Keep Walking

I’m excited to introduce my guest blogger to you. He’s passionate about God and people, and spends much of his time ministering to the discouraged, helping the hopeless find hope again, and being “salt and light” in his local community. He also pastors a small church in North Florida where I sit in the front pew each week, cheering him on as he share’s God’s Word in interesting and innovative ways. His name? André Van Heerden. I’m proud to call him my husband and friend. Here’s what he has to share with us:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Isn’t it a tremendous blessing to go to a spiritual retreat, sit back and listen to the Word of God being preached, spend time praying with like-minded people, go for walks in nature, and so forth? Sometimes we can be tempted to think that the feelings and emotions we experience during those ‘mountain-top’ encounters are what we should be experiencing at all times. Then when we don’t experience those ‘spiritual highs’ we think God is far from us.Stained Glass

Where is God when we are alone in the dark valley and far away from those thrilling mountain top encounters? God is right beside us, as close, or closer, than He was during those spiritual highs. Yes, we can feel God’s Presence with us when we are in a spiritual environment where the conditions are all centered around God, but what happens when conditions aren’t centered around God—when we are at work, or in traffic, or trying to fix a water leak at home, or trying to resolve an interpersonal conflict?

Paul counsels us 2 Corinthians 5:7 to “walk by faith, not by sight.” We love to see, feel and touch miraculous signs and wonders all around us. When we are in the dark and cannot see, feel or touch the tangible evidences that God is moving, we tend to think that God is not with us—that He has pulled back from us for some reason. More often than not, we believe that God has pulled back from us due to our sinfulness and because we have fallen back into habitual sin or an addiction.

The enemy of our souls comes alongside us and tells us God is not with us. He tells us we are too sinful to have God be close to us and accept us as we are. He tells us we have to stop sinning before God will come close to us. During these times in the dark valley, we must walk by faith—faith in God’s promises, faith in who God is and faith that God is with us. Jesus said to Thomas in John 20:29, “because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Dear friends, we cannot survive spiritually by using a physical or emotional measure! We survive spiritually by using a spiritual measure! If God said it, I believe it, and that’s enough for me. The simple, well-known words of Psalm 23 are powerful to carry us through those dark valleys—“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” We need to repeat these words to ourselves, over and over—“you are with me.”

Having the promises of God on the tip of our tongues will prevent the spiritual slump we experience in the dark valleys. When we don’t see, touch or feel the spiritual thrill we experience on the mountain-top, we are still to ‘walk by faith.’ We stay confident that ‘God is with us,’ that He loves us and that He understands that we are but dust.

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. 10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities.11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; 12 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him.
14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”
Psalm 103:8-14.

You see, as Psalm 119:105 says, the Word of God is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” It’s a lot easier to walk over rocky ground at midday than at midnight. But, when there is no light, we keep on walking because we have light. So whether we are in the dark valley, on a dark rocky path, or in the dark woods, we keep on walking. The enemy of our souls wants to shut out the light. He wants us to stumble, doubt and be confused. God gives us sure footing, confidence and clarity. He makes a sure pathway open before us on which we can keep walking.

 Prayer – Father in heaven, You are All-wise, All-Powerful and Ever-present. There is nothing that I can think of that You can’t solve. Please remind me that YOU ARE WITH ME, irrespective of my sin and my weakness. Please give me the confidence and the boldness to keep walking in spite of the obstacles that lie in my pathway. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

_DSC3364

 

You can read Pastor André’s blog at http://andrevanheerden.org/ where he shares how God guided him into ministry in our local community. Some of the stories are amazing and encouraging. If you are interested in impacting your local community for Christ, but feel so small, perhaps his stories will encourage you.

 

 

Hello, I’ve Just Got To Let You Know…

“I long to see the sunlight in your hair
And tell you time and time again
How much I care
Sometimes I feel my heart will overflow
Hello!
I’ve just got to let you know
’cause I wonder where you are
And I wonder what you do…”

Hello Gritty

 I mailed a card to her today. Haven’t heard from her in a while. Five months to be exact.

