Tuesday, July 30, 2013

It Comes Down to This

It has been a difficult couple of years.  I have fought a lot of self-pity.  "Woe is me.  My life didn't turn out the way I wanted.  This is hard work.  I don't like it."

From the outside, it may seem like the fact that my husband had a stroke should be "no big deal" by now.  "Hey, it's 2 1/2 years later.  Accept it and move on."  I accepted the stroke itself within the first six months...by repeating to myself over and over and over, "My husband had a stroke."  It was very unreal, so I said it to myself and out loud to everyone I met until I accepted it.  Then it was, "My husband is disabled."  To the cashier at Meijer.  To the guy at the greenhouse who helped me to load wood chips onto a cart.  To the people who came to my yard sales.

Then it was, "Will I have to work full-time for the rest of my life?"

Then, "We have to file for bankruptcy."

Then, "Our marriage will never be the same."

Then, "God....You let us down."

When I was young(er), my vision for my life was this:  Know, Love and Serve God.  Get married, have kids, raise a family of prayer warriors (a word God spoke to me when I was a missionary in the Philippines), and become Super Wife and Super Mom. Can you guess what didn't happen the way I wanted it to?

The time has come.  I am challenging myself, my children, my husband, and hopefully all who read this:  Accept God's will for your life.  I was reading Psalm 16, which I had dubbed as my "life Psalm" over 20 years ago. I wanted my heart to reflect what David said in the Psalm, "Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.  The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance."

But my attitude has been far from this in dealing with the aftermath of the stroke.  I accepted that it happened; obviously, I couldn't deny what in fact had happened.  But I have been crying, whining, and complaining that God didn't swoop in and fix it all right away.  Where was the miraculous healing?  Where was my husband's Academy-Award-winning rally?  Where was the new house and car that Ty Pennington should have given me?  Where were my lottery winnings?

I hope you realize that I am exaggerating just a little, but it certainly didn't get easier when I had to work full-time in a high-stress job for a year after the stroke.  It worked out peacefully for me to move to a part-time position, but that created more financial stress.  It didn't get easier to deal with the depression and anxiety with which I've battled for years; in fact, those things became exponentially worse.  My kids didn't magically transform into Spirit-led prayer warriors.  And I most certainly did NOT become Super Mom.

Now, I'm faced with this reality:  God has surely allowed my life to progress to the place where it is today; surely for His purposes, and ultimately for my salvation.  Either I can change my thinking from "God, when are you going to do something about this huge mess in my life?" to "God, show me how I can serve you in this mess" OR I will continue to be depressed, miserable, and deceived.

Can you guess what choice I'm going to make?

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Vine and the Branches

After a heat wave, even a short one like the one we had in Michigan a few weeks ago, it's not hard to find patches of dying grass or wilting blossoms on the summer flowers.

That's how I feel.  Like a crispy, dried branch on a vine that is otherwise healthy.  I was reading John 15, and I realized that I'm the branch on the vine that is at risk of being cut off by the Gardener.  I'm not exactly sure how to take that verse - John 15:2 says that God the Father will cut off every branch that does not bear fruit.  I understand the symbolism - that I had better be connected to Jesus or I'm wasting my life.  But will God really cut me off?  In the light of Jesus' mercy, I think the cutting will be God cutting off the junk that makes me unproductive.  That's probably why it hurts.  God is pruning me and cutting off the clutter that doesn't really matter in my life.

I don't know why I didn't inherit my mother's green thumb.  She loves to garden, and she works in her yard any chance she can get.  I just want something to look pretty outside my house with minimal human involvement, like a realistic sculpture of a plant.  My mom came to visit me one spring after we had just moved to a new house.  She wanted to help me re-create the existing gardens.  In her zeal, she accidentally  cut a rather healthy clematis all the way to the ground. She felt terrible.  But guess what?  The clematis came back that summer, and by the fall, it had grown up, not only wrapping itself around the trellis, but climbing all the way to the 2nd story roof on our house. 

I think this must a be a pruning period for me.  I have allowed a lot of junk to invade my life, to the point that it is suffocating my spiritual life.  In response to the real challenges of having a disabled husband and filing for bankruptcy and trying to raise 4 kids who aren't completely dysfunctional,  I have turned to junk to fill my needs instead of God.  I sleep a lot.  I eat too much.  I watch TV or play video games or surf the web endlessly.  Kind of useless junk, wouldn't you say?  Of course I need to let God trim that junk away so that I can get on with the business of knowing, loving and serving God.  Theoretically, it shouldn't hurt too much to have that stuff cut away.  It isn't really satisfying anyway, but for some reason, I keep chasing down the crap that doesn't fulfill.

Time to let God do His thing.  Please take out the trash, Lord; cut off the fruitless, dry branches, and help me to sprout and grow healthy and fruitful.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Everything Hurts

Everything. Hurts.


Being awake hurts.  My husband is bereft of all hope.  Our marriage just "is" because we will never leave each other.  But it's not functioning much more than that. 

My children are constantly "bored" instead of being creative and being grateful for the beautiful summer break. And that means their relationships hurt when they attack each other physically and verbally.

Our finances hurt.  We are not yet destitute, but we soon will be.  Without health insurance and with very little money, we can no longer afford some of our basic prescriptions.  Which means that, within a month's time, I will be in physical pain because my main prescription is for depression, but it also has vicious physical withdrawal effects.  If I don't get insurance within a month's time, I will be emotionally and physically destitute.  And, if you've never gone through it, the process of applying for DHS assistance, aside from being humbling every time we do it, is also painfully tedious.  They continually ask for proofs of income, job, and assets - a few at a time instead of everything at once.  So, the process which "should" conceivably take a few weeks, ends up taking months.  But we don't really have months to spare.

Our stuff hurts.  Everything is breaking.  E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.  Both cars are in need of serious maintenance and repair.  The disposal keeps breaking and the dishwasher barely works.  The washer does about 1/2 a load of wash at a time, and we have to run the dryer twice for every load.  My computer keeps losing vital parts,  the kids keep breaking doors and random stuff, and the kitchen ceiling leaks regularly.  The front porch is peeling and falling apart, and our downspouts are falling off.  The lawnmower works when it feels like it and the kids' pool is dying.

My faith hurts.  I have prayed and mustered and worked and tried and prayed some more to have a positive attitude; an attitude of "God is enough" and "God will provide."  And I've prayed and tried and persuaded and cajoled and nagged and prayed some more to try to convince my husband and the kids that God is enough and that He will come through for us. But instead of lifting all of us up, I end up getting dragged down.

I'm becoming cynical.  And I know that's not good.  I'm getting kind of tired of seeing nice "feel-good" status updates on other people's Facebook accounts.  I want to yell, "That's not true!"  I repent of cynicism and self-pity on a regular basis.  I tell Jesus that I need Him about 100 times a day.  But that doesn't always make me feel better.

I want to relax and write and enjoy the summer.  But sometimes I can't let go of the junk that weighs me down. 

Don't worry.  I'll be OK.  Even though our life has never been so scary, I've been through challenging emotional times before, and I know that God really IS enough and He WILL see us through.