Monday, January 11, 2010

Why Not Now Lord

Philippians 4:4-7 (New International Version)
4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Ecclesiastes 2:17-26 (New International Version)
17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. 20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? 23 All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.
24 A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
These passages have confused me today. I woke up at 4a.m. to the sound of Philippians 4:6 in my head. knowing that I was anxious even before bed. I have been anxious for many months. I know the verse and also know that it is given in context of a command but how do you make yourself not anxious. I believe that anxiety stems from some sort of rebellion to the will of God. I am not sure what my rebellion is, what form it has taken. I am want to know what is right and what is wrong, the first rebellion known to man. I find it impossible to just live and be happy. However, that seems to be the apparent result to pleasing God in Ecclesiastes 2:26. I know that my striving has gotten me nowhere, yet I still strive. I have made the petition known to God that I do not want to strive, I want to live and be happy and yet I still have no peace. The word of God says that He sees the desires of my heart. He must then know that I desire to be a wife and mother, not just in word but in deed.
The constant battle of finding time is frustrating because finacially we are just now on our feet. I want to be a stay at home wife and mother, but monitarily I don't see the possibility. However, the mothers I know who stay at home are fighting with the anxiety of lack. My children are wonderful and are doing great at school. They go to a wonderful private Christian school, but it doesn't come cheap. I have been blessed with a job where I go to work only while they are at school. What a blessing that is today in a world where most working moms work until at least 5p.m. My children are in a good environment all day. But I can assure you it takes a full day to be a homemaker, not just two extra hours in the afternoon.
All around me I see unfinished work. Laundry, dishes, dusting, and what has to be an unsanitary refrigerater, all of which I am too tired to finish. My soon to be sixteen year old daughter just learned to boil tea last week. Too tired to argue, I find myself just doing the day to day tasks at hand without the children's' help. What will they be able to do when they leave home? My grandmother raised me, and though I wasn't made to do too much, I was taught to be somewhat domestic. My daughter is, thus far, nowhere near domestic. She thinks I am unfair when I make her iron her own clothes. Then come the battles. I sometimes wonder if we will ever get along. Will she always be so ungrateful? Will she always have such an attitude of entitlement?
I had always thought I was raising my children correctly until my daughter turned thirteen. Suddenly there was this teenager living with me who didn't even seem to like me. She doesn't like the way I talk, dress, cook, interact with her friends, or teachers. I try to suck it up and move on, letting her know who is boss, but I am human and my feelings are hurt constantly. I cry nearly every night, without her seeing of course, wishing it was just a stage that was over. The alternative terrifies me. What if she is always this way? What if I raised a self righteous, self centered drain on society? I didn't mean to. I worked hard my entire life. My first job was at thirteen. I made sure that I was with my children. The only childcare facility they were in was my own. I made sure they participated in sports and other extra-curricular activities. I have built them up exhorted and edified them. I have made sure they were in church, experienced the love of God and seen me in worship. I thought I had done an okay job. But this child, the mean one, I couldn't have created that, could I? I take every available opportunity that she presents to show her I love her. I commend every good deed and overlook as many bad ones as possible so as not to overwhelm her with negative comments. However, I am sure she feels how much I dislike spending time with her. I feel as if I am in a boxing ring deflecting blows anytime we spend together. The constant battling weighs so heavily on me. Yet she is pleasant and helpful to people she wants to spend time with. Somehow that makes me feel worse.
Be anxious for nothing says the Lord. My petition is how? And if happiness is earned by pleasing the Lord, then I must be taught how not to be anxious. If my toil has been my home and my children, I am not finding pleasure. My son just turned thirteen and though I see some signs of disrespect, he is easily brought in line and seems to love me completely. I do not know if I could handle both of them tearing my heart up, a thought that terrifies me even more. What if I did this? Did I do something wrong? And if I did can't God fix it anyway?
Lord, I pray today that You would give me the wisdom to be the parent You have called me to be. I pray that you would touch the hearts of my children that they would know Your love and Your ways. I pray to find the full happiness in this life, that it is just not striving and working but that there is happiness in the labor. I thank you Lord for my husband, You knew how much he would love me and build me up when I felt I was crumbling. I thank you Lord that I will experience Your goodness in the land of the living. Guide me today oh Lord, keep me in the shadow of Your wings, lead me in the path of righteousness for you names sake. In the name above all names, Jesus, I thank you that You have heard my prayer. Amen

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Control Freak

It' has been a crazy, emotional week. Feelings of doubt, anxiety and fear had come near to overwhelming me throughout the last year and I was desperate for the new year to come as if just the symbolism of throwing one calender out and hanging up a new one would erase the drama of the previous year. Family and friends close enough to recognize that I wasn't my usual 'happy go lucky lets all play a game' self were kind enough to offer words of encouragement that generally included the phrases "you gotta let go" or "you can't always be in control Becky".

These friends recognized something about me that I couldn't see, for it had been my very existence. Kinda like Noah telling everyone it was going to rain. What's rain, they said, vastly confused. Well, what's out of control? What's letting go feel like? Even the act of letting go is an act of control.

Any of these friends close enough to see I needed a kind word, would also be close enough to really know the dysfunction of my early years, where things out of my control were the cause of much emotional pain and suffering that left scars so deep even I haven't seen them. Control was something I have used to keep everyone out of my most vulnerable place, my heart. Although my life often looked 'out of control' to most sane people, I saw it as mine to screw up. However illogical it sounds to many, it felt better to screw it up myself than allow others to hurt me and screw it up within their twisted control.

