Saturday, June 6, 2015

one year later

Forewarning: it's been a while since I've written and these words are unedited and typed out between diaper changes and tantrums and catching up on loads of laundry! Five of our kids are hanging out with their grandparents this afternoon, so with only three on my watch, I finally gathered the courage to start writing again. Can I tell you that it's been a wild few months! I didn't even realize until just now that it's been one year to the day since Faith Ana arrived home. It's hard to believe she's been with of us for an entire year...

What I'd like to write today is how well we are all adjusting, how Faith Ana has seamlessly fit into our family, and how we can't remember life without her silly and spunky self being part of it. And while all these things are some what true on some days (well, honestly, a few very rare days), today, one year later, these words are not even remotely close to our reality.

If I had to pick three words to describe what this year has been like as we have learned to love and care for this precious child, these would be my three:

Hard, humbling, & hilarious.

It's been quite a year!

I struggle to know how to share about Faith Ana. Honestly, some days I struggle to just know how to care for her.

She's such a complicated little girl, and I'm not sure that anything could have adequately prepared me for what life would look like with a child who has such profound physical needs.

From the very first time I met Faith Ana, she had such a funny and endearing personality. Her first six months home, in many ways, were like a walk in the park compared to Sophi's first few months at home. Faith Ana was happy-go-lucky, easy to entertain, content watching the world around her, and she seemed to adjust so quickly. She rarely fussed or cried. She enjoyed learning and surprised us with how quickly she picked up the language and how much she loved to talk! It was such a contrast from Sophi who 2 1/2 years later is still almost entirely non-verbal.

I always attributed Faith Ana's easier adjustment to the fact that her first six years in life were spent in a much better orphanage than Sophi's. She was well-cared for and was much better prepared for how her life was about to change. But despite how well she had done during those early months, in my heart, I knew that there was more to this child and so much more to her heart.

This became very evident to me back in January when we spent that day at Children's Hospital waiting for the surgery that never happened. It was such a hard and frustrating day, and I knew that any of my other children would have lost it on numerous occasions with all that day entailed. But, Faith Ana, she was such a trooper. She was so tough and brave, and while I was so thankful for her ability to hold it together, inside, my heart was weeping for her. A few times during that day, she got upset. I would see little tears trickle out of those big brown eyes, and as I tried to comfort her, she would quickly pull herself together (and away from me) and distract herself back into her happy, little world. 

Although it played out very differently with Faith Ana, I quickly realized that it was so similar to what we experienced with Sophi. Sophi would physically pull away from me when I would try to comfort her. Sometimes she still does. When she was first home and still small enough to hold (something we did quite often), she would resist. She would fight and bite and pull hair and for the longest time would absolutely refuse to make eye contact. She would (and still does) distract herself with any number of self-soothing and stimming behaviors, such as sucking her tongue, rocking, rubbing her fingers together, and doing strange things with her eyes. The list is endless with the ways this child has learned to escape reality. It's what she did for the 6 1/2 years she spent in her orphanage, and we have come to know it well and are slowly learning to accept that this is just the way Sophi is and probably always will be unless we are constantly directing and correcting her.

Faith Ana, on the other hand, came to us with very few of these types of behaviors, or so we thought. She had a few obvious quirks (for lack of a better word), but they were mostly things she did with her eyes. It was hard to know whether this was stimming or just something related to a condition listed in her original medical report called vertical gaze palsy (it turns out that she doesn't have this particular eye condition after all). However, that day at the hospital, I learned so much about my girl, especially that well-guarded little heart of hers.

I'm not sure why it took me six months to realize this. In hindsight, those first few months that Faith Ana was home were so hard for Sophi that I think I was just so incredibly grateful that Faith Ana was so happy and content. It was such a sharp contrast to Sophi who, during that stretch, was so difficult and angry. Regardless of why I didn't recognize it sooner, I remember very vividly that day in Birmingham watching Faith Ana laying on the hospital bed and listening to her talk (or rather repeat the same thing over and over) and realizing that there was so much more to this child than the smiling, happy, jibber-jabby little girl that was our daughter. I began praying that day specifically for her heart, for walls to be broken down, and for healing to come in those deepest, most hidden parts. While I was aware of the brokenness in this child (and in any child who has come from such a hard place), I don't think I recognized the depth of it in her until that day.

