Friday, June 2, 2017

Take Courage... He is In the Waiting

On Sunday, Tom Regan, one of the pastor’s at our Washington church, Imprint Community, gave a sermon on waiting.  He shared parts from his own story in life of hard broken places that his family has had to walk through.  Their own seasons of waiting. As he spoke, a song came over me, a reminder of what my family has walked through in our own times of waiting. 

This last year, Nick and I had our plans of how things would go with moving up to Washington.  We came up thinking our kids would go to a certain school and we would get engaged at a certain church, and we chose to live in a neighborhood that we would plan on buying into once our house in Oregon sold.  But as we started to make the transition and say goodbye to the familiar people and places that had been our home for so long, none of those plans went the way we had hoped. 

So much waiting.  So much holding my breath.  Would our house ever sell?  Would our kids settle into their school?  Would we find a church community that would work well with our family and start to build friendship?  Now that our house sold we can’t afford to buy where we hoped.  Do we keep renting or do we purchase a home further away?  Should we try a different church closer to our new home?  Do we change our children’s schools again when we move?  I have been an anxious walking train wreck throughout this year.  Why was it so hard for me?  I struggled over and over in drawing close to the Lord in this.  Why?  Why did I struggle?  This weakness of mine to desire to be in control instead of rest in His presence in the waiting.  I wrestled with God so much over the lack of control I was facing. 

Waiting came up all different types of forms in all of this.  Being faced with raw changes over and over, and watching our kids take the hits, I struggled so much with doubting.  I felt it deep in my stomach, a heavy weight that I kept carrying with me.  All of these ideals I had come up to Washington, of how Nick and I were going to structure our life, were not coming together in the way I had hoped. 

A verse the Lord reminded me of, was one a friend gave me last summer when Nick was job interviewing and we didn’t know how this was all going to go.

Proverbs 16:9
A man’s hearts plans his ways,
But the Lord directs His steps.

The prayer God had given me to speak over this whole move, was this:
“The Lord go before us, pave the way.”

Not our will be done.  But His.  His kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven, in the Adams family home.  Not Kari’s will be done, Kari’s kingdom come in our home.  Nor Nick’s nor Josiah’s, not Ava or Lena or Mallory’s.  His kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

My ideals of how we would rebuild our life up here were falling apart. This dream I had created in my mind, was not working the way I hoped for.  This Utopia of having a home close to my kids’ school and our church and my husband’s work, with beautiful walking paths to wherever I needed to go so I would never have to drive again was not coming together.  In fact, quite the opposite on so many levels were what was coming together.  I knew once more it was driven by the desire and longing for my eternal home.  The tension of living once more in the presence of an imperfect arrangement with a longing for my permanent eternal home, was feeding that desire in my OCD driven brain of trying to make things perfect.  However, the truth is Perfect was not to be strived for, nor would it be found in my circumstances.  Contentment with what we had been provided with by the Lord was where I would find my rest once more.

God has been making clear to my heart this beautiful valuable lesson.  From walking through so many of our own uncertainties, and watching the lives of those around me.  He is in the midst of the waiting.  He is right in the center of our waiting.  When we feel so out of control of the circumstances and life around us, when we have that desperate ache that we cannot hold onto anything that this world offers us because it is so loose and could fall a part or be taken away in one second. 

He is in the waiting. 

For my dear friend who has been walking through hell on earth watching her marriage break a part, and watching her press in over and over closer and closer to the Lord with each and every passing grief and loss in her life.  He is in her waiting.  He continues to be in her waiting.  And it’s BEAUTIFUL to watch her take each step on this path she would never have hoped or dreamed of for herself.  This broken awful path.  She presses in, and she finds Him there.

He is in her waiting.

For one of my closer than a sister friends, who has walked with me through my own broken fire a few years ago, and been so faithful to me when I felt in some of those moments in my deep struggles with depression, she would reach in over and over and speak to me truth I needed to hear.  I watch her as she walks through the lack of control of her body with an autoimmune disease, colitis.  The years she has spent fighting to gain control over something that wreaks havoc over her body.  A disease that prevents her to be able to ambitiously pursue areas in her life she would love to pour into others’ lives, as she does so well, so beautifully.  He is in her waiting.  As she falls back into the pain from it, and the control it takes over her body and over her schedule and ability to function well, I watch my friend fight to seek the Lord, to ask Him hard questions, of how can she be engaged and involved in being an active member of the body of Christ.  He meets her there, speaks truth into her life.  

He is in the waiting. 

As I watch my beautiful mama friend with 6 children, one of them diagnosed at birth with a condition that told her that her little baby boy might not live a year or two.  Then I see her with all the strength a mama could muster, with the presence of the Holy Spirit in her life, step into the role of Fighter for her little boy.  This mama not only fights for her little boy, but she fights to give her family a love that is life giving and chooses home schooling for her children so she can be intentional in all of their lives.  She sees her children change and grow in ways only God can do, as they love their brother well.  And now her son in the condition he is in is now 7 years old, and his life brings glory to God in so many visible ways.  And my mama friend does not know what to comes, but takes courage to find hope and give life with every day she is given, not living in the fear of what could happen, but living in the today of what is happening. 

He is in her waiting. 

I have witnessed so many of our friends walk through hard trials in life.  But in those trials, I see them press in closer to the Lord, to His Word.  Reaching out.  Grasping.  Knowing that in these uncontrollable places they have a choice to lose hope and fall apart.  Or they find that in everything falling a part there is a God at the center of it all who is there to walk along with them through it all. 

The song God spoke over my soul when Tom spoke last Sunday, is a song Bethel Music released recently called “Take Courage.”  This song has played over and over in my mind the last few months.  As I watch friends walk through their own personal refining fires, and as I settle into a place of laying anxious thoughts aside in my own life and lean close once more to the One who has been faithful to me.  And there I see Him.  There I find Him.  

He is in the waiting.  

