Again, I say… Rejoice

I try to present myself on this site as a real person, with struggles and victories and everything in between that comes with life’s package deal. The hard stuff and major details, I tend to leave out. But today, I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you it’s been a rough day. And here are some details.

Through a series of events too long and confusing to get into, I lost custody of my son. Some of it was because I was accused of child abuse. But I was cleared and not charged with any crime. But the bigger reason is because my mother got temporary custody and refuses to let me see him. And besides the fact that I’ve literally lost the single most important thing in the world to me, the worst part of the whole mess is… I’m innocent.

[By the way… In case anyone out there was thinking to themselves, “They all say they’re innocent,” you should google ‘DCS legal kidnapping.’ I found an entire world of parents out there who have lost their kids to foster care in horrific ways; parents who could literally PROVE their innocence, and still had their children taken away.]

I couldn’t even begin to guess at the number of times I’ve begged God to bring him home, how many times I’ve pleaded with Him to give my mom clarity, or how many tears and restless nights I’ve gone through. With anything, people will tell you that time is a healer. But when you lose a child, it’s the opposite. It’s been a year now since I lost him. And as time goes on, it sinks in more and more that he’s gone. And the more it sinks in, the more it hurts. Some days, I do okay. Other days, he’s all I can think about.

I’ve walked this walk of faith for almost seven years now. And never have I found myself so helpless, or so dependent on God. I never had to trust God with anything as much as I’ve had to trust Him with this. And we’re not talking about some small thing that you just know will work itself out eventually. This is the life of my son. His life. And because of the lies, because of a mom who is as cruel as she is clueless, I’ve lost him.

When I moved back to Knoxville, I met with some ladies from the church and told them the situation. They began to pray that my mom would realize what she was doing and allow me to see him. They prayed his heart would turn to his mother, and that doing so would soften my mom’s heart. But that prayer didn’t sit right with me.

I want him back more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life, and I’d give anything to make it happen. But I still had to pray the hardest thing I’ve ever had to pray, and that’s that his heart would turn towards The Lord. Even if it means never seeing him again. We all belong to God, anyway. So I know that even if I’ve lost him for good, God can never lose him. If I can never get him back, God can bring him back to Him. God honors our faith, and I believe He honors the prayers of righteous mothers. And in knowing that, in trusting Him, I know that goodbye for any length of time will always be temporary. If God pursues my son, because I have prayed and I believe He will, then we will be united on the other side. So until then, I will never say goodbye. Never.

The next hardest thing I ever had to pray was that God would forgive my mother. And then, bless her. I am not afraid to let anyone know that I absolutely, with every fiber of my being, hate my mother. (I’m just keeping it real.) I didn’t know it was possible to hate someone that much. On days like this when I start to miss my son more, it coincides with hate for her. But forgiveness is a choice. You don’t have to feel like you’ve forgiven someone to actually forgive. And it’s hardly ever a done deal right away. I’m okay admitting that I hate my mom because I choose every moment to extend forgiveness. I’ve got a long way to go before I don’t want to throw my laptop on the wall every time she shows up on my news feed, but I forgive her for everything. Still mad as hell… But I forgive her. I am CHOOSING in this moment to forgive. And I’ll have to forgive her again tonight. (If for no other reason, for me. So that I don’t have to deal with anymore.)

The agony is indescribably horrible. I am convinced there’s not a heart in this world that can ever hurt to the level a mother’s heart can. It is a special kind of pain that goes deeper than any other pain ever could. And I am hurting. So. So. Badly. And sometimes the struggle is so overwhelming, I don’t know how I’ll make it through the day. Never mind an entire lifetime.

Still, I thank Him.

I thank God that I am in a desperate place, because out of desperation comes deliverance.

I thank God that He is writing a testimony to turn our stories into His glory, because out of testimony comes redemption.

I thank God that He has shown such incredible love to us, because out of love comes healing.

I thank God that I have been stripped of all human capability and left with no other choice but to trust in Him, because out of trust comes faith.

