Lord, Be My Helper

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Some days, circumstances seem to well up and overflow and I get to feeling kind of stressed.  All of these things that I am thinking about, they just crash in like waves on the sand and I am bowled over.

Lately, I wrestle, not knowing where we’re going or what we’re doing or where we’re going to end up.  We have goals and they are good goals, God inspired goals.  But I don’t know how we’ll get there.  So many things weigh so heavy on my mind.
Our future
Our family
Our finances
Our ministry
Our vocations
And not just the things that are specific to us but the things that are specific to God’s heart too.
Abortion
The orphan crisis
Trafficking
Murder
Poverty
The marginalized
The needy
The lonely
Where do we fit with all of these things?

I know, I know, I know.  Worrying is a sin.  And I know, I know, I know…worrying is not of God.  But that doesn’t change the fact that it still happens.  Sometimes, worry wins my heart right over and I just have to surrender to His rest to lay it all down.

I’m grateful that God doesn’t mind helping me to obey.

I know He has a plan and I know He will give it out as He sees fit.  And I know that our lives are all about eternal significance.

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Hebrews 11:39-40

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Hebrews 11 is all about the heroes of the faith.  The HEROES of the faith.  We read that chapter when we need inspiration.  But the ends says that none of them saw the promise…because it’s about eternal significance and because God sometimes doles out the plan in measures that we can handle.  It’s not always about our lives here on earth but our lives eternal.

He has burdened my heart so heavy for the narrow path.  He has set my heart ablaze for the cause of the orphan and the lonely.  He has created in me a desire for a healthy, peaceful, God centered home.  He has given me these longings, He has made me to be a world changer.

But how?  When?  What will it look like?  When?  When?  When?  Did I mention when?  And how?

I don’t know.

I do know that Hebrews 11:16 says that God was not ashamed to be called their God.

So I puzzle all this out this morning, I stop making plans and just focus on His heart and finding myself in His rest.  I trust Him to reveal who He is and what He wants for me.  I trust Him to give me the plans, one piece at a time.

It’s scary.

But it’s okay.

I pray, “Lord, be my helper.”

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Lord, Be My Helper

Because it’s the only way I know to lay those worries and fears and anxieties down.

Lord, be my Helper.

 

 

These 400

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This morning, I sit in the Chair of Healing and tears stream down my face like a river.  I am watching a short video on Bethany Christian Services website about a program they are having called These 400.

These 400

Basically, BCS is seeking families for 400 waiting children.  400.  Waiting. Children.

Let that sink in.  BCS wants to find families for 400 children who have no one to call their own.  No one to root for them, no one to tuck them in at night, no one to tell them they are made in God’s image and that they are a good gift.

400 Waiting Children.

Out of more than 132 million.

Friends, lovers of Jesus….we can’t let this continue.  We can’t leave 132 million fearfully and wonderfully made boys and girls alone.  We can’t.  This is not who we are.

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This is what we are called to do.  Love God.  Love others.  We love others out of the overflow of God’s love in us.  These are HIS children.  The sheep He has asked us to feed.  The lonely He longs to set in a family.  The Ones He loves and died for.  I recently read “Kisses From Katie” by Katie Davis and she said something like this, “It’s not hard.  God told me to love others as myself.  I don’t want myself to be starving.”

I don’t want myself to be alone.  I don’t want myself to be without a family.

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I scroll through the photos of the 400.  My heart is in shreds.  These babies are beautiful.  Ages 3 all the way up to 17.  They have the same Jeremiah 29:11 call on their lives that my own six beautiful babies have on their lives.  God has plans for a hope and future for them.

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Are we part of the plans God has for these 400?  Not just, we the Cartestersons, but we, the body of Christ?  

I remember how the body of Christ came alongside us as I walked through so much to bring Nora into the world.  God’s people rallied and brought us through, stood with us and loved us even more than they loved themselves.

We can do that for These 400 too.

And I’m not saying that each and every person that reads my blog should be filling out an application to bring 2 or 3 orphans home.  But I am saying…

What can we do to help These 400 get home, to help reduce that number of more than 132 million..what can we do?  What can I do?  What can you do?  There are so many ways to help solve this orphan crisis and I will get more into that on Monday.

About two months ago, I prayed for God to set my heart ablaze for the things of His heart.  About a month ago, we fasted and prayed for breakthrough in our spiritual lives.

Today, I sobbed with a blazing heart in pieces over these ones that God loves.

Ask Him.  Pray this prayer everyday:

How can I help your people, God?  Here I am.  Send me.

