What have I done?

Heart Lessons

It’s been 6 months since I last wrote, because honestly, I haven’t known what to say. But this morning’s thoughts sort of wrapped things up. ‘What have I done?’. This adventurous life of following God’s purposes is mostly amazing. And then there are very honest moments, like this past week, where big decisions have to be made that highlight just how differently His thoughts are from our own. It was time to decide whether or not I was going to re-up the lease on the house we’re living in. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’d decided that we’d be in this home one year, and next steps would be crystal clear by the time we moved out. Well, here we are. And there’s no more clarity to be had. If anything, things have changed even more.

I felt a pause in January of this year (after my last post) to halt my new business and wait on next steps. The business I’d formally launched only 10 months prior. Only 6 months after we’d moved to a different house, in a new town, with a new school and church. I didn’t love that directive, but I’ve come to know His voice well enough to know that if He asks me to do something like that, it’s for a purpose. He is sharing what He wants me to accomplish in the downtime, but there truly is no rhyme or reason yet as to how all of this will come together to provide a stable income and future for my little family of 2.

So, I asked to see His plans.

Yes, I did. And when He didn’t reveal how these floating puzzle pieces all neatly come together, I sat down and attempted to draft it on my own. It was a disaster. Firstly, I didn’t invite the Holy Spirit to guide the process. I was angry and full of despair, and while the Power Point template was beautiful (that’s right, there’s a Power Point) it was a disheveled mess of consciousness, half based on my volatile emotions, and the other half somewhat based in truth. Secondly, my intent was not to understand, but to control. I don’t want to write a check for a year’s worth of rent without a fully vetted plan.

I was negotiating the level of risk that I was willing to take based on how much information He was willing to share.

The issue is not one of provision. He has provided. The issue is that I think He owes me more than He is giving me. Kids are inquisitive, but let’s be honest, much of their asking ‘Why?’ over and over is because they want to control the smallest of things. It’s in our nature to seek control. The only difference between that childlike response and mine was that this guilty party was much taller and had some pretty fonts and graphics.

Let’s be honest, we don’t want to see the back-end support. It would stress us out. Have you seen the motherboard of a computer? Or the inner workings of a rollercoaster? For the layman, does that help you enjoy the finished product any more? No. There’s a reason that they don’t offer behind-the-scenes tours before you get on the thrill ride or purchase your laptop. We wouldn’t begin to understand it, and we’d be so distracted with unnecessary information we wouldn’t even enjoy the experience. And, we’d likely derail things in the process, pushing buttons we had no business touching.

By saying ‘What have I done?’ I’m taking credit for having gotten myself here. Like I somehow assembled the components of my machine. I like to equate my relationship to God as my business partner. He and I signed an agreement a few years ago, and we do work together. Now imagine walking into a business meeting to review a project that’s at mid-point. There are no actual results to be reviewed, but you storm in, declare everything a failure, and without having actually owned the process, fall on the sword and say that everything is your fault. How would that make the project leader feel? Do you think you are communicating trust? In Him as the owner, or in the project itself?

Well, I am the project. And He is the project owner. And despite my very confusing mixed messages, I do not want Him to hand me the hardware and walk away. We’ve come too far and He has proven Himself too incredible to stop now.

So, let’s change our language from ‘What have I done?’ to ‘What would You have me do?’.

The tendency will be to focus on the past (done) and linger there, lamenting over what we think has gone wrong, rather than His current will (do) and the good that will inevitably come out of the finished product. Choose the now.

Don’t fill the space.

Heart Lessons

Priscilla Shirer refers to it as ‘margin.’ As a less experienced writer, I’ll refer to it as its simpler term; space. Who wouldn’t want that? Time to rest. Mental and physical capacity to manage the unexpected. The glorious freedom to tackle that pile of ‘stuff’ and get going on those ‘things.’ Meditation. I didn’t want that. Me. When I am on, I’m on. Productivity, efficiency, excellence. When I’m off, I’m tuned out. Trash tv, a glass of wine, copious sleep. But where’s the in-between? That time when you ponder things, or make the tough phone call? Yeah, no. Hard pass. But let’s talk about what these last two years have been for me.

