Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Baby G's Story

It’s been a little over six months since our lives changed... again.

Married 26 years, we’ve been through a lot of changes. Change isn’t anything new to us. And it’s not something we’re afraid of. If anything, I’d say we welcome it when we see it coming. In a way, that’s been good for us. We’re less resistant to trying new things and we find that we’re often blessed because of it.

In early June of 2017 we reopened our home to begin fostering again. We had adopted our youngest son and daughter (Harris and Katie) in December of 2016 and wanted to take a short break from fostering so that we could fully adjust to the new normal. Our first son, Franklyn, needed time to get accustomed to sharing a room with Harris and we needed to figure out the rooming situation for any future foster children.

As soon as we opened back up we got a call about a three year-old boy and his one year-old brother. I was scared to even consider taking on TWO more children, but something in me said to do it. Scott agreed and we accepted the placement. The DCS worker brought them to our home early one Monday morning. This was only our second time accepting a placement and we didn’t know what to expect. It wasn’t long after the worker left that we realized we might be in over our heads. Without going into detail, I’ll just say that the children had issues we weren’t prepared to handle. I was in tears within a couple of hours and it was obvious we’d have to disrupt the placement. The boys ended up spending one difficult night with us and DCS found them a different home the next day. (Side Note: We recently ran into their worker and asked about the boys and they are in that same home and are thriving!)

Because of the disruption, I was worried that DCS would somehow punish us and not call with another placement. We hadn’t limited ourselves to any particular age group, only requesting that any placement calls be for children younger than our youngest daughter who was ten at the time. We didn’t want to bring in an older child that might influence our younger children in a negative way. There are so many unknowns in foster care and we simply wanted to protect our children. Regardless, we assumed it would be a while before DCS called us again.

Less than a week later, on Tuesday, June 13th, I was at the neighborhood pool with the kids. We had just started packing up to head home and get ready for Harris’s counseling appointment later that afternoon. My phone started ringing and I was surprised to see DCS Placement show up as the caller. My heart started pounding. I was in utter shock when the lady said they were trying to place a newborn baby boy. Still reeling from the failed placement the week before, I was scared. I told her I needed to call my husband and pray about it. I called Scott and we prayed together for wisdom before discussing every aspect of the case based on the information we’d been given by Placement. The baby had been exposed to numerous illegal and prescription drugs. Even though we were stepping into the unknown, we decided to accept the placement and leave the outcome in God’s hands. The lady with DCS said that the baby was being released from the hospital the next day. We were expected to ‘room in’ with him that night in the NICU at UT Medical Center. He would come home with us the next day.

The next few hours were a complete blur. I called my mom to come help me shop for baby items at Target. We were up and down the baby aisles grabbing everything from an infant car seat to Boudreaux’s Butt Paste. Then I loaded up the kids and took Harris to his counseling appointment. I was sitting in the waiting room at the counseling office making a list of things I’d forgotten to pick up for the baby when DCS Placement called again. It was the same lady who had called earlier. She wanted to let me know that the baby we were supposed to room with that night and bring home the next day was no longer going to be placed through the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. His birth mother was moving to Kentucky and she requested that he be placed in a home in that state. My heart literally felt like it sank into my stomach. Fortunately, the lady continued speaking. She said that there was another newborn baby boy coming into DCS custody the next day. When she asked if we’d like to foster him I immediately said yes. He was also born exposed to illegal and prescription drugs, so the circumstances were similar to the placement we’d already accepted. Details including his name and room in date were not yet available so a DCS worker was supposed to call me the next morning with more information. Scott and I were excited, but nervous.

The next morning I received a call from a gentleman in Placement. His first words to me were, “Good morning. Are you the one taking custody of baby Graham?”

I. Was. Floored.

Goosebumps went up and down my spine.

Here’s where you need a little background information…

When Scott and I were in our first years of marriage, we decided on baby names for our future children. The first boy’s name we came up with was William Franklyn. William is my dad’s first name. Frank is Scott’s dad’s middle name. Lynn is Scott’s mom and sister’s middle name. We loved the name and felt like we’d covered some bases by naming our first child after family. The second name we came up with was made up of two names we just loved. It was Harris Graham. When we were a few months away from adopting TJ and Anna we had suggestions ready for when they decided to change their names. TJ liked the name Harris, but he was not a fan of the name Graham. He decided on Harris Dane and we were happy with that decision. However, Scott looked at me and said, “I guess I’ll never have my Graham.”