Just want to say, hello.” I pen the words carefully. Prayerfully.

I never want to be “too much.” But something within me desperately wants to keep this silken thread of communication alive. When half a year passes, my heart knows she’s grown half a head taller, a whole lot smarter, and is now, perhaps, too old for a “godmommy.”

 Father, she doesn’t even know me. Why do I keep reaching out to her? Why does stepping into a middle school classroom set my heart astir with the wonder and magic of the emotional chaos that is life as a “tween?” Why is hers the face I search for among those chattering girls in the hallway, when I know that none of them is hers. Will never be hers. Not here. Not now. Not in my world.

 Disappointment is hard. When we are responsible for the choices that bring the disappointment, it’s even more difficult, because there is no one to blame but the person in the mirror. When my heart aches with the pain of certain searing losses, I want to blame someone…anyone. I want to point a finger, say a bad word, work up some anger to mask the hurt, and maybe eat some chocolate (or something) to calm my nerves; none of that works to resolve the tangled knot in the center of my being. Those are simply smokescreens. I’ve been known to hide behind them very well in the past.

 That was before Step Three.

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God”

 I’m familiar with God. I understand Him to be the only “Higher Power.” He’s been my Father, my Friend, my Rock and my Refuge for my entire life. Although I was birthed by Christian parents and raised in a Christian home, I admit (reluctantly) that there are areas, corners of my heart, that I have failed to turn over to God’s care. Step Three, for me, is about those areas. About trusting Him with her. About trusting Him with the leftovers of my heart after the enemy beats me up with lines like, “This is your own fault, you know. You lied. You lost her – your fault.”

 It’s a long, story – one that became Chapter Seven of my manuscript. I’ll not go into the details here, but I will say that I regularly take Step Three concerning this chapter of my life. For my own sanity’s sake, I must make that decision to turn my will and my life over to the One who understands the backstory. The guilt and the heartache would be too much to bear on my own.

 Doesn’t the enemy of our souls love to pour the alcohol of guilt, shame and blame into our open wounds?

 I fight him with the sword of God’s Word, which promises me this: There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1, KJV)

 I choose to make the daily decision to place my life in the hands of the One who says, “Woman, where are your accusers?” (John 8:10)

 My accusers are mostly in my own head, if I allow them to be. It’s not my God who sends me back to the pit of shame every time I hear her name. It’s the Liar, the Accuser of the Brethren, the Guilt-Deliverer who gets more business in my neighborhood than Dominoes Pizza. I will survive his attacks when I make a decision to release my stubborn will into the hands of my Redeemer.

 What about you? Is the enemy knocking on your door with a steaming box of regrets? Does the scent of shame fill your home whenever you allow yourself to remember the choices you made that caused you to hurt the people you loved the most? Do you accept his lies, and even tip him for his services, or will you send him packing with the words, “This is not what I ordered today?”

 If your loss, like mine, involves a child, may I invite you to take another step?A step which Father to the fatherlessinvolves choosing to trust God with that little one (who may now be half-grown). Will you choose to believe that God loves that person, the very one you carry on your heart, even more than you ever could? Whether your baby was aborted, adopted, or fostered by another family, God tenderly holds your child in the palm of His heart. Will you choose to surrender that little life over the care of its loving Creator, who understands the circumstances that led to your heartache, and offers redemption for your loss?

 Eternity is a long time, my friend. Heaven holds the hope of the resurrection of our relationships. Jesus died that we might live, that our babies and children might live, that our hope will live – Forever!

(Note: Above Lyrics from Lionel Richie’s 1984 Single, “Hello”)

 

 

 

I’m Not Codependent!…Am I?

I’m one of those strange souls who enjoys taking quizzes and tests. Nothing thrilled me more as a student, than the week of standardized assessments – no homework, extra recess time! My teachers often allowed me to read a book when I “finished early.” As an avid reader, I would race through the test questions so I could get back to Anne of Green Gables.