With salvation I had learned that God had a different idea of what He wanted for my life. A life of love, joy, temperance and righteousness. I learned that He wanted me to have an abundant life that required that I cease self destruction and allow Him to bless me and trust that He would continue to do so. I began to learn that no matter how things looked He would never let me down. I have allowed Him into my heart and He has begun a healing work in me. Unfortunately, the healing I required wasn't a band aid on a skinned knee. The wall I had formed needed to be broken down. I needed to be reset, like an improperly healed broken bone. Painfully broken, pieced back together properly, then hobble around with aid before I started walking again.

The painful break began with my children. I began to understand what letting go feels like. I will tell you now, at first, I didn't like it! It felt terrible. They both have a place, right where they belong, in my heart. I love them beyond measure, to the core of my being. Their entire lives I have done all possible to let them know, I am here for them, that I have their best interest in mind and have geared things to protect them and provide for them. They had been the only ones in that special place in my heart, until I met Jesus, who could transcend the barrier I had created. Although I had been made a new creature in Christ and had been instantly delivered of many things, my barrier still existed outside of my love for Him and them. I have loved family and friends, but not to the deepest degree, not unconditionally, and not to the point of total commitment. Some I have kept at arms length, some a little closer and others right at my finger tips, but my children I have loved completely. My children never hurt me, they loved me and needed me and I controlled their little world. Then they grew up, became teenagers, young people in control of their own destiny, and I didn't like it. Let me emphasize again, I didn't like it. My heart began to hurt, in the vulnerable place, the place I had protected for so long. I began to see that their decisions would shape their lives and that I could only guide them. For some this may seem like, duh dummy, but for me this was a totally new revelation. Worse yet, their words and actions toward me began to hurt me. When people you only love at arms length hurt you, it hurts, but not to the degree of hurt you feel when someone hurts you that you have loved deeply.

This painful break was to the very center of me. The hurt seemed more than I could bear. Not only was I not in control, I was discovering that I was never in control. It had been a facade of control. I had only been guiding, never directing, their paths. My prize for giving them my unconditional love was not going to be their guaranteed love in return. I soon discovered that there was always a possibility of them going their own way, good or bad, no matter how much I love them. I could sacrifice all and there was always the possibility of rejection.

Unable to self destruct the reset started. I turned to the only One I could. I began to seek God. At first unaware of how He was resetting my heart, I was angry, hurt, confused and sometimes outright rebellious. Asking Him how he could show me this wonderful life in Him and then show me that I could be hurt so badly. Why couldn't He just fix this? Couldn't He just step things up a notch? Why couldn't I control my children's destiny? God, always faithful, would attempt to give me peace through His word. I ran to Him constantly, whether in frustration, tears, or anger, I needed Him to survive this. He would continually call to my remembrance His promises concerning my children. That they would have peace. That me and my household were saved. That they would be prosperous. That they had been taught about Him and they would come back to Him. I argued back, couldn't He see that they were making some of the same stupid mistakes I made? That I had a miserable life as a young adult and that the decisions they made could affect their futures. Couldn't He see that just like me they could self destruct creating emotional craters in their lives?

I would vent and keep going in cycles for several months. Then the healing began. Gently, He spoke. Couldn't I see that just like me in times of trouble they would run to Him? Couldn't I see that I could put my trust in Him and believe His Word? Couldn't I see that He felt this way too? Couldn't I see that any sacrifice He made was worth me loving Him unconditionally? He showed me that loving my children unconditionally was the only way to receive the full measure of their love in return. That for them to truly honor and respect me in their love, I could only guide them. That I had to watch them make mistakes, no matter how badly it hurt, and I had to be quick and ready with forgiveness and guidance. He showed me the prize of their trust and love. It was the trust and love I have for Him, knowing I can turn to Him even when I am confused, angry, or even rebellious. I had to be slow to anger, in their frustration and lack of knowledge they would do things that could hurt them and say things to hurt me. However difficult it seemed, I began to learn that the return of their love was worth the cost.

I had been hobbling with aid in this new growth when God showed me it was time to walk. Of all the casualties of this misguided control of emotions, my marriage had suffered the most. Many of my friends and family had been the ones at my finger tips, but my husband had been at arms length. Afraid to love him completely I had unconsciously at times pushed him to the other side of that wall. Who else but flesh of my own flesh could hurt me deeply? With the knowledge God had graced me with I suddenly realized that He had given me my husband to both love me and be loved in return. I had sought council over the last several months from my dearest friends but not my husband. My husband wanted and needed my devotion. As crazy at it may seem, I suddenly fell in love. I mean head over heals. No matter what I loved him unconditionally. I could trust him with my heart. I could be vulnerable with my deepest thoughts and share them with him. Even crazier he was at work when I fell in love with him. He wasn't anywhere around and I couldn't stand it. I was waiting at the door when he came home. I couldn't wait to see him. I couldn't wait to pour my heart out to him and tell him how much I loved him and needed him. That I was so happy that we were going to share our lives together. Better yet, I can honestly say that this is truly the first time I have ever been in love. The wall I had formed at such an early age was now down. In the past I couldn't love, I didn't know how until God reset my heart and showed me how to love my husband His way, the way He intended love to be.

God equiped me with the knowledge that I can love completely and experience the full measure of my husband's love for me is truly an awesome blessing. The promise that brings for the new year is exciting. My husband only thought he had a good wife. Now I want to be the love of his life. I'll keep you posted after our honeymoon.