Monday, September 23, 2013

Thank you Mr. Neighbor!!

In 2008, I prayed a prayer that led me on a journey full of excitement, pain, heartache and miracles.  It is a journey that has forever changed my life.  On March 25, 2008, I wrote about Abraham and Faith.  I remember that morning very clearly.  God was pressing upon my heart the story of God asking Abraham to sacrifice his only son.  I remember reading that story with wonderment yearning for the same kind of faith as Abraham. I wanted a faith that trusted God for all things.  I wanted to know Him the way in which Abraham knew God.   In fact, this was my prayer that day,

"Father, help me to relinquish the hold I have over my own life, the lives of my children and the things that I do. Let me not doubt when you speak or move in my life.
 Make me Your servant, righteous and faithful, ready to say “Here I am” when You call."

Back in those days, I hosted a home group in my home on Thursday nights.  The night of our study, as the evening was wrapping up, I shared with our group the amazing story of Abraham and Isaac.  I shared that I wanted that kind of faith. One of the men in the group lashed out at me and said, “There is no way that you would sacrifice your kids if God asked.  That is ridiculous!”  I knew in that moment that my life did not reflect that kind of faith and so my prayer for the faith of Abraham became even stronger. If only we could see down the road and know what was coming when we asked God for something.  Never in a million years would I ever have imagined that my life would become the soap opera that it did for the next four years.  I prayed for faith.  I got it.  Through a mess of tragedy, betrayal, enormous lies, feelings of hopelessness and abandonment I encountered a God so real that He changed me forever.  This is my story.

In 2009, the battle began.  The nastiness of divorce entered my life. It is tricky, it is painful and it is ugly but that situation alone is not what grew my faith. When my marriage began falling apart it became the calling of several people who had held a special place in my life to begin shredding my character.  To spread about gossip to anyone that would listen.  During that time Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still” became my go to verse.  Why?  Because for many people, gossip is much more fun than the truth and so you can be sure truth will not be heard when trying to tell your side of a situation leaving your only defense to trust God’s word completely.  That is what I had to do.  I sucked it up, took the blows, attempted to hold my head up high and marched ahead praying that God would make all things right in the end.  From there the greatest battle full of fear and devastation erupted and a custody battle ensued.  Now why would anyone try to take children away from their mother?  I cannot answer that for you.  However, I do know that God has a purpose and plan for all things.  Because of this truth, I was able to tread water without drowning.

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1

In 2010, I began attending a church in Raleigh, NC.  Because of this church, a shift began in my life from being a “Christian” to a follower of Christ.  In January of 2011, I heard a sermon that changed the course of the path I was traveling. After several years of hiring lawyers and multiple court appearances, I knew that I was to give it up.  I was to walk away from the nastiness of attorneys.  I was to rely on the Lord.  The verse that continually popped up throughout his sermon on this particular Sunday was Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.”  (Romans 12:17) You cannot expect to share this choice with those around you without hearing the argument that God expects us to use common sense.  We have lawyers for a reason.  God gave us lawyers for a reason.  I agree.  But as I read and reread Romans 12:17 it does not just say do not repay evil for evil.  It ends with “Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.”  There is NOTHING honorable about a custody battle.  Nothing.  It is one parent doing everything in their power to destroy the other parent.  No attorney if doing their job correctly can help you win without you doing something that is not honorable and I could not get that out of my head.  I had prayed a prayer in 2008 for a faith like Abraham and God was now asking me to trust Him completely to fight for me.  Let me just tell you, when you approach those in your life who have been fighting with you and say, “I no longer want an attorney” their reaction is not very good.  Nothing against my parents at all and this next part is not to belittle or put them down because throughout my entire ordeal, they were my biggest supporters but they were not happy when God  gave me this revelation.  I remember the phone call clearly.  I remember the tears.  I remember trying my best to hold my own and not doubt what I knew God was clearly calling me to do.  It was hard.  On both sides.  I knew my parents had watched me struggle and go through so much pain over the course of the previous couple of years.  I knew they were scared as to what would happen to their grandchildren.  (I was scared.)  Nevertheless, I also knew that God was a big God. I knew He loved me.  I knew that He not only cared about me but also cared even more for my innocent children.  I knew I had to trust Him.  He had not led me wrong up to this point in those actual moments where I listened to Him instead of the noise of everyone else in the background.

I was scared.  I was so very afraid.  These were my children.  There was no one standing by me with the ability to communicate physically or verbally with another attorney.  The concern was not for the well-being of my children coming from the opposing side.  That particular attorney could have cared less what happened to my babies.  For this attorney it was the shear thrill of victory coursing through her veins taking the necessary steps to make sure the battle was won.  The day we entered the courtroom was terrifying.  I walked in with my mom and a young girl who had spent years babysitting my children.   It was the three of us against at least a dozen people.  I remember walking up to the table alone and sitting down.  In front of me was the bible that once we began I would place my hand on and swear to tell the truth.  I immediately opened that bible to Exodus and found chapter 14.  I skimmed through the story and then claimed verse 14.  It was mine.  I just needed to be still.  For the next however many hours I sat and listened to person after person place their hand upon the Bible swearing to tell the truth and then lie.  I remember thinking this is not honorable.  I do not want to repay evil for evil.  God will handle it.  Those two days of my life are two days I will never forget.  Yes, they were scary but at the same time, I felt the presence of God in my life in such a way that still to this day makes me shake in awe of His awesomeness.  I never felt alone.  It was as if He was sitting next to me throughout the entire process.  I left not thinking I had won the battle for custody but instead knowing I had glorified my God that day and He was pleased.


