Infomercials and other things I believe.

My nine year old likes to announce to us the latest infomercial that he has seen. He gives us all the reasons why we should invest “three easy payments” for the newest gadget. As his skeptical older sisters like to point out to him that just because it’s on TV or even the internet does not mean that it is real. His sweet tender heart cannot fathom that. That someone would try and sell us or tell us something that wasn’t real. He wants to believe.

I too within the last year have wanted to believe that everything that others were telling me or selling me was real. My husband likes to point out that my naivety about the world around me is one reason that he loves me. That I truly believe that people were good, and true, and that a plate of cookies on their doorstep would make anyone be my friend. I just wanted to believe.

But when it comes to my relationship with God is where I stop believing. At least that is what you would think if you heard my prayers or saw my anxiety level at times. That I really don’t believe. I want to believe but my actions and conversations at times play out differently. I am human. With a human heart. And my human heart although born solely to worship my Savior is swayed to believe others.

Believing that I am still the girl with a scandalous past. That it will always define me. I believe the voice that tells me I am always on the brink of another panic attack. I believe the voice that tell me to make idols out of people around me. And when they disappoint me I am easily frustrated. I am drawn to believe that I will never be pretty enough to keep my husband around. I listen to the voice that tells me that I am not smart enough to write the book that needs to be written. I fall asleep to the voice that tells me that the darkness will win and people are better off if it does. I believe the scale when it says that I am not and never will be the size I was in college. That I cannot be healthy and strong. I believe people when they tell me I am not who they need me to be. I believe the magazines and blogs I read that tell me that my kids need to be in better schools and that it is all my fault that I can’t give that to them.

Last Sunday in church though as I sat there listening to a song during communion I heard truth. I heard the voice of God so clearly whisper to me “ live in freedom”. I sat there with tears streaming down my face in awe of how perfect God is to me. He knew that my past had been on my heart for the entire service. That I sat through a sermon on Lust thinking that this was a sin that I did not struggle with so really it was a ”free pass Sunday” . I could just pray for those around me who struggled with it. Instead images of my past kept coming back to me and I found myself heaving tears. I couldn’t catch my breath. The vivid the images of myself in past situations from over 15 years ago still haunt me. As I sat there I knew that I still carried it. Carry it. Everyday it still defines me. I am still listening to it. Listening to the past that wants to clutch me there and never understand forgiveness. To experience freedom. And to hear truth.

Truth is….God. He alone can heal me. He alone is my comforter. He alone will protect me. His will alone will be done. He is my freedom. He is my love. He is my beauty. He is my father. He is my all in all. He is the beginning and the end. He has control. He is the only voice I need to hear. He is my truth.

15 years and other miracles.

I remember a card my dad gave me on my wedding day. It was a beautiful card with a little blonde haired girl blowing on a daisy. It was filled with love and words of affirmation. I still have it in my bible today. One thing he wrote in it that I may have skimmed over was that the marriage was going to be work. At 22 I am sure I thought well work won’t be too hard. I work as a lifeguard and I love my great tan and I am basically “off work” when the sun goes down. And still at 22 I was more concerned with who was going to be at the wedding or how thin I looked in my dress more than the “work” that this was going to be.

15 years later and my dad was right. He perhaps should have said it will be like the worst job you have ever had but hold on. Keep coming back. Don’t worry about not getting a paycheck. Keep opening the door. Keep working and serving when the other has walked away. Open the door. Because the good will come. And it will be better than you could have ever imagined.

This week we celebrate 15 years. 15 years filled with things we never would have imagined. Five kids. One before we even walked down the aisle. Unexpected deaths. Moved far away from family. Raised many children who we didn’t birth. Finished college. Came to know Jesus. Baptized. Part of a church we call family. Loss of jobs. Loss of friends. Didn’t know how we would make Christmas happen. Loneliness. Bought our first house. Homeschooled. Public schooled. Private schooled. Master degrees. National Boards. Many tears. Many fights. Many slammed doors. Pride taken down. Liberia. Post-partum Depression. Sierra Leone. Adoption. Uganda. Just to name a few things.

For those of you that said we weren’t going to make it. (I was one of them). We didn’t. But God did. It is only by God’s grace and redemption that we are here. I know that many of you have seen our struggles and the pain that we have encountered. And those that we adore came right alongside of us and entered in the ugly muddy part of our hearts and carried us through. They weren’t afraid to call. To ask the tough questions. To make the late night visits. To pray over us. For us. And between us. These 15 years have been hard. And at times we have felt like giving up. But the amazing thing about God. He doesn’t. He doesn’t give up on us.

Our God knew from the very beginning that Tim was supposed to be with me. That He would make him into the man of God he is today. That Tim would be an amazing dad who loves his children completely. That he would be the leader in his family, to teach them how to walk through an enormously difficult time. That he would meet some of the most Godly men when he moved his family to a new church. Men that have become his brothers. God knew what Tim would need to learn to be the kind of husband his wife adores. A man of grace and love. A man who stands up for his wife. A man who supports her and encourages her to be better today than she was yesterday. A man who faithfully prays the darkness away from his wife. A man who God himself transformed.

