Thursday, April 30, 2015

I Want You to Pray

A woman of prayer.  A prayer warrior.  A praying wife.  All words or labels that made me shrink back further into myself believing I was not "spiritual enough" to earn such a statement ever being said about me.  I was not them.  I did not believe I would ever be them.  I prayed, yes, but I didn't pray THAT much.  I didn't pray to the extent that I could be labeled as a woman who was all about prayer.  I was just a normal, every-day Christian who went to church, believed in God and Jesus, had forgiveness from my sins and instilled Biblical principals/truths into my children. I prayed before meals and at bedtime and occasionally throughout the day, but I did not believe I was a "woman of prayer"...until God began to transform me.

I don't have an exact date, but sometime just before the summer of 2012 God spoke to my heart in a gentle whisper.  "I want you to pray" He said.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Just "I want you to pray."  However, with that simple phrase I also knew that what He really meant was that He wanted me to pray more than I had been.  My prayer background in a nutshell went from being a young girl who memorized prayers from my church and prayed for family members before bedtime to a young woman in high school and early college who simply prayed to be heard by someone who cared.  At that point I would tell God about my day, my feelings, what I wanted, what hurt me, and what I thought about everything.  Those prayers consisted mainly of me talking to God and not much of me listening to His response.  After college my prayers really became a place to let it all out without holding anything back.  I would often pray to let all my worries of my career, my marriage and my mothering up to God as a venting session.  I wanted it all off my shoulders and I knew God could handle all of my garbage.  That's kinda what I saw Him as during those years...a Divine Garbage Dump...hoping that if I told Him everything I would feel better.  At that time I also believed I could do things with the gifts God had already given me or with the intuition God had given me so I didn't really need to pray about everything.
I also discovered there was a much deeper-seated issue lacing all of my prayer life.  That issue was I actually didn't fully trust God in the first place.  I did not trust God could actually do what I was asking of Him to do during my prayer time.  Dare I say it, I didn't even trust He wanted to do those things for me.  Because of lies Satan placed in my head and situations of pain and woundedness in my past, I believed God was not as trustworthy as I was.  I knew myself well and knew that I could accomplish things because of the way God created me to be.  Do you see the twisting of the Truth there?  It's such a slight lie...God created me to be good therefore I should be able to be good...without Him.  I didn't have to trust Him, just me.

The situation of being stuck in our adoption process of our youngest daughter at that point in 2012, however, had me finally to a place where I had never really been before.  A place where there was literally nothing I could do to impact, change or make our situation any better.  God used those seemingly dark days to begin opening my eyes and speaking clearly to me, "I want you to pray".  So, I finally obeyed by quitting an amazing group I was attending on Wednesday nights in order to attend the Wednesday night prayer group meeting at our church and spent time most mornings journaling out my prayers in my bedroom.  I found myself excited yet nervous, confident yet humbled.  I remember thinking, "God, I don't know what on earth You are doing here.  Are you really trying to turn me into what I've labeled a 'prayer warrior'?  The woman I said I would never be able to be?  I can't do that!  I can't pray more than I am already...I have a house to take care of, kids to mother, and food to prepare.  I can't even find time to am I supposed to find time to pray more?"
With every fear of the unknown and wrong perception of what I thought I had to be like in order to be called a woman of prayer, I was met by a God who smiled lovingly at me and said "Trust me and just try it."  So, I did and the long story short is that He met me so intimately in prayer that it naturally, OVER TIME, turned me into a different woman.  I can not stress enough that this has been a process.  Remember that three whole years have passed since this nudging to pray first came.  And I am certainly still a work in progress even now!  There are, however, the two major changes I can see in myself because of prayer...1) Instead of believing I am a woman who is quite capable, thanks to God, to handle what comes her way, I know the Truth is I am nothing without relying on Christ in me moment by moment (John 15:5) and 2) Instead of being a woman who trusted herself more than God, I am now a woman who knows deep down to the core of my being that God is the only One who can be trusted (Prov. 3:5-6).
Looking deeper at the first way prayer has changed me, I would say that, yes, God has made me a beautiful woman with a working brain, gifts and talents but they pale in comparison to the abilities of the fresh, alive, and active Holy Spirit.  There is nothing I can do on my own that will equate what the Spirit can do through me.  If I want my prayers to be effective and my actions to have deep, life-changing meaning, I HAVE to rely on the Spirit because He is so much greater than limited me.  Before, my prayers were so focused on what I could do that I left no room for bigger-than-me things to happen.  Now, through experiencing and learning more of God in my times of prayer, I have learned the importance of stepping back and letting Him do what He wants to do.  I have learned to not treat God as a Divine Garbage Dump, my back-up plan, or even my "last resort", but to come humbly before Him immediately and TRUST Him to do more in me and through me then what I could conjure up myself.