I thank Him for death; death to self, death to the things of the world, death to the idea that there is no hope. Because out death comes life. And life is found in Jesus Christ.

There is joy to be had in the suffering, because it’s in the middle of our storms and pain that God comes closer. Scripture says He is near to the broken-hearted. He says, “I will never leave you.” When we are lost in complete despair, when we don’t have it in us to take even one more step, He goes to those broken places within us. Those wounds that never healed, your shattered heart, your painful memories, whatever hurts… He’s there. The level of turmoil and pain could never be so deep as to cast a shadow dark enough to hide His light. 

I may or may not ever see my son again. But rest assured for me and you both, we have hope. We can win this battle. Even if we don’t, the war was already fought and won at the cross. So as we go on with our lives and all of its trials, we can rejoice. While you wait for the healing to come, rejoice. While you wait for a rescue, rejoice. While you mourn and grieve, rejoice. Rejoice in the storm where His perfect peace is found. And praise Him.

Again, I say, rejoice.

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Glory to Glory

A while back at work, I bumped into a coworker as I passed by. (We bump into each other A LOT.) She said, “Excuse me?”

My response was simply, “You’re excused.”

This is my usual mantra at work. I’m rude most of the time, making jokes, and throwing ice at my coworkers during downtime. It’s all innocent play, and everyone knows it. But on this particular day, a friend pulled me to the side and asked if everything was okay with me and this other coworker I’d just run into because, as he put it, I sounded serious.

I knew that she knew I was kidding. But just to be sure, I found her in the parking lot after work and I asked her, “You know when I’m mean and stupid, I’m just kidding. Right?”

She said, “Oh, I know. But it would be nice to have an actual conversation once in a while.” Ouch.

I’ll be honest and say that, lately, I have felt a tugging at my heart towards a certain class of ministry that many churches would deem to be inappropriate. And let’s be real… I’m 25 years old. Scripture tells us young people not to be intimidated by those older than us, and not to  believe that we’re too young to serve the Lord. But we’re also told to use wisdom and guidance, and short of the voice of God, there’s no better people to seek that wisdom and guidance from than your elders. So that’s what I’ve been doing. And the resounding theme is, I’m on the right track.

Forget salvation for a second. Because there’s life after salvation, but after salvation comes the rescue. And in that sense, I haven’t been rescued for that long.

I got hurt, and in my nature, the appropriate response to a heart injury is to do something about it. I can speak honestly from my heart when I say I’m never out to get someone back. But I will always look for ways to get back at the situation itself. People speeding get tickets and argue with police. I get a ticket, I skip the cop and go straight to city hall with protest signs. I’m not interested in revenge. I want solutions.

All that said, I’m searching my heart in an effort to really identify my motives. Do I actually see a need? Am I looking to fill that need? Or am I acting out of some weird desire for vengeance NOT at a person, but at the situation? Am I gunning down the gates of hell, or am I painting a picket sign?

I guess the simplest way to put it is this:  I don’t want to hurt in vain.

And who does? I can see why an angry person would be hurt and get back at the person who hurt them. Their reaction, though different from mine, are two fruits off the same tree. We’re hurt, damn it. SOMETHING must be done about it. And Given Godly control and holy wisdom, I’m not sure having that quality about you is a bad thing.

The calling I’ve felt towards this field of ministry, if it is of the Lord (and the certainty in my heart is growing every day), then I also have to respond to the first calling, and that’s to maturity. Tonight, the confirmation came in the form of a verse in Proverbs I didn’t even know was there, and I’ve read my Bible cover to cover. It’s Proverbs 26:18, and it says, “Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, I was only joking!”

I’m not throwing flaming arrows at anyone. Maybe a piece of ice at a coworker once in a while, but it’s innocent. I’m only joking. Right? …Right…? Of course I am, and I’m not necessarily hurting anyone that I’m aware of. But the bigger issue here is that I am quite possibly being called to something that will require a certain level of maturity. And suddenly, I don’t want to joke around anymore. I don’t want to goof off. We all know I’m going to, but most certainly on a much smaller scale, and only when truly appropriate. Because I’m not being called to put away my joy. WE are not called to put away our joy! But we are called to put away childish things. “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”

My best friend told me three years ago, “You are called to be a leader. It’s time you grow up as start acting like it.” I remember her words stinging, but I can see it now coming to fruit. Because the Lord is telling me, “I’m sending you out. But you need to grow up.”