In 15 years we have grown, taken a few steps back and learned to kneel before our Jesus with grateful hearts. I would have never thought 15 years ago that God could make something amazing out of the mess that we were. But He did.

Happy 15 years babe….you’re still the one.

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bikini’s are stupid.

One of my biggest struggles is watching my oldest get older. Of course I struggle with all my kids having more birthdays. But my oldest. She was my beginning. She was the reason I get to be a mom. She was when I discovered how much I could love someone who couldn’t love me back.Why God chose me to carry her, love her, be transformed by her I will never quite grasp. But He has.

When I was a mom to two young toddlers I went to story time, play dates, and the infamous MOPS (mothers of preschoolers). There I learned from other moms.I met some of my dearest friends there. I learned how to sooth a screaming baby. What bottles to buy. What books to read to them that would surely get them into Harvard. (We’ll be lucky the last few kids even go to community college) How to discipline effectively. What crafts and outings to have with my little bundles of joy. But now. Now here I am with a toddler. Two in elementary. One in middle school. And then one in high school. And not just in high school but she looks like she could be in college. Lord have mercy.

And I don’t have a group. There is no MOT (mothers of teenagers) . Apparently after they are toddlers we moms don’t need any more support or help. I have no group of moms to go to once a week to bounce things off of. To gain wisdom from. To know what to react to and what not to. What battle to fight and which ones are only going to cause more rebellion. To talk about wonderful things we so blissfully experience during the years of 12-I don’t know when it ends.

I just realized the other day that I have three years left with the oldest. Three years until she graduates and goes away to school. This scares me if we are being honest. It keeps me up at night. If I am being a good mom. If I have listened enough. If I have fought hard enough for her. If I yelled too much( I have) . If I have been too strict or not strict enough. If she knows how much I want to keep her in a safe little bubble and not let the world hurt her anymore.

I know this is unrealistic. I know.( my therapist likes to tell me it is) But I still feel these things. I still feel alone in this teenager crazy hormone world. I have maybe a couple of mom friends who have teenagers. That’s it. There is not a group to go to and just cry talk every week. I want to bundle her up and send her to Alaska.( Because in Alaska maybe not every other girl wears a bikini) And then she can come home when she has found a nice guy who wants to travel the world or has decided to become a nun. But until then I am on my knees begging God to protect her. To never stop chasing her. To bring her to her own knees .For her to fall in love with her Savior. To want to live a life serving Him. And if this doesn’t happen that I trust that she is God’s. She always has been. She always will be. And her life is part of His story and He gets to write it. I don’t.

faithful.

Today was the National Day of Prayer. I didn’t stand by the flag pole or go to any ceremony of special significance. I instead went to be with some of those that have been instrumental in these past few years. Women who prayed fervently for me when I didn’t know what to pray. Women who prayed for our sweet youngest before we even saw his face. Women who get all the “adoption issues” and laugh when there is nothing left to do. On this day of prayer though I am reminded while scooping out buttered noodles for all of our little ones to eat, that our God is so faithful. Nothing like buttered noodles and a house full of little children from all over the world to bring the National Day of Prayer to another level.

I was reminded so clearly this past Sunday about how far He has brought me. It was four months ago that I was dreading going to a large gathering at church. I didn’t want to go; I was afraid to go. The people. The questions. The answers I couldn’t give. The eye contact . I would have rather just hidden in the ladies’ room all night and hand out towels than have an adult conversation. I dreaded anyone asking about adoption. Uganda. My life. My heart. All of it made me want to wear a sign on my forehead that said “now an introvert” or “too damaged; stay away”. But I went and made it through and begged God to start healing me.

And then He healed.

Last Sunday as we gathered for our church’s corporate prayer and worship services I stood with arms open wide ready to receive what that Spirit has in store for me. I was no longer crying the whole way there trying to conjure up a story as to why I couldn’t speak with anyone. I still didn’t talk to as many people. And I am ok with that. I know what healing feels like. I don’t know the exact moment it happened. It took weeks, months, and long nights. I do know what it is like to not be afraid to wake up in the morning. I do know what it is like to have God so intimately speak to me and show Himself to me that I only I could see it. I do know that it is like to lay everything down at His feet. I do know what it is like to speak the darkness out loud and it lose its power over me. I do know what it is like to bathe myself in Scripture day after day just to be able to breathe. I do know what it is like to ask for help. I do know what it is like to feel the hand of Jesus lift me from the pit. I do know what it is like to have people I have never met in person before reach out to me and just encourage at just the right time.

I do believe in a healing God. I believe that HE heals. I do also believe that we need to participate in the healing. That we need to be honest with ourselves and others; that we need to die to ourselves every day. I believe that part of healing is realizing that I needed to take better care of myself. I had been separated from my kids for so long and then came back in a depression that I no longer wanted to miss out on life. Part of that is knowing that God gave me this body and mind and I need to take care of it. It honors God when we take care of what He has given us. I do know that He heals. I have felt it. I have seen it. I am a product of it.


 

This song has been my anthem.

circles.

