The Israelite

You don’t know what is means to lay down your dreams
Unless you are laying down the very lives of those you hold dear,
And everything you ever wanted for them to have and be:
to grow up healthy and strong, to walk, to grow old, to be happy and fulfilled, to have friends, to be free of suffering —
When you have to face the possibility that those things may never happen.

And you don’t know God
until you have been thrust into an endless desert,
hoping beyond hope that He provides your daily bread
— His Word — even just one word —
because it is the only thing keeping you going.

And you don’t know humility
until you have doubted that God would come through,
because the doctors highly doubt,
and the world is shaking its head,
and the signs before your very eyes are all saying, no way.

And the loop in your mind is spiraling into a black hole of despair.
And you can’t climb out, even when you try.

But then He turns it all around
in a fantastic twist of fate,
Or you see something that aligns exactly with His Word,
the very thing He’s been feeding you all along.

And you realize then the shocking relief of being lifted swiftly out of the hole
And looking in the face of the One Who rescued you
Knowing you had not only doubted He would ever come,
but that you spat bitter words of anger, resentment, despair,
calling into question His character, His methods, His very goodness
All the miracles of the past
All the holes He had pulled you out of before — forgotten.

Yes. I am an Israelite.
Willing to turn to a man-made idol because God was “taking too long”
and I didn’t think I could go on in that void of hopelessness.

But He saved me anyway.
He unfurled my fingers
Stroked my head
Wiped my tears
Held me close
Took on my fears

And directed my gaze from the pit, that awful void,
To the glorious horizon,
Saying, we’re going there, you’ll see.
Just trust Me.

Banishing the Grey & Dreary

It’s a dreary, miserable morning. Cold rain drizzles down from a somber sky, freezing as it hits the ground. The sky, the day holds no foreseeable promise, but I grab my sunglasses anyway, hope prancing in my heart. When I woke too early this morning to the restless squawk of my baby boy, anxiety drove me downstairs to my Bible, to my God. And He fed me comfort and peace. He shushed my stirring, spinning mind and said, You have all you need. There is no more, child.

I pleaded with Him anyway, pulling on the hem of His robe, searching His eyes for reassurance. My boy – my baby – he’s sick. We can’t do this again. He needs relief. We need relief. He needs to grow. Don’t let this be complicated, Jesus. Please! Don’t let anything else grip him and hold him back.

He smiled calmly and led me to a beautiful, calm, peaceful spot. A stream sparkled in the morning sun. There He stroked my spirit and kissed my forehead.

Rest, He murmured. Rest here. You have everything you need. There’s nothing else. Stop searching. You need nothing more.

So I relaxed. With His prompting, His encouragement, His assurance, I rested. I left my boy in His tender care and headed out into the dreary grey world. The rain spat onto my windshield as I drove, taunting me with memories of days imprisoned in my son’s hospital room. It was that same rain that beaded the hospital window and saturated my aching heart with grey. It had been there ever since, waiting for this same season. To remind me of despair.

But this time it could not get inside my soul. I had a treasure, a gift that evaporated the grey like dewdrops on a summer morning. God had already filled me with His sunshine, His promise, and nothing else could get past it.

And when the sky cleared later that day and sunshine saturated the earth, I was prepared. I had my sunglasses ready to go.

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” Psalm 23:1-4

Finding Treasure

It has been awhile since I have been given the time to write, but I’m back and determined to write a little something every day. Rather than something structured, I feel the need to express the deep experiences and emotions I’ve been going through by writing poetically. My recent life has been one that has touched me as a parent more deeply than I can capture any other way. But I believe that by sharing this part of myself with you, we’ll both find the treasures in the darkness and they will make us stronger, better parents. Over the next few submissions, I’ll explain a bit more about where I’m coming from and what I’ve gone through and how these experiences revealed to me even more about how very imperfect of a parent I am. For today, here is where I’m at:

I can find peace here in the discomfort, in the chaos of my home, in the uncertainty of my future and that of my loved ones. That peace is just a spark, a difficult treasure tucked deep behind the crevasses of my consciousness — those sharp crags that distract, causing  me to retract my confidence, in You, in a good future. Buried deep but there nonetheless, awaiting my ginger, persistent probing. Then, there, beyond the obstacles, in a narrow space, I find it: the good, the positive, the Peace. It peeks out as a silver of sunshine, piercing the grey overcast of my mind, illuminating my senses with fresh air, quiet healing, beautiful possibilities, new experiences, stretching past my comfortable places into better, brighter, sweeter, stronger. I could not live there — here — without Your peace, Your perspective. But here I am, beginning each moment again with my eyes alighted. I can see it: Your touch, Your possibilities, Your capabilities over and above my own. As long as I keep reaching for it, that Peace, it will heal the crevasses of my heart. 

