Who are you? What defines who you are? We all wear many hats. Some wear more than others, but I can throw a list out and hit hats that many of us wear:
Nurse (or whatever your profession is)
and I am sure you can think of more, good and bad.
But, is this who you are?
Below is a story about me and the end of my first marriage. A story about a storm that changed my life and my heart. A storm where white lightening crashed against a dark sky and illuminated the end and the beginning of myself. An illumination that glowed bright until all I was left with was a brilliant rainbow of promise against a fresh blue sky of Hope.
I used to define myself as a good person, a nurse, someone who cares for others, the baby of eleven children, financially frugal, organized planner, homemaker, young, athletic, beautiful, thin, and at the very top of the list WIFE. And I looked forward to being a mother, having traditions in my family, and growing as a unit raising children for God, honoring Him with our lives. Sounds picture perfect? Exactly!
After being together seven years (married for four), my husband left me. It was like he took off a mask of the man he was pretending to be and displayed the man he was. He left our marriage, our church and all our friends. I was heartbroken, confused and scared. And although it didn’t happen all at once, each one of those descriptions that I defined myself with started to disappear.
If I was really a good person he wouldn’t have left.
if I cared for him well he wouldn’t have left.
If I was more beautiful,
if I was more athletic,
If I was someone else, someone better…
As time went by, he didn’t come back. I came to realize that it wouldn’t be long before I wasn’t a wife anymore. I hardly told anyone he left. I just kept going to work hoping he’d change his mind. I couldn’t eat or sleep. I dropped so much weight the doctors at work said I looked like I came from a concentration camp. I was an anxious mess. Three months later he told me he wouldn’t end his relationships with other women and that I shouldn’t call him anymore. And then the final blow: I needed to get on with my life and not base it on his. I hit bottom. I was so low and empty that very little mattered to me anymore – even God. And the pain that filled me was so great emotionally and physically that the best way to stop this, I thought, was to die.
So as I was lying in a ball on my living room floor one night weeping; physically ill, emotional drained, and spiritually disconnected and thought about killing myself to end the pain. I imagined what I was going to do. I would go into work, get the keys to the narcotics cabinet in the Operating Room (they weren’t computerized back then), and inject myself with that wonderful little drug they use to put patients to sleep before surgery. By the time someone found me it would be too late. But, then, I thought that killing myself would be giving up on God; taking away His chance to do something in my life. And because I thought that that was ultimate sin, without possibility of repentance: after I successfully killed myself I would go to hell and be physically ill, emotional drained and spiritually disconnected eternally. I felt trapped. I was living in my own hell with the only way I saw to get out leading to another hell that was worse. Or so I could imagine.
With my nursing education, I knew that fantasizing about suicide along with a tangible plan was a very bad place to be. So I called my sister in Las Vegas who is a Christian and lay counselor. I asked her, “Can you come here? I need help.” It turned out that after trying to make arrangements to come she couldn’t. But she flew me to Vegas instead. And I went for five days.
Before these five days I did not believe in the spiritual world the way I do now. I didn’t believe we could hear the voice of God or that the Holy Spirit was involved with our daily lives. But I couldn’t deny that God spoke to me in Vegas and what He said changed me.
It’s difficult to reason with a person in depression. Though my sister tried to tell me the truth I just couldn’t see it. I was lying on her bed sobbing, trying to convince her that I was unlovable and there was no hope for me. That my life was over. All my dreams were crushed, unrecoverable, trampled in the mud. From the outside, this sounds ridiculous. But when it’s you and all you feel is pain and powerlessness it couldn’t be more resonable.
My sister would go in the bathroom and cry and pray for me. Her words didn’t seem to make a difference. One morning she put a worship cd on and left me there in her bed to go take her son to school. I was exhausted. I nestled into the huge down filled bed and listened to the music. I can’t say I heard an audible voice but I had a conversation nonetheless. As clear as I have ever heard anyone speak He said,
Don’t you know you are the daughter of the King of the Universe? I love you! Why would you let anyone else define you?
My sister returned 15 minutes later. I was up, dressed and going outside for the newspaper…to find a job! She was shocked and asked what I was doing. I said, “I’m moving to Vegas!” God did not cure my depression in that fifteen minutes. That was a healing that came through time and process. I had many beliefs in the core of my being that had to be unlearned and replaced with Truth. But what He did do was remind me of my identity. He reminded me who I was, He reminded me who HE was!
