Anxiety

Fear and anxiety. Something that I never really thought I struggled with… until I became a mom. Then all at once, these tiny humans came outside of my body where they had been “safe” and into the world of sickness and pain and death. It feels like a your entire beating heart is walking outside in the elements. And it’s FREAKING. SCARY.

I thought I had a handle on the typical fears of motherhood- fear of illness or injury, fear of tough parenting moments, or even fear of death, but this year has exposed the deep recesses of my heart that are not fully surrendered to Him.

Many of you read my post several months back about our whole run-in with the child protective services and what God was teaching me through that, but I haven’t shared all of the trauma that has continued from that one particular incident.

If you know me at all, you know that I’m a “J” personality in the Myers-Briggs Personality test. I’m an ESFJ to be exact. Basically, I’m a DEEP FEELER with a strong sense of EMPATHY. I’m flexible and loyal, but in ALL THINGS, I like CLOSURE! “J”‘s enjoy closure, while “P”s enjoy the process. Jordan is a P. He would rather sit down and enjoy the evening EVEN IF the dishes are not done and there are toys scattered about.

Long blink. Long blink.

Say what? 

For me to “enjoy the evening”, I need ALL THE THINGS done. I’m much more relaxed when everything is put in it’s place and I don’t have a growing mental list of what still needs to be cleaned or put away.

And I’m the same way when it comes to life lessons and grief. I don’t like to keep on learning the same lessons over and over again or keep grieving when someone has wronged me.

But guess what??! It’s still happening. The grief. The fear. The panic. The uncertainty.

And I don’t think that makes me crazy. I think it makes me human. A sinful human. A wayward-prone sheep.

I, in no way, want to minimize PTSD (Post-Traumatic stress disorder) because I know so many who have given their time and energy serving our country who have legitimate anxiety that plagues them hour-by-hour from the things they have seen or experienced. But if there were such a thing as PTSD in motherhood, I’m pretty sure I have it.

Several weeks back, while Jordan was away on business, I took my three kids to the splash pad to meet up with a friend and her kids. Our morning had been somewhat uneventful, so I was looking forward to getting out of the house and getting some sunshine. But no sooner than we arrived and I began taking my kids’ cover-ups off and putting sunscreen on their bodies, I saw a huge bruise on Norah’s right thigh. Not a big deal, right?

WRONG!

The sirens in my head were going off and I went into complete panic mode. What if someone thought I hit my daughter? What if someone called the police, reported us, came to our house, saw that we have already been reported for the whole Target parking lot debacle, and then they took my children?

That’s LITERALLY where my mind went.

And I COULD NOT get over it.

I KNEW that I didn’t hit my daughter. I had no idea where the bruise came from. But even though I know it’s true, doesn’t mean someone else has to believe me.

After I was given the citation for “child abuse and neglect”, the Enemy has repeatedly told me over and over again that even when I tell the truth, it’s not enough.

You see, I told the truth from the very beginning our encounter with law-enforcement, and I was still given a ticket.

And that is exactly what the enemy where the Enemy wants me to go.

That day at the splash park, I did.

I left with my three kiddos in a hurried frenzy, leaving our friends in the wake of my massive anxiety attack. I came home. And I sobbed. For hours.

I look back on that day, and even though I remember EXACTLY how I felt in that moment, I can see with clearer perspective. I know that the Enemy likes to take that trauma from my past and use it against me NOW. He knows the hurts and pains we’ve experienced, the sadness that hung around like a dark cloud, and he tries to throw fiery darts of lies and fear our way to bring us back to that place.

And if I choose to entertain those lies and that fear, I give him the power to take me there.

BUT, if I put on the shield of faith (that extinguishes the fiery darts of the devil- Ephesians 6:16) and trust in the sovereignty and power of my God, I can live in the peace and joy that only God can supply.

So what does that look like?

It means I choose to have faith that ALL THINGS work together for good. (Romans 8:28)

It means I choose to have faith that God is SOVEREIGN over every situation and He holds the universe together by the word of His power.( Hebrews 1:3 and Colossians 1:17)

It means I choose to have faith that God loves my family more than I ever will. They are not as MINE but HIS. He knows them because He created them! I am only a steward. (Matthew 10:29-30)

It means that I chose to have faith that God’s love for me is perfect, and His perfect love casts out all fear. (1 John 4:18)

It means that I choose to have faith that He will give me grace for each moment (Philippians 4:19), that His power is my perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), and that each morning, His mercies are new. (Lamentations 3:23)

So I don’t know where you land or what past trauma still seems to haunt you today, but have faith. Don’t regret the past or fear the future, God is in control and His plans for you are GOOD. 

XOXO and preaching to myself, 

Danyelle 

P.s. I could also include the fear that comes from Theodore having febrile seizures, but I’ll save you and me the second blog on that and CHOOSE to have faith and trust God.

 

 

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Homeschool, Performance, & Identity

I love how God works. Don’t you? Sometimes He speaks in what seems an audible voice. Sometimes He whispers in a still small voice. Other times He speaks in nature when you see the vastness of His creation. And sometimes He speaks through His own people.

Recently, I went on a girls’ trip to the mountains to celebrate a dear friend’s upcoming arrival of her third baby girl. I LOVED that weekend because it was a multi-generational meeting of 7 women– two older women with grown or teenage kids, women that were married for about 10 years with several kids, and some who were newly married and no kids yet. The trip was only about 20 hours total, but each moment was just filled with laughter, fun, encouragement, and wisdom from each other. The trip reminded me that this is what the Church is meant to be!

