Love for the broken heart…

I have been listening to Third Day’s Cry out to Jesus lately. Over and over and over again…

My family is sick, my son has a condition that no one seems to know how to treat, my daughter is feeling the lack of attention as her daddy and I work around the clock to figure out where to go next in her brother’s options.

And the icing on the cake? The sleepless nights that lead into long, stressful days.

I have never been more afraid in my life of the unknown than I am now. I have also never been more certain of God’s unending Grace and sovereign control over every aspect of our lives.

How does that oxymoron work you might ask?

I have also never spent more time on my knees before the throne of God than I do now.

I have gone through trials and struggles in my life and have sought God’s guidance during those times. I struggle through doubts and temptations and questions when my life seems to be taking a turn for the worst.

And really, I cannot say that my life has been all that laden in trials. Some might even call it charmed. God has blessed us with good health, a roof over our heads, beautiful children, a strong God-centered marriage, and even many of our wants supplied.

I struggle with fear. Even in light of all the blessings, I struggle to comprehend the full extent of God’s love for me. It truly does overcome all fears. But I have to surrender my fears to God in order for Him to work.

How difficult it is for me as a mother to open my arms and surrender. My children are and always will be God’s. His first and on loan to me for a brief time.

Yet I want to scream out! “I bore this child within me for nine months. I labored to bring him/her into this world. It was MY sweat and blood and tears. MY child. You cannot have them.”

You know what I fear the most? I fear what happens when I finally say, “I surrender my children to Your Will God. No matter what they belong to You! You give and you take away; blessed be Your name.”

I ache for my son when he cries for endless moments and does not seem to be comforted by anything I do. I want to rage at the doctors (who are only human) when they cannot give me answers to the questions I so desperately long to know. I weep when exhaustion has stretched me to the limits and I do not feel like I can go on any longer – I want to crawl into a little ball and hide myself from the world until all the pain goes away.

In the end, I consecrated my son and my daughter to God the moment I found out they were growing within me. It is a daily – often moment by moment – struggle to surrender them into the best place they can possibly be. In God’s loving, healing, amazing arms.

I will struggle tomorrow when the lack of sleep and lowered immune system brings our family down. I will struggle when the next doctor tells me they have never seen Luke’s condition before before deciding that they would still like to experiment on him to see if they get good results. I will struggle as Luke’s weight may or may not start increasing and we have to worry about a possible failure to thrive. I will struggle as the genetics counselor tells us what could possibly be plaguing my son on a DNA level.

But I can – and will – do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me. The Joy of the Lord IS my strength in mysterious and powerful ways. And if I cry out to Jesus, He WILL meet me wherever I am. And He will hold me tightly in His loving, strong, healing, AMAZING arms – just as He holds my children there too.

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It’s about time Spring came…

The one major drawback to living in the Midwest for me? The long, cold winters…

For someone who is grossly affected by weather changes, sunless, dreary days are just the epitome of depression-inducement. I really struggle with this aspect of myself because I know that it is not from God. I give in really easily to grumpiness and pessimism, allowing my attitude to permeate my entire day.

On the upside, this also means that the sunny, warm days of spring, summer, and even a little bit of fall just fill me with joy and energy. My baby is two months old on the sixteenth of this month and the lack of sleep would normally be extremely dampening to my spirit. However, with the return of spring and the warm, sunny weather, I am finding myself full of an energy that only comes from the spark of God-given life.

I am thrilled to be alive…

This month marks a lot of new changes in our lives. Financially, physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally…it’s all there in the works as God molds us like once-more pliable clay. I have felt the hardening that creeps into my heart at times when depression and stress and trying to do it all on my own takes over. It scares me just how hardened I can get and how much I end up taking for granted before I end up surrendering to God once again. Such a roller coaster of ups and downs – my old self still rears its ugly head at the worst of times.

You know what I notice the most during these times of willful rebellion? My imagination and creativity take a nose dive into the abyss. I have been working on several manuscripts and stories. It is amazing and daunting what lack of surrender to God does to my writing. Everything either sucks royally, or my mental block kicks in full force. We truly are tied indubitably to our Creator. We can truly do nothing without His blessing and grace. Why do I forget this so easily?