Fast forward less than a year….

When the man with Placement said the baby’s name was Graham, I nearly dropped my phone. My mind was going a mile a minute as I tried to focus enough to write down the little bit of information he was able to give me. The baby’s name was Graham. He was born a little over four lbs. We would be able to start visiting him in the NICU at Children’s Hospital the next day, June 15th. It just so happened that the next day was our 26th wedding anniversary.  I decided that was the best anniversary gift I could ever ask for.

The next day was a little crazy. Scott had a lot going on at the church and wasn’t going to be able to go by the hospital with me to visit baby Graham that afternoon. I loaded the kids in the car around 3:00 and drove the short distance to Children’s. I had so much running through my mind. I was scared to death. I’d NEVER cared for a newborn baby and I knew literally nothing about what to expect. I felt certain the rug was about to be pulled out from under me and I’d wake up from some crazy, exciting dream.  It just seemed surreal that I was on my way to meet this little baby that would be heading home with me for some unknown period of time. I had people telling me, “Don’t get too attached,” and “Be prepared to love him and let him go.” It was all a little overwhelming.

When we got to the NICU floor I sat the kids down in the waiting room with their Nintendo DS’s and signed myself in. I was in a fog as I scrubbed my hands and sanitized them before stepping into the actual NICU wing. The lady at the desk explained the digital sign in process and directed me to baby Graham’s room. I think I remember every single step I took as I turned the corner to make my way down the hallway. It was like walking on a cloud. The anticipation was killing me. Would he have dark hair? Would he be teeny, tiny? Would he be able to open his eyes? I was so excited.

I walked into Graham’s room, stopped, pulled out my phone, and took several pictures of him. He was asleep and I quickly decided he was the most beautiful creature I’d ever laid eyes on. His blanket was tightly swaddled around him and he had on a precious little light green onesie. Tubes and wires were hooked up to his ankle and his toes. He was so very tiny. His sweet nurse walked in and asked if I’d like to hold him. I don’t know that I’d ever felt such a mixture of joy and fear at the same time.

I sat down in the chair beside his bassinet and held him close. My eyes examined every inch of his precious face. He had the most adorable little button nose, a wide little mouth, and a fuzzy head. I had a lump in my throat from trying to hold back tears. I was already in love.

I took videos and pictures of everything he did while I was there. If he sucked on his pacifier, I made sure to video it. If he took a bottle, I got a picture. I didn’t want to forget anything about that day.

His nurse, Sara, came in and spent a lot of time with me. She had to ask several questions for Graham’s paperwork and she gave me a little bit of background on his situation. According to Sara, Graham’s paternal grandmother had been with him every day since he’d been admitted to the NICU at one day old. Sara said she was an amazing woman and only wanted what was best for Graham. I was happy to know he had a grandmother that was interested in doing what was best for him.

I had a Bible study to lead that night and I stayed at the hospital right up until the last minute. It was hard to leave. I just wanted to bundle him up and take him with me right then and there. I called my mom as soon as I got in my car. I was going on and on about how he was the closest thing to heaven I’d ever laid eyes on. The kids were in the back seat saying, “Wow. Thanks a lot, Mom!”

Scott and I went back to the hospital later that night so he could meet sweet, little Graham. Scott has never been one to want to hold babies, but he didn’t want to put Graham down once he got his hands on him. I think it was love at first sight for both of us.

We were able to visit Graham off and on for the next few days. I spent a great deal of time in that hospital room loving on him and telling him how precious and beautiful he was. It was hard knowing it was most likely a temporary placement. Scott and I had gone into foster care to help restore families and that was our honest goal. But the thought of bringing home a newborn only to hand him back over to someone else after falling in love was very, very hard to come to terms with. We just held on and trusted that the Lord would give us the strength when the time came to let him go.

When you take custody of a NICU baby through DCS, you have to ‘room in’ the night before you take the baby home. Our room in with Graham was scheduled for Sunday, June 18th, which just so happened to be Father’s Day. We went to church that morning feeling this crazy excitement and anticipation. We left Franklyn, Harris and Katie with Scott’s parents and headed off to the hospital early that afternoon. Throughout the afternoon and evening, we received training on how to care for a newborn, especially an NAS (Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome) baby. When we first found out about the ‘room in’ process, I honestly thought it sounded like a waste of time. After going through it, I think it’s one of the most valuable things I’ve ever been through. I learned so much that night.