Look for the Light

Think in Relief

 “If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.” (Psalm 139: 11-12 NIV)

A shriek pierces the peaceful quiet of the main floor. My trained mommy ear instantly recognizes the shrill pitch and I wonder wearily if I can disregard it. But I know better; this sound will not go away. Much like a fire alarm, it will continue to disrupt the house until I attend to it.

Setting down my soapy sponge, I abandon the never-ending pile of dishes and paddle to the living room. My youngest daughter looks up at me with wild blue eyes, her almost-three-year-old body tense and her cheeks flushed.

 “It’s not working!” she cries, hurling each word like a weapon.

On the table is her source of frustration: a Barbie doll she had been attempting to jam atop my old Gem and the Holograms horse. The task itself was not the problem; Kiara’s vision was bigger than her abilities.

Disappointment is a big deal in my house. With two young girls, the drama brought about by disappointment can be monumental. A toy goes missing. It’s bedtime. The dinner selection is not exactly to her liking… These erupt into Oscar-worthy emotional episodes akin to Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables.

While my girls’ reactions can be over-the-top, to be honest I might as well admit that my response to disappointment is often not much better. Negative circumstances are upsetting. They tend to take over and get me down. In fact, if I’m not careful, they can spiral until all I see are the negatives.

The thing is, guilt, fear, anxiety, hurt, and frustration are not from God. Our Heavenly Father has made it a point to promise us peace (John 14.27), joy, hope, a future (Jeremiah 29:11), even soul-deep rest (Matthew 11:28-29). Then why don’t we feel those emotions? Why do things keep going wrong? It could be because we simply haven’t been Looking for the Light.

 paradigm relief image

Have you ever seen an optical illusion? Focusing on this kind of image one way shows, say, an old woman. But a shift in perspective suddenly reveals a young woman turning her head coyly to the side. Looking for the Light requires a similar shift in focus. It is an act of faith — a step towards thinking like God.

God is infallibly good and He sees the good in everything (Psalm 139:11-12). He has planned all our days (Psalm 139:16) and planted blessings in those days. He works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). And everything good is from God, whose love is strong, enduring and passionate for us from moment to moment, day to day, sin to sin (James 1:17). As our heavenly Father, He wants good things for us. He has planned for our good, not for our harm (Jeremiah 29:11).

To qualify for His blessings, we simply need to expect Him in everything, even the things we consider bad things. We are to meet negative circumstances with an attitude of expectation in Him. This is part of the faith experience. Faith is to expect God’s goodness, His blessings, even when we can’t see them outright. We need to believe that in every circumstance there is an opportunity to receive something good from God.

When you start looking for God instead of wondering where He is – when you start expecting God to be there helping you with your pain – you shift your perspective from the negative to the positive, from the dark to the light. So when things go wrong, look for the Him. What is right with the picture? What opportunity does it present to you? Shifting your perspective can be tricky the first few times. So ask Him to show you the Light in each situation (Matthew 7:7-11).

“This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16 NIV)

Kiara has since learned how to put Barbie on top of the horse on her own and this has now led to one of her favorite games. But it was something she learned only after accepting my help and watching me do it first. Slowly, she is learning to look to me before she gets upset and gives up. In this same way, like little children, I pray that we will all Look for the Light too and experience the victories God has planned for each of our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

He Will Take Care of You

“For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it. Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.” Mark 10: 14-16 (NLT)

Look, Mommy! A bird!”

Two-year-old Kiara gasped as she peered into the sky. I squinted upwards and saw a small grouping of Canada geese up high. One honked a greeting as it passed us. I knelt down and put my arm around Kiara.

“Yes! That’s a bird,” I said. “A goose.”

“Goose?” she repeated. Her eyes were wide.

“Yes, a goose.”

Kiara looked back up, satisfied that she had learned something new and amazing. I marveled at how something so commonplace to me became an exciting event to my child.

Through the eyes of a child, the world is a different place. There are no real worries, no concerns. Everything is a wonder, just for them. Simple, everyday things are amazing and delightful. Though they don’t understand much, they aren’t afraid to ask and tend to easily believe what they are told.

