Monday, July 15, 2013

The night I realized my dad couldn't save me - God whispered back.

Honestly, I'm not sure where this post will go. I do know this. I had to come to Starbucks tonight to write. I couldn't not come. The pressure inside me was too much, so we'll see where God takes me with this.

I'm craving Needtobreathe and moments reminiscent of 3 years ago...a quiet date night with the Lord.

Can we turn back time? Tonight, I'd really like to.

But, we can't.

I had coffee with a friend earlier in the week. We had a wonderful 3 hour visit, sharing bits and pieces of our lives, our pasts, our stories.

Inevitably, she asked me about my marriage.

So many people present in my life today didn't know me 5 years ago. They never knew me married. They never knew my previous life.

That's what it feels like...a life long ago...a different person...a distant memory that takes effort to conjure up.

And, frankly, with each person who asks, out comes a different answer from me. I don't mean I change the story, but for some reason, I don't ever tell it the same, from the same point, or even with the same attitude.

I'm not sure why this is, well, I probably do...relationships are complicated. There just isn't an easy answer. ever.

And if you have 15 minutes to sum it all up, it's kind of hard to know what to include, where to begin, and what to share.

You add into that perplexity on my own part, desiring to be transparent and genuine but respectful and not jaded, then, well, I need more than 15 minutes to explain.

Thankfully, we both had time, and we both shared hard stuff we've lived through and carry the scars and baggage, the beauty and wisdom from walking down tough roads.

But, there was a piece to the puzzle that became quite clear as I talked with her. I had shared with her how I was hell bent on getting married. I had my plan, my vision for my life and acknowledging red flags and having patience weren't part of it.

To this day, I firmly believe, God could have stood before me, in the flesh, and said, "You know Shelly, I have a different plan for you. You need to trust me...frankly, you and Me need to get to know each other, but either way, this isn't the road for you."

And this proud and fearful 20 year old, would have stared blankly back at God and said, "I got this covered but thanks."

I jumped off that bridge. On my own. With all that I knew. With all that I was taught. With the prayers of my mom from before my birth covering me. I jumped. Leaped...and left my gut behind.

Unfortunately, my choice, how I decided to conduct my life, took me down a path that was filled with hurt, pain and confusion, anxiety and fear...all that I was trying to set my life up to avoid.

All that my plan was supposed to not incubated it.

I was the Titanic and the iceberg was dead ahead.

My friend and I talked about our kids and how we want them to avoid so many mistakes we made and the prayers we have for them.

I told her that as much as we want to smooth the paths, to help them avoid the pitfalls and craters, unfortunately, we can't. Our prayers, though powerful, are not guarantees.

My mom was one of the most prayerful women I ever knew. I know that she prayed for my spouse from the moment I was in her womb.

I wrestled with God with that for years.

What was the point God? She prayed, yet I chose.

And let me add...I didn't pray...just chose. (key point)

Even though my mom prayed for every area of my life, I am certain her number one prayer for me was that I would know the Lord, that I would choose Him, that I would love Him and have Him be Lord of my life. And as she prayed that prayer, I don't think she would have wanted God to share with her what all that would mean,
"Well, she will, Carol, but you will have to die, she will have to go through a hard marriage and then divorce. Your grandson will be a child of divorce and she's going to wrestle for years with Me, but mostly with herself. She'll experience My grace and forgiveness and it will change her, but it will take her years to forgive herself...
In fact, Carol, she will almost refuse to forgive herself. She will feel like she failed, which we both know that's the last thing she wants to ever do. She will experience incredible regret, which nearly kills your girl. She will have new levels of fear when it comes to relationships that she can't comprehend or manage...and Carol, this is going to take time and patience on her part...two things that she fights against. Your daughter's pride and fear will take time to break down.
But, slowly, she will come around, and she and I will meet, and her journey of trusting Me will begin."

The night I first really met God, just me and Him, occurred in March, 2004.

For several years, I had been experiencing high levels of anxiety. I didn't know what it was, but my marriage was upside down, I was incredibly unhealthy and seemingly living in the twilight zone. I had had Cade almost a year prior and my mom had been diagnosed with cancer a few months back.

