Saturday, October 29, 2011


John Palmer Kells, born 2AM, October 29, 2011. Wish I could have been there. Got this stuck in my head after hearing about his birth and seeing his picture for the first time! Gotta figure out some way to write it down for him in a way that's worthwhile, but needed to get it out right away!

For John Palmer Kells, on his very first birthday.

J is for justice, that's what you should seek. Be friends with the helpless. Strengthen the weak.

O is for open, and I mean your heart. Don't let fear close it, that's no way to start.

H is for humble, but let me impress. Do not think less of yourself. Think of yourself less.

N is for noble, a man among men. When others are quitting, that's when you begin.

P is for patience, a virtue indeed. Remember that time is what others will need.

A is for always, that's how long you'll be loved. As long as there's Heaven and God up above.

L is for laughter, may you always have much. Giggle & play, get dirty & such.

M is for mercy. Remember this well. Harsh words make love shrivel, kind ones make it swell.

E is for excellence. Always try your best, but remember that what's in your heart is the true test.

R is for real- to God and yourself be true. I am so thankful that there is only one you.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Baby blur

Last week, I turned 29. I know that somewhere out there, there are women who aren't even half as close as I am to 30, and they can hardly sleep at night because they already hear the "tick-tock" of their biological clock so loudly. Mine, for whatever reason, seems to be silent. Either that, or I am completely deaf.

Almost everyone I know has a baby, or is in some way getting ready for one. And almost every time I'm around babies, I'm uncomfortable. Not one on one, but like when they are all together. I realize that I might catch some flack for saying this, but oh well. Mommy bloggers get to blog about spit-up and I'm going to blog about this.

It's not that I don't like babies. It's that I feel completely disconnected with the entire world of motherhood. I have a lot of guilt about that. If it's someone I know outside of the context of motherhood, say like friends from work or women I know from BSF or play soccer with, this is not an issue. But if you're a mom, and I'm not a mom and there's nothing else I know about you, chances are you think that I have some sort of mental and/or social deficiency, which, let's face it, I probably do- because when I get into an environment that's all mommies and babies, I just freeze and I'm pretty sure my lips go numb.

But like I was saying- the guilt. I feel like I'm basically a huge disappointment to God and everyone because I'm like this. I think about it a lot. I wonder what's wrong with me. I pray about it. I talk to Andy about it. And now, you know it's legit, because I'm blogging about it. I don't want to be unfriendly. I just literally do not know what to do. When the conversation turns to breastmilk, I want to cross my arms over my chest and run into the bathroom. When someone's kid does something momentous, I'm usually like, "oh, he couldn't do that already?" Again, I don't mean to be rude, I just. don't. get. it.

But I do get microscopes. In fact, I'm teaching microscopy to my kid-o's this week. If you've ever spent much time playing with a light microscope, you've maybe had trouble bringing things into focus with the objective lenses (the silver things that rotate- there are usually three or four of them). It dawned on me this morning, that when your objective lens is focused on lower power, that's all you see, and you see it really clearly. When you rotate to a different power, you focus that image, and that's all you see. There's no way to be focused on more than one power at a time with one light microscope- at least not the ones that I've seen.

I don't focus on babies. They are a blur to me. But I realized this morning, that how mommies are about babies, so I am with my students. I spend hours focusing on how I can get them to learn something. When I see them do something new that they enjoy, it can literally bring tears to my eyes. I feel a burden for them- to teach them the truth about God and the world they live in. I am thrilled when they accomplish things- like A's and touchdowns and college acceptances. I'm amazed at them and with them when they discover something new. I'd get up and spend all day teaching high school students even if no one paid me money to do it. They are my joy.

I'm going to ask God if this is okay. I mean, in His eyes, maybe teenagers and babies are all sort of the same thing. They do have a lot in common. They giggle, they complain a lot, they're utterly selfish, they're melodramatic and very needy. Maybe God knew that someone out there would need to be focused on those little ones, even when the clock ticks away. I'm hoping this is the case. Because though I've prayed and tried, I can't seem to get comfortable in the mommyhood, but I have a new student visiting my Biology class today, and I can't even tell you how excited that makes me.

