My times are in YOUR hands.