Thursday, October 27, 2016

No Longer a Slave to Fear

About 6 months ago, as I was watching my oldest daughter practice in her lyrical dance class, I heard for the very first time the song, “No Longer Slaves,” By Bethel.  The main line in the song, “I’m no longer a slave to fear,” played over and over in my mind.  I felt so liberated by it at the time.  This was who I had once been.  A slave to my fears.  Held imprisoned by the bonds of depression and anxiety over letting anyone new close to me. 

My heart had been broken several years back.  It was a relationship that had been one of the closest friendships I had experienced outside of my husband.  I had given much of my time and energy, love and support, listened to God in times of need for this situation.  But then truth was brought to light, and instead of building and growing together through it, the relationship was severed, and nothing I could do, would fix it.  It felt like a messy awful friendship divorce.  I didn’t understand it.  She walked away and I was left with nothing but confusion from all of it. 

I bring this up not to expose the details of it all, but to share what happened to me afterwards.  A wave of depression, inadequacy to hear God’s voice in the ways I had been, and a deep physical exhaustion hit my body.  When I received counseling, it was pointed out how empty I was, and how I had nothing left to give, and I needed to enter into a season of healing and rest. 

One of the repercussions that came from the brokenness, was my inability to let people in to know me anymore.  I could maintain the friendships I had, and be connected with those women, but trying to make new friendships ended up being a failure every time.  What would happen is I would find someone, and want that person to become what I had lost.  And each time that new person would find a way to build relationship with me, but then I would shut down.  In fear I could not respond anymore, and I would push away that relationship, for fear of what happened would once more take place. 

I would go to church and sit in fear.  Our church would have this four minutes of greeting, a chance to meet new people and build relationships during the middle of the gathering.  Nick conveniently would need to go to the bathroom or get coffee in the middle of this, and I would feel so abandoned, and alone.  I had so much fear and I would sit in my chair, and pretend to check my phone, or my Bible.  Anything to not have to talk to one more person.  I was living in fear. 

As I mentioned before, I struggled hearing from God in the middle of my darkness.  I tried, but the times where He would give me a word to pray for someone, or a verse to share with a friend, a smile to give to someone, they weren't happening anymore.  I used to help in the prayer room in our church, but I stopped doing that as well, afraid I would say the wrong thing and not hear from Him in there of how to pray. 

Our church did a night of prayer every year, and there came a year, that I didn’t want to go.  I was terrified of being in a small group of people, exposing all of me.  Normally I would lead a group, but I couldn’t do that during the season.  I had a friend make sure there was a space for me in her group and my neighbor came with me for moral support.  Me needing moral support?  I was the person that would meet new people and look to connect them and engage them with other people at our church.  I couldn’t even go to the prayer meeting by myself. 

I was a mess.  I was broken.  I was living in fear. 

But in the midst of those dark moments, the Lord began to heal my soul.  From things like hearing Kari Jobe at Women of Faith, sing words over me that spoke truth: “I know that You are for me,” and “Even when it hurts, even when it’s hard, even when it all just falls apart, You steady my heart.”    He taught me a little more what it means to rest with Him.   I attended an anger anxiety class, where the Lord broke through and showed me all the things He had been faithful to do in our lives, and all the things He still wanted to do.  I was reminded He wasn’t done writing our story together – His and mine intertwined as a small piece of His Bigger Gospel Story to the world. 

Then I took a class, called Mending the Soul.  I was asked to do it, for the purpose of training me to co-lead future groups for women that have walked through varying types of abuse in their life.   I came out of the class realizing the training was not for that reason in my life.  It was to give a name to abuse I had encountered, and being able to name that I had been spiritually and verbally abused in this situation.  It set me free – I was no longer tied to these areas of my life that I had heaped internal blame on myself.  I could now call things for what they were, recognize I couldn’t change people, I could only change myself, and set up healthy boundaries for myself in those unsafe places. 

That summer Nick and I made the final decision, to leave the home where all the brokenness had taken place, and start somewhere new.  We bought a house, Nick sacrificed his sabbatical fixing it up for our family, giving me the most beautiful love gift I have ever received from him, and we had a home that no longer reminded me of things from the past, but a home that would be a refuge for our family. 

We moved into that home, and the shackles were no longer attached to me.  I was God’s child – He loved me – He set me free – I did not need to carry the pain of the past anymore. 

He began to do a new work in me.  I for the first time, made a new friend, and did not go dumping all my pain from the past on her.  I did not put the expectation on her to be only what Jesus could be to me.  And I didn’t go running the other way.  And then my heart started to open up to more people, little by little I started to make new relationships and not run away. 

God brought back visions and dreams in my life.  Things He had shown me prior to the brokenness, He tapped on the door of my heart and said, “Remember? It’s time now!” 

I started writing again.  The book He told me to write started coming to fruition.  The dream of a ministry to women, where women could tell their stories of God’s faithfulness in their lives, started coming to life for something new. 

Brokenness happened at our school, and instead of running away, God had me run right in the middle of it, and with His Confidence, His Spirit, His Strength, He gave me words to pray over people, for people, words of encouragement, words that were life giving.  He showed me how to not engage in the things that would bring death and more brokenness, and He gave me courage to not be afraid.  I had found myself in Him once more.  It was so freeing and life giving into me. 

I was no longer a slave to fear.  I was a child of God. 

Then my husband’s work got messy.  Still I wasn’t running away anymore.  I listened to him, prayed for him, gave him room to be able to sort through everything.  God gave me everything I needed.  I know the slave to fear could not have faced where things were headed.  But as God’s child with HIM, HE could give me everything I needed.  And He did.  All along the way.  As Nick put out applications, phone interviews, and waited, and prayed.  Nick received face to face interviews, two job offers. 

God directed us up to Seattle.  We got busy preparing to move, to leave everything that we had ever known. 

Things slowly started piecing themselves together.  We had a school, and a rental home, and a church to pursue. 

When we made the move up here, the first month was all about taking care of our family.  I didn’t have time to process anything of my own, it was making sure my children were going to be taken care of.  To see their lives, start to get settled.  And they have been.  They are still.  It’s taking time.

