Not Children, But Pre-Adults

I tried to grow herbs for my rabbit.

I tried really, really hard, but I had lots of things working against me.  First, I live in a specific part of the pacific northwest, where we go nine months out of the year without sunlight.  Secondly, the windows in my house face north/south, so even that little bit of sunlight we *do* get doesn’t come in any of my windows to reach that little box of dirt behind my big kitchen sink.  And third, I have a black thumb.  Seriously. I kill plants.  I think I shower them with too much love or too much water or I look at them funny or something.  I have a very hard time growing anything.  I always say I’m glad I can grow kids and animals – clearly any ability stopped there and doesn’t extend to plants!

But one day a stubborn and special little sprout magically popped its head out of the barren dirt and I cheered.  “Guys, we have cilantro!”

Could I pick it?  Noooo.  Poor thing was barely alive.  Could I smell the spicy goodness?  (By the way, I’m one of those people who do NOT think it tastes like

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soap!)  No, there was no smell.  The little thing had one sprout.  We wouldn’t be able to pluck its leaves any time soon.

But we didn’t call it a “nameless sprout thing.”  We called it cilantro.  It didn’t look or smell like cilantro yet.  But it was still cilantro.

Yet so often, we view and treat children as separate creatures from us – like they’re not human beings yet.  Like they’re not the little sprouts of adults that they will be someday. Like what we do to them won’t matter in the long run because they’re not really products of us or anything.  That they’ll forget all of our mistakes. 

I think our children’s behavior surprises us when it becomes their adult behavior.  And we glance down and have full-fledged cilantro and are shocked.

Do I mean that kids can’t be kids, and we should expect adult behavior from them?  No.  Bear with me.

In the past two years, I’ve focused much of my free time and energy on studying childhood traumas, especially parent-child relationship issues.  Whether it was through ACBC counseling, excellent non fiction books, therapist newsletters, calling on brave sufferers who wanted to come forward and share, YouTubers who divulge their gritty backstories, and textbook articles of brain scans, I’ve put aside a lot of my fiction writing to focus on how to understand and help those I love.  I’ve had to pull back a bit in order to peel back the layers of behavior to see that root.  That basic beginning sprout.  And for so, so, so many of these people and these disorders, it goes back to pre-age seven.  SEVEN years old, folks.

These little baby sprouts were given horrible foundations that still haunt them to this day and cause harmful ripple effects at age thirty… forty-five… seventy…

Divorce, destructive behaviors, addiction, emotional abuse… We have rampant relationship and family issues, and cycles of generational traumas.

Not all of them came from crack houses where they had their bodies prostituted.  We’re not even talking truly worst case scenarios here.  Many, many of the friends and acquaintances I have met and interviewed and gotten to know and love over the last two years grew up in basically normal homes.  Homeschool, public school, private school, two parents, one parent, divorced parents, church attendance or not… the stories ran the gamut.  But usually well provided for, well educated, and physically healthy.

Yet one thing was true for all of these very different human beings across the board: none of them felt like their emotions were of any interest to anyone else, least of all their parents.  Many of them felt that emotions were downright evil – the bad or immature or unnecessary part of them that needed to go in the garbage can. All of them, decades later, have a deep suspicious distrust of their own emotions, and many of them look at Spock the Vulcan as some sort of secret hero.

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) is a real thing, and causes emptiness, lack of intimacy and connection, and stifled negativity that leads to bad stress management and sometimes even destructive relationships.

But CEN was the most basic of the concerns I found.  For those who experienced actual ongoing active trauma as small children, not just passive dysfunction from parents, friends, or relatives, the mental health disorders also ran the gamut – multiple personalities (now called dissociative identity disorder or otherwise specified dissociative disorder DID/OSDD),  or borderline personality disorder (BPD), narcissistic (NPD), histronic, and antisocial personality disorders, to name a few from the cluster B list.

ALL stemming from trauma under age seven – many of whom parents were considered pillars in their communities.

So what’s going on?

The other day I watched a historical drama on British aristocrats in the 18th century.  What appalled me even more than the rampant infidelity and treating women like cattle to be bartered and traded, was the perspective on children and parenting.  They were to be seen and not heard.  They were toys to be fed and put to sleep by a live-in servant.  They were second-rate citizens, beneath the favorite house pet.  And somehow expected to age a couple years and enter society, hold government positions, or even raise children of their own! Horrors!

