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Archive for November, 2012

When Forgiveness is Hard

I don’t know what it is but my Sweet Pea can be perfect all weekend with my mother, perfect all evening with my neighbor, but every day, the moment she sets eyes on me, she lashes out with all the force an eight year old can find.  And it hurts.  It hurt the first time.  It hurt the tenth time.  It hurts now.  I know she is lashing out of her own hurt and she knows I’ll still be there for her when the surge is over, but still.  It hurts.  I ache deeply inside and although I try not to take it personally, and know I shouldn’t take it personally, I do.

And when she hurts and I hurt it is very hard to forgive.  It’s hard to genuinely accept her teary apology when I know a couple minutes or hours later she will be doing the same thing…yelling at me, mocking me, calling me names, screaming, pushing me away.  It’s hard to look her in the eye and say, “I forgive you” when I don’t feel forgiveness in my heart.  She can turn her attitude on and off at the drop of a hat and look at me with repentant eyes, but forgiveness is harder.  It’s deeper.  And it takes longer than an eight minute time out for my heart to settle down.

But all I have is eight minutes.  Today it was eight minutes in the kitchen alone, crying, before her timer rang and I had to face her.  She had been so disrespectful and hurtful I sent her straight to bed without bath or teeth brushed or story time.  She offered her apology and I walked away leaving her to feel the weight of her own brokenness.  And she sobbed.

I don’t know what else to do for her.  I feel like such a failure of a mother to not be able to help her behave.  I feel like a failure because she does not lash out at anyone else this way.  She even told me earlier today, “I’ve never been this mean or selfish with anyone as nice as you before.”  So what am I doing wrong and how do I make it right?  And does forgiveness ever become easier?

After listening to her cry in her bed for about fifteen minutes, I heard her door open as she walked into the living room.  I called her to me, pulled her in my lap, wrapped a blanket around her, and kissed her forehead and stroked her hair and just held her.  Tightly.  The tightest I ever had.  And I whispered “I love you” over and over again as tears snuck up on me and trickled down my cheek disappearing into her blond hair.  I rocked her back and forth and just loved her.  I didn’t know what else to do.  I have pulled out every discipline and consequence and punishment I can.  I’ve offered rewards and incentives and prizes.  It doesn’t work.  So I held her.  She whispered “I’m sorry” once but that was it.  We had a silent exchange of repentance and forgiveness and restoration.  There was nothing more that needed to be said.  She needed to know that she was forgiven and she was loved.  Even when it’s the 490th time.

I don’t have it all figured out.  In fact, there are more questions than there are answers as to why she responds the way she does and how to keep moving her forward to a healthy life.  I know there will be more hurt.  Perhaps again tomorrow morning it will be the same thing all over again.  But I have to stay absolutely unwavering in the way I respond, in the way I love, in the way I forgive.  No matter how many times she beats me down, I have to stand.  No matter how many times she pushes me away, I have to call her back.  I have to pull her in my arms and cry with her and tell her how desperately I love her.  And I always need to forgive.

Because that’s what Jesus has done for me.

Now I get to do it for her.

Even when it’s hard.

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Salvation Thursday

Tonight I walked into my dark room and knelt beside my bed piled with clothes and closed my eyes and just prayed that somehow God would move and do something big. Today was a rough day. Most of it was spent being lied to, yelled at, enduring doors being kicked, walls being punched, toys being thrown; a day of potty accidents and tears and refusals to obey. It was rough. So I knelt by my bed clinging to the last ounce of hope I had and prayed. I didn’t know what else to do. There was nothing else to do.

I must have only gotten five words out in my prayer when David walked into my room and stood next to me. My first thought, I admit, was wondering if I will ever have two seconds to myself again, but when he said, “Miss Shelly, why do you go to Bible Study on Wednesdays?” I knew now was not the time to have a pity party. Now was the time to be bold. I shared with him how I like studying the Bible with my friends and learning about Jesus and how to tell other people about who Jesus is. (We’re actually in a series now on how to share the gospel, ironically enough.) Little did I know I would put into practice what we had been learning.

“Who is Jesus?”

His innocent words echoed in my head and my heart stopped. Now’s your chance. Now’s the time to tell him about this amazing Savior I know. So I told him about Jesus and how he died on the cross and how he rose from the dead. I tried as hard as I could to use five-year-old language instead of saying words like justified and sanctified and redeemed. I talked about sin and how when we do bad things it separates us from God. I talked about Heaven and Hell and how perfect God is. I shared how we all sin, how we deserve death, and how God loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for us. And while I shared I prayed. I begged God to let Him understand the words that were coming out of my mouth. And then I asked him the eternal question:

“Have you ever asked Jesus to come into your heart?”

