Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Our Story of the Loaves and Fishes

26 years ago, Jay and I said all those special words that made us husband and wife: For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.  We've definitely traveled all those paths over the years. We've experienced lots of "better" and plenty of "worse", some times when we've been "richer than poorer", and we've had times of physical and emotional "sickness" that were difficult seasons. Thankfully, we've had lots of years of health as well.

We were so young getting married under circumstances that were not ideal to build a foundation on. I'm sure many people that watched us exchange vows wondered just how long our marriage would last. I think in the early years, the phrase "ignorance is bliss" worked in our favor. We were college students juggling babies and toddlers without anyone around us that could really share our journey. We were figuring things out...often taking long detours because we didn't have the life experience we needed to make good decisions.(and a lack of humility to ask for help when we should have!)

Making our childhood faith our own was the glue that kept Jay and I together through all the challenges we have faced in our marriage. I don't have statistics, but I imagine that a marriage that starts at 18, faces the devastating grief of losing a child at 24, and has a child diagnosed with severe Autism when they are 30 would definitely be in the category of a high divorce rate. Thankfully, we continue to defy the odds but we still work hard at staying connected and loving each other through our own faults and weaknesses.

As a multitasking woman, I often read multiple books at the same time. I usually have a book I only read at bed time, a book I only read in adoration, and a book I read here and there when I can sneak in a few minutes of quiet time.

Recently, my "quiet time" book was Love is Patient, But I'm Not by Christopher West. I was drawn to the catchy title that unfortunately rings true for me much of the time. (Jay likes to tease me that I will never be known as St. Michelle the patron saint of patience. Unfortunately, it's the truth!)

This book has some thought provoking words and questions with very short chapters. (Which is why it's ideal for quick reads in my limited quiet time!) In Chapter Six, Love is Not Rude, West writes about what "Pope Francis calls "the principle of spiritual realism" in marriage" which is the "interior freedom to release the other person from the burden of completely satisfying my needs."(pg39) As West continues, "this does not mean denying or repressing our needs; rather, it means learning how to open them to God in prayer."(pg39)

Jay and I are blessed to have a very good, albeit imperfect, marriage. There have definitely been times in our marriage...even recently...when I look to Jay to fill a God sized hole in my heart. While Jay can be supportive about feelings or thoughts I might be struggling with, he can't do God's job of healing my heart. (And of course it works both ways. I can't fill Jay's God sized holes either!) I've had lots of practice over the years learning to lean into God and to wait on him when those holes appear. It's not always a quick fix, but it is the way that God brings true healing and understanding into my empty spaces. Not only that, but when the hurt is gone and grace is poured into those former holes, I then have more to give my family and friends. I LOVE when that happens!

Our marriage is being launched into a new season of life. The lives that our love have brought forth is growing as two of our sons have gotten engaged in the last few months. In August of 2019 and May of 2020, we will welcome two new daughters into our family. Jay and I already have thoughts of future grandbabies dancing in our heads!

There is so much to take in! As our lives are changing, I am just trying to soak in all of the joyful moments. I feel more deeply the joy of the fleeting moments of having all of my children in our home at the same time. I try to imprint on my memory the sounds of our adult children, their fiancees' and our teenagers playing games and laughing together. I snuggle with Kate and Luke on the couch for a few extra minutes past bedtime because I know the time will come all too soon when that sweet spot of child raising will be over for good.

Once the little kids go to sleep, I sit next to Jay on the couch with my head on his chest. Our hearts are filled with gratitude for the love that fills our home, for all those happy voices, and for the two youngest dreaming in their beds. God took a very imperfect love between two very imperfect people and He continues to multiply it in unexpected ways. It's our very own "loaves and fishes" story!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Avoiding a Hagar Moment

Waiting is hard.

Have you ever noticed that when you're waiting on direction from God, His GPS often leads us onto out of the way roads, up and down hills, and to places that seem like "you have arrived" only to realize it was only a short side trip?

Yeah, me too!

In the past,(and sometimes the very not so distant past!), I have been known to take that first step of God's direction very well....and then I assume I know exactly where I'm going, shut off God's GPS, and just drive.