I came back from Vegas with new eyes. Everything looked different. Lying in that bed in Vegas I learned the most important thing a person can ever learn: I AM THE DAUGHTER (or SON) OF THE KING OF THE UNIVERSE! I was empowered and I had direction. I had given power to the physical world to define my worth and value. Because he didn’t love me – I was unlovable. Because he tossed me aside – I had no value. No man or job or friendship or anything deserves the right to define us. We mistakenly give those things that power. And those things are inevitably going to fail miserably at defining us. Who better to define us than our creator? Not to mention the value He gives is so much better than any other. Spouses, bosses, children, friends, church, tradition, culture they can all make us feel insignificant when we give them the power to define us.
Why would you let someone who is bound to fail because they are human tell you what you are worth when you can allow God to say, “I created and formed you. Fear not, for I have redeemed you: I have called you by name, you are mine. You will pass through deep water and I will be with you in the rivers you will not drown. You will walk through fire, but you shall not be burned; and the flames shall not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, your Savior. I have given much as ransom for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and glorious, and I love you. I gave my life in exchange for you. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I have chosen you to know, to believe, and understand that it is I, the Lord, there is no Savior, but me.” (paraphrase of Isaiah 43:1-8)
Who are we to say that God wasted the blood of the Lamb on us, that we are not worth His sacrifice? Who can say that God is wrong? Who can challenge him and remain standing? What does it say to God when we give others power to define us, even ourselves? Do we not make them a god in a way? When my self talk is demeaning am I not saying to God, “What do you know?”
So I decided I will no longer allow perishable things to define me. Not people, position or possessions.
I am an eternal being. My life will never end. And because of the blood of Jesus that was used to pay my ransom, I will spend my eternity in Heaven! When this is true how significant is anything here in the physical world? Nothing matters except Him! There is no marriage in Heaven. There is no parenthood. There is no money. There are no popularity or beauty contests. That doesn’t mean these relationships and things are not important. How we treat each other and ourselves and steward our possessions is how we show God how grateful we are and how much we love Him. But these things can not be our goal, they can not be our dream and they can not be what defines us.
So now what? I tried to live out my dreams, accomplish my will and I failed and found myself devastated. And I want you to remember that I did all those things thinking I was accomplishing the will of God, being a godly wife and friend, being a “good” person. But I was still trying to accomplish my will, trying to make myself feel good, trying to complete myself. Lying that day in my sister’s bed I heard God give me a choice. He said,
“You tried to live for your (selfish) dreams and look what happened. Now, do you want to live out My dreams for you or do you want to try it your way again?”
He gave me the free will to choose and would love me either way, but for me, the answer was obvious.
The rest of the story:
Despite my efforts to try and make my marriage work it ended. Nine months after my husband moved out we were divorced. I did move to Las Vegas, got a job and an apartment. I became part of my sister’s church, went to support groups and was surrounded by friends who showed me what love and life looked like. I came to know God more and what He was really like. I learned how to forgive and found healing for my soul. I became an amazing me that I loved and I learned to dream with God.
Copyright ©2012 makeitplainontablets.wordpress.com
*** If you are reading this and find you relate to the thoughts of depression and suicide PLEASE get help! Talk to a friend, pastor, or doctor. If you don’t know who to call or how to get help please click here.
Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you cannot see. Faith is trust between lovers. But I had turned it into a negotiation technique: if I believe a thing and act accordingly then God is obligated to act on my behalf. This is not faith and this is not a love relationship. This is false intimacy – an illusion of closeness. And it’s this illusion that caused me to fall so hard after the loss of my two little ones. Looking through Grace allowed me to see God and rebuild a relationship again without my illusions.
This was probably one of the hardest times in my life but it’s one of my favorites. God and I came into a relationship I only talked about before. He allowed me to feel whatever grief I needed to and I allowed Him to show me His love and wisdom through Grace. He got my head screwed back on straight and helped me through the process of healing.
We had decided to go ahead with our last round of IVF instead of waiting until Jonathan returned home from his deployment. Our last two little ones who had been frozen for a few months were my final hope of starting a family. Looking back now I know it was my anxiety that just wanted to push to get this over with. Success or failure didn’t really matter – I just needed to move on from waiting.
