Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Scars

Anyone God uses significantly is always deeply wounded...On the last day, Jesus will look us over not for medals, diplomas, or honors, but for scars.             Brennan Manning


When my husband and I were first dating and getting to know each other better, we spent an afternoon pointing out our scars and sharing the stories behind them.

The truth is, our scars tell the stories of where we've been and who we are.  I have a scar on my finger from when my brother and I both foolishly stuck our finger into an open pop can.  Neither of us were willing to pull our finger out first, knowing whoever did would get cut.  I finally did and have a scar to prove it. I was so mad at him that day!  I have scars from childbirth, surgical scars and even scars from burning myself while cooking.

The scars you can't see are the ones that truly tell who I am.

I have emotional scars from my childhood.  The little girl in me remembers the pain like it was yesterday. As an adult, I am responsible for how I respond to the painful memories. I can't react like a child. I've been to counseling and i continue to choose forgiveness for those who hurt me.

Some scars are from people I've loved and lost.  I'm glad they left their mark.Those are beautiful scars!

I have scars from my own poor choices.  I've learned a lot from those scars.

I'm VERY proud of my scars from childbirth.  They remind me of my most precious gifts.

Some of my biggest scars are from motherhood.  Teaching, following through and being consistent. It hurts to see my children hurt and watching others hurt my kids or having to let them fail so they can learn from their failures. I worry about my children's faith. I worry when they make poor choices that negatively affect them. It's hard to allow my adult children to use their wings to fly and watching them falter as they get used to those wings. It hurts to know that I may have caused scars in my children. I wonder if I was good enough. I am blessed to have been chosen to serve God as a mother.<
I have scars that I carry because of someone else's poor choices, which have directly affected me.

One of the definitions of the word scar is "mental effect of distressing experience: a lasting effect on somebody's mind by a personal misfortune or unpleasant experience."  Another definition is" a mark on skin after damage: a mark left on the skin after a wound, burn or sore has healed over."

 As I ponder the scars that I carry, I think about the physical scars that are healed.  They tell a story.  The mental scars, they remind me of my need for Jesus.
I also have some scars from the jobs I've had. I've seen abuse and neglect and poverty up close, I've worked in a trauma center and watched families devastated by loss, I've sat by people as they've died in hospice, I've held the hand of women who have relinquished their child through adoption. Those are scars of service that I am honored to have walked with people. It is what I feel called to do.
Then there was a time when my own pain was so great, I could no longer reach out to others. I believe now I am at a place where I can look at some of the most traumatic and painful experiences in my life as the catalyst for my own personal growth.  Many wounds have healed but their lasting effects remain. I'm more compassionate with others as a result of my own scars. I can relate to pain. Pain doesn't always go completely away. It has changed me, made me more real and made me realize that everyone hurts. I am able to offer grace and mercy to people. I feel it is a gift born out of my own pain. My heart is forever changed. I can honestly say I am thankful for that. I could choose bitterness and anger but instead I choose to let God use me for His glory.


I love you Lord and I know you have scars because of me. I consider it an honor that you love me enough to have chosen the scars. Please use me significantly to impact others in your name. Give me opportunities to serve and love others.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Even So....

I feel like I am coming out of a very dark time in my life. The past 4 years have been the hardest years of my life. I've cried a million tears and asked a million questions of the Lord. You see, my life hasn't turned out the way I had planned.(I know! That was my first mistake, right?)

 I married this really great guy. I met my husband freshman year of college. We were from very different backgrounds. He was one of two children, I was one of seven. He never saw his parents fight. Mine fought but I knew they loved each other because they made a point of having date night once a week. His family came from a long line of Christians. My parents were both first generation Christians with a great deal of baggage. I grew up going to Catholic school, then a Pentecostal church and he was always Baptist. He is Swedish, I'm Italian. You get the picture. I was attracted to his looks but mostly his ability to be goofy and to make me laugh. I just remember feeling very safe with him.

The thing we had in common was our love for the Lord and our desire to follow him.

When we got engaged we took the Prepare/Enrich test which would reveal that we had a lot of "growth areas" mainly because of the very opposite upbringings we had. I was convinced that the Pastor wouldn't marry us because of this. Instead, he gently lead us to communicate how we would go from being individuals to becoming a team. My husband was very patient with me. I'm not too proud to admit that he's a much better person than I am. He is the epitome of what it means to be selfless. I'm selfish and controlling and impatient. He makes me want to be the best I can be, but I fail again and again.

