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".


Anonymous said...

Very encouraging, Gina. Thanks for being so open about your life. - Laura Towle Smith

oursearskithome.blogspot.com said...

Thank you Gina. The Lord has used you tremendously to minister to me today. I am saving this post and sharing it as well.
God is good.
Forging ahead with joy!,

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