It snowed that November in Seattle. Old friends who just happened to move to the area let me stay with them for a few weeks over Thanksgiving. They were renovating an old house and they let me sleep in the basement bedroom – one of the few rooms that still had a floor. The house was cold, drafty a shell of what was soon to be a fabulous home. Most of their things were in storage until the house was finished but they did have a couple chairs, a bed, a small TV and a very fabulous coffee maker. My friend told me it cost more than her first car. It’s the kind that grinds the beans fresh for each cup with a touch of a button. You can choose the strength and it even has one of those steaming gadgets if you want to foam your milk. I surely drank too much coffee those days but it was nice to curl up with a cup in one of the two chairs in the house and chat with my friend. It was also at this time, fabulous coffee in hand, that I started to write about Grace and destiny.
I have to admit I didn’t enter this round of IVF with as much Faith. Last time it had honestly never crossed my mind that it wouldn’t work. But this time I had a different perspective. I went in leaning much more on Grace than Faith and simply hoped that “Perhaps the Lord might act on our behalf”. Though I slept on a blow up mattress, Grace remained my featherbed. As I fought off worry, Grace was a comforter and support. Despite my brokenness I felt a certainty. I no longer struggled with whether or not God was good. I knew He was. I didn’t wonder if He loved me. I knew He did. And no matter what the outcome of IVF I knew God was for me wanting to see me reach my destiny.
I can’t tell you exactly how I came to be so certain. But after I opened myself to see God through Grace something happened. I lay there sobbing until the tears were all gone and I found a vulnerability and dependency that said, “I trust you.” I trust that your goodness is not dependant on my favorable circumstances. You are unchanging. I trust that you love me now and always because you said nothing could change that – I was the one who added the rules of performance. I trust that you are bigger than me, see better than me, know more than me, so no matter how it looks you are on the sidelines wanting the best for me, not trying to see me fail or teach me a lesson. Anytime I started to think about something that didn’t line up with these truths I knew my thinking was wrong. These will never change:
God is Good
God loves ME and
God is for me not against me!
I did everything just like they told me. Count these days, take these tests, and show up for this procedure. It felt just like last time. But I left the office with a glimmer of hope, “What if THIS was IT!?” I knew what to expect this time for the “Two Week Wait” but it didn’t make it go any faster. The nervous anxiety clung to me everyday until my blood was drawn. It just so happened to fall on my birthday. When she called I could tell in the nurses tone before the words came that the results were negative. I wasn’t pregnant, again.
I got that call while traveling with family on the East coast. We were touring DC and that day we visited the Holocaust Museum. I grieved but there’s nothing like the Holocaust Museum to put your life in perspective. Reading and viewing life size depictions of Holocaust victims made living without children like an easy sacrifice. And I left feeling grateful for my life.
I decided to spend the rest of Jonathan’s deployment traveling and visiting family and friends who would help strengthen me while grieving. I did a ton of soul searching and spent countless hours in prayer, worship, and writing. I got back into kickboxing – an old love – and reaped the physical and therapeutic rewards. I don’t know of a better way to work out frustration than to pummel and kick a bag with all your might. It was a cleansing and clarifying time.
When Jonathan returned home after seven months away we focused our attention on reuniting and rekindling our connection and not on family building. Although deep down in our hearts we had a hope that God would do something supernatural that wasn’t something I wanted to put any emotional or mental energy into. We even found ourselves dreaming about the benefits of life without children: more free time, more money, less stress, more sleep. We integrated back into our church family after both having been gone. I rejoined our community but stayed out of volunteering for a little while. Most everyone there knew our circumstances and despite my request for people to stop praying for me to get pregnant and have a family, they didn’t. Obviously I still had some unresolved anger, but I was working on it. Slowly I got back into ministry. It just felt good to be giving to people and I had so much to share about how God had been with me in hard times.
I think we had been home about a year when someone from church came up to me and said, “I think I have something that will change your life!” I was hesitant but asked what it was. She explained how she knew someone who was pregnant and was considering adoption. I thanked her for the news and said she could keep me posted but I wasn’t initially excited about the idea, even more so since it was just a “what if” situation. Jonathan had always been open to adoption. Not just babies but children from around the world. He has such a big heart. I, on the other hand, wasn’t interested. I’m still not sure what my issue was – no doubt it was based in fear of something. Regardless, I told Jonathan about the news and allowed myself to be a little excited about the prospect of a baby. Hardly anyone knew about the woman, she went to another church in town, but still some talk about her situation could be heard that made me guard my heart against hoping. I didn’t need anymore disappointment. I trusted God; as I said before, I knew He was good and that He loved me, I just wasn’t sure I could hear Him clearly on this issue. That was not the case for those around me; they prayed with faith for things I wouldn’t allow myself to dream of anymore.