I know that a lot of moms out there might read this and say, "wait til she has her own." And that might be the case. Hopefully so. Until then, though, I guess I'll just enjoy my students, and ignore the silent clock that's supposed to be screaming by now.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bad news comes quickly

Thursday was my 29th birthday. I got up and opened presents sent to me by my mom. Andy fixed me coffee and went out to Shipley's to retrieve me a chocolate covered doughnut. When I got to school, I found out that he had also run another errand while he was out- he had taken my car keys (which have my school keys on the same ring) and gone over to my classroom to deliver me a dozen roses. I found them on my desk when I walked in. I also encountered a big yellow piece of butcher paper which said "Happy Birthday Mrs. Wermel!" in marker and almost all of my students -70 in all- had signed it. A PTF parent showed up with flowers in a vase- ranunculus, my wedding flower- a muffin and a cappuccino a few minutes later, and she returned at lunch time with a Chick-fil-a chicken tenders combo. Students came in and brought me presents and cards throughout the day, my Chemistry class sang me happy birthday, and the weather was absolutely gorgeous. After school, I went home and found Andy icing a cake he had baked! Then, I opened up my birthday gifts from Andy and Lacy. I especially enjoyed throwing the scraps of paper from the bag-o-confetti Lacy sent me (she did this last year too, and it's awesome!) into the air, which made Andy whine, but he picked it up anyway. Then Andy and I went out to dinner at McCormick and Schmicks, which was lovely and our waiter gave us a free ice cream dessert, which was almost too pretty to eat. I had a wonderful birthday.

Then on Friday, after a busy week at work and a wonderful day of celebration, and a lot of anticipation because John Palmer (Lacy's baby boy) is coming any minute now, Andy sat me down and told me that his company is closing and he's going to be unemployed on December 2. My birthday cards were still strewn about and the "Happy Birthday" candles were still on the cake, and the unpleasant news was too much contrast to the happy day that had just passed.

I did not react well. One would hope that as a Christian, I would respond with words of faith and encouragement. But I didn't. I'm just going to be honest here, because really what's the point in not being honest? Lately, my faith has felt like a wool sweater that someone accidentally put into the dryer.

I talk on here about the stuff that happened to me and Andy last year using vague terms, and I probably always will. I don't name names, and I am not going to. It's not going to do anyone any good for me to share specifics. But if you read this, and you are at all interested in understanding what's going on in our life and how God is working here, it's necessary that you understand that Andy & I went through something very traumatic and hurtful last year. And it's important that you know that we walked through that with as much faith and obedience as we could muster. God disciplined us and changed us incredibly, but the end result was not what either of us wanted. And for me, the end result did not look like what I thought a Christian experience ought to look like.

I have been really blessed in my life because I have gone through several experiences where God has allowed things to get really ugly, and I and other people have been very hurt, only for Him to work in my life and other people's lives in separate but equal ways, which brought about full restoration, complete healing and increased joy! Up until last year, I did not have an area of my life that I hadn't seen the Lord completely transform and redeem. Then this thing happened. And in my opinion, it remains broken, and this still causes hurt, doubt and frustration for me. And everyone involved is supposed to be a Christian. So if Christians are supposed to be like Christ, and Christ is love and His purpose in this world is redemption and reconciliation, why is this circumstance the way that it is? Why does His Spirit not convict? Why does The Truth not prevail? And why does the Healer not heal? If Christians can react to difficult things in life this way, what's the point in being one? It's not any different- in fact it's in many ways much worse- than I've seen nonbelievers react to difficult times.

I gave up on hoping other people would change months ago, but have prayed consistently for God to do a work in my heart- to sow seeds of love, joy, peace and contentment in me that would overpower the hurt, doubt and frustration. I think that I've seen these in every day life, but being told that your husband is losing his job is not every day news. And so those tiny love and joy seeds got drenched in my doubt and negativity. Why should God help us? Why should we trust Him? He left me hanging out to dry last year! I was trying to be obedient to His will and I was ridiculed and rejected! And He hasn't done anything about it. Why should I trust Him? He has no interest in me.

When your heart believes those things about God, all you can do is cry- the big ugly cry. And that's what I did- not because Andy had lost his job. That was only a detail. I was crying because I was seeing the circumstance through a lens of unbelief. I considered the circumstances of my life, the hurt that God allowed last year, and the tension that remains and concluded that God didn't care about me. Because He allowed people to mistreat me and never cared to do anything about it. And because I'm still so confused about who God is because His "people" have reacted so disappointingly.

Beth Moore says, "If you're going to pitch a fit, pitch it at God. He's the only One big enough to handle it." This has to be true. Because only God could handle someone's spirit retching and reeling from disappointment and not even flinch. A person would watch me indulging my doubt and turn away in disgust. But not God. I probably spent an hour moaning and crying out all sorts of doubts, and afterwards, I fell asleep- I guess sleep was the only way to get me quiet enough to be able to hear Him. In the middle of the night, the Holy Spirit spoke to me. I could understand Him very clearly. He said, "I am not concerned with what your life costs. I am concerned with what your life is worth. You can have a family in a home that is filled with nice things, things that cost money, but if you react this way, your life does not reflect what I truly value."