But like the ocean water that had been building up out in the deep, a wave snuck up behind me, and hit me full force and pulled me under the water.  The emotions of all that the move had cost us.  Had cost me personally.  All the dreams I left behind, no longer to be a part of my future.  I sometimes would feel so mad I could punch something.  Nick would (because he didn't feel very threatened by the strength of my fists) tell me to “punch him.”  I ached for the families we would have gone to a new school with together, as well as the families we parted ways with in all of the changes that happened.  I missed being close to my family and friends.  I longed for my church family. 

Before I left, I was no longer a slave to fear at that church.  God had healed me and helped me overcome all of that.  I finally was finding a place in the body, a part of the story God was doing down there.  And then our kids school stuff falling apart mixed with Nick’s work struggles, took an eraser to all of those dreams and hopes, and I was finding that I had to start all over. 

I had dealt several years ago, with feeling unseen, and remember being prayed over that I would know that God sees me.  Now I am in a world, that I am unseen again.  No one knows who I was – who I am.  Who I am in Christ.  The type of person I had been in His church body down in Oregon. 

I started battling fears of rejection.  I also struggled with being at church. Sundays became my least favorite days because I was homesick for my church family down in Oregon.  It got so bad to a place, that I told Nick I didn’t want to be here anymore.  And then it got worse to a place that I didn’t want to be anywhere anymore.  The pain was back, the depression was forcefully knocking me over, and I was starting to feel as if I wouldn’t be able to get back up. 

I didn’t want to be a slave to fear.  I wanted to be a child of God.  I couldn’t hear His voice.  It was scaring me.  I didn’t know what to do with myself.  I had just finished writing my story and was ready to start serving but nothing was surfacing as a place that would be a way to connect and have purpose with my days while the kids are in school. 

I was looking for business to take the place of Jesus.  In an unhealthy way.  I had been afraid of depression hitting me, and so I felt as long as I was busy, I would be okay.  But when I stopped striving for business, all the feelings and emotions gave way – the floodgates opened and I found myself drowning in them. 

Last night, I felt as though I was beyond repair.  How had I gotten back there so fast?  The place I didn’t want to be. 

Then my husband.  My husband with faith that is life giving in our home, comes to me.  He holds me, prays over me, prays with me.  I try to hide, try to run from the love he is offering me.  Then He prays that in Jesus name for satan to leave me alone.  That I would no longer believes the lies that I am being told, that I am not adequate, that I have no purpose.  That I would stop living in fear. 

Tears start flowing down my cheeks, in the rawness of the moment, and as he continues to pray, I start to come to rest within my soul.  God is meeting me in this place.  He has not changed.  I am still the same in Him.  The circumstances around me have changed…

I question with doubt, “but Nick, all these times we thought we heard God – look how they didn’t work out?  Like how we thought we were supposed to go to Raleigh, or how I thought I was supposed to be involved in ministry to women at church, and how I was supposed to write a book….”

And Nick says truth: “Kari, you did obey God, and look what happened.  There is now a monthly moms time for these women.  Just because you weren’t involved in the final execution does not mean you didn’t hear God.”  And “Kari, God told you to write a book – and look!  You finished writing it and now you are going to have a friend edit it.  You obeyed – and we don’t even know how God is going to use it.” 

The lies start to fall off and be replaced by God’s truth.  By His truth that He is still faithful today!  And He still has plans for me even when it hurts and is hard up here in our new life in Washington.  Just because we moved doesn’t mean we don’t still have things to do with Him up here.  It just is going to take time. 

Today, He brought me back to the piano, to sing the song that He has been playing in my soul.  To remind me, just like the first time I heard it, I don’t have to be a slave to fear, I am a child of God.  So I wanted to share it with you.  This is a raw cut of the song that plays in me over and over, reminding me of my identity in Him that has never changed. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

The loss of a dream, and God's gift of joy in Choosing release over bitterness...

About two years ago, Nick and I sat next to each other by his computer, and he told me about a job possibility that he had just heard about in Raleigh, North Carolina.  It perked my interest in the conversation.  A year and a half prior, our church had started a new church plant out there.  It was something that had intrigued us at the time, but we were in the middle of caring for some extended family things, so our plate was full and we didn't consider it.  I had several friends move out with the plant, so I was always vested in knowing how the church was doing.

So, we decide to research this job a little more.  It turns out, an old co-worker of Nick's had switched to this company, and he had written the job requisition for it.  We pray about it, and Nick decides to send an inquiry to his friend about it.  Immediately his friend jumps on it, and Nick gets scheduled for phone interviews that Friday.  Everything started moving fast.  

The Keelers, our "extended" family who adopted our remaining baby embryos and at the time had twin boys that are full biological siblings of our twins, had moved out to Raleigh a year prior.  Nick and I talked and prayed about what the implications of taking a job close to them might be. We decided we needed to out of respect ask them how they would feel about us living close to them, before we went any further in this.  Nick and I felt that if they would not feel comfortable with us making a move like that, then we would stop the process of pursuing North Carolina immediately.  

Thursday evening I wrote out a Facebook message letting Paul and Rachel know what was going on, and asking them how they felt about it.  

That night sleep was sparse for me.  I was anxiously awaiting an answer from Paul and Rachel, and thinking about Nick's scheduled interview the next afternoon, and wondered what was going to happen.  

By 4:30 the next morning, I surrendered to the fact that I would not be getting anymore sleep, and quietly made my way downstairs to read my Bible.  
Curiousity got me, and I checked my phone prior to reading my Bible.  There was no message from Rachel, however there was a message from one of my forever mama friends, Becca, who had moved with out her family to be in Raleigh, and were a part of the church plant.  

The message was a cry of sadness.  She had just found out their dear friends, the couple who helped pastor the Raleigh plant, were being called back to Oregon to pastor Westside AJC, the church we attend, and they were going to be bringing a new pastor out to Raleigh.  