One of the women in the group is a woman I’ve admired from afar for a while. She has three teenage daughters who are all in Classical Conversations Challenge (the same homeschool curriculum we’re using in our home) and they are all so lovely. I’ve spoken with her on several occasions, but usually our conversations are diverted by interruptions from my children or being distracted by my children trying to escape the church building. But this particular weekend, she was there, and I was so excited to pick her brain about homeschool!

At the condo we were staying at, she and I began talking in the kitchen while we had a little break before dinner. I asked her how she keeps her identity focused on Christ while pouring all of her energy into her daughters in this season. My fear has been that in the season of homeschool, I will almost forgot who I am while pouring out my life for my kids. You see, homeschooling my children has not only allowed me to teach my kids, but God is using my kids to expose my own sin and false thoughts that have often remained hidden. This woman is so wise and gentle and she told me simply that this is the season that God has given to me and I just need to give it all I have for His glory and trust that it is ENOUGH. ENOUGH. Isn’t that something we all struggle with? Wondering if what we’re doing is enough? Enough in relationships, enough in our work, enough in our production, enough in who we are?

We continued our conversation and I half-jokingly, half-seriously told her about how one of the greatest struggles of our current homeschool season is for Annie to sit down and get her work done. Since I’m so paranoid about homeschool laws now because of what we just walked through legally, I’m constantly pushing Annie to get her work done. I told this woman about how when Annie doesn’t work, I will tell her, “If you don’t get your work done, I’m going to have to send you to school.”

This woman looked at me with equal parts love, sorrow, and humility and firmly but gently said, “Don’t ever do that. Seriously, don’t ever do that again.”

I was almost taken aback by her boldness in correction, but I KNEW she was coming from a place of love.

“What you’re doing is creating a culture of performance for your daughter. And you do not want to do that. That’s not what this is all about.”

Holy. Moly. 

It was almost as if in that moment I could see my entire life on a platter right in front of me.

And it hurt.

But it was good. Oh, so good.

I grew up in a culture where my performance was constantly being evaluated and was highly valued. I was expected to make straight A’s in school, perform well in sports (which I started sports when I was 5), and do ABC but not XYZ in church. My father was a public figure in our church so I felt like my life was consistently under the eye of scrutiny by those in our congregation.

It’s no wonder then that as an adult, and in most of my adult life, I have really struggled to find my identity firmly planted in Christ. I’ve always been a performer, bringing SOMETHING to the table that I and others were able to measure externally. But, as a homeschool mom, what physical evidence of my “success” have I brought to the table? I don’t have an income, rarely do my kids appreciate me pouring my life into theirs, and the times that are sweet and victorious are often unseen from the outside world (unless it’s on Instagram… and boy is that another can of worms!)

The same culture that I grew up in was the same culture I have begun to foster in my own home.

OUCH.

I do NOT want that for my kids.

I do NOT want them thinking that what others think of them (or even what they think of themselves) is more important than what God thinks of them.

I do NOT want them “perform” when someone else is watching them.

I do NOT want them thinking that their worth is in something that can be measured externally.

I DO want them to find their identity in what God has done for them in Christ on the cross.

I DO want them to always do their best for the glory of God and know that His love for them is UNCHANGING.

I DO want them to find their worth and their “success” by how well they love God and love other people (and I want that to be true of me as their mom too!)

This homeschool journey has been no joke. Although we’re only in “first grade”, there have already been many battles, tears, and hard days, but oh, the victories and small glimpses of grace have made it all worth it! I’m so thankful for moms and dads who have walked the journey before I have and are willing and ready to speak truth, even when it hurts.

So today in our home, I’m asking God to remind me of His love not only for my children, but for me. That my worth is in HIM alone. He is a FIRM FOUNDATION when all else is sinking sand.

Be encouraged today, friend.

You are ENOUGH.

XOXO,

Danyelle IMG_9053

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the fantastic group of women!

To the woman who called the police on me…

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To the woman who called the police on me,

For a while, I was angry with you. I was upset that you didn’t just stop me, have a conversation with me, and warn me not to ever leave my kids in the car, but you didn’t.

Instead, your 3 minute phone call during my 3 minute target trip changed the course for my family for the following weeks. After court dates, a CPS visit, and parenting classes, we’ve finally made it through the hoop that your phone call afforded my family.

But, I want you to know something: I’ve forgiven you.

And not only that, I want to tell you: I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that we live in a place where we doubt the integrity of the parents in our own communities.

I’m sorry that you have probably seen abuse before, and quite possibly, have even been a recipient of it.

I’m sorry that the lines of abuse and discipline and neglect in our homes have been so readily blurred.

I’m sorry that we live in a country where children are no longer safe in the public, in schools, or even in churches.

I’m sorry that in this century, it’s easier to label someone from a 3-minute glimpse than to get to know them on a personal level.

I’m sorry that the news only perpetuates our deepest fears and fuels our desire for control and safety.

I know that day, you were only doing what you thought best. I’m sure you really did have my kids’ best interests in mind. And although I would NEVER EVER EVER want to relive these past 2 months, I am so thankful.