Where is this disconnect happening?

Children are not separate creatures from adults, who somehow magically die in a fire and burst forth as phoenixes, completely unrecognizable from their past selves.  Fat little caterpillars that go into cocoons and emerge butterflies. Things that stop you from YOUR life goals and dreams and get in YOUR way.  Things you have to pacify and put up with for a while and then move on from.   Beings who will go, “I get now why I was mistreated and it totally doesn’t matter.  I have an ‘Adult Brain’ now and everything makes sense and all is forgiven and forgotten and I’ll probably do the same to my kids because it builds character and all.”

NO.

Children never really forget.  Their brains never forget.  Deep down, that foundation, by an extremely young age, is SET.  And if you have to undo foundation, you have your work cut out for your tenfold.  It takes like ten times the effort to help repair the foundation.  It can be done, praise God, but it will probably be that kid’s spouse or your own grandkids, let alone a therapist and counselor or two, who will be putting in the effort.

Do the hard work now, parents-to-be and moms and dads of little kids.  Be intentional, sacrificial, open God’s Word, and be wise.

Can you look your child in the eye and see not a houseplant or a cute pet but the next president of the United States?  Can you look them in the eye and see the future mother of your grandchildren?  Can you see the next schoolteacher of other people’s children, the mayor of your town, or someone’s future best friend?  Can you talk to them like you expect them to grow and hold opinions and vote in a future election or pastor a future church or lead a Bible study or raise their own kids?

If you wouldn’t treat another adult with such blatant disrespect and unkindness – if you’d sit a bestie down and listen to the tales of their woes for hours – and if you’d explain with calm and intelligent sentences why God says what He does in His word to a congregation member who sits next to you in the pew… why won’t you do it for your own children?

Many peer parents just assume their five-year-olds are going to wake up one day and “get it” through osmosis.  They’re going to be great citizens and understand a relationship with the Lord and be kind to their peers and avoid bad boyfriends and work hard and never do drugs and the list goes on! These peers are shocked when some of us take the time to explain doctrine to our children, or pray for our daily concerns out loud  in front of them, or apologize on our knees when we’ve sinned against them, or ask them if there are ways we could be a better parent and take notes, or go out one-on-one and listen to them ramble about their life like it matters and is a worthy and legitimate life that bears listening to.

My kids are still under my authority and answer to my commands, but even those are run through God’s Word and have a reason behind it.

Their feelings, their hearts are precious.  If you wouldn’t squash a best friend’s or a close coworker’s heart and questions by your lack of care and concern, by your unfocused attention and disinterested spirit, by your silent tongue when you need to speak and angry impatient tongue when you need to listen… then why are you doing it to them?  They’re the ones who can’t shake you off and find a new, better counselor and friend.  They’re the ones who are busy learning their adulthood foundation. 

I’m barely scratching the tip of the iceberg in what I want to say about parenting in this article.  Some days I think I want to write a book after all of the horrendous things I’ve heard and seen in the last two years.  The horrendous things I’ve experienced secondhand.   There will be more blog posts to come, for sure.  For now, I’m busy listening to the sufferers, weeping, and taking notes.  Hugging my own three girls close and learning to give up my own rights for what my day looks like.  Maybe it looks like reassuring the almost-three-year-old with tight hugs because the little one thought it was her fault the rabbit got into her goldfish crackers and got sick.  Maybe it looks like reading another chapter of the Bible and praying at length with the seven-year-old when she talks back instead of getting to math facts.

I can sum up at least the general thought in three question: Do you see your children as pre-adults?  Do you see your actions and words and attitudes as being a lot of what makes up their adulthood foundation?  Do you see them as more than just “yours,” but as part of God’s plan for the world, and that He’s asking you to treat them like His special instruments and to help put in a lot of the hard work now?

“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

People Aren’t Toxic

I’m going to be the first to raise my hand and say, “I love psychology.”

I love a healthy splash of psychology with my theology in deep, dark discussions.  I love understanding the brain *and* soul of a human being, and the great strides we’ve taken lately to understand neurological health as well as physical health.  We promote mental health, we discuss it, we share about it – overshare sometimes – and we have learned to take a second look into what makes people tick and how they have been shaped and/or damaged from childhood.  We see shrunken, atrophied hippocampuses and huge, leaky hypothalamuses that prove personality disorders and PTSD are as real as seizures.