Hereiam

 

Just start there.  And when you hear His voice, don’t be afraid.  Act.

Sources:  Unicef

God With Us

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It’s early, early morning and that fat orange cat is meowing on and on.

I give up and rise, opening the door to let him out of our room, he looks back over his shoulder, clearly expecting me to come along.  Sad meows.  

I shut that door right on him and get back in bed but my mind is up for the day.  So many things to think about, so many needs to pray about.  A little girl in China, waiting for her family, a family in Newport News waiting for one last hurdle clear so they can go to her.  Sick little ones, big decisions, friends moving, friends facing scary situations, our Eli in Italy or who knows where, having an adventure.  So much to bring before the Lord.

I hear more and more meowing outside my door and rise again, coming downstairs to start the day.  May as well.  I unload the dishwasher and continue my string of prayers and hallelujahs.

I think about how He just IS.

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Emmanuel, God with us.

I think about how Lazarus, my fat fluffy entitled pile of kitty meowed and meowed and meowed to get me to wake up.  How he had to persist, standing on my chest, meowing in my face.  Meowing at my door.   

He sits nearby, watching me…wondering if I’ll get the grand idea to feed him soon.  Every so often, he meows again.

But I woke right up and started talking to God who moves at the sound of my voice.  He was present with me, in me, all around me.  I don’t have to beg for his attention, cry for his attention.  I just have to speak.

God.

God with us.

This truth shines so bright this morning and I am moved and humbled.  This very One who set the stars, who filled the oceans, who designed each and every one of us…this One is always with me.  He just IS.  He does not change.  

God with us.

God with me.

Lazarus looks at me with big orange eyes.  I pet him and he purrs. 

Tell The Truth

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There’s something I need to say.

Sometimes Christians are the world’s biggest liars.  We say that we are “too blessed to be stressed” or that “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” or that we are confident that “this too shall pass” or that “God will work everything out to our good.”  It’s like we think that if we say things are horrible or sad or too hard that this somehow diminishes who our Great God is.

So…we all have this internal struggle.  We all do.  Whether it’s with doubt or addiction or circumstances or broken hearts or hard times or injustice or whatever.  Sometimes we absolutely and most decidedly are NOT too blessed to be stressed.

Sometimes I’m really freaking stressed.

Sometimes I’m really hurting.

Sometimes I’m really sure that I Can Not Do This.  (Whatever it may be.)

I read an article on HuffPost this week called “The One Things Christians Should Stop Saying” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-dannemiller/christians-should-stop-saying_b_4868963.html and it stirred something in me.  When did we stop speaking the truth?

I want to tell the truth because I need you to pray for me, give me a hug, share YOUR story with me.  I need to make room for God to deal with my heart.  A heart that is all tangled up in lies is not a heart that is open for healing.

I think I know why we do this…
1. We want to be strong. This is a tough one for me because my life heroes are strong Christian women with unshakable faith and determination and wherewithal. And I want to be like that. But I’m learning (oh, so slowly) that being honest and being real is a sort of strength. Being brave enough to face what’s happening with honesty and authenticity, being willing to be uncomfortable but true…it’s the Sacred Scared. Sacred Scared  Somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves that strength, even false is more valuable than vulnerability.
2. We don’t want to make a mess. Facing our fears and our emotions and our hurts and our struggles is super messy. Feelings might fall out all over the place, tears might flow, we might do the ugly cry. We might make others uncomfortable. We will have to clean up the mess.
3. We don’t have time. We are so busy, running so fast and so hard that we don’t have time to stop and ugly cry and lay in the floor and process. We have to get this kid to ballet and this kid to soccer and hubby has a meeting and we have choir practice or PTA and we have to finish the project and we have to bake 87 muffins and we are busy, busy, busy. Too busy, busy, busy.
4. We are afraid that if we tell the truth, that it’s a bad ad for our Faith. We are afraid that if people know that being a Christian does not guarantee ease and deliverance and sunshine and rainbows, no one will want to sign up. We are afraid that if we tell the truth, that it’ll seem like we don’t have faith, that we don’t trust Him. We are afraid that if we tell the truth, He won’t seem good. Or maybe even that He won’t BE good.

But the thing is…He is always good.  He can never be better, He can never be worse.  He will never love us any less and He will never love us any more, because His love is perfect.  What we do…what we do can NOT change who HE is.

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God can handle our weakness.  He can handle our brokenness.  He wants to tend to our wounds.  His Spirit is like oil poured out on our broken places.  We have to tell the truth and be vulnerable and be authentic.  This is how it gets better.  Because He is with us.  He is always with us.