My heart skipped a little quicker... "Lord, is this You, moving in a crazy way?"  I held my breath.  Deciding to not share with my friend what was going on with Nick and I quite yet, I prayed for words to encourage her, and point her back to Jesus, and then when Nick woke up that morning I showed him the message.  It seemed to us like this was from Him.  No better time than to go help at a church plant in the midst of transition.  We got more confirmation when Paul and Rachel gave their blessing for us to move forward.  

By the afternoon, Nick had his phone interview, and the within the next week they had called and scheduled a ticket for him to fly out to North Carolina and have an all day interview out there.  

At this point we were telling friends and family what was going on.  It was heartbreaking to think of leaving them all behind.  On the flip side at church, our leadership had brought up the new pastor that would be headed to Raleigh with his family of six, and we got to meet him and his wife while they were up in Portland for the month of June.

Every Sunday we went and heard about things God was doing in Raleigh, and our hearts were stirred over and over.  It truly felt like a calling from the Lord.  

We also LOVED the idea of being on the east coast.  Nick and I have only ever lived in Oregon other than the first few months of my life, We began to dream of all the little adventures we could do with our family if we moved there.  Excitement began to build.  

Nick flew out for the interview, and I prayed and tried not to be a ball of nerves on the day of the interview.  I wish I could have been that super spiritual wife that fasted over the time he was there.  But it was more a continuous curling up in a fetal position ball crying out in prayer whenever I went before the Lord with it.  

I was at the Rose Gardens with a friend when I got the call from Nick after his interviews.  He had six total, and he thought all went well, with the exception of the last one, he felt he might have tanked it.  Not the peaceful hope I was anticipating to follow the interview.  He headed on a plane back home, with no answer other than he was still being considered and they would get back to us.  

We held our breath for three weeks.  Our emotions wavered and wondered how this was all going to turn out.  Nick had a lot of doubt in his last interview, but still the company would not release him yet.  "Still considering you..." Was the answer we were given during the waiting.  I half jokingly told Nick that if Raleigh doesn't work out, I get a trip to New York City.  (New York being a dream for years... A hope in a corner of my soul to one day explore the city for myself).

I remember Diane Comer coming up to me and saying words: "Sometimes when we are suppose to go, it doesn't always work out."  So I asked friends to pray that if God wanted us there, that satan would not thwart any plans.  

The weekend before the Fourth of July, I went into the prayer room at church, and a couple covered me with His peace and prayers for answers.  The three weeks of waiting had wrecked havoc on me.  My biggest struggle - life long learning lesson is WAITING.  That night Nick and talked.  We debated about maybe we should go even if Nick didn't get the job. Acting in faith... 

The next day the Lord answered. 
 It was a "No."  

I was shocked.  The last month our plans and trajectory of everything we had been hoping for was leading us to Raleigh.  There were so many things around us confirming this to us.  I didn't understand?  I thought we had heard from the Lord telling us to go.  

The next few weeks we kept looking online for any other job possibilities that might pop up in Raleigh.  There was nothing.  Nick didn't feel peace about leaving without a way to provide for his family.  My heart was breaking inside.  I would go to church and feel hard, questioning once more all these doubts that were surfacing.  

Anger and Bitterness to God started to seep in my soul.  "We were suppose to go!!" I would cry out to God.  

After several weeks, I sat in church, and I was at a point of the bitterness turning into something scary.  God spoke to me through the sermon, and laid out two paths in front of me that I could choose to walk in.  One required letting go and surrendering into His arms, the other one kept the bitterness into a seeping continuous drip that would eventually harden my soul. 

I went to the prayer room, once more.  My faithful companion friend Tanya, followed me in, and sat next to me as I laid it all out and silent tears of release streamed down my cheeks as prayers were spoken over me and my broken dream, a healing balm to my heart and mind that could only come from His Spirit.  I let go of all bitterness, and decided to choose to hope in Him once more, even in the midst of this broken dream, I decided to believe that He had purpose in all of this.  

Moving forward, I bought some plants for my yard to resettle into our current home at the time.  And slowly started being reminded of all I had in my life to be grateful for.  

That Friday evening, as I was getting ready for bed and about to turn my phone off for the evening, my curiosity was piqued by a notification of an email that had just come into my box.  So I look at it and my heart begins to stir with a new hope.  
Remember how I told Nick I got a trip to New York if Raleigh didn't work out?  My friend Emily, was planning a trip to New York for October.  And she wanted to know if I could go with her!  I decided to let my sleeping husband continue sleeping that night so he would be well rested when I showed him the email the next morning.  In the meantime I prayed and dreamed my way to sleep anticipating what he would say.  

The next morning, I received a yes answer by my husband. 

The most humbling part and amazing part about all of this, is God's timing.  I didn't get offered this trip while I was dealing with bitterness.  He gave me room to choose to let it go.  In His grace He provided me time to release all the heart break and brokenness from an unfulfilled dream, and then in spite of my struggles in all of it, He gave me a new beautiful dream that had been tucked away in the corner of my heart, and as a beautiful gift, unblemished nor tarnished by any of my former bitterness, I was able to openly receive it with a joy in my heart only from the Lord. 

I wanted to post some pictures as little praises to the Lord who knew my heart so well, intertwined dreams with my friend Emily, gave us each day in New York as a gift to be unwrapped by Him.  I took over 500 pictures so these are just a small glimpse into many of the treasures He overflowed into our lives.  If I could encourage anyone reading this.  I may never fully understand why we didn't go to Raleigh.  But what I have learned is He knows us so much better than we know ourselves, and He does want to pour His love into us.  And He is patient for us and allows us room to work through our grief and then piece by piece He restores and brings about new dreams that are so much better than anything we could have controlled and orchestrated.  

Getting to meet the Statue of Liberty

A view of the Empire State Building standing on top of the Rockefeller building.  