And immediately, and I do mean immediately, my heart changed. I turned and gave Andy a big hug. I knew that from that point forward I was going to have love and belief to share with him, not doubt to weigh him down. I realized that money is not the real issue in this trial at all. I realized that this, like every other trial, is an opportunity to be Jesus, the real Jesus- the One who wakes you up in the middle of the night and rebukes you, the One who shows you all throughout the day that He loves you and is for you- to my husband and to other people.

This week in BSF, we read about Paul's sufferings. I don't know how I'm so dense that I can read that and answer questions and still somehow think that the Christian experience has something to do with me being treated well. Paul went through everything and then some, and he was being obedient through it all. He didn't get treated badly because he was disobeying God. He was treated badly because he was doing exactly what God wanted him to do. He never was closer to the Lord's will for him than when he was suffering. This is the thing that has to transform in my mind. Last year, I did something that God told me to do. People got really mad at me for it and the consequences hurt. But instead of believing that those consequences are something that I can endure because I am in God's will, I have doubted everything. But God is not against me. He has not abandoned me. And He will not let me be put to shame. I know this because I can hear His Spirit and I know that He is working on me still- making sure that I do not display anything other than His character to the world around me- especially those closest to me, my family & my sweet husband, who is such a gift to me.

God is real and really working. I know this for a fact. Not just because there are days filled with flowers and gifts and love, but because there are days when bad news comes quickly. It's His reaction and quick transformation of my heart in those days that brings me greater comfort about His commitment to my holiness than a string of beautiful, perfect days could ever accomplish.

We don't know what's going to happen from here. But we do know that God is going to transform our minds and our hearts and our actions. We know that He is going to show Himself to us, and then ask us to show Him to others.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Saturday, October 8, 2011

For the Orphan

When I was a freshman in college I loved to go for runs down Reynolda Drive and Stratford Road. Both roads are lined with beautiful homes that are immaculately manicured. Deciduous trees create an orange canopy over the road in autumn. I think every time I ran down those roads, I would imagine myself living in one of the houses. It seems silly to me now, but in my mind back then, I'd think about what would need to happen for me to live in one of those houses- or at least one something like that. Winston-Salem, I had decided, was a perfect place to live. Close to the mountains, close to home. My parents would always want to come and visit me and we could all go to Wake Forest games, something we had been doing my entire life. If I became a veterinarian, which was the plan at the time, I'd make good money. Of course, I'd probably need to marry a doctor or a lawyer or a dentist or something to be able to afford a house on Stratford Road. But life was in front of me, anything could happen.

When I woke up this morning in Austin, I thought about Reynolda Road. I'll bet you that today, some freshman girl will wake up and go for a run down that road and spin those orange leaves and perfect houses into her web of dreams the same way I did. But me? I woke up in Texas, in the middle of the worst drought on record. My husband left early to go to National Guard drill. My parents, two day's drive away, can't drive down for any games. And my only company for the day will be a stack of Biology papers and my two Cocker spaniels.

I know there are all sorts of people out there who love Texas, and I am not out to dog your state. I know you love it because it's yours. And I've seen some pretty stuff here and had some good times. And I have to say that Texans are super friendly and sweet for the most part. But, for a North Carolina girl, it is rough when it's October and still breaking 100 and the only colors you ever see are gray-green from those half-dead oaks and the yellow straw on the ground that used to be grass. It's hard. It's not just like a subtle, "Oh, I am homesick. Wouldn't it be nice to take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway today? Oh well, let's go eat brisket," kind of thing. It's an ache, an almost tangible sadness that comes from being here when autumn has come back at home, and people are going to football games in sweaters. I'm missing the Cameron Antiques show, I'll miss the Holly Day Fair again and my brother's 30th birthday. And I can't even begin to really make myself think about all that I have already missed and will continue to miss with Lacy and John Palmer. Lacy, I'm sorry. I'm just so sorry.

So it's understandable, I guess, to wake up on a morning like this one and wonder, "How much longer do I have to be here?" Recently, I've tried to be honest about this stuff with Jesus. I know He doesn't like my complaining. I know that really, even though it was through Andy, it was Jesus who brought me down here. And I haven't liked that because pretty much ever since getting here, for one reason or another, I've been mostly sad. You don't expect that after you get married. You think you're going to get Stratford Road, but I got a lot of accusations thrown at me, followed by rejection, and a season of loneliness. For a long time, I didn't want to talk to Jesus about this. I was really mad at Him, and hurt that He would allow something like this to happen in my life. Hadn't I given up Stratford Road for Him? Hadn't I dropped the dreams about money and beautiful houses and being a doctor? Hadn't I waited for the husband He gave to me instead of going out on a mission to find one? So why? Why did He put me in a situation where I would be alone and so misunderstood? And in the midst of all of that, why did it have to be so daggone hot. Really? I move here and it just happens to be the hottest and driest summer ever?