I am so thankful because your phone call allowed me to face my deepest fears head on. It brought me through a valley where the truth of God’s Word became alive to me in new ways. Your concern for my children has taught me more about who God is, His sovereignty, and His promises than the last 5 years of my Christian faith combined.

And for that, I am indebted to you.

Without your place in my story, I would still be viewing my motherhood as an idol. I would still be getting through my days without understanding how desperately I need God to sustain me and give me grace for each moment. And really, I would still be thinking that I am in control of all of my family’s circumstances.

Truly, I believe that “God works all things together for our good,” and this event in my life will shape me (and it already has!) and strengthen my faith (and it already has!), and that God will get the glory (and I pray He already has!)

So woman in the parking lot, I forgive you, I’m sorry, and Thank you.

Sincerely,

Danyelle (The Mom-of -3-in-the-Target-parking-lot)

P.s. One day, in Heaven, there will be no more abuse, no more neglect, no more lack of safety, no more doubt, no more fear, no more pain, and no more disunity. And praise be to God that I have that hope, and I am praying that you do too! 

P.S.S. “On Earth as it is in Heaven”, Lord Jesus. Come quickly.

FREE TO GO

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A couple of weeks ago, I stood before a judge.

My case involving “child-abuse/neglect” was finally, hopefully, coming to an end. (You can read about it here.)

As I stood at the podium, the judge said that the District Attorney had already filed a motion to have my case dismissed and that I could “seal” my case for a small fee, meaning it could never be opened or accessed again.

My heart was beating out of my chest, even though I knew what the most probable outcome was. My knees felt weak. But I did my best to stand my ground and speak confidently.

The judge then asked if the “father of the victims” was present. Thankfully, Jordan was there. She asked him if he had any objections to my case being dismissed, which he quickly replied, “Not at all. That’s great.”

And then, the words I’ll never forget: “Mrs. Henderson, you’re free to go.”

FREE TO GO.

I could now walk out of the court room and proverbially FORGET all that had just occurred within the last 6 weeks.

Or could I?

She said I was free, but I didn’t FEEL free.

I still felt plagued by the events that had just happened. I felt shame over standing in a court room associated with child and drug abuse. I felt bound to the citation that had been given to me that December night.

The accusation that I had intentionally placed my children in danger, or that I was neglectful, was the most hurtful claim that anyone had ever personally made about me. And the wound still felt so raw and open and deep.

I wanted so desperately to walk out of that courtroom with my head held high, but I felt like there was still a weight around my neck that was dragging me down.  A badge of shame and dishonor that I was supposed to carry around for the rest of my life.

And yet again, the Holy Spirit was revealing parallels to the Christian life.

The judge had declared me “free to go.” Through Jesus’ blood on the cross and His resurrection from the dead, God, the ultimate righteous Judge, has declared us “free in Christ”, no longer bound to the penalty of sin, no longer indebted to shame and guilt that sin brings.

So often I know I base my “spiritual standing” in front of a Holy God by the feelings that my heart and mind are speaking. Or, I base my standing on the ACCUSATIONS that the Enemy hurls my way. But feelings are NOT always a good indicator of WHAT IS TRUE.

Just recently, I downloaded the new Rend Collective CD. I love their songs, and not just because they are catchy and fun and folky, but that the words are so theologically deep and thought-provoking. I love songs that are rich in nature and not just the same fluffy line sung over and over again.

Anyway, one of the songs that I have already found so encouraging to me at this season is this song called “Nailed to the Cross.” The first verse and chorus say this:

When I stand accused by my regrets
And the devil roars his empty threats
I will preach the gospel to myself
That I am not a man condemned
For Jesus Christ is my defence

My sin is nailed to the cross
My soul is healed by the scars
The weight of guilt I bear no more
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord

(you can listen to the song here)

So often, we believe that the Gospel is only for the unbeliever, as if conversion were the goal in the Christian faith. But conversion is only the beginning. More than ever, even though I’ve been a Christian for almost 2 decades (what?!), I need the Gospel to remind me of what Jesus has DONE, and what He is CONTINUING TO DO in me. 

His death, burial, and resurrection didn’t just RESCUE me from sin, but SANCTIFIES me (sets me apart, makes me holy, etc.) into the image of Christ. His work on the cross didn’t just DECLARE that I was FREE at the moment of conversation, but that I am CONTINUALLY FREE from the lies, accusations, guilt, and shame of sin and my past. My past no longer defines me, my sin no longer enslaves me. The old is gone and the NEW has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The scars of this last month may be a part of my story, but they DO NOT define me. And when those lies and accusations seem to want to take over my feelings or my mind, I will remind myself that I am FREE.

If you are in Christ, you are FREE too. (John 8:36) And isn’t that the BEST news?!

Preach the Gospel to yourself today. And live as you are FREE, because you are FREE INDEED. 🎉

The last month

(The following blog, or shall I say chapter of a book (because it’s SO LONG!) is just that- just a chapter. This isn’t my whole story, it’s only part. And although I’m still trying to make sense of it all, and you may be too after you read it, I know this is part of the tapestry that God is weaving together to make His name great and is glory known through my life. I hope that you will be encouraged to press on, no matter the difficult journey you may be facing, have faced, or might face in the future. And of course, I hope you’ll read to the end.)

Tuesday, December 12th, started out like most days. Kids got up, had a quick breakfast, and we had to be out the door for a review day at our homeschool co-op. Our co-op hadn’t actually met for a couple of weeks due to Thanksgiving break, so we were a little out of the routine. And not unusually for us, we were running late.