He said no. My head was spinning because this was so not what I expected. I shared the gospel with him all over again so he would understand. Then I asked if he wanted to pray to ask Jesus into his heart.

He said no. He was afraid to pray and wanted to wait until he turned six. Six would be a good year to ask Jesus to save him.

I was heartbroken. This was supposed to be it. This would be the perfect redemptive story. But he said no.

We walked into the living room for family Bible time and as we were sitting on the couch picking out which story to read, David on one side, Lydia on the other, David said,

“After we read the story, can I pray to ask Jesus to come into my heart.”

I don’t think I even paid attention to what Bible story we were reading because I was trying to figure out what words to pray when we were finished. When I finished reading I asked David if he still wanted to pray to ask Jesus into his little heart. He said yes. YES! So despite the fact that my heart was leaping out of my chest and I have so little practice leading others to Christ, I prayed with him. I used simple language, but prayed truth. And he confidently and loudly prayed every word.

He asked Jesus into his heart. JESUS!

I cannot believe God would use me! I cannot believe God would take me at my weakest – headache, frustration, exhaustion – and use me to lead this precious soul to Christ! All of a sudden so much made sense. God brought David here for this time. He allowed the adoption to be postponed so long so David could meet Christ. He used NewSpring Evangelism groups to give me confidence to share my story. And He allowed me the boldness to pray that I would be ready to share the gospel whenever He gave me the opportunity. Little did I know the time would be now.

Salvation has come to our home. Today marks a new life for David. A new hope for me. A new heart in heaven.

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My sweet Quarter Pint struggles with nightmares.  He will wake up screaming, tears streaming down his little face, and I come running to his side, pull him into my arms, and hug him close whispering the assurance that he is okay.  I stroke his beautiful blond hair and sing him the best version of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” that I can come up with because I know how much it comforts him to hear my voice.  It’s almost shocking to me how much I love that boy already, how much our hearts have latched on to each other’s.  I can be in the kitchen, dishwasher clanking away, laughing with my sister and mom while we play cards, and somehow through the noise and distraction I hear his voice.  I hear him calling my name when no one else hears a sound.  And I come to rescue him.

His dreams tell haunting tales of fire and burning or watching his sister and I get caught up in a flame.  They stem from a life filled with fear and chaos and tragedy.  I hate that he has these dreams.  It tears me to the core to see him so distraught.  But these are what his dreams say to him.

My dreams tell a different story.  Sometimes they are scary, sometimes sweet.  Sometimes they vanish like a vapor in my morning stupor and I’m left with nothing but a feeling of what just passed through my subconscious.  But so much of the time my dreams whisper reminders to my soul that God is still at work.  A few nights ago I had one of those moments, one of those dreams.

It was dark outside.  Very dark.  And cold.  And I was caught in a storm with my kids.  We were rushed away down a creek in a cardboard box boat.  It was just big enough to hold me and my two kids.  And the creek was pulling us downstream rapidly.  As we floated the cardboard boat started to fill with water.  I could see the color change as the brown box soaked up the moisture from the creek.  I could feel the freezing temperature of the churning water.  And I looked into the eyes of my two kids and knew I had to rescue them.

I held one hand tightly on the boat to keep it above water and the other hand I took and clung to root after root as we swept down the river.  I was like a one-handed Tarzan swinging my kids and our boat downstream.  But I was losing hope.  We were drowning.  The darkness of the night cloaked around us and the wind howled through the trees.  The eyes of my kids spoke panic.  And I didn’t know what else to do.  My nightmare was about to wake me, but right before we drowned I looked into the cardboard boat filled with water and saw something else was in that boat with us.  There was me, my kids, gallons of water, soggy cardboard…and my Bible.  And when my eyes set on my Bible, green cover soaking wet, I felt hope sweep over me and I let go of the root I was clinging to and took that hand and grabbed onto my Bible.  As if by miracle, the scene of my dream morphed and we were on dry land and the sun was coming up and the rain was nothing but a dribble.  And then I woke.

God spoke so loudly to me through that dream.  I am trying so hard to save my two kids from drowning.  I’m trying to save them from getting swept down the current of doubt and fear, regret and pain.  But try as I might, I can do nothing more than ride with them down stream like a one-armed woman about to drown.  But the moment I turn to God and cling to His Word, miracles happen.  God can do for them what I can only, literally, dream of doing.

I can hold my child when he is dreaming of fire or when she gets hurt or when they both are crying from a broken heart.  But the deep rescuing that needs to take place, that is God’s.  When a surge of pain engulfs my children, God comes and pull them out.  He is the Rescuer.  And tonight I’m clinging to the hope that He can pull us out of whatever soggy mess we’ve gotten thrown into.  He can still work miracles.

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