Decades later, I still like to fill in the blanks and pencil in the bubbles with a sharp no. 2 pencil. Always a sucker for instant gratification, computerized tests with immediate results thrill me even more!

While sitting in church a couple of weeks ago, a friend leaned over and whispered, “What are you on the Meyers-Briggs?” When I told her, she laughed and replied, “Only personalities like us actually remember!” Perhaps she’s right. Those four letters are seared on my brain like a tattoo. (If you’re unfamiliar, you can read about the assessment here: http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/)

What about you? Do you like to discover yourself in personality quizzes? If, like me, you have loved someone who is addicted to something, perhaps a little codependency quiz may be a helpful reality check. I think I paid $70.00 for my first reality check – with a therapist. I was so desperate to speak with someone that I didn’t care that it took the electric bill money. I needed to know where I stood on the emotional Richter scale. The minor tremors could no longer be controlled. I was headed for a major seismic meltdown. I needed help.

When I look into eyes that reflect the familiar pain that used to haunt me in the mirror, I cannot walk away. This weekend I sat across from a pair of hopeless eyes and wept the tears she could not yet cry. I know, my friend. I get it. You are too numb to weep, too tired to leave, too angry to stay. You need respite. A place to grieve, to think, to pray…

That conversation reminded me of how it feels to be stuck – unsure whether I’m making a mountain out of the proverbial molehill; unsure whether what I’m seeing and feeling is justified by the on-again-off-again “love” of my significant other. For anyone out there who feels this way or knows someone who does, these, and similar behaviors collectively have a name. Codependency. There are support groups (Al-Anon, Celebrate Recovery, or Codependents Anonymous (http://coda.org/) who can help us to see ourselves when the mirror is foggy. Codependency for Dummies

Self Check:

Do I…

  • Assume responsibility for others’ feelings and behaviors?
  • Feel guilty about others’ feelings and behaviors?
  • Minimize, alter, or deny how I truly feel?
  • Compromise my own values and integrity to avoid rejection or others’ anger?
  • Put other people’s needs and desires before my own (to the detriment of my own physical, spiritual, emotional or mental health?)
  • Worry about how others may respond to my feelings, opinions and behavior?
  • Value others opinions and feelings more than my own?
  • Judge everything I think, say, or do harshly, as never “good enough?”
  • Spend my energy on someone else’s problem or life?
  • Feel loyal to someone who is hurting me?
  • Fear being left or rejected?
  • Adapt to others’ tastes of point of view?
  • Rescue, enable, or support a “bad habit” in someone I love?

 Am I…

  • Afraid of being hurt and/or rejected by others?
  • Afraid of my own anger, yet sometimes erupt in rage?
  • Afraid to express differing opinions or feelings?
  • A perfectionist?
  • Extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long?
  • Controlling?
  • Lacking boundaries and have difficulty saying, “no?”
  • Continually justifying and explaining myself?
  • Unable to get over losses or break-ups?
  • Staying in a relationship I’m not happy with because “something is better than nothing?”

The above lists were gleaned from Celebrate Recovery resources and Codependency for Dummies by Darlene Lancer, MFT. (If you’d like a more “official” online quiz to feed your inner test-taker, you can find one here: http://www.codependencynomore.com/

Although these are only partial lists, and behaviors almost everyone exhibits at times, I invite you to prayerfully consider whether they are red flags in your life. If so, don’t wait! Find a trusted person to speak with about your situation. Read further about codependency. Find a counselor. Ask God to deliver you from the bondage of your own lowered expectations for your life and personal relationships.

I claim this promise from God for you today, “…I redeemed you from the house of bondage…” (Micah 6:4). Be redeemed! Be free! Be whole!

 

Love Rescued Me

He offers a piggyback ride out of the mess I created. Shards of glass glisten on the tile as morning sunlight spills into our kitchen. I stand barefoot in the middle of broken glass, afraid to take a step in any direction.

