He Restores My Soul

Published March 24, 2017 by branstarr

I’ve already learned a lot more about grief this year. You can turn it off, particularly when you’re not allowed to show your emotions. I’ve also learned this is absolutely temporary. After spending six weeks feeling like an empty shell of a woman, with bouts of irrational anger in between, sadness inevitably took a front seat in my heart.

When I first began writing this, I didn’t plan to explain the circumstances of my grief. I don’t seem to be able to move on without it. The unthinkable happened. We had a positive pregnancy test followed by a miscarriage a few days later. In all our years together, this was the first time I’ve been pregnant. I was in disbelief. It had to be too good to be true. And, it was.
One of the first reactions I received to the news was, “This isn’t uncommon. It happens all the time.” No woman wants to hear that, and I can assure you I am no exception. The loss of a baby is devastating. The loss of our miracle baby was like living in a nightmare.
I was angry at people. I was angry for the hope I felt for a few short days. I’d been at peace before any of it. Why this? The enemy. That’s why.
Numbness and emptiness surrounded my feelings of anger. I couldn’t let myself be sad, because other people couldn’t let me be sad. Some will come right out and say it, but I’d already learned from past experience that people are uncomfortable with the emotions of others.
Most people have a hard time understanding that someone else’s emotions and problems do not diminish their own. We are all allowed to experience life simultaneously. This isn’t a contest. I can be sad and still empathize with your sadness.
The hardest thing I’ve learned is that those who expect you to prioritize their life junk over your own aren’t people you should hope to depend on for support. I recently told a friend how grateful I was to be able to talk to her without worrying about the “My life is worse..” competition. We can both feel lost, we can both cry, and neither of us feels cheated.
As I mentioned earlier, the sadness came. Of course it did. It showed up at the worst time and brought an unhealthy dose of fear along for the ride, too. How do I turn it off? How do I keep a straight face for those who need and expect it? What more will I lose if I can’t master a poker face? Yes, another lesson. If I can’t bottle it all up, I will lose more. I already have.
As time continues to pass, I feel my marriage strengthen. I wasn’t sure what he would do with me, but HubStarr has kindly wrapped his arms around me and told me I probably wouldn’t stop crying right away. And probably not tomorrow. Or the next day. It could happen for a bit of a time. And, it’s ok.
The greatest lesson of all is that I can be safe in my home. That the person who matters the most isn’t going anywhere. That he will let me cry. And, that there are other people who can let me be me, too.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” We aren’t all equipped with a great deal of compassion, but He makes sure we have it where we need it most.We may have to learn to adapt, and shrink our inner circle. As my sweet friend always says, “I’ve got 4 quarters.” It may not even take that many to be rich in love.

Advancing From Jonah to Jacob?

Published April 24, 2016 by branstarr

“Because, I am here wondering. Why?

“I’m sure the day will come when I know the answer. I tell myself several times a day God’s plan is all-knowing, and mine is not.”

I never thought I’d be quoting myself in writing. Unfortunately, the conclusion of my last blog seems to be haunting me.

Wrestling with The Lord hasn’t really been a part of my repertoire. When times are tough, I trust Him. I do not question Him. He knows all, and, in my experience, there has always been a reason behind my pain. I have learned, and I have been blessed. When meaning isn’t set before me, I have taken comfort in knowing God is good, and He will lead me where I’m meant to go.

This time there is no comfort for me in trusting God’s plan. Time is healing my heart, but my tendency to run from Him – to seek comfort in the darkness of the belly of a whale – appears to be much more permanent than in the past.

In the late summer and fall months of last year, I prayed. I prayed for peace and wisdom in dealing gracefully with a situation that seemed doomed. My relationship with The Lord deepened as my dependence on Him grew.

At one time, I was reminded of the Parable of the Sheep. As I began to think on it, it became clear to me that I was not to seek a lost sheep, but that I was the lost sheep. During these months I seemed to find myself separated from the Body. It wasn’t just physical, but also seemed to be a spiritual separation from fellowship and common ground or understanding with my Brothers and Sisters in Christ. I was lost, and I was aware that I was not a part of any flock.