It's so easy for the needs of this little crippled and broken body to overshadow the much deeper needs of her heart. And, honestly, this is something that I've struggled with in ways that I never imagined possible.

Attachment is one of those words you hear so much about in the adoption community. How is attachment going? What are you doing to foster attachment? Do you think she's attached yet?  And I've talked about attachment here, specifically about Sophi's difficulty attaching to us and her possible (or obvious) reactive attachment disorder issues. It's so complicated, but then how could it not be for these kids who spend their first years in life with zero consistency, rotating caretakers, and untold abuses and traumas that they experience firsthand or witness? Goodness knows, their whole existence in an orphanage, in my opinion, is a trauma! How could a child come through that without having attachment issues?

Faith Ana surprised me. She quickly knew me as Momma. She never reached out toward other adults (as Sophi still does frequently 2 1/2 years later), and she seemed to quickly grasp the concept of family. I felt like attachment was going so much smoother with Faith Ana than it ever did with Sophi. Both her towards me and me towards her. I was surprised with myself too. Maybe it was the two weeks we spent together in Bulgaria all on our own. Or maybe it was that her disposition was so sweet and she seemed so easy to love. Even with all of her medical needs and the increased demands of caring for her (including some very unpleasant things) that fell on my shoulders, she was so much fun and I truly enjoyed caring for her and loving this newest little daughter of mine.

And then a year passed.

Today, there are so many unknowns with Faith Ana. So much that I don't know.

I don't know if she is happy. Some days, she seems happy. Some days, she is clearly not.

I don't know if she loves me or even likes me. Some days, I'm pretty sure she strongly dislikes me.

And can I be honest with you? 

Some days, I don't know how I feel either. I do love her. It's a fierce and relentless love, a love that has to be chosen and a love that's not dependent on my mood (or hers) or how I feel. It's a love that I'm learning well. I know that I'm unwavering in my belief that this is what the Lord has called us to do, that this little girl was chosen to be our daughter. I know all these things in my heart, but the feelings don't always match up. There are days that I get tired of the fight, tired of the catheters and enemas and the stinky messes, days when I just get plain tired. And I know (or at least I'm learning to know) that this is ok to admit and important to acknowledge.

So many unknowns. 

Today. One year later, and it feels like there are are more unknowns and more uncertainties than this time last year.

But there are a few things that I do know.

I know now, when I only had the slightest inkling then, how demanding and challenging it is to care for a child with physical needs. I mentioned earlier how I've found that it's so easy for the physical needs to overshadow the emotional, heart needs, and this is something I personally struggle with on a daily basis. Much more so now than in those early days.

I know that we've been through a rough and rocky stretch. I know hard in a way I never could have imagined one year ago.

I know that weariness, exhaustion, and burnout are very real things for those who care for children with special needs. I know this firsthand. I know it all too well, and while it's not what I wish I was saying in this one year later update, it has without a doubt been my experience, especially during these past few months.

I share this for several reasons:

First, I'm not even sure if anyone reads this blog anymore, but if you do (we've been so blessed by all the support and prayers for our family these past few years), I would be so grateful for your continued prayers as we navigate through yet another rough stretch.

Second, for those of you who are in your own hard places and feel like throwing in the towel, I just want you to know that you are not alone. Especially those of you who are journeying along a similar path with special needs kids from hard places, your story might look different from ours, but we share common struggles and can be an encouragement to one another to keep persevering even when it's hard.

Third, I want you to see how the Lord is strong and faithful in our weakness. In my weakest and worst moments over this past year, He has never once left my side. He's been so merciful and compassionate to me, providing the respite and rest for my heart, even when I was too prideful or stubborn to admit how much I was struggling. Sometimes this came through a friend or family member taking some of the kids so that I could have a quite afternoon while the girls and littles rested. Lately, it's come through a wonderful college student who is on mission with us this summer! What an unbelievable blessing and gift "Miss Anna" has been to our family. Most recently, the Lord has provided the rest that I've needed through more extreme measures. The past two months have been some of the hardest I've ever walked through. I've spent a dozen mornings at the hospital hooked up to IVs, receiving iron infusions to treat an anemia that has quite literally stopped me in my tracks. There have been horrible headaches, indescribable fatigue, and well, let's just say, a little surprise in the midst of it all that had made these past few months incredibly memorable. But the point is, He has provided. He is providing, and I know that He will see us through this season.