I didn’t know I was tired. But after sequential years of losing my father, my husband leaving, and subsequent single motherhood, I hit a wall. And it wasn’t until I was forced into an extended medical leave that I realized just how tired. There were months for which I honestly couldn’t account. I had never been one to equate busyness to productivity. The opposite, actually. A calendar with overlapping obligations was not something to which I aspired. I was very intentional about resting, but I had not made space for healing. My attempts to maintain normalcy for myself in my work life, and for my son in our home life left me with ZERO bandwidth for anything else. So as I floated in my pool on that leave of absence, the dreaded space began to set in. Thoughts of necessary change were percolating. My mind was not consumed with conference calls and meetings and soccer practice. It was just me, and my newfound BFF (you may know him as Jesus).

I’ve elaborated on my leaving my corporate job, joining a nonprofit for no pay, selling my house, moving in with a friend, starting a new business, and moving to a new town in another post. Those changes were most definitely prompted in those moments of space; whether through intentional meditation or more casual conversations in the car. I have learned how to better manage allowing for those sweet times.

What I’m coming to understand only now, several years since this portion of my journey began, is that I have to be okay leaving the space completely empty, for as long as it needs to remain.

So the process is actually two-fold. In the first step, there’s the room you make in your life to allow these thoughtful moments to happen. In the second phase you are left with the fallout of those revelations. So in my case, I found myself without a paying job after 20 years in corporate America. Now what? Or I sold my house and felt uneasy about buying another, so I crashed with a friend. Now what? Or, more recently, I accepted that I needed to stop getting in the way of what God wanted to do in my son’s heart, so I had to let him fully feel all of the pain that I’d been mitigating for 4 years. Now what?

I’m inclined, as I believe are so many of you, to fill the cavernous space with something. Anything. Progress. Therapy. Work. Friends. Planning. Oh, the glorious fragrance of a well-charted plan. In isolation, all of these things are good. But we don’t live lives separate and apart from our actions. If you are filling the void with something of your own making, no matter how good, you are bypassing the ONLY one who knows what lies ahead, and how to get you there. I’ve written before about good versus best, and yes, that applies here as well.

But what I’m really talking about is leaving the desolation alone after He clears the debris.

Don’t try to add landscaping or call in a backhoe to put in a pool. That may well be what He wants for you, but you have to let Him draw up the plans; not you. Logically, any mom would want to protect their kiddo from hurt anywhere, anytime she could. But that may not be what truly shapes him into the man he was created to be. And even when the plans seem to be in full-force, there still needs to be DAILY space made to continue the conversation. What if the business He had me start is not going the direction at all that I’d imagined it would? Just this week, I found myself making small daily plans that would seem perfectly logical for anyone else running a similar business. I paused, checked the plans with the General Contractor, and it was a no-go. What now?

If, through the process of healing and growth, you have found yourself in that in-between place that feels like an abyss, understand that He is the pro at restoring the years you feel have been lost. Don’t try to construct a spaceship to get you back to earth as quickly as possible. Most of us are ill-equipped to man, much less assemble, that ship. He IS working all things together for good, even if you cannot see or fathom it. Leave space for the space.

It’s not about me.

Heart Lessons

Since virtual schooling started this year, my anxiety about protecting my son from any-and-all damage has seen a marked uptick. And I know most moms are similarly on team worrying-our-faces-off. The worry then snowballs into full-fledged panic, escorting me on a very dysfunctional trip back to 2011, when I was becoming licensed as a foster parent. I should have seen the cracks in my marriage. I should have known that my divorce would leave a boy already suffering from trauma and feelings of rejection to deal with more trauma and more rejection. How could I have done this to him? Anyone see a theme here? I. I. I. Here’s the voice I heard that stopped me dead in my tracks: ‘It’s not about you, Kerri.’

Whoa. Are you saying that self reflection is not a good thing? That I shouldn’t own my part in others’ pain? I avoided dealing with my feelings for decades, and now You are telling me to stop?

And off I went again, down the logic rabbit-trail; guided by nothing more than my own insecurities and delusion that I’m somehow capable of rerouting, nay, REWRITING another’s destiny.