So as we pursue the things of God, and as we respond to callings in our lives, we are quite literally going from glory to glory. Right now, I feel on the edge of His glory. And if I am to come any closer, I will have to put away childish things. This is true for all of us. It’s time to go after the lost. It’s time to pursue God’s heart. It’s time to shut down Facebook, turn off our televisions, put the phones away, and chase Him with everything we are. It’s time for young people to take back their generation.

It’s time to grow up.

Shieldmaiden

When a young girl grows up in backwoods surrounded by trees and rocks and rivers, her heart will run as wild as her feet. With a heart willing to run as far as imagination could go, I believed in my heart that I was a shieldmaiden, a fearless female viking. I spent summers saving my imaginary friends from the snares of enemy lines, rescuing my cat Honeybun and fighting off bad guys with a stick as my sword. I wanted to be like Pocahontas, and so my grandmother made me an Indian dress out of a pillowcase. It looked hideous, but I felt powerful in it; strong and beautiful, like a true warrior princess. When I put the dress on, I would race through the fields to put an end to a vicious war and save the day.

As young girls tend to do, however, I got older. I outgrew my Pocahontas dress and my innocence. And when I was twelve, the abuse began that would go on to destroy any remaining innocence I had. Over time as the abuse continued, more and more of my warrior heart was ripped away. I wanted to save the world, but there was nobody who would save me. Nobody.

I was raised in a church that preached what Steve Fatow calls the “mountain God.” People who believe in the mountain God envision Him to be on a throne atop an inaccessible mountain somewhere far, far away. And to call Him “Father” would conjure up images of our earthly dads. Tradition would give mothers the title of child-raisers, and name fathers as the bread winners, and I would believe that to be the reason why so many of us have a hard time with the idea of God leaving the mountain to be where we are. Dads don’t do that.

You know the verse in Genesis. God said, “Let us make man in our image.” Then goes onto say, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion…” Notice God did not say, let “him.” He specifically said “them,” and in the Hebrew language, Adam’s name comes from “adame,” which means mankind as a whole, men AND women. So, God created Eve in His image as well as Adam. After His likeness, man and woman were made.

We call Him God, our Father. Fathers are strong and silent, and often work behind the scenes to keep his house running. It’s our mothers, then, that we run to when we’re hurt or sick. They’re the ones who take care of us.

Whether a woman has children or not, she carries with her the mothering spirit. Her heart is tender and kind. She fights hard, works harder, and she is willing to meet her grave if it means protecting someone she loves. If we’re to believe that we are made in the image of God, then men are a reflection of His resilience and strength, while women are the reflection of His heart. And the heart of God is tender, loving, merciful, kind…

God our Father has the heart of a mother; who we run to when we’re hurt or sick, or when we’re afraid, who we cry out for with tears in our eyes and skinned knees. We run to her because she is fierce and strong, and because her love for us comes naturally. Women are WARRIORS.

The enemy knows women are soft and tender. And knowing that we were meant to be warriors, he will come after you before you have the chance to realize who and what you are. He exploits the very nature of a woman’s heart in order to hurt her. But in the image of God, we are warrior princesses. And as such, we are the ones who will save those standing at enemy lines. We will rescue those we love, and fight off bad guys with a stick if we have to. You don’t even have to wear a pillowcase to believe you’re a warrior. You just have to get it in your heart that you ARE.

The enemy will do all he can to kill you. He doesn’t want you to know who you are. But may you see yourself for what you really are; a shieldmaiden.