We had to sleep in the room with Graham and, even though this wing of the hospital was only 7 months old, it was lacking in a comfortable sleeping area for parents. There was a long narrow couch in his room that we could sleep on. Let’s just say Scott did all the sleeping. I spent most of the night in the chair by Graham reading or holding him. Graham’s nurse would come in periodically throughout the night to check on him and see if we needed anything. It was an exhausting night, but it was one that I’ll never forget.

Me trying to sleep in the limited space not consumed by Scott

The next morning, Monday, June 19th, we prepared everything to head home. Around noon, Graham’s DCS worker called. We were still waiting to be discharged and she was beginning Graham’s first CFTM (Child Family Team Meeting) at the DCS office. She asked me to participate over the phone. Graham’s two grandmothers were present, as well as his DCS worker and her supervisor. We discussed Graham’s history, his birth parent’s history, and the current situation regarding who might be seeking custody. Graham’s paternal grandmother had recently retired and felt like she was too old to raise another child. She wanted him to be adopted by a loving family. His maternal grandmother was already raising Graham’s two older half-brothers and didn’t feel like she could take on a newborn. Graham’s birth parents were both suffering from addictions to a wide range of illegal and prescription drugs. They left the hospital the day after he was born and had not returned. It appeared they both came from happy, loving, middle class homes, but they had made bad choices and ended up walking the painful, tragic road of addiction.

We were discharged much later that day. Graham’s favorite nurse, Sara, carried him in his car seat down to the NICU pickup area. It felt so strange to be leaving the hospital with a baby. We hadn’t signed one single piece of paper and hadn’t paid a dime, but we were headed home with a tiny, little infant…

On the way home we stopped at Buy Buy Baby. That’s the first store Graham ever went in! We bought a Halo Bassinest because that’s what the nurse had recommended he sleep in. It was expensive, but it ended up being worth every penny. If you’re expecting a baby, Google it and check it out! It’s one of the smartest purchases we ever made!

Halo Bassinest

The first few weeks with Graham were absolutely amazing. I was exhausted and forgot to eat a time or two, but I was happier than ever. Graham was a little over five pounds when we brought him home. He had weekly visits from a Children’s Hospital Home Health Nurse. She would weigh him each time she came and I was so excited to see him reach six pounds and then seven pounds! It made me feel like I’d actually accomplished something when I could see him gaining weight. Those were exciting days!

Graham was so tiny!

After Graham had been with us for a couple of weeks we had a visit scheduled with his paternal grandmother at the DCS office. We met her and knew that she was going to play a special role in his life, no matter where he ended up. She was his greatest advocate. A retired dentist, she was well educated and more than willing to do whatever was necessary to see that Graham had access to the best life available. Also a professing Christian, she spoke a great deal about how she had been praying for baby Graham since the moment she found out her son was going to be a dad. She feared for baby Graham’s life and his future if he were to remain with them after he was born. During the visit, she referred to me as Graham’s mom and she made it known that her desire was for us to be his parents. At the end of the visit, we hugged and cried. Because she wasn’t one of his parents, we weren’t required to have visits with her, but we knew we wanted to continue to see her and allow her to develop a relationship with her grandson.

We started meeting his grandmother and grandfather at Panera Bread every few weeks. It was so nice to have a connection to his birth family. We learned a lot about his birth parents and felt such compassion for them.

Around three months after we brought Graham home, it was obvious his parents weren’t going to be able to get him back. They both decided to surrender their parental rights. It’s hard to explain how we felt the day they surrendered in court. We saw them both in person for the first time and it was heart wrenching. There was such joy on our end, but also such a feeling of loss for what they were losing. The paternal grandmother had brought Graham’s father, also named Graham, to court that day. Even though it was painfully awkward, we walked up to big Graham and introduced ourselves. We asked him if he’d like to hold his son and I placed him in his arms. He held him close, lowered his head, and sobbed. His tears were falling steadily onto baby Graham’s fuzzy little head. It was painful, but beautiful at the same time. He loved his child enough to do what was best for him. Graham’s mother, Danielle, was in police custody and only got to see him in the courtroom. She was brought in through a back door and wasn’t allowed to speak to anyone or have physical contact. We made a firm decision that day that we would keep his first name Graham (named after his dad) and change his middle name to Daniel (to honor his mother, Danielle). Our desire is to honor them for choosing to give him life. They made so many mistakes in life, but giving him life was an honorable choice. We will always respect them for that.