We moved from Minnesota to Iowa to Kansas City to Indiana and then back to Minnesota. I didn't plan to live in a small town in Indiana for 14 years. I very proudly proclaim myself a big city girl! I didn't plan to grow to love that little town and the fact that I couldn't go to the grocery store without running into someone I knew.  I didn't plan to have six children with real problems. I didn't plan for teenagers. You get what I'm saying, I know.

 I planned to be a really great mom and to have kids who thrived.

We graduated and moved away from our families when he started medical school. It was the best thing for our marriage to literally leave and cleave like the Bible states. We only had each other and our faith. Some of my best memories from our early marriage are staying up late watching Andy Griffith and eating BLT sandwiches. We saved our change to go to Burger King when they had 2 for $2 specials. We cleaned every inch of our tiny apartment each Saturday, including pulling out the refrigerator each week. I know you are rolling your eyes, as am I.

Life was good. Not easy AT ALL but good. We had a couple kids, then a couple more and when we thought we were done, we ended up adopting twins. We gave our all to our parenting, had a lot of good Christian friends, had weekly date nights and often got away for a weekend to focus on nurturing our marriage. We had one very difficult child whom we poured ourselves into raising to the best of our ability. It was at this time we began feeling isolated because many of our friends could not relate to what we were going through.

All of our kids were high energy, and each one with their own struggles. When we adopted the twins, we knowingly accepted the challenge of starting over at age 39. It really brought our family closer together when the twins were born. I remember we would all sit on the floor and play with them and laugh at all the adorable things they did.

We were presented with the opportunity to move to our hometown for the first time in 20 years. We jumped at the chance. We were finally near our families. This my friends, is when life really got difficult for us.

Not long after we moved one child began using drugs and quickly spun out of control. We learned that one child had previously been sexually assaulted, which rocked our world to its core. Another child was horribly bullied at school. Another was overwhelmed by moving from a small town where they were fairly sheltered to being thrown into a huge school where no one cared that they were new and didn't bother to get to know them. An abusive dating relationship, self harming, drug dealers my son owed money to threatening our family, car accidents, an extended family member attempted suicide, head injury, lying, drinking, and a hospitalization were a few of the things we experienced.  My world fell apart.

Each of the children's reactions to these stressors lead us to make a lot of difficult parenting choices. Yet somehow through it all, my husband and I were still able to find something to laugh about. That's one of the things I love most about him, his ability to make me laugh!

Add to the above, that the fact that I had previously been very busy with my ministry with pregnant teenagers prior to moving and then I becoming a stay at home mom without much of a support system. I found myself very isolated in a new place with 2 babies and 4 tween/teens. The culmination of all of this threw me into a deep depression. I felt like I was standing in the ocean and I kept getting knocked down by the waves over and over again without a chance to catch my breath.  My illness deeply affected my family.

 At this time we had 4 teenagers. I was never really prepared for the real life difficulties of parenting teens. That and the fact that something happens to their brains and they don't think rationally and they often make really bad choices. I took every one of their poor choices personally. I really truly thought that if I tried my hardest to be a good mom and a good example and I raised my children to know Jesus and I was a good person that life would just be good. I began to realize that I couldn't control my children because they have free will. Elisa Morgan writes in her book 'The Beauty of the Broken'; "To this day, I've never discovered any passion quite like the mothering passion. Mother-love is a love of an intensity that has surprised me. For sure, there is the fact that mother-love is tied to a child that is under our care for its very survival. Yikes! But I've also discovered that mother-love is intrinsically about me as the mother, because fundamentally, its not just what I do that matters-the results of what I do become who I am. And I was determined to do motherhood right." As a mom, I want the best for my children. I thought I had failed them somehow.  I thought I was bad.

I had to alter my thinking. I began to realize that my children were their own people and they had wishes and passions of their own. And they were not perfect! Neither was I! In her book, Elisa goes on to say: "None of us is exempt from the startling reality of suffering in and around us because we have lived our life "right" In fact, doing life right can miss the mark as much as failure when we pride ourselves on our right living."

 I internalized each one of these things as personal failures. Then I got stuck in my grief and pain. I began to live prepared for the next worst thing. Let me tell you, it's hard to live like that. Our marriage suffered.  We forgot how to laugh together and fun was a word we no longer understood.