My mind and body had enough. I couldn't keep it in anymore.

So, I didn't.

One night, while at a Bible study, I became violently ill, and the friend with me as I lay on the cold concrete floor feeling half dead, heard the spill of all I had been holding in for years. She got the fire hose of the secrets of Shelly's life.

It wasn't pretty.

I was down for the count in every way imaginable.

My friend and my mom got me home.

My husband was there and by now, my dad had arrived as well.

They knew something was desperately wrong, and that I needed some help...for some reason...because they didn't know a thing about my secrets...because I didn't share my secrets.

As I lay in my bed and my mom brought me Sprite, and my dad sat next to me, I begged him to pray over me.

"Just pray dad. Please, pray."

I knew that I was desperate for prayer.

And all I wanted was for my dad to pray over me.

And as he prayed, I remember becoming more desperate.

I remember thinking, my dad's prayers aren't helping.

My dad isn't saving me.

I am in a hole so incredibly deep, and the man who has always been able to rescue me, isn't.

And even scarier, he can't.

That moment. That was the moment I met God.

I grew up in a family that sang Jesus Loves Me from conception. We went to church 3 times a week and LIVED it. Our friends loved the Lord. I was involved in every class and knew my Bible. I was baptized, went to church camp, had parents that lived their faith, walked out their faith, had faced storms together, and I had watched God work in and through them.

But, not until I was 26, did I turn from my Dad saving me, to God.

It was that dark night, a night that felt like my desperation was eating my bones, that I knew this was now between me and God.

My dad can write a check, give me wise advice, shore up my Starbucks card, hug me tight, and even pray for me day in and day out, but he can't save me.

My parents' faith can. not. save. me.

I needed God. I needed Jesus.

It wasn't until I was in my own personal hell that I turned to Him and begged, pleaded for Him to save me.

So often, we have to experience our own moment of hell to realize we need a Savior; that no matter what we do or what others do, it won't save us. It can't save us.

I'm 10 years removed from that night.

Since then, my mom died. my marriage ended.

Yet I sit, still wrestling, still saying to God, "I got this covered" even if He is saying back, but My plan is better. BETTER SHELLY.

But a difference today is that I know the road before me, is between me and God. That my dad, nor a paycheck, nor a friend or my own plans will save me.

God has me in a place, that keeps me very aware of my dependence on Him.

Financially, physically, spiritually is a daily walk with Him.

I don't have many back ups, no one else to blame, no scape goats or many safety nets.

I have to rely on Him. I have to rely on the gifts He's given me. I have to recognize that I need saving, day in and day out, and that chasing Him is the best place to be.

When I returned from Boston and coming off the incredible high I had from the adventure, I told myself that chasing that high again, would mean chasing God, because that high was a God moment.

It wasn't a career high, a money high, a dating high, or any other earthly was a chasing God high.

Those moments are found in Him, with Him, through Him.

When I look at my life and see the things that bring me genuine joy and fill my heart with passion and wonder, those things have been brought in by God.

They weren't in my plans. I couldn't have even planned them or thought of them.

They were better than I could have planned, than I could have dreamed.

They were or are all gifts...a weaving of life provided by God's grace.

But, certain areas of my life, I can't seem to surrender to Him. Despite my pleas and prayers, my obsession with my plan seems to override it all.

As my heart clings to, "But I want something different Lord." He keeps saying, "then be something different and leave the rest to Me."

As I drove to Starbucks tonight, I concluded that I'd really like to earnestly try. To beg Him each day to help me let go. To let go.

To. simply. let. go.

In my 36 years, one of the many things about God that has struck me as quite remarkable is His patience...His willingness to wait.

We are to wait on Him, which I never want to do, but when I think about how long and how much He has to wait on me, it seems unforgivable.

But that's where the remarkable occurs. He's kind. He's patient. He's faithful.

Through the wrestling and questioning. The ignoring and the whining. Through the pleading and begging. Through the irreverence and impatience.

He stands. He waits. He loves.

His plan continues to weave.

His willingness to enter a bedroom of a young woman, lost, lonely, scared beyond comprehension because her dad can't save her, He whispers, "but I'm Your father who can", and that my friends, takes my breath away.