After Graham’s birth parents surrendered their rights, DCS put us on the road to adoption. We filed the Intent to Adopt in early October and we were told to expect an adoption date sometime in December. It all happened so fast. We’ve always loved baby Graham as our own, but to finally know he was actually going to be a Whaley was an amazing feeling.

I met Graham’s grandmother and great grandmother in Maryville for lunch one day in November. We sat and talked for a couple of hours. His grandmother, Kathy, told me an interesting story. When baby Graham was born, Kathy heard from her cousin in Texas whose daughter and son-in-law were unable to have children. Her cousin had heard about the baby and asked Kathy to give her daughter’s name to DCS so that they could get custody of him. Kathy said that she told her cousin she’d pray about it. She prayed and prayed and she said she never felt God leading her to give DCS their names. During the first CFTM with DCS, when I was part of the meeting over the phone while waiting for Graham to be discharged from the NICU, Kathy said she heard my voice and knew that I was meant to be baby Graham’s mom. I’m not sure what she heard in my voice that day, but I know I was already overwhelmed with love for that sweet baby boy and it must’ve been evident in my voice.

So, that’s the story of how sweet Baby G came to be a Whaley.

Scott and I have experienced a lot of loss and a lot of hard times in our 26 years of marriage. There were years where we thought we’d never be parents. We had decided that our kiddos would be those we ministered to in the youth ministry and we were fine with that. Then, we were blessed with the opportunity to adopt internationally. What an amazing journey that was! Never did we imagine we’d have the joy of adopting three more children! When we were at the courthouse last week to finalize Graham’s adoption, our attorney asked if we were planning on coming back the same time next year since we'd adopted two Decembers in a row. Well, we’ll leave that up to the Lord. All we’ll say is, never say never.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…”

James 1:17

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Fourteen Months Later...

I didn't write in March. I didn't write in April. I didn't write in May. I didn't write in June... You get the picture. 

It's been 14 months since my last blog post. 

14 interesting, 
                             (sometimes) joyful MONTHS.

As most of you know, a little over a year ago we added two foster children to our family. We thought we were prepared. We thought we knew what we were stepping in to. We thought a lot of things. But there was only one thing we knew for sure. God had called us to a task and we were going to accept it.

They came on a Thursday. It was the Thursday before Easter. I cried for four days straight. 

I. was. scared.

Adding an 8 and 9 year-old to your home overnight is pretty scary. Not knowing ANYTHING about their past and what they've been through is scary. Suddenly having to divide your attention between three school age children rather than one....well, it ain't easy.

We honestly thought they'd only be with us for a short time.  
     Maybe a couple of months.      
          Maybe until the end of summer.

By the end of July it was obvious they would be with us a while. 

Now, as most of you know, I'm a tad bit controlling. I like to be in control and I like my own personal space. I'm not used to having someone under my feet all day long and I don't have a high tolerance when it comes to 'neediness'. When it became clear that I would be parenting three children into the beginning of another school year...I. freaked. out.

It had already been a rough summer. I was always anxious. As sweet as our foster children are, they have their moments. I was used to Franklyn. Calm, honest, loving, obedient, Franklyn. Now I had two children in my home that were sassy, defiant, and dishonest. I couldn't control them like I could control Franklyn with just a look. The fear and realization of my inability to control my situation was manifesting itself in near panic attacks. I would be in the car sitting at a red light and I'd suddenly feel faint and sick because I couldn't control the fact that I couldn't move my vehicle. It got to the point that I would avoid stopping at red lights altogether. And there were NO left turns at red lights for this girl! At least traffic was able to move voluntarily at right turns... Honestly, red lights just freaked me out either way. It didn't matter if I was driving or if I was the passenger. It just seemed like my world was spinning out of control. 

If there's one thing I've been proud of over the last 23 years of my life, it's the fact that I've battled depression and anxiety without medication. If you've read my previous posts, you know my story. I've been through some difficult times, but the Lord has always been gracious to see me through. I could tell this time around might be different. I prayed my little heart out. I clung to Him like glue. I memorized Scripture. I tried, minute by minute, to hand it over to Him. I felt like a failure because it just wasn't happening. I wasn't able to move past my fear. I wasn't able to just trust that He was in control and I didn't need to be. My brain just wouldn't let me.

That's right.

My brain wouldn't let me.