When everything fell apart in November, I felt like a failure.  I completely forgot my calling to love someone unconditionally, with kindness and compassion. I tossed it out the window, and decided there was no way God could continue to want or expect me to continue to be the person He was asking me to be. I was freed from my obligation by my own pain.

As I think back on it, I wonder if I had been part of any sized flock , if I had been in a place where I felt I could have immediately turned to spiritual mentors for prayer and guidance, would I have been able to see that I was being asked to keep walking in the painful, difficult place He had me?

My head is telling me The Lord is good and He has his reasons, but in six months I have been unable to see Him. Like Jonah, I ran from Him. I’ve been swallowed by a whale, and the deep surrounding me with the weeds wrapped about my head seems to be where I’m comfortably living.

I need to recover my relationship with God. I suspect it’s time to wrestle with Him like Jacob rather than running from Him like Jonah. Eventually, even Jonah questioned God.

I don’t know where to go with this. I don’t know how to begin. Questioning God feels wrong. I’ve tried to pray, but all I have are words. My  heart isn’t in it. I’m broken, and the One who can repair me seems lost to me. I know He is there. I know He is patiently waiting on me. I know the problem lies in me. I don’t know how to overcome it.

I was a mom.

Published November 19, 2015 by branstarr

Note:  I’ve been thinking about writing this since the moment it happened ten days ago. It felt a little too personal, but it’s still on my heart, so here goes.

For months the possibility of being parents has been real and fragile for us. There have been many ups and downs with the situation changing by the hour.

In July we thought we would be adopting a newborn in 2016. We saw the baby on a sonogram. It was the first time in my life I saw a child and thought, “This is my baby.”As time passed, the baby’s mom began to have doubts and wanted to try to keep the baby to see if she could handle the responsibility – at least for a few months.

I prayed through this, and my loved ones prayed with me. It was hard to imagine why God would bring this girl into our lives with no other purpose than for us to feel this pain. I felt convicted that He wanted me in her life, and He gave me strength to be who He wanted me to be for her.

During this time there were moments when it was discussed that HubStarr and I would take her one-year old son. We talked to her about it, and we all knew she was unsure about what she should do. We decided together to continue on the path of doing all we could to help her be the best mom she could be.

Last week, for reasons we still don’t know, she firmly decided the time had come and she wanted me to pick up this sweet little boy within half an hour. Permanently. To adopt. I picked him up from her, hugged her, asked her if she was sure. I told her I loved her, and I thanked her for trusting us with her baby.

I left her house at 8:30 AM on November 9th and tried to figure out what I should do. I saw my parents, stopped in at the office, and grabbed some milk and juice for him at the store. During this time, I spoke with her multiple times as she called to ask what we could do to make this a permanent arrangement as soon as possible. A DCF case worker called me to set up a home visit, because she had already contacted them.

Nearly the entire time I had this sweet babe in my arms, I was crying. I was terrified, over-joyed, heart-broken for his mom and for him. I could only think about how I wanted to be sure we loved this baby boy and gave him an amazing life worthy of the beautiful gift we were being given in being his parents. A life worthy of the sacrifice his mommy was making.

HubStarr was itching to be home with us (he was a dad!), and I headed out for the thirty minute trek back to our home to meet him. A little over halfway there, at around 11:00 AM, she called again and told me she changed her mind and was sending him with someone else. I needed to bring him back.

I spent most of the trip back to our house on the phone speaking to different people. I chose to continue home so I could pick up HubStarr and have him with me. I called the social worker back to cancel the home visit. I cried and yelled. I’m so grateful he was sleeping so soundly through the entire thing.

We drove him back to his mom, and we watched him get into a car with someone else in front of our very eyes at 12:00 PM.

