Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Surrender is Better

Though I’ve tried countless times, I simply cannot write a short blog on motherhood. I blog about once a year. That's all the Lord seems to give me. Maybe it's because my lessons learned are long and slow in the process. So when asked to describe what I’ve learned in motherhood, I feel like it's been so complicated that few would want to hear it.   So if your game, you can hear the “long story.” 

I had other plans for my life at 19 and 20.  I mean, everyone else told me I was going to be a singer and I (not having a strong sense of self, coupled with a huge propensity for people pleasing) went with it.  I loved singing and loved giving praise to God- that’s all it felt like to me at the time.  But time and the Holy Spirit  revealed to me that I also loved attention and succeeding at something.

Though I didn’t understand it fully at the time, I went through chemical depression at 19.  I had paranoia, I was in a distant country with dark spiritual forces at work.  I spent the next 3 months of ministry in a state of intense fear and sorrow.  I figured out how to cope with this new “normal” by just going numb.  Wondering if I would ever “feel” close to God again.  God allowed 17 years, 2 children and a series of tragedies to bring me back to a stronger version of that young girl. Throughout the years I fought the idea of being a mom. I even overheard people say I probably wouldn't be a good mother.  I thought I just didn't have "the mother gene." I loved my husband. I loved travel and though the recording industry hadn't worked out for me, I didn't like the idea of so many things out of my control.

Finally I acted out of obedience to a leap of faith that I believe God was calling me to.  The Lord gave me a sense that my experience with my first child would be difficult.   And THAT was a grace.

Caius' name means rejoice. He is the most intense, excitable little man who drinks in the Word of God with a voracious appetite. It reminds me of me before my depression. Caius has SPD- sensory processing disorder. He senses everything far more intensely than normal so life is quite a ride.  He was diagnosed at 4 1/2 so we spent a lot of his first years being annoyed and frustrated with his inability to cope. We didn't understand. All the parenting books just didn't work. We wanted time as a husband and wife. We wanted time as a family with his younger brother that wasn't constantly filled with conflict. We wanted our "idolized" view of family and life. I wanted peace and quiet to write music.  We wanted more than 2 hours of sleep strung together.

Once we had a diagnosis and were educated about SPD, Mike and I went through a grieving process.  We realized that our son had been trying to please us. He'd been trying to rejoice as his namesake says- and simply couldn't succeed without help and time.  He couldn't live up to our standards.

And in this God began to open my eyes.  To begin His healing work in my life.  For I realized that my son’s inability to live up to my standards was exactly how I had seen God for so long.  This is how unable I am to live up to God's standards. How I miss the mark. I am sick. I am born with a condition that I cannot escape.  And seeing God as this frustrated Father that I just couldn't please, this was one of the catalysts for my depression those many years ago.

This analogy pressed hard upon us as we came to a deeper, richer place of acceptance of what we can and cannot fix for our son. Of what we could and could not change about our reality. And here's the beautiful thing, God allowed this struggle (which our son can “grow out” of) and other tragedies in these years to free us. To reveal deeper issues emotionally and even physically which would have remained buried for decades had He not lovingly "stirred the pot". We can see His goodness in giving us this struggle.

You see, motherhood has brought me back to myself. I was drifting into shallow waters and I was so afraid that becoming a mom would make me lose myself (in the bad kind of way).  But God knew that I was already a watered down version of myself. I am emerging from the dust of these last 6 years refined and redefined. I am now a culmination of who I was before depression 17 years ago. And only my Abba can make a 36 year old woman stronger yet weaker, wiser yet more teachable, older yet younger, responsible yet free spirited and a big hearted yet light hearted woman.  I didn't think those things could coexist.  Then again I didn't think sorrow and joy could coexist together either.

And this is motherhood.

Oh friend, fellow mama- if I could just look you straight in the eye and speak these words to you. That your story is long and God is never absent from it. He is weaving. Always weaving. He is patient. He is intentional. He never wastes a talent.  He may be jealous for them. And if not another person appreciates them- "waste" them on Jesus. Pour them out like an expensive perfume.(John 12:3)You are His and you have nothing to prove.  He never wastes a tear.  He counts them all and keeps them. (Psalm 56:8) And you CAN have joy no matter what is happening in your life or your loved ones' lives.

Imagine your soul is a room.   The only 2 that can enter are you and God/Jesus. If you are socially dependant like me, you may have spent years trying to drag in other people's problems, choices, heartaches and opinions of you. Maybe even their very persons (like your child) into your own soul.
But you can't. They have their own. And you waste such intimacy with the lover of your soul if you are trying to bring all the stuff and people outside...inside.

It's just you and God in there. All the other stuff should bounce off the walls of that room.  He is enough. He is good. So good. And the more you risk trust in Him the more He will come through.