As you can imagine, it never ends all that well.

Now that I'm a little "older" and have misused God's GPS time and time(and time and time and time...well, you get the picture!) again, I have finally started to try and pay attention to ALL of His directions in regards to whatever topic I'm seeking His guidance on at the moment. Regardless of how His plans align with my plans, (umm..almost never!), I try very hard to stay patient and wait for the next "turn right here" to come to the screen of my heart. Then there's the "issue" of timing. I try, often unsuccessfully, to not complain about how.very.long this trip seems to be taking! Being patient and trusting in God's timing is so not easy sometimes!

I read those stories about the Israelites wandering around in the desert and, as much as I want to believe otherwise, that totally would have been me! I would have been complaining and whining through the wilderness despite seeing so many amazing miracles that God worked!

I know in my head and heart that waiting on God and following His plans will work out so much better for me. Since I've had so many experiences in the past testing out this theory in a negative way, I'm much better at recognizing an opportunity to be patient and trust in God's timing in my life. It's still really hard! I still tend to be a "see a problem, make a plan, fix the problem as quickly as possible" kind of person. As I said before, God's timing generally looks a lot different than mine!

I've had too many "Hagar moments" in my life. What does that mean? Remember the story of Abraham and Sarah? While Abraham was still Abram and his wife was still Sarai, God made a covenant with him and promised that he would have a son and his descendants would be like the stars in the sky.(Genesis 15; 4-5) Abram and Sarai were pretty old. And Sarai didn't conceive right away after God gave Abram the promise. So Sarai decided to "help" God with His timing. Sarai gave her maid, Hagar, to Abram thinking this would be the way he would get a son. And while Hagar did bear Abram's son, Ishmael, that was not God's plan and caused a whole lot of stress and hurt.(see Genesis 16-18) 

So a "Hagar Moment" is when I try and "help" God with His timing in something in my life...or those close to me...when God has shown me the first couple directions(or maybe even just one direction!) on a path He wants me to take. And just like the story of Hagar, it ends up causing a whole lot of stress and hurt that I could have saved myself from if I had only remained patient and waited for God's next direction instead of trying to figure it out on my own.

Let's just say I've been a slow learner!

But I am determined to do better! I now recognize God's GPS a little more clearly. And God has used all my mistakes to teach me more about patience and fortitude. When I'm tempted to try and find a short cut, I remind myself that things never work to my advantage when I try to blaze the trail and I keep returning my gaze to God and renew my desire to wait on Him...and pray for the grace of patience in the waiting!

Currently, I'm avoiding Hagar moments in my search for direction in my new season of life as a mom of school age children and young adults who are becoming independent human beings. My kids need me in different ways now than they used to. There is a lot of joy in this new stage of life. With two engaged sons we have the exciting times of wedding planning and future grandchildren to occupy our thoughts. Since our youngest kids are 7 and 9, everyone is much more independent with self care. We have been diaper free for quite a while. I would like to say I sleep through the night, but Luke tends to have nightmares(#overactive imagination) so I still find myself woken up most nights of the week!(but that's still much different than all nighters with newborns!)

I've actually been in this season of searching for a couple of years. I did a lot of thinking and praying when Kate was in preschool 2 years ago, and last year I started on a path that led to grad school but discerned that it was one of those side trips I mentioned at the beginning of the post! None of these twisty roads God has led me on have been a waste of time. I've learned a lot as I've rediscovered myself with a life without babies and toddlers. I'm working on some issues God has highlighted along the way, like simplifying both our clutter and our finances. I've also had to grow and stretch by being open to new opportunities God has placed in my path. I've been working really hard to be in tune to God's plans for me and for our family and not to just jump at everything that crosses my path. It's not easy and I'm not perfect, but I am making progress!

In some ways, I feel like I've been in a cocoon and God has been working on my heart. I still haven't emerged completely and I'm still not sure exactly what the plan will be, but I'm trying to be content on the road that God has placed me on and I continue to have ample opportunities to work on trust!(trust has never been one of my strengths!)

Are you struggling with a "Hagar Moment" in your life?

photo credit: World Outreach Church

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and rely not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make safe your path."(Proverbs 3:4-5)