Saturday, December 26, 2015

Bits of Healing and Lots of Faithfulness

As I'm sitting here this morning, I am overwhelmed with peace.

It's been a long time since I've felt such peace.

Surprisingly, after Joshua died, I experienced a time of God's hand upon me. I felt like he was holding me and comforting me in the times that I simply didn't know how I was going to survive. His peace came upon me and sustained my every breath. And as time passed, the overwhelming sense of His presence slowly faded away and I began struggling with my faith. However, through all of it, God remained faithful and clung to me even when I didn't want anything to do with him.

About a year ago, I experienced some difficulties within some significant relationships in my life.  I had to make some tough decisions regarding my emotional health and some relationships that were damaging to me. Without going into detail, I had to make decisions and set up strict boundaries that were extremely difficult and heart wrenching. These decisions left me feeling emotionally stronger than I had ever felt, but also like a crushing weight. It meant that everything I had known was going to be different and I had to let go dreams of reconciliation and work on forgiveness. I struggled with finding peace in all of it and trying to make decisions based on biblical truth rather than emotions and impulse.

I spent countless hours praying that I was doing the right thing, trusting that God would give me answers or that he would provide the reconciliation that I desperately wanted. I sought godly counsel in an effort to figure out what God desired and how to handle things in a biblical way. However, answers didn't come and I didn't feel peace.

I went through a time of wondering who I had in my life and discovering that relationships that I didn't think I had were actually in tact. I went through a time of feeling forsaken and completely alone. I prayed that God would help me find my identity in Him rather than in my perceived lack of community.

I also began the process of repentance and reconciliation with people who used to be in my life but for one reason or another were no longer in my life. I began to humbly seek out relationships that were lost to me and ask for forgiveness for my role in the deterioration of our relationships. Short of saying good bye to Joshua, this is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do- admit my fault in things and ask for forgiveness from people that I wasn't sure were going to forgive me.

But God was so faithful to restore what was lost to me. Just as he has begun restoring my broken heart from losing Joshua, he has also been restoring relationships in my life that were lost as well as strengthening relationships that were previously weak and unimportant to me. I was welcomed with open arms and given the opportunity to begin redeveloping the relationships that I so desperately wanted.

What was once broken, is becoming whole. What was once ugly and burdened by sin, is now beautiful and becoming more pure as He continues to heal the hearts of everyone involved.

As I spent time with this community of people this Christmas, I was overwhelmed by the love I thought I would never know. God provided forgiveness where it was desperately needed. He has given me new perspective and has provided healing to the relationships that were once lost.

As we drove home, I was overwhelmed and brought to tears by the love that I experienced. I was able to see the people that I love in the light of Christ's love for all of us. A love that was willing to die for us despite our failure and sinfulness. I was able to taste and see God's desire for reconciling us to himself through the blood of Jesus. I was able to get a small glimpse into the very nature of God- loving, faithful, forgiving, merciful, and just.

The pain of lost relationships is still very real in my life. I think it will always be. But God has been faithful to restore what was lost, and I continue to pray for reconciliation and forgiveness in the broken relationships. I continue to look to Him for my identity and trust that he will continue to be faithful in making me more like Jesus.

I am continuously blown away by how good He has been to me, even when I don't deserve it. He has been faithful to provide healing in so many areas of my life. It's been a long and painful journey, and I'm sure there will continue to be pain in the growing, but I'm so excited to see where God will lead me.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Rest

About 6 months ago, Shane accepted an Assistant Store Manager position at his work. He has worked retail his entire working life, and this position is something he is very proud of. He has worked from the bottom (a cart boy at the age of 17) up and has moved through the ranks in hardware store retail ever since. This position is something that he has worked hard for, and it's something he loves doing. However, like any position, it comes with its ups and downs. While it brought more monthly income into our home, it also requires 50 hours or more of work every week.

Our entire married life, Shane has worked retail, and it has been difficult to say the least. Retail requires nights, weekends, and holidays. When we were first dating, I had no idea how difficult this schedule would be for a family, but we have made it work.

His schedule seems to become a bigger burden for our family as the kids are getting older. When they were tiny and not in school, his hours were a lot easier to manage because the kids were home all the time. Now that they are in school, they go days and sometimes weeks at time seeing their dad only for an hour or so a day.

Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for the tiny amount of time they do get. I realize there are a lot of children in this world who would give anything to have even a few minutes with their dad every day. However, our reality is that he's not home much and it's difficult for all of us, Shane included.