I decided somewhere along this motherhood journey that to surrender is better than to live with guarantees. I can "white knuckle" my way through motherhood and try to control as much as possible- thinking that will guarantee safe, godly children. Or I can invite a deeper surrender- and I bet my life, when difficulties come, the eyes fixed on Jesus- safe in that room where there is no one else. No children. No husband. No career accolades. No talents or false sense of self.  Those eyes will see His glory. That woman will see with an eternal perspective. And she will- as my sons name reminds me daily-rejoice.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Deeper Gratitude

For Wendi, Sara & Faith

Deeper Gratitude

After my last blog I had a friend mention that I should infuse more of my humor into my writing.  Let me just take this moment to warn you that I have failed at that today. 
We’ve experienced a great deal of loss over the last year or so.  And here we are in November, when everyone is talking about being thankful. As I think about gathering around the Thanksgiving table and the things I should be thankful for, I cannot separate my gratitude from loss.  One of my closest friends is 6 months into a separation from a husband who chose to walk away from her, his church family, his friends, and ultimately- God.  How is she supposed to be thankful?  My sister is 2 months into the grief of losing the daughter she’s always wanted to the original birth mother after nurturing her for a year.  How do you thank God after that? Another close friend continues to miscarry and wonders if her home, her car, her memories will ever hold more children- all while watching her sister-in-law lose an infant at birth.  How do you act thankful and normal at Thanksgiving dinner with that kind of heartache?  My church is struggling as family after family after family leaves for their own reasons and we wonder what God is doing.  There is more loss than I can process and I’m at the point now where, when another loss happens, I just want to go numb.  I want to run.  I want to escape. 

It all started 18 months ago when my friend Stephanie pulled the trigger and took her own life.  Our little church was shocked, stunned, and rocked by the loss of a wife and mother of four young girls. So a core group of my friends and I determined to grow and to find God in the insanity.  We have sensed God’s presence and comfort as we’ve learned to walk through the first year of loss by suicide.  We even said “next year has GOT to be better than this one.”  And then, the next year came with its’ life changing betrayals.  Sin and darkness seem contagious and fester, causing grief that begets more grief that begets more grief.  People sometimes choose to run from God in the face of loss and heartache instead of to Him. It can be like a domino effect as I’ve watched sinful choices affect more than just the person who made them.   Sometimes I just shake my head at what has transpired over the past year and a half. 

But here’s the thing; I feel older. I feel wiser.  And I feel more grateful. 
I’m grateful not just for the food on my plate or my warm home.   Not for my faithful husband or healthy, beautiful children or my mental health. For if that were the case then I would cease being a grateful creature were those things taken from me. This year I am thankful for the loss and grief that has caused me to loosen my grip on this world.   As Jon Piper said- “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”
This year I am thankful because in the midst of it all, God has given me a deeper sense of Himself.  I know His faithful love and provision like never before.  I want Him more.  I want the things of this world less.  I literally have lost my appetite for many of them.  And I wouldn’t be in this place were it not for all the valleys of the last 18 months.

You see, pits are deep for a reason.  In every pit, there is a deeper knowledge of Christ.  Even a deeper peace and joy if you are willing to face the pain, to stay in the pain, to work through the pain until He leads you out- as my sister and 2 friends are so bravely doing. I’m thankful that with every loss, there is a greater opportunity to receive spiritual riches, to know Jesus more deeply.  “For it has been granted to us, on behalf of Christ to suffer for Him.”  Later in the same letter Paul talks about the fellowship of His suffering . . . being his partner because you have suffered.

I have watched my friends struggle and suffer and become stronger women than anyone could imagine because Abba has been their strength.  Their faith is storing up treasures in heaven, which cannot be destroyed.  You see we are all richer than we can possibly imagine or understand.  We have the love of the Creator of the universe.  Whatever tragedies or mistakes we face, He can redeem and turn into something beautiful.  If we choose, we can stare grief and loss in the face and truly BELIEVE that God will carry us through it to a more joyful place. 

“He has turned my mourning into dancing.” – So, I promise more jovial blogs to follow.. . .

In Philippians 3:8
I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ..

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lost in Austen . . .

So I caught this show on PBS about a girl who lives in modern day London.  She works and lives the modern life with all its’ pleasures and mundane-ness.   Our heroin is completely obsessed with Jane Austen’s novel Pride & Prejudice and fantasizes of meeting Mr. Darcy in particular.   Anyway, so she goes through this wormhole in her shower into the dimension of all things Pride & Prejudice.  (Now there have been many a time where I have hoped my shower would wormhole me to Venice to no avail but for the sake of this imperfect analogy and BBC’s ratings, we’ll go with it.)

There is much more to the story but in short she ends up falling for Mr. Darcy and he for her.  Her reputation, however, is called into question and she admits that she has had other lovers but says in a moment of epiphany that she has loved Darcy all her life and all those other men were really, in some way, just her searching for Darcy. 
“It is clear to me now that I have always loved you.  Every time I’ve fallen for a man I’ve closed my eyes and it’s been you.”

You see this girl had been looking for true, glorious, rapturous romance all her life.  She’d offered herself to mediocre relationships hoping to catch a glimpse of love.  These left her wanting and digging through the fictitious pages of a 200 year old book to believe a story could somehow reach into her own life and make her feel special, desired, known, loved.  So here’s where your dense blonde friend had her own epiphany. 
We are all in a love story whether we know it or not and don’t need to enter a shower wormhole to experience it.  God is the great lover of our souls and I have looked in so many other places to fill this God-created-need to be loved and known as only He can love and know me. 