Eventually, I began reading, praying more and journaling. I'd write down everything that gave me hope or encouraged me. I posted verses and quotes all around my home. I went to counseling. Slowly, I've come out of that dark place and now everything is beginning to look new. I am not the same person I once was. I'm learning and growing and changing. I'm learning to trust God, because if I'm honest I had to grasp onto Jesus like never before during this time and learn what it really means to trust. That has been a tough one for me.

 When my family came into a difficult battle, I was crushed and broken. I was angry. The best thing that has come out of these hard times is that I have grown in my faith.  I know I really need Jesus!  I'm finding peace. I realizing that I am strong! I'm choosing joy. I don't have to carry my burdens, I can give them to the Lord.

 This past summer I kept singing the song 'It is Well With My Soul'. It really spoke to me.  I realize that I didn't fully trust God and hold onto Him when things were falling apart.  I didn't react like someone who truly trusted God.  I never want to feel so rocked to my core again in grief. I want to have that peace that passes all understanding. I want to hold onto the fact that He makes beautiful things out of the most ugly things! Incidentally, 2 years later, my family is healing and growing and I am amazed at what God is doing in each of our lives.  My kids are thriving in their own ways.  I am proud of how far we've all come!

I wanted to know more about the song so I looked up the words, then I read about the author Horatio Spafford. He was a prominent lawyer and was close friends with Dwight L. Moody. In 1870 he lost his only son, age 4 to pneumonia. Then the Great Fire of Chicago in 1871 destroyed a large amount of real estate he owned. In 1873 he decided to bring his family to England for rest and recovery. He was delayed by work so he sent his family ahead on the ship and would take a later ship. Unfortunately, the ship his wife and 4 children were on was struck by an iron sailing vessel. All four of their daughters died. Can you even imagine?

He learned of this when his wife Anna sent a telegram that read "Survived Alone". He sailed to England to comfort his wife and while on the ship to England, he wrote 'It is Well With My Soul'. I imagine him on the ship deep in his grief, watching the ocean and praising God in the midst of a horrible heart ache.  I read the words to this hymn and although it previously had meaning to me, the knowledge of this man's tragic losses and his great faith was inspiring!
I have come to understand that as long as I am living on this earth, there will be sin and evil and trauma and death. I will never be immune to pain and suffering. My own choices and the choices of others may cause negative consequences. I can not control what happens in my life but I can control my response to it.

 The two most poignant words in the entire song to me are in the last line of the last verse. EVEN SO No matter what happens, even so it is well with my soul.

My hope is that when I encounter future trials, because I know there will be more, that my response will be 'EVEN SO, it is will with my soul".

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Time for Everything-Why I haven't been blogging

I stopped writing. I needed to start living. Not that I can't do both, but I felt so broken in the midst of many trials and couldn't believe that I had anything worth sharing. So I stopped. There are certain trials that when you share with others, they gather around you and support you and there are other trials that especially as Christians, you just don't speak of. These are the kind of trials we were experiencing. So we walked through the dark haze of a grief so thick we could barely breath. We'd already experienced the pain of a child addicted to drugs, major depression and a suicide attempt in our extended family. This next experience, or better stated, this trauma shook us so hard, I couldn't see how we would ever recover. Not individually, not as a couple and not as a family. Here I am again pressing the familiar keys on my friend Mac because the dark haze has dulled to a light fog. When I think of how we are emerging, I envision a movie clip showing the characters in slow motion as they appear through the haze. They are dirty, bruised and bleeding but they are alive and they are together. Ok, so not that dramatic but you get the picture. Life is hard, it's messy and it's real. Your story may be different, but what I know to be true is that people may let you down but Jesus never will. In the end it is He who has sustained us. Things may not necessarily look the way I want them to but I am learning that God is ultimately in control. Not that he controls any of the bad things, but he can use all of it to bring about good. We are sometimes unable to see that in the midst of it but can only trust that He can use the ugliest stories for his ultimate glory. I know this because I have read some pretty ugly stories in the Bible where he does just that. Honestly, I just hoped my story wouldn't look so messy and hurt so much. I've recently found that the more real I am with people, the more they open up and share their own pain and messiness. I believe that God is going to use my family and our pain for his glory. How that will look is yet to be known by me. On June 11, 2012 I wrote the following in my journal: Lord, I will do ANYTHING for you, even if it hurts. I will not turn my back on you. Use me and mold me into who you would have me to be. He's still in the process of molding me.