That brings me to the second transformation.  Trust.  The more I spend time in His Presence and the more time I read His Word, the more I am convinced that God is always good and trustworthy.  Not just good for me, but good for everyone and everything He has ever created, which is quite honestly beyond what I can comprehend.  I have always had major trust issues with God so I haven't always been able to say that with confidence.  I believe most of those issues came, however, because I alienated myself from Him instead of digging myself into Him even more to learn and stand on the Truth.  Now that I am digging in, I am believing!  I know now more than ever that people will fail me.  Events, situations and circumstances will fail me.  Time will fail me.  This world and all it has to offer will fail me.  I will even fail me.  But not God.  God will always, always, always be there creating good and beauty from ugly ashes and I can trust Him.  I NEED to trust Him.  It truly was only by spending prioritized time with Him through prayer and reading Scriptures that I have come to a place to do that.  Left on my own, I just couldn't.
So now I humbly can say that, yes, I am a woman of prayer.  I was told by a God who loves me more than I love myself that He wanted me to pray, so I have, and I am forever changed because of it.  No, that doesn't mean I pray all day long every day, but it does mean there is a longing in my heart to actually do that now.  It doesn't mean I am somehow "better" than anyone else because I am praying, but it actually means I openly admit I am weak and nothing without Him.  It doesn't mean I never get sad, angry or frustrated with what life has dished out to me, but it does give me an instant, safe place to release all of what I am thinking and going through and replace it with trust and confidence that He is using it and acting on it for good.  The best part for me now is not in the "bringing of the stuff" to Him, but being a recipient of the transformation process.  In essence, it is the perfect way for me to become less of me and more of Him and that is the key!  No matter what we are going through, friends, I believe, we need, need, need to rely less on our faltered selves and more on our perfect, loving, trust-worthy God.  Through prayer, His power can be unleashed.  Through prayer His joy can be unleashed.  Even more, His love is unleashed.  His peace.  His obedience.  His patience.  His direction.  His healing.  His miracles.  His goodness.  His provision.  His discernment.  His kindness.  His revival.  His desires.  His, His, His, not mine, mine, mine.  All this and so much more is unleashed when we put ourselves aside and come trusting Him in prayer.
If I could impart any sort of humble wisdom from my journey onto the next generation or even the current generation, it would be not waste time relying on yourself first and God as your backup.  Do not pray as a last resort.  We truly need less of us thinking He already gave us everything we need so we can do this on our own and more recognizing we still need Him every second of every day in fresh, life-giving, spirit-revealing ways.  Please go to Him first!  He is the only Way to abundant life.  Being a woman or man of prayer or a prayer warrior is meant to be a calling for each and every one of us.  Young and old and all in between.  Prayer is meant for the new believer just as much as those wise in their walks.  We all need more of God and less of ourselves.

All God said to me is "I want you to pray" and my obedience to that has literally changed the very core of my being.  I wonder if He has spoken those very words to more than just me.  I truly hope He has because I am so excited to see what all He could do in our churches, our marriages, our homes or our areas of influence when we decide to pray first and watch Him use us as He wants afterwards.  It would be a sight, I am sure, beyond our comprehension.  Thanks be to God!

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understand, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." -Philippians 4:6-7

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Stretching Experience

This morning was rare.  Nora was the last one awake.  It was 8 a.m. and the rest of us were up, had ate breakfast, and low and behold our typical early-riser was just coming out of her bedroom.  As she came out of her door she stretched her arms out as wide as they could go and said "Ahhhh....good mornin' Mama."  The Holy Spirit put a thought in my heart right away..."Take note of her stretching, I'm going to use that today."