Standing in front of Matt Flamhaff's house in Greenwich Village (think 13 going on 30)

A bike ride through Central Park

My dear friend Emily who played an amazing job as our event coordinator and tour guide on the trip

A picnic lunch in Central Park from Zabar's 

A beautiful sunset view of the New York skyline from the top of the Met.

My first slice of New York Pizza

Taking a pause in Grand Central Station

An amazing meal of fresh pasta from the Eataly

Eating our Razzles we found at a Candy Shop, on the Brooklyn Bridge (again think 13 going on 30)

My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus' blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus' Name. 
On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

My stability lies in...

Three years ago. 

We made the choice three years ago after walking through some deep waters as a family, to pull our older two children out of a school we loved.  A school where we had community... had families that we loved. It had been a provision from the Lord, evident that He had made a way for Josiah to be able to attend there starting in kindergarten, in a way that only was a work of the Lord. 

This school was part time private, part time home school.  At the end of our time there, I was not handling myself well on home school days.  When I met with Diane Comer, a woman I love and respect, to get counseling over my situation, she labeled me as being empty.  She said on the days I thought I was doing well, it was not thriving, it was surviving.  For the sake of our children, we chose to move them away from this family and familiarity we had come to love at that school.  We had to do it, so that we could make sure our children were taken care of, while I got better. 

I remember touring through the halls of a new school we were considering.  Everything inside me wanted to cringe.  I didn't want to be here.  I didn't want my children here.  Not because it was a bad school, but because it wasn't my family.  My community.  But deep down, I had a peace that surpasses all understanding, that it was where we were suppose to move our children to. 

So we filled out school application papers, and started saying good bye over the next few months to those families and teachers that we loved.  I hated it.  I knew I had to do it, for my children.  I knew I could not do homeschooling in this season anymore, that it was the right decision.  But my heart broke over the loss.  It ached over watching my son, who didn't want to leave our school, learning to say good bye.  Finishing his third grade year, he was the most affected by the loss and change. 

That summer was a dread for Josiah.  He was unsettled, and anxious, and we all felt that turmoil inside of him.  It was a long drawn out summer filled with unknown of what the new school year would bring.  We prayed much over him, for him.  We found out that over half the students in Josiah's class would be new to the school, which brought a little peace to me, knowing he would not be alone. 

Then that first day of school came.  As I walked them to their classes, in the unfamiliar territory that laid before me, and new faces that I didn't know.  Some of my anxious thoughts were relieved that night, when my son came home all smiles, saying, "I had no fun at all!!!"  Very loud and hyped up, partly from the Dairy Queen blizzard my husband had given him on his way home, we knew he was settled and that both Josiah and Ava would be okay. 

However for me, I had another loss to grieve that first year.  Waves of sadness washed over me, when I would sit at school soccer games, watching Josiah, with no one to talk to, feeling so lost and alone.  I remember coming home crying for a half hour one time I picked my children up in carline from school.  I had gotten reprimanded that I had not done carline correctly, and I was so embarrassed and confused.  I felt completely awkward as a mom at this new school.  I kept the tears hidden behind my sunglasses, to keep my children from seeing my sadness in the midst of the light they were starting to see at their new school.  I would not squelch their hope of new adventures in this place.   But I felt lost and unseen. 

I thought I would get more involved that year at the school.  But it quickly became evident to me, that both Josiah and Ava were taken care of, and I needed to pour some time and love into Mallory and Lena, who had taken a bit of the brunt of being dragged around everywhere their older siblings needed to go in the prior years.  So I let go of the hopes of volunteering, and attended the occasional class party, and put my focus into my twins preschool experience, and the times I had at home with them on their days off. 

I slowly began to heal and process through past pain.  God started to show me redemption that He was doing in the midst of those dark moments, where I struggled with so much hopelessness and loss.  And He taught me that my identity is in Him.  Period.  That He is a God who sees me.  He is my Redeemer who makes beautiful things out of brokenness.  That He is My Shepherd and He is everything I need. 

Mallory and Lena started kindergarten this school year.   Last winter, we spent a good month, praying about what we should do for them.  I wasn't wanting them to go to full time kindergarten, and I wanted them to go to the original school we had left, so I could do part time private part time home school with my babies of the family that were growing up way too quickly.  Nick and I took a date night and went to pray at both campuses, and seek the Lord on what we should do. 
We discovered pretty quickly it was evident, God wanted all of our children together at the same school, so we would enroll them at my older children's school. 

As we entered this school year.  Our third year here, I started to feel such a place of being settled.  The horizon of the future sat broadly before me, and I could picture our family being at this school until they all graduated high school.  Dreams of my kids maybe marrying high school sweet hearts someday...  For Josiah the teachers were so great at working in keeping him challenged, for this being his first year of middle school, he was thriving and it was a joy to see that in him. Ava was plugging along doing well in her class, social as ever.  I began volunteering at the school, specifically in Mallory & Lena's class.  I fell in love with these beautiful kindergartners, and pictured getting to be "Mama Kari" to these kids as they grew older, that they would find a safe spot as I was making long term plans and dreams to stay committed to this class all the way to graduation.  I started to get to know the staff, and build relationships with all of them.  Getting to know these people who had been and were caring over my children, I began to for the first time in our three years of being at this school, feel settled and found a sense of belonging in this place. 

Yet there was some sad dark things stirring and lurking under all of this seemingly great place of being settled. 

Two Sundays ago, after church a friend drove me back to my house after we had all gone out for lunch.  We talked a little bit about school decisions.  I talked through something that God was showing me.  I had been struggling with a tighter budget this year for extra yearly expenditures, and although we had enough for our children's upcoming school expenses, I wondered if we should pull our younger girls out and I should home school them, to save money.  Because I had this stipulation, that I wanted to guarantee that we could afford private school when we got to high school.  And since I didn't know and couldn't control what the future would hold then, I wanted to control it now, and in my bubble of control make sure we would have our savings.  Nick was sure that we should keep our kids all in school, so I was letting go of that.
The realization hit me.  I was trying to control things that I didn't know how they would unfold.  Trying to make sure, to manipulate the future to guarantee the things that I, Mama Kari, wanted for my children, would happen.  There was no surrender in there.  Realizing the sadness in this choice, I had to let go once more.  It was a good revelation for me really. 
Phil Comer told me the day Josiah was born, that even if things worked out and we were given Josiah, he didn't belong to us.  He belongs to the Lord.  That has always stayed with me.  So was I really giving the Lord my children completely?  Laying down my Isaac's before the Lord in complete surrender? 

