I wrote my personal declaration a few weeks ago and “scheduled” many things into my daily schedule. All new things. All things that will be taking a significant amount of time to adequately add into my habits.
So, it wasn’t perfect.
Actually, it was a complete and utter F A I L U R E.
There were kids with colds. There was a broken rib or torn cartilage or some kind of injury to my chest that required days and days of bed rest. There were days of supreme exhaustion. There were evenings of great anticipation followed by nights of nightmares (my own and children’s), restless legs, wet beds.
Disappointment in myself for not being able to meet the unrealistic expectations of changing my life overnight. Disappointment, for me, is usually a feeling of guilt and shame that is quickly pushed outwards with anger towards anything and everyone who interrupts my strategic plans to fulfill whatever expectation was previously hindered.
The other day, after at LEAST four days of not being able to brush my hair (due to the fact that my daughters take my hairbrushes and then promptly lose them) I stood in my shower with a nit comb (because of course they wouldn’t steal THAT from my bathroom) and proceeded to detangle the dread lock that had formed at the nape of my neck, where I keep my ponytail/bun tied all. the. time.
As handfuls of my once abundant hair were coming out in the comb, I felt the frustration and anger with my health coming to a head, yet again. There are so many issues regarding the kinds of testing that my naturopath says I need, treatments my specialists would like me to have and what my family doctor is allowed to request with the results of the blood tests she’s allowed to ask with irregular frequency. The frustration has been building since my mid-teens and I very frequently have complete break-downs because my health sucks.
So I was complaining to God, yet again, and pleading that he make me healthy, please. I was a bit startled when he said to me “I created you with limitations. I BLESSED you with limitations. Learn to embrace them.”
If I hadn’t gotten sick in my twenties, I wouldn’t have devoured books of spiritual theology while spending two years in bed in pain. Then, if I hadn’t had some harrowing experiences in my love life, I wouldn’t have reconnected with friends and moved to Canada to study spiritual theology. If I hadn’t been weak and in pain while attending graduate school, and if there hadn’t been a bus strike at the same time, I may not have had the opportunity to connect with my Beloved. If we hadn’t struggled with infertility, we wouldn’t have five amazing children. and on. and on. and on. and on.
Through the struggles, even in the times when I questioned with feelings of abandonment and anger, God was building something more amazing than I could possibly imagine. Trust is an issue that I am not so great with. In all those buzz feed quizzes? The thing that matters most to me is loyalty. Loyalty. Who has been most loyal to me? God, of COURSE, and yet, I do not trust him. Not with the minuscule matters of “will this cheque clear before my rent cheque goes through?” or the greater matters of my children’s hearts, lives, loves.
During my struggles. My anger. My times of turning away from God…
He had mercy on me. He blessed me with Ken. With a multitude of children. Kind landlords, glorious food, generous friends. The lists I make for myself to “make it up to God” have never been checked off by my doing – I’ve never stayed in a state of pure communion with Abba for more than a few moments of bliss, especially since becoming a mother. Not that being a mother isn’t blissful – but it’s not the same “self-centered” quiet vibrations of joy streaming through my body and soul.
Grace and mercy are key words in my life. The first conversation Ken and I had included our personal understandings of grace as we struggled with imperfect health. My life calling has always been drawn by the ideal of mercy (or maybe the heaps of burning coal) being what changes a life, draws a person into Love, obviously I have not yet grasped fully as a gift, but more than that, I have not received it. Maybe that is the key. I’ve been GIVEN mercy over and over and over again. But receiving that maybe means, a bit, recognizing it (repentance?) and being grateful for it. Is it possible that being able to receive the mercy and grace has to happen before we can open ourselves to be vessels of God’s Mercy and Grace?
“It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”
Romans 9:16 NIV
My checklists that are never marked off, the teary child on my arm right now because baby sister chose the older sister to cuddle instead of herself, my desire to keep writing, my heart breaking at her tear stained cheeks…
…cuddles and tears just turned to giggles and rhyming along with a short lesson on alliteration, she is currently snuggled up to my side (complaining she ate too many sweets at the bridal shower) so I can continue to write. One of my constant issues is making time for taking care of myself, which seems so anti-Christian. I am determined to finish writing out these thoughts, so having an almost six-year-old curled up next to me is not only wonderful, but amazing. A mercy. A blessing. God’s abundant grace for me – who screwed up too many times (today) to deserve such beauty and joy in my life.