Take note of her stretching.  A little later on when I was in my quite time for the day, I knew I needed to reflect on the stretching, but to be honest, I really didn't want to.  You see, when the Spirit spoke that into my heart earlier it did not produce warm fuzzies.  It produced anxiety.  My thought went something like this, "Stretching?  Oh, Lord, no, not stretching.  If You are going to teach me something about stretching then that means something is going to happen today to stretch me and that doesn't found fun.  Can't I just get a break?  A day of rest?  A day of something NOT stretching me?"  But, that is thankfully not where God left me.  I could have chosen to leave it there.  Worried, hesitant, and fearful of what He was going to show me if I actually pursued this concept of stretching.  If I would have stayed there, I would have missed a blessing I NEEDED to hear today because I was too afraid to explore the depths of what God wanted to say to me.  I would have stayed wounded and unwilling to see the path towards healing.  It is always our choice to follow what the Holy Spirit is speaking to us.  Why do we fear what He has?  Why don't we trust Him to always have good things for us?  That is the Truth--it will ALWAYS be good.

So, as I sat on my bed, I thought about Nora's stretching arms outside her bedroom door.  Was she scared to stretch her arms?  Was she worried that if she would stretch out her muscles, it would be something hard to do?  No, that just seemed silly.  She stretched her arms out because she wanted to.  Her arms had been by her sides or tight to her body all night long and needed a good release of stretching.  Then I thought about my own times of muscular stretching.  I didn't fear stretching.  I didn't really look at those times as something I wanted to avoid.  Stretching my muscles has always felt good!  So why the difference?  Why was stretching my muscles seen as something good and refreshing but stretching my spiritual, cognitive, or emotional muscles seen as something I really didn't want to participate in?  Interesting indeed.  Was this the breakthrough of the day the Holy Spirit was wanting me to grasp?  That I should not be fearing something that will "stretch" me as much as I was allowing it too?  I couldn't wait to dig in deeper now!

I decided to look up some more info about stretching.  Here is what I found...when done properly, stretching reduces injury, allows better adaptation, relaxes muscles, increases range of motion/flexibility and betters one's performance.  However, stretching "properly" means that the stretching happens gradually, gently and in a controlled manner.  When stretching is done too intensely, called "over-stretching", it can produce pain, which is actually tissue damage happening under the surface.  An inflammatory response happens in our body to try to heal the damage done by over-stretching.  Tissue damage can heal, but there are several things that need to happen to help that healing take place.  First of all, there needs to be time given for proper healing because it just won't heal overnight.  During that time, several things are helpful towards the healing of the inflamed, damaged tissue; exercises to promote strength and flexibility, massages, ice, pain-relieving medication, and rest.

When I viewed my current situation in this new light, I couldn't believe the parallels between the physical and the spiritual/emotion/cognitive.  Events or situations in life that produce stretching of our minds, hearts, beliefs are never meant to harm us, but to produce good fruits such as the ability to be more flexible with what we are faced with, to reduce the chance of injury to our souls, increase our range of ability to do what God calls us to do, and even better our performance when we actually do it.  Stretching our minds, stretching our hearts, and stretching our beliefs is very beneficial to the spiritual body, but only when that stretching is done properly, which if you remember, is when it is done gradually, gently, and in a controlled manner.

The problem comes in, just as it does in the physical, when over-stretching happens in our spiritual/emotional/cognitive body instead of proper stretching.  Instead of having the gradual, gentle, and controlled stretching that is supposed to happen when each change comes our way,we find ourselves in situations where, I believe, we are in pain because of spiritual/emotional/cognitive "tissue damage" and now our bodies are living with an inflammatory response in order to heal the damage.  Our hearts, our minds, our emotions need time to heal.  It's not JUST time, however, that is needed to heal.  It's time well-spent on doing things that promote healing.  If physical tissues are just given time to heal and nothing else is done for them during that time, chances are they will just repeat the cycle of getting hurt with the next stretching experience.  Chances are the same cycle of injury will happen to our spiritual/emotional/cognitive selves if we don't heal properly.