We can learn so much from our children about how to live simply and fearlessly. Childlike faith pleases God the most. What does it mean to have faith like a child? Think of your own children. They are bold and not afraid to ask and keep on asking. They focus on the love of their parents. In the security of that love, they live sincerely and authentically. They trust. They tend to think positive. When we say something, they believe it. When we promise something, they take it to heart and don’t let go.

That attitude is the basis of faith. And faith is really the key thing that God asks of us — to trust Him with all our hearts, minds, and souls.

Over time, life experiences often lead us away from wide-eyed trust. We believe the wrong people and get manipulated. We put our faith in empty things and are left even emptier than before. We learn that we cannot trust the world to fulfill us, care for us, or love us.

“Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close.” Psalm 27:10

The ironic thing is that it’s not the world that can make us happy, solve our troubles, or enable us to succeed, it’s God. And He is always available and able and willing to help. The trick is that we must believe that He can and will because He really, really loves us.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud  or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 14:4-7

This scripture is a character sketch of the Living God, and He loves you. He is not disappointed; He is rejoicing and hopeful and patient about you. He does not remember your sins. And He has made you some promises. Believe Him. Believe in His love for you. Be like a child in your Heavenly Father’s arms. Give yourself a break, because God does. He is tenderhearted towards you, His precious child, and He is with you in this battle and on your victory at the other side of it.

Like a child, you don’t need to figure it all out or be perfect; you just need to believe that your Father has this under control, He hears you, He understands, and He is with you. He will work it out for your good. You just have to trust Him, wait for His perfect timing, and watch in wonder as He brings your blessings to pass.

Baggage

As a full-time working mother, I carry a lot of bags. One is a briefcase with my laptop and papers. A smaller bag holds my meals. The last is my “Mommy purse”, which is the size of carry-on baggage. It holds… well, let’s just say if I was on a deserted island with my girls, we’d be comfortable for a few days. I lug these from my car to my desk then back to my car and into the house each day.

My bags have garnered much attention around the office — mostly comments about the number of them, and how uncomfortable I look. But there is one lady who always says, “Ah, you must be a mother. Mothers always have to carry a lot of things.” She speaks these wise words with a look of understanding and always while holding the door open for me.

Unfortunately, these bags aren’t the only things I’ve been carrying. Since I returned to work, my spiritual load has increased even more than my physical baggage. Sometimes I imagine I am a camel with one of those ridiculously large cartoon-caliber bags on my back – the kind that defies the laws of gravity with its impossible bulk. Except mine isn’t filled with furniture or animals, but a multitude of responsibilities, to-dos, and overdues. On top of those are worry, hurts, anxiety, anger, sadness, irritation, grief, shame, confusion, regret, stress and fear. Heaven help me if an extra burden plops onto the pile like unemployment, abuse, illness, or relationship issues!

If it seems excessive, that’s because it is. It is too much for one person to handle. And after over six months of trying to carry that load, my strength and resolve finally eroded. On the outside, I might have appeared a slight bit frazzled, but inside I was crumbling.

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and
carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NLT)

My only anchor was my God Time each morning, where I sit with my Bible and notebook in silence for a half hour before the household wakes up. This had kept me from truly collapsing. But, I never had the humility to really give God my bag of spiritual junk. I thought, if He gave me this life, I should be able to handle it. If I’m not handling it, then I have to try harder.

But that day I gave Him everything I could; I listed them in my notebook as one-word topics—and then I prayed over each one. By the time I was done, I was a new woman with a new perspective! I felt lighter, freer—more optimistic. I realized that if God gave me the life of a working mother, He would enable me to be victorious in it.

God also revealed that I am not alone in my struggles. As my colleague says, “mothers have a lot to carry”. And I know that many of us do not have just the usual burdens on our hearts. The way I see it is like you’re carrying so many things that you can’t figure out how to unload without making a mess. The same can happen with matters of the spirit. Sometimes, when we are overwhelmed or not seeing answers to prayer, it feels like God has abandoned us. We may feel like our faith is too small for the issue or even that we can’t even find the words to pray.

If this is you, know that you are not alone. God has not abandoned you. He hears your cries.

But, during certain seasons of life, we need someone to hold the door for us so we can get through to our Deliverer. We need someone to help us lay down our burdens so they won’t crash down around us. I want to help you do that. And I need you to help me.

It can be done through intercessory prayer, where one prays on behalf of another. Jesus said, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20 NIV) I see powerful things happening when women get together to help each other pray for the things on their hearts and minds.

If you are reading this, consider yourself officially invited to the SIP Prayer Group.

