The Rain

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The Lord is doing something in me that is difficult, painful, and more precious and beautiful than I deserve.
I know He is because for the past several weeks I have felt on edge and highly unsettled.

I have been anxious and sensitive.
Not that the struggles of the past 3 years hasn’t made me more sensitive already, but this is a little more than that.
The slightest things that I would have easily shaken off in the past have sent me running to my car on a lunch break to choke back tears, lecture myself on the art of getting it together, and reapply my make up.

One misinterpreted look or the lack of acknowledgement altogether.
One single word unknowingly misplaced and insensitively delivered.
One minute too long to sit and dwell and gradually begin to hear the not-so-subtle whispering lies to my heart that strike cords with my deepest fears and insecurities.

The past several weeks I have felt shaken and I haven’t really been able to pinpoint the moment or circumstance that started this process. I just know that because of it, I haven’t felt like myself lately. I sometimes feel like I don’t even know who I am anymore.

Maybe it is because I started a new job and I am still trying to figure out where I fit/belong and where I can find some consistent intrinsic purpose in my work as a lowly admin.
Maybe it is the fact that my sweet Granny isn’t here anymore and any time I think of Christmas, hear an Elvis song, or walk into a craft/fabric store my eyes instantly well up with tears.
Maybe it is because I am navigating the waters of a new friendship and those waters are both simultaneously joyous and murky.dancing-in-the-rain (1)

Or maybe… perhaps a big part of it… it is just because ever since I found out that it would most likely be a long and difficult journey until my achingly empty arms would be filled only by God’s faithful gracious mercy, I have struggled every single day of that journey to feel like I belonged somewhere….. anywhere.

Yet, this is the tender place where I find my heart and my thoughts with God. When I come to Him in these moments of restlessness and insecurity….I am realizing once again that my sense of belonging shouldn’t be in tied to these roles I identify with.
I may be a wife, sister, daughter, or friend, but when it comes down to it:  I am HIS. I am my Beloved’s and He is mine.

The roles I identify with are not the true me. They are only the costumes I will wear for a short time in this life. The type of wife, sister, daughter, and friend I am to others matters, but only because other people matter.
Love matters.
These roles do not define me and should not determine my happiness.
Jesus and who He is determines that.
He determines everything.

It will take a significant amount of rain to wash away all of my expectations, my perceptions, my needs, my wants, my entitlements, and my identity.

“Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.” – John Updike

The struggle over the past several years has been to let go of my identity as a mother. Not giving up on the dream, but not letting the lack of this role define me.
I have wanted to be a mother since I was 3 and carried around more baby dolls than I ever did Barbie dolls.

Every single day I battle an onslaught of reminders that reinforce the fact that I am not a mother.

The onslaught on my heart includes things like not being invited to a friend’s house to hang out because it is more of a ‘play date’ and I am not a mother. You have nothing to contribute or offer.
It includes people at church wondering why I volunteer in children’s ministry if I don’t have children. What could you possibly know about children?
It includes Facebook photos and updates for everything child-related under the sun. Look! I am living the life you can only dream of.

And so much more.download

But I hear my Beloved whispering over the sound of the storm…You are mine.

I am His.

I spent most of my 20’s trying to discover who I was and why I am the way I am. I spent many nights journaling every single heartache, confusion, and question in my soul. I spent hours talking with counselors and mentors, trying to navigate from the rocky waters of my childhood, so I could discover who I was and how to successfully join society. I learned so much about who I was, my personality (INFP!), how to love others well, and where I fit in. I felt confident and whole for the first time in my life.

Now that I am working my way through my 30’s and battling infertility, all of that confidence and self-identification is being stripped down off of me. Not that I am back to where I was in my early 20’s necessarily, but more so that Jesus is lovingly – yet painfully – peeling back the layers of who I am so as to make room for more of Him.

As backwards as it may seem, I can see God using even something as broken and ugly as infertility to birth peace, wholeness, and life in me. Infertility has made me realize (slowly!) more and more that this life does not matter as much as we act like it does.

I am learning little by little that I do not love people because I have learned how to be a good friend.
I love people because Christ loves them: passionately, vulnerably, whole-heartedly – no matter what it costs.
(And You know what? Loving people is not for sissies! Loving people is raw and real and requires so much of you with the expectation of so very little in return. The truth is…. people don’t owe you their time, their gifts, their support, or their love. But love gives and gives anyway and Jesus fills those spaces in us that we have given away, so that we can give more.)

I am learning that being a friend/sister/daughter/cousin/niece/etc may be much different and more difficult than what I wish it was, but my Savior wants me to be His hands and feet to others no matter what I receive in return.  So if that means lonely weekends, chronic family conflict that never seems to heal, and never feeling quite like I belong, then so be it. I belong to Jesus. Starting to learn this doesn’t fix the issues, but it makes the burden a little bit lighter.dancing-in-the-rain

I am learning that being a mother is so much more than physically birthing a child. Maybe in this life that is what defines it. Maybe in this life people will say, “You can never understand what it is like until you have had your own.” Well, maybe that is true and maybe it isn’t. But I do know that Jesus created the heart of a mother and He can create one in me. I may have babies of my own one day and I may not. I may adopt as many kids as our budget can handle and I may not. What I can do right now is wait and trust and hold onto hope with fists clenched tightly while I am a mother to the kids in our church nursery, our AWANA ministry, my friend’s kids, my nephews and niece, and any other child in need of a hug, a laugh, or a listening ear.