And I eat that stuff for lunch.  I find it fascinating, and my heart beats for these people.  ❤

Yes, some people take it too far, and special snowflakeism isn’t a fun thing.  Often, the spiritual side of things – the ugly sin stuff – is overlooked, and pills are popped maybe too often.  But on the whole, I think my generation of Millennials have started identifying something very real and very dangerous and very prevalent.  And I applaud some of those new strides in mental healthcare and identification of mental health problems.

HOWEVER.

There’s a buzzword that’s become a disappointing trend.  Spoken often, spoken loudly, and spoken with force.

And that word is “TOXIC.”

People are now being labeled “toxic.”

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And we don’t mean “a good kisser,” Britney Spears.

We mean dangerous, poisonous, irredeemable.

The Google dictionary definition for toxic is simple.  A single word. “Poisonous.”  Toxicity levels measure the amount of harmful poison.  Toxic means the substance is inedible.  Damaging.  Hazardous.

Synonyms for “toxic” include noxious, venomous, and deadly.

Unless you’re challenging a Sicillian as the Dread Pirate Roberts in a Princess Bride movie, toxic substances are always going to be toxic.  Almost no one can adapt.  They drink cyanide and they’re going to die.  Plain and simple.  Toxins don’t become less toxic with time.  They don’t change their substance.  They’re inconsumable.  Period.

Folks, we can’t label people as poisons.  We can’t write them off as forever poisons.  They aren’t made of venom.

Situations can be toxic.  Actions can be toxic.  Behavior can be toxic.  Speech can be toxic.

But a human soul is not a committed poison, never to be anything but a poison.  A human being is not cyanide.  They’re made in God’s image, and they always, always, always have the ability of being redeemed.

I understand what you’re trying to say: But this person is abusive, harmful, deadly to me, and I need to remove myself.  YES.  By all means, do that.  This isn’t a blog post to promote remaining in abusive situations, waiting for people to change.

But if God could save the chief of sinners (Hint, it’s me.  Oh wait.  And Paul.), then he can save anyone.  Call the situation toxic if you must.  Remove yourself.  Walk away. Go no contact. Call the police.  Seek church discipline.  Block the number. But label the human being a sinner like everyone else.  Pray for them (from a distance!) Pray for repentance.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to move in their hearts and bring them to salvation.  In our sin nature, we are all seeped in toxic behavior.  But God didn’t see us as icky.  Christ died for our toxic sinfulness.  He may choose to save them like He did you.

People aren’t toxic.  Behavior is toxic.

So leave.  Be safe.

But don’t label people as permanent poisons.

 

Thanksgiving

When I was a child, the lists came easy

Four or five of the same things, always consistent

Mom and Dad and pecan pie

Stuffed animals, best friends, and a really fun movie

 

Giving thanks meant spouting the list

Not complaining or you’d get extra chores

Writing obligatory lines of gratitude on stationery

Making sure I smiled when shaking hands

 

Now that I am grown, the things I could name

Have sprouted along with me, an endless monologue

But instead of just writing my one thousand gifts

And calling it a holiday, I am now aware

 

That Thanksgiving isn’t a feast with loved ones

Or a card to satisfy a homework assignment

It’s an attitude like a heavy breastplate that must be strapped on

And the process each day can take hours

 

Giving thanks is a battle, the key fight in a larger war

It’s bloody and sweaty and exhausting

It’s ongoing because the enemy stretches like waves on the horizon

And each step makes my muscles scream, “I can’t!”

 

But each new foot place in front of the other

Is less hard than the last, I found

Each swing of the blade hurts a little less

And habits and disciplines appear

 

Because my Captain fights beside me

Gleaming white horse thundering forward

We’re all in a war against gratitude and joy

But I know who’s going to win

 

 

 

 

 

I Can’t Win

Be real

Be you

Be honest

Be true

 

Don’t hide

Don’t lie

Don’t take it

Go ahead and cry

 

Confidently, I

Am honest and bold

Blog it

Yell it

Grin

Hot and cold

 

Then they squirm

Cringe

Frown

Scold

“Don’t say that!

Embarrassment

Too, too bold.”

 

What is right?

What’s the sin?

I can’t win.