But not talking to Jesus is the worst thing you could do. Even if conversations with Him start off as complaint, He's pretty faithful to change my heart right away. I'm learning that I have to trust Him, and that means talking to Him, even when I wake up and my heart hurts so much I don't want to move. That's how I felt this morning. But I did move. I got out of bed and got my BSF notes. And after laying back down and telling Jesus a few sentences about how much it still hurts to be rejected and accused, and how lonely and dry it still is, and how much I miss my family, it was time for me to be quiet and listen. So I put on my glasses and read the first paragraph of my notes,

Disruption and displacement in life are almost always painful. However they can lead to expansion into new work and new effectiveness...In the hands of God, removal from one place or endeavor can bring renewal for knowing Him better. There may be new, significant work for His cause in the world.

Last night, Andy and I worked together with three other ladies from Austin Stone's Orphan Care Network making prayer cards. On each card is the face, name, age and a nugget of information about the kids in Travis County who have been in the foster care system for a long time. There are 51 cards. The cards are going to be laminated and made into bookmarks and magnets, and we're going to give them away at next Saturday's Orphan Care Network launch picnic. 51 cards, and we are praying that every single one of them gets picked up and that God will remind the people who take them home to pray for those kids. And then every kid whose info was available in the system will be prayed for by one of the saints. And God listens to the prayers of His people. We're going to ask Him to give them homes, because they don't have one. And families, because they don't have those either. And mostly, we're going to ask Him to give them love- His love- for the rest of their lives. And you know what? I don't like how hot it is here, and I don't like missing out on so much back home, but someone needs to start asking those things on behalf of these kids. Because on Stratford Road, moms pray for their own children. But in Travis County, who will pray for the children on my 51 cards?

Wake Forest and North Carolina, my mom, my best friend and so much of what is precious to me is a long way away. It will be another hot day here in Texas, and I don't know that I'll like it much, but my notes are right. Though it's painful, expansion of God's work comes through that pain. Only in Texas, and only under these circumstances, has God given me the reason and the resources to begin the process of opening up my heart and my life for the orphan.

The reason? Because these past two years have been an experience in the tremendous need for families to be led by a good father. When fathers fail, families flounder. When fathers misdirect, families go astray. When fathers worship something, even if it is a good thing, other than the One True God, children will not know how to worship in truth. When fathers do not listen, relationships cannot be authentic. And when fathers abandon or reject their children, the loss is almost indescribable. These conditions describe the lives of the fatherless. And this is what I've seen, in different degrees of magnitude, in the past few years, and it's broken my heart. It's made me angry and distressed, to the point of panic and dismay. But then, truth comes.

Truth came late last spring when I first got involved with Orphan Care Network. And through that group, I was reminded that God is not the kind of Father who demonstrates the things listed above. He does not mislead or fail or abandon or reject His children. He always listens, He always loves, He is always kind and His ways are always faithful. He does not have favorites. He does not ignore. He does not forget. When thinking about the pain that fatherlessness had caused in my own life and in the lives of people I love, I determined that a way to be part of the solution was to be a part of Fathering the fatherless. So God has provided resources through the Orphan Care Network to work out this desire, so that Andy & I are becoming conduits of parental, heavenly love to children, teenagers, even adults, affected by the aches and evils of fatherlessness.

This is the new work He has given to me. And to tell the truth, it's the work that I needed to do. Facing fatherlessness is never easy. It's always painful because our hearts were intended to experience the perfect love of our Heavenly Father and even the best dads here on Earth are always going to fall short of that love. And so we ache. But the ache can draw us closer to the Father we were always intended to call "Abba." To tell that message reminds me that the disappointment that comes from not being fathered well, or from witnessing someone I love suffer from such a situation, can be enveloped by the joy of having a good, truthful, loving, faithful Father.

It is costly. It is painful. But to be a true representative of the Father that I so desperately need to love me, and lead me, then I need to be obedient to His command to care for the orphan. It's not enough just to point to those passages in Scripture and expect the world to somehow leap for joy that God is God. Why should they rejoice about a God on a page, when their own lives are experiencing the pain of fatherlessness. But God in action- that's who they need to see, and it's our privilege to be Him to them- to be good fathers, good mothers, good foster parents, faithful petitioners- so that they can see that He is serious about being a Father, serious enough to take people out of the familiar and the beautiful- so that the new and effective can be accomplished.