Fourth, I want you to see that there is absolutely nothing "special" about our family. People always say, "oh, we could never do what you guys do. I'm not patient enough to have that many kids, and I sure couldn't handle special needs kids." But here's what I want you to know one year later. When I said it's been a humbling year, I meant it. I have blown it with all my kids, but more so with Sophi and Faith Ana, than I could even begin to count. There have been some ugly moments, with things said and done that I am not proud of. Anyone who knows me well knows that neither patience nor compassion are my strong points, but this is where He comes in and this is how He gets the glory, enabling and strengthening me to do something that is completely beyond myself, beyond my abilities, and beyond my strength.

So, yes, June 2014 through June 2015 will definitely go down in the books as one of the hardest and most humbling years that I've been through, but thanks to Faith Ana {and all these kids}, there's been plenty of hilarious moments mixed in. Plenty of reasons to smile and an abundance of opportunities to laugh. No wonder the wise writer of Proverbs said that a happy heart is good medicine.

Faith Ana definitely has the ability to make us laugh (equally she has the ability to make us want to pull our hair out), but I am so very thankful for this child. Even on her bad days (and we've had quite a few these past six months), she can bring a smile to my face. And I know this is a priceless and special trait for this special child.

Laughter lightens your load and lifts your heart into heavenly places. Your laughter rises to heaven and blends with angelic melodies of praise. Just as parents delight in the laughter of their children, so I delight in hearing My children laugh. I rejoice when you trust Me enough to enjoy your life lightheartedly.

Jesus Calling

Learning became increasingly challenging for Faith Ana after the first six months home she was home. In this video clip, she was trying to learn to ask for things in a "big girl" way. (Up until then, when she wanted something, she would just yell out what she wanted.) I didn't video all the fussing and the numerous tears as she learned to ask politely, but even when she was as mad as a hornet, she was still hilarious. I cackle everytime I watch this! How in the world did I get to be the momma to this funny child!

Faith Ana picked things up so quickly when she first was home, and we were shocked by her verbal skills (especially in contrast to our experience with Sophi). She genuinely seemed to enjoy learning and the first half of the year, she was like a sponge, soaking things up, surprising us at random times by repeating things back that she had learned. But when things became increasingly harder and more challenging, we began to see her struggle. This played out on many fronts, but especially with her ability to actually converse and answer questions as opposed to just repeating back what we said. Over time, we began to see a different side to Faith Ana. And while it brought up a whole slew of unknowns about her cognitive functioning, there was one thing that stood out above everything else. One thing I know with certainty.

Rewind back to that day in January. The hospital room. The happy-go-lucky child that should not have been happy that day, the one who escaped the reality of that day by distracting herself with her own version of stimming (mostly talking to herself). That child, that day, and this Momma's prayer that the Lord would break through the hard places and the walls that surrounded what I knew was a very confused and broken little heart. A heart that I knew had been wounded by her past. A heart that I knew must struggle to understand why her two little legs didn't work the way the other boys and girls' did. A heart full of questions, full of such sadness and grief, and full of anger that I can't even begin to imagine...

As I think back on that day, I know this: I know that He heard that prayer, and wow, oh wow, is He answering that prayer! I had no idea what I was asking for that day. No idea all that the next six months would entail. No earthly idea how I would witness my little girl struggle and fight and grieve. I had no idea then just how hard it would be for her now and how hard it would be for me to learn to love this new version of my Faith Ana.

We are very much in the trenches now. Faith Ana has done a remarkable job of learning to do things for herself (something she never had to do during the six years she spent at the orphanage or the first six months she spent here with us). She has learned to pull herself up in her wheelchair completely on her on. She can dress herself. She is learning to use her teeth and actually chew her food as opposed to swallowing it whole. She is learning to ask for things politely and use her words appropriately. And it has been hard. Brutally hard.

She has cried and screamed and raged, and I'm confident she has hated me for what I've asked her to learn to do. I've done my share of crying and screaming as well. I have seen tremendous progress as well as massive setbacks. I've witnessed a child learn to do something that I never dreamed she would be able to do, and I've also seen her stubbornly refuse to do something that I know she's perfectly capable of doing. And through it all, I've seen the hard exterior begin to crumble and the heart of this little girl become exposed and vulnerable. It's been painful for both of us. But, friends, the Lord is at work. I know this with absolute confidence. He's working in her heart and in mine, and, thankfully, He's not through with either one of us yet. Transformation takes time. I know this. I also know that she and I both are going to come through this, and that there are good chapters yet to be written. In the meantime, I'm whispering these words throughout the day, praying for supernatural love to fill my heart for this super special little girl...