 

 

 

Maybe We’re Praying for the Wrong Things

Imagine a child who has her heart set on a piece of hard candy.  She can taste that sugar on her tongue, the fruity flavor, and has a good idea about the delight it’s going to give her melting in her mouth.

Yet she’s six years old. Not a cent to her name.  Can’t even reach the tall shelf where she thinks the magic candy exists – basically a different dimension of sweet goodness that is privy to the adults and not her.

Being a child whose faith in her daddy’s kindness knows no bounds, she steals a glance at him talking to her mother and some other friends in front of the table in the kitchen.  His hands are clasped in front of him and she just knows he’s got her favorite candy hidden in his large, gentle palms.

Running at him full tilt, she thuds against his legs and leans into him.  “Daddy!  I want a piece of candy!”

He smiles at her, but keeps talking.  Is that a maybe?

Okay, she’ll ask again in a few minutes.

She continues this process over and over again until she loses count.  “Daddy!  I want a candy!”  She pulls at his interlaced fingers with her own tiny ones. Each time he smiles but doesn’t unclasp his hands. Sometimes a handful of the guests needle her father along with them, going, “Hey, give her the candy.”  But he merely shakes his head. No answer yet.

Finally, after the gazillionth time, in front of all the guests, he addresses her.  Opening his hands, he says, “No candy for you right now.  I never had any.”

Devastation hits her gut.  Giant wails burst out of her lungs, tears drowning her eyes.  No candy?  How is that possible?

And then warmth hits her face – icky, queasy embarrassment.  She glances around at all the guests, their faces belaying sympathy, some glancing away in discomfort, others’ eyes glistening with tears for her.  A couple here and there are frowning and muttering under their breath.  All those eyes, all those opinions.  Everyone watching her weep.  Everyone having seen her ask her father for the candy over and over again, only to watch her shame when it was never meant to be after all.  Some had been rooting for her success, even, and she can see the confused surprise mirrored in their own expressions.  She can see bits of distrust on one woman’s face as she glances at her father with a hardened glare.

“You made me feel like a fool,” the little girl whispers.  “You could have said no the first time.  Why did you let me ask over and over again if you never had the candy – if you never ever meant to give me candy?”

 

Five weeks and six days ago, I was that little girl.

After waiting years for the right timing and putting almost as many months into research, our family put down a down payment on our very first pet.  My three little girls – aged 8, almost 7, and 2, were so ready.  Cats and dogs were off the list due to hyper-dangerous allergy levels, and I had said no to anything caged or in a tank.   I wanted something we could play with and cuddle, not a prisoner in a corner of our home. Test results had shown that not a single member of the family was allergic to rabbits, and I had spent hours figuring out that the adorable little things could be litter-trained, free roam in your home, and socialized from birth to be friendly and calm.

We settled on English Lops.  They came highly recommended, a sweet young woman bred and socialized them in our area, and – I mean, come on.  Look at those glorious ears!

5 weeks

The sweet young breeder and her champion rabbits have twice as many likes on her business page than I do as an author(!), and a couple different rabbitries credit her good stock getting them started.  While I know there are shelter rabbits that need homes – and this isn’t the point of this article – this first time around, I really wanted to know what I was getting.  I wanted to start with a newly-weaned baby, I wanted him handled from birth, I wanted someone to pick out the perfect personality… I wanted the perfect experience for my family.  The previous year and a half had been HARD, and I looked forward to this hopeful new chapter.  Basically, I pinned a lot of my joy on this bunny being a delight in my family’s life.

2.5 weeks old

Pigeon – 2.5 weeks

 

4 weeks 5

Pigeon – 4 weeks

For five weeks until he was weaned, I emailed back and forth with the breeder, and we got to know each other beyond just rabbit care.  Every other day she sent us pictures and videos of little Pigeon (Oh yes, the name was my idea.  Ha!) and we grew completely attached.  We bought supplies, built a cage for nighttime, ordered hay, gathered safe sticks from our neighborhood and made chew toys, and cut fleece blankets.

I was euphoric.  It had been ages since I could remember being that happy.  Possibly since my miracle third daughter was born.  I read books on rabbit care cover to cover, taught my kids to identify all the breeds by sight, and cleared my schedule for the day when he would come home.

And then, one by one, his litter got sick.  Unprecedented deaths like never before for the breeder.  Three days before we were to take Pigeon home, on Easter morning, he fought his last battle with the debilitating gut disease and passed away at seven weeks old.