The revelations that followed wreck me.
‘You don’t get to undo the good that I want to do in the midst and aftermath of the bad.’
And ‘I get to decide what Deacon needs, not you.’
And finally ‘Often your part is simply to make way for what I’m doing for another.’

Try as I may, there is no reconciling how I live in a world created by such a wonderful Father, yet horrible things happen to children. And that’s often where I go off track. When we attempt to make sense of something that is counter to our nature as humans, we will spin off into questioning what we deem the logical implications of it. The only way to regain control of something so horrific, so unimaginable, is to decide that I somehow now affect the outcome and that my role is to right a myriad of wrongs. This logic is what sends those in the holy fight for social justice into an early grave.

We aren’t built to assume the sins of the world. Only Christ could and did do that.

Our job is to ask what our purpose is, wait on the answer, and obey when we hear it. We have to trust that others will do their part, and where there is a deficit, God will step in. The solace that I must lean on EVERY moment of EVERY day is that God is working all things together for good for those called according to His purpose. His purpose; not mine. We know that our thoughts are not His thoughts. So if I am not fully aware of His thoughts, I do not have a full comprehension of how He is making things good. I don’t get to control what that looks like. And even if I’d like to think so, I’m not undoing what a masterful Creator crafted as part of the good. It’s not about me.

Somewhere along the way, I became a martyr to being a foster and ultimately adoptive mom. Layer on doing this unexpectedly as a single mom, and, well, you now have a legitimate Joan of Arc parental saint situation. This again twisted my thinking to this whole thing being about MY cause, MY need to help him heal, MY role in mitigating further harm. God’s role as his Father gets lost in the shuffle. So, as God pulled on the loose thread in my very flawed thinking, something became abundantly clear. He knows better than I. Few things make me angrier than this input from others when they see me struggling: ‘God knew this was coming and He will take care of it.’ Behind my tolerant smile is a silent eye-roll and a thought that obviously God knew (insert stressful situation here) was coming. He’s God. But knowing this fact and understanding it are two very, very different things. My humanity continually takes me back to seeing time as a linear thing. Using readily available statistics, we can determine that the average human male life span is xx. My son suffered trauma at the ages of xx, xx, and xx, which, based on studies typically results in behavioral issues x, y, and z. If my marriage fails, that applies a multiplier of xx and additional struggles x, y, and z. Volatility surrounding racial tensions and a global pandemic further increase his trajectory towards full-fledged dysfunction, likely at the age of xx. Identified root cause: failures of the mother. Where in this timeline is the room for the plans for prosperity; to NOT harm?

If the Word of God creates the very universe, and He has already SPOKEN these good things over my son, then they already exist.

We are simply on a crash course towards the good thing. The in-between is messy. I don’t think He would argue with that. But ultimately, it’s not about me.

I’ll veer away from parenting for a moment to speak to His last point. There have been several times in the last 5 years when I took a big leap of faith, which I believed was based on very clear direction, and there was never any clear understanding why. For a pragmatic girl who has only recently begun taking risk, this pains me. There may be several explanations. Someone else may not have done their part. God’s plan is infinitely complex and far-reaching, and the many moving parts require obedience of others. You may have heard incorrectly. Yup. We get it wrong sometimes, but that’s where the whole ‘working all things together for good’ promise jumps in and does its thing. But this last line of reasoning, which I think is what happens most of the time, is that you are part of a plan that is contributing to His good plans for another. Yes, He desires to bless you in your obedience, but ultimately, this may not be part of what you understand to be His larger plans and purpose for you. I remember speaking to a coworker when I was transitioning roles at a company, and she said something that has stuck with me. ‘Sometimes it’s about giving someone else a new opportunity.’ Here I was, looking at my long-term growth potential by considering a lateral move, and ultimately, the greater need was for someone else to grow. Let’s look at the flip-side of opportunity and consider, for a moment, the fact that failures might not even be about what we do or do not need, or even some big life lesson. How much have you learned from the testimony of another’s missteps? Sometimes there’s not even a triumphant ending. But their transparency in telling their story is exactly what you needed to hear to avoid a landmine. Their ‘Well, at least I know what NOT to do next time’ was your segue into successfully navigating some rough waters. As a parent, what opportunities do we have to introduce our kids to an idea or experience, and then step back and let God take it from there? It would be myopic to think that the role of parents does not greatly alter the lives of our children, but where have we significantly overstepped and removed the opportunity for God to do what He needs to do?