I am learning that none of the things we view as important that have so much to do with us, us, and US even matter.

I still don’t know how my life is going to pan out.
I don’t know how or when or if I will ever see my dreams come to fruition.
I don’t know how long God will continue to strip me of myself and replace the broken pieces of me with the sustaining pieces of Him.
I don’t even know how much I have left to give sometimes.
I have never cried so much in my life.

But…. I know He is faithful.
I know He is mine.
I am His.

So Jesus, wipe away my tears when life is just too much and people don’t seem to notice or have time to care.
Hold me when I have gone too many days without a decent hug.
Remind me that I have worth and a purpose and that I belong when those things seem to elude me too often.
Give me courage to face whatever you have in Your plans for me.

And let the rain continue to fall relentlessly and wash away every broken piece of my heart and my identity until you have it all….until all I desire is You.

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The Answer to Why: When We Cannot See Clearly

One of my absolute favorite moments in the entire Chronicles of Narnia series is found in the book “The Horse and His Boy.” The voice of Aslan is having a conversation with Shasta about who He is and some circumstances that had transpired:

“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.
“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.
“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.
“What on earth do you mean? I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and-“
“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”
“How do you know?”
“I was the lion.”
And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”

“Then it was you who wounded Aravis?”
“It was I”
“But what for?”
“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”

It may seem strange that this is one of my favorite moments in the series, but it so beautifully captures the multi-faceted nature of God and how little our understanding is of the bigger picture of our lives. God is the God who binds and heals and we love that side of God. Yet, on the other side of the coin, God is the God who wounds and “tears to pieces” so that He may heal us. Not just the God who “allows bad things” but a fierce and passionate God who actually wounds us in order than He may heal us to become more like Him.

Oh, how I am learning this right now!

I don’t know about you, but when you’re going through the very middle of a hard time all you can think about is your pain and start grasping at ways to make it stop. Did I do something to bring this on myself? Is this a punishment? Why is this happening to me? What sequential steps should I take to make it stop? How long will this pain last? 

It is easy to lose hope when the circumstances of your life seem to become a perfect storm that threatens to drown you forever. I am convinced that the absolute hardest thing to do is to face your difficult circumstances head on with a heart that is aching from exhaustion and tears streaming down your face and remember that God is good.

We don’t know why life can get so painful for us sometimes and not ever seem that way for others, but this is your story – not someone else’s. Whether you’ve always struggled with things people seem to manage so easily, or whether you have always struggled financially no matter how hard you’ve tried, or whether you’ve been single for so long and feel so lonely when you’re a great catch who just wants someone to share life with, or whether you suffer from a physical sickness and don’t feel like you did anything to deserve it, or whether you’ve unexpectedly lost a loved one and losing them seemed and felt so utterly pointless, or whether – like me – you long for a child of your own when it seems like every drunken teenager and drug addict you encounter is getting pregnant these days. But there is a bigger picture. You don’t know someone else’s story and neither do I.

“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as God sees us, knowing him directly just as He knows us!” – 1 Corinthians 13:12, The Message

Isn’t that the ultimate prize? More than the financially stability we wish for, more than the spouse we long for, more than the baby we ache for – to know God and have a deeper, more committed personal relationship with Him is the answer to everything we’re searching for and the ultimate goal of this life. This life and all it’s blessings are temporary and just a shadow of the One who made us and calls us to know Him.

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I spoke recently in Florida with a friend who said that looking back she was grateful for their struggle with infertility. She said she never would have even pictured herself saying such a thing when she was going through it. She always just wished it away and yearned for a pregnancy/baby to take away her sorrow and struggle. Yet, during that time, she explained that she grew closer to God than she ever was before. Her struggle with infertility deepened her faith and has become part of her testimony. Now that she has come through it and is out on the other side, she said she wouldn’t go back and change anything because knowing God and trusting Him more was worth every tear, every dark night of the soul, and every disappointed hope.

I’ve never heard something more beautiful and more encouraging.

In contrast, the countless people who have told me to just “Stay positive,” “Don’t stress,” or “Believe you’re healed and you will be” – that advice, although laced with good intentions, fell short of doing anything more than isolating me further. How can you paste on a smile while you’re choking down tears? Is that even normal? How do you not stress when every single deviation from normal in your body makes you wonder if you’re pregnant? And despite my unwavering and solid faith that God is The Healer, it doesn’t mean that 24 cycles of wishing and hoping with no resulting pregnancy have simply been a result of me just. not. believing. enough. That’s ridiculous.

How much more beautiful is it to simply respond to God from the reality of exactly where we are…. our anger, our pain, our bitterness, our weeping, and my poly-cystic ridden, hormonally-jacked-up body that betrays my greatest longing every single month. The invitation to cry out to God in our pain and confusion, confess our despair and faltering faith, and beg for peace and a greater faith despite circumstances is what drives us closer to Him and brings Him the most glory.

We only have our story to live and we won’t always understand it or know the answers to our biggest question: “WHY?!” – but God is still good. He sees the bigger picture and invites us to wait, to hope, and to trust.