Friends have given me verses to comfort me. HubStarr has been amazingly loving and comforting. My family has been a rock. Even our realtor has had to deal with my craziness as we worked to negotiate the sale of our home. Still. I’m in the place I worked so hard to avoid. Because, I am here wondering. Why?

I’m sure the day will come when I know the answer. I tell myself several times a day God’s plan is all-knowing, and mine is not. It’s just that pain is so much easier to withstand when you know the reasons behind it. Nothing in our lives have changed, but it feels like we’ve lost a fortune we were always to scared to hope for.

A Dream and a Purpose

Published October 1, 2015 by branstarr

There are moments in time when it seems like life is grabbing your hand and placing your wildest dream right in your palm. Sometimes those moments are snowflakes. You can treasure them for the beauty you see in them before they quickly melt away and leave you wondering why you need to mourn their loss.

I’m not great at coping with loss. I tend to charge ahead with singular focus on any purpose I see before me. I’m grateful the Lord gives me these things to help me grow. Mostly, I’m grateful for their distractions. It turns out I’m also grateful for time He gives me away from these distractions to deal with my losses.

As I sit in my house in a near panic because HubStarr is gone tonight at a concert, I’m reminded again of what I learned in a quiet moment last week. Regardless of what this life does or does not bring us, we have each other. God knew what He was doing when He gave us each other. I am blessed to know I have my whole life to spend with my best friend. I have decades to treasure and love the greatest gift I’ve ever been given.

God has given me a purpose through pain, but He also reminded me that my primary purpose is to be a loving wife to my beautiful husband. He reminded me that whatever the world promises me, HubStarr is God’s promise to me to be loved my entire life. Sometimes the hardest part of being loved is allowing yourself to be vulnerable when you’re hurt for someone else to love you more.

I’m ready to continue to walk through the purpose God has given me in this season, but I’m also ready to cling to my husband and love him better. Even if it means I can’t let him out of my sight. Don’t grow attached to the idea of seeing one of us without the other for awhile. I’m keeping him close.

Searching for Grace

Published August 27, 2015 by branstarr

Grace_wordleFor several months, I have been praying and considering grace. Over the years, I’ve found myself in situations where others were demanding grace from me. I began to hear the Lord encouraging me to seek out the meaning of the word, and I knew right away I should understand His desires for me in showing grace to others. Please entertain me in this study. I promise something more like my normal writing is forthcoming, but I had to work this out first.

Most importantly, grace is shown through the love our Lord shows us in salvation as described in Titus 2:

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

It is more complicated for me to understand how the Lord may use me to show grace to others. Romans 6 illustrates to me that grace does not allow us to continue to sin due to the grace the Lord has shown us. Specifically, Romans 6:13-14 makes this case very simply, “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

My interpretation of these verses is that the Lord does not show us grace so that we may be forgiven and continue on with our lives sinning and doing as we please. This leads me to believe that when He lays it upon us to show grace to others, it isn’t with the expectation that we will condone anything and everything our Brothers and Sisters may do. Actually, He is calling us to love one another, and, in some cases, He may even be asking us to help each other overcome our sins. God isn’t asking us to walk around encouraging one another through sins and remaining silent in the midst of it.

The hope and love we find through redemption in the Lord’s grace can never be emphasized enough! What a glorious gift! However, neither should we allow this to weaken us and ignore Him in all other things. We have the ability to strengthen and sharpen one another with love, compassion, and truth. The conclusion I’ve come to for myself is that He certainly is not asking me to remain silent as a demonstration of grace. He loves us through conviction, and He uses us to speak truth and love one another through conviction.

Sharpen me! Strengthen me! Love me, Friends! And, by all means, do these things in truth.

Wee Widdle Weezy

Published August 17, 2014 by branstarr

The last few months have changed my life in ways I never could have imagined. I have two siblings – a brother and a sister. SisStarr is 12.5 years younger than me. She started kindergarten the same year I left for college.