The night before he died, the breeder kissed his head one last time for me and sent me one last picture.

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We spent Easter morning opening baskets with stuffed rabbits I had bought weeks before, my daughter sobbing, “Why would God do this?”

That night, I cried for two hours to my husband.  “Their experience is ruined!  The joy they were supposed to have getting their first pet was snatched away before we even got him!  All our hopes for the future!  Now it’s just smeared with death.  How could this happen?”

Bereaved, distraught, and sympathetic, our sweet breeder offered us one of the two remaining babies of the litter –a black little boy with otter marking.  She wanted him to go before her vacation, and to get out of the barn as soon as possible.  He had been treated with antibiotics just in case, and was thriving.

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Sitting there staring at the picture of this little guy on my phone was like looking at a stranger.  No, I didn’t want him.  I wanted Pigeon.  When he had been sick, hundreds of people online had prayed for our Pidgey.  We had seen him grow from two weeks old – where he could fit in her hand – to almost the day he became ours.  Who was this other rabbit?  And we needed to get over our grief and take him in a mere three days?  It was like whiplash.

“He was my personal favorite and has a great personality,” the breeder pleaded.  “Please love him and be happy for him.”

Like a mental slap to my soul, I straightened my tear-stained shirt and said yes.  We’ll take him.  I had no idea what I was doing, but I wasn’t going to say no to a rabbit that needed us, to a breeder’s plea from the heart, and I secretly wondered if this was the “story twist” one would expect.  “Family thinks it’s getting Pigeon but God mysteriously provides Penguin instead.  And he’s actually the perfect bunny.  And they all live happily ever after.  The End.”

My bunny-loving sister-in-law encouraged me with the same on the phone.  “Maybe this was the one you were always supposed to have.  This is your dream pet.”

Yet, secretly, down in my Calvinistic heart, that didn’t fully make sense.  If he was, why didn’t God point the breeder toward offering Penguin to begin with?  It’s not like God went, “Rats.  She already picked Pigeon.  I was too slow.  Well, gotta kill him off so I can give them the right rabbit.”

That’s not how God works.

No, we were supposed to have gone through this – to have looked forward to Pigeon, the first bunny, and watch him grow.  But why?

Growth?  Character?  Life lessons?

Rebelliously, down deep in my soul, I thought it felt a little harsh.  Kill an innocent little animal to teach us a lesson?  That didn’t seem very loving-Father-like.

And then I remembered all the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament – the animals that died for people’s sins frequently.  Jesus, Himself, the spotless Lamb who died for me.

And so I stopped moaning what happened, and embraced Penguin, our new rabbit, with my whole heart.

He.  Was.  Perfect.

The puppy dog of rabbits, he’d jump up on my lap on the couch and say hi.  He’d come running for food and leap up on his hind legs to paw at our pants.  He had a taste for books and chewed off a couple corners of Nancy Drews and Wally McDoogles with his itty bitty teeth.  He’d sun in the light that filtered into our livingroom window, make dashes for the open door to the upstairs playroom and romp among the kid toys, and take long naps behind the curtain near where the girls played piano for him.  He’d zoomie through the family room at lightning speed, ducking under the TV cabinet with limbo-like ease.

 

7 weeks (31)IMG_20190607_012534_359IMG_20190617_124446

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There wasn’t a better rabbit in existence, and I can’t write this without stopping every single sentence to sob.

Because there was no fairytale ending.  There was no candy in daddy’s hand.  There was never any candy.  The answer was always going to be no.

He had a weak heart or maybe an allergy to the sedative.  He was on the small side and maybe there had been a defect in the litter.  We’ll never know because I refused the post-mortem and had the vet let us bring his stiff, cold body home as soon as possible so we could wail over his body before burying him in the ivy in our backyard.

After halfway through month three brought a rush of hormones, our sweet boy had become a bit of a troublemaker.  Spraying pee up to my hair, escaping constantly, and new skittish behavior convinced us he should be neutered.  We were promised by all the rabbit people that it was a cure-all for teenage male behavior.  Our well-trained rabbit was now soiling everything in sight and had more energy than we could keep up with.  He never bit or was aggressive, but he couldn’t stay gated in the kitchen, contained and unhappy because of his new naughty behavior.  Neutering really seemed our only option.