May the Maker pour on the love
so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you...
May you be infused with strength...

I Thessalonians 3:11-13, The Message

Over the past few months when I've been too tired to read or write or think or pray, I've let these words, His words, infuse my weary heart. My prayer today is that they will encourage you in your own hard places...

I have strength for all things
in Christ Who empowers me
I am ready for anything
through Him Who infuses inner strength into me;
I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency.

Phil. 4:13, The Amplified Bible

I love the idea of a redo in June. After these last few months and all that I've been through, I've felt like I've needed a fresh start. Maybe you do too. When I read this post, I knew I wanted to pass it along.

I also loved this post. Here's a little excerpt that I especially loved, but the whole article is a great read:

Before my toes even feel the cold morning floor I have to use my voice to declare His Word over me if I’m going to live on the offense.

At the break of day, noon, night and a dozen times in between, His Word is your weapon. Use it. Read it. Say it. Sing it. We can’t just clean the house of our minds and expect sustained clean-thinking without filling it with Truth. To live and thrive in God in this age, amidst all the competing noise and voices (the worst of which are in our heads), we will have to find a new way to engage with His Word.

Give yourself permission to try a new approach. Dust off your Bible and make it your food. You can’t live without it.

(Before long, it won’t just be your dreams that die if this Word doesn’t have a PICC line into your veins. The enemy — that voice — is after more than just having you quit your dreams; he wants you to quit God.)

Sara Hagerty

Just as my body has been unable to function without iron, our spirits can so easily become depleted. I, for one, am desperate for His Words to have a PICC line straight into my heart! (I actually discussed getting an actual PICC line put in my arm for all the infusions I needed, but opted against it. Thankfully, today, I had my last iron infusion and my blood levels are back to where they should be!) I'm so thankful that He meets us just where we are and gives us fresh strength when we need it most. 


P.S. And the little surprise I mentioned earlier? It was definitely one of the more hilarious moments of 2015. The day I found out about my iron deficiency anemia is the same day I found out about the newest Blackmon. My doctor called me into his office and said, "we need to talk!" Apparently, my lab results revealed a little something more than either of us anticipated! It was definitely unexpected timing, but we are so excited that the Lord has chosen to bless us with another little baby.

For God knows what's going on.
He takes the measure of everything that happens.
The weapons of the strong are smashed to pieces,
while the weak are infused with fresh strength.

I Samuel 2:2-5, The Message

Friday, April 17, 2015

unfolding grace for bleeding hearts

SO, Sophi, 

you and me, 
we're not giving up. 
How could we! 

Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us,

on the inside where God is making new life,

not a day goes by without His unfolding grace.
2 Corinthians 4:16

So, Sophi, you and me...

We went to church on Sunday. I count this a big victory even though we only lasted for the first three songs before we had to slip out. But it was definitely worth it, seeing you so happy and smiling. You were very proud of your new birthday dress and necklace, and I was very proud of you.

You and me, we both loved the music at church that Sunday. You rocked back and forth and lifted your arms up high in the air. Your attempt at dancing got you quite a few stares, but you didn't care and neither did I. You opened your mouth, trying to sing. And, me, I stopped my singing and just couldn't stop looking at you... 

Sophi, we've had our struggles. You and me, we know struggle very well. I've struggled to love you in a way that you can grasp, and, you, you've struggled to receive my often faulty and flailing attempts at love. Bless that broken and bleeding heart of yours. How could you possibly even begin to understand what love is? 

And that's why I stood there just watching you. Because I knew that I was staring at a miracle. 

You reached your arms toward me and said "up" (a miracle that you can actually use a word and use it appropriately) and how could I resist? Of course, you are much too big to be picked up and my back is much too tired, but I did it anyway. You cupped your hands to my face and your big brown eyes looked straight into mine, and that, in and of itself, is another miracle. How many months (years?) you refused to make eye contact, I can't even remember. But, this day, you hugged and kissed me and held on tight, and I did the same. All the wounding and trauma your precious heart endured during those first six years of your life without a momma to love and care for you? And all the ways this momma has let you down over the past three years? 

Children, drop your chains and sing...

