Last Tuesday Matt and I kissed the girls goodbye and headed to Chicago for a conference called CCDA. We got home last night, and I feel like a completely different person. CCDA stands for Christian Community Development Association. It was basically a conference about trying to make a serious difference in neighborhoods that are overwhelmed by poverty. This is Matt's profession and a passion for both of us. I was fortunate enough to get to go along with him, and I was grateful for the opportunity as we are deeply committed to this issue. I was also grateful for the timing of it, thinking that this might be the perfect way to submerge myself into something other than our upcoming court case.
We did miss the girls tremendously but being able to skype helped quite a bit. Our girls are at precious ages where the things they say and do afford us constant entertainment. When Harper gets excited and wants to show you something instead of saying "I can't wait to show you..." or "I can't wait for you to see..." she mixes up the expressions and says "You can't wait to see..." So she was holding up all of her school work (preschool is serious business, people) and saying "You can't wait to see my princess crown. I glued shapes on it!" And so on. Wavy just kept trying to kiss the camera and would shout out excitedly "I have a pink shirt on!" After Harper would jabber on some more she would interject loudly "I have a pink shirt on!" and wave at us happily. They're awesome.
Two things happened on this trip. The first was a renewed fervor to make every and any difference possible in the lives of those deeply entrenched in a poor and struggling community. The second thing (that I was not expecting) was I finally felt freed up from the fears that have been eating at me for the past two years. Let me be clear. I am still extremely worried about the outcome of this case. I have seen terrible devastation in families of both friends and acquaintances this year. These tragedies that I witnessed reminded me that there are no promises of happy endings. Awful things happen to people. A faith in God does not earn me a free pass on harm or unhappiness. He promises other things. But I am not owed any freebies. And I don't expect them. So I bristle a little when people suggest that faith will guarantee a positive outcome. Frankly, I don't believe that to be true. But I do know that God hears our prayers and I do believe that many people praying for one thing is incredibly powerful. Sorry. I went on a bit there didn't I? Anyway, what I am trying to say is that I no longer feel bound to my fears in the same way. Before this past week I was carrying my troubles like some kind of always present, well worn security blanket. I wanted to always have it in front of me, always be able to worry at the edges of it, and make sure I had it everywhere I went.
With the way this case has gone on and on I was worried that if I wasn't worrying about it no one would be. This wasn't a hard month. We have been at this for two years and going strong. I felt like this case could easily slip into the backs of people's minds, when they heard about it they would vaguely muse, "I thought that was over. I thought they won.." and move on with their day. I wanted to pay the situation homage by fretting over it all of the time. I let myself get more and more worked up about it with every week that passed until I basically felt frozen and held most other aspects of my life at a great distance. I was scared that if I wasn't careful enough to realize the gravity of the situation then I would be punished and the price would be the loss of my child. I was scared to not take it seriously enough, not hold it close to me all of the time, or to let it go and enjoy a moment for it's own simple pleasure without considering all that was on the line to lose. I thought that a failing on my part to do any of these things would surely end in me losing my baby and knowing it was my fault. That is embarrassing to admit to, but saying it out loud feels helpful to me.
This weekend a woman was preaching in an evening session. Her theme was "Remember Who You Are." She taught on not letting things hold you back from knowing and acting on exactly who you are. She talked about letting go of your fears and saying, "No way. I am not letting those fears get in the way of who I am and what I'm about." Stand up to your fears. Don't let them get the best of you. Don't let them overcome you. Now, I am taking her message 100% out of context. But those words just nailed me. I have let these fears grow into something monstrous and consuming. Sometimes someone says something that you already know or that you have heard before. Sometimes you just need the right words at the right time, and for me that message hit its bullseye at the right day and time. I am so thankful that it did. I really was letting my relationships suffer. I wasn't checking voicemails, emails, facebook messages, text messages. I was using all of my energy to take care of my kids and live with my fear. Everything else wore me out too much and so I let it slip away. This week I really stressed someone out and frustrated a person that I really care about. It wasn't intentional but if I hadn't been so completely wrapped up in these fears it wouldn't have happened. That situation came to a head the night before I heard this sermon, and the combination of those two things resulted in the wake up call that I so needed.
Let me tell you how I've changed. I know it seems unlikely that it happened so instantaneously when I have been slowly getting sucked under for the past few years, but I really believe it to be true. I feel like an enormous burden has been lifted from me. I can be realistic and enormously invested and intensely prayerful without letting this wreck me. I can rally myself on hard days to still return phone calls and connect with my friends. I don't have to let this situation define me. I believe in one true God and that God does not require me to bear this burden in order to earn a victory. He says "come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:30)
So just in time for court this week I have decided to not let my fears overcome me. I will take courage in the face of this and know that keeping a frantic level of fear will do nothing to affect the outcome. I feel fired up and ready to go into the court room without falling to pieces. You can't wait to see this change in me!
I would be so grateful if you would rally with me and continue to pray for only a positive outcome -- that our little girl would be ours forever and that we can live in peace and confidence knowing that our family will remain in tact. That is both the only thing and most powerful thing that can be done at this point. Thank you, thank you, thank you.