When: The third Thursday of the month – starting October 20,
2011

Where: My house

Time: 8:15 p.m. to 9:15 p.m.

RSVP and get the details by e-mailing naltorio@yahoo.com (or Facebook me)

It’s not easy for me to write this today – to put my weakness on my sleeve – but I know you’re carrying your own cartoon bag and it doesn’t have to be like that. We can be victorious. There is strength in numbers. When we have exhausted our faith, we can lean on each other to not only hold open the door, but knock it down.

Here Again

So, today I’m sitting in the doorframe of my little one’s room, trying to type quietly as I wait for her to sleep. She is finally quiet after an hour-long struggle. Why—how could this be happening again? A year ago I was doing the same thing and she was eight months old. Now she’s 17 months
and we’re back to to the drawing board.

Thoughts of failure and frustration probe my mind and surround my heart. Did I do something wrong? Am I missing something? Why won’t my girl settle down and rest like she did so easily and soundly before? Teeth! I can hear my mommy friends cry. She’s teething.

I’d like to think that, but she only cries for me. The night before, her “Dada” put her to sleep and walked out of her room like it was another day. Observing this, I had high hopes about today. I rocked, watched her eyes grow sleepy and her ever-active limbs slow down. Then I placed her in her crib, soother firmly in place, cuddly puppy in her arms. She snuggled to the mattress in her trademark pose, and I delightedly walked out the door… only to hear her spring back to a stand and howl. I come back, hoping a quick hug will soothe, but it didn’t. She clings to me and I realize this is about something else.

You know, I’m not sure what it’s about, to be honest. I just want it to end. I don’t want to be here again. I thought we were past this. I’m
tired and just a little bit angry.

As it became clear last week that this wasn’t going to end anytime soon, I found myself growing angry with God. I had been praying for more rest, knowing that’s what He wanted me to do. I had been praying for more time to write. And I had been praying for the ability to rest in His Presence.
Now the only half-hour of free time I had was eaten up (and then some) by my toddler’s baffling behavior. I started to think that God was punishing me for something—that He was taking away the time because I had squandered it somehow. It wasn’t fair, I thought.

But as I lay there beside Kiara’s crib, warring with my anger and disappointment, some other thoughts came to mind: God is good. He’s
not out to get me; His plans for me are for my good – He works all things together for my good, even my sins. So, if that’s the case, where’s the good in this?

What if this was the answer to my prayers? Instead of bombing through all the chores once the girls went to bed, I was literally lying around doing practically nothing. I had a lot of time to think about God and pray—be in His Presence. By the time Kiara fell asleep and I could come out of the room, a lot of the chores I had planned to do were not as important.

The next day, I decided to look at the time with Kiara as a gift, even bringing my laptop up to the hall outside of her bedroom to do some
writing. But, my newfound attitude would be put to the test. This time, sitting outside her open door did not appease my little girl. She howled, cried and threw her comfort items. Although I knew it was in protest, each of her cries pierced my heart because I knew they were for me. But I knew if I went to her, it would just make things worse—I would become the comfort item. Yet, sitting there listening to her cry was torture. I
lifted up each one to God, knowing He shared in my agony.

Finally, with fingers in my ears, I found my resolve slipping. I knew I couldn’t take it anymore. Inwardly, I told God I needed His
strength, I had gone as far as I could on my own. And I decided He would meet me there.

Just a few minutes later, I got the idea to place her comfort items (which she had repeatedly thrown) inside her crib rather than giving them back to her directly. This forced her to sit down, and she immediately lay down in her crib and snuggled quietly.

So, here I am, still in the doorframe while Kiara’s soft, rhythmic breaths indicate success, sharing my experience with you. I know you’ve
been in the same boat. This mother stuff is tough for all of us. And today I accept that there really are situations I can’t handle. This is one of them. The sleep stuff and the crying. Ack. It turns me into a basketcase.

St. Paul wrote something that had me baffled for the longest time. He was asking God to get rid of a certain “thorn” in his side—a weakness that kept tripping him up. God told Him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” and St. Paul said, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV)

I have always seen weakness as a bad thing. Lately though, I’ve been learning to accept my weaknesses and I think the key is knowing that God
will show up in them.

In this regard, I think there’s a relationship between confidence and faith. Confidence is knowing what you can do. Faith is knowing that God will help you with what you can’t do.

You can do all things in Christ, too. And today I pray that He will lift you above your circumstances, help you to see where He is, and enable you to rest in His care, knowing He will work it out for sure for your good.