Somehow in that moment, I knew that Love was winning. I saw love. You for me and me for you. And I knew I was living and breathing a miracle. A miracle wrought in my heart and in yours by the One who saw fit to make you and me, mother and daughter. 

Chains have been undone and we are singing...

Ours is a messy love, and I have faltered and failed you more times than I can count. There's a weakness in my love, and I am so, so sorry for the many, many ways I have wounded your already gaping heart. But here's the thing I've learned since the day I first heard the pitter-patter of your little feet and you walked into my world. His love is stronger. Stronger than how I feel. Stronger than how I fail. Strong enough to sustain and strong enough to keep giving and giving and giving. Strong enough to not give up.

There's no other way to possibly explain it. 

His love has made a way for your heart to love me in spite of the many times I have blown it with you. And this blows me away. I stand humbly amazed by the way the Lord has worked a miracle into that heart of yours, enabling you to learn to forgive and love and keep reaching those arms up toward me. Again and again, Sophi, you have shown such grace and courage, and I have learned from you, more than from anyone else, what it means to truly love.

And His love is making a way in my heart, too. It's just as much a miracle. He's helping me accept you, and He's showing me just how to love you. Sophi, your love language is different from anyone else I've ever known, and it's taken me a long time to learn it, but the Lord is faithfully showing me just what you need from me. It's been my heart's cry for a while now, Lord, show me how to love this child in a way that she can understand. And He is. 

Our stone hearts become flesh that's beating...

Some days, I am the one learning how to give you the grace and space you need to be exactly the special and unique little girl that He has made you to be. Other days {most days}, you are the one giving me the grace that I desperately need. Sophi, there have been many days that I haven't known whether to laugh or to cry at the sheer craziness of the Lord giving a child like you to a momma like me. But there's one thing that I do know and at the end of the day, no matter how miserably either of us have messed up, these words are just what we both need to hear: Not a single day goes by without His unfolding grace


Sophi, that day we celebrated your ninth birthday, when I watched you in your pretty white dress, opening your mouth, and trying to sing, the Lord gave me a glimpse of eternity... 

Encourage the exhausted, 
and strengthen the feeble. 
Say to those with anxious heart, 
take courage, fear not...

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, 
and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. 
Then the lame will leap like deer, 
and the tongue of the dumb will shout for joy.

Isaiah 35:3-6

I've claimed these words from Isaiah many times before. For you and your sister, for me, for all of us. And this day, your ninth birthday, I claimed them all over again.

Sophi, you will sing, and your sister will dance, and me, there will come a day when I'm not exhausted! And, oh my, what a day that will be! I can hardly imagine it.

And that's why we're not giving up. How could we? On the outside, it might look (and feel) like things are falling apart all around us. But that's ok. Because on the inside, I know, He's making new life. He's changing your heart and mine and giving both of us all the grace we need to keep going, one day at a time. SO, Sophi, happy 9th birthday! I'm believing this is going to be the best year yet!


***Fellow adoptive mommas, or, really, any of you who feel a bit like love is a strugglethis post is a must-read. I have been so blessed by the words of Sara Hagerty, both from her new book, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet, and her blog. Can I encourage you to check it out? And a special thanks to the sweet friend who loaned me a copy of her book. The day that I took Faith Ana to Birmingham for her surgery back in January, I devoured this book! The next day, the day I miscarried, the Lord knew that this is exactly what my own bleeding heart would need to remember.***

There's a wreckage, there's a fire
There's a weakness in my love
There's a hunger I can't control
Lord, I falter and I fall down
Then I hold on to chains You broke
When You came and saved my soul. Save my soul

We are free to struggle
We're not struggling to be free
Your blood bought and makes us children
Children, drop your chains and sing

So, why, Lord, do I still fail,
Do I wear thin?
Why do I still give in to temptation?
On my own, I am bankrupt,
I don't trust You or take You at Your word
What You've promised, yeah.

We are free to struggle
We're not struggling to be free
Your blood bought and makes us children
Children, drop your chains and sing

Death is overcome and we are breathing
Our stone hearts become flesh that's beating
Chains have been undone and we are singing
The fire has begun. Can you feel it?

Tenth Avenue North
"The Struggle"

Friday, April 10, 2015

my hope lives...

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that One died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf...

Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature;
the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 

Now all these things are from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we may become the righteousness of God in Him.