He died on the table before they even got the anesthesia in.  A sedative and pain med sparked a heart attack that killed him instantly.

They still worked on him for twenty minutes while I sobbed, “Jesus, save him!” on the other end of the telephone line.

I had sung “Baby Mine” from Dumbo to him as I stroked his head in his carrier when I dropped him off that morning.  I had almost missed the drop-off time due to traffic.  I will never look at traffic the same way again.  A little more congestion might have preserved his life for a few more days.

He had been ours for merely two and a half months yet had stolen our hearts completely.  Our little Penguin the Hop, as the toddler affectionately called him.  He was four months and eight days old.  And gone in an instant.

This is not the fairy tale story I expected and longed for.  If I wrote this book – “Family follows one baby rabbit’s life for five weeks and he dies on Easter Sunday three days before they get him” – it’d be labeled sad and contrived, but the readers who get a kick out of my morose stories would root for the new bunny and accept the crazy plot device.  But then if my novel killed the new rabbit a mere months later in a bizarre fluke way the vet had never seen in her entire career? – I’d be labeled the cruel author and mocked out of any pitching sessions with publishers.  Just WHAT?

But God is that author.  And this is His best story?!

I struggled.  I struggled hard.

Those of you who know my secondary infertility story know that I’ve struggled before.  And I hated myself for struggling again.  Like aren’t I godly enough at this point to purely grieve and do the whole, “I feel God’s warm presence right now and His arms around me.  I trust Him.  He’s still good.  It’s a pet.  We’ll rebuild, folks”?

Nope.  Not me.  I’m “Frail Heart” over here.  Much-Afraid and I can do the Hinds Feet on High Places together as the team of pathetic weaklings, crippled, limp, and faltering.  Learning lessons over and over again because we don’t get it the first… or fifth time.  Because our hearts give freely and bleed easily.

I wailed with all my might, and my daughters bawled with me.  There was no comfort to be had.  I felt no “arms.”  I made phone calls, I held onto my crying husband.  We asked why.  How could we not ask why?  How could anyone not ask why?

I’m here five weeks and six days later.

And I still don’t have answers on why.

We have a new bunny now.  He’s a Mini Lop – a heartier, longer-living, smaller breed – and we spent a fortune getting him checked out by the vet before we committed to him.  We went with the same vet, who was one of the few people to really get it and cry with us at length. We went with the same breeder, who this time had only healthy litters and tried to give him to us for free, and we’ve become fast friends.

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Little three-pound Starling is only ten weeks old, and he’s nothing like Penguin.  He submissively sits still in our laps, but he doesn’t come running to greet us and he’s not feisty or greedy.  He’s shy and quiet, a mouse to Penguin’s puppy-dog behaviors.  But he’s sweet, soft, and super cuddly.  Will literally sit still in your arms for an hour.  And we love him too.  He doesn’t replace Penguin, and never will, but we’re getting back up on the horse and trying again.  This time our joy quieter, our hearts a little bit more sedate, occasionally still shedding tears together about the little hopping feet we miss.  We will continue to love Starling with all our hearts because we still have all that future love sitting there waiting to be given out, but the “perfect experience” can never be.  At this point, we’ve lost two little furry creatures that we cared about.

And I struggled.  For weeks, I struggled.

I took my girls to a biblical counselor who talked to them about God’s love for His children and His heart for His creation.  About how in this world there will be death because our perfect home is in heaven.  The younger daughter asked a lot of questions.  The older one sat very quietly and thought.

The toddler asked about him constantly for the first two weeks, wondering where “Boy” was, telling us with an emotional intelligence that surprised me that “Boy die.  I sad.”

Most days, all I could do, worship or prayer-wise for myself, was play “Maybe It’s Ok” by We Are Messengers over and over again, trusting that it was okay to struggle.  To give myself grace to experience the emotion, the theology-shaking questions, and the crumbling, dry heart.

Meanwhile, all this year, because the girls had felt stagnant and bored during our morning prayer time on our knees, I had been reading them the book “Alone with God” by John MacArthur on The Lord’s Prayer.  As we come to the last two chapters now, it struck me that perhaps I’ve been looking at prayer wrong.

A terrifying allergy experience with my oldest daughter this week, as well as two illnesses while family was in town, cemented my thoughts.

Maybe I’m praying for the wrong things?