Before I go any further let me say that I have a very happy marriage to a man I greatly admire, respect and love.  We have an amazing love story and an amazing relationship. But even the happiest marriages cannot and do not fill this God created need to know and truly have a relationship with the Lover of our souls.  The best, most romantic relationship will never be enough.  We will still have longings for God, which may masquerade in this world as longings of another kind. 

You see, the first lie in the Garden of Eden was that God was withholding.  The serpent convinced Eve that God wasn’t giving her everything she needed to be fulfilled.  That God wasn’t really good . . .

Jesus is not keeping us from what we really want, need, long for.   He is all of those things.  He is the end by which all other tastes of love are only that . . . tastes.
The next time our hearts leap over Mr. Darcy or any other contrived heartthrob, may it drive us to Jesus.  Don’t just think of what you’re missing.  Realize that this same feeling is there to draw us to Jesus.  Take your longings to Him.   Whether you’ve been hurt deeply in the arena of love or have a success story.  Tell Him how the world has fallen short in fulfilling your longings . . . even if you’ve received everything you thought you had wanted.   It is in this paradox that we find true joy.  These first steps towards a deepening, authentic, intimate relationship that will grow stronger as we grow weaker.  Making us more beautiful as we age and have less to offer physically. 

And someday, we will be HIS bride.   That’s right, girls, for all the man stuff in the Bible, we understand this one.  Those flutters in our hearts for a guy down here, are merely echoes of what . . . of WHO we were made for.  Hold on to that hope.  We were made for perfect love.  We will not find it anywhere on this earth but in Jesus.  And someday, someday we will see Him as He is and all other longing will disappear with one look at our God.

Here are some further truths from God’s Word (and my friend Colleen) to reflect upon:

He has engraved me on the palm of His hand.  Isaiah 49:16

He carries me close to His heart.  Isaiah 40:11

He holds my hand. Psalm 73:23

He will do abundantly more than all I can ask or imagine.  Ephesians 3:20

He daily bears my burdens.  Psalm 68:19

He thinks of me constantly: His thoughts of me outnumber the grains of sand on the sea.  Psalm 139:17–18

He is intimately interested in my life. He even knows how many hairs are on my head.  Matthew 10:30

He has planned out my days.  Psalm 139:16; 118:24

He prays for me.  Hebrews 7:25; Romans 8:26

He freely forgives me.  1 John 1:9; Psalm 103:12

He protects and rescues me.  Psalm 91

He understands my disappointments, sorrows, and weaknesses.  Hebrews 2:17–18

He gives me the power to live like Him.  Romans 8:9–11; Philippians 4:13

He delights in me and rejoices over me with singing.  Zephaniah 3:17

He teaches me what is best for me.  Isaiah 48:17

He helps me.  Isaiah 41:10, 14; Psalm 118:13

He created me for a special purpose and designed me to be His wonderful creation.  Ps 139:13–14; Jer 1:5; Ep 2:10

He will fulfill His purpose for me.  Psalm 138:8; Philippians 1:6

His love for me is as high as the heavens are above the earth.  Psalm 103:11

He makes my path level and smooth.  Isaiah 26:7

He is always with me.  Psalm 73:23

He guides me with His counsel.  Psalm 73:24

He gives me wisdom.  James 1:5

He keeps record of all my tears.  Psalm 56:8

He satisfies my hunger and quenches my thirst.  John 6:35

He holds me in His hand.  John 10:27

He gives me life to the fullest.  John 10:10

He laid down His life for me.  John 10:11

He rejoices over me just like a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.  Isaiah 62:5

He gives me good and perfect gifts.  James 1:17

He listens to me; He hears my cry.  Psalm 145:19

He fulfills my desires.  Psalm 145:19; 37:4

He has compassion on me.  Psalm 145:9

He cures me of backsliding.  Jeremiah 4:22

He makes me pure.  Ezekiel 36:25–26

He makes me happy.  Psalm 16:11; 36:8

He has made me His child.  Romans 8:14; Galatians 4:5; 3:26

He has given me fullness in Christ, and I am complete.  Colossians 2:9-10

He has qualified me to share in the inheritance of the saints.  Colossians 1:12

He has given me a home in heaven.  Colossians 1:13; Ephesians 2:6

He has lavished on me all the riches of His grace.  Ephesians 1:8

He longs to give me His very best.  Isaiah 1:19

He is distressed in my distress.  Isaiah 63:9

He lifts me up and carries me.  Isaiah 63:14

He leads me through the depths and the darkness.  Isaiah 50:10

He directs my steps.  Proverbs 20:24

He chooses to forget my sins; He buries them in the deep sea.  Isaiah 43:25, Micah 7:19

He has given me an inheritance far beyond my imagination.  Psalm 47:4; Eph 1:18, Col 1:12

He provides me with the strength to serve Him.  1 Peter 4:11