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Defining Moments

In every person’s life there are events that change you forever.  You can look back and see a clear divide between before and after.   You were one person before and someone else after.

Defining moments

The birth of a child, especially the first child,  is that type of event for most parents.

Josiah’s birth was a defining moment for me but not only for the usual reasons.  His birth was the most traumatic event of my life.  When I look back, I feel like I don’t even know the person I was before.

I almost lost a child that day and my own life was at risk. It all happened so fast. The world became a scary place where any terrible thing could happen at any time.

It changed me.

I have often wondered why it has had such a dramatic impact on my life?  I think it comes down to this; before I believed that if I just made the right choices, behaved properly and believed the right things, I would be SAFE. 

Theologically incorrect and self -righteous.

After, God’s goodness came into question in a devastating way- the questions that had previously been whispering to me, were now SHOUTING.

Is God real?

Does He love me?

Will he protect me?

Is He sovereign?

I told myself things like-  Your son is alive! He is healthy! You are alive! You should just be grateful!

Oh the guilt...

You know what??

I AM SO VERY GRATEFUL TO GOD FOR ALL OF THAT AND MORE!

However, that gratitude does not silence the grief of dreams and innocence lost.  It does not silence the guilt I sometimes still feel when I wonder “did I do something to cause it??” It does not silence the questions and doubts that arise from going through something that seems so senseless.

Grief and gratitude are not mutually exclusive and neither are faith and doubt!

I have had to adjust my theology from God will protect me if I do/say/think all the right things to God works all things together for the good of those that love him…  My “safety” is totally out of my hands.  My good deeds don’t save me in a spiritual or a physical way.

One of the most painful things about this season of my life was the feeling that I was alone.  I felt like people only wanted to hear the praise but not the pain

If you know a mom (or anyone) who has gone through something like this, even if they are spouting joy and praise, there is probably underlying pain, grief, guilt and doubt. 

Ask them questions and don’t be afraid of the answers.

I say that knowing many people will be afraid of the answers.

I am not anymore.

Josiah’s birth was a defining moment in a messy and beautiful way.  As Glennon Melton from Momastery.com says, it was “brutiful.”  Both brutal and beautiful.

I may not remember the girl I was before Josiah was born but I am getting to know who I am now.  It’s messy and good.  I have more to offer a hurting world now…

I am a beautiful mess and He is truly bringing beauty from the ashes.

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Picture Perfect

My life is not picture perfect.  I’m guessing yours isn’t either. However, social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest can give the impression that EVERYBODY else’s life is picture perfect, while mine or yours is kinda messy.

I wonder sometimes, how many people spend their lives pursuing a commercialized or social media driven perception of happiness? All the while, taking their potentially fulfilling real lives for granted.

I’ve used Facebook for a few years and I have watched everyday snapshots become more and more professional looking and commercialized.   It makes me wonder if we are subconsciously (or consciously) using social media to “market” a certain perception of ourselves rather than to share our reality?

If you could see a snapshot of my life at this very moment, you would see me sitting on the couch in a sweatshirt with no make-up.  The mess from lunch is still all over the kitchen.  There are toys everywhere.  Asha’s crazy curly hair is starting to dread because I haven’t washed it for a few days and she has snot on her face because I can’t keep her from wiping it straight up into her hair.  Yuck!  I probably won’t post our picture on Facebook today!

We post the highlights and occasionally the rants but not the “ugly” stuff.  Nobody puts “I forgot to pay my credit card last month and Citibank called me 75 times today and keeps calling even after I paid it” on their status.

Yep, that happened to me!  Why didn’t I post it? Because it’s kind of embarrassing ..what will people think of me?  They might think I’m so disorganized, I can’t even pay my bills on time. They would be a little bit right and I would rather hide that fact.

So, instead I/we post things like… “My husband is so awesome, he did such and such”  OR “My kid got 120% on everything and reads 200 books everyday…” it becomes easy to believe that everyone is perfect and happy when we only see their highlights and when they only see ours.  Then we compare our reality to other people’s highlights and we feel like a huge mess.

I do that all the time.

Perhaps I am the only one?  Probably not!