Now PLEASE don’t get me wrong.  We can talk to God about ANYTHING.

Me running up to Him and asking for candy wasn’t wrong. I prayed every day for a month that Penguin would be safe through his neutering surgery.  I saw all your sympathetic tear-stained faces, some of your judgmental looks, and most of your sweet, confused, and brokenhearted compassion when God suddenly opened his palms and said, “I was never planning on saying yes to that.” Some of you had been praying with me for the little guy’s safety.  I’m sure you were shocked and stunned too.  So I’m hoping that you made it this far through this unpleasant, long article with me, and maybe I can impart this new idea in the correct way.

We can (and should) talk to God about anything.  We can say, “Please keep us healthy next week on vacation.  Please let Penguin come out of surgery okay.  Please let my child be well-behaved at the event tomorrow.  Please heal my relative’s cancer and shrink her tumor,” etc. etc.  I’m not saying we can’t pray these things.  I’m not saying we can’t have that one-on-one bestie/child-father relationship with God where we say, “Hey God, I really, really don’t want to have this stomach bug right now – or ever.  Please take this away.  Please!”   Talk to God about EVERYTHING.  Just TALK to Him.  Like anyone else.

But I was getting SO many “no” answers, I started to doubt God loved me all that much at all.  Like maybe He didn’t care about my prayers.  Maybe they were bouncing off His clenched hands as He looked over my head and ignored me.

Blasphemous, I know, but hold the stones.  I’m not done. 

What if that little girl who kept begging for candy didn’t realize all the guests were there for Thanksgiving dinner?  That her dad was leaning against the table and an entire Thanksgiving feast was behind him?  What if he looked at her and said, “Candy would spoil your dinner.  I had this feast planned and I’d like for you to learn to ask for that.  Regardless, I’m going to give it to you because I love you.  I know you can only imagine the taste of candy, but can you trust me and try the turkey and stuffing?  Pour some gravy over your mashed potatoes.  This is going to be good!”

I’ve spent SO.  MUCH.  TIME. praying for physical comforts.  Health, prosperity, kids to behave, things to go right.  And like I said, that’s okay.  But I almost never bathe my heart attitudes in prayer as well.  Chanting, “Please don’t let us get sick, please don’t let us get sick, please don’t let us get sick” only goes so far if there was never any candy anyway.  If God’s best story – which may not look like any of the formulaic approved novels on our shelves – involves pets dying one after another this year, how do I not know it’s going to be a public feast at the end?  Yes, it hurts like anything.  Yes, I will grieve.  No one can stop me or shorten that process.  I defy them to try.  But what if my witness is now?  This article?  The breeder, the vet, the Facebook friends, the Instagram followers, my church body, my husband, my kiddos?  What if this is what throws us at God’s feet and makes us love Him?  What if this teaches us compassion, humility, love, empathy, and truth about God?

It seems backwards and strange.  My tongue has only been primed for candy.  I’m a little six-year-old girl that likes bright colored sweets and isn’t sure she’s a meat-eater yet.  The table looks so brown and drab.  What the heck is gravy?  Why would I trust You when I desperately begged for my dessert?

So I thought, what if I started expecting suffering and trials in this life, and submitting my will to Him?  What if I prayed, “God, my Father, I really don’t want to catch this stomach bug and get sick again, BUT if we do, will you use it to grow me?  Will you use it to bring about good conversations that glorify You?  Will You use it to teach me patience and give me more time with You?  Will you use it to make me more Christlike and sanctify me?  Will you give me courage to face it?  Will you give me a good attitude and strengthen my Frail Heart?”

These are not prayers I often pray.

And that’s going to change.  Because these are prayers God promises yes to.  He doesn’t promise perfect health.  He doesn’t promise a healthy bunny without birth defects.  He doesn’t promise long life, prosperity, and no suffering.  When I ONLY ever beg for the candy, I will starve, malnourished and diabetic.

And God isn’t like that earthly father either.  He isn’t ignoring us.  He isn’t being neglective.  Even the wait to hear the “no” is valuable and planned for our sanctification.

Maybe I can start submitting and being open to the turkey too, as scary as that is – as much chewing as it takes.  Maybe I can start prepping my heart and my kids’ hearts by praying ahead of time for the things God’s promised – our sanctification, our character, and our growth in Christ as Christians.