It’s all my fault. In my usual hurry, I hadn’t taken time to thoroughly dry my hands. When I lifted a full quart-sized glass mug, it slipped from my grasp, shattering on the edge of my cast iron skillet Glass and water splashed across the stove and counter top. Larger pieces shattered again when they met the tile floor. Within seconds, it was over.

Are you okay?” Honey’s voice beats him to the doorway.

Yes.”

Don’t move. Let me get you out of here.”

He rescues me and cleans up the disaster. It takes almost an hour to restore our kitchen to its normal safe-to-walk-barefoot status. His voice and mannerisms remain calm. Not once does he scold or chide. His only concern is for my safety.

It is me who huffs and puffs on the inside. I am the one spewing and blaming myself for being a klutz.

This is the first of three broken-glass dramas within the span of a few days.

The next time, in a hurry to get out the door, I knock my Voss water bottle into the corner of a thick piece of glass that covers an antique sideboard in our entryway. The moment the sound of glass on glass hits my ears I know that I have cracked something. Closer inspection reveals it’s not the water bottle. Voss

Frustrated and disappointed, I’m quick to glance at my husband’s face for condemnation. Finding none, I continue to beat myself up about it as we head for the car. Through the maze of our neighborhood, I berate myself for being so careless. He holds my hand as always, acting as if nothing has happened.

Finally it’s Friday morning. I’m making a quick breakfast so Honey can head out to a meeting when I knock a Mason jar, filled with homemade spaghetti sauce off the refrigerator’s top shelf. “NO!” I holler as it heads for the tile. Instantly our kitchen looks like a slaughterhouse.Sauce

Lord, what is going on here? A roll of paper towels later, I’m still waiting for His answer. It comes quietly as I sit alone in the house, reflecting on my husband’s responses to my bull-in-a-china-shop ways.

“Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.” I continue reading from the open Bible on our kitchen table. “They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 (NKJV)

I realize that I have had false expectations of God and my husband. When I repeatedly mess up, I’m waiting for someone to shout at me, blame me, or remind me of the other times I’ve failed.

In retrospect, I’m the only one doing that. I’m the one insisting, “I made this mess I need to clean it up.” I’m the one remembering how many times I’ve already failed. I’m the one pointing spaghetti-sauce-covered fingers at myself.

During a moment of quiet introspection I ask, Why must I insist on doing something to help, even after someone who loves me has gently removed me from the danger of broken glass on bare feet? Is it a way to alleviate guilt? Why am I the only one remembering how many times I’ve already failed, when 1 Corinthians 13:5 tells me “Love keeps no record of wrongs?”

When we have suffered neglect or abuse in our past, lack of trust can haunt our present. If humans have made statements like, “You’ve made your bed, now you must lie in it,” we may subconsciously begin to believe that’s what God says, too. He doesn’t.

If we stop for a moment, like the woman caught in adultery and dragged before Jesus, and allow ourselves to look up into LOVE’s face, we will hear these precious words: “Where are your accusers?”

Sometimes we make repeated mistakes. Sometimes we break glass. Sometimes we break hearts. Whatever it is that’s broken in our lives today, we have Someone who wants to rescue us from our mess, clean it up and let it go. We can continue to beat ourselves up because we’ve made poor choices in the past, or we can move forward with a redeemed and forgiven future. The choice is ours.

I choose LOVE.

Ghirardelli & Geography

I’m thrilled to introduce you to my friend, and this week’s guest blogger, Sheri Wall. I’ve been dishing chapters of my manuscript off to a few friends and family members for initial editing and feedback. I’m so glad her review of Chapter 15 brought this insightful truth to light! (Thank you, Sheri, for this version of how God redeems the forgiveness we thought we lost.) Enjoy! Juliet

My email inbox is usually fairly predictable: 40% savings here; BOGO now; Here’s your school newsletter; Invitation to write for my blog as a guest. Wait. What? Better inspect that one more closely. Blogging isn’t completely foreign to me. I currently compile short entries for a successful photographer. But, you only have to dig so deep to pen phrases about hairstyles and various fru-fru subjects. No one’s soul is on the line. Even though I’m honored and horrified, I told my dear friend Juliet I’d give it a go. She told me not to worry, “The Holy Spirit will tell you what to say.” She was right.