From the land of broken plans but grabbing hold of being different and traveling the path set before me,

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The gift of God's grace: Turning the daunting into a mission and living out a dream buried so deep, He had to uncover it.

First, let me begin by saying my favorite Starbucks has been taken over. I mean completely taken over. I walked in to have me some quiet time, at MY table and the entire place was filled. FILLED. Right then and there, I almost made an announcement letting them all know they had approximately 5 minutes to finish what they were working on...except you sir, yes, you with the mohawk, you can stay, because if I have any technical difficulties, I think you could solve them, but everyone else, 5 minutes.

But, I didn't. I pouted, shed a tear, waved to my baristas, and walked back out...drove .77 miles to the next Starbucks.

But that .77 miles makes a difference people. It just. isn't. the. same.

If my writing is shottier than usual, you now know why. Location, Location, Location.

No, I'm going to put my big girl panties on, say, "God, please forgive them, for they do not know what they do." and continue on. ;)

Let's hit this thing...

This summer has been one of humbling experiences. It all seemed to kick off one day at the apple store. See, my phone was jacked up, and I of course had no idea what or how or why...the thing controls me way more than I control it. So finally, when summer came and I had a little extra time, I made my appointment to speak to some 19 year old kid who could help me figure out why my phone was 80% covered in yellow "other" and had no room for Shelly stuff.

The store was filled with the usual skinny jean wearing people walking around with ipads at break-neck speeds and speaking a language I do not understand. Even checking in for my appointment, I have to have them repeat the instructions. It's like the moment I walk through those glass doors (which are heavier than elephants and don't push or pull or at least they certainly change direction when you go to leave because they NEVER work right, and I KNOW it isn't me)

The skinny jean 19 year old holding the seemingly magical "green ipad" will give me my instructions and I ALWAYS say, what?

"Ma'am, go. to. the. bar. that. says. genius. and. wait. for. your. name. to. be. called."

Got it...and I could really use a little somethin somethin to calm my nerves because all you people make me really nervous, so do those geniuses serve Bellini's at that bar?

"Ma'am, just wait over there and let your kid play computer games...the 10 year old knows what to do."

Thanks, and stop calling me ma'am.

My appointment kid finally calls my name, comes over, looks through my phone, is ASTONISHED by the lack of emails I have...even though I told him I had very little...but apparently he'd never actually seen a phone with less than 200 emails. He tried to cover up his, "Oh wow, you really don't get any...well, that just means you stay on top of things and..."

Ya, dude, just fix my phone.

He asked me a series of questions, which I had no idea what he was needing to know, so I just shook my head and said sure, great, just make the yellow go away.

He proceeded to erase my phone, and I left with no yellow, and no anything else.

I went home and plugged it in to my computer, which he told me to do, but then it gave me a "do you want this...or do you want that?"

Right then and there, I knew I was screwed.

Skinny jean 19 year old did not prepare me for choices. He sent me into battle completely unprepared. He made it sound like it was going to be all easy and just hitting a button that says, "Click here Shelly to make your phone normal again."

That was NOT one of the choices. I blame him.

I chose.

I chose wrong.

Everything returned...along with the yellow.

I made another appointment.

Went back to land of no brain activity for Shelly, and waited again.

This time, I played computer games with Cade, and then when it was really just me playing the games, I told him he needed to finish it for me, but he must follow my exact instructions.

Why Mom?

Because this is beyond socially unacceptable for me to be standing in the middle of the Apple store with seemingly 587 other people who apparently have more money than God to come in and buy all things white, skinny, fast, and larger than our T.V.'s and to be openly playing Zoiks. Even if I am completely kicking butt at it.


Cade, seriously, just finish my game, but you must do as I say, because I'm kicking butt and I'm not going to lose because you get some hair brain idea that a cannon should go on the wrong corner.

Fine Mom.

My name gets called.

This time, I have a girl genius. She proceeds to check out my phone, I tell her my small minded version of what is happening, "I can't take pictures or have any music on my phone." the end.

She toggles and plugs and says all sorts of jumbled words to me.