Since we were not having a typical co-op day, and it was review + decorating Christmas cookies day, we were asked to bring along something to share. I had avocados at home, so I whipped up a quick batch of guacamole. However, there were no chips in my pantry, so I decided we would make a quick pit stop to Target on the way. When I got in the car, the time was around 9:37am. Our meeting time was 9:45.

As I pulled into Target, I made the conscious decision to leave my kids in the car. This was NOT typical for me. In fact, I had only made this decision ONE other time. I knew I was running in and out, and that Annie was capable of locking the door behind me. When I pulled into my little parking space, I pulled right next to a lady in a maroon SUV. She was sitting in her car on the phone, and for some reason, I had a check in my spirit. But as usual, in the habit of busyness and rushing around, I ignored the “nudge”.

I got out of the car, gave Annie clear instructions to lock the door behind me, and to not open the door for ANYONE, including someone she might know. (The other two littles were in the car as well, but had no capability to unstrap themselves from their carseats). I literally RAN into the store, saw that Tostitos chips were at the front of the store (in the bargain section). I grabbed two different bags, grabbed a 20 oz. Dr. Pepper from one of the little check-out refrigerators, and I checked myself out. I then RAN right back out of the store. In and out.

When I got to my van, Annie unlocked the door for me, the kids were all still happy, but the lady I had parked next to, was now standing behind my van on the phone.

“Mom, when you were gone, that lady was looking into our van.” -Annie

“Well, did you talk to her?” – Me

“No. She was just looking in and talking on her phone.” -Annie

My heart sank. I knew instantly. She had called the police.

I immediately called Jordan and relayed to him the entire story. He reassured me that this was probably the least of worries in the police department and that nothing would happen. I then called my dad, who happens to be a Texas State Trooper. He said, “Don’t worry about it. If the police come and ask you questions, just tell them the truth.”

We pulled into our co-op review, and I was still very much shaken. If you know me at all, you know that I am extremely sensitive. If you tell me not to cross a line, I will not. I will rarely even ask questions as to why. And if I deserve punishment, I’ll punish myself before anyone else can get to me. I guess I’m just hard on myself. (Ask my parents. No seriously, ask them.)

As we walked into our meeting, I told all of the fellow homeschool moms what had happened. My director then said, “Not to scare you, but this same thing just happened in Kentucky, and it got bad. Call your husband right away.” (The story she was referring to can be found here.)

I called Jordan again, but he didn’t seem too alarmed.

So away we went with our review. I was in charge of quizzing kids on the timeline. So kids were coming to me and I was putting stamps into their “review passports”. But then, Jordan started calling my phone. I didn’t answer. Called again. Couldn’t answer. Called again, and I finally just told the kids “just one minute, please.”

“You’re not going to believe this,” Jordan said, “but the policeman just left our house.” (Jordan works from home most days, so he was able to answer the door when police showed up.)

“You’re kidding.”

“No, I’m not. His name was officer [so-and-so]. He said that a woman called to report that you had left your 4 year-old and two toddlers in the van for 5 minutes at the Target parking lot.” (Our kids are 7, almost 4 at the time, and 2.)

“Oh. My. Goodness.”

The conversation continued and Jordan relayed everything that was said. And I was shaking. Literally. It took everything within me not to start crying in the middle of review in front of these students.

However, we thought that was the end of it.

The entire afternoon, I beat myself up for my decision. “If I could just go back to this morning and change it, I would.” I cried off and on. More on than off. When Jordan returned from his staff meeting, I almost collapsed into his arms. He knew how hard that morning had been already, so he had brought a dozen roses home as well.

Our night continued like normal. Made dinner. Gave the kids a bath. PJs on and milk. And started Wheel of Fortune. (For whatever reason, my kiddos love to watch Wheel of Fortune, as do we.)

But then, came some more knocks at the door.

Annie, being the ever-so-extroverted child, ran to the door. She peeked out the side window and said “Mom, the police are here.” My heart sank to my knees.

[Jordan opened the door] “Hi, we’re here to see a Mrs. Henderson,” one of them said.

I came to the door. And at this point, I knew our “warning” was no longer the end. We then left the kids in the house, while the two officers asked questions regarding our morning, told me that had just reviewed the surveillance video from Target (and said I was in at 9:40am and out by 9:43 am), they had shown the content to the Sergeant, and were now coming to give me a citation for “child abuse/neglect without injury” and I had a court appearance the following morning at 8 am.

If I had been shaking that morning, my knees were now buckling. Literally. I had to squat down to keep from passing out. No sooner than the policemen left, I burst into hysterics. I couldn’t believe that my three-minute decision now put me in a category of “child abuser”.

Listen, I am with my kids almost EVERY second of every day. I homeschool them, so they are constantly in my care. And I would NEVER ever, ever want to put my kids in a precarious situation. Do I see now how my decision was not the wisest decision? Of course. But did I think at the time that it was a poor decision? Absolutely not.