As you dear readers know, Juliet is in the process of writing part of her life story. I’ve been privileged to proofread some chapters for her. It’s a powerful memoir that will touch many lives. I already know women that are asking tough questions and grasping at straws that Juliet, as a daughter of the King, has already answered and grabbed. I cannot wait to share her pages. One of the reasons my eyes have seen her raw words is that I lived alongside Juliet during a portion of the production, if you will. Endless nights, painful phone calls, tears, knowing glances and even vomiting – I had a front row seat for a good part of the show. And yet as I reaChoc-PBd the most recent chapter, my jaw, which while reading is usually busy with a spoon covered in peanut butter and rolled in Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips (it’s a bad snacking habit, don’t judge me), ever so slowly dropped. I honestly had completely forgotten that these particular events had even happened in her life. I mean, once I scanned the pages, it came back to me – a little. Some of the details were new to me, but the core of the story I should have retained.

Ugh! My head fell forward and the sadly still familiar voice began; “You are a horrible person! You should have remembered this happened to her. How can you call yourself a friend?”   Satan loves to berate me with guilt over my shortcomings toward the people I love. If I hadn’t already been eating chocolate, I would have sprung from my chair to grab some regret-soothing confections. But then Satan slipped up and said, “Who doesn’t recall such a significant, painful, even ugly time in a person’s life?” And my Lord answered, “Me”.

“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” Hebrews 8:12 (KJV)

Boom. Seems simple enough; pretty cut-and-dry. And yet here’s another verse:

“As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our sins from us.”    Psalm 103:12 (GNB)East-West - Version 2

I’m ashamed to admit that during my high school World Geography class, I did not grasp the whole traveling east/west thing. It wasn’t until years later during a church sermon that a wonderful Texas pastor explained that there is never a finite distance between the east and the west. If you start to travel east, and keep traveling east around the world, 10 miles, 100, miles, 1000 miles – it doesn’t matter, you will never actually travel west. The same holds true if you start westward. So, our sins are infinitely being removed from us. Sins are going to keep happening and the forgetting never stops.

“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 43:25 (NIV)

The above tasty morsel was a gift from God and Google. While checking the verbiage of other Bible versions, I came across this article by Sam O’Neal, Does God Really Forget Our Sins?, showcasing the above verse that I had, umm, forgotten about. I love how the Lord says “for my own sake” in verse 25. He doesn’t “forgive and forget” just to help us feel better, he does it for Himself. Even with the ability to number stars, sort sand grains, and count hair follicles, the Lord decided he didn’t need to commit our sins to memory even though he obviously has the mental capacity to do so. Sweet!

You know what? After writing this, I’m not slouching in my seat anymore, and I don’t feel the need to reload my spoon. I am filled with gratitude and humbled that this exchange in my own mind was used to remind me, and now remind each of you, that our Maker loves us unconditionally and we should never forget the simplicity of His plan for salvation.

Sheri Wall has lived all but 6 months of her life in the great state of Texas. When she’s not Sherispinning or running to allow for more cooking and eating, she’s engaging in some type of largely masculine hobby that either her husband of 30 years, 23-year-old son, or 15 year-old-son enjoy. Sheri is also a part-time nanny, writer, and bargain hunter and is thankful for the blessings of a simple but full life.

Lines in the Sand

People who love addicts learn to draw lines in the sand. Christians who love addicts may have a difficult time knowing whether their “line” is godly “tough love” or sheer anger and self-protection. We reason, “God loves us unconditionally, shouldn’t I love others that way, too?” Yes. But unconditionally sometimes mean taking a difficult stance in order to truly do the right thing. It also means loving and caring for ourselves.