She comes to a conclusion after minutes of it being attached to what seems to be the resuscitating cart for iPhones, and she begins "explaining" the issue. After multiple sentences, she pauses and says, "Do you understand?"

Um, no.

"Oh? Well, it's..."

Really, no need to reexplain, I have no idea what you said, and repeating it, slower, and in English (because it was apparent English was not being used) would not help.



"Well, it's like there's a cancer on your phone and I just need to get rid of it."

Cancer, now, that's a word I know.

Kill it. I feel confident in you, your skinny jeans, and you even wear a pair of super cute glasses, so whatever you need to do is great. I'll be over here playing Zoiks.

When my phone was cleared and iclouded up and all...I whipped out my computer and insisted she walk me through the final steps, in store, while the multiple choice questions are still in need of answering.

She gladly helped, and Cade and I left...and I looked at him and said, "If you didn't know what the word ignorant means, now you do, because you just watched it play out before your very eyes in the life of your mother."

And I know what skinny jeans are Mom...and that it is socially unacceptable for a 36 year old woman to play Zoiks in public.

10-4 kid.

(and who says learning doesn't take place in the summer...)

Last summer, I did nothing. I had one trip planned for Seattle and I did the Half there, but other than that I had no work to do at my house, or small part time jobs, or much traveling. I about went insane. Cade leaves for 4 weeks of the summer, so having nothing to do leads to insanity and the pit of complete despair for me. I might as well have a beard to my belly, 5 inch long finger nails, and smell like a rat because that's basically what happens to me emotionally, spiritually, and mentally with long times of no purpose, direction, or structure.

At the end of Summer 2012, I vowed that I would never do that again.

So, this spring I went about getting jobs lined up, and now I only have approximately 3 weeks of down time the entire summer.

I seem to like extremes. All or nothing baby.

But, in all of this, something magical was occurring and it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I really saw it happening.

So, before my "Summer of Veg (pronounced vej) 2012" came, I had a parent of a student of mine approach me in the spring of 2012 about possibly taking some kids on an educational trip to another city. There's a bit of a back story to it all, but suffice it to say, she knew I loved to travel and did it regularly, and that I encouraged students to go on any educational trip they could.

I loved the idea, but frankly I was a bit daunted by I sat on it for about 7 months. Yep, 7 months. That's like 1700 years in your world, because I tend to make decisions in t minus 10 seconds, so taking 7 months to decide anything, much less a trip, where I have some autonomy as to where, the itinerary, taking kids, and creating an adventure for all of us, was frankly strange. super strange.

Then, one morning this past December, I started pondering, and a once daunting idea, started becoming a dream, a possibility, a goal, a mission.

By January, I had decided on Boston, over the 4th, and I had my plan.

I went back to the parent, we got all excited...but I told her that if I were to do it, I wanted to DO IT. I mean, I wanted to do it right, do it well, follow my heart, follow my gut, and follow the path that God seemed to be laying out for this trip.

By the grace of God, she was all about it, and gave me an incredible gift...her trust.

I wanted to take 8 middle school students, I wanted to take a mixture of boys and girls and ages. I wanted to invite them on an adventure, not just a trip. I wanted this to be a moment...a marking in their life where they didn't just see history, but saw others, saw themselves, saw God.

God had placed my guinea pig group on my heart, and in a matter of a week, the families had agreed, to me, taking their kid to Boston, during the week of July 4th, riding on subways, with the crowds, and in hotel rooms without adults...and were willing to write the checks to do it.

Over the course of the spring I had the kids over for dinner several times...because even though they all "knew" each other, we didn't really know each other...and the best place to do that is over a meal. By meeting 4, we were scavenger hunting the streets of downtown San Antonio and they were becoming friends, over a shared bond of an adventure, of a course God had set out for all of us.

Over the Easter weekend, I made a quick trip to Boston to do a run through of my itinerary: Concord, Plymouth, and Boston. He led me the whole way, took me to the right places, perfect hotels, and restaurants. I didn't have the money to really do this pre-trip, but I had a peace about it, I knew God wanted me there, that I was supposed to walk it out, to trust Him, and to go and prepare I did.