Our spiritual/emotional/cognitive tissue damage also needs to be put through exercises that will promote strength building and flexibility.  For me, this kind of strength comes from reading Scripture, praying, being in tune with what the Holy Spirit is speaking to me about and then acting on it (just like the willingness to dig into this topic of stretching today).  It also needs massages...the ability to let another person help work on your area of pain.  We were never meant to do life alone and sometimes having another person helping to work in the places of pain in our bodies/life can really help loosen those tissues and promote healing.  Ice and pain-relieving medications are two things I see as ways to help elevate some of the pain in the process of healing.  They are not meant to actually heal the pain, but to simply make that time more bearable in the healing process.  These "medications" during a spiritual/emotional/cognitive pain might be such things as laughter, a good movie, reading a book, chatting with friends, serving others, creating something, singing, journalling, playing, exercising, getting a physical and making sure your body doesn't actually need some medications to make it work correctly, gardening, sleeping, etc.  Just doing something in the midst of pain that helps you bear the healing process is great!  Lastly, rest.  It's a concept not well received in our day and age, but it does wonders for the healing process.  Rest is not necessarily being lazy, but rest is allowing your minds, your hearts, your spiritual wellness to stop striving, stop seeking, stop yearning and trust that as you slow yourself down, God will provide what you need instead of thinking you need to provide it for yourself.  Rest is trust.

As we do these critical activities, IN TIME, we will see our over-stretched wounds healed.  We will either learn from our mistakes of over-stretching and next time will more gradually and gently move into the changes in front of ourselves OR if the changes of life are just thrown at us quickly and we have no choice to come into it gradually, we will recognize our injured selves more quickly. We will be able to move into a mode of healing and restoration immediately after injury instead of trying to continue limping along, never to fully heal (*side note-physical injuries heal faster when recognized and treated for healing immediately.  The longer it takes to begin treatment, the longer it takes to actually heal).  Either way, when we heal fully from the over-stretching experience, we can view the next time of stretching in a more positive light.  We will not have to fear the experience or wish that we could, instead, stay inside our comfy box of everything already known.  We can face changes with the Truth that God always has good for us and that the stretching experience is no exception...stretching produces really good things in our lives.  We can get out of our box knowing that what is next is only going to make us stronger, more flexible, able to do more than we thought, and all around a better individual.

I am so very blessed that as I sat on my bed this morning, I allowed myself to explore what the Holy Spirit was wanting to say to me through the simple stretch of my 3 year old as she walked out of her bedroom.  If I would have ignored it or dismissed it, I would still be fearing anything that would "stretch me".  Instead, I sit here noting that I have been over-stretched and need healing.  I need to actively be pursuing the very things that will promote healing in my life or I will continue to walk around wounded.  The Holy Spirit wills for me to be whole and healthy in all areas of my life and I believe He wanted me to know that in a very real and practical way this morning.  I also sit here ready and willing to be stretched again instead of fearing it because I know now that whatever happens, good can result because good was intended.

So will you join me today with being willing to be stretched?  To be willing to reject the lie that what will stretch us will not be a pleasant experience?  To be willing to trust God with what He is stretching you with?  If you are finding yourself in a place like I am where you recognize you have been over-stretched, will you be willing today to actively pursue a more restful time of healing instead of trying to push through or ignore the pain?  Will you allow yourself to read Scripture, seek counsel, find joy in the midst of pain, and trust God's ability to carry you through when you need help?  I truly hope you will join me today.

To end, I wanted to bring out the last point my little quest about stretching resulted in this morning.  Do you know what physical stretching also does?  It relaxes us.  Can you believe it!?!  Why did I not want to do that???  Who doesn't need a bit more of relaxation today?  If it's physical relaxation you are in need of, do some actual stretches, friend!  (The article I read suggested doing them before bed for a better night of sleep.)  If it's spiritual relaxation you need, do some spiritual stretching.  If it's cognitive relaxation you seek, do some cognitive stretching.  And if it's emotional relaxation you need, stretch those emotions!  Relaxation because of stretching.  Sounds amazing!  Join me, won't you?  I hope we will all benefit from this stretching experience today.

Monday, March 30, 2015

I Lift My Eyes Up

In my last post I thought my four month hiatus from blogging was a very long time of disconnect.  However, here we are five whole months since then and it's my first time back to this sorry!  It has not been five months of no writing or reflecting (I journal my prayers almost every single day) or no events worth telling you about (Revive Indiana...goodness...enough said).  It has, however, been five months of me needing to find a bit more of my private closet to pray in and seek God.  Today, I feel more released to share and I look forward to *hopefully* monthly attempts in this space for sharing what God is doing to encourage you in your own journey.