Here’s a mind-blower; maybe part of my role in my son’s life is simply logistics.

Maybe it’s a big part. God wanted him in this town, at a specific school, in a specific church, playing with specific teams, making specific friends. The bold moves that I made in stepping out in faith may not have evidence of a providential encounter. Maybe I am simply the car that drives him to the house, to go to the school and church, to meet the friends. Maybe it’s not about me.

Be encouraged, however begrudgingly, that even if it’s not about you, it is always for you. Take a cue from Carrie Underwood and turn over the wheel. You are destined for big, huge, wonderful things; some so overwhelming that it will make your heart hurt (in the best possible way). But assuming the weight of the outcome will only hurt you physically and emotionally. And in your state of disrepair you will miss the beauty of all things working together for good.

Sometimes, it’s about the right thing being wrong.

Heart Lessons

You know what I’m talking about. The great date. The stellar job interview. The perfect house. It fits; the stars align and it checks ALL the boxes. But, it doesn’t work out. He doesn’t call back. They don’t give you the job. The offer falls through. Why does this happen? Garth Brooks thanked God for ‘unanswered prayers.’ That’s one way to put it. Here’s my theory, if you will oblige me.

Would you agree that 2020 has been a year of national crisis (at least for Gen Xers/Xennials who haven’t lived through much other than 9/11 and the subsequent war on terror)? I guess, on many levels, it’s actually a global crisis. Well, 2020 is somewhat more of the same for me. Now hear me well; I’m not so delusional that I equate my personal problems with a global pandemic or hundreds of years of racial injustice. These things reach much further and affect millions more than my personal travesties. But, since 2015, it’s been a litany of death, loss, and instability. 2020 took it to a different level, but I’ve been in a very uncertain place for a while. I’ve shared, in other posts, how I’ve learned to hear my Father’s voice. Rick Warren calls pain ‘God’s megaphone’. Psalms 34:18 promises that He is ‘near to the brokenhearted.’ There is something about the nakedness of trauma that brings us to a raw desperation for His presence. If we are lucky, and most Americans are, this trauma is short-lived. We learn to breathe again and we find a new rhythm.

Then what? What does His voice sound like then? If my pleas don’t come from a gut-wrenching place, does He answer them the same way? Are my senses dulled? Is He even listening at that point, or does He have bigger things to deal with? Well, the answer to the last question is a resounding ‘YES’. He is always listening. Scripture is full of that promise. But just like my other relationships, my friendship with Him grows and changes. And the same way that my conversations with my mom have changed between the ages of 5 and 44, God speaks to me differently now. We’ve walked through some serious stuff together.

And while yes, He remains immutable, my trust of Him has grown.

So let’s look at my list from earlier.
The guy doesn’t call. Great guy. 3 stellar dates. Then, radio silence.
I didn’t get the job. 10 interviews over several months. Brought my A-game. Courtesy rejection email.
The house falls through. Looked for months. Perfect location and good school district. Right price. Given to someone else.

Now, let’s take it a step further.
The guy does call.
I got the job offer.
The house is mine if I want it.
I pass on them all.

Both of these sets of scenarios are very real, but the seasons were quite different. After my few tough years, as I’ve re-entered the land of the living, God began reintroducing me to good things. He was always good, and I’m certain much good was happening all around me, but I could not see that from my dark hole. When it came time to start doing new things like dating, or changing jobs, or moving, I was still really, really fresh into this newfound friendship with my Father. I trusted Him; I did. He had scraped me off of my proverbial floor and breathed new life into me. But, I hadn’t been through the process of making new plans with Him. I’d simply been surviving. Now it was time to start new adventures. But as exciting as all of that sounds, I still needed the training wheels. Someone else said ‘no’ for me. I had a guardrail. Each rejection most definitely stung, but I trusted that whatever the reason, God had me.