I’m still reading David Sheff’s Beautiful Boy. I have to take it in small doses. It’s painfully reminiscent of the life I used to live loving an addicted spouse. Although David’s story is from a parent’s perspective, anyone who has lived the hell of waiting for a loved one who has disappeared on a binge to resurface can connect. Here’s what he realizes in chapter 17:

“I have learned to live with tormenting contradictions, such as the knowledge that an addict may not be responsible for his condition and yet he is the only one responsible. I also have accepted that I have a problem for which there is no cure and there may be no resolution. I know that I must draw a line in the sand – what I will take, what I will do, what I can’t take, what I can no longer do – and yet I must also be flexible enough to erase it and draw a new line. And now, with Nic in the hospital, I learn that I love him more, and more compassionately, than ever.”

Later, on p. 228 he writes, “Through Al-Anon…we understand the ways that our lives have become unmanageable, too. Mine has. My well-being has become dependent on Nic’s. When he us using, I’m in turmoil; when he’s not, I’m OK, but the relief is tenuous. The therapist says that parents of kids on drugs often get a form of posttraumatic stress syndrome made worse by the recurring nature of the addiction. For soldiers back from battle, the sniper fire and bombs are in their heads. For parents [or spouses] of an addict, a new barrage can come at any moment We try to guard against it. We pretend that everything is all right. But we live with a time bomb. It is debilitating to be dependent on another’s moods and decisions and actions. I bristle when I hear the word codependent, because it’s such a cliché of self-help books, but I have become codependent with Nic – codependent on his well-being for mine. How can a parent not be codependent on a child’s health or lack of it? But there must be an alternative, because this is no way to live. I have come to learn that my worry about Nic doesn’t help him, and it harms…me.”

I can completely relate. I became codependent with my addicted spouse. I built my life around his binges, his relapses, his lies. My emotions were constantly on a yo-yo as we lived the shame of being a Christian family with a double life. I hid in busyness and work. I smiled when I was crushed on the inside. I felt guilty that our money was supporting the illegal drug trade rather than advancing the kingdom of God. I fell into patterns of sin and hiding in order to cope with his sin and hiding. Ours was far from the abundant life that God longs for His children to live.

When I read the following selection from Touchstones Daily Meditations for Men, Aug. 13 in preparation for our church’s 12 Step group, the part about believing our shame is greater than that of others resonated with me. That’s what I used to believe. I thought ours was the only marriage in church being destroyed by addiction. For a long time I was too ashamed to talk about it, even with close family and friends. Especially with close family and friends. Statistics have proved me wrong. There are nearly as many Christians dealing with an addicted loved one or suffering from addiction themselves as those who are in the world. Here’s the whole quote:

“We cannot hang on to feelings of shame and guilt and still hope to become better people. How did these feelings begin? If we were treated badly by people, we need to be honest about what happened so we can resolve it and move on. Have we perpetuated our feelings by acting disrespectfully ourselves? Then we need to take a thorough inventory of our wrongdoings, admit them, make repairs, and let them go.

We may wallow in shame because facing it feels too frightening. Often, we believe our shame is greater than that of others. This belief is usually untrue and grandiose. It’s part of how we isolate ourselves. We don’t have to face it alone. We have the help of other men and women who can listen to our pain and tell us about their experiences.”

If you are wearing a cloak of shame for any reason, let me encourage you today to throw it off. Speak the truth in love to yourself or your addicted loved one. Set healthy boundaries. Find a healthy supportive group/place where you can be real – I recommend Al-Anon or Celebrate Recovery for starters. You are not alone in your suffering. It really helps to know that. When we hear the stories of others,  they begin to sound so familiar, so similar to our own. We can find solace in the experience of others and be encouraged by their journey to wholeness. Addiction breaks people. God heals the broken. And He does that, accNo Shameording to Dr. Larry Crabb, in community. Not in isolation. Finding a community for our own healing and growth is an important way that we can care for ourselves so that we can care for our loved ones. Within the context of that community, we can learn to draw healthy lines in the sand.