Rainbow-Colored Glasses

From the very beginning, mankind has used the Word of God as a sword of both righteousness and for justification of sin. It had been used to tear down evil societies, and used by those same societies to continue a reign of terror. I don’t believe that even the most naïve believer would deny that. Using the Word for our own agendas is nothing new, either. We’ve all, at some loony point, used it to justify our own sins by highlighting the feel-good verses and completely ignoring the ones that are sending us to hell. And we have perverted the Scriptures to the point where we feel we have the right to persecute and judge others because their hands look dirtier than ours.

I realize the repercussions this post might bring. I’m also certainly aware that a politically correct Bible is often a false doctrine. But… and I say this with as much love as I could muster through typed words on a screen… I don’t believe anymore that we, the Christian body as a whole, got everything right.

Some things are inarguable. Murder, for instance, has very little blur line where one could become confused as to when it’s okay to kill. And while denominations will divide on whether or not it’s okay to drink, most Christians will always agree that absolute drunkenness is wrong. That’s really not debatable. We can also agree, with very little if any uncertainty, that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will guarantee your reservation in hell.

There are issues in society and in life that are bold print, red worded, blatantly and without question, wrong. These things are detestable to the Lord, and our Lord is a God of swift and holy judgment. We can’t argue that anymore than we can argue what color the sky is. Lying, murder, theft, blasphemy, drunkenness… these things are vile to God. And those who take part in these things without repentance will face the wrath of God. I don’t know what the wrath of God will look like. I know hell is hot. I don’t know how hot, but I’m miserable enough in summer that I have no desire to find out.

As a believer, there are two positions I never want to be in. One of them is on the broad path heading to destruction because I partook in the sins of the world, convincing myself I was saved when I still lived in sin. The second position would be at the gate of that broad path, shouting through a megaphone a deadly interpretation of the Word that would draw people in like cattle going to a slaughterhouse. God help me if I’m that person, and I have to face judgment with the blood on my hands of those  people. I’d rather live safely by the words of Abraham Lincoln, “It’s better to sit in silence and be thought a fool than to speak aloud and remove all doubt.”

So please hear my heart, church. Because no one knows for sure, where some things are concerned, what the right answer is. But with your permission to be very blunt, I’ll just say it:  I’m not saying we got it completely wrong. But I’m almost certain we just didn’t get it completely right.

I don’t intend to go deep into the reasoning here. But I would encourage everyone to dig deeper, look closer, and really try to understand why something is wrong, or if it even is. Pray for God to convict your heart where it needs to be convicted, and for His light to shine on any dark corners you’ve left untouched. And because of my own convictions, I sincerely apologize if I have ever used this website for my own agenda, or if I have perverted scripture until it says something the author never intended for it to say. I’m sorry if I have ever made anyone feel condemned because of who they are, because the baseline of simple gospel is this:  We no longer are.

We are accepted. We are forgiven. We are loved. And nothing could ever be more politically correct in God’s kingdom than that.

Okay with Okay

I don’t know if I could tell you when it happened, what caused it, or even why. And I don’t know if it happened all at once, or if it was a slow ascension back up from the pits of hell. I just suddenly realized the agony was gone, and when I opened my eyes, I was back among the living.

I talk a lot about brokenness on here, and about emotions, and the struggles in life that just rock us to our cores. And a big reason for that is, it’s relevant. Everyone has been there, IS there, or is on their way there. One trap we often find ourselves in is that by the time we realize something’s not right, we’re already in a free fall. And we fall because we walk around for too long with our eyes closed.

Something I have wrestled with for years is the voice of God condemning me. Why would He help me with this when I can’t even do that? I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t deserve love or forgiveness. Somehow, I was the worst of the worst of the worst. There was nobody lower than me. For a long time, I hated myself to the point where I created this self-destruct button, of sorts. I could push it when I wanted to escape. After pressing it so many times, I noticed a pattern. I couldn’t understand why, but I knew it was true:  God never let me go. Somehow, no matter how deeply I fell, He made sure I could grab onto the hem of His garment just in time. Even when I didn’t want to, He would somehow pull me back up.

That’s love.