Keep your circle small. Words a once die hard extrovert had ignored for years. I thought well they must be talking to my introvert friends when they say this. I thought I needed my friends all the time and the more the merrier. But that came with my people pleasing attitude. I wanted others to be happy. I wanted to be happy. All the time. I wanted to talk to strangers in lines and know their stories. I wanted to be available to anyone anytime to meet for coffee, play date, lunch, pick up their kids, watch their pets all the time I wanted to be available. You could call me day or night and I would probably pick up the phone. Or text and I will surely get right back to you. Can you say codependent much?

Before I even left to go to Africa this past fall there were signs that life had gotten out of control my circle had gotten so big that it was more like a circus ring. I wasn’t present anymore. I wasn’t a good friend. I sucked as a mom. And don’t’ even get me started on what kind of wife I was being. But so many people had supported us through this adoption and I wanted to make sure that I please them. I wanted to make sure that I had said goodbye to everyone. That I had taken every chance I could get to meet with my sweet friends and even people I barely new. Because if I was being an example for my church and faith community than I had better run myself ragged and burn out right? That is what being a “good Christian” is all about. Seven days before I got on the plane to Uganda I experienced my first full blown panic attack. I lay on my couch as my friend talked me off the ledge and told me what was going on with my body and spirit. I continued to have panic attacks until I boarded the plane. If that wasn’t’ a sign that I needed some space than I am not sure what it. In order to give myself space and room to actually think on my own God had me fly thousands of miles away and look myself in the mirror. In Africa I never experienced another attack. I was limited as to who I had contact with and the only communication I had with people back home was all dependent on if we had power that day. Yet they came back again before I even got on the plane to come back to the states this past November I knew my circle needed to be smaller. God had so clearly shown me that things needed to change. I was bringing home the sweetest little boy who was dealing with horrendous fears of his own. He needed space to grieve and this mama did too. Even the thought of walking in to the airport with all my family and friends there to welcome us home sent me into a panic attack. They continued throughout the next few months. Some days were better than others. Then there were days when I needed someone physically to remind me that I was ok. That I was safe. That God is faithful and He alone can save me. I asked for help. I actually participated in the help process. Many times we ask for help because we feel like it is the right thing to do but we fail to actually “do” the healing process. So I took meds, I changed the way I ate, I showed up for therapy, I stopped any alcohol consumption, I exercised my tail off trying to raise my serotonin levels, I said no, I stopped watching 99% of what I used to watch on TV. I am sensitive to what I see and hear. I choose to leave conversations. I choose to not be around those who make me anxious. I am not ready to have a house full of people yet. I made my circle much smaller. Although some are are upset with me that I cannot be who I used to be I need to be ok with that. I cannot meet up with them when they ask. I cancel when I feel that my anxiety is coming to the surface. I am not volunteering for anything without running it by my husband and family first. I try and avoid being away from my family especially during the week. I confide in only a couple of people. I need to feel safe . I want to feel safe. I am healing. And in healing my circle is small.

“ It is important for you to control your own drawbridge. There must be times when you keep your bridge drawn and have the opportunity to be alone or with those whom you feel close. Never allow yourself to become public property, where anyone can walk in and out at will. You might think that you are being generous in giving access to anyone who wants to enter and leave, but you will find yourself losing your soul.” – Henri J. M. Nouwen

washing feet at 15.

When she was five I found chicken eggs in her closet. Not real chicken eggs. Like from the grocery store eggs. Right out of the carton eggs. You would think that I would notice that a dozen were missing. Beneath princess blankets and stuffed animals were straight from the fridge, eggs packed together neatly .And a five year old looking on as I tried to hold in the puke while removing them from her closet. She started crying ,carrying on about how “all her life” she had wanted baby chicks. And this was her only ticket to getting one. She promised that she knew what she was doing because she had watched her kindergarten teacher do it weeks before, so she must be an expert. She had a need to care for something for someone. Even if it did come from the fridge.

By the time she was in late elementary school her course of action changed and she wanted nothing more than to be a veterinarian. She would beg us to look up petfinder.com to find our newest pet. She would dream of living on a ranch where she would feed her own horse and groom it as soon as she returned home from school. Her dreams had clearly exceeded our pocketbooks and the house in the city.

She has always had a gift of loving others. But it wasn’t until this past fall in Uganda that I got to see what God has done in this little girl who wanted to hatch eggs in her closet.
It was a quiet afternoon and things around the guest house were settled down. After putting her brother down for a nap I asked my friend where she was. She pointed to the front porch. I stood in the doorway and watched what I can only describe as humbling. There was my sweet baby girl washing the feet of the women that took care of us. That walk miles to work each day in the red clay. That never utter a complaint. They spend hours scrubbing the floors, making beds, cooking amazing meals with smiles always across their faces. They are there before we even wake in the morning and go home well after dark to then take care of their own families. These women are the epitome of strength and courage to us. But there she was. Kneeling before them washing, talking, laughing, and listening. To their stories. To their lives. To who they were. She in that afternoon became an image of humble. A servant of the King. She was becoming the girl, the young woman, that God has been making her to be. I stood in the doorway with tears running down my face. I have never been more sure that God has unbelievable plans for her life.

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Happy birthday my sweet girl. At 15 you make me more proud to be your mom.