Caught Off-Guard

“Our silence equals death with addiction. If nobody knows how many people are affected, that people they love are affected and people they work with, why should they care?” David Sheff in an interview with Will Godfrey, Editor-in-Chief of The Fix. See the entire interview here: http://www.thefix.com/content/david-sheff-addiction-clean91667?page=all

“Are you married?” Her brown eyes looked up at me inquisitively as we walked together through the labyrinth of middle school hallways.

Yes. Are you?” I reply, my own brown eyes smiling as I tease her. (She’s a petite sixth grader.)

Laughing softly she quietly fires her next question, right into my heart, “Do you have kids?” How could I know that her words would catch me off-guard? I get that question all the time. I’m used to easily responding with some sort of, “no.”  I stall.

What?” I force her to repeat herself, as I compose my response. It is simple.

No.” I shake my head.

You don’t want any kids?” She innocently presses. What does a substitute teacher say to an angelic, dark-haired sixth grader whom she has just met when the child has just scratched the scab off of her healing-from-the-inside-out soul? (Don’t puncture wounds always take the longest to heal?)

February is a difficult month for me. It holds the birth day of a child whom I neither bore nor raised, but fiercely love not one ounce less than if I had done both. Maybe the emotion I choked on today as I escorted a curious sixth grade girl to science class sneaked up on me because SHE, too is in the sixth grade this year. And SHE, too has big brown eyes and a gentle spirit. And HER birthday is just a few days from now. I still haven’t bought her anything.

I don’t know what to buy. What do sixth grade girls want for their 12th birthday? I remember what I wanted. I got it, too. A blue diary with a gold lock and teeny key. In it I recorded all my girlish hopes and hurts. I wish I still had it. Maybe it would give me insight into a twelve-year-old’s soul. I’ve forgotten what it was like to be a pre-teen. What it feels like to know that you are almost grown (or so you think), but still like to play dolls with your little sister when no one is looking. Do they even make diaries these days? Or do Facebook and Instagram document kids’ lives in posts and snapshots, no longer private to be opened only with a golden key, but wide wide open for all the peering world to see? Kind of like my heart tonight, I suppose.

I digress. What is the point of this post? Maybe it is simply this: we never know when we will have a head-on collision with the pain of our past. It can be a smell, an image, a simple phrase, or an ill-timed question. But our heavenly Father knows. And He promises to give us “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.” This afternoon, I felt His strength as I gently assured the inquiring little mind before leaving her with the science teacher.

Somehow I came away from that conversation emotional, but not angry. Guilt and blame used to come knocking my door down whenever I allowed my thoughts to turn to HER and to why SHE is not mine in the way I had once hoped SHE would be. (See chapters 7 & 8 of my upcoming book for what my story-telling hero, Mr. Paul Harvey, would call, “the-rest-of-the-story.”)

I totally get David Sheff when he states in his own heart-wrenching memoir Beautiful Boy that, “Worry and guilt and regret may serve a function – as a turbocharger of conscience – but in excess they are useless and incapacitating.” For years after losing HER to another family because of the illegal drug use in ours, I was emotionally incapacitated by guilt and regret. It was only by God’s sweet grace that I was able to put that darkness behind me. However, as anyone who has been wounded by the shrapnel that addiction sprays over entire families knows, there are triggers to the past that can evoke emotions that have to be dealt with over and over again.

It does get easier with time. Rather than come home and crawl into my bed, as I may have done in years past, I am writing this post in hope of helping another weary soul to find some peace. Joyce Meyer Ministries reminded me this week that, “God wants to heal us but then He doesn’t want us to forever be in recovery. He wants us to recover and then get busy helping somebody else.” I suppose His healing is exactly why I could happily hum on my way home from school today, “Great is Thy Faithfulness…Lord unto me.”

You can listen to one of my favorite versions of that hymn sung by Selah here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrsfCZvqGxQ