Sunday, December 2, 2012

Baby James is Born, God's Perfect Timing

"Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." -James 1:17

As many of you know my pregnancy with James was a very difficult one. We found out I was expecting our little miracle at 9 weeks, he is an unexpected little blessing and we honestly thought I was just rather sick. When we went in for out first appointment they could not find his heartbeat, which was a very difficult thing for me because according to my calculations I knew I was between 12 and 18 weeks. When his ultrasound came back with a heartbeat and the image of our growing 12 week baby we were completely overjoyed! At 15 weeks I started spotting, that was another trial, I was torn between complete trust that God would get us through anything and fear that I'd lose our sweet little baby. The spotting went on for almost two weeks, but the ultrasound again revealed a growing healthy baby. At 22 weeks, just one week after finding out we were having a boy, I started having contractions and early labor. Those went on for the rest of my pregnancy. I was put on bed rest, had a home nurse come once a week to give me a shot of progesterone to keep me from dilating, I had steroid injections to help James' lungs develop faster, I was on Procardia to try to keep the contractions under control, and I went to the hospital 4 times for IVs and shots to stop labor.We counted every week down as I was in constant pain and our children were passed off to different baby sitters and various meals came and wonderful ladies came to clean, and I rested. Sometimes I rested as one resigned to everything going on and knew that the end result would be my baby boy, sometimes I was rather difficult to be around and the piled up dishes and the house projects not getting done and my husband not understanding how stressful watching him sit when there were a million things to do when if it were in my power I'd be up doing them even if I had a cold or headache, would really get to me. I knew the whole time that if I allowed Him to, God would work in my life more patience, more love, and more willingness to help others in their need.

We hoped to make it to at least week 35, and then week 35 came and I rejoiced with such thankfulness, then I prayed for week 36 and it too came. After that I felt really sick, the contractions were worse, I was dizzy, could barely eat anything, it hurt to move, the baby was "engaged" low and there was a lot of pressure from that, so on Thanksgiving day when I was able to tick off week 36 I was ready to meet my little guy, but was praying for God to work out the timing on everything. I had an infection that was not responding to medication so it was decided that I would have another c-section. I was also informed that because of the infection if my water broke or I became dilated too far the infection could reach the baby and harm him so getting in to the hospital ASAP was important. That was very confusing for me, because I had been in labor for almost 3 months at that time, so knowing when it was more of the same or not was going to be difficult.

Monday, November 26th, 36 weeks and 4 days. I had just eaten lunch with our two year old and I was attempting to guide her in the clean up of the crayons and paper she had scattered all over the living room when something felt different followed my a trickle, which lead to some investigations which made me think that just maybe my water had broken, which caused some panic, because, my husband was not home, I didn't have the car or our daughter's car seat, couldn't find her socks or shoes, was in my pajamas, and water breakage was dangerous. I called my husband, he was about an hour away, we knew we couldn't wait, couldn't reach my mother-in-law, I was balling, my daughter was worried, she asked me if daddy made me cry, which made me smile a little and realize that I needed to pull myself together. I assured her that daddy doesn't make mommy cry, my tummy just hurt. My husband had called one of our pastor's wives and she was on her way. When I prayed for God's timing, I thought things would work a little better in the getting to the hospital, but they did work, she got us there, had a car seat and could take Emma, and I am so thankful! Long story short, my husband got there, my mother was called, they determined that my water probably was leaking, but not bad (which was a huge blessing!) the doctor was called and I was prepared for the c-section all with in a very short amount of time.

Here is where God went above and beyond to prove to me that His timing was absolute perfection. We were having a very hard time deciding on my having a tubal ligation, we had such mixed feeling about it. We wondered if it was wrong for us to pick our child number on our own and not just leave it completely up to God, or if making that choice was okay to do, especially in light of the fact that my pregnancies just got more complicated each time and our families were having such a hard time helping us with this pregnancy that any more would be a hardship on everyone. We also weren't sure if we wanted to be done, we loved having our little blessings, and we would never mind having more. Our debate went on and we found out that the insurance would only cover the tubal if we had signed the papers 6 weeks before the delivery. We thought that was our answer, it was too late, end of story. Well, we were surprised that the doctor came in and asked if we wanted it done, I said we didn't get the papers signed and he said that because this was indeed and emergency they waved the 6 weeks and he could do it if we wanted him to. Much to my surprise I wanted him to, and we both agreed real quick. The other small thing is that apparently my first c-section was not preformed very well. The cut was too wide and too low, it made weight loss and recovery of my figure really difficult. Well, due to the timing and the doctors on call, they were able to fix all the mistakes for me, the end result is as the one doctor said, a mini micro tummy tuck to repair what was previously done. Let me just say, that at 3 days post operation my tummy looked better that it had in over two years and is healing so much better than I ever thought it could. This is a very trivial thing, I don't really believe that cosmetic surgery is the right thing to do, I'd never have even thought to have anything done with the mess I was left with, and what was done is so small that anyone else might not ever notice, but I am just so thankful that I won't only look better to myself, but that it already feels much better. Those are just the minor things that were timed perfectly, here is the big miracle. James, even though considered premature, is healthy! He weighed 6lbs 15.3 ounces! He scored a 9 out of 9 on both of his APGAR tests, his color is perfect, he has a head full of dark brown hair, and he has not had a single problem. An extra blessing is that he is an excellent eater! Both of my girls had so many problems eating, they couldn't latch on. James required very little work, basically,  and this sounds crazy, but I told him what to do and he did it. He nurses like a pro and that makes mommy's life so much easier!

I just thought I'd share the added blessings. We are thrilled beyond words that our little boy is healthy and thriving. He has a wonderful personality, he is adorable. We could always feel that someone was missing from our family, we had that tiny void, after I had Emma and we thought we would have to be done, we were devastated, we wanted another child, we wanted to have a son too. I know we don't deserve to have been so blessed by God to have the little boy of our dreams, but He saw fit to give him anyway. It wasn't an easy journey, I'm honestly very thankful that it wasn't. Every moment of labor, every tear, every fear was worth it, and God once again showed me that He will never fail me. It all worked out the way we wanted it to, no NICU experience, when we needed help the most with the girls, or the house work, or a meal, it was taken care of. Every little detail was lovingly planned by our heavenly Father long before. I am just so thankful for God's absolutely perfect timing!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Hope and Promise

I don't much like the morning after a sleepless night, but I've found that God gives me sleepless nights as little gifts. When I can't sleep I know He is trying to tell me something. Tonight it's a message of hope, it's a message of peace, and it's a reminder of how much He loves and cares for me and this little one growing inside me. It is a reminder of what He has done for me and what He promises to do for me always.

Emma is our second daughter, she has strawberry blonde curls and a smile that would melt even the coldest heart. She loves music, she loves to go into the kitchen and turn on "her" CD of classical music and dance. She insists on listening to "her" music in the car and singing at the top of her voice, and I must say for a two year old she has a lovely voice. Every time I look at her I'm reminded of what a miracle she is.

I had a very difficult time with her pregnancy. I was weak the whole pregnancy, I just felt sick and tired. At about 6 weeks I started bleeding and went to the doctor and was given a 50% chance of miscarrying. They couldn't find her heartbeat on the first ultrasound, I spent a very tearful two weeks of follow ups to see if my baby would make it or not, the only thing I knew for sure is that I loved my little one, and even though I had faith that God would carry us through anything, I didn't want to say goodbye, I wanted to hold that baby, I wanted to kiss that baby, nurse that baby, raise that baby, hope for that baby, dream and plan for that baby. God had given me that baby, and He had given me a love for her so deep even though she was the size of a bean. We waited the two weeks and came out of the doctors office with joy. There was a heartbeat and the cause of  the bleeding was found and was on it's way to healing, the doctor gave us a 90% of a successful pregnancy.

The weeks went by, I felt weaker and weaker, but that baby was growing, and that was what mattered most. Around 20 weeks we had another ultrasound and learned that Baby Teghtmeyer #2 was another girl.  So I knew my little baby was my little Emma, and Emma means "strong."

Week 30 came and with it some early contractions that sent me to the hospital. There the alarm for my blood pressure kept going off alerting us all that my blood pressure was at least 140/90. The nurse commented on it maybe being because of the pain. It was established that the contractions "weren't doing anything" so I was sent home and told to rest.

Week 31 came and I went to the doctor and he was a little concerned that my blood pressure was still around 140/95 and that my face and ankles were swollen beyond recognition and that I had rather a lot of protein in my urine. I still had no idea what all that could mean, I was told to watch for an increase of my blood pressure, headaches that wouldn't go away with Tylenol and rest, more swelling, contractions, and I was told to rest. Week 32 came and with it the worst headache I'd ever had in my life complete with seeing those little floating guys and flashes of light and my blood pressure was up, to about  150/97, and when I talked I sounded like a drunk. When we told the doctor this he said to get to the hospital, right now!

This time I didn't get to go home. Through the fog of that headache I could make out phrases like "deliver the baby tonight," and "seizure," and "steroid shot to get the baby's lungs ready." It was like a really bad dream. They had called an ambulance to take me to a hospital with a Newborn Intensive Care Unit and a Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist. I was so scared, I felt the panic of what was going on, the possibilities that my baby may not make if she were born now, the possibilities that I might leave my oldest daughter without her mother, and the whole time the headache pounded making everything spin and the ambulance sped and rocked and creaked and there were kind hands checking my vitals, checking my baby's heartbeat, and there was God, who was holding us both and giving me back my calm.

By the time we arrived at the hospital, I felt a little more with it. I was able to answer some of the questions the nurse asked as I was placed on the hospital bed. The specialist came in and explained that they were going to begin me on blood pressure medicine and wait to see what happened, the goal being give the baby as much time inside of me as possible, and explaining that this was Preeclampsia, and that the only cure would be to deliver and I would most likely not make it to term. Then I was allowed to sleep, it was after midnight and I was more than ready.

I spent 2 or 3 days on the hospital in the Special Care Unit. When I was released my blood pressure was still high but no longer creeping up there, I was put on strict bed rest and sent home with a 24 hour urine collection kit, the second of many as I had already done one in the hospital. They had to know just how much protein was in my urine at all times because if it got too high, they had to deliver the baby. My how I hated that red jug and that "toilet hat."

I spent 20 hours a day sleeping, the other 4 were spent eating, going to doctor appointments, turning in my collection, and collecting my collection. I later learned that at that time my kidneys were shutting down because of the internal bleeding from my blood pressure, one of those things they don't tell a pregnant woman because she'd become hysterical, and that was why I was sleeping so much. I sometimes had the clarity to pray, I couldn't focus my eyes to read. Mostly I just slept knowing that there were people praying us through this and that God was still holding us both.

I made it almost 2 weeks at home. We went to the doctor on May 25th 2010, and I felt even worse, too bad to even recognize the headache or mind the spinning. When the doctor came in he looked at me and said "we have a problem." I thought, well duh! Apparently I wasn't so far gone to have lost my weak sense of humor. He explained that the last 24 hour urine test had the highest level he had ever seen in almost 25 years, he said it had to be wrong, it just had to be or I was peeing cream cheese. He wanted us to go to the hospital for our scheduled non-stress test and for more tests. At the hospital they determined once again that I needed to go back to the specialist and back into the hospital, the blood pressure was up to a very dangerous level, the protein was too high and they started me on anti seizure medicine because they expected me to go from Preeclampsia to Eclampsia at any moment. It was all so very reassuring, I think I had a panic attack if memory serves me right. My husband just held my hand and said, "it is going to be OK." I asked him how he knew that,  looking around every nurse on the floor was in my room, that blood pressure monitor wouldn't stop with that alarm, they kept talking about an emergency cesarean today, another ambulance was on it's way, how did he know it would be OK? He gave me that look he gives me, the one I fell in love with, the one where I know he means what he is saying with every fiber of his being, and repeated, "it is going to be OK."

He was right. I made it 3 more days, celebrated his birthday and the milestone of making it to 34 weeks.  Then the blood pressure went back up, I don't even know what it was, but it was high. I felt like I was dying, and I was. The doctor came in my room the morning of the 28th looked at me and said I looked like death warmed over, call my husband, get him there, the baby was coming today. Those words met me with calm, I was alone in that hospital room, hearing them all, and I was calm. I tried calling my husband, I couldn't reach him, and I was calm. I tried calling my mother, no answer, and I was calm. Two nurses began giving me more anti seizure medicine and I was calm. I finally heard what was going on in my body, I felt a little panicked, but it was replaced by that calm. A NICU nurse came in to explain the possible complications my baby might face at 34 weeks, and again the initial panic was replaced by calm. My family and husband finally arrived and there was a lot of talking and monitors going off, and the buzz of nurses coming and going and a building headache and the side  affects of the anti-seizure meds making me too warm, then too cold, then sick, and the hours ticked by. And as the team came in to take me to the operating room, our daughter, Lilly arrived to see mommy off and hear that she was about to be a big sister. And God placed on my heart that it would be OK, that no matter what happened in that delivery room, life or death, it would all be OK. It was the most beautiful moment of my life. I felt God right there with me going down that hallway, going into that O.R. being placed upon that table, receiving that spinal block that I was previously so afraid of. He was right there when the doctor began cutting, right there when he pulled our Emma out of me and she gave that first wonderful cry that meant her lungs were working, right there when I heard the nurses declare over her red hair, right there as I stared at the wonder of that tiny little 4 pound baby who was just fine.

Emma spent 2 weeks in the NICU. They were hard weeks, I was recovering from the c-section, trying to spend time with my three year old as much as possible, and wanting my baby home with me. My husband had to get back to work. Emma was declared a grow and feed, meaning there was nothing at all wrong with her except that she couldn't eat on her own yet and needed an NG tube and she needed to gain weight. It was such a blessing that she was healthy. I don't think anyone can understand unless they've been there, but being in the NICU, even if your baby is doing well is hard, to say the least. While spending my time rocking my baby and trying to get her to learn to nurse, I heard fathers planning funeral arrangements for their babies, mothers weeping. doctors giving bad news, monitors beeping, nurses rushing around, it isn't exactly a very peaceful place, you can't have your family all come and celebrate the arrival of your miracle in a place like that.  By the end of the two weeks I was emotionally drained just because of other people's babies, it did help me be even more thankful for the health my baby. And through all of that, God gave me strength, looking back I should have been exhausted, commuting from my parent's house to the hospital, getting up every three hours to pump milk for my Emma, having my arms literally ache to hold her whenever I wasn't with her, dealing with the emotions of my three year old who just wanted mommy to stay with her, and trying to recover from the c-section, not to mention how sick I had been before they delivered her, but He gave me the strength to deal with all of it. He promises us that strength. And He always keeps His promises, always.

I'm sitting here remembering all of this. It is like God is reminding me of His promise now to carry me once again. He has already brought me through things that would break a person if it weren't for His love and strength. He loves me and He loves this precious little guy I carry even more than I do. I know that whatever happens it will be OK. I am not promised tomorrow here on this earth, my baby is not promised tomorrow in my womb, but I am promised hope and eternity, I am promised that all things will work together for my good. I really do feel that my little James will be just fine and that I will be just fine, not sure what will happen in between, if we will have another NICU experience, I'm praying that we don't, but I know that The One who holds us will never let us go.

If I have learned anything these last six years, it is that God uses our children to teach us. He shows us what love really is, he shows us a small measure of how He must feel when we go astray, He shows us what sacrifice is. And He has shown me what it means to really trust Him with my life and the life of my children. I can place my hope and trust in Him.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Home-Sunday School?

I've been put on rest. I'm now 26 weeks pregnant, but I'm having contractions. Not those painless "Braxton Hicks" things, I mean contractions. Both of our daughters were premature, the first one just came early, we had signals that she might and I spent a couple of months on bed rest, the second came early because of other complications, so I'm already classified as "high risk." I'm having P17 injections in attempt to keep the contractions from causing dilation, but I have been warned that there are no certainties and that the high risk remains.

I had intended to make it to church this morning, I'm allowed to get up and do things as I feel I'm able. It's been 4 weeks since our two year old has gone to Sunday School, and our six year old has gone once over the past month. My husband helps in the sound booth and has to arrive about an hour early to help with praise team practice, so it is often difficult for him to take our girls to church because he is busy from the time of his arrival until he leaves.

It was apparent at about 2:30 this morning that I wasn't going to make it again. It was one of those sleepless nights, pain, heartburn, contractions when I came downstairs to get my medicine. I brainstormed all of the possibilities, could I send our six year old and have her color until Sunday School this week? No, we have Missions Conference going on, and I wasn't sure if she would even have Sunday School. Could I find someone for her to sit with, not from 9:00 A.M. until 3:00P.M. No, it was apparent that the girls would be staying home with mommy this morning, again. I planned on getting out one of the many children's Bibles and giving them a coloring page, then we could watch our church family worship together. I was really concerned about teaching them Hebrews 10:25 "And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near." I also wanted to make sure that they don't start missing the routine and the extra Bible training. 

It was clear by 7:00 this morning that my "Home-Sunday School" would be more like a couple of Veggie Tales videos and a coloring page because I was finally ready to go to sleep as the girls were waking up. So, that is what we did. They watched Veggie Tales while I took a nap, then I got out the crayons and turned on the 10:15 worship service on the computer. I realized at times like this, and every day, it is how we deal with all of our moments, not just Sunday morning, that will mean the most to our children. Yes, I want them at church on Sunday, but how we show our love to them and our love for God during the rest of the week is far more important then where and how they heard God's Word on Sunday from 9:00 to noon. They did hear The Word, they did see my attempt to connect with our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Long story short is I'm learning more and more every day, even though I should know this by now, that more often than not things do not go as we plan. This pregnancy isn't going as we planned, although at first we expected it to be worse considering my history, the house projects we are trying to get done before our baby boy gets here aren't going as planned, I really can not plan on doing this or going to that these days. My days are planned by God, in fact they were planned by Him before I was even born. It is hard to let go of control and let whatever is going to  happen happen, but it is going to anyway. I'm trying to learn to go with the twists and turns without so much resistance and bitterness. He knows whats up ahead, I truly am just along for the ride. 

As I contemplate "preparing myself" for when the home nurse comes at 4:00 for my next injection and knowing what is in store for me, the headaches, the mood swings, the hot flashes, the pain for the nest 2-6 days. I know I can't really do that, I have no idea what will happen next, really. I could end up in the hospital. I don't know if I'll have someone to walk my six year old to school every day this week. I could even have less side affects this time, I could even have a contraction free week and be able to do things. I don't know, but God does and He has it all worked out.  

Monday, August 27, 2012

Our News and The Importance of being Real

Well, it has been awhile. So much has happened since I posted last! Our family is growing, we are expecting a son in December! We decided that for this year we would send our 5 year old to public school because of the difficulties I have had in past pregnancies and because we felt that the classroom structure would be very good for her, at least for now. My husband started a new job and the extra pay has been a huge blessing. There are also some weddings coming up that will gain us a new Aunt/sister-in-law in November, and an uncle/brother-in-law in May. Lots of happy things going on for us, but today I have some thoughts on being real about the struggles we all have and why it is important to do so.

I think we've all scrolled through Facebook and thought whine, whine, complain, complain, can't anyone be positive! Then there are days you scroll through with a lot on your mind and see "be happy" "think positively" "there is always something to smile about" maybe it's just me, but usually on those days where I am struggling with something those posts are a reminder of how I am failing because I don't feel like being happy, I am having a very hard time finding a positive, and I really am having a hard time focusing on those things that make me smile. Now this reminder can be a good thing, it reminds me that I am still a woman in need of a savior, that I need to have some quiet time and focus on the things that are good and lovely and pure and not on the junk. Very needed kick in the teeth? Sometimes.

On the other side, the complaints of others can be used as a way to see into the struggles they are having, it is a way of knowing exactly how to pray for that person, and in a lot of cases what they are going through is something very difficult, even if it is only difficult for them. It is also an opportunity for us to realize that we are not alone in our struggles. Sometimes on my really hard days realizing that other people struggle with the very same thing I do is more reassuring to me than a "just smile and be thankful for the blessing." Not because I want to see other people struggle, but because I can see in these people an invitation to be real, to share my pain and struggles, because they understand pain and struggles, because they aren't afraid of breaking the look of having it all together by saying, "hey, I'm having a problem with this, could you please pray with me about it."

Today is Monday, I've already browsed my Facebook, I saw some "ugh, it's Monday" posts, and I've seen some, "God is always good, even on Monday" posts. Both are real. One may be more pleasant to read, unless your dad just died, your cat ran away, and your first born is in the hospital. I guess the bottom line is, I like real! I want friends who I can be real with. I want friends I can pray for, and friends I know will pray for me and not just tell me that God is in control and everything will work out for my good and His glory. Real. I don't want to fear sharing my struggles because someone will know I'm not perfect. I love God, I read His word, and after I've shared my real He usually quiets my heart with His real, which is so much better than a reminder that sounds more like a reprimand. Most of the time our Christian friends know that God is working all things for their good, what they really need when they are crying out is a gentle reminder and an "I'm praying for you, I understand pain and hurt, and I've felt the very same way about this very same issue, and God can and will make this better for you in His time." That would be priceless.

These are some of my real struggles right now, the ones I have to keep on giving to God, the ones that I have to remind myself may be my real, but are not His real:

  • Looking in the mirror and being one of those pregnant women who just look fat. When I'm not pregnant I struggle with my looks too. Yes, there is a silver lining to this and I do see it, no fear of people touching my stomach and saying "oh how cute, when are you due?" So, yes I can smile, but it is not really the kind of smile I'd like to have. I've struggled with eating disorders and this may be harder for me because of that. I do know the truth, that God made me, He loves me, I am His work of art. I eat right, in fact I eat better than most people I know, which also makes it hard for me to still look like this, but the truth is, I am loved by God, I am cherished by Him, he calls me His child. These things I know, I tell myself the truth when I feel bad, I refocus on Him, but the struggle remains daily. It is something I could use your prayers on. 
  • Feeling foolish, silly, stupid, etc. when I make a mistake. Two factors play into this, I was in an abusive relationship for 3 years, and was frequently told these things whenever I'd do something as simple as bump into someone, or forget to do something, or spell something wrong, you get the picture. I often hear the stupid, foolish, mantra in his voice in my head when I make a mistake. Also, I am having trouble with my daughter being put back into Kindergarten. She simply wasn't reading well enough for first grade, I home schooled her last year and I keep thinking if only I'd done a better job, ordered a different curriculum, spent more time on this, didn't bother in the first place....she wouldn't have had to go through starting school in the first grade and moving up in Sunday School and having her hopes set high for moving to the "big kids" Wednesday night club only tho have to go back. Now again, I know the truth, that God has a plan for all of this, that He is working in this, He is working on me, He is working on Lilly, and it is going to be so good, I can even see this, and yet every tear she cries about it, every time she acts out because she is frustrated, I have to fight the "this is all your fault." Just another area I need prayer in.
  • This house. Our house is not organized, it is not always clean, it is, in fact falling apart. The living room needs all the potentially lead filled paint out of it, it is currently stacked high with my husbands e-scrap, tools, and junk. I look at it and it is depressing, I'm overwhelmed with knowing that if something doesn't get done soon I am going to be bringing yet another baby home to a disaster. I don't feel like having people over, I just found out I'm going to need a home nurse coming over weekly, and I have to show her into this wreck of a house... My health at the moment does not allow me to just get in there and go to work, my husband, bless him, comes home tired with a sore back, and he also has not been feeling well, so there it is, this house, and not being able to do anything about it. Yes, the truth is that God is using this time to work on my patience, to reassure me that the condition of my house is far less important than so many other things, to be content (or at least He is trying to get me to be content, I'm being rather stubborn) and I know that He will allow us to get done the things that absolutely need to be done before this baby comes, and anything that doesn't get done is not absolutely necessary, but this is still so hard for me, so very, very hard. As a matter of fact, I think this is my number one struggle at the moment. I want to have things in order, I want to have a home, I want to be the perfect Proverbs 31 women, it feels impossible in this house. I read so many devotionals about having your home in order, having things clean and tidy when your husband comes home, those devotionals are sometimes heartbreaking for me. Yes, I need to focus on the things I can do, and not dwell on the ones that are out of my control. still a struggle. 
Those are some of the areas I need prayer in. I don't have it all together, I don't always find the good and smile about it. Sometimes these things overwhelm what I know to be true. This is my real. I struggle and I fall. I don't always focus on what I know I should. Please pray for me. And Please let me know how I can pray for you!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Catching Up, and Another Lesson in Grace

It has been awhile since I've posted. This homeschooling mommy has been very busy lately. Our family seems to finally be recovering from a particularly bad winter sickness-wise. I just started a new homeschool curriculum with our Kindergartner. We are back in the swing of Bible Studies and Wednesday night clubs.

One little lesson of grace learned recently was actually by our five year old, Lilly. Our little girl is the typical strong willed child. Very hard headed little girl, prefers to learn things by experience. I thought her lesson is worth sharing, Prodigals current and former all have to learn things the hard way. I hope this is a reminder to us all.

We sent our little Lilly to Wednesday night Word of Life Club, Gopher Buddies, last week. I was feeling a little under the weather, so I stayed home with our toddler, Emma. Lilly was running around having a good time, she was told to line up, she didn't want to. Strong willed children rarely do things just because they are told to you know. She had her warning and she still chose to disobey her coaches and run away. So, they brought in daddy, who was running the video for another class.

Lilly ran away from daddy when he came to get her. Daddy, not being one to put up with disobedience, swooped up the little girl and took her to the auditorium while he continued to run the video with the instruction for her to sit. Lilly decided to run away again. This time it was dark, this time she couldn't see what she was doing, this time there was a stair and a chair in the way, this time she fell and hit her eye.

I got a text to "come pick up Lilly." I was a little confused there was still an hour of club left. When we got to the church and found Anthony, my husband, Lilly was nowhere to be seen. I asked him what was going on, he told me that she was with one of our friends who is a nurse because she ran into a chair while she was running away from him and had a black eye. When I saw Lilly it was bad, her face was swollen, her eye was black and puffy. The girl was a mess.

After I got her home, I asked her what she was thinking when she ran away from her coaches and her father. She very honestly told me that she "wanted to show her coaches that she was old enough to make her own decisions." It didn't take much time to figure out how to handle this one. I told her no one is ever old enough to make there own decisions. I told her that even daddy and mommy can't make their own decisions, we have to ask God by reading His Word and praying before we make a decision. When it comes down to a decision to obey someone in authority over us, especially when that person loves God, like her coaches do, then we must do what the Bible says and obey.

This experience has really rocked Lilly's little world. She has been in deep thought for a five year old over the fact that going against God and making our own decisions usually ends in pain. She didn't want to look into the mirror for a few days. Some moments she behaves so mature and is so obedient, only to have the next moment be utter chaos. She is struggling so hard with the truth of what she has learned for herself. I know she gets it now far better than me telling her time and time again that she could get hurt if she doesn't listen. I know she gets it because she is fighting so hard with herself.

When I see the horrible black eye on my little girl I am reminded of my disobedience, my running away from God, my pain. Every time I've run away from God to try to prove to Him that I could make my own decisions, it has ended in pain. Emotional pain, physical pain, spiritual pain. When I see my daughter I am reminded that we all struggle with ourselves, and that we all have a choice, to follow, or to run. What direction are you going? Are you going to follow and enjoy peace, love, and safety, or are you a runner who knows about the pain. It isn't too late to turn around. You may have a black eye, but God wants to heal it and keep you from tripping and falling again. Just let Him.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lessons Learned While Hiking, I still have a long way to climb...

I'm taking a break from what I have been writing. I just got back from an anniversary get away with my husband. We went hiking at Clifty Falls State Park. I had a lot of thoughts on our hikes and for better or for worse I will share a few of them.

We wanted to hike to the bottom of the cliff and hike along the creek bottom. First of all I just want to say, I don't like heights and I don't like water, but I do like my husband so down the cliff to the creek we went. A second thing you should know is that I've spent the last two months at home either being sick or taking care of sick children. On top of sitting around for the last two months, I'm not in very good physical condition to begin with. It was difficult for me to hike to the bottom, I was scared a few times and my legs ached, but I made it down with hand from my husband. Once at the bottom I couldn't help but remember other trips with an abusive boyfriend. I remembered being yelled at for fear and hesitation, being ridiculed for not being fast enough. I was sitting at the bottom of a cliff in a creek surrounded by God's beautiful creation, in one of the most relaxing situations I could wish for, with the kindest man God ever created, and I remember all these bad things. I realized that years later abusive words still hurt. Time doesn't heal all wounds, God can, but time doesn't. I hadn't really given all that hurt to Him, I left it to time.

My husband wanted to cross the creek using a rope to hang on to. That combined two of my biggest fears, water and falling. I became extremely stubborn at this point. I even crossed my arms and told him he could go on, but I was staying right there. Well, after a little bit of feeling bad I at least tried, I made it half way across, found it difficult and turned back, causing my husband to turn back as well. There are so many things I can take from that alone. How many times a day do I let fear hold me back from doing something, in this case I missed out on a chance to see the waterfalls from the creek, what do I miss out on in my day to day life? In this case I caused the man I love most to miss out on something he really wanted to do, how many times do I cause others to miss out on something because of my fear or stubbornness? And the biggest question I ask myself is, if I would have had water proof boots or an easier time getting across, would I still have stubbornly gone back because it was the easiest way?

These thoughts bothered me the whole way back up the cliff, I cried and I was mad, mad at my husband for thinking I could even try to do this, mad at myself for being scared, mad at myself for being weak, mad at myself for being so stubborn, selfish, and non-submissive. It occurred to me that our oldest daughter's strong willed behavior could very well be my fault after all. God healed a lot of my anger on the way up that cliff. He soothed a lot of guilt and shame. He used my husband's kind words to "let it go, it's okay," to ease the hurt and humiliation, and to remind me that I am no longer in an abusive relationship, unless I count the relationship I sometimes have with myself.

After that hike there were several other hikes. I found myself in another unhealthy thought pattern. Instead of focusing on the time spent with my husband, or the absolutely gorgeous scenery, I was thinking about how many calories I was burning.  And when we stopped to take pictures I thought about how fat I looked. In one of my previous posts I wrote about how I still struggle with those thoughts, they do not take a vacation. It is really hard to battle those thoughts when you are trying to relax and enjoy yourself. I want to come to a place in my life that I am fine with how I look all the time. I want to be healthy, yes, but being thin does not equal healthy, especially for me. I know that God can help me to gain victory over the thoughts just like He helped me have victory over the actions of my eating disorder. I just need to actually give up those thoughts to Him every time they come instead of holding on to them, and why would I want to hold on to them...

So, the lessons learned. Obviously, He is still working on me, and will be for the rest of this life. I can choose to give Him my baggage and hurts, my anger and pain, and He can give me victory. I just need to get over my stubbornness. I've taken the first step up the cliff, and if I let Him, He will carry me the rest of the way, and that sounds better than doing it myself, my legs still hurt.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Large Doses of Grace, Part Two, How Quickly Sin Takes Hold

I started high school with the desire to be someone, or at least be someone a little more popular than I was in middle school. I still had big thick glasses, was still in need of braces, and was more developed than most of the girls in 9th grade, but in high school that was a good thing. I also had lost a lot of weight due to taking my anorexic tendencies more seriously over the summer. I had a pretty good summer. I had more friends and I felt a little more confident. I had chosen to go the easy road instead of the harder one. I decided that I was going to fit in no matter how I had to compromise. The biggest problem was, I decided, I had chosen.

I got a lot of attention from older guys at school because I would wear low cut tops. I fit in better with most people because I now spoke the language of a rebellious teenager. It doesn't seem like really bad stuff, I listened to the weekly top 40 and I wore low cut shirts and tight pants and I said a few "naughty" words, big deal right? Wrong! Sin has a nasty habit of taking hold of you when you let it creep in your life even in little ways. There is a reason I personally don't listen to secular music or watch prime time T.V. these days, I know how easy it is to become complacent when you are allowing your heart and mind to be influenced by the world. Very few people realize that when you surround yourself with the culture of the day, you usually start acting like the culture of the day. Sadly, most people don't even realize what comes out of their own mouth anymore because they have become desensitized. Listening to secular music, watching 'Friends,' and being around other people who had never known any better lead to complacency, and complacency lead to down right dirty sin.

I was able to juggle two lives my freshman year and most of my sophomore year. I went to church on Sunday with the family, even sang in the choir my dad directed, I was able to sink back into the other me the rest of the week. There were even times when the music I listened to offended the Sunday me even on weekdays, so I compromised and listened to Classical for a little while. I had a huge crush on a "preacher's boy" during my sophomore year, so I even tried to clean up my act a little bit here and there. Then I had a conflict with one of the other youth group members at church, that was it for me, I was done trying to be the Sunday me any day of the week.

By the end of my sophomore year I had a boyfriend. A"real" boyfriend who was interested in me. What did it matter that he really didn't believe in God at all, he liked me. I wanted someone to like me like that so badly and, after all, the people in the church were hypocrites, I did have that conflict with that one girl. When I compromised in this, it was the end of playing on the edge, when I compromised on dating a non-believer that was the beginning of the Prodigal Years.

I have some good news to report, I made restitution on the graham cracker. (previous post) I will write more about the Prodigal Years and how I came home in my next posts. I want you to notice the patterns of sin and selfishness. I also want you see the mark of grace God has had on my whole life. Even more importantly, I want to remember how easily sin makes us its master. I also want to remember the grace of God. God's grace is making something very beautiful. Thank you, for taking this journey with me.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Large Doses of Grace, Part 1, Before I Became a Prodigal

I've heard people laugh at speeches that begin with "Webster's Dictionary defines..." I have also heard one the best blog writers, who happens to be one of the top ten people I admire most, my dad, begin a speech that way, So, while this is not a speech...

The online Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Sanctification as: "the state of growing in divine grace as a result of Christian commitment after baptism or conversion," and Grace: " unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification." We will come back to this later, there may even be a test on it...

I grew up in a Christian home. We went to  "non-denominational" churches while I was growing up. My father attended Moody Bible Institute before he married my mother, and when I was six we moved to Wyoming so he could continue his education at Frontier School of the Bible with the goal of becoming a pastor. I attended church at least 2 times a week from the time of my infancy until I was 18. 

I was 4 when I started asking questions about heaven and hell, Jesus and sin. I can actually remember the car ride home from church one Sunday. My mother wasn't there, she was on pregnancy bed-rest, I remember sitting in the front seat asking my dad how I could go to heaven when I died. The conversation continued when we got home, it ended with me praying and "asking Jesus in my heart." I don't know all the details, I do know that I believed that Jesus died to forgive me of all the wrong things I had done, I knew that I was a sinner, in fact I had stolen a graham cracker just the week before....sorry you had to find out like this mom... I also know that I believed that Jesus is the only way to get to heaven and that He loves me, and I believed that I was saved. I also remember my dad telling other people that he believed that I was a Christian based on what I understood. 

I really meant this whole Christian thing. I loved Jesus, and I wanted to obey Him because He loved me. When my brother was born I remember hearing my mother saying something about how she couldn't believe such a sweet little baby could be a sinner. I was shocked, I rolled his walker in my room and I asked him if He wanted Jesus in his heart and got him to shake his little head yes. Thankfully my mother came in and heard me praying the prayer for my non-verbal little brother and figured out that my little 5 year old mind just did not understand that babies would go to heaven because they don't know any better and can't understand what sin is.   

After we moved to Wyoming and my Father finished his schooling we moved to another town in Wyoming and I attended a Private Christian School in 3rd, 4th, and most of 5th grade. We learned everything you would in a public school, although I will say the standards were much higher than public school, and we also learned the Bible, said the pledge to the American flag, the Christian flag, and to the Bible. My teachers lived their faith out before our eyes. It was this that inspired me to study God's Word for myself. I didn't do a very faithful job of it, but it was a start.

When my Grandfather died in January of 1992 we moved back to our hometown in Indiana to be closer to my grandmother. I went back to public school. I was never a leader, I always seemed to follow others never wanting to stand out anymore than I already did, I had huge glasses, crooked teeth, and I was a head taller than the rest of my school mates. Going back to public school away from the influence of a Bible School community, was a very difficult adjustment. The first week at my new school there was a group of kids who were nice enough to include me because I had a popular cousin in our grade, we were on the play ground and they were off in the back playing 'light as a feather, stiff as a board.' Something just did not feel right about this to me. I remembered one of the teachers at my old school talking about the "satanic games" she use to play, and this smelled strongly suspicious to me, so for the first, and sadly one of the last times in my life, I walked away. I walked away from a chance to be popular, I walked away from a chance to be "cool" and I made friends with kids that were a little less popular. Their influence wasn't the greatest either, for example I started saying "oh my god," not realizing that I was blaspheming, and I started saying "that sucks" not realizing what "sucks" really meant. I still refused to listen to any music that wasn't about God. In those days Amy Grant had just started doing secular music, and I was so upset because my favorite song was "El Shaddai." I tried to hold on to the things I held dear, but I felt so different, and being different at the age of 11 is a very hard thing for a girl who just wanted to fit in. 

The fall of my 6th grade year saw us move yet again, this time only about 2 minutes away, but it was a whole new school district, and once again I did not fit in anywhere. I was so alone, and I think that at this time my Bible study and prayer life started to drop off. Funny how the One who could keep me from feeling lonely was the One I started pushing away.   

Middle school was worse, I don't think it is easy on anyone, but I was still taller than anyone else, my glasses were still huge, my teeth were still crocked, but I was developing faster than all the other girls. I was made fun of mercilessly, I was able to make friends with a few other girls, but for the most part I was that different girl who was all religious and backwards. By the end of 8th grade I had had it with being so different, there was nothing I could do about the glasses or my teeth, but I could stop being the goody two shoes everyone made fun of me for being, and I started cursing and listening to the music everyone else did. 

That may not be such a shocker, but when Suzanne does something she usually goes all out, and this was the beginning of my Prodigal thoughts and behaviors. I had started on a promising journey of grace and progressive sanctification only to end up taking the fork in the road that lead me down a long path of self destructive behavior. And, I'm out of time for now.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dear Friends From The Prodigal Years:

I'm different, to say the least. Some of you are disappointed, you were looking for Suzanne Sommer, you thought that my name was the only thing different about me. I guess I can't say I'm sorry you were wrong, but I can say I'm sorry you were disappointed.

Many of you will remain my friend, on Facebook anyway, some of you may even agree to see me from time to time, but some of you are so offended by my "religiousness" that you don't want anything to do with me anymore. 

I took a mini trip down memory lane, it was painful to realize how meaningless my life seemed back then. I was looking for something, I think I called it "love" I remember crying on the  bathroom floor because I just wanted someone to love me. The good news is, I found the love I was looking for. I found the love of my life, the love that loved me even when I was drunk on that bathroom floor. That love is Jesus. No, His last name is not Hernandez, I mean The Jesus. 

To you I got "religion" but for me I got a relationship with the maker of Heaven and Earth. To you I got a lot of rules I have to follow, and that means no more parties. For me I got a life so full of love and promise that I don't want to, or "need" to party anymore. Truthfully, and you may want to think about this, drinking and smoking and fooling around wasn't really that much fun in the first place. I always felt cheap and dirty afterwards. 

I promise I won't try to force you into believing what I do, Jesus doesn't want forced love anyway. I promise I won't try to make you go to church or listen to a sermon. I will share the complete joy I have in Christ, you will not be able to help but notice it, I will share some of the reasons I live the way I live now, but I won't ask you to do anything but think about it. I will pray for you, and care about you like your best friend.

I will have days that I feel cranky and out of sorts, and I may reflect that in what I say and do. You may think then that things haven't changed so much after all, or that my joy is no better than your brief moments of happiness, but I assure you, my bad moments are brief because I can remember Who holds my future.  Don't get me wrong, I don't think I'm better than you, I know I'm not. I do things constantly that I shouldn't, but they don't define who I am any more than they have to define you. 

You want to know a secret, you don't have to believe me, but it is true, Jesus is waiting for you too. He wants a relationship with you too. He wants to take all the broken pieces of your life and glue them back together, and only He can do it. All you have to do is trust Him and believe that He died for you and that He loves you. He even loves you when you are drunk on the bathroom floor.

I can't express all the things I want you to know. Just know that He is there, He is calling, and He loves you. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Prodigal Valentine's Day

It's Valentine's Day. I love stating the obvious. I'm not feeling very loving or lovely at the moment. The day started off with a major dose of not wanting to get out of bed, I don't feel good, then followed by coughing fits and annoyances of various kinds. The kids got into things they shouldn't have, my oldest was told to pick up the toys or she couldn't join us for breakfast. My husband said there was a problem with the downstairs toilet. And I'm thinking, wow, nothing says I love you like out of control kids and a, "honey, grab the plunger."

So, I had a very selfish start to the day, I focused on me, on what I thought this day of love should look like, and it wasn't coming anywhere close to my ideal. We finally all got to the table for a wonderful blueberry pancake breakfast after opening our Valentine's mailboxes. My husband has been feeling really sick lately, and he was not able to get me a Valentine, so, me in selfish mode, said, "wow, this feels just like school, a couple of obligatory Valentines and nothing from my sweetheart." Thankfully he saw the humor in that. I was a complete grouch, and truthfully, I'm still fighting being a complete grouch.

I got to thinking that this is a Prodigal Valentine's Day if ever there was one. What is the cause of a Prodigal becoming a Prodigal, well, I was going to save that for another post, but it is selfishness and it comes from taking the focus off of God and putting it onto something else. The something else can be anything, yourself, your ideas, money, romantic love, the "high" you get from drugs, but all of it boils down to putting other things in the place of God, and that usually comes from a self centered heart. So, now it is time to give this Valentine's Day back over to God, and pray, pray, pray, that I don't try to take it back.

So, the focus for today: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, will not parish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that through Him the word might be saved." -John 3:16,17 This is my Valentine from God, this is your Valentine from God. His grace is enough on Monday, His grace is enough on a self centered Prodigal Valentine's Day.

Now, I need to make sure one of my little Valentines knows I love her and her homemade card, and let another sweet little redheaded toddler know she is just made to hug and kiss on, and I need to go make an apology and "I love you" phone call to a certain sweetheart of mine. Happy Valentine's Day, focus on God's Grace!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cleaning out the Prodigal's Closet

This one is going to be controversial. This one is going to hurt, and if it hurts you to read it, know that it hurt more to write it. I didn't want to, but I feel like there are some things we all need to understand.

I read a Blog the other day written by a former lesbian turned straight Catholic. She wrote about her struggles and how there are some days she has to disconnect from her feelings and emotions, how she has to avoid certain situations and television shows. She wrote how it has affected her marriage and how sometimes she has to avoid intimacy with her husband so that she will not be thinking about women. It was a hard article to read, it was even harder to read the comments, there were a lot about how she was such a poor woman, how terrible it was that she had to deny herself so she could be religious. It went on and on, the funny thing is the woman is happy, she doesn't want to think about being with a woman, she doesn't want to be a lesbian. It was hard to read because I don't think she expressed to others what was really in her heart. She didn't let them know that it is possible to be free, and it is.

It is common in the "Church" these days to follow the "God is Love" line.  Let's dig deeper here, God is love, he is the maker of it, and only He knows how to truly give and receive it in the way He designed it to be experienced. What people so easily forget is that God is also Holy. God is set apart, like I said, only He knows how to give and receive love the way He intended it. There is a reason people want to follow this line and avoid the rest of God's character, because they know someone with a same sex attraction, or they have a same sex attraction. They have bought into the "this is the way God made me and God is love, so I can be gay," lie. Yes, I can say it is a lie, yes, I can say I know this, not only because the Bible says so, but because, and here it is....I struggled with same sex attraction, and I lived with a woman who I had a relationship with, and I was set free from all of those feelings.

In Genesis, God made the woman for the man, he made them to be together, this might be graphic, but it is logic, He designed them to fit together in every way. You know what I mean. Also, in Genesis, there is a story about Lot, and the city of Sodom. The LORD was angry with Sodom, they were living in a way contrary to how He designed them to live, they were engaging in homosexual sex. It is all in Genesis 19, you should read it. The point there, and the point here, is that God planned for men to be with women. He is a God of love, and for His own purposes, He designed love in a physical way to be expressed between a man and a woman. This may make you angry, it may make you confused, you may do like so many other people do and discount the Bible, or say that the Bible is meant to be taken metaphorically, I won't get into too much of an argument with you on this right now, just know that when you start picking and choosing what parts of the Bible to go with, you run in to a lot of problems, and then you have to question the whole thing, and then what is the point of Jesus' death... I might add that Genesis is by no means the only accounts of God and how He feels about physical love being expressed in a way He did not design, it is all over the old and new testament. But, I want to get to the good news.

My story is not exclusive, I am not the only person who has had "same sex attraction," or as I will call it, and because I'm talking about myself, I will say it, same sex perversion, and found complete freedom from it. I mean complete, none of this, I have to struggle with these thoughts and feelings and deny myself  and make emotional disconnects, no I mean, gone. The skeptics will say that I wasn't really a lesbian, or bisexual, I was just experimenting, etc. I know they will, I've seen those comments on other people's blogs, I'm telling you, I know what I know, you can be free from same sex attraction. You can focus on God, you can stop making romantic love your idol, and you can become what God designed you to be. The truth is no one was born gay, they can't have been, God made them, as I stated before, God made woman for man, and man for woman, there is no such thing as "born gay." A person can struggle with same sex attraction from a young age, just the same as a person can struggle with any sin from a young age, but no one is born gay. I am thankful for the freedom from the thoughts and attractions, I am thankful for the forgiveness for my participation in a lie, I am thankful that God could use someone with a  secret that they feel shame over and give them the strength to tell the truth about homosexuality. You don't have to struggle anymore, you can be free.

How do I help my loved one with a same sex attraction? The same way you should help your loved one in anything. Be there for them, don't abandon them, don't disown them, don't avoid them, don't tell them,"you are going to hell," don't get all crazy on them. Do love them anyway, do tell them the truth in a loving way, do offer your help and support, do pray for them, and pray for them, and pray for them. Getting back to "God is Love," He is, and Jesus came to love and save sinners, He wants you to show that kind of love. What you should not do is help them live this lie. You shouldn't encourage them to follow their heart: Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond a cure, who can understand it." NIV. Following your heart can lead to all kinds of sin, the sin of selfishness, the sin of a relationship that is not what God intended, the sin of a physical relationship that God has not blessed in marriage. Another important thing to remember is that sin is sin. The sin of shacking up with my boyfriend was just as bad in God's eyes as the sin of shacking up with a girlfriend. This is the other side of the coin that the Church can get carried away with. We sit and preach and preach about how terrible gay marriage and gay relationships are, and they are a sin, but some of those same people back off and remain silent when their niece goes and moves in with her boyfriend. They are both sin, they are both punishable by death, God is Holy, He has that right, but what He really wants is for us to give Him our lives, so that He can give us eternal life and forgiveness, no matter what we have done.

If this blog has reached just one person, than it was worth the pain of having to expose it. You see, even I forgot that sin is sin, and that the sin of my relationship with a woman was just a bad as my living with my boyfriend. May God help us to live the way He created us to live, in every aspect of our lives.

I welcome questions or even challenges on this subject.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ditching the Prodigal Mindset

I am an extremely average person. I have average intelligence, average looks, I got average grades in school. My creativity level is average, my domestic skills are average, although I do put a lot of effort into making them above average. The only exceptions to my averageness are sports, I'm far below average in my sports abilities, and being a Prodigal, I excelled at being a Prodigal.

If you picked one of the issues I've struggled with, you would have a major issue on your hands, I had several major issues. I struggled with: anorexia, bulimia, self mutilation, clinical depression, sexual addiction, alcoholism, smoking, I was in an abusive relationship, I was raped, twice, and for some reason I struggled with suicidal thoughts. See, you pick any of those things and you have a big problem. I juggled all of them, I may not have been super smart, I may not have been super pretty, but I sure was good at having issues.

Why is it important to sometimes dig these things up? Why talk about it? Well, because some of these things get uncovered by things like illness, stress, sleepiness, or stepping on the scale. God delivered me from these things and gave me the recipe to gain victory over them, but sometimes the thoughts of them seem to present themselves when I'm faced with difficult situations.

I'll give you some very personal examples. I can be faced with a lot of stress. My family has been very sickly lately. In fact we've spent the last two months pretty much cooped up in the house with various illnesses. On top of that our house is always in a constant state of construction. We bought an old house with issues of its own, and we've been slowly trying to work on them as time and money allow. That brings me to my next problem, money. My husband injured his back a few years back and has had a very difficult time finding a job he can do in this economy, he started his own recycling business, and it has a lot of potential, but this year has been really hard. Not like, oh I don't get to go buy a new sofa and love seat when I want to, bad, but more like, are we going to be able to keep the house and pay the gas bill, bad. We are dedicated to my staying at home and homeschooling our girls, this is another problem, I feel like I should be doing something to help ease the financial burden off my husband, but we have yet to be given a solution that will not take me out of the house and in turn cause even more stress. So, with all these things on my mind it is really easy for a few thoughts to creep in, like you are in emotional pain, you know that cutting will ease the emotional pain, why not do it... Or, what good are you to this family, if you were gone, they would have money, they would be better off.... Not to mention that my body has not been the same since fighting Preeclampsia with my last pregnancy, when I weigh myself those thoughts of, you need to stop eating until you lose at least 10 pounds, creep in so easily.

How do you get rid of the thoughts that you formerly gave into for years? How do reprogram your mind to put them off instantly? The first thing that can help keep these thoughts few and far between is keeping your nose in God's Word. You need to know what God has to say about the value of your life. You need to know what God has to say about how much He loves you. Having scripture on hand to help you when you feel like the lies are true is so valuable. I've been fighting the depression lately and feeling completely invisible to others, like what I say, what I feel, and my very being is unimportant to everyone else. Genesis 16:13, has helped me to focus on God being a God who sees me, even when I'm an outcast, even when I feel invisible, God sees me, and He loves me.

Another way to ditch the Prodigal mindset is by again focusing on God's grace. I don' think I can say enough about that. My pastor, Greg Lanzen, did a sermon series on Grace about a year ago. We came up with a saying to help us remember what grace is, “God's Grace Is: God's Love, Riches, and Mercy, freely and generously given to help sinful and undeserving me.” When I focus on what He has done for me, me, a sinner, I feel like someone, like all those things don't matter anymore. It is like the principle of living an attitude of gratitude. You focus on what God has done for you, and what He has promised to do, and it lifts you up in those moments of despair.

So, how do you ditch the Prodigal mindset? Focus on what God's Word says, focus on what God has done for you, focus on what He has promised that He will do for you. In other words, focus on who you are in Christ. If that doesn't make you feel a whole lot better, than maybe you need to get away and rediscover your identity in Him, rediscover what you are to Him, and what He has done for you.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Prodigal and Hypocrisy

It is early, well, early in this household, this week anyway. The point, the thoughts are doing that relentless “write us down” thing again. See, there are some other things that must be revealed about the Prodigal, this Prodigal anyway, and that is that after the Prodigal has been home and comfy in her new life for awhile, she can start to act like the other brother, that is when she isn’t reflecting on the shame and guilt stuff. So, I want to take us now to the other side of the struggle with the returned Prodigal, and this time I think this one is mostly for me, but we’ll see.

It’s been one of those successful months for the Prodigal. She hasn’t had a single reminder of where she’s been. No past friend or “Ex” popping up on the old Facebook Friend Request, no articles read about Planned Parenthood that spark her to say “those guys, again, let me tell you about those evil jerks, I’ve been there for STD testing, and let me tell you…”  A very rare month for the Prodigal, she is feeling comfortable, almost complacent in her stay-at-home wife and mommy, church going Christian role. And then… Then she hears about another Prodigal, this one maybe hasn’t come home completely yet. How does she react? How does she reach out to this “lost one” in her time of need? I’d like to say that she always does the right thing, but, she doesn’t. She forgets that she has a past. She forgets that we are all sinners, and she does the very thing that made it harder for her to come home, she judges.

Now we are really peeling the smelly onion layers off this Prodigal. How we all despise hypocrisy, how I despise hypocrisy, it is, after all the leading cause of teens leaving the church, but my dear friends, I am nothing if I am not honest in this, I too, am a filthy hypocrite.

This former Prodigal is guilty of judging the Prodigals. It is a trap that we can find ourselves in when we let ourselves forget what we have been saved from. It is a trap I have to avoid. I have this sort of catch 22 thing going on. On the one hand dwelling on the past can lead to feelings of shame and guilt, on the other, forgetting the past can lead to feelings of superiority, the “hey, look at me, I’m a church going Christian, and you aren’t” complex. What a nasty pickle to be in! Good News! It doesn’t have to be this way!

Here is something this Prodigal is being worked on, focusing on God’s grace instead of the guilt or becoming a hypocrite. When I do this, and I can not do it without the help of my Savior, I can be made an effective tool for His purpose. When I focus on grace, I can go to the Prodigals of the world, and I can reach out in love instead of judging them. And because I have been there I can go to them with the experience of having been there.

Pray for me. Pray that God will keep me focused on grace and remind me that I may be a church going Christian, but that what really matters is that I believed, and that I can’t get into heaven because of my church attendance, which is really good, because my family have been sick lately and we’ve missed a lot of church, I get to heaven because of grace, because I believe in the one who died for me, and I believe that His grace is enough to save all the Prodigals who come home. Also, pray that in focusing on grace, the guilt and shame that threaten to keep me from His work will stay away.

YAY! The Prodigal Came Home!....Now what do we do with her?

First of all, I am the Prodigal. Second, I don't think anyone thought, "now what do we do with her," any of the four times I came home, or at least I hope not. What this note is really about is what the Prodigal thinks about themselves and about the other people around them once they do come home, and years after they have been home. Maybe this is for the parents of the Prodigals, maybe it is for the Church in general, maybe it is for those who were lost and are found but are still having a hard time finding their place, maybe it is for all of us.

I have wonderful, Godly, forgiving parents. God knew that they were the couple to give Suzanne to, He knew that they would take me back all four of those times, even though a couple of those times it put them and my siblings at risk from a mentally unstable man. He knew that they would take me back when they knew that I'd probably just leave again. God always does know.  I'm thankful for my parents. God wants parents to show the love and forgiveness He does, it is impossible for humans to do that, but with God's help even the impossible becomes possible. It is in the nature of human beings to rebel and try to do things their own way, just not everyone yields to their desires. It is when we yield our desires to God's will that our lives finally make sense. 

When I came home on the multiple times I had a lot of things to "give up" smoking, drinking, cursing, promiscuity, lying, cheating, fooling around with witchcraft. There was indeed a lot to give up. It took so many attempts to finally be at that place where I was willing to give it all up, not just so I could come home, but because of God's grace, because of what He had done for me, and He set me free from those trappings when I was willing, He never takes away an "addiction" unless we are willing. He is God, He does not violate our free will to make us His puppets. He wants our love and devotion because we want to give it to Him, not just because we think we have to to get to heaven, or because we want to come home and crash mommy's sofa because our boyfriend cheated on us. It has to be our choice. 

It was years ago that I made that choice. Years since I came home for good. I met my husband, got married, had two beautiful babies, settled down into the typical church going, saved by grace, pro-life, baptist, housewife. I put my past in the past. Sometimes people who knew me then would say things like "remember when you dated that nasty guy" or remember that time you..." they never do it to hurt me or make me feel guilty, or out of any malicious intent, and I always try to smile and say yes, I'm thankful I didn't marry that guy. In all honesty usually weeks and months can pass by without me thinking about the past, I don't want to most of the time. I made a lot of mistakes, I participated in a lot of sin, but it has been covered by the blood of Christ, and He says He has taken a giant eraser to my past and that according to Him, those things are gone. And then there are those other days... Those days when I'm in church and I feel so out of place because I look around and think, I bet none of these people ever drank themselves silly, or lived with a man who wasn't their husband who abused them. I feel like an alien, like a stranger, like someone who hasn't been bought with a price, like I'm not their fellow heir with Christ. NOT because if these people knew what I did they would judge me, not because of that. I'm fairly confident that if I stood in front of my Church and laid out every sin I ever committed only a handful of people would gasp and not want me there anymore. So, I don't know why, other than the enemy likes to remind us of our past and lie to us about our status with God, I would think that way or feel that way. I also am aware that the Church is made up of sinful people and that every single person making up the family of God is a sinner saved by grace, and I'm sure at least a few of them committed as ugly sins as I have.  I still feel out of place sometimes. Not that I'd want to know but, it isn't like you can wear a shirt that says: "hey, anyone else here ever struggle with alcohol?" Or, "anyone else ever been held at gun point by their crazy ex-boyfriend?" 

The other thing Prodigals face when they come home and have been home is the past catching up with them. God forgives, but sometimes we still have to face the consequences of our past, sometimes those consequences affect the present. Oh, my and the friends we use to hang out with. There is this social network site, called Facebook, I don't know if you're familiar with it, but sometimes your old friends can find you. Wow, do they have some shock when they find out you are one of those church going Christian types who votes...wait for it...conservative. I'm not sure what all they must think, that my family's brain washing ways finally caught up with me, that I wasn't strong enough to face life without a crutch...the Really funny thing is I have heard that before, yes, alcohol and tobacco and sleeping around was the strong choice, God is for the weak, yes, I'm laughing right now. 

So, where does the returned Prodigal fit in? Where can she find a place where she will feel comfortable and accepted, and not afraid of the past catching up with her? I Know the answer is the Church, the family of God, the other sinners saved by grace. So, now how do I convince myself that on the days I'm sure people are not talking to me because they can smell the left over consequence of sin on me or something? The real reason I don't feel I fit in all the time I'm sure is because I let the guilt of the past keep me from close friendship. I'm afraid of those questions that will come up. Like, wow, you got married in February of 2006, and Lilly was born in September 2006? Or, what did you do when you got out of high school. Or when I get on my soap box about Planned Parenthood and they find out I don' t only not like them because they kill babies, but because I've been there and I know how they are. Those things. 

Well, I suppose, if this gets read, the cat is out of the bag. I was a Prodigal daughter, I went away from my family full of their love, their values, their beliefs, the morals they taught me, and I came back used, broken, and empty, but by the grace of God everything that happened in between had been washed away. The good news is, I know my brothers and sisters will not keep a record of my wrongs, but that they will rejoice over my not being lost anymore. The other good news is, is that God is working on me still, He is helping me not to let the pain, guilt, and shame of the past stand in the way of what He has planned for me. I think that soon enough He will help me use the past to help other Prodigals come home. And I think that is the lesson being expressed in this. Your past is forgiven, and it will only be necessary for others to know about it because He can use it to help others, and I think I am willing to face the shame and guilt for His sake, after all, He did save even me.