Bella is standing on the window seat and staring at the activity going on outside. It is still a bit chilly this morning, or she would be out there herself. I cannot wait to watch her and Luke chase birds, dance in the rain, and play on our nearly two acres of lawn.

Life is truly a beautiful experience even through the pain and tears. With all that goes on in our world today, all the despair and hopelessness, all the evil…it’s still amazing what we can find to bring us joy. God is our provider, our Creator, our Healer, and our Savior among many other attributes.

Tis the Season

Do you find it ironic that in the midst of a season dedicated to peace, joy, generosity, and goodwill, many people struggle with depression, despair, and hopelessness?

Why is this?

We expend so much energy to fill our holidays with bright lights, sweet treats, and rich foods. We spend so much money to purchase gifts for family and friends, knowing full well that they will more than likely forget what they received within a couple of months. We throw ourselves into the preparations for this one – maybe two – day celebration only to feel the dramatic and draining let down after the festivities are concluded.

If you noticed, the above paragraphs speak of abstract feelings while focusing on what we ACTUALLY do during the holiday rush. Not once did I mention the true intents of the season – at least, not in concrete ways.

And therein lies the real issue…

You see, it’s not that the season isn’t about peace on earth and joyful giving; it’s that we have lost those qualities to abstract dreams while bringing into concrete focus, the ideals of greed, temporary happiness, and instant gratification. We say that the reason for the season is Jesus Christ and all that He represents…in the end however, we don’t live what we preach.

Me and my family made a commitment this year to bring Jesus Christ out of the abstract woodwork and into the central focus of our holidays.

It is definitely easier to do in theory than it is to give up years of ingrained habits. And I found myself resorting to old feelings of selfishness and greed. I mean, I have rights to enjoy a little selfishness for a couple days a year – Right? I want to cling to my arcane traditions and temporary pleasures – damn the consequences after the season is over…

The morning of Christmas dawned and I was half-heartedly fighting back these thoughts. I watched as Bella opened up her two presents and Jake, his gift from me. And I read the little sheet of paper that my husband gave me – a voucher for a one hour massage whenever I wanted to redeem it.

The small portion of my spirit that actually tunes into the Spirit is saying – I will enjoy my massage far more than my husband or daughter will enjoy their store-bought gifts. Of course, the selfish part of me complained rather loudly that I deserved more than just a measly back rub in light of all the sacrifice and work I put into making this Christmas festivity great…Right?

I was still struggling as the Christmas meal wound down and in a fit of selfish pique, I left the dishes and my family for the comfort of my bed so that I could pout in relative peace. I knew that I would have to deal with the mess after I woke up, but I really couldn’t care at that point.

So imagine my surprise on waking up from a very long nap to see that my amazing husband had personally cleared up every last bit of the mess, even sweeping the floor and wiping down the counters. The food was put away and he and Bella were happily enjoying their time together (a fact that caused a twinge of guilt when I realized what my selfishness had missed out on while I napped for three hours) For my temporary pleasure, I gave up time that could have been so precious for our family.

I am tired; don’t get me wrong. This pregnancy has taken a lot of my steam out of me, and napping is a good thing for me to enjoy. But did I really need three hours? Granted, it felt good, but it made going to bed that night extremely difficult.

Watching my husband’s face as I took in the clean, sparkling kitchen, I realized that he had given me a gift so much more meaningful than the paltry little board game I got him or even the meal that I prepared. He gave out of pure joy and servant hood, while I gave with the expectation that I was going to receive something in return. Talk about making me cry…he definitely got it! This concept of service and remembering the sacrifice of Christ as he gave up his deity to become a lowly human being and show us what it means to give our all. Jake got it this year and I was left with the melancholy that comes from another year of losing the big picture.

It didn’t stay that way though…I definitely made the connection and got on the right track by God’s grace. But it is bittersweet in victory because I lost out on the chance this year to celebrate Christ’s birth with the right attitude in my heart. Next year, I can make that commitment again – and pray that I do not lose sight of it once more.

The reason we have to live in joy and peace and contentment every day and moment of our lives is because of the total surrender of God’s Son to His Father’s Will and the sacrifice that was born of that selfless, amazing surrender. This is what I will strive for…this is what it means to celebrate Christmas!