You see, I grew up in a generation where you played outside, unsupervised (gasp!) until mom called us in for dinner. We walked to school starting in kindergarten, which means I was 5. And we didn’t shop along with my parents at Wal-Mart (we didn’t have Target back then); we would go look at toys. They would give us a time, and if we weren’t up at the front when they were ready to go, so long… they would leave us. So we knew we better be up there when they were done shopping. So when I thought my fully capable, extremely intelligent 7 year-old daughter could lock the door behind me and watch her brother and sister for THREE minutes, I didn’t think I was making a bad parenting decision. (Also, for a very eye-opening read, please, please, PLEASE read this: A Fragile Generation)

All night, I tossed and turned. I replayed the entire day in my mind. My knees would not quit shaking, even as I lied in bed. I was almost in shock. No, I was in shock. I didn’t even know what to say. Jordan was a trooper and was on the phone with family and lawyers all evening, trying to figure out how we could best navigate the situation that we were currently facing. I’m so thankful that he was such an advocate for me when I felt I had no voice.

“God, what are you doing? Why is this happening to me? I LOVE my kids. I miss them when they’re gone for a day. The entire quality of my motherhood is now being based on less than 5 minutes by people who don’t even know me.”

“But I know you’re heart.” -still small Voice

As I tried over and over again to fall asleep, I kept this song on repeat.

“God, I look to You, I won’t be overwhelmed. Give me vision, to see things like You do.
God, I look to You, You’re where my help comes from. Give me wisdom, You know just what to do.”

The next morning, Jordan and I got up very early, got dressed, and headed down to Castle Rock to drop the kids off at his parents’ house. We then headed to the court, heads still spinning from it all.

When we arrived, we walked through the security system, and walked to several clerks’ desks, none of whom had any information regarding our case. Since we got the citation/report for court at 7pm the previous evening, and it was now only 7:50am the next morning, our papers hadn’t even come through. The clerk sent us down to the family court district. There we waited for about an hour and a half. Finally, when the District Attorney had received our paperwork, she went over all of the legal mumbo jumbo they have to tell you. And I’m sure to her, we looked like deer in the headlights. We had no idea what we were doing. I haven’t even had a speeding ticket in my adult life!

The judge came in, and I had to go up to the stand with the microphone. Basically this first court date was to make sure that I was aware of my charges, give my kids and the “witness” a protection order, and I had to sign an extradition stating that if I left the state of Colorado, I would willingly return or that I would be forcibly brought back under arrest on my own dollar, and give me a new court date for them to decide my sentencing. Then I was ordered to get FINGERPRINTED and photographed. Legitimately, I now felt like I WAS a criminal. When I went to give my fingerprints, I so desperately wanted to explain my situation and tell the women, “I am NOT a child-abuser. I would NEVER hurt my kids!” But I knew this battle wasn’t mine to fight.

Was it enough for me to know that God knew my intentions? Did I have a grander desire to save my reputation than I did to entrust that to the One who holds the Universe together and knows the number of hairs on not just mine, but EVERY head? (I’m still not sure that I do…)

Thankfully (yet unfortunately), I’m not the first person that this has happened to. I have two friends who both have friends that this has happened to in Colorado in the last year. That same day that I had court, I spoke with this gracious and godly woman who told me her very similar story. She was so encouraging and humble, asking God to teach her through it all. She also explained to me that CPS came to her house, which gave me a new, overwhelming fear.

I went into panic. Less than 36 hours after this Target run, I felt like I might be going crazy. I was paranoid. I didn’t want to let down my blinds of fear that someone might be looking in. I didn’t want to go to the store for fear that someone might think my kids were in danger (for who knows what reason. Fear has a funny way of distorting reality and reason. And I started to clean my house frantically. I cleaned out my girls’ closet, cleaned the kitchen, put away toys, did all the laundry, cleaned toilets, closets, etc, etc, etc. Sheer panic.

Now, every time the door bell rang or someone knocked, my heart would race. Literally. Which wasn’t the best timing as it was the week before Christmas, and hello Amazon! (And it still does. Just today, when I heard a knock at the door my heart started racing, and it was only my neighbor.)

Jordan also found a great lawyer via a Facebook recommendation question, and that lawyer personally knew the DA on our case. He talked to the DA and the DA called Jordan exactly one week after the incident, and basically asked him how he wanted to prosecute me (since He is the Father of “the victims”). And since he didn’t want to seem like he wasn’t taking the whole thing seriously, he told the DA that we had already looked into some parenting classes. So she said, “take the parenting class, and we’ll dismiss the case.”

Finally, some sense of relief. Some. I should also add: I had been so stressed out from the previous week that my body was doing some weiiiirrrrdddd things.

And wouldn’t you know, the next morning, Annie comes down with the flu. She was glued to the couch, and Jordan was working, so I took Norah and Theodore with me to the Post office to drop off some family Christmas gifts (yes I took them in this time!), and we also ran to two stores to get some medicine and homeopathic medicine for Annie (yes I took them in those places too!)

#learnedmylesson

But to my COMPLETE surprise, while I was at Target filling up on medicine and disinfectant, Jordan texts. “The CPS lady surprised us. She’s here asking Annie questions.” This time I thought he was joking because the kids and I were taking too long, but, he was serious.

Shaking. Again.

I called my mom and my mother-in-law and relayed the quick message and asked them to pray for me. My nerves were seriously SHOT after the week I had just had, and although I had been fully prepared to have someone “surprise” my house the days before, I had finally relaxed half an inch, and my house and I were in utter disarray. I hadn’t picked up AT ALL that morning before we left to run those errands. There was still pancake batter in a bowl next to the stove, dishes everywhere, toys all around, wrapping paper all over the floor from wrapping gifts the night before. Not to mention, I hadn’t even brushed my hair or put an ounce of makeup on.