At the end of the John MacArthur book, there is a list of things we can be praying for our hearts.  Intangible things that maybe we don’t often think about.

What other things could you add?

Humility

Purity

Truth

Righteousness

Light

Peace

Contentment

Joy

Knowledge

Wisdom

Unity

Love

 

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Maybe I’m Flawed

How do I act?

When do I act?

What do I do?

What do I say?

 

When you see someone drowning

Do you throw off your shoes and dive in?

What if they don’t want to be saved?

What if they love the salt in their lungs, the burn I their heart, the water soaking their eyes?

 

When do you give up?

And when you do, do you feel responsible for the rest of your days?

Maybe I never learned how to give up.

 

Maybe I’m flawed.

Vending Machine

What if when I stepped up to the vending machine

It didn’tgive me what I wanted

It spit back the coins

It shoved what I need

Not what I pressed

What if when I craved sweets

It pushed out salt

Or simply shut down

Made me wait an eternity

Said no?

What if the vending machine isn’t a vending machine after all?

And my prayers aren’t blank tickets to buy one get one free

And my God knows better than I know myself?

What if He thinks I need

Salty

Bitter

Sour

To nourish and keep me healthy?

Will I slam my hand against the glass

And walk away?

But Christ

ENDURANCE

A forgotten art

A misplaced treasure

A buried emotion

A tiny cup measure

 

GRATITUDE

An ignored virtue

An impossible mission

An eclectic rarity

An unseeable vision

 

FORGIVENESS

The work of a fool

The choice of the weak

The chance for the reprobate

The unclimbable peak

 

LOVE

Code word for lust

Flits and flails

Degraded to hotel bedrooms

And thrown away veils

 

BUT CHRIST

Enduring the cross

Teaches gratitude to the Lord

Forgives all our sin

Redeeming love and we are adored

 

 

Today is My Thirtieth Second Birthday

Today is my 30th 2nd birthday.

I’m already thirty-two years old, so I’m not using Hobbit speech to say the same thing. I mean that today, thirty whole years ago, I became a Christian. I was born again. My second birthday.

It was a meaningful day today because it was also the deadline to submit my addition to the Beatitude and Woe anthology Bear Publishing is putting together. I will sign again with a small press, submitting my short story, The Tears of the Emperor. *I* shed a lot of tears writing the story, which I painstakingly brought down to exactly 9,999 words.  It talks about trusting God’s sovereignty when you don’t understand why He’d allow so much suffering, waiting on a prodigal you’re praying for who’s broken your heart, and walking forward in obedience even when you don’t understand and you don’t want to do the thing. I sobbed all the way through writing it. My verse was “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” 

As I hit thirty years of being born again, I can’t help but feel a tiny bit disappointed. I’m disappointed I still lack patience, disappointed I still get angry, disappointed things like the new abortion laws can shake my view of God’s goodness for a solid week. I’m disappointed in the things I’m still afraid of, and in the ways I get discouraged. I’m disappointed that I’m not more self-disciplined and am not where I want to be in all ways as a person.

But I’m also sweetly encouraged by the Holy Spirit to see the ways in which He’s shown me mercy, the things I’ve absorbed, and the fact that going to God’s Word and prayer is always the first thing on my mind. I enjoy learning about Him, I enjoy being in His Word, and I love His church. I am content in my stage of life, I love being a mom, and I can’t get enough of other Christians who spur me on toward love and good deeds. God is making me more like Jesus, even if I can’t always see it. He keeps His promises.

Sometimes it’s a rocky rollercoaster. Sometimes the things I’ve known intellectually for decades really stretch me emotionally. Sometimes I’m lazy in my faith and expect God just to automatically make things happen without having to work hard. But He’s taken me through some awful, awful things where I wanted to walk away but I didn’t because my heart was held fast to a deep, binding cord attached to Christ. There is nothing else for me besides Him.

And so I am thankful. As I walk ahead toward another thirty or sixty years of being in Christ, I look forward to being made more like Him, to conquering these life-long sins, and to seeing Him work in my life. I want Him to be as dear to me as He was to Moses. I want my face to shine and my heart to be like His. I am so very thankful He made me His own little lamb thirty years ago.

Have you trusted in Christ as the Savior of your sins? Don’t wait. Submit and do it now. Joy is waiting. ❤

 

30th Christian Birthday