The truth is- Nobody’s life is perfect.  We all have strengths and weaknesses.  We post our strengths on Facebook and feel bad when someone else’s strength reminds us of our weakness.

The last few years, Jaison and I have been kind of just holding on.  Desperately trying not to fall into the grips of rejection, grief, anxiety and depression.  It’s much better now and there is starting to be “room” for more in our lives.  However, for a long season we just did what was necessary to stay afloat.  We kept it simple.  No elaborate projects or traditions. Just the basics.

Soooooooo, no fancy pictures of our house, yard, baby nursery, Christmas traditions, vacations, etc…

I’ll admit, I often have felt bad when I have seen other people’s pictures of their projects and traditions.  I have felt like I was somehow cheating my kids because they don’t have chandeliers and murals in their rooms or mischievous elves stalking them.

Here’s the truth- IT DOESN’T MATTER! 

We made it through a horrible season of life while maintaining a simple but happy life for our children and a growing marriage. Our kids are happy, we have made some great memories and we have learned some awesome lessons.

There is no way to take a picture of that.

If there was, it probably wouldn’t be pretty. It would be all messy, blurry, totally unprofessional and I would love it.  I would love it even more than a professional picture that made me look really skinny!  I would love it because it’s my REAL life. Someone else might look at it and think “ugh, what a terrible picture”  but I will always know the beauty of it.

What would your real life picture look like?

Hope Surrendered

Life, doesn’t always go the way we hope.

Nobody likes to suffer.  Even Jesus prayed “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Something inside Him hoped for a less painful, less humiliating way.  Yet,  even knowing what was coming, He surrendered that hope.

His hope surrendered ultimately produced hope eternal.

To really know Jesus, I believe we have to know suffering…disappointment, rejection, humiliation, grief, and sorrow.

It has taken me a long time to accept this and these truths are still working themselves out in my life, but this passage means something so much deeper to me now; He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God,  stricken by him, and afflicted…  Isaiah 53:3-4 NIV

For me, “hope deferred” (Proverbs 13:12) has become hope surrendered.  My posture before the Lord has changed to a “not my will but yours be done” posture in a deeper way than I have ever known before.

That’s not to say that I don’t have bad days.  I do.  I have really bad days.  Throw in the towel and become an atheist days.  However, I always end up with my hope surrendered.

May it become hope eternal.

Poem taken from “Streams in the Desert”  November 30

There is a peace that cometh after sorrow,
Of hope surrendered, not of hope fulfilled;
A peace that looketh not upon tomorrow,
But calmly on a tempest that it stilled.
 
“A peace that lives not now in joy’s excesses,
Nor in the happy life of love secure;
But in the unerring strength the heart possesses,
Of conflicts won while learning to endure.
 
“A peace there is, in sacrifice secluded,
A life subdued, from will and passion free;
‘Tis not the peace that over Eden brooded,
But that which triumphed in Gethsemane.”

Broken

I have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be “broken”  by the Lord. 

It’s no secret, the last few years have been messy.  Disappointment, death, financial difficulty, depression, rejection, and indifference are just a few of the “trials” we have endured and continue to endure.

I have been leveled, isolated, broken.  I have been reminded of  who I would be without the redemptive power of Jesus.  It’s not good at all. 

As much as I hate to admit it, I am thankful for the mess.  I can see glimpses of what it is producing in me and it is good.  I see surrender where there was battle.  Humility where there was pride.  Compassion where there was indifference.   Trust where there was fear.

Of course, there are still battles, pride lives on, indifference protects and doubt and fear creep in.  But, they control me less than they used to. 

I have been healed and I am being healed.  God is good and scripture often talks about how God tears down in order to build up.  I understand that now more than ever before. He allowed some of the ugly stuff to be destroyed so He could re-build my broken life and make something beautiful out of it.

I have persevered (clung by a thread to my faith when I felt completely abandoned) and perseverance produces character and character produces hope.  I have hope again.

So, what does it mean to be broken?  In this season of my life brokeness came from having every high opinion of myself destroyed and ultimately coming to a place of surrender.  

Whenever I feel the fight and anxiety coming back, I just put my palms up before the Lord and say “you know best.”