Thankfully, the case worker was extremely nice and comforting. She didn’t seem to press too hard into our lives and asked the basics of the case and some personality questions and a few parenting questions. She also asked if I thought the kids were in any way affected by me leaving them the car those three minutes. I responded with a firm “no” but told her that the situation of the police coming and court and now this seemed like it was becoming a lot for my little family to deal with. The night I got back from court, the kids and Jordan and I were all up in our room for family devotions. Norah was extra snuggly and she had asked, “Mom, are the police coming back for you?” This sweet, big-blue eyed, almost 4- year old, in all of her innocence was starting to make sense of all the events surrounding us. And Annie, sweet, curious Annie, she knew what was happening the whole time. Even though she was shy to talk to me personally about it, she was quick to tell complete strangers at the park (face-palm) and a few family members every detail of what was unfolding. The case worker said she would immediately talk to her supervisor to see if she could get our case “unfounded”.

Another piece of good news.

And then, the flu sweep. Norah Thursday night, and Theodore Friday morning.

Then. Saturday morning. Theo and Norah wake up, both have fevers. I give them both a dose of Ibuprofen and then head to the kitchen to get some milk for both of them. I heard Norah start laughing. I look up and see Theo shaking, but thought Norah was shaking him with her foot since they were both on the couch. Then I saw his face. His eyes were rolling back, and his face was turning white. “He’s having a seizure!” I yelled. Jordan was putting a DVD on for the kids so he hadn’t noticed, but he quickly scooped Theo up. Sweet Norah thought that Theo was being silly. She hadn’t ever seen a seizure before. (Theo has had one other MINOR febrile seizure while in the doctor’s office when he had Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease).

This seizure ended up being over six minutes!!! As soon as we pulled up to the Children’s ER (1 mile from our house), it finally stopped. The doctors and nurses monitored him for a couple of hours, and then we were sent home.

But the stress had done me in. And guess what, I caught the flu too. Last year, all of my kids had the flu, but I didn’t catch it. This year, I know that the stress and anxiety from the whole court case and the surprise visit and all the wondering and what ifs and spinning myself into massive anxiety literally broke down whatever immune system wall I had built. Worst sickness ever.

That Saturday, after coming home from the ER and recognizing the sickness settling into my body as well, I became very discouraged.

“Why is this all happening to me and my family? Is there some secret sin in my heart that God is trying to expose? Am I not doing His will? Is it Spiritual warfare or is this just a product of living in a fallen world.”

Nothing seemed to make sense. I couldn’t tell up from down, right from wrong, black from white. It all felt like a blur. I didn’t know how to process what was happening.

A few days later, I read that article that I had mentioned above. Although a friend and I had recently discussed this article in particular, I had never sat down and read the contents. But man, after what we had gone through, it made so much sense. I was so furious with our culture being so consumed with “safety” or the appearance of safety and not giving parents the freedom to make decisions for their own families (and I completely understand that each person we came into contact with was just doing their jobs, but I felt so misunderstood). Our culture wants us to shield our kids and protect them from all of life’s harms and failures and therefore kids grow into immature adults who don’t know how to make even the simplest decisions for themselves.

Then, it hit me like a truck.

The same frustrations I had with our parenting culture were the very things I had been asking God to do for me.

Keep me safe. Keep me out of all of life’s harm. Keep me protected. Keep me from failure. Etc. Etc. Etc.

What if the very situations of heartache and sickness were the ways in which God was allowing me to MATURE and DEEPEN my faith in Him? What if He was showing me how futile and worldly some of my desires had become by allowing me to experience the threat of losing my children? What if he was showing me that I look to my children to fulfill me more than Him? Or what if He was simply showing me that being with Him, and the hope of heaven, far outweigh any of life’s harm?

Obviously, I don’t know WHY all of what’s happened to our family has occurred in this last month. But this I know: that He is faithful. That community is beautiful. And that life is worth living.

– – – – –

I’ve been sitting on this blog for several weeks now. As life would have it, there has been more trauma in the last couple of weeks. Maybe one day, I will share it, but for now it’s too soon. Also, I haven’t published up until this point because I have been walking through legal protocol. (I will only publish after it’s all resolved, so if you’re reading this, it has been…PRAISE GOD!).

But the longer I have been able to step away, the more I see God’s hand through it all. This wasn’t one of those times where God felt super close in the midst of the storm— it’s been one of those times where I know He’s asking me to trust Him EVEN….

EVEN when you’re misunderstood…

EVEN IF life isn’t fair…

EVEN IN injustice…

EVEN IN sickness…

EVEN when the storm doesn’t seem to be clearing…

EVEN when there’s death…

Do I trust Him?

 

A week or so ago, I was getting Annie a snack. I’m pretty sure she’s going through a growth spurt because she is eating everything in sight! She asked if I would cut up a pineapple that we had just bought. I cut some up and gave it to her and she began to snack away.

“Mom, this pineapple is so sweet!”

“Oh good,” I said.

“Sometimes we don’t pick good ones and they’re sour,” she said.

“You’re right. But we don’t really know if it’s sweet or sour until we cut it open.”

