Friends of Orphans and Vulnerable Children

Friends of Orphans and Vulnerable Children
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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Retreating

I am speaking at our women's retreat this weekend. Here is the "story" I plan to share:

I started to seek to really live for God in my early twenties, when I was in graduate school. At that time, my idea of the perfect future life was to have three children--especially three daughters--and to drive a mini-van.

(Here's a 1990 minivan!)

Fast forward about ten years: I drove a mini-van. My husband and I had two lovely daughters—one I carried in pregnancy, and one who we adopted domestically. Life had not been perfect, but it had been good. And blessed. I loved God, and I could so clearly see His hand over my life. I hungered for Him—to know Him and to serve Him.

In 2002, God gave me these verses:

LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
You have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
Surely I have a delightful inheritance.
Psalm 16:5-6


I was confident these verses were for my life FROM HIM. That meant more to me than I can express. These verses were God’s personal gift to me, and I expected to find my identity in them. I felt like I had a really beautiful destiny in the Lord.

You should know that when God gave me these “life verses” in 2002, I was thirty-four years old. By that time, I had lost five babies in various stages of the pregnancies. My husband’s job had gone down in really ugly flames during the dotcom bust of 2001. As I said, life hadn’t been perfect, but I knew that it had been good. The difficult situations I had experienced had served to make me grateful for God’s blessings in my life, and to bring me closer to Him.

Back to the life verses: Being very young and naïve, I thought these “secure lots” and “pleasant places” and “delightful inheritances” that God was promising me in these verses were His response to my desire to live for Him, in service to Him—in spite of the losses and bumps in the road that I had experienced.

Deep down, I think I hoped I had endured my share of pain and God was pleased with me. Perhaps I hoped I had made it through my season of “hard stuff” and the future would hold more “easy stuff.” At least, that’s how my naïve self saw it.

But it seemed as soon as God gave me these life verses, life became more difficult and more painful. Our family went for two years with no income at all. I would cry out to God, I spent hours in His Word…..looking for Him, looking for His peace. For about eighteen months I never sensed God’s presence. I felt utterly abandoned and alone. I didn’t know if I would make it. I withdrew. I sought God harder than ever before in my life. And there was no response. No sense of whether I, whether my family, would be rescued. I started to wonder if God was even real. Or worse, was He simply mean?

Finally, my husband got a company started in Kansas City, and we made plans to move there. Longmont, and Rocky Mountain Christian Church, were my heart’s home. But we were desperate for a financial reprieve, and I was grateful that something was finally happening. I thought the “rescue” had finally arrived. We put a positive spin on our move and I even looked forward to living near my mom and sister again.

A few weeks before we left Longmont, I had a phone conversation with my sister, who lived in Kansas City. Immediately after our conversation, she went to my mom’s basement and hung herself. My mom found her several hours later.

“Suicide” is a word whose meaning is impossible to grasp until you live it. The days and weeks and months following my sister’s death were a blur. We got ourselves moved to Kansas City, and if anything, it was even worse. I had left most everyone and everything I knew and loved back in Colorado. I would tell my husband I felt like an invisible woman in an invisible mini-van. Nobody in my day-to-day life knew me, and no one knew my pain. “My sister just killed herself” is a phrase that was always on my mind, one I was ready to blurt out at any time. I think I even told a stranger at Hobby Lobby once. I was so alone. I was so desperately lonely.

Meanwhile, my husband’s business was growing pretty well. In fact, it kept growing until expenses outpaced revenues. After having barely survived two years of no income at all, we had to cut our income by about seventy percent. This went on for twenty-one months.

I would alternate between clinging to God and looking for His promises….and being overcome with despair. I felt I had no more perseverance in me. I would bury myself in the Psalms. I wanted to believe God would redeem me and my life and our situation, but I was losing all hope. It would be so easy for Him to come through for us. So why did He stay away?

As I poured over the Psalms, I would occasionally run across my “life verses:"

LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
You have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
Surely I have a delightful inheritance.
Reading those verses heaped pain after pain on me. I was filled with guilt and shame--how could I have been so presumptuous to claim such lofty verses for my life? I must have mis-read God. Maybe I didn't know Him as well as I thought I did. A person like me didn't deserve verses like that. In the past, I had struggled with my unworthiness. My unworthiness morphed into a sense of worthlessness. My own lack of worth enveloped me. I felt wounded on so many fronts. And deep down, the only explanation I could come up wiht was that God was hurting me, or allowing me to be hurt, because I wasn't worth any more than that. So I tried to avoid those verses and I kept them out of my mind.
Now let's move forward a bit...It's been almost four years since our family moved back to Colorado. I'm still here! I'm alive! We have less than we had, but our life is so full, and it's filled mostly with peace and a fair amount of joy. Little by little, God has restored me. Well, He hasn't restored me, exactly. Because to restore me would mean He returned me to the younger woman I used to be.
No, He has rebuilt me. He has taken the pain and the loss, the fear and the suffering, and used it all to grow me into the woman I am becoming. God has done an amazing healing and redemption in my life. Is His work complete? No. I am such a work in progress! But for the first time in my entire life, I can say I like the woman I am...even with my wounds and my warts and my weaknesses.
Amazinging, I have worked at the church for three years now, doing the job in Small Groups that is so dear to my heart. What a healing and humbling experience it has been--to work at the place that has held my heart, when I have struggled so with my worthiness and my worth.
Seven months ago, my whole family traveled to Ethiopia to bring home our new baby daughter. Her name in Ethiopia was, "Ayitu, Found Abandoned." The police found this pitiful, pale, premature and malnourished newborn baby in a park. She was eventually taken to an orphanage in Ethiopia's capitol city, where she lived until we got there.
We named our new daughter "Amelia Ayitu Howlett." "Amelia" means "work of God." Bringing her home was a risky thing--spiritually, financially and even physically (after all, our original daughters are BIG, and we parents are OLD!) But it has been a wonderful season in our lives. Amelia has brought such hope and joy and love into our family!
In spite of the healing and redemption God has completed in me, until a few weeks ago, I still avoided my "life verses:"
LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
You have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
Surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I think I didn't want to put God on the spot. With the wounds I have carried, I guess I didn't feel like I could honestly and completely say that my lot has felt secure, that the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places and that I have had a delightful inheritance. I didn't want to place on God a burden that He couldn't carry.
That's how I thought about--or avoided thinking about--my so-called "life verses."
Until God woke me up to talk to me about this retreat. It was around midnight on February 6, 2009. He gave me--again--these verses for my life:
LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
You have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
Surely I have a delightful inheritance.
And He told me that these verses have always been for me. But God's intentions for my life were far deeper and more real than my youthful hopes.
When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and asked God to take the cup that was before Him, He accepted the portion and the cup that God had assigned Him.
God assigned me my portion and my cup as well. My own portion and cup haven't always been a bed of roses. I have even felt lost and abandoned by God. But because of the refining and the redemption that have come with my portion and my cup, I do know now that my lot is secure.
I would have been content to have my boundary lines defined by a lovely home and beautiful daughters and a successful husband. But oh! God had so much more for me! He has extended my boundary lines all the way around the world!
Through brokenness, He has started the work of molding me into this woman that I actually like. Would I recommend the circumstances I have walked through? Nope. But would I change the circumstances I have walked through? Not at all. Of course I don't know the future. I don't know what difficulties I might face.
But I do know that my name is not, "Lory, Found Abandoned." God has loved me enough to use broken circumstances in my life as He works to make me whole. He loves me enough to give me life verses! And He loves me enough to bring my life verses full circle in my heart and mind.
And as a final demonstration of how personal and kind our God is--I still drive a mini-van. And now it's filled with THREE daughters!

7 comments:

GinSpaghetti said...

Lory, thanks for sharing your story. It's amazing that we could never know the path someone has walked... God's word can direct us so far! I love your life verses. Hugs to you from NC!

Joshua and Lydia Rich said...

Lory, you brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for sharing. I am constantly amazed at how God directs our paths and fulfills our dreams in ways we never imagined!

SB said...

Lory! This is so BEAUTIFUL! I can't wait to hear the real thing on Friday! You are wonderful work of GOD! And I know you are going to touch so many lives! Thanks for sharing this!
Susan

The Andersons said...

Lori - thank you for sharing. It is amazing how God uses the trials in our life to bring us to place of abundant life - more than we can ever imagine.

Kerry

michelle said...

Lory
your story has blessed mr today! Thank you for sharing from your heart, for your honesty, your transparence. I will be praying for you as you share this with women at the retreat this weekend, may God use you and your story to bare much fruit for His Kingdom. Bless you
Michelle O

Derek and Betsy said...

Lory, That took a lot of courage to share and I pray that God will use your message at the women's retreat to help those who are hurting right now. You are a faithful servant and blessing to us and so many! DW

the truman's said...

Lory,
Your post is so beautiful and it is only by God's grace that we can get through all of life's ups and downs. Way to go momma! He is so proud of you and what He has rebuilt in you. I love that you said "rebuilt" instead of "restored."
Love to you,
Stacey