Monday morning of last week came.  I looked ahead at my Bible reading.  Job and James.  You know, there is something about both of those books that when they come around for spending time in, there is just no guarantees of what could get shaken, right?  Monday afternoon, we received an email from our principal at our children's school.  She was resigning. 

We were shocked.  And concerned.  There was no explanation of why.  So we started to pursue and pry for answers.  Her heart and passion for the school, the vision and direction that she was bringing about was the exact reason we wanted to be there.  When we started to unravel that there was some disagreement between the our principal and the leadership over the school of where she was taking it, concern elevated it.  What were those differences.  And if they were big differences, what could we expect for our children the next year.  A meeting announcement went out for Thursday night, where they would discuss and answer what was going on. 

Wednesday, a night Josiah normally has youth group, he came home sick that day.  It was a weird sickness, one that we thought he was going to get the full on stomach bug, but instead he just rested and read books the rest of the afternoon.  So we kept him home from youth group.  This ended up being a big unexpected blessing, because it gave Nick and I a chance to process. 
Nick and I talked about and prayed through what our options would be if things fell a part what would we do.  We decided to make an appointment to tour a different school the day after a big meeting was scheduled to share the new direction of the school.  Hoping we could cancel it.  That our fears would be relieved once we went to that meeting.  That it would just be some minor things that we could handle. 

We started to get the feeling that there was something big about to happen. In the middle of our praying, our principal had responded to an email that we had sent her regarding why she had resigned.  She was very vague, but said that her and her husband had prayed and fasted over this decision, and she used the word "clarity" in her message to us.  When I read those words, a weird peace fell over me.  God was showing me something very clearly.  Nick and I could not put our stability in our children's school situation.  It needed to rest in God alone.  And that no matter how this came out, that He would be with us.  So I fell to my knees and we prayed for clarity over the situation and rested that night knowing that He was with us in this. 

Thursday night came.  All of us parents filled the room, unsure of what was to come.  If I think through what I was looking for that evening, I hoped for answers about simple questions...  like if their vision was different than our principal, would they still keep the same form of testing that we appreciate.  How would the offering of types of classes look like for the next year.  What would they do with technology, and would my children continue to be challenged in the areas that God has wired each one of them.  Simple questions like that. 

As the time began, and speaking and questions and answers began, we saw something deep and dark and unexpected.  An understanding of the foundation of the school and how it was operated.  And as the meeting progressed, our hearts slowly began to break and yet we hoped that maybe there might be light found.  Sadly by the end of the meeting we knew.  Our prayer for clarity was answered.  Nick and I drove home in tears filled with sadness, and I realized the one thing I never ever wanted to do again to my son, to my children, but especially to my son, we were going to need to do. 

We came home to Josiah, who we had for the very first time babysit our girls while we went to this meeting.  He is growing up so fast.  Sitting down with him, we told him, that we were going to have to look for another school.  That we could not put our children under the leadership that was left at the school.  Unless something drastic changed, we would be finishing out our year here, and then moving ahead. 

You know, it's so hard to see your children that you love and want to protect from pain like this walk through the hurt of it.  But it's an opportunity.  A chance for us to trust our children and their life circumstances up to the Lord.  To be able to walk along side of something with them when they are young, and have them know we are there, to help them navigate through all the hurt and pain they might be feeling, to pray with them, to show them that in this life, things do fall apart.  Not everything goes the way that we plan. 

The thing I have learned and seen, in my years of walking with the Lord, that if we didn't have these trials, and everything went perfect in our life, that it would be very easy to not see our need for Jesus.  I know I need Him, and I know my children need Him, and even though I hate that Satan brings darkness which looks to kill and steal destroy, I believe with all my heart, that it is where God does His greatest works, in redeeming the yuck and making beautiful things from the dust.  A chance to find hope in Him once more, to lean into Him when it hurts, to find our comfort in Him.  Believing Him to be faithful, and believing that some day we will be able to praise Him for what He did in the midst of the brokenness. 

Right now, I am watching all these families that I have more fully opened my heart up to this last year.  There are many broken hearts, dreams that are crashing and hopes that will not be fulfilled here at this school.  You know what I have found.  That God has prepared me for such a time as this.  That my years of grieving and losing our first school, has show me how to have empathy and love to those that have been so deeply vested into the school for many years.  He is showing me how to pray, how to be quiet, how to lean into Him.  I know there are many days ahead that won't be easy for so many of the families at this school, including ours.  He wants to show them that He loves them, and He takes there dreams, and hopes and broken hearts, and is already starting to pick up the pieces.  I know He is going to do many new things in this.  Satan may have wanted to mess up and cause division...  he is good at that... but our God is greater and He is the master creator of new things.  And I know He will have victory once more. 

James 1:12
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him. 

Isaiah 43:19
Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? 
I will make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. 

Jeremiah 17:8
They will be like a tree planted by the water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of LIFE

So often one of the biggest terms I hear of in all the romance stories that are out there - falls under these lines: "Listen to your heart..." "Follow your heart..." "Whatever your heart tells you."  I would like to say that the heart can be swayed easily and that we need to be careful of this teaching.  It talks in the Bible how we need to guard our heart, how it is a well spring of life.  When I was growing up, my parents gave me a name plaque, that had my name, "Kari" listed.  Below it read: "Pure One" and then it had that verse I just referenced: Proverbs 4:23 - Watch over your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life.   I always remember looking at it and desiring to be that girl.  I want to share my story on how I have fallen many times in letting my mind take captive of thoughts that have settled and set root in my heart.  I am not proud of these stories, or these struggles that I share.  Unfortunately, through these they are one of the ways I have deeply hurt those around me in my life. But I think it is important to share as it is a topic that is worth bringing to the forefront of discussion.  I am guessing I am not the only one that has struggled in this way.  The root of these struggles comes from a deep desire for attention - to be noticed, to be known.  The truth is I am known by the One True God who matters more than any other relationship.  But for whatever reason I did not embrace that truth in the times of my life where I stumbled.  So I bring this before you as part of my story, that maybe God might bring to light the truth, that it is not attention or fulfillment from anything other than Him, that will satisfy. 