Now the second set of scenarios. A couple of years pass and the haze has lifted. My new strategy becomes ‘whatever You say, I’ll do it.’ So when the great guy calls, or the job offer rolls in, or the house is available, I pause, and I hear Him say ‘no.’ Mind you, I was prayerful before doing these things. And if He had told me ‘no’ before I took the leap, I wouldn’t have done it. But, He didn’t. Instead, He allowed me to taste something good. Why would He do something like that?

Why would a loving Father test me or torment me, only to say no to me?

I needed to know what things were not right for me, in order to understand what was. It sort of became a process-of-elimination based therapy for me. This did several things: it showed me how to believe for good things, without basing my identity in it; it strengthened my communication and relationship with Him; and it sustained me and gave me hope. You see, we have a Father who knows EXACTLY what we need and when we need it. What I was capable of 5 years ago is strikingly different than today. He cares enough to frame my life based on what draws me closer to Him and all of the things He has for me.

Regardless of timing or season, His answer in all of the situations above was always the same:

It’s good, but it’s not best.

And that’s all I needed, or will ever need, to hear.

So I now ask you this: Is what you are considering good, or is it best? Not compared to anyone or anything else, but for you. In the midst of social distancing and a plethora of solitude, are you allowing space to find out, or are you busying yourself with idle tasks and time wasters? This health crisis is an opportunity for solitude and reflection that you may never have again. Don’t waste it. His best awaits you!

It was only a candle.

Heart Lessons

And some sugar scrub, and candy, and nail decals, and a sweet note; a thoughtful token left by a generous gift-giver. What followed the unwrapping was unexpected and unpleasant, to say the least. Tears. Many, many, ugly, snotty tears. I was not prepared for the torrent of emotions that were unleashed.

Since I’ve learned to emote, which, in full transparency, has only happened in the last 4 years or so, I’ve come to master what I think is the most important step towards healthy emotional processing; when I am surprised by my emotional response, I ask God ‘where the hell did that come from?’. Those are my words. Verbatim. Sometimes I hear an audible chuckle in response. But usually, I hear ‘sweet girl, ……’ followed by a very short, but usually profound, explanation. This evening, while the tears continued wetting the edge of my t-shirt and the adult libation drained from my beverage glass, three words knocked the wind out of me.

‘You felt noticed.’

No. What? I am noticed! I have friends and family who love me and I am not alone. I just sat in the confusion of it all for a while. Who knows how long. And slowly it sank in. This was just a simple act of kindness for no reason whatsoever. It wasn’t in response to my having done or said anything. It was frivolous and touched on my femininity, which, as a single mom, doesn’t happen often; ever really. And it countered a lie that played on loop for several years after my husband left me.

‘You are discarded and invisible.’

And there it was. For all of my counseling sessions, recovery programs, study of scripture, and time with God, that blasphemous untruth had taken root and settled nicely into my subconscious. I thought it had been dealt with. But sometimes, it takes the antithesis to shine a proverbial light on the fallacy that corrupts the substance of who we are. Proverbs 18 says it best; ‘The tongue has the power of life and death.’ I’d said the words ‘discarded’ and ‘invisible’ enough times that something had died. No amount of positive thinking will undo death. Only time at the feet of my Father will do that; allowing Him to woo me in the way that only He can.

In one fell swoop, He can deconstruct the scaffolding that holds the twisted thinking in its rightful place in your heart.

Let Him. He will leave no trace of the demolition. Try as you may to pull the blueprints back out to remind everyone that you were designed to live a life constructed by pain and suffering, He will counter with a canvas of dreams and promises too beautiful to imagine. But you have to willingly trade one for the other. He will not forcefully remove it.

The human mind is astonishing. My adopted son had a very traumatic start to life, and in my elementary understanding of how the mind and body protects itself, I’ve come to appreciate why there are times that he cannot believe my kind words, or accept my loving touch. To him, love wasn’t always safe. That candle sent a message that opposed what I’d come to believe about myself, and my body responded. Were it not for some understanding of what I needed to do to correct that belief, and a Savior who gladly guided me to the healing I needed, my life would continue on, subscribing to lies. Healthy love might feel uncomfortable and unsafe to me. I might be wary of well-intentioned gifts. I may even begin to behave in a way that warranted attention to counter the belief that I wasn’t noticed, however dysfunctional the attention might be. Knowing myself, I would likely shrink into oblivion, staying safe in the shadows and avoiding love altogether. But I am choosing the riskier, lesser known (to me) route. I am allowing my Father to paint a picture of who I am, and what my future holds.