One morning I was drying Anna's hair and I had on one of my favorite, lazy day t-shirts. She's observant and she is quite the little inquisitor.. She stared intently at my shirt while I was battling her long, blonde hair. I was undoubtedly in a world all my own, thinking about all the errands ahead of me and plotting what side roads I would take to complete them. After a few minutes, she asked, "Ma, what does that mean?" She pointed to the picture and the Scripture reference on the front of my faded blue t-shirt. I stopped the whirring of the hairdryer, looked down at my shirt, and tried to explain...

"Well, it's kind of like the cure for anxiety, Anna. You know how the Bible says that God takes care of the birds and we can trust Him to take care of us? The little chick represents the birds and it says 'no worries' because He's in control and there's nothing we can do to change that. We should just trust Him in everything, every situation. If we do that, we should have no worries." 

              "Look at the birds of the sky: They don't sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your                       heavenly Father feeds them. Aren't you worth more than they? Can any of you add a                   single cubit to his height by worrying?" Matthew 6:26-27

My words stung. So, if I was trusting Him and abiding in Him like I was, why wasn't I able to move past my fear? It dawned on me that there might be something else going on. Might God be trying to teach me something about pride? Might He be working in my life to show me that although I was giving Him the glory for seeing me through the last 23 years, I might also be holding on to a little pride in thinking that I didn't 'need' medication? I have nothing against medication, but I didn't want to be dependent on anything. Nothing other than Christ, that is.

 A couple of days after that conversation, and after a lot of prayer, I decided to go see our family doctor. I'd talked to my son's pediatrician (who is also a family friend from church) and he had encouraged me to consider medication. I was so fearful. What if I was stepping out of God's will? What if this meant I wasn't trusting Him enough? Would God be disappointed in me? What if medication didn't help and I lost hope altogether?

I sat in my doctor's office with tears running down my face before he ever even entered the room. It was only the second time I'd ever been to see him, so what if he thought I was crazy? The first time I'd been to see him was for my physical for foster parenting. We'd discussed foster care and he'd mentioned that he was a Christian and had even attended seminary before deciding on medical school. I felt as if God would help him to see me through the eyes of Christ. When he came in he asked me what was going on and I just started bawling. I explained that I'd been through anxiety attacks before and I'd made it through by relying on Scripture and the Holy Spirit. I didn't want to be dependent on medication. But, I cried, I just didn't think I could do it this time. It felt different. He looked at me with compassion and spoke with such wisdom. "Kari," he said, "there's nothing that breaks my heart more than patients that come in and share stories like yours." He went on to ask me what I'd do if I had a broken back or even cancer. Would I seek treatment or would I suffer and just expect God to heal me? He explained that what was going on in my head was no different. I would use medication to treat an ailing body and there would be nothing wrong with me using medication to treat my ailing mind.

I left that office with tears in my eyes and joy in my heart. Someone understood, and someone put it in terms I could relate to. I filled a prescription for Celexa that day. I started taking it the next morning. Every morning I take the pill and thank God for providing it. I can't tell you the difference in how I feel. There used to be days where the world would just seem dark, no matter how blue the sky might be. There were days where I would feel overwhelmed and it seemed as if a dark cloud was all around me. I honestly don't have those days anymore. Eventually the fear of sitting at red lights began to subside. There's a little lingering anxiety in that regard, but it's nothing like it was last summer. There are days where my circumstances feel overwhelming, but that's completely normal. 

I feel as if God has done amazing work in my life over the last year. He's shown me how selfish, prideful, impatient, and downright blackhearted I can be. With a clearer mind, I can see these things for what they are. With unclouded focus, I can see Him more clearly. I am still dependent on Him, but medication has given me the clarity to see who I am in Him.

"To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under Heaven..." Ecclesiastes 3:1

Isn't it amazing 
                        how much can change
                                                           in just 14 short months? 

Saturday, February 21, 2015


"Today your heart will search for satisfaction. Will you look for it in
 the creation or in relationship to the Creator?"
Paul David Tripp

I helped Franklyn slip his coat on and handed him his fresh out of the oven chocolate chip muffin. "Get moving, guys. You're gonna be late." I urged them toward the door as he grabbed his backpack and Scott grabbed his keys. It was a typical weekday morning in the Whaley house. Running late. Last minute reviews of the week's spelling words. Finally getting them out the door with kisses and an "I love you." 