I think it is safe to say after my last several posts here, adding Nora to our family has been a challenge beyond what we could have ever imagined on our own.  She has stretched me to places I didn't want to be stretched to and, quite frankly, never want to see again.  I eluded to some physical chaos my body has been going through over the past year and a half and I'm so, so hopeful we may have the right medications in play now to bring me back to a place of sanity again.  In a nutshell, my thyroid was not working as it should and we believe my estrogen was being an overachiever while my progesterone was quietly begging, "Umm...hey, remember me???  I'm the sense of calm you are really, really, really missing right now."  The stress of life...the stress of adding in new life to life...can really take its toll on our physical body.  I urge you to go have a check-up if you are definitely "not feeling like yourself" because chances are something is going on in there different than your normal.  It's probably not JUST that you are not handling the changes well.  Okay, off soapbox now and onto today's good stuff...

There are many things I do and think as I parent Nora that makes me second guess if I really was the best mom for this job.  I debate if another woman would really be a better mom to her than I am.  Yep, I said that.  That is the lie Satan likes to stick to me every day and, man, does he know how to reinforce it.  Do you know how?  Other moms.  Other people.  Other friends.  Other strangers.  Basically, anyone who dotes on Nora, tells me how cute she is, how fun she is, how they just can't get enough of her, how sorry and hurt they are that she has had to endure so much in her young life already, and how blessed I must feel to be the one who gets to mother her.  Satan uses their completely innocent lines as a constant reminder of what I don't say or don't think in my head.  At the end, I feel like a completely unloving and compassionate-less mother.  Certainly they would all be a better mom to Nora than I have been or ever will be.

In those moments, I try hard to remind myself that they don't live with her day-in and day-out.  That the "Nora" she is in public can be very different than the "Nora" she is at home.  That they don't get the tantrums, the questioning, the stubborn attitude, the constant need for attention, the eyes always watching, the constant stream of words, the messy, anxiety-filled every-moment-of-every-day-life I get with her.  BUT, you know what?  Even those self-reflections/self-pep-talks do not take away the impact of the lie Satan has spoken.  I still often feel like a failure as her mother at the end of the day.  I don't have all the answers to this, but one answer that stands out today for me is that I still believe the lie because all of my "comebacks" are still about me.  They are about everything I deal with from her instead of everything God has equipped me with to give to her.  Hmm.

All He has equipped me with to give her...can I be honest with you?  In this present moment, that is not much.  As I mentioned above, I am a recovering hormonally-unbalanced woman.  I am tired.  I am worn.  I am trying to recover from being frustrated, bitter, angry, sad, and guilty 95% of every month.  Sure, I can make meals, do hair, clean the house, and keep a schedule for her, but that's about all I have most days.  And that is where Satan loves to play.  His lie that "someone else could extend a better mama-love to Nora than I could" get these type of lies slathered on top... "See!?!  See, I told you you aren't good at this thing.  You can't even extend love to her like you thought you would or even like you want to.  You make lunch...seriously?  Everyone can make lunch.  That is nothing special.  That isn't showing Nora love.  That's giving her food.  Even the orphanage did that.  If you really loved her, you would be so overwhelmed with compassion for her that you would hold her and sing over her and rock her and kiss her sweet cheeks and just cry happy tears that God had blessed you with this amazing gift of a girl in your arms after such a long-fought battle to get her home.  Her disobedience and selfish actions would not bring out yelling words from you, but instead this heart-felt desire to calmly let her know there is nothing she could do to not make you love her.  But you don't do that.  Do you really think the things to do for her are expressions of love.  Right.  Not so much."  Those lies on top of the other make me feel like a complete and utter failure as her mom.  Lunch just isn't enough.  Doing her hair just isn't enough.  I am just not enough.