2 Corinthians 5: 14-21

My hope lives not because I am not a sinner, but because I am a sinner for whom Christ died;

my trust is not that I am holy, but that being unholy, He is my righteousness. 

 My faith rests not upon what I am, or shall be, or feel, or know, but in what Christ is, in what He has done, and in what He is doing now for me.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon


Saturday, April 4, 2015

little hearts and big bright mercy

Have you ever really weighed and considered how great the sin of God's people is? 

{the kids each made a shirt to symbolize our hearts without Jesus.}

~hopeless and hurting~

Think how heinous is your own transgression, and you will find that not only does a sin here and there tower up like an alp, but that your iniquities are heaped upon each other, as in the old fable of the giants who piled Pelian upon Ossa, mountain upon mountain. 

~soiled and stained~

What an aggregate of sin there is in the life of one of the most sanctified of God's children! Attempt to multiply this, the sin of one only, by the multitude of the redeemed, a number by which no man can number, and you will have some conception of the great mass of the guilt of the people for whom Jesus shed His blood.

~broken and bleeding~

~messy and miserable~

Isaiah 64:6 says that even our righteousness, apart from Christ, is nothing but filthy rags. 

But we arrive at a more adequate idea of the magnitude of sin by the greatness of the remedy provided.

It is the blood of Jesus Christ, God's only and well-beloved Son. God's Son.

Angels cast their crowns before Him! All the choral symphonies of heaven surround His glorious throne.

And yet He takes upon Himself the form of a servant, and is scourged and pierced, bruised and torn, and at last slain; since nothing but the blood of the incarnate Son of God could make atonement for our offenses. No human mind can adequately estimate the infinite value of the divine sacrifice, for great as is the sin of God's people, the atonement which takes it away is immeasurably greater.

I tell the story, and when they ask me why it's called GOOD Friday…

Therefore, the believer, even when sin rolls like a black flood, and the remembrance of the past is bitter, can yet stand before the blazing throne of the great and holy God, and cry, "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; yea rather, that hath risen again."

We go back to the cross...

and I show them Why.

While the recollection of his sin fills him with shame and sorrow, he at the same time makes it a foil to show
the brightness of mercy

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

How we thank God, who gives us victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

I Corinthians 15:57


Sunday, March 8, 2015

for when you need to be carried

Carried thitherthis is what I will remember when I look back on the month of February. The shortest month of the year that felt like the longest, I'm not sure that I've ever been so thankful to turn the page on the calendar. 

It was a month full of cold days, sick days, sad days, struggling days, and hard days. 

Which means it was a month full of merciful days

Because the bookends of my days, without fail, were His words - His truths and promises that greeted me each morning and covered me each night. And then for all the moments in between {and there were a lot of moments}, these life-giving words were just what I needed. 

For when I needed to be carried.

There was a stretch early during the month that, quite literally, I stayed in bed for several days. Call it what you will. The flu virus that swept through our house. Recovering from my miscarriage. Fatigue. Exhaustion. Depression. Or maybe just a combination of it all. And for a while, I wasn't sure that I was going to snap out of it. 

And, quite honestly, I didn't.

He carried me out of it.

He met me where I was and carried my weary and wounded heart to where I am now

He turned this hard place into a holy place, a place I will not forget.

And along the way, He poured His words into me, like soothing ointment for my soul. 

Words, tenderly applied, to raw places, filling me with hope and grateful joy.

Heart medicine.

Today, my heart is so very thankful...

~ for fresh markings that cover the tattered pages of my Bible

~ for new mercies that cover the bare places of my heart

~ for precious Words straight from His heart meant just for mine

~ for warm sunshine streaming through open windows

~ for bare foot boys {and a little brown-eyed girl} running shirtless through the back yard

~ for fresh air and a Saturday morning adventure

~ for how well Sophi has been doing these past few weeks and for the blessing that school has been for this sweet child {and for her momma}

~ for how Faith Ana is growing stronger

~ for how we are all growing stronger

Mostly, I'm thankful for His strong shoulders. 

I'm thankful that no matter how heavy the load we carry
I'm thankful that it's never too heavy for Him. 

Which means it's never too heavy for us.

There are times when all the promises and doctrines of the Bible are of no avail, unless a gracious hand shall apply them to us. We are thirsty, but too faint to crawl to the water-brook. When a soldier is wounded in battle it is of little use for him to know that there are those at the hospital who can bind up his wounds, and medicines there to ease all the pains which he now suffers: what he needs is to be carried thither, and to have the remedies applied.