I watched Scott's truck pull out of the driveway and disappear from our cul-de-sac just like I do every morning when they leave for school and work. But there was something different about this particular morning. It was beautiful outside. The sun was barely peeking through the trees from our backyard, but it just seemed....brighter.

It just seemed...right.

I just felt...happy.

I just felt...alive.

I stepped back from the glass storm door and sat down on the steps leading upstairs, still looking outside, still taking in the beauty of the morning. I took a deep breath and a tear fell down my face. 

Why, God? Why are you so good to me?  I thought about where I was a year ago, and where I was just six months ago, and I marveled at His goodness. I marveled at His grace.

A year ago I went to bed every night fearful of losing my job. Six months ago I was unemployed and had no idea what was in store for me. 

But He did.

He knew the best way to build my faith. He knew the best way to teach me to truly trust in His providence. He knew it would be painful, but He knew I would grow.

Sitting on those steps, I felt satisfied. I felt fulfilled. I felt that "this must be what life is all about" feeling.

After a few minutes I bounced up the stairs to change into my painting clothes and read my morning devotion. I was feeling gooooooooood. I was feeling like it just couldn't get any better than this. I had a wonderful family, a nice house, an incredible job, a sweet puppy dog, a great church.... Yep, life is goooooooooood, I thought.

Then I started reading.

                   Then I was convicted.

I read, "Creation does not have the ability to satisfy your heart. Earth simply will never be your savior. When you ask the created thing to do what it was not designed to do, you get short-term fulfillment..."       
                -Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies



Been there. Done that.
And then I read, "Will it be the Creator, whose grace alone can satisfy and transform your heart, or the creation, which was designed to do neither?"
                    -Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies 
Ok. OUCH again.

That satisfied feeling? That fulfilled feeling? That "this must be what life is all about" feeling? Gone. Sooooooo gone.

His created world is beautiful. My family brings me joy. My home is a place where I feel safe and loved. My job.... Oh, how happy my job makes me! My sweet Pepper dog is the best dog in the world (Don't even try to argue that!). And I love my church. But, those things can't really bring me satisfaction. They can't really fulfill me. And, no, this isn't what life is all about. The things of this world aren't meant to be what I look to for life. They were merely meant to be what points me to the Maker of all things, the only One who is able to give me lasting joy. If they aren't doing that, they are worthless. His created world brings short-term fulfillment, but He brings everlasting life.

So, here's to finding that bounce in my step, that "this must be what life is all about" feeling in Him. Not in a job. Not in my home. Not in my child or my husband (or my dog). Here's to leaving behind short-term fulfillment and finding everlasting joy in the Creator of all things.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Three Nights In a Row...

It happened three nights in a row.

I generally have no problem going to sleep. Usually I kiss all three of the boys goodnight (Pepper counts too) and head to bed an hour or so before them. That gives me plenty of time to get my ear plugs in, turn on the sound machines (yes, more than one), and fall asleep before the snoring trio settles in for the night. Lately, the trouble has been staying asleep.

I'm an incredibly light sleeper. The slightest amount of light. The faintest hint of a snore. The sharpest jab of a bony 9 year-old's elbow (well, I guess that would wake anybody). The point is, it doesn't take much to wake me. But of late, it hasn't been those things waking me in the middle of the night.

I could lie and say, "Hey, I've got this!" Or I could be real and say, "You know what, friends? There's a little fear trying to seep in here." (I'm being brave and choosing the latter....)

I've been waking up with a million different things running through my mind.

         "What if I don't find a job by the end of August?"
                                    "What if I do get a job and I never get to see my family?"
    "How will I have the energy to teach Sunday school and lead the women's ministry?"
                    "How will I suddenly get used to waking up at 4 a.m. again?"
                                        "Why haven't they called me back?"
                         "What if nobody EVER calls?"
                                                "Why didn't I finish college?"
                                                             "Why do I feel like such a failure?"

Here I am, two months into my employment search, and I still have no job. It's. A. Bit. Scary.

Friday night was the most difficult. I was awake, tossing and turning, for more than two hours. My shoulders shook and tears fell. I prayed, more than anything, that God would be glorified in my suffering. And then I fell back asleep.

I shared my struggle with Scott yesterday morning while I was sweeping. I kept my head down, concentrating on each grass clipping and ball of dust as I swept it into the dustpan. He stood in the doorway, listening intently. I quietly wept as I told him how I'd been waking up in the middle of the night with so many fears running through my mind. Slowly I lifted my head and he looked me straight in the eye and said, "Fear is okay, Kari."