And no sooner than those words left my mouth, the Holy Spirit was teaching me. Sometimes we don’t know what’s in the core of who we are or the real condition of our hearts until we are CUT. And although it HURTS to be cut emotionally and spiritually (it’s incredibly painful!), I think it’s one of the ways that God reveals to us where we LACK. Lack of Trust. Lack of Faith. Lack of Thankfulness, you name it. Not only that, but once we’re cut, the people around us will either see the SWEET or the SOUR that’s within. And when it’s sweet, oh what a picture of “Christ in me, the hope of glory!” (Colossians 1:27). I know that when I was “cut” over these circumstances, what oozed out of me was not always sweet, but I’m asking the Holy Spirit to show me how to live a joyful, grateful life, no matter what life throws my way.

I would never choose to walk this path again that we’ve been walking this last couple of months, but through it all, I am so thankful. I’m thankful that in the darkest places, the Holy Spirit still shines light and teaches my heart, and He’s the great Comforter. (John 14:26) I’m thankful that even when I feel alone on the journey, Christ has been my example and paved the way for how we are to live our days. (1 Peter 2:18-25). And I’m so thankful that God sent His only Son to die for us, so that in His brokenness and death, we could be made whole and alive in Jesus. And one day, ALL things will be made RIGHT. (2 Corinthians 5: 17-21)

As I write this now, I’m praying for those of you reading. If you don’t know this comfort, this example, or this hope, I pray you would look to Jesus, the AUTHOR and PERFECTER of our faith and make HIM your LORD and SAVIOR. If you’re struggling in your faith, keep looking up. This world and its troubles are passing away, but our hope and salvation endures. May you be encouraged today knowing that God is at work in YOU.

XOXO
-Danyelle

P.s. Don’t EVER leave your kids in the car to make even a quick trip. 😉

Fear is a LIAR

Not good enough. 

Not worthy. 

Not beautiful. 

You don’t have friends.

You bring nothing to the table. 

Things will never be good. 

Your kids will never come to know Christ. 

Just typing these, my chest feels heavy.

But that’s exactly how my life has felt the last few weeks. Heavy. 

And not because of anything other than LIES. Lies from the Enemy.

I know this is going to sound odd, but the way in which fear has crippled me is with my kids especially. I’m worried, anxious, over-protective, and controlling because of my fear. Specifically, the fear that has consumed me in the last year is fear that my kids will get sick. I know. Typing it out it looks so silly because I KNOW my kids will get sick. It’s part of living in this fallen world and having three kiddos under 7 who love to share germs by putting EVERYTHING in their mouths. But when that fear comes over me, I become OCD about it. Let me check their temps 10x a day. Wash their hands excessively. Oils on everything. Disinfect everything. Get nervous every time they sneeze, cough, poop, have a bump or rash, kind of obsession.

And sadly, I’ve bought into the lie that most mothers have believed: “It’s okay to worry. That’s what mothers do. We have the right to worry.”

NO. WE. DON’T.

The Bible is CLEAR in it’s mandate to not worry. About ANYTHING.

Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God…” (ESV)

Matthew 6:25 “Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (ESV)

1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all of your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (emphasis mine.)

Ask yourself : “What is the thing that scares me the most?” Is it something with your kids? Your job? Financial security? Relationships? What people think of you?

That very area that you feel scared by is the thing that you TRUST GOD the LEAST with and will be the thing that you TRY to CONTROL MOST. 

(Examples: Afraid that something will happen to your kids? Look at my above example of how I try to control them. Afraid you won’t have enough money? Maybe you try to control it by always looking for a way to make an extra dollar, or you aren’t generous with what’s already been given to you. You clinch tightly onto material possessions. )

You see, the lies that I have bought into that the Enemy has whispered, have been the very things that I have no faith in God to take care of.

And I am tired of trying to control the outcome of things that I have ZERO control over. Instead, I can rest assured that God is in control of ALL things. He is omnipresent, omniscient, and all-powerful.

I am tired of excusing myself as a mother for living a life of fear and anxiety with my children. Instead, I can live my life in peace (even when things don’t go my way) because God loves my children more than I do. He gives perfect peace to those who keep their minds on Him. (Isaiah 26:3).

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(Also, it’s worth noting that the more I pursue Christ and His Kingdom, the more I seem to find resistance from the Enemy. The lies at first start to trickle in, but then, it seems like a tidal wave of fear rushes over me. And if it’s not fear, it’s depression. Or loneliness. Confusion. Discouragement. A week ago, Jordan and I had a great weekend. We had some great conversations about faith, we had invited some neighborhood kids to church (which our youth leader, Heather, had shared the gospel with them), and we had listened to some great sermons and podcasts that had jumpstarted our week in a great direction. Then Tuesday afternoon, this cloud of depression seemed to hang over our home for several days. Nothing made sense. We both felt anxious. Really down and lonely. And honestly, I wasn’t shocked. The Enemy was not happy about what had happened in our home the weekend before. )

I’m not saying that fear will never sweep into your heart and mind. In fact, it most certainly will. BUT, we don’t not need to be bound or slaves to that fear. Christ has come to set us free. Seek the Truth of the Gospel and who He is. Besides, the TRUTH will set you FREE. (John 8:32)

This week, I heard this song from Zach Williams, who just won Artist of the Year at the Dove Awards. It’s been one of those songs that have come to me at the right time. And I know there are some of you out there who are reading who have been crippled with fear like I have. Maybe not in the same way, but there is an area of your life that you don’t trust God COMPLETELY with. I pray today that you will recognize the lies you have believed, the ways in which you have become controlling, and ask God to give you a bigger faith in Him in that area of your life. 