Over the years, our relationship developed into something close, but also strained. I can specifically remember her being upset with me one time and telling me I always treated her like a child. I also remember being very confuse, because I didn’t see it at all.

Six months ago during a planned sister day, SisStarr told me she was pregnant. I’m ashamed to say, I was immediately jealous and a little stunned. HubStarr and I had just recently discussed my growth in accepting the pregnancies of friends and family with joy. I can even remember she asked me if I was excited to be an aunt again, and I blurted out, “I better be.”

I spent a couple of weeks praying and working through my jealousy before I was able to be a loving and supportive older sister and friend. I knew SisStarr needed me to be there for her, and I knew I needed it myself.

Over the months following her announcement, SisStarr and I grew closer than we’d ever been. I think our perceptions of each other changed. I hope she doesn’t think I treat her like a child, but feel protective of her and love her so much that it is hard for me to not want to take care of her. We’ve learned to communicate, and we bonded over being sisters, adults, and friends.

Fast forward to one week ago. Beautiful SisStarr allowed me to be there and help coach her through the birth of my amazing niece, Weezy. I watched her stoically labor to bring her daughter into the world, and I wept. I wasn’t sure how it would feel to me, but it was one of the greatest miracles I’ve ever experienced.

Today, on Weezy’s one week birthday, I had the opportunity to hold her while SisStarr was showering. I looked at her wide little eyes, and while she stared back at her Aunt B, I told her a story. I told her the story of my jealousy. How I’d wished she were mine. I told her how I was so grateful she is not my daughter, because her mommy needs her and loves her so much. Because, aside from her birth, she was a miracle all her own.

As I cried my eyes out over a 7 day-old baby, I was able to tell her that, because of her, Aunt B and Mommy are best friends. They learned to know each other. They learned to see truth in each other. And, I told her she is still mine. My sweet, sweet niece. My little Wee Widdle Weez.

Then, I began to tell Weezy that God has wonderful plans for her. That the miracle she already instigated was only the beginning. That she will live her life with the wisdom of her Heavenly Father. That Jesus will use her to love the world. That she will be filled with the kindness and gentleness of Christ and share it with everyone she meets. She will be a grace-filled little woman of God.

Sometimes miracles occur when and how you least expect them. I’m so grateful for the healing the Lord provided for my heart in overcoming my jealousy and the healing He provided for SisStarr and me. It’s a beautiful, wonderful life. A gift I will forever rejoice in.

My Chains Aren’t Gone

Published April 17, 2014 by branstarr

light chainI’ve been breaking my chains. No. Really. BREAKING them. Our home is 135 years old, and modern light switches are scarce. Several rooms have only pull chains to run the power on the lights for the rooms. If there are overhead lights at all. We have a lot of lamps….two with pull chains.

In the past few weeks, I’ve experienced multiple issues with different light pulls in the house. I’ve broken the chains on the light to HubStarr’s office once and my own office twice. The chains have just come off in my hand, leaving me staring at a shining light that may only be extinguished by reattaching the chains. Additionally, I’ve become almost incapable of running the pull chain on one of the floor lamps in our living room. I can yank on it repeatedly, and the light will not turn out.

As you can imagine, I’m growing increasingly annoyed with this “broken chain” issue. Poor HubStarr had to hear all about how I was going to have to lug the ladder around again to fix a chain so I could turn out a light. He looked at me and said, “I think there’s something to this chain thing. I mean, you keep breaking them? There has to be some symbolism in that.”

As is often the case with life lessons, this one is annoying, but HubStarr is right. My soulish chains are binding me. And, they’re leaving me in darkness. I can free myself from them and walk in the light, but they’re far too easy to replace.

I’m clearly dealing with warfare. With the inability to operate and see the freedom I have in Christ. The freedom to be who He created me to be rather than what the world expects me to be. A friend gave me Matthew 10:16-17 to meditate on: “I am sending you like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard…” I’ve got the shrewd part down. Now to trust that He has freed me from having to only be shrewd, because He is my King.