What has been your candle? What has incited emotional outbursts that were disconcerting? What part(s) of your life are constructed based on lies that you believed? I do want to make sure that you hear my heart on this loud and clear. Trauma inflicted on you at the hands of another is NOT okay. You may have been simply surviving, and there is no shame in that.

But you were not meant to live a life at the mercy of your trauma.

When you are ready, ask this question: Where the hell did that come from? You might need a professional to guide you through the process of unearthing these truths. But if any part of you is unsettled by any of my account and you know that there is something out of alignment, start asking questions. And get ready to turn over the blueprints.

Mourn like Hannah

Uncategorized

Almost a year ago, I sold our family home. We adopted our son in this home. I put my creative stamp on every square inch of every wall. The summers were full of squealing children splashing in the pool and family and friends gathering to enjoy the sun. We spent winters around the roaring fireplace. Our neighbors became family, and I marveled at the detail of God’s provision in knowing what school our son would need, how we would fall right between both commutes to work, and how near we would be to our church. This story would only remain intact for 3 years. A family of 3 would become 2. Post divorce, I would try my damndest to piece together what little stability I could for my son, and I would buy the house from my husband. We settled into a somewhat normal routine, and I decided ‘Hey, we can do this!’. Work was going well. While challenging, I could tend to the house on my own.

One of those wonderful summer days, a year or so after the divorce, I lounged on my pool float, admiring my house, and thanked God for the blessing it had been, despite the heartbreak we’d experienced here. It had been my safe place where I’d found the version of God as my friend. I was completely, totally, madly in love with Him.

And He gently said ‘Don’t get attached to this house.’

I thought, okay, good reminder to put my trust in you and not things. Check. Another 6 or so months goes by, and I feel Him telling me that we’d be moving. I thought, ‘Oh hell no. We are just getting our bearings and my son NEEDS this house.’ And He listened to my tantrum, and continued letting me know that a move was coming. So each day, after I dropped my son off at school, as I turned back into my neighborhood, I’d ask ‘Do you want me to sell now?’. Each day, He’d say ‘Not yet.’ Until one day, He said ‘Yes.’ And 2 years after the divorce, I did. My memories of packing up that house are a complete blur. I know I purged stuff. A lot. I know I cried. A lot. Because I wasn’t sure where God was sending us, we moved everything into storage and crashed with a girlfriend. While we were lucky enough to take most of my son’s things (again, my need to provide him some sense of stability), I only took a handful of clothes and toiletries. In my mind, we’d be here a couple of months, and then the plan would be made clear.

We were there almost a year. Life was really, really bizarre, but much simpler. I wasn’t occupied with upkeep on the house, and I had the chance to start dreaming about new business ideas. And I was away from all of the things that filled that dream home that we’d left behind. About 6 months in, God began preparing me for our next move. His way with me is to ease me into it, starting with a general directive that the change is coming, and then filling the details in over the coming months. I had the next 6 months to wait on those details, and then they began to unfold.

So here I am, one week into another move. This place is not my own, but it’s perfect for us for now. The move was relatively uneventful, but the transition into the house has not been. I’m again sorting through painful relics of a life that’s no longer mine. I’m making this change alone. And in the wake of George Floyd’s death, the reality of raising an African American son on my own is a tsunami of responsibility that I did not sign up for. The past 2 days, I’ve been inconsolable. I dreaded each box to be opened. I pined for help hauling heavy articles to the attic. I wept over the card again from my deceased father, sharing his love and hope for my new marriage. I sat and cried over the dog collar of the sweet pup that we got together, that I had lost only 2 weeks earlier. As the house came together, I mourned how it all used to look in the other home. I was hit again, and again, and again with the death of the dream. And then a tidal wave of guilt would wash over me because I have a home and a son, and I am loved, and that should be enough.

