Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Beauty for Ashes


          Some of you may know a bit about the challenges that I have faced over the last couple of years.  If you follow my blog, I have shared some of the struggles and challenges that God has brought me through.  But last night, our pastor (@LoriMChampion) talked about the story in Daniel 3 of Shadrack, Meshack, and Abed-Nego when they chose to serve only God and King Nebuchadnezzar put them into a furnace.  He released them when he looked and saw four men, instead of three, and the fourth looked like the Son of God.  When he brought them out, they saw that “the fire had no power on their bodies” – not even a hair on their head was singed – they didn’t stink of smoke!!!!  Praise Jesus!  Pastor Lori talked about not wasting our trials, and sharing them, so I wanted to share with you, in case you are hurting too.

          A year ago, I wasn’t sure that my son Mason would remember me, and feared Laurelei might only have fleeting memories of a weary mommy.  I was so afraid.  I remember sitting here on this couch writing letters to my children that might be the last message I could ever give them.  My heart was breaking, what message would I leave them with?  I was so afraid to go asleep – what if I didn’t wake up?  In the middle of the night I would sit at their bedsides crying, begging God to please let me live, to please heal me.

          Anxiety that I hardly know how to describe to you has been a battle for years, but with this pregnancy, it threatened to consume me.  And after Mason was born, and the weight of all the other issues that we were facing at the time came crashing down around me, my body could not handle it all.  I spent my 26th birthday lying naked on my bathroom floor writhing in pain – the physical ramifications of severe anxiety attacks lasting for days at a time, with hardly any release.    For months and months, night after night, day after day I prayed for God to take this from me, I begged and screamed and asked Him why He would allow this to happen.  And then, when I was too tired to pray, to weary to have any faith – the breakthrough began.

          I let go.  I had nothing left.  Literally.  Physically I could not get up, breathing was painful, and I vomited nearly every time I ate.  There was no mental strength, no physical strength – I had nothing.  And finally I stopped trying.  I admitted that I had nothing, and let my husband and others I trust to step in for me and hold me up – pray for me, help me.

          And in the days that followed I found God’s grace in ways I have never imagined.  In that place where I thought I would surely die; where I could not even care for my basic needs let alone anyone else or even try to pretend that I had it together in any way – God showed me that He never intended for me to get it together.  And oh our wonderful church – our small group just loved us – it took every ounce of my being just to show up each week and that was all I had to offer, and that was ok. 

          And God showed me that He did not want me to try to get it together or have a quiet time or any of that, just to admit that I was not enough and ask Him for help – and He did, but only with what He called me to do, not what I thought I should be doing.

          And in the months that followed God convinced me with all my heart of three things that were worth committing to for life whatever the cost, and I promised Him and my husband and myself:

1.   I will let go of the desire to be perfect and allow God to help me be satisfied with progress.

2.   I will not allow anyone to shame me, call me names, or steal my joy.

3.   I will be real about who I am and where I am, no matter what others may say, think, or judge.

 

And, I think a lot of people give lip service to these traits, but most people still want others to think that they have “it together” or still hold out for perfection in some areas or still let some people make underhanded digs at them.  These are commitments that I have to make nearly every day, again, sometimes several times a day, and ask God to help me let go.  Because my pride, whew, if you only knew…it can be sensitive folks.  But God, oh our precious God, He allows us to be His holy temple – why would we trade that for black-market knockoffs of treasure?

          And this includes being real about who I am, even when I know it will hurt someone’s feelings or make them dislike me.  I am not talking about saying something that doesn’t need to be said - kindness and love and gentleness are fruits of the spirit (self-control too!), but rather remembering that sometimes it is helpful for others to be disappointed with me, it gives them freedom to place their focus on the One who will NEVER let them down. 

          This ride isn’t totally done, but oh thank the Lord that I am far beyond that terrible fear and rather abiding in the confidence of a God who is so incredibly in love with us that I don’t have to fear anything – no matter what happens HE WILL NEVER LEAVE OR FORSAKE US (Heb. 13:5)!!!  Never, never, never, and oh how He loves us.  He is so patient and kind and graceful, my friends.  No matter what you are going through or how you are hurting or even if you are angry with Him – He can handle it, He can handle your lack of faith, your anger, your fear, any of it – if you’ll only let Him in.