When I was a child, I craved attention from boys.  I always had a crush on someone.  I could name a list of probably about 6 -7 boys before I met Nick, that I was sure I was going to marry someday.  But for some reason, most of those boys weren’t ready to make a lifelong commitment to me at ripe age of 6, or 10, or 12 or 14, 15…  I was very committed to the boy that I liked for that season.  I wrote love notes in Double Dutch, practiced writing my new married name to see how it would sound.  I even wrote secret admirer notes to one poor guy for a time period.  Then when I got tired of waiting for him to figure it out, I gave him in person a bag at church with Christmas gifts and a note from me.  Mystery solved!  But yet none of those guys ended up being the one I would marry someday. 

When I met Nick, we both knew after a few months where this relationship was headed.  But 6 years is a long time for anyone to wait to marry.   Nick lived in Scappoose, and I lived in Beaverton, which was a 45-minute drive.  We would see each other at church and youth group, and then we started taking turns going to each other’s homes after church on Sundays, and spend time together with each other and our families.  We often would take walks and talk together.  That is something that even today, I always love talking to my husband.  We would write letters a few times a week, since long distance phone calling was expensive back in the days that cell phones were just coming to life. 

But as we got closer, about two years into our relationship, we started to struggle a bit with physical intimacy.  We never went all the way before we were married, which is a miracle in itself.  However, we did things to each other that really should only have been shared in the context of marriage and hurt each other deeply in our dating years.  Interjection – being on the other side, with 15 years of marriage so far, there is something so deep and beautiful that is shared in the safety and security of marriage, that can never be found outside of it, in the same way.  It has taken years of repair and rebuilding our poor choices and mistakes and sin prior to our marriage. When we made those choices prior to marriage, it was a cheap temporary emotional fix, compared to the deep connection shared with someone you are committed to spending your life with, in a way that God truly does bring man and woman into oneness. 

Nick’s way of coping with it, was starting to avoid me.  He would go hang out with friends, and tell me he wasn’t able to see me.  He was afraid we would fall and struggle in those areas.  I was feeling neglected when he pulled back and avoided me.  Around the time all of that started, A co-worker began speaking words to me, that told me they didn’t picture me with Nick, but they really saw me with this other guy that I had been friends with for years.  I started to listen to these words, lies that came from a person that was very promiscuous in his own life.

By listening to those lies, I started thinking and wandering in my thoughts, not being faithful to Nick.  At one point I told the other guy my feelings for him, and that's when everything fell apart.  Nick broke up with me.  I was heartbroken.  I realized, that I did care for the other guy as great friend, but what I felt for Nick was so different, and crossing that line with my feelings while in a relationship with Nick was so hurtful to both of the guys.  I ended up losing that friendship for a season, and Nick almost didn’t take me back.  I spent a week praying before the Lord about everything.  I had to get to a spot of being okay just me and God, even if Nick didn’t want to pursue the relationship anymore.  In the end he chose to let me back in. 
Can I take a moment to advise right here – that there is a fine line between being a good friend with a guy – and that I didn’t set the best boundaries when I was in high school, and I did let my heart get emotionally connected to someone I was never going to have a long term relationship with.  Talking on the phone hours with another guy as a friend, probably was not the wisest choice of that time.  I know there can be good healthy brother/sister relationships.  I have plenty of experience with that when we were a part of our college group of a bunch of guys and only 3-5 girls depending on the season. In those relationships the guys treated me like I was Nick’s girl.  And I treated them as brothers.  And I didn’t make long phone calls with them, and rarely would I be alone with any of them.  I kept healthy contact, and thankfully never had thoughts of wondering with any of them.  And I am so grateful for that season because it allowed me to see and learn how I should treat guys, and what lines not to cross.
And I wish I could say that was the end of my lack of loyalty in my heart to Nick, but it wasn’t.  While Nick was busy in college, I had two other times I entertained thoughts of relationships with other guys.  One was brought into the mind after a co-worker told me she thought another guy that was a work associate liked me.  Like I said at the very beginning, I longed for the attention, and Nick was very busy and still avoiding me a bit because of fear of stumbling into struggles.  But both of those situations thankfully dissolved because of circumstances.  And we got closer to seasons of engagement and marriage, and those thoughts mostly went away.

When we got married, we had very clear goals of what we were planning to do in life together as a married couple.  Things didn’t go exactly as we dreamed and planned for.  But during that season, we were drawn close together, united with the goal to start a family, to help in high school ministries for a season, to help with a church plant.  We had vision which knitted our hearts in unison. 

Nine years into our marriage, when our twins arrived, we walked into our life stage of four children under five, with somewhat realistic expectations of what it was going to take.  Jumping in with all I could, I put my big girl boots on and became my own version of “supermom.”  After all, this is what I signed up for with wanting to experience pregnancy of my own.  We also decided to try to sell our townhome at the time, with the cramped quarters for our four children of three girls and a boy sharing two bedrooms.  Long term this wasn’t going to work.  It took all my days to feed bathe and care for four children, and keep our house constantly immaculate in case someone would come by to look at our home.  Somewhere along the way Nick and I became two people surviving side by side of each other.  We always tried to make it to 7pm when all our kids were down and we could finally breathe for a little bit before our bedtime came and then we started once again the next day. 