Then, the news came about the Boston marathon...we all flinched a little, but the group seemed to look at each other and say, we're staying the course. We're trusting God in this.

God gave me the idea to purchase tons of postcards while visiting each spot in April, and to send them every 2 weeks to the kiddos to build the excitement and help them get even more prepared for the adventure. That was fun for me. Fun for them. And helped me prepare and pray for them, for us, for God to meet us there.

Then, 3 weeks ago, as I was reflecting on the "Summer of Veg 2012", and my vow to not do that again, and how I had sought out some summer school work and other part time jobs for this year...the Boston trip came into mind.

And, I saw the magical.

I was approached about Boston in the spring of 2012. God had set His plan in motion before my choice of gluttonous laziness even took place. He had a plan for me to give me purpose, fun, challenge, and adventure during the time I get my lowest when Cade is gone for long periods of time. He knew that come 2013, I'd be ready for something daunting to become a mission.

My default had been taking a summer off and spiraling into a pit.

His plan was to convince some parents to have me take their kids on an adventure...not just one they would learn about history and life on, but one that I would too.

My heart dropped. My heart filled with gratitude.

I had felt His guidance and peace throughout all of the planning and details, but at that moment, I felt the depth of His love, His faithfulness, His willingness to go ahead, to invite, to create a dream I didn't even know was in my heart.

Even though these last 5 years have included extreme heart ache and loss, loneliness and confusion, questions and wandering...I have witnessed God meet me and take me places where my confidence was built, my trust in Him grew, and watch Him cross my path in amazing ways creating moments...I mean real moments that I know I have to grab a hold of and squeeze.

Dealing with loss, dealing with pain and heartache, has made me appreciate joy, adventure, God's grace and faithfulness and His willingness to show up in ways that I can't plan, I can't even dream, I can't imagine.

Two nights before we left on our adventure, we gathered, families and all, and we ate together and prayed.

As I sat in that circle listening to the prayers, I wept.

I wept because God had planned this, not just for them, but for me.

I wept because these families were willing to financially invest, to send me off with their children, to let me take them on an adventure in a big city with big plans.

I wept because those 8 were no longer my students, they were more than that...and had been for a long time, but the love I felt for them at that moment was deep, was familial, was from God.

I wept because I knew I was part of a moment...a moment God had planned, and one He was letting me walk out with Him.

I've never been so humbled in all my life.
I've never prayed that hard.
I'd never felt the gravity of a moment for 9.
I'd never felt His grace so heavy within me.

We flew out Tuesday, met my sweet friend to be the 2nd chaperon, and the adventure began.

We walked the streets of Concord, the graves of Sleepy Hollow at 10:00 at night, had quiet time on the sacred grounds of Old North Bridge, rode the subways of Boston, watched the ultimate parade ala Americana in Plymouth, played football in Hahvahd Yahd, ate burgers at Bartley's, tried some Lobster, visited a small town ER (of course), used the first aid kit more than my wallet, sang at the top of our lungs with the windows rolled down, walked the Freedom Trail, and stood amongst thousands watching the most amazing fireworks show over the Charles River.

My mom died 5 years ago, and on her bucket list was to be in Boston on the 4th, watching the fireworks, listening to the pops.

Through God's grace, He placed it in the heart of a parent to invite me, on an adventure, during a season of my life that can be lonely, too quiet and still, one that I feel lost and wandery...and He invited me to go experience the magical, to be moved, to learn about history and about life, to have fun and experience a heart filled with joy, with love, and with have a moment with these kids and even with my mom.

As I stood, below the fireworks, that lit the entire night sky, surrounded by these kids who own a piece of my heart, I took each one, wrapped my arms around them and thanked them for being there with me, for coming as I had the chance to live out a dream my mom had, one placed within my heart years ago.

It was a moment, a moment I knew I had to squeeze with all my might.

God's grace is miraculous, it is overwhelming, it is real, and with no doubt, it is magical.

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father...that you would be strengthened with power through His that Christ may dwell within your hearts through faith, and you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more than we could ever ask or even Him be the glory!!!" (Eph. 3:14-21)

In Him,