The next month brought about more fear and on October 31, 2011, I received the document that stated that my children were no longer mine.  In a matter of seconds, the time it took to open a document, my world was shattered.  In a matter of moments, I wanted to die.  I remember the phone calls with my mom and now husband as they both sat in disbelief at what was happening.  It did not make sense. None of it made sense. That same evening I also remember the young seminary girl who rushed to my home to spend time with me and my children.  As I tried to get myself together, we drove to McDonalds where she loved on my children and ministered to me.  She was my angel in that moment.  She sat with me and loved on me.  She was God making Himself present at that moment and letting me know He was there.  It was not over.  And it was not.  I spent that night at a church trunk or treat.  People who I had come to know over the course of the preceding months surrounded me.  Each one was flabbergasted at the outcome but each responded with God is in control.  God is in control.  That phrase became my mantra. 

So remember that prayer I had prayed in 2008.  Surprisingly enough it was the furthest thing from my mind.  I was not thinking in that direction.  Instead, I was on my tiptoes searching for any sight of God I could find.  Then the moment came.  I received a phone call in which I was told that one of my aunts had stated that “she had to have done something wrong in order for a judge to take away her children” and it began.  The moment in which I no longer had to stand on my tiptoes looking for God because He walked into the room and revealed Himself in the most majestic way.  Suddenly I remembered my prayer from 2008.  I had asked for this moment.  I had prayed for this moment.  I wanted the faith of Abraham and God was going to answer my prayer through one of the hardest things a mother could endure, not being with her children. What I came to realize is that throughout the course of my divorce and custody battle I had trusted God for many things.  I had relied on Him and listened to Him but still held back a piece of myself.  Part of my heart was His but the rest belonged to my children.  The fear of losing my children kept Christ from sitting completely on the throne of my life.  My children had become my idol.  Much like Isaac had become for Abraham when God asked Him to sacrifice his only son.  God was in control.  God knew my prayer.  God knew my heart.  God knew what I needed.  I needed Him.  I needed Him totally and completely.  I was holding back.  I had to turn it all over.  He had to take my children. Peace came to rest in my heart.

In 2012, things in my life started happening really fast. On a Sunday in January, I was listening to a man standing on the platform of my church saying he was starting a church and God told me to follow this man.  There was a moment of hesitance and doubt but I knew in that moment that I had to follow.  I did.  A couple weeks later God placed an incredible young woman in my life who introduced me to her husband who had recently passed the bar and was now an attorney in NC.  They too were part of this church plant.  After sharing a little of my story this young new attorney took on my case pro-bono.  This was the second time God sent someone to be a physical reminder that He was there and He would fight for me.  Now I am sure you are wondering why the attorney now?  What about the repay evil with evil?  This situation was different.  This young attorney followed Christ.  He sought direction through prayer from a God who controls all things.  He had character and it was not about winning.  We were not fighting for custody.  We were fighting for the safety and welfare of my children.  This young attorney became my “guardian.”  He became my brother.  His purpose was to deflect the evil that came my way, to pray with me and to help strengthen me in weak moments with the truth of God’s word.  He was the reason God had told me to follow the young pastor. 

Throughout our times in court, our case was never heard.  It was continued over and over as God was working out the details.  As He continued to shape my character, heal my heart and grow my faith I became stronger.  Wonderful things started happening in my life.  In August of 2012, my now husband proposed to me on the beach of South Carolina.  It was magical! It was the moment I began to feel the tide shift.  Less than four months later, we were married in the sweetest of ceremonies done by my pastor from back home.  On that same day, as we enjoyed dinner with family and friends after our wedding, I learned that I would be an aunt for the first time by the next summer.  By Christmas, I was greeted with the exciting news that not only would I be an Aunt but an Aunt of twins.  But the greatest news of all would be that in less than two months after all those other amazing events, my children were back home…for good. 

You see sometimes in the darkness of our storm we cannot see God or feel His presence.  We do not always know what He is doing.  We doubt and become overcome with fear when really He has everything under control.  He is working out every detail for our good.  He has a plan and His plan is perfect.  Not only that but when we ask Him for something, He answers.  My answer took four years.  It took a lot of pain and heartache but it also gave me many great moments of experiencing God in incredible ways. 

So to this I say Thank you Mr. Neighbor!  Without your doubts of my faith I would have never trudged ahead focusing my prayers in the right direction.   In addition, to my Aunt, thank you!  I would rather have a heart that longs for God and seeks after His will than to be the person I used to be. If it took God taking my children in order for me to have what I now have, then His will be done.  

God is good!  He is faithful!  When the world longs to belittle, beat us down and make us doubt, God is right there fighting for us!  In His time, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
 Romans 8:28 

Now I wait with great anticipation for whatever God has planned for me next.  I don't know where He will take me but I am ready!  Here I am Lord, send me!