Monday, September 28, 2009

The Identity Crisis Continues

We had an excellent sermon this weekend on transformation. One of the things that struck me was, "The enemy of transformation is self-centeredness."

I have been in such a state of self-protection. That could also be described as self absorption or self preservation or, I hate to admit, self-centeredness. I realize that has been an issue of mine all my life, but even more so now. In five years, I've gone from being a working mom, to being a displaced stay at home mom of a teenager, to a 43-year-old emptynester, and now to a 48-year-old mommy of a toddler. Like many of you, life just keeps changing and taking unexpected turns. And with that many massive changes in such a short time, I've gone from wearing my heart on my sleeve to a self-constructed prison of isolation and back again.

In the past month I've gone from complete independence to having to be home for potty training, nap times and for our 8:00 p.m. bedtime routine every night. My morning devotional time is not the same because of the beautiful, blurry-eyed face that appears in my room, usually just as I'm getting started. Every time my laptop, my Bible or my dog is on my lap, my toddler wants to be be there too. Just since I started typing this blog, I've had to get up to refill her cereal bowl twice--once because she ate it all, and once because she spilled it all. We've been out in the garage playing and in the house playing. I can hardly finish a complete thought without interruption. As many of you know, that's the way it is when you are in charge of a toddler.

So, as the middle aged mom of a toddler, who am I and where do I fit?! I don't fit with the other young mommies at church. The women my age have grown children or older teens. My job has changed because I can't do it all with a toddler in tow. I work for my church and for a while, poured my heart and soul into my job because it was all I had. Now I want to pour my heart and soul into my little girl. Since I'm scaling back my job, my "church identity" is ambiguous. I don't know where I fit in my job and I don't know where I fit in my church. Even my position in women's ministry is a blur because my mind is a blur.

As I sat by my friend in church this weekend, listening to this sermon about transformation and self-centeredness, I felt like a glass dome had been lowered down over me that I just couldn't break out of it. It's hard to be real with people when can't be real with myself because I don't know who I am or where I fit. So I asked God, "How do I get out of this glass dome? I'm tired of walking around with my guts hanging out all the time, but I can't stay in isolation either! How do I find the happy medium?!" And I heard him say, "Tuck your guts back in and reach out to someone else!" Wow, what an epiphany. I enjoyed reaching out and talking to people I don't talk to very often after service--not my usual set of friends, but a few people on the fringe. Maybe God's on to something here. I think I'll try that more often!

The transition/identity crisis/transformation continues...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Redemption

I was just reading Paula's blog, His Ways Are Not Our Ways,  and was reminded of a similar story of redemption in my "Prayer Garden." About a year ago, we had a wind storm go through and it broke our little Prairie Fire Crab Apple tree right off at the base of the trunk.

Now, I like all my trees, especially the flowering ones like the Prairie Fire, but this was not just another pretty tree. This tree was given to us five years ago in memory of our 15-year-old daughter. When it broke off, it felt like another kick in the gut. My husband had built a fire to burn some other brush and limbs that had fallen in the wind storm. There's not much you can do with a tree that has broken off at the base, so we threw it on the fire. We both sobbed as the little tree burned. Even after four years, our grief still seemed fresh. I was mad at God. He is the God of the universe who calms the storms and raises dead people to life, could he not have allowed this one little tree to withstand that wind storm? I told him that I felt like he was so mean. We lost our daughter and one of the most special comforts we had was that tree. I had built my whole prayer garden around it. Now there wasn't even a stump!

As you can guess, this spring, several shoots grew up where our little tree once stood. All summer, I've watched it and pulled the weeds around it until I could see one strong shoot rising above the rest. Then I cut the others and continued cultivating the soil around it. Now, as Fall is approaching, that one shoot has again become a little tree! Our little Prairie Fire is not dead! It is very much alive! What a testimony that our God is not mean. It sure seems like it sometimes, but I was mistaken when I accused him of that. He is also very much alive and very much in charge. We just can't always see the work that is going on under ground out of sight. He knows what He's doing even when we don't.

So, God, again, I will trust You. Even when I can't see the big picture. Even when I can't see You working, I will believe and trust that your are doing a good thing. Thank You for showing me your redeeming power and thank you for redeeming my little Prairie Fire!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Couldn't There Be Another Way?

God, I know your Word says that if we want to share in your glory, we must also share in your suffering. But couldn't there be another way?

Here is what I read this morning in Joanna Weaver's book, Having a Mary Spirit:

"On that dark Sunday morning two thousand years ago, as Mary Magdalene made her way to the tomb, she never expected to go away running, even dancing with joy. But that is exactly what happened. And that is the underlying truth that makes all our transformations possible--the glorious reality that death (especially death to ourselves!) will always be swallowed up by victory. And the sorrow which once threatened to undo us will be the very thing that makes us proclaim God's glory.

"...Don't miss your moment. Don't miss what God is wanting to do in your life. Right here. Right now. Right in the midst of your frustration, your pain, your everyday realities. 'Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.' Jude 24 and 25 (NKJV)'"

God, I know this is true and I know it all too well, but couldn't there be another way for us to be transformed? I know how death can be swallowed up by victory, but I also know how hard that is to grasp when you are eyeball to eyeball with death, or some things that can feel even worse than death.