During that season, we were so focused on trying to find a new home for us, in case our townhome sold (it took 6 months of a very bad market before it finally sold – we paid $1000 to get out of it).  Nick would spend much of his time on his laptop looking at houses, I think a way to make the time pass while we waited. 

I started to feel lonely again.  And then I had a lie from a hairdresser (who in the time I knew her ended up leaving her husband for a new guy she had met) that I let root in my soul.  I had shown her a picture of Nick one time, and she told me that isn’t who she would have thought I would be married to.  That she pictured me with someone that was more of a GQ guy.  Seriously you would think I would be more careful of what I let take root in my mind, but once again I started to listen to that lie, and started to see all of Nick’s imperfections.  And I started to dream again of attention from another person.  Mind you, I never acted on any of these dreams.  They were all inside my head, a secret fantasy world – maybe consider it a muse to help me push forward, an alternative reality of having someone admire me and appreciate and recognize all that I did.  Someone who would, dare I say, put me on a pedestal…  Yikes that is a scary desire for anyone to have. 

Those thoughts eventually went away, but I still was struggling with longing for attention.  You see, Nick is the type of guy that is not intimidated by taking care of the kids.  Or all the work that can go with it.  So he didn’t tell me words of encouragement that I longed for from him, words of admiration of all the hard work I was putting into our children.  In his mind, he wasn’t trying to be mean, it was what I was supposed to be doing.    

Just months after having the twins, I was told that I had lost weight, and looked like I was a smaller size than what I was wearing.  I started getting into being more aware of what I looked like.  Being told those words started to elevate my self-esteem, and basically started boosting my ego.  I did notice on occasion getting looks when I was out grocery shopping.  I had taken up running for the first time in my life.  I started to train for a half marathon.  Then after completing my first one and being at the lowest weight I had been in years, I felt like I needed to keep running that distance to maintain my size.  I would often run 13-15 miles almost every other weekend for long runs, to make sure that I didn’t start gaining weight, and lose my endurance. 

And sadly, that is where a three-year period of mind struggle started for me of wanting attention from one person.  I remember the first glance.  That’s all it took – was one glance.  Feelings of being noticed rushed into me, and for those several years I battled with wanting attention from this person.  I didn’t know in the beginning who his wife was, who his children were.  All I knew is that he looked at me.  It makes me so sad that this is a part of my story, but this mind battle, this emotional affair I carried out in my head – a way to push and survive through each day by dreaming of attention – planning what I would wear wondering if he would notice.  See – it makes me so sick to my stomach to think about. 

I would like to interject again.  I am grateful.  Grateful that I had boundaries I had set up that I wouldn’t cross.  I didn’t ever get his number.  I never contacted him on Facebook.  I often tried to avoid conversation with him.  I know this was an attack – an open door I had allowed into my mind.  God put protectors on me in this time, which I am so grateful for.  Once I was at a grocery store, and meeting up with a friend.  Nick was on a business trip for two weeks and I was single parenting during that time.  The guy showed up at the store, and even pulled up behind my line and helped me put my groceries on the check out, when I didn’t ask for it.  I knew this was dangerous territory to be treading in.  Thankfully I told my friend of what had happened.  Her and I understood each other’s struggles in this, and we had developed a little accountability in it at this time. 

I would like to say in the midst of those struggles in your mind.  Confess them.  Don’t allow them to go unspoken.  When they get confessed you can eventually if not immediately get set free from them.   Find accountability from safe friendships. I had a few that knew about it, that I found freedom to talk with in the midst of those struggles.   Nick even knew I was struggling with it at times.  Because I told him.  I know it hurt him deeply.  He was committed to me.  And in action I was committed to him, but in my heart I was not.  One other recommendation.  When those thoughts come, turn it around into prayer.  I have prayed many times in the midst of the struggles for that person’s marriage – that God would bless and protect it.  It was one of the ways I could shut down the thoughts from rabbit trailing any further than they already were.  I wish I could somehow erase that battle of my mind.  But if can somehow be redeemed that in sharing this might help someone else that is needing to hear it, then I will allow my sin and mistakes of emotionally connecting my mind to another man who was not my husband, to be shared to hopefully bring to light the darkness you may be in or find yourself in one day.  See I never planned on it – I didn’t premeditate it.  But I found myself in the middle of it by letting a thought take captive and take root in my heart, instead of getting slaying it the moment it came into my mind.

I lost a lot indirectly from that struggle.  Thankfully I did not lose my marriage. Thankful that those thoughts stayed in my mind and never were acted upon.  But I was humbled in the end.  And pulled out of that struggle, in a way that was completely removing me from the situations that would bring it to mind.  And I am reminded once more, I do not ever want to go back to how it once was.  To be freed from that is a place I want to stay.   

The truth is, my husband is never going to be able to give me all the attention I long for.  My friends cannot meet those needs.  Another man that is not Nick definitely cannot meet that need.  The truth was, I had gotten so dried up in the midst of my laboring daily over my children, with not having my cup overflowing in the Holy Spirit.  So to fill it I started looking for alternative ways to fill up my empty cup, that was running out of steam to give daily and sacrificially for my family.   The truth is, Jesus’s Spirit in me, is the ONLY thing that can fill those empty spots of my heart. 

I want to end with some scriptures, to share, to help if ever encountering a battle like this in your own life.  And to encourage you.  Keep the guards up.  Set good boundaries around your heart.  Confess your struggles in safe places.  So if when a temptation does come, you are equipped to handle it. 

James 5:16
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.  The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

 Proverbs 4:23-27
Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.  Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you.  Let your eyes look directly ahead and your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.  Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.  Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil. 

 Ephesians 5:6-17
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  Therefore, do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.  Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.  But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.  For this reason, it says “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.  So then do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is. 

 James 4:6b-10
“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  Submit therefore to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts you double minded.  Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. 

 1 Timothy 6:11-12
But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith love, perseverance and gentleness.  Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

 2 Timothy 2:22
Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 

 1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. 

 Matthew 5:27-28
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery;’ but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.