And then I remembered Hannah from 1 Samuel 1. She too was shamed for her mourning. Her own husband asked her why she was sad about being barren, and suggested that he was better than 10 sons. Others mocked the passing years and her infertility, and in response she would weep and not eat. On her last trip to the temple to make a plea for a son, she promised God that she would commit her son to the Lord for all of his days. Eli overheard what he thought was a drunken display, but she explained her actions as having come out of ‘the abundance of my complaint and grief.’ Eli then asked Hannah to go in peace and promised that God would grant her petition. Hannah’s reply? She ‘went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.’

Just like that. Hannah went from years long, gut wrenching sadness and mourning, to steadfast belief that the promise would come to pass. It does say that ‘in the process of time’ Hannah bore a son, so we don’t know exactly how much longer she waited. But we do not hear anymore about her travailing prayers. I believe that Hannah’s desire to be a mother was a righteous one. This was not God responding to a childish fit in order to quiet her. And I believe it is a holy thing to grieve the loss of a dream. There are SO many things we cannot know about God’s timing around fulfilling hopes. Why did God’s promise come on the heels of her commitment to give her son back to Him? Was He moved by that? Had He been waiting on that bold step, knowing that if her heart wasn’t there, she would hold her son too tightly, and worship the child himself instead of the Giver of the child? Was He waiting on Eli to be present, so that he could be used to share that encouraging promise?

Whatever the catalyst, we know that God heard her consistent prayers, honored her broken heart, and fulfilled her dream.

So today, I wept a bit like I imagine Hannah did. My new neighbors might have even thought I was drunk. And I cried out that this is NOT how the dream was supposed to go. I heard my sweet Father say ‘I know, Kerri. I know.’ He did not say ‘but look at what you DO have, Kerri.’ He knows my heart to be a wife and to give my son a 2 parent home, and that is a holy and righteous thing. And I am allowed to grieve the loss of it. As He begins to share bits and pieces of the new dream, I will commit those things to Him, and my face will no longer be sad. Today is not that day.

If you are engaging with others who are mourning, please hold their hand and let them weep. Do NOT diminish their loss by attempting to redirect their focus to the ‘good.’ I’m not saying we should set up shop here and never leave. But Ecclesiastes tells us that there is an appropriate time for mourning, and sometimes it comes in waves, very unexpectedly, like when you unbox your custom monogrammed beer mugs or the mover asks where to put your preserved wedding dress box. Let the tears fall. And then let God show you His version of the next dream, and know that one day, your face will no longer be sad.

Don’t Ignore the Pangs

Heart Lessons

Hindsight truly is 20/20. Which is beyond annoying, because for most of my life, I’ve had 20/15 vision. It’s only recently that I’ve had to get glasses, and it was a 20/20 prescription. But I digress. If you read my ‘about’ bio, I’m a planner. I know what I want, and I go after that. While I do not look to offend, it’s never been my goal to have people like me or approve of me or my achievements. Something in my belly just drove me to always do my best. That drive usually meant that my head was down, blinders on, charging forward. This left little time for frivolous things like introspection or vision mapping. I knew myself and my capabilities, had a good understanding of what scripture said about me and general guidelines on how to live, and a sound support system around me. I. Was. Set.

Here’s the kicker. Side note….anyone care to venture WHY it’s called a kicker? This is my uneducated but experienced guess, but I’d wager that it’s because it legitimately kicks you square in the face. Life doesn’t give a single crap about drive or plans or even, wait for it, focus. And that stupid, stupid saying ‘God never gives you more than you can handle’ is absolutely, positively, the farthest thing from the truth. The book of John says that we WILL have tribulation. James tell us to count it joy WHEN we meet trials. What He says is that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Christ. Which means that we cannot do it without Him. Which in turn means that there WILL be things that we cannot handle. Now the part about Him giving those difficult things to us rings true. He did not reign down chaos on my life. It just means that He will strengthen me when it does.

Okay, rant over. When those things began to collapse around me, I started looking back. There’s that blasted hindsight. And what I began to see clearly with my 20/20 vision were milestones that were created by pangs; deep aches in my heart. I’m not talking about a lovesick pang or deep want for a cool vacation home. I’m talking about the discomfort that comes from a thought that gnaws at you. Maybe it spawns from something disturbing you read or saw in media. Maybe you remember dreaming or thinking about it as a child.