And I know how much I love it when people tell me the truth.  “How are you?”  I’ll say to another mommy and if she says, “Just great!” that’s just fine and we hang out and have a pleasant time.  But if I say to another mommy, “How are you?”  and she says, “Yesterday, I cried the whole time I made the peanut butter sandwiches.”  that’s a whole other kind of visit.  I can commiserate with her.  I can give her a hug.  I can pray with her.  Give advice.  Just stand with her.  There’s solidarity in that kind of honesty.  Love flows easily when it has an open and honest riverbed to flow through.

Sometimes things are Just Fine.  And when they are, that’s when we need to reach out to friends that we suspect are NOT just fine.

We can do this.  We can tell the truth.  Don’t worry, it won’t make God any less God.  It won’t make us any less Us.

Say Something

Raw Truth-My Messy Beautiful

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messy-beautiful-700bThis essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, Click here! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback,Click here!

This weekend, I went to a retreat with about 25 wonderful warrior women.  The weekend was bursting with love, laughter, stories and so many desserts.  The house we stayed in was massive and could not contain the joy that Jesus put in us all.  These were women who were not interested in competition or in one upmanship or in out spiritualizing one another.  These were women who were willing to be super honest and share their hearts and stories.  I saw strengths and weaknesses and the strengths encouraged and the weaknesses encouraged and it was just plain Messy Beautiful.

I came home wanting more of the Word and the Way and more love and more joy.  Today, with the chilly rain pouring and kids home for spring break and fibro jumping up and down in my legs, I curl up in the Chair of Healing and set to reading the Bible.

Nora snatches the Bible out of my hands and rips a page out.  The first page of Genesis 27.  I fuss at her, she laughs, unfazed and tries to snatch more pages out.  I hold it just out of her reach while she squeals in indignation.  Kind of hard to read this way.

A fight breaks out over a spot on the couch and it is a fight that must be navigated.  Two little girls whose tiny butts certainly do NOT take up the whole couch all of a sudden must BOTH sit in this one good spot.  (Sort of like Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory.)  They are both banished from the spot altogether.

While I deal with that, Nora grabs  coffee and dumps it into my purse and all down the Chair of Healing.  (For those of you who are new to my blog, the Chair of Healing is my beloved recliner that my friends bought me to recover in after Nora’s Birth.)  Coffee covers my journal, the insides of my purse, pill bottles and appointment cards, lipstick and my iPhone.  Thanks Nora.

I clean all of that up, take a deep breath and with far less resolve, I get back to it.

“Blessed are the Poor in Spririt”, I read but  I realize I still need to drink coffee.  The Bible is set aside and I am off to make another cup.

My biggest girl’s car keys are missing and all activities stop while we all help her look.  Nora dumps out my second cup.

“Blessed are the poor in Spirit.”  All I’ve read so far.

More coffee to clean up, distractions all over the place and I just feel like a big fat failure.

I feel like the days are so full of diapers and cleaning up messes and tantrums and fights and admonitions and tasks and appointments and driving to preschool that I just can’t see above the water.  It feels hopeless because I just can’t get anywhere.  Swimming in place.

And I am haunted anew by these feelings of inadequacy.  In this raw truth:

I feel like I don’t measure up.  I’m just not good enough.

And I feel like too that I have to keep this secret of not being good enough because what if….what if…what if:

Everyone finds out and I am left alone?

Raw truth.  I told you it was raw.

I remember when I was a pregnant teenager and I felt like I’d just gotten in the good graces of Jesus by the skin of my teeth.

I remember when I got divorced and I felt like an anomaly among the “good” Christian women.

I remember when I lost custody of my son and the sting of that failure almost took me down.

I remember walking the floor with my screaming fifth baby wondering why in the world I couldn’t figure her out.

I remember about a bajillion times that I’ve compared my precious six with other people’s. Wondering if I’ve ruined them for ever and ever and ever with my inadequate mothering.  Oh, comparison, that sneaky thief that makes us all feel like we are no good. Comparing my spiritual life, comparing my writing, comparing my singing, comparing my marriage or my friendships.

And I am swirling.  Swirling down, falling to pieces over my failures because I have yet to have a good “quiet time” today.  Because I can’t get my baby to stop dumping out my coffee, because my kids are fighting, because there are toys everywhere, because I don’t even know what to read in the Bible.

“Blessed are the poor in Spirit.”  Those words sing out in my heart.  He quiets me with His singing.  “Blessed are the poor in Spirit.”