As a "retail wife" I, daily, carry the burden of juggling schedules, housework, kids, extracurricular activities, small group, church, homework, meals, and the day to day operations of our home and family. I do 90% of the child rearing and discipline. I do all of the home work, housework, and discipleship work with the kids. I've gotten used to going to social functions without him, never being able to make plans, and working holidays around his schedule. It's a job that I have the privilege of doing for my family, but it is also exhausting.

Not only do I carry a majority of the load in regards to our every day family life, but I also have a chronic illness that I have to manage on top of everything else. About a year ago, I was diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis- a chronic inflammation of the bladder lining. If you have ever had a urinary tract infection, imagine that pain times 100. I have pain flares that leave me in bed for days at a time, writhing in pain. A typical pain flare lasts anywhere from 9-14 days. The only treatments for the pain are pain medications or bladder installations (catheter directly into the bladder with lidocaine, and other medication to help calm the bladder.) Sounds fun, doesn't it?

As the days have been getting harder in regards to Shane's work schedule, the kids activities and homework, as well a managing my health, I often find myself feeling utterly exhausted. I don't take my responsibility and obligations to my husband and children lightly, and I am often told that I have way too high of expectations for myself.

I work hard to ensure that our family runs smoothly, eats homemade meals as often as possible, and that my children are discipled and in the Word as much as possible, all while trying to allow Shane to lead our family.

Let me tell you. I fall into bed daily, exhausted and often unsure of how I will get through another day.

But God daily reminds me to find my rest in him.

It has taken me years to figure out how to find my rest in Him. What does that even mean? Does it mean that I will just float through my days with some sort of supernatural power that doesn't allow me to become tired? Does it mean that my faith isn't strong enough when I can't do one more thing? Does it mean that I have failed as a wife and mother when I am so emotionally drained that I can't get through another minute without screaming and crying like a crazy woman?

No.

God tells us to come to him, all who are heavy burdened, and he will give us rest. But what does that rest look like? I can tell you it doesn't mean that I will have a never ending supply of energy. It doesn't mean that I won't fall into bed at night, unable to make it through the "Dear Heavenly Father," part of my prayer before falling asleep.

It means that I have hope. Hope that all this hard work will produce fruit. Hope that God will give me the strength to get through another day because He wants me to. Hope that He will supply my every need- sometimes that need is simply holding me and telling me that I was enough for that day. Hope that God will be faithful to complete the good work that He began, not only in myself, but in my children and husband as well. Hope that when I am not enough, either to my children or my husband, that He IS enough.

It means that, some day, I will receive an eternal reward. I will stand before my maker, and He will see me through the lens of Jesus' death on the cross and he will say, "Job well done, my good and faithful servant." Even though I have failed more often than I have succeeded. Even when I have sinned over and over again. He will give me rest because he is faithful and so very gracious.

My rest may not come on this earth. The rest of my life might be exhausting and burdensome. There will be trials and struggles that will knock the wind out of my sail. But he WILL be faithful to give me rest. I trust in that daily and that is where I find my strength.





Saturday, December 5, 2015

Foggy Hope

I've been in a general fog lately.

I don't know why. I keep wondering if it's the change in the season. Or maybe PMS. Or maybe it's just the general fog of anxiety combined with the holidays. I'm not sure what it is, where it came from, or when it will go away.

I'm having a hard time focusing on things. I have been waking up every night at 1:30am and haven't been able to fall back asleep. My days seem long and exhausting (even more than they usually do.)

I'm not sure what is going on.

As I muddle my way through the fog, I'm continue to seek God's comfort. He knows what is going on, and surely he will sustain me through it. He has before, and he will continue. Psalm 34:17 says "The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from their troubles."

I continue to struggle with the blah-ness that I'm feeling, I continue to try and focus on Philippians 4:8 that says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things."

I have so much good in my life. I have a God who has been my strength and my healer. I have a husband who adores me and has stuck with me through the best and the worst of times. I have 3 beautiful, breathing children. I have a home that keeps me warm, has been my sanctuary, and is an undeserved gift from God. I have a church and a pastor who faithfully preach the gospel week after week. I have friends who encourage me. I have hope of eternity not only with Joshua, but worshiping Jesus. I have so many good, right, and lovely things in my life.

I continue to cling to the truth that God will use this for his glory. Struggles are never fun. They are never an enjoyable experience. But the growing happens rapidly when we endure struggles. I don't like being in the fog. It's not something I enjoy for myself or for my family. But God promises there is a purpose in all of it. I just pray that I will be willing to be used according to his will.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too." 
2 Corinthians 1:3-5
 
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