Maybe, in the midst of your own upheaval, you had sudden clarity that the blaze burning down your life was, in fact, a controlled burn that was ridding you of brush that obscured your vision and path towards something different.

I had clarity on my first pang when, at the age of 35, my ‘geriatric’ uterus failed to produce a baby. Much of those years are a blur, with flashes of injections and failed pregnancy tests and office visits to discuss probability of conception. Then a failed private adoption. Then foster care entered the picture. I was having a difficult, but necessary, discussion with my then-spouse about the concept of adopting a foster child and he shared his very honest thoughts on the challenges we would face with a child from that background. His feelings were not wrong, and mirror that of so many others. But something knocked the wind out of me. At that moment, I somehow clearly read that pang as a deep compassion for these children, and righteous indignation rose up in me on behalf of the helpless. There was that controlled burn. The brush of infertility and disappointment was gone momentarily, and I could clearly see back to thoughts as a little girl. I couldn’t process stories about abused children. News stories or movies would haunt me for years. It became so crippling that I decided at one point that I, myself, must have been abused for it to incite such a paralyzing reaction in me. No. Those pangs were intentional. God knew that I would face infertility. God knew that I would be needed with a foster care nonprofit. I ignored, heck, ran from the pangs. I never thought to lean into my Father and ask Him what they meant. Yes, this was Him ‘working all things together for good’, as is His way. But it was also the product of decades of a carefully sown burden.

The next pang is still disconcerting to me, even now, likely because I am living in the throes of its wake. For all of my career, I’d very blissfully enjoyed being a dedicated worker for large companies. There was something so energizing about the bustle of corporate life, watching things come to fruition via large teams, each owning a small part of the puzzle. I loved being a very qualified owner of my puzzle piece. Then something truly annoying happened. After years of watching coworkers come and go, I suddenly found myself pining over their coming entrepreneurial adventures. They were taking big leaps, leaving behind their medical benefits, 401K contributions, and 9-to-5 pace. My verbalized response was always ‘Wow! Good for them! But I love the structure of working for someone else.’ But something was growing inside me; a disconcerting need to make a similar leap. Towards what, I had no clue. Again, what sort of frivolous distraction would it be to consider a change. Or, dare I say it, starting something of my own.

Here’s the thing. My God is frivolous. He relishes the thought of hashing out these notions and going to deep, painful places that will unearth what these pangs are leading you toward. And sometimes, the something it’s leading you towards is simple; Him. But if anyone knows about my low threshold for risk it’s Him. We’ll unearth more about that in another blog, but He waited so patiently for me to even consider a drastic career change. He loved me through the infertility and adoption, losing my father to cancer, and losing my marriage. He knew that trauma would bring new perspective and with it, a more adventurous spirit. And a heart that heard Him more clearly. So as those pangs for a career change grew louder and more annoying, I finally took it to Him. ‘What is this nonsense?’ I would yell in my car. And I would hear an audible laugh. In my daily journaling He would download a staged plan: you’ll be leaving soon; then, it’s time to leave; then, I want you to join the foster care nonprofit (unpaid, mind you). And eventually, the most shocking revelation of all; a friend would share her dreams of starting a decorating business and I would hear Him again, ‘I want you to do this.’ And I did.

In total transparency, there were MANY tear-filled conversations between me and God where I truly attempted to negotiate my way out of all of this. And He would always give me the option of staying the course, because in His complete love for us He is incapable of controlling us. But I would always go back to the pangs, and His careful orchestration of timing and providential guiding hand.

To continue ignoring the pangs would lead me one place. At the end of everything, we will stand in front of Him, and give an account for what we did and did not do with these burdens. Even now, I weep at the thought of saying ‘I knew and I did nothing.’ I cannot. I will not.

There are new pangs brewing. I now recognize that sting well enough to tearfully take it to Him, ask Him what He would have me do with it, listen to His response, and obey. There are some that I hold to so tightly, for the thought of them not coming to fruition is too painful a burden to bear. But even in my reticence, I trust that they were planted by Him, and He is faithful to finish what He started.

Lean into your pangs. You can trust Him with them.