Father, my friend and her husband have been sitting in a hospital for over a week now, unable to do anything but wait while their only daughter fights for her life. They say it will be months before she is "out of the woods." In fact, life may never be the same for them. My father, couldn't there be another way for transformation to occur in this family? They are a wonderful God-fearing, God-serving family! Is this really necessary? My heart so wishes there were another way, but my head knows the answer to that question. I know you didn't cause the accident, but I do know you could have prevented it. Since you didn't I know you have a purpose in it. And so I pray, Lord, that their lives will never be the same... That all three of them will come through this knowing You like they have never known You before... That they will experience that special measure of grace and nearness that You grant to those who must endure unspeakable pain and suffering... That they will sense the sweetness of Your presence even when they are filled with fear, facing an uncertain future, and yes, even when the anger and depression seem to overwhelm them. Even though this young girl is in a coma and cannot communicate with her parents, I thank you that she can communicate with You and that You are as much or more present with her than with anyone else. I thank you that Your ministering angels are posted at the head of her bed, watching over her, guarding her and protecting her.

And once again, I am drawn to the verses You spoke so strongly to my heart at a time when my sorrow threatened to undo me: "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 clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completelness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love." 1 Corinthians 13:12 and 13 (MSG)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Identity Crises

How many identity crises can one person have? Five years ago, I was catapulted into an empty nest by the sudden death of my beautiful, blossoming 15-year-old daughter. One day I was a mom, teaching her to drive, talking with her about boys and helping her adjust to our new home, and the next I wasn't. There was a transition period as we went through the motions of the funeral and a memorial service and were ministered to by friends and family. But I remember the fear I felt as I wrote that last thank you note. What now? If I'm not my daughter's mom, who am I?

My pastor invited me to serve on our church staff as an unpaid servant. In doing so, I took a personality quiz and a strength finders test. I began learning much about myself that I didn't know, and I began to function fairly well in that knowledge. Then, just when I was getting it figured out, thinking God was going to use me in a really big way in Women's Ministry or by having me write a book or something, everything changed.

I had bought my mid-life crisis car, a cute little fire engine red Volkswagen Beetle. I poured myself into my job and ministry. My husband and I took a cruise. And we became grandparents. Life was starting to feel somewhat normal. I still grieved the loss of my daughter. Some days were worse than others, but life was pretty good and something I could get used to.

But there's always an emptiness. I didn't get the affirmation and kudos I felt I deserved from my employers. Did they have any idea how hard I was working? Probably not. And that shouldn't be what I'm working for anyway.

I began having problems with my left hip and could hardly get in and out of my cute little car.

The cruise was a bit of a fiasco when our first flight was delayed and we literally missed the boat!

This foot loose and fancy free empty nest life just didn't seem to be all it had been cracked up to be.

I'm now in my 2nd identity crisis. After having my home just the way I wanted it for five years, we are now tripping over baby dolls and dress up shoes. The driveway is cluttered with a tricycle and Fred Flintstone car. The patio door is smeared and smudged even though I just washed it. I keep restocking the diaper bag only to find its contents all over the kitchen floor--again. I'm finding myself in power struggles over nap time and bedtime. I'm exhausted, but I can't sleep. The responsibility of raising a third child are heavy tonight. The changes she has brought are mostly wonderful (see my earlier post) but the fears that came with her can be paralyzing.

And who am I anyway? I was a mom, then suddenly I wasn't, now almost as suddenly, I am again! How am I supposed to keep up, Lord? The rules of the game keep changing. The answer is obvious but elusive. Of course I can't keep up. I just have to trust the One who can!

How Quicklly Life Changes

Just when I blogged that I would be back to my normal blogging schedule, my life got turned upside down! Have you ever waited for something so long that you started to feel like it would never happen, then when it did finally happen, it caught you by surprise? That's where I've been for the past month or so.

I suddenly went from reading my Chronological Bible to the Storybook Bible. I no longer drive my little red Volkswagen Bug -- I'm back to my old minivan. For the first time in 20 years, I'm dealing with car seats, sippy cups and potty chairs.

And I'm tired. But oh, what a good tired. Because now every evening, instead of sitting in front of my computer, I get to snuggle and look into the most beautiful pair of brown eyes I've seen in a long time. I get to sing to her as she watches my lips and tries to mouth the words just like I do. Every morning, I get the greatest hugs from this pint sized bundle of energy. There is nothing like seeing someone so little toddle as fast as she can toward me because she can't wait to get that hug.

What a transition we are in. I'm transitioning at home, at my job, and even in my relationship with God. For about 4 years, I've been free to pour my heart and soul into my job, and loved it. I jumped into Women's Ministry with a passion. I've had time to write and pour out my heart in this blog. But now my heart belongs to another. I will continue to work, to serve in Women's Ministry and to write, but the bulk of my time and energy will be given to my little Snicker Doodle. My early mornings, evenings and weekends again belong to my family, rather than my personal pursuits.

I've wanted to do something great for God--something really big. Right now, the biggest, greatest thing I can think of doing... the only thing I can think of doing... the only thing I really have time to do is to love, cherish, protect, teach and nurture this little angel that has moved into our home. And that will be my main focus for as long as God allows me to do it!

About Me

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I am a wife, a mother, a grandmother raising her granddaughter. I am blessed with incredible family and friends. I love working for my church and serving on our Women's Ministry Team. I especially want to reach the women who wear their "Everything's fine" smiles on Sunday, but go home to deal with tough real-life issues throughout the week.