Now, there have been many times I have prayed to God the prayer of Paul in II Corinthians, but it wasn’t until I was texting a friend about the freedom from God telling me to live within my limits, meaning that I would have to understand them, accept them and find joy in the messy house, the less than perfect children, the more than occasional KD or frozen pizza for the kids’ meal when my appetite and energy are less than sufficient for a family of seven.
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” II Corinthians 12:7-10 NIV
I don’t think this will be easy for me. It hasn’t been easy for me, ever.
But realizing that it is what God wants me to invest my time in this year – this life – I am going to take it seriously. Just as I took His Word “You are Mom” to change my way of thinking over the last two years, in a huge and beautiful and sustaining way, “Embrace my Weakness” will be my call over the next year.
Actually, about the time of my 2013 post (regarding being 39 and being terrified of turning 40) I received a gift from my niece. A piece of artwork she created while serving with YWAM the previous fall and winter. Ever since I received it I have wanted to write about it. To tell her why it meant so much to me, to tell you how amazing she is, to tell you about a book that I wanted to read (J.I. Packer) but haven’t gotten past the first thought-provoking chapter “Weakness is the Way”. SO, in light of God’s great mercy…
I’m adding a 6th Pillar to my Personal Declaration, MERCY. In all the spiritual inventories, mercy is the strongest of motivator of my faith and actions. YET, I have such a difficult time receiving, accepting it.
This isn’t about being more merciful, but understanding what mercy is, what it means to receive mercy and how to be merciful (especially as a parent to children with special needs). I’m not sure how you set out to measure how merciful you are or how “good” you are at receiving mercy. BUT, I do think that the more I look for opportunities and fill my mind with greater understanding, the more I will be able to recognize the gifts of grace and mercy in my life, and the more I will be able to offer the gift of love and grace to others.
With that in mind, I want to fill my mind with scripture, with the words of theologians who’ve blessed us over time, with the words of people (probably more sociologists and psychologists) who study what weakness and vulnerability gives us in becoming more fully human. I will also fill myself with fiction. The more literature we read, the more we can start to put ourselves in another person’s mind, to understand things with a different perspective, walking in another person’s shoes… recent studies have shown that READING literature actually makes us more compassionate as individuals, because we are better able to connect with another’s point of view.
With this in mind, over the next year, I will …
- read a minimum of two theological/spirituality books on weakness.
- read a minimum of two books on subjects relating to vulnerability (Brené Brown comes to mind)
- read/reread a minimum of two books on FASD and learning – in order to respond more effectively to the limitations my children face and may face in the future.
- read two books on Grace/Mercy, preferably more in the realm of spiritual theology that has stood the test of time (possibly attend a summer school session on Grace and Mercy in Ephesians or James).
- finish reading Hold on To Your Kids and attend at least one Neufeld Institute lecture. I will also look into borrowing the DVD series (again) and completing it as well.
- read 12 for fun fully-fiction books that I haven’t read before, and re-read as many as I have time.
- have created a “to-read” list that meets the above qualifications for the non-fiction books and finish One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez before February 1, 2015.
If you have any grand words of wisdom on the topic of vulnerability, weakness, mercy and grace…please share them. If you have some amazing books for me to consider adding to my 2015 list, please share them as well. When I am more set with my Personal Declaration, I will share some of it with you. It’s not quite the same as what I have posted under MERCY, but it’s similar.
If you are just starting to read about my journey (this blog really started when Claire Marie was born in 2009, but most of my writing happened while I was on bed rest in 2011-2012 while pregnant with Cora Beth. I have ongoing struggles with health – and have received mercies that I cannot even begin to list. And if you click on the “Just So Happened” category link, you’ll see a few of the miracles in my life. I have a new miracle to share – that happened in October of this year – it’s amazing and joyful (and it’s not another surprise baby, fyi) but I am still figuring out what it means to have miraculous healing – and still struggle with health and chronic pain. But that is another story.