He is faithful to do abundantly more than we ask or think! 

 

 

Comparison games.

They say “comparison is the thief of joy”.

And I absolutely believe that to be true.

But lately I’ve been thinking how when we think about comparison, we often think of it in regards to other people, not in regards to ourselves.

As I’ve been reflecting on this, I think the latter is just as dangerous, and often, more hidden than comparison with other people. 

Just today, I have been reminded how much I do this in my heart. Today was one of those days where it felt like my kids were deaf to my call, disobedient more than obedient, plus Theo is at this age where screaming and throwing a fit are his preferred forms of communication. He broke one of my favorite glass jars from Magnolia Market, he put a magnet in my morning coffee, spilled pearler beads all over the kitchen floor, as well as several other things. And how quickly in those moments I would go either backward or forward. “Things were so much easier when we only had two/one/no kids.” OR “In a few years, motherhood won’t be so difficult.”

In a sense, I was wishing away the very moment that God has placed me in. 

Sure, this stage of motherhood IS hard. There are days where my kids act more like monkeys than humans (no, I don’t think we evolved from monkeys. Although, it does sound like a logical theory today… Just joking people). But what if I am missing the very blessings of this stage because I am enviously longing for my “former life” or the “years ahead.”?

The blessing of instructing and disciplining and discipling my own children. The blessing of having my home be FILLED with toys, children playing and laughing, sometimes screaming, and little voices. The blessing of being the one to wipe the tears, mend the boo-boos, clean the stinky bottoms, and prepare each meal that my children consume (with the help of Chick-fil-a, of course!). The blessing of being the one who answers the “why” question for the 100th time in the same day, answers their curiosity about God and the Bible, the one who sometimes doesn’t know the answer to their tough questions about evil. The blessing of being THEIR mommy. (God, help me to remember these INCREDIBLE BLESSINGS!)

Just recently, Jordan and I were looking through old photos of our kiddos. I was astounded at how quickly my kiddos have grown and at the same time I was so sad because “I just don’t remember them that little.” I am almost convinced that in those moments, I wasn’t living in the present- I was sinfully longing for the future when things “would get easier.” And I missed the beauty of the stage. The sleepless nights. A baby nursing. The chunky toddler faces of my two beautiful girls. The funny phrases and words they used. Their innocence. All because I was living in my made-up future world with my family.

In my Thursday night Bible study, we are going through the book “None Like Him” by Jen Wilken. The book is AMAZING and I recommend EVERYONE read it. But something she said in our recent study has been on my mind a lot. In the Chapter titled “Eternal, The God of Infinite Days”, Wilken explains that because God is eternal- He has always been and He will always be- and we are not, that we have to trust Him with our yesterdays, our today, and our tomorrows.  She also says that “Trusting God with our time means we make good use of the time we are given… We are commanded to be time redeemers, those who reclaim our time from useless pursuits and employ it to the glory of God.” (pg.74)

She goes on to spell out three ways that we can be “time redeemers”

  1. Let Go of the Past
  2. Let Go of the Future.
  3. Live Today Fully.

In the “Let Go of the Past” section, she says,

“We can cling to the past by indulging in two different emotions: sinful nostaglia or regret. Sinful nostalgia causes us to idolize a time when life was ‘better’ or ‘simpler’, resulting in perpetual discontement with our present circumstance… The antidote for covetousness is always gratitude. We can combat a sinful love of the past by counting the gifts we have been given in the present. Regret, on the other hand, causes us to dwell on past mistakes or hurts, robbing us of joy in our present circumstance and often dragging us back into old sin patterns. … ” (pg. 75)

In the “Let Go of the Future” section, she says,

“We can cling to the future by indulging in two different emotions: sinful anticipation or anxiety. We indulge sinful anticipation when we constantly covet the next stage of life… We feed anxiety when we live in dread of the future… Our prayers become marked with requests to know the future rather than requests to live today as unto the Lord…The antidote for anxiety is to remember and confess that we can trust the future to God.” (pg.76)

GRATITUDE and TRUST. 

Am I grateful for all this day presents? The blessings, the hard moments, the struggles?

And do I trust God with my future? I need not fear or worry or try and plan out every nuance of the future, because He has it all in His hand and in HIS timing.

Seriously, we compare so much in our own lives. Just reflect on your own thoughts this week:

“Life was so much better/easier when…. [fill in the blank-past]….” (When I was fitter, when I traveled more, when I had that job, when my kiddos did [blank], when my kiddos didn’t do [blank], when I lived there, {the list goes on and on…})

OR

“Life will be so much better/easier when [fill in the blank-future]…” (When I get fit/lose weight, get a house, live there, get that job, my kiddos start/stop [fill in the blank], and of course, this list goes on too.)

Are you REALLY living today? Like IN today? Of course, it’s okay to miss the past, but it’s not okay to live there. And of course, it’s okay to plan and be hopeful for the future, but it’s not okay to live there either.

So as I share all of this, I am challenging myself in those moments of difficulty where the past or the future seems more gloriously bright than the moment that I am in, that I DO NOT want to miss the moment and the lessons that are to be learned within it.

Comparison is the thief of joy, and I don’t want that thief to steal the joy that is being offered today. Do you?

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(These were all from just a few months ago, and yet, they have changed SO MUCH!)