Fear is okay? FEAR IS OKAY?

I stopped sweeping and said, "But I'm NOT afraid God won't take care of us! I'm afraid of the unknown. I don't understand this. I KNOW God is at work. I just need a little glimpse of what He is doing because I don't understand it!"

    "When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not fear..." Psalm 56:3

We talked a little longer about all the reasons we have for concern in our circumstances. (There are many.)  I think my greatest fear is that I don't know what God will allow. I've surrendered this situation to God. I'm doing all that I know to trust and obey Him. But I don't know what is to come.

So. What is the remedy? How do I resolve the fear? FAITH. There is obviously a gap between my own understanding and the possibilities of God's will. That gap can only be filled with FAITH. I might not know what is in my future, but I can put my trust in the One who does.

                "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will
               strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold onto you with my righteous right
                                                            hand."  Isaiah 41:10

                 " God I trust; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" Psalm 56:11

I finished sweeping and Scott returned to his errands outside. The rest of the day was spent cleaning, enjoying dinner with friends, and shopping for paint supplies. I don't think I gave my fears another thought.

And, you know what? Last night I slept like a baby.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Compassion, Mercy and....Coffee

I slept until nearly 10:00 this morning.

If you know me, you know that's a big deal. I just don't do that.

I rolled out of bed and the only thing I could think of was coffee. It's not the caffeine. My nerves can't handle too much of the hard stuff. It's just the taste and the warmth and the idea of a fresh cup of sweet decaffeinated goodness.

To me there's just something comforting and satisfying about a morning that includes an unhurried, laid-back cup of coffee. This morning I savored every sip.

I spent the rest of the day cleaning the house, organizing closets, and planning projects to complete around the house later in the week. (I still have no job, so I have a lot of free time, you know...) This afternoon when Scott suggested Jason's Deli for dinner, I was more than ready to jump on board. We ran into several friends at dinner and ended up sitting at the restaurant talking for a long time after we finished eating. Freezing from all the free ice cream I'd consumed during the conversation, I grabbed a cup of decaf coffee to sip on while we continued to talk. Scott jumped up to grab some regular coffee, but returned to the table with more sweet tea instead. "That coffee is terrible," he said. Apparently the regular coffee wasn't as fresh as the decaf...

When we got home tonight I sat down to read a little. I've been doing a word study on faithfulness and this evening it led me to Lamentations.

"Yet I call this to mind, 
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord's faithful love
we do not perish,
for His mercies never end.
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness!
I say:  The Lord is my portion,
therefore I will put my hope in Him.
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
to the person who seeks Him."
Lamentations 3:21-25

Would you believe that Scripture reminded me of coffee? 

I get up each morning and brew a fresh pot of coffee. It's new. It's fresh. It's comforting. It's a delight to my taste buds.

If I don't finish the whole pot I leave the rest sitting until the next day. What if I woke up one morning and decided to just finish off the pot from the day before? I have a feeling it wouldn't taste so good. I have a feeling my taste buds would promptly declare their disgust. My response would be to turn away and grab something else, just like Scott did tonight at Jason's Deli.

The Lord's mercy and compassion are new every morning. His faithfulness is unspoiled. It's fresh. It's comforting. It's a delight to my soul. I have no need for anything else. If all other comforts in this life (including coffee) are removed, He is my portion. He is sufficient. 

Savor your coffee. Savor Him more.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

I Don't Deserve This

Twenty-one years ago I was sitting in my political science class at Carson-Newman pondering whether or not to take the LSAT. I'd always wanted to be in broadcasting, but I'd recently grown increasingly interested in politics and law. In the midst of mulling over my future, a sudden wave of nausea and panic came over me and I felt the room spinning. Somehow I made it out of the classroom and into the nearest bathroom. Fellow students helped me to the infirmary where the nurse suggested I see my family doctor. Later that day I was sitting in my doctor's office listening to him tell me that I was pushing myself too hard and that I'd obviously just suffered a panic attack. I shrugged it off until a couple of days later when I couldn't force myself to go back to class. I was scared to death that it would happen again. Needless to say, I never returned to Carson-Newman.
And I said, "God, I don't deserve this."