It is thus with our souls, and to meet this need there is One, even the Spirit of truth, who takes the things of Jesus, and applies them to us.

Think not that Christ hath placed his joys on heavenly shelves that we may climb up to them for ourselves, but He draws near, and sheds His peace abroad in our hearts.

O Christian, if thou are tonight laboring under deep distresses, thy Father does not give thee promises and then leave thee to draw them up from the Word like buckets from a well, but the promises He has written in the Word He will write anew on your heart. He will manifest His love to you, and by His blessed Spirit, dispel your cares and troubles.

Be it known to every mourner, that it is God's prerogative to wipe every tear from the eye of His people.

The good Samaritan did not say, "Here is the wine, and here is the oil for you"; he actually poured in the oil and the wine. So Jesus not only gives you the sweet wine of the promise, but holds the golden chalice to your lips, and pours the life-blood into your mouth. The poor, sick, way-worn pilgrim is not merely strengthened to walk, but he is borne on eagles' wings

Glorious gospel! which provides everything for the helpless, which draws night to us when we cannot reach after it - brings us grace before we seek for grace! Here is as much glory in the giving as in the gift. Happy people who have the Holy Spirit to bring Jesus to them.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon 

Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem
and Joshua said to all the people:

Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; 
and put away the false gods…
and serve the Lord…

Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…
but as for me and my house,

we will serve the Lord…

So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem

And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord.

Joshua 24

Here, in my own "Shechem", this place where I've been this past month...

There have been many days when I've had to choose love.

Days when I've had to choose joy.

Days when I've had to choose gratitude.

Days when it's hard to forgive, but I've had to choose grace.

Days when it's just been plain hard, and on each of the days, every day, I have to choose.

I have to choose Who I am going to listen to.

I have to choose Who I am going to serve.

Is it going to be the false god of perfectionism or the One Who goes ahead of me?

The false god of control or the One Who promises to always be with me?

The false god of pride or the One Who will not fail me?

The false god of fear or the One Who will never, not for one second, forsake me?

And, each day, as I deliberately and purposefully echo these words of Joshua, as I choose Him, He reminds me of something that never ceases to bring me to my knees. 

That in this place of me choosing Him, He keeps reminding me of this one amazing thing:

That He's already chosen me

He's already chosen to forgive me, to help me, and to pull me through. 

He's already chosen to carry my weakness, my sickness, and my brokenness

He's already chosen to carry it all, all on His shoulders. 

He is carrying it all on His shoulders. 

He is carrying me on His shoulders. Already.

Glorious Gospel, indeed!

The things that you carry are burdensome,
A load for the weary beast.
They stooped over, they have bowed down together;
They could not rescue the burden…

But you who have been borne by Me from birth,
And have been carried from the womb;
Even to your old age, I shall be the same,
And even to your graying years I shall bear you!
I have done it, and I shall carry you;
And I shall bear you, and I shall deliver you.

Isaiah 46:1-4

Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs,
And carry them in His bosom;
He will gently lead the nursing ewes.

Isaiah 40:11

In all their affliction He was afflicted…
In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them;
And He lifted them and carried them…

Isaiah 63:9

The Lord your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked, until you came to this place.

Deuteronomy 1:30-31


P.S.   Shechem was a fortified city on the edge of a fertile plain in central Palestine. Aside from being the site where Joshua and the Israelites made a covenant with the Lord, it's also the place where God first appeared to Abraham and promised to give the land of Canaan to his descendants. It's the place where Jacob built an alter to worship God and the place where Joseph was buried. Additionally, it was one of the designated cities of refuge in Old Testament times. 

And one more thing…

Take a guess what the word Shechem means?  

It means shoulder.

Now, that makes me smile!  

When confusion's my companion
And despair holds me for ransom
I will feel no fear
I know that You are near

When I'm caught deep in the valley
With chaos for my company
I'll find my comfort here
‘Cause I know that You are near

My help comes from You
You're right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don't have to see to believe that You're lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders

You mend what once was shattered
And You turn my tears to laughter
Your forgiveness is my fortress
Oh Your mercy is relentless

My help is from You
Don't have to see it to believe it
My help is from you
Don't have to see it, ‘cause I know, ‘cause I know it's true