The Truth is, however, the twist in Satan's lie is not that what I am doing isn't enough to be showing Nora my love, but that I can actually love her the way she needs and deserves to be loved.  Satan LOVES to keep us in a self-sufficient mode.  It's his way of keeping us away from God.  The Truth is, I can't.  I can not.  I can't.  I CAN NOT love Nora that well.  I will never be able to show Nora the amount of love she needs and deserves.  I just don't have that in me and I've been trying for a year and a half to drum it up somehow out of me when it wasn't ever there to begin with.  The Truth is, no other woman would have that amount of love in her for Nora either.  It's not just my problem.  God is the only one who has the ability to love her completely and if I'm not consistently, moment-by-moment giving all of this up to Him to work through, it is just not going to work...with me, or with any other woman out there willing to have her be their daughter.  The love she needs will only come when God loves her through an empty me.  An empty mom.

Now, hear me out, this is a concept that many have said to me throughout the past year and a half so don't think this was completely new to me.  My counselor said it over and over and over, some of my dear friends have said it, I've seen it plastered over other blogs of adoptive mamas, but it was not sinking in yet because I was not at the end of myself.  I was not empty enough to let it in.  I was still too full of the believe that if God had called me to this, I must be able to do this!  Surely He had equipped me to do the task He laid in front of me and stirred in my heart to pursue.  No.  Sorry, friend.  The Truth is, He didn't really.  He called me to this, yes, but He didn't think that I could do this all on my own then.  He most definitely called me to something beyond what I could handle so that I would eventually empty myself of everything good I thought I brought to the table and realize that ONLY HE is good and sufficient and willing and able.  I believe I had to be at a point where I had given my ALL and it just wasn't enough.

I finally had to realize there is honestly not a hope in the world that will make this mothering relationship with Nora work well...not a hope in the world.  Only a hope that is not from this world.  Only a hope in a God that surpasses anything this world has to offer.  This weekend contained a very practical moment when as I sat at a women's retreat very much at the end of myself and I heard God speak to my empty self.  I heard it because I finally had room enough for the message being spoken all along to finally find enough room to settle.  The message was simple, as God's messages ALWAYS are: "Lift your eyes UP, Angie.  Accept my help."

***This, friends, is where I'm going to break the rules of blogging as I normally do.  Blog posts are supposed to be short and sweet and contained into the length of time you will actually sit down and read this.  I'm pretty sure I've already went past that mark.  I just can't work within those silly blogging rules.  I'm a wordy girl.  I've owned that at this point in life.  So, if I was a true blogger, this is where I would end the "Part 1" of this post and then continue with "Part 2" tomorrow...or a week from now, but instead I will just continue.  I have been known to say I am a "rule follower".  My husband looked at me once and said the truth..."You are a rule follower until it's a rule you want to break and then you break it."  Ha!  He's right on.  Seriously.  So...with that, I continue on in my too-wordy-for-a-blog-post post.  If you simply HAVE to take a break to pee or get more coffee or attend to your children or what have you, please promise to come back to this moment.  The Goodstuff is about to be had...

I'm a practical person.  Reality based.  Have question, need answer.  This gets me in trouble when it comes to God because He's not always practical.  However, I believe He knows me intimately because, quite frankly, He made me, so He knows I need practicality when it comes to me actually understanding what He is asking of me.  This time is no different.  After recognizing that it truly will be the "less of me/more of Him" approach that will give Nora the love she needs, I needed to know how that looks for everyday living.  I was still stumped (never said I was a fast learner).  I began asking God questions like this: "So, you want me to step out of the way and love Nora with Your love, but how do I do that?  In moments when I feel my human Angie-nature rising and I want to scream, how do I hold that back or dissipate it and do what You would do instead?  How do I hear the Holy Spirit speaking to me at home, in my sweatpants, with two kids who are constantly begging for my attention?"  For a while now, I have had no answers.  I've continued to ask though faithfully believing that one of these days He would reveal something.  This weekend I got my first practical answer to that question.

I mentioned above that one of the things Nora does (seriously, every second I'm in her presence) is that she watches a hawk.  She has a specific stare in her basket of looks that I know all too well.  It's a look reserved just for me.  It's this stare that says many things all at once.  "Are you watching me, Mom?  Am I doing something you will like?  Are you going to be happy I'm doing this?  Or should I not be doing this?  Are you mad I'm doing this?  Are you going to tell me to stop doing this?  Can I keep doing this or should I stop?  If it is making you happy do I want to keep doing it?  If it is making you mad do I want to keep doing it?  What are you thinking, Mom?  What should I do or not do, Mom?"  ANXIETY!!!!!!  She is filled with it, friends.  My counselor once told me that everything (yes, everything means everything) Nora does, she does out of a background of attention or anxiety issues.  Very true.  Even her looks come from these two places.  So, this anxiety-filled look comes at me all day long with everything she is doing.  It's exhausting to see because that look means that I am on constant watch.  Her constant look of anxiety towards me has literally filled me with anxiety in return so I often haven't responded well to it.  Instead of reassuring her, I have often created more anxiety.  Remember...hormonally unbalanced, relying full-of-herself Mom is what was responding.  Not a great combo.

