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.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Stretching Hurts

I don't like stretching.

As a child I hated being made to stretch before soccer practice or dance class. In high school my least favorite part of cheerleading practice was stretching. As an adult who loves to run, I HATE to stretch. Like I said, I've never liked it.

Maybe that's why today has been so hard on me.

I feel stretched.

This morning it felt like I propped my leg up on a bench, reached over to touch my toes, and....SNAP!  I just couldn't handle it anymore. Tears flowed. Cries wailed. Prayers went up (again).

Someone once told me stretching would make me more flexible and that it would get my muscles in balance and help them work more smoothly. I've read that muscles that are warmed up before they're put under stress are more likely to be able to handle that stress.

(I'm hoping this isn't just a warm-up.)

So here's the deal... I'm having a hard time with the whole 'losing my job' thing. It's painful. It hurts. It's stretching me and it is QUITE uncomfortable.

I've spent pretty much the whole day in tears. My eyes are red and bloodshot. My tissue boxes are nearly empty (thank God for Charmin as a backup) and there are tear stains all over my desk calendar. It's. Not. Easy.

So, in my pity party, I was thinking back on last week and how difficult it was to start training my replacement in Murfreesboro. I spent the week in a hotel, away from boys, schooling my predecessor on the ins and outs of the job I love. I watched life go on like normal for my co-workers, wishing I knew the feeling. Then, amidst the craziness of that week I got the most incredible message on Facebook from a dear friend. There's no way I can summarize it for you, so I'll just paste it below.

"I was so blessed thinking about and praying for you in your trial at work. You know how Joseph (with the colorful coat) was a righteous man and a responsible employee. He could relate to you, as he was wrongfully imprisoned because he wouldn't be seduced by the most powerful woman in the land. After all the injustice done to him, he still interpreted the Pharoah's dream years later and served him well. God was working all things for His glory and Joseph's good. In fact, Joseph said, "God sent me ahead of you [my family] to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance." Unjust imprisonment was the best thing that could ever happen to Joseph. Through the actions of bad leadership, God was accomplishing the BEST thing that could happen to him. And by faith, that's what we can be certain of in all our life. You can work like being fired is the best thing that could happen to you, because of your faith in God's sovereign goodness toward you. God will not withhold any good thing from those who walk uprightly. The words of George Muller at his wife's funeral always make me cry. He grieved deeply over his wife's death and it took years for him to recover. Knowing that God is sovereignly good to us doesn't change the grief over injustice and the fallenness of the broken world. Anyway, this is the truth he clung to at his wife's funeral: 
     "For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing
      does He withhold from those who walk uprightly." Psalm 84:11
Muller said, "No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly--I am in myself a poor worthless sinner, but I have been saved by the blood of Christ; and I do not live in sin, I walk uprightly before God. Therefore, if it is really good for me, my darling wife will be raised up again; sick as she is. God will restore her again. But if she is not restored again, then it would not be a good thing for me. And so my heart was at rest. I was satisfied with God. And all this springs, as I have often said before, from taking God at His word, believing what He says." I am praying for you that you would have faith to believe that God is sovereignly good to you. I am praying that as you feel your weakness and turn to the Spirit, you will work with all your heart toward your weak employer, for you know this is the best thing that could happen: for you, and for God's kingdom. I am out of time, but sometime I will tell you how your trial has brought me comfort as I pray for you!!! Love you, Kari!!"

I came back to this message tonight just to read it. Just to feel the encouragement and remember the truth found in those words.

Yes, I'm being stretched. Yes, it's painful. Yes, it hurts like nothing I've experienced before. But, oh, HE is so good. He is sovereign. He knows so much better than me what is good and what is best. I'll hurt and I'll grieve over the loss of something I loved, over the injustice I feel. But I'll move on. And I'll remember His lovingkindness to undeserving little me. I'll hold fast to what I know is true. I may have bloodshot eyes and a wastebasket full of tissue, but I've also got a Savior holding my future in His hands.

(Again, thank you, Angelica.)