On The Shore of The Sea

Sometimes our destiny, calling or blessing lies across a deep, raging sea.  We stand on the shore,  knowing that we do not have the strength to cross.   The people around us tell us that there is no way to get to the other side.  It is impossible.  It is easier here on this side.  Safer.  They tell us, we tell ourselves, that we don’t have what it takes to succeed over there. They are right, but something compels us to get to the other side, to cross the raging sea.  Somehow we know that what we were made for lies waaaaay over there.  So, we stand here on shore of the sea…scared, overwhelmed,  doubting, questioning our own sanity.  

I’m there.  Jaison and I are there together.  Standing here, looking towards our destiny.   Torn, between living a safe  life that we have not been called to, and moving forward across enormous challenges to continue the journey to our destiny.   Even as I write this, I am questioning myself.  Destiny?  That is just some whimsical idea.  Calling?  Whatever!  Yet, I truly believe in those things.  Somehow I know that God has things for us that we will only take hold of if we cross the raging sea.

You know, the Israelites were there too.  They left Egypt where their needs were met in slavery, only to end up on the shore of a raging sea. Their destiny lying on the other side.  Slavery probably looked good as their hearts filled with doubt  What? You want me to cross THAT?  With my kids? We will drown.  At least we had homes and food and jobs in Egypt.  It was impossible. There was NO way they were getting across the sea.   Until, Moses obeyed God and simply lifted his arms.  Seriously, how easy was that?  The sea parted and they saw the biggest miracle of their lives. 

 Doubt became awe.

It is impossible for us.  There is no way we can cross the raging sea.  So, we stand here…but God is starting to tell us to move…to lift our arms…to just take the first step…be obedient…have faith.  It is terrifying, but we will see the impossible.

Doubt will become awe.

Beauty for Ashes…My “Agnostic Days”

In the past several years, I have seriously considered the possibility that God doesn’t exist.  I’m not talking about just having a bad day and thinking God doesn’t love me…in a tantrum of self-pity. I’m talking about really wrestling with the possibility that everything I have ever believed is just a bunch of made up stuff.  For someone like me, who has built my entire life around my faith, that is a really awful place to be.  It’s like removing the foundation from underneath a house. It would crumble to the ground.

I’m a skeptic, doubt comes naturally and it is something I have battled for most of my life.  I’m like the guy in Matthew 9 who tells Jesus “I believe, forgive my unbelief.”  I struggle with doubt even when life is going well and it seems like God is near.  Over the last 6 years or so, life hasn’t always gone well and God has been kind of silent.  Doing the right thing no longer guaranteed getting the right result.  Dreams were replaced with disappointment and loss.  I could no longer find purpose in the events in my life.  My prayers seemed to fall to the ground. I could no longer convince myself of God’s existence through my circumstances.

It’s in this context that I have been forced to face my doubts honestly.  I’ve read books, watched debates, and studied philosophy.  I have honestly examined both sides of the argument on God’s existence and decided that Atheism does not suit me.  I just can’t embrace the idea that everything randomly came from nothing.

Agnosticism on the other hand…well, that’s an idea I can get cozy with.  It can somewhat answer the question of where we came from; we can’t really know but maybe some impersonal designer.  It answers the question of my suffering and THE question of suffering; it just is what it is, there is no purpose or reason for it.  It lets me off the hook; no one in particular to obey.  It’s easy and sometimes I want easy.  So, I have what I call “agnostic days.”  They usually coincide with my “whatever, I don’t care anymore” days and my “I give up” days.

Then, every single time, there is a quiet voice in my heart that says Nope, this isn’t right…remember when…?  I do, I remember when…  and all of a sudden I am reminded that I’ve experienced too many “coincidences” to not believe in God.  So, my faith in God and my hope in Jesus live another day.

For years now, I have been comparing my current weak  faith with my former strong faith and beating myself up over it.  Well, the clouds have parted a little and for the first time in a long time, I’m starting to see more clearly.  I catch glimpses of the purpose behind the pain and I am realizing that my faith is not weaker than it used to be,  it’s more real.

My foundation has not been removed like I thought, but the big, poorly constructed house that was built on it has burned to the ground.  There’s not much left, not much at all, but what’s left is real, tested and proven.

Beauty for Ashes…

…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:2-4