I am stopped still.  I love those words, treasure them and ponder them in my heart and they are the only words I’ve read all morning. And maybe, just maybe…there is a purpose in it.

My Spirit is weak within me and in the midst of my mess, my Spirit is beautiful.  Because I am made in the image of God.  Because God has given me gifts to share.  Because I am loved and redeemed.  Because my six have their issues too but they are messy beautiful and so is my marriage and really my whole crazy life, the glorious chaos that we are is all so beautiful.

Nora smiles her silly smile at me and Lila and Claire are snuggled in the big chair, the couch abandoned…Julia’s keys are still lost but the house seems to hold a precious sort of joy just now.  A moment of peace and sweetness and light and I am suddenly so grateful.  Julia asks me if I’ll use my mom super powers to help her find those keys, “Please just help me look again?”

Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for ours is the kingdom of heaven.  Ours is the kingdom of heaven.

I set the Bible aside and begin the search.

Oh, March

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Oh, March

It’s been a wild month.

We moved.  Four years, 2000 square feet, eight people, one dog and two cats’ worth of stuff to box up and transport from point A to a smaller point B.  All my insecurities exposed to those helping with the move, helping with unpacking, helping with getting that old house back to how it was when we got it.  Insecurities about not being the best (or even the mediocre-ist) at housekeeping, organization, stewardship.  I hold this deep seated fear of not being good enough and losing out on relationships and good gifts and acceptance.  Lots of Jesus, lots of therapy, lots of books…but it still rises up.

I can often just laugh at my weaknesses and feel great about my strengths but…

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Multiplied by:

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Equals:

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And sorry, but moving is stressful.

But for all of the stress and freaking out…it went really well.  We had many helpful and cheerful hands that day.  Lots of old friends, new friends and family to help us.  There was laughter and hard work and pizza and it was a good day.

Now, we must just find time to unpack everything and figure out where it’s all going to go.  We love our new home and it feels good to start fresh in a new place.  To mark the end of a season and welcome the beginning of a new one.

Over the past two months, the kids have been sick over and over.  Lots of tummy bugs and snotty noses.  Lots of sleepless nights.  (Lots of sleepless nights.)  They’ve shared some of their sicknesses with the whole family.  Lots of laundry, lots of feverish kids in laps, tired eyes, short tempers, but good times too.  Little girls singing “Let It Go” at the tops of their lungs, dance parties, playing outside in good weather.

And, in the midst of the joy and the insecurities and the stressors…I am having so much unexplained and acute pain.

It started in my joints back when Lila was a newborn.  I followed up then with my doctor, got a diagnosis of perhaps rheumatoid arthritis and that is where it ended.  I couldn’t take the  meds while nursing, so I kind of just ignored it….thinking I’d deal with it once Lila was weaned.

Then I got divorced and had no health insurance so there was nothing medically I could afford to do.

The pain waxed and waned.  The more stressed I was, the more I hurt.  For a time, I followed a vegan diet and found real relief.

I got married again, I had health insurance again and I went back to the doctor.

This time, adding Vitamin D to my body all but erased my symptoms.

And all was well for quite a well.

But then I had Nora.  You can read all about that in November and December and January.  I have not been well since November 18, 2012.

But I have recovered from surgery.  I’ve been dealing with joint and muscle pain, extreme fatigue and sensitivity to cold for the past few months.  It’s been significant.  Some days, I hurt at a level 8 or 9 out of 10 all day.  Some days, I have great mornings and even afternoons but really rough evenings.  Some days, I wake up and feel like I haven’t slept at all.  I’m grateful that it’s not been worse but it has not been fun.

I finally have a diagnosis.  And no, it’s not a “catch-all diagnosis” and it’s not “what they say when they can’t figure out what’s wrong” or “all in my head” or “just depression”.  And yes, it is a “real condition”.  Chances are good that it won’t get any better, though I will have good days.  Chances are that I can alleviate symptoms with some life style changes that I predict I will not enjoy.  What we know for sure is this:  This is a real thing.

From the Mayo Clinic:  Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.

Symptoms sometimes begin after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. In other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event.

So, it makes sense that it presented after Lila’s difficult birth.  It makes sense that it worsened during the stress of my divorce.  It makes sense that it came on with a vengeance after Nora was born and after all the drama that came with it.

I’m processing it all.  John bought me a book on the subject.