Fifteen years ago, after 8 years of marriage, Scott and I decided it was time to have children. I quit taking birth control and we were certain it would happen right away. After all, my mother and sister both became pregnant at the snap of a finger (well, not exactly, but you get the idea). This might be too much information, but my menstrual cycle completely stopped after I quit the pill. During the 6 years that we actively tried to conceive, I did not have one.single.period. Not one. I saw specialists at Duke and UNC Chapel Hill during our time in North Carolina and no one could explain why I wasn't cycling and why I couldn't get pregnant. One doctor told me it was all in my head, stating that subconsciously I really didn't want children and that my mind was telling my reproductive system not to function properly. I cried many tears during those painful years.

And I said, "God, I don't deserve this."

Nearly two months ago I was told I was losing my job. I was hurt. I was scared. My mind raced with the fears and anxieties that come with knowing you're losing a needed income and facing a job search. I cried the 'ugly cry' for a month. Tears soaked my pillow, my desk calendar, my treadmill, my steering wheel.... You name it, I cried on it.

And I said, "God, I don't deserve this."

Tonight I was driving home from a day trip to visit friends in Manchester. Franklyn was asleep in the back seat and I was blaring praise and worship music. I was singing along and deliberately studying each word as it came out of my mouth. Praises rolled off my tongue with ease and I felt indescribable joy.

And I said, "God, I don't deserve this."

And you know what? That's the truth. I DON'T deserve this. I don't deserve the peace I have right now. I don't deserve to have had the joy of working from home for fifteen months. Absolutely NOTHING I've done merits the delight I have when I look into the eyes of my precious son. I don't deserve an incredible husband that loves me in spite of my nastiness. I look back and I know God protected me when He kept me from going down the path that leads to law school. I would've been a miserable woman and a terrible wife if I'd become an attorney because the stress would've eaten me alive. If I were given my due, I'd be destined to hell and this life would only be the precursor.
I do know that I'm blessed beyond measure, simply because I honestly don't deserve this.

"He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our offenses." Psalm 103:10

That being said, I challenge you. What are three things in your life that you don't deserve? What has happened to you to cause you to say, "God, I don't deserve this"? Can you now look back and see those things as blessings in disguise? Feel free to comment below or share with me on my Facebook page.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ain't That Peculiar

Here I sit.

I have a little over a week until my job with the company I've served for 8 years ends. ENDS.

In the midst of it all, there's something peculiar about the way I feel today. I guess that's the right word. It's peculiar because it's not something I expected. At all.

I feel peace.
I didn't feel it a week ago. I didn't feel it two days ago. I feel it today. 

"Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful."
John 14:27

Understand, I have a lot of reasons to be worried. I have no real job opportunity lined up. Our savings will be depleted. The joy and convenience of working from home will no longer be my reality. Reasons to be fearful are piling up, accumulating like the dust on my stove (wink wink). I'm most likely looking to be unemployed for the first time in my life with no promise of a new job on the horizon. It's not something I'm looking forward to.

My hope isn't in my next job. My hope isn't in the assurance of something better to come. There might not BE something better in my future.

My only hope is in the knowledge that there is a sovereign hand at work. I expect nothing but what is right for Him to give. That being said, I trust Him with what it is to come. He is still good.

"Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him."
Psalm 62:5
This peace has been a long time coming. I've had a lot of people tell me over the course of the last five weeks, "This might end up being the best thing that ever happened to you." It got to the point that each time I heard those words I wanted to say, "Really? How about if I reach out my hands and strangle you? Would that be the best thing that ever happened to YOU?"  Don't get me wrong. I know people meant well. But at the time, it was the last thing I wanted to hear. Now I look back at the last five weeks and realize it's ALREADY been a blessing in a strange way. I've been able to take a day off every week due to company pay cuts across the board and I've felt less stressed about my job. I guess I lived with the fear of losing my job for so long that now it almost feels like a weight has been lifted.

I honestly can't understand how anyone can live this life without the hope of Christ. In the light of day and deepest darkness of night I know He has my back.
"I look up to the mountains;
does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God,
who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.
He won't let you stumble,
your Guardian God won't fall asleep.
Not on your life! Israel's
Guardian will never doze or sleep.
God's your Guardian,
right at your side to protect you--
Shielding you from sunstroke,
sheltering you from moonstroke.
God guards you from every evil,
he guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return,
he guards you now, he guards you always."
Psalm 121

My God doesn't sleep. My God offers hope and a peace that surpasses all understanding. I'm giving up some control and learning to accept the peace He offers. Now, for me, THAT is peculiar.