We have to first come to a mutual understanding of John 1:1, that ALL things were created through the Word, by the Word, and that Word became flesh to dwell among us. If all things are created through Him, that stands to includes love. And love is crazy, messed-up, wonderful, and blind… beautifully blind… all at once. If love weren’t blind, and it had the capacity to keep record of wrongs and failures, all of our falls would end with a crash landing.

But we grab on. We hold on. We fight another day. And if a day is too long, we aim for hours. I’ve been there when even that was too much, and then you just have to take one breath at a time. We have to take it slow, but we never have to crash.

This morning, I noticed my eyes weren’t dark anymore. When did they stop being dark? I could hear birds singing outside. But birds have always sang in the morning. Why didn’t I hear them before now? It must be the same song they’ve always sang, but I was hearing it for the first time. I woke up bright and mellow. When did laying in bed wondering how I was going to get through the day STOP being a thing? And when did I start smiling again?

I’m still broken, but not lost. I’m still sad, but I’m pretty happy, too. I know I’m loved, and I’m okay with that. I’m definitely okay with that.

I’m okay… When the hell did that happen?

New Song

It is way too easy to praise God when everything is going good. We do it all the time. But what’s really powerful, and what can tear down strongholds and destroy enemy lines, is worship. And while it’s already a powerful thing, choosing to lift your hands above the storms of life and glorify Him makes it even more so.

There’s just one thing that will tear down strongholds and destroy the devil’s plan, and that’s worship. So whatever you’re facing tonight, know that there is nothing our God can’t do. He can handle it. I promise. And whether God, in your storms, will make the clouds go away or simply cover you until the rain passes, you can believe that He will do whatever it takes to bring you home.

To Grieving Mothers…

I didn’t know, when I got up this morning, that today was going to hurt… But it did. And I didn’t know it would be hard to get through, but it was. I had no idea I was going to cry, but I wept. More than once, I wept.

My son is alive and well, but nonetheless gone. Every time I saw a mother today at work getting a flower and being told Happy Mother’s Day, another piece of me was chipped away.

I don’t know at what point a mother begins to feel like someone’s mother, or when that really sinks in. When my son was born, the nurses laid him on my chest. It was barely a moment before he was whisked away to NICU. I wish I could say that I had this overwhelming feeling of love and wonder at the tiny wrinkled thing I’d just been given, but I was tired. I was in pain. I didn’t feel like a mom in that moment.

The times I truly felt like a mother, like his mother, were the times he ran to me. Whether to give me a present or because he was scared or tired or angry, it was me he came to with outstretched arms. And I received him. I held him. I comforted him. I gave him what he needed. That was when I felt like mom.

This year, he won’t run off of the school bus to bring a Mother’s Day card he made for me. There won’t be any dandelions plucked from the backyard and made into a messy bouquet to put in a vase. I won’t get any hugs or kisses. Still, I am Mom.

I won’t get to be mom today. Tonight, I won’t get to cook him dinner or help him get a bath. I won’t get to help him pick out his pajamas or read him a story. I won’t get to tell him I love him to the moon and back. He won’t reply that he loves me to the last star and back. And I don’t know if or when I will ever get to see him again to tell him how much I love him. But I’m still Mom.

If my son skins his knees today, someone else will be bandaging him up. If he wakes up tonight from a bad dream, he won’t be running to my room for comfort. If he gets picked on by a bully at school, the teachers won’t call me. If there’s an emergency, I won’t be notified. Still, I’m mom.

One day, he’s going to like a girl. He’s going to have a lot of questions, and I won’t get to answer them. He’s going to take a driving test, and I won’t be in the passenger’s seat to gasp and stomp on a nonexistent brake. He’s going to graduate high school and pursue college, and I won’t be there to guide him along the way. Still, I’m mom.

I remember reading the book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” while I was pregnant, and feeling like whatever happened, I could face it. I read a dozen books and did an astronomical amount of research into pregnancy and child development. I was only 17, but I believed in the power of knowledge. But none of the knowledge I acquired was even a little useful in preparing me for the moment I really, truly felt like a mom. It was the moment my son was ripped away from me, with no warning and no preparation.