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We are reading and learning about things that help.  Laughing that of course I got a disease that is characterized by nerves over reacting!  Conventional and unconventional ways to alleviate the symptoms.  We are thinking about boundaries and guidelines- go to bed in time to get at least 8 hours, do less during the week, schedule rest times, nap times, taking it easy in the chair of healing with my heating pad times.  I’ll be saying yes to less and resting up before and after.  I’ll be taking walks and doing yoga and considering how my diet of candy, pasta, coffee and Diet Dr. Pepper might possibly be improved.  I’ll be asking for prayer.

Through it all…through the discouragement and the weariness and the pain and the stress…I am feeling a sense of Emmanuel.  God with me.  A legit feeling of Emmanuel.  Not just the declaration that “I know God is with me.” and wondering when I’m going to feel it.  His real and true presence.  I have felt freedom to cry and freedom to say, “I just can’t do anything else today.”  I have felt freedom to say, “Really God?  A chronic pain condition on top of everything else?”  I have felt hopeful about this new season, in spite of it all.  I’m learning to let Him love me and to just be where I am…for the good or the ill.

This is where I am today.  Being still in Him.  Being present with Him.  Laying the pain in my knees and in my heart at the foot of the cross.

Beloved, be loved.  It’s what we were made for.

 

I AM Weak, I really Am…but Thou Art Strong

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Some of my favorite lady bloggers are my favorites because they don’t mind sharing their weaknesses.  Glennon over at Momastery is doing a series right now called “Sacred/Scared” where women are being gut level honest about their fears.  Letting us in to see their truth.  To show that we are not the only ones who are afraid.

Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience shared a post in early February called “Why Weak is the New Strong” and she told the truth about her weakness.  We women nodded in agreement and we said, “Yes, I have been there.”

My friends Jen and Ann are both walking through a very rocky valley and they don’t mind saying, “This is hard.  It sucks.  I’m having a really hard time.”  They speak the truth and that is where their strength comes from.

And now I am walking into an epiphany.

Somewhere along the way, my heart twisted positive thinking and pulling myself up by the boot straps as the only real strength.  But now I am learning…authentic emotion, being willing to wade through where I really am, being weak is the only real strength.

How many times have we heard it said, “My power is made perfect in your weakness.”  But do we let Him in to make His power perfect?  Do we break down who we are and where we are and what we’re going through and do we cry out, “God, I can’t do this.” so that He can bring real, true strength?

I am slowly learning.  Slooooowly learning.

There is no virtue in my stuffing feelings down and being “strong”.  It just creates a prison.

Yesterday, I saw this on Glennon’s facebook page and I could not stop thinking about it all day long.

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How true is this?  We are all going through something!  Whether it be a dying relative or kids puking at 2am, we are all going through hard things.

I humbly offer that sometimes we think our hard things aren’t “enough” to warrant feeling our way through them.  That maybe we think we just shouldn’t sweat it because someone always has it worse.  Or maybe we think that if we throw enough Scripture and platitude at the problem, it will lose its power.

Sometimes I make people uncomfortable when I talk about how much I wish Nora’s twin was with us.  I have a deep ache for that baby, a grief that is renewed with every new thing Nora does.  She has learned to walk and I can’t help but envision another baby taking first steps too.  Yesterday, she gathered up all of the remotes and gave them to Aubrey, who did not need them and I wondered what kind of quirky stuff Asher would’ve done.  I think about that baby a lot.  And I am learning to let myself grieve him…as it comes, in waves.

But well-meaning and beloved ones want to make it okay for me.  They want to come up with reasons why it’s a blessing  and God knows best  and He works all things together for my good.  They don’t want me to feel sad and the heart behind it is so pure and there is comfort in loved ones wanting to ease my pain.  I don’t mean to discredit these well meaning words.

But, when someone will just stand in my pain with me, hold my arms up, say, “Yes.  It is so sad that Asher isn’t growing up with Nora.”  or even just, “I’m sorry.”  Without a but or a qualifier or an admonition to trust God and it’ll be okay…There are not enough words to describe how that heals.

Because the truth of it all is…being honest about how we feel does not disqualify those other truths.  I can be so sad about Asher, but God can still be good.  God does know best.  And He does work all things together for my good.  But He can also handle my grief and tears.  He can swoop in and in that place where I am being real, authentic and truly vulnerable, he can heal my heart.  Grieving a loss does not negate the good God has given me.

He can work with me when I’m not busy maintaining a shell of “strength”.

He can heal my heart when I’m not busy building a shell of positivity over it.

He can work with me, in that place of authentic vulnerability and it is so uncomfortable but so worth it.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are they that mourn…