Micah (bless him) has told me I just need to stop watching her.  That my constant stare back has just caused more anxiety than less.  It's true.  I watch her back like a hawk.  I'm constantly monitoring her every move, every decision, every everything.  It's just as exhausting as it sounds.  I allow myself to do this because I think she needs to be taught what is okay and what is not okay.  What will be beneficial to her and what could hurt her.  I'm just being a mom, right?!?  Wrong.  I'm being a tyrant.  I'm being untrusting.  I'm being her god and that's not my role.  Quite honestly, I suck at it.  If, instead, I would chose to work out of my empty self in those constant moments throughout the day when I'm being looked to for direction and show her that I am going to allow God to reveal to her what she should or shouldn't be doing, then and only then am I truly being the mama I can be.

In order for me to do this, I needed the practical tool in my belt.  He spoke that tool to me in the form of a worship song at the very end of my retreat.  The song depicts the words of Psalm 121...

                 "I lift up my eyes to the mountains--where does my help come from?
                             My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

                 He will not let your foot slip--he who watches over you will not slumber;
                            indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

                 The LORD watches over you--
                           the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
                           the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

                 The LORD will keep you from all harm--
                          he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming
                          and going both now and forevermore."

I will lift my eyes up.  Literally.  So simple.  Why do we make things so complicated???  Another blog perhaps.  In those moments when Nora's specific, anxiety-full look comes my way, instead of shooting a look back to her, I heard God ask me to literally LOOK UP instead.  Take my gaze away from Nora and onto the ceiling Him.  If I would literally make my eyes look up instead of at Nora, it would diffuse the situation completely.  She would be left to figure out things a little on her own (which would be a great thing) and I would be left to be reminded that I can not do this on my own.  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  Practical application of His Holy Word in my day to day life.  The Bible coming to a very real way.

So, it has only been a day since I have had this "lightbulb moment" with the Lord and I can already testify to several moments where I have gazed up instead of back at her.  It has been great!  Yes, it feels a bit weird.  Yes, I wonder what she is doing as I stare at the ceiling for a few moments.  Yes, I find myself saying a bit of a prayer while I do it like "Okay, God, I'm looking up.  I'm choosing You.  When I bring my look back down, please help me reflect You better to her if she is still staring at me and if she is not staring at me, help me trust that You were with her in that moment and gave her confidence instead of anxiety."  Yes, so far in its limited trial run, this is working...for both of us.  I even find myself being able to look at her with less anxiety and more loving acceptance of where she is at and who she is being because I am actively taking moments captive to doing the will of God instead of relying on myself to figure it out.  It is refreshing for sure!

I understand, to some, this may seem like a cop-out maneuver to not parent her well, but for others in my shoes, you will understand the importance of this step and this way of thinking.  Believing that God can and WILL parent her well when I choose to step back and NOT use my own best efforts that are miserably failing anyway.  By doing such practical applications of Scripture, God will start to regain ground Satan has stolen from Nora AND from me.  It's exciting me to no end to have a way of bringing my God into my daily life in such a beautifully simple way.  As Psalm 121 states, He will watch over our lives both now and forevermore.  He will.  His eyes will watch.  I don't have to.  I don't have to for Nora.  He will.  So, I will continue to trust Him at his Word.  I will lift my eyes up (literally) and accept His help (because I NEED it).

I hope, wherever you are in life today, you will see the places where perhaps you also need to lift your eyes up for your help because relying on yourself just isn't cutting it.  Trust Him, friends, to give you the help you need when you choose to empty yourselves and look to Him for fulfillment instead.

Oh, and after coming home from my retreat and telling Micah the words the Lord gave me, he smiled and said he sang that song to Nora while rocking her for her nap that day.  Of course he did.  That's how detailed God is.