Many mothers in the animal kingdom will become distressed when they realize their babies are missing. They will whine, cry, howl, stomp their feet, flap their wings, and even attack in an effort to find their baby. That was me. I felt like an animal, with a mothering instinct I couldn’t control, scouring every corner and crevice trying to find my baby. When I found him, I couldn’t get him back. Poachers had come in and stolen him. And I was left to grieve.

People say grief and sadness will get easier. Time heals, right? Not exactly. I kept holding onto lies and calling it hope. I believed there was no way he could be gone forever, so I disguised my denial to look like faith. In the end, hope and faith caved under the weight of reality. And that was the point when, in the depths of my soul and through every nook of my heart and being, I felt like a mom. Because only a mother’s heart could shatter into that many pieces and hurt that badly. I’ve been through a lot of hurts in my life, some deep hurts, but non that ever cut me as deeply as the moment it truly hit me that my son was gone. That agony can’t even be described. It hurt, and still hurts so bad that I didn’t know — and still don’t know — how to go on. I didn’t know how to survive. I’m not even talking about suicide when I say it hurts too much to keep going. I mean that I have felt my heart physically break, and I thought I would literally die of a broken heart. I’ve had days when I simply could. Not. Go. On.

Grief in its simplest form is a very weird, very intense sensation. You can’t grieve something unless whatever it is you’ve lost was a part of your life, or a part of you; who and what you are. So even the simplest definition of grief is complex. When someone says, “I’m grieving,” what they’re really saying is, “I lost a piece of what defined me.” And the deeper that piece is imbedded into your being, the deeper the wound will be when it is cut out and cruelly ripped away. I don’t want to put some crazy twist on doctrine here, or go into some left field theology… But I do believe, without question, that this is the reason why mothers love so much, why they grieve, why they feel things so strongly, and why they are so quick to go straight for the throat of danger when it comes after her children. It is because she carried that child within her. Their heart, their eyes, their fingers and toes, grew INSIDE of her. Who that child would grow up to be, the DNA code that would determine that child’s character and personality, was formed within the womb of their mother.

When that mother brings her baby home for the first time, that same little baby she carried for nine months inside of her and labored for hours and hours and hours to bring into this world, she undoubtedly heard what we all say to new moms. “She looks just like you!” “He has your eyes.” “Congratulations, mom.” And we gawk over the baby and how precious it is.

Still, she is Mom.

When that baby wakes up crying five or ten times in the middle of the night, she will be mom. When that child feels his first broken heart, she will be mom. When he falls, or he’s sad, or he’s lost or scared, she will be mom.

If that child is torn out of her arms, she will be mom. If that child dies, she will be mom. And she will always be mom, for the same reason God will always be God:  He carried us. He loved us. He loved us enough to die for us. He cared for us. When we are scared, or hurt, or broken, we call out to Him. In the midst of our pain, we hold onto our hearts the way our children hold onto their skinned knees and say, “It hurts! Please, make it better!”

And the Lord, in His perfect glory and goodness, will always love us. Even when we walk away, or when the world steals us, or the enemy tries to overtake us… Whether we believe it or not… Whether we know Him or not… He is still Dad. Forever and always. Because we are a part of Him, made in His image, and His children are pieces of Himself. You weren’t born out of a star that exploded in the universe. The Lord, our Father, our Daddy… He made us. He carried us. He loves us. And nothing will steal His Fatherhood, because we are told that nothing will pluck us out of His hand.

Hug your children. Pray over them. For the love of God, hold them tight, because you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. But if you are a grieving mother this Mother’s Day, whether you’ve lost your child to death or to the circumstances of life, you need to know something. If we are made in His image, mothers are a reflection of His unfathomable love. You were looked upon with such love and such favor, you became bearers of new life. You became a mother. Our understanding of how much God loves us is barely a drop among oceans, but He chose you to display His love in a way we could understand. And we can also know, beyond any doubt, that if we love the Lord, all things will work for our good. And whether in this life or the next, we can rejoice that one day, our children will return to us. Because we are mom.

We will always be mom.