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?

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The Fear Fortress and the Money City

This Lent, I intentionally tackled one of my strongholds (meaning one of the things I couldn’t or wouldn’t let go of to make myself more useful for God) – anxiety over my children. I realized that this was a form of insisting on control, and it was motivated by all the fears and horror I experienced as a victim of domestic violence. Now that I’ve been free from the violence for ten years, wasn’t it time to also let go of the fear that had remained, as an excuse, a crutch and a bad habit?

I am not suggesting that I am 100% of anxiety, but forcing myself to let go of the constant worry surprised me with how easy it was once I was firm with myself. I am convinced that God asked me to do this specifically, because this Easter my daughter refused to go on her access visit and we had to fight to keep her here. Once I was finished being irritated that my former husband had brought his lawyer to a handover, I realized the entire incident had passed with no fear on my part. Amazing and wonderful!

So the other area where I have been working consistently with God is money.

Growing up in a very comfortably affluent family ensured that I had no concept of money, and I never had that intuition of how much money I had, or didn’t have. My first husband had total control over our finances as part of his campaign of terror, so I didn’t learn then either. Second husband grew up poor but earns a large salary now – so he has a very conservative attitude towards money that I have learned to respect and imitate.

But three years ago, my husband lost his job and so he went through a time of extreme money anxiety despite having very healthy savings and a large severance. I didn’t understand his fear but felt anxious myself when he got a great new job, and then since I was also working, decided what he would pay for and left the rest to me. I struggled mightily and just did not have enough money for everything I was supposed to cover.

I am still working on the resulting credit card debts, but they are shrinking more and more every month. I am grateful and thankful that I got myself into limited trouble, but the dollar amount doesn’t matter, it is the attitude behind it.

I used to love to shop, ALL the time. Now that I’m no longer a size 8, I don’t like shopping for me as much but I love to dress my children. I realized part of the issue wasn’t the unfair allocation of expenses, it was also shopping for my children and my inability to keep up with the small change (like work lunches and subway tickets).

I have been blessed with more funds as I’ve learned to take better care of them. I have also learned that God communicates very clearly with me on this one.

There will never be a parking space near the store if I’m on a frivolous errand.

There will be no sales if I am looking for something I don’t really need or am about to overspend purchasing.

There will be no cute clothing for my kids in the same situation.

If my proposed purchase is okay, there will be a great parking spot, lots of sales and plenty of cute things.

Once, my card didn’t work in the machine when I was on a frivolous errand.

My challenge now is to learn when it is “okay” to get something that maybe isn’t 100% need, but would be helpful to have (I just bought some new work shoes, my one pair of flatties was dying a death and I only have one pair of heels). They were half price. So by waiting I got two shoes for my initial budget I’d allocated for one pair. Thank you God for letting me have some pretty new shoes!

And it isn’t hard to see when He’s giving me the okay to proceed – my Easter dress this year was $4, for example. Once I put back a $12 sale dress that I just didn’t think He was keen on and later the same day I went to a thrift store and bought a much cuter designer dress second-hand for $3. Thank you God, for bargains and for not losing patience with my cluelessness.

It has taken nearly the full three years for me to begin grasping the central teaching and attitude God is working on with me – it isn’t the price of the clothing, or even how much money I have. It is my desire and my motivation for shopping, and my willingness to let Him run my bank accounts, not me. GIVE he will tell me and I’ll think, but that will take a huge chunk from my account. GIVE he will ask me again, and I will do it and then find I have more than enough to complete the time to my next paycheck in security. He doesn’t want me to suffer, he just wants me to treat it like His money and use it wisely.

I was talking to one of my closest friends last night and telling her about the system, and she laughed. She buys very high end things for her kids (eight of them, five still at home who need dressing) – so she can spend $100 on a dress for one daughter. Clearly, stewardship and relying on God’s provision isn’t a struggle for her in the same way. One day I might get where she is, but right now, I’m happy with the parking and sale system.

I grew this Lent, and I’m sure that will mean there are new things to address in the upcoming months.

Other People’s Pain

Driving home from visiting another office, that Stephen Curtis Chapman song about his daughter came on the Christian radio station I like for that stretch of road.

Six months ago, I would have immediately switched the station. But since  it’s Lent, and I’m giving up anxiety about my children, I listened. Of course, that means I listened AND cried.

My fears and anxiety have bordered on pathological – listening to a song about a child who was killed in an awful accident, I was convinced, would endanger my children to the same thing. After all, my kids are sometimes in the driveway (or on planes, Portuguese resorts, by windows or wherever the news story or song placed the doomed child). I would think, not my child, please not my child. Pathological? For sure. Unfounded? Oh yes. And not very compassionate towards the victims or those suffering loss and pain.

It wasn’t just the music or the news, though. Recently, one of the deacons challenged me to step out and not be afraid to minister to other women. That I shouldn’t doubt my ability to reach them. I wondered at the choice of the word “fear” but I think I get it now.

Compassion can be painful. It means opening your old wounds just enough for the other person to see them, and feeling some of their pain too. Listening to music or news stories invites compassion (a little more remote, but the same thing). It’s painful. You experience a little of the pain in the story or song, and then I guess it’s human nature to project that into “what if that happened to me”. Sharing and ministering is painful on a different level – “this has happened to me and I’m going to relive it a little with you”.

But what I noticed was that yes, I did experience some of the pain, but the fear subsided very quickly. My kids were home and safe. Mr. Chapman didn’t write this song to scare parents, he wrote it because he loves his daughter and he trusts God that he will see her again. Mr. Chapman wouldn’t want me or any other parents to be afraid. But I’m sure as a wonderful Christian, he’d like for us to trust God too.

Sunday, one of the young women confided in me that she has seen a dark figure lurking recently. She reaffirmed her faith a couple of weeks ago, and is really marching on the right track.  So much so, that I counseled her – Satan doesn’t like you being on track. You are a formidable woman of faith, and he knows you’re less danger to him broken and scared. So he’s going to bother you. If you weren’t formidable, and dangerous to him, he wouldn’t bother. I thought she should be encouraged – this is a sure sign the plans for her are important, and she has gifts that God plans to use. Plus the strength she will gain from this fight will serve her in later fights.

Aren’t we told we can heal and cast out demons in His name? Well, I told her, you are up to the fight with this demon, just don’t try to do it yourself. Let us help you, let God help you and fight it out. I am so impressed with her. She has come a long way in a few months. Of course Satan is getting antsy.

As I spoke to her, I felt chills up and down my spine. I sensed the warrior angel’s presence – the one I feel when I’m in court fighting for my daughter. He’s a real kick bot angel. He doesn’t mess around. I’m always overwhelmed with the urge to do a primal scream and fight when he’s around. Everything in me knew, this is what I’m supposed to be doing, sharing some of my strength to encourage this woman, who I love dearly, whose suffering was visible and tangible to me.

It didn’t hurt. God was right there with me.

The whole Broken Vessels thing suddenly made sense to me. That’s when the real tears started in the car  – Am I broken enough yet? I yelled at God. I wasn’t mad at him, but I just felt like I’ve had enough. I want my kids to be safe. I have had ten years of fear and anxiety and that’s plenty. I’ve had ten different flavors of stress, so much so that I think I can relate to pretty much anything another woman throws at me.

Broken enough in this case means trusting Him to take care of me, and of them, and venture out into the wilderness of other people’s pain. Yes, it is going to hurt. Yes, I’m probably going to cry from some of it. But I’m not doing this by myself. God is going with me, and he will make me strong enough.

My next thought: look out bad guys, a fierce Mama and a warrior angel are coming after YOU. God help me! And I know, I know, I know He will.