It was February when I got a phone call from the woman, I’ll call her Mary. She knew I knew about her and her situation so without explanation she asked if Jonathan and I wanted to meet her and her husband to talk about it. We set up a time for later that week. I was nervous but allowed myself to get a little excited. My position at church was a public one. So Mary knew me but I didn’t know anything about her except what others had told me.
That day we drove just a few short miles from our house to a little shop where we met Mary and her husband. After a few handshakes and brief introductions we sat down at a small table. She looked over at me, gently laid her hands a small blue hat box and pushed it across the table saying, “God, told me to give this to you.” Inside the box was a DVD of her ultrasound and a small crocheted blue blanket she had made for the 20 week old little boy that grow in her womb. Mary’s story of regret and redemption is a beautiful one. One that is not for me to tell perhaps one day she will write it herself. Until then let it be said that she sought God’s guidance for the destiny of that little boy and she found His finger pointing at us.
My heart leapt! But I grabbed it and stuffed it back into a safe place of doubt before moving on. I took the box without knowing what to say. “Thank you?” I actually don’t remember what I said. I remember us talking about some realistic details and the four of us prayed together. From that moment on, to Mary, I was the Mommy. I went to every midwife appointment and ultrasound. We visited and got to know each other. She asked us to name him, said she’d call him Mr. Wigglesworth until we did. When time came for delivery she called Jonathan and me and we were with her the whole night.
My eldest son was born by an amazingly strong woman, her husband and closest girlfriend by her side. Jonathan cut the cord and from that moment on he was ours. In a instant I was a mother.
I hadn’t dreamed of it this way but now I couldn’t dream of it being any other. And the miracles didn’t stop there. When our firstborn was 5 months old I got pregnant without clinics, drugs, planning or trying. I know I know you hear this all the time. Someone adopts a baby and then they stop thinking about getting pregnant – they are so relaxed it just happens. I don’t know how many people told me I just needed to relax and “it” would happen. But I was not relaxed and that is not what happened. Motherhood was an identity I had to adjust to. Being a mom is hard. The exhaustion alone caused emotional and physical stress, Jonathan got orders to deploy again and a legal battle around the adoption was ensuing. Relaxed was not the word to describe me. No. This was an outright miracle! My 13 year long medically documented infertility, blocked fallopian tubes, had been healed! And nine months later: our second son was born.
We were in awe of God’s sovereignty. His Love, Grace, and Mercy amazed us. Even when I was faithless He was faithful – I just didn’t understand it, I just couldn’t see it. But hindsight vision is 20/20 and I never again struggled like I did back then. Even when trials came I had these miracles to remind me that God is faithful, like the Israelites had the 12 stones from the Jordan River as a testimony of what God had done.
After yet another military deployment Jonathan and I discussed having another child. We didn’t even consider whether or not we could. We simply decided and nine months later a little girl joined our crew.
My family is a miracle. The creative hand of God at work. I continue to live each day by His Grace, my Faith ever growing, and knowing that there is still so much more to come.
Copyright ©2012 makeitplainontablets.wordpress.com
I felt I was entitled to it. I mean I am blessed right? I have the favor of the Lord. I am the daughter of the King and He has promised his blessings and inheritance to me. There is no reason why this wouldn’t work out in my favor. I sought His wisdom before I started – no resistance was discerned, no indication that He was against the decision. Prophetic words were given over and over that this was in my future. I stood on that. I stood on His promises. I declared His Words. I walked in faith. I bathed it in scriptures.
Hope was high.
Everything in the natural seemed to be lined up in my favor. I spent months of proclaiming, declaring and standing. So when the news came that it didn’t work, I was shaken!
We had been married for about a year when my husband and I decided to have a baby. After several unsuccessful months I decided to go in for fertility testing. I had been tested years before and was documented to have infertility but I had hoped I was healed and that it had changed. When we didn’t get pregnant right away I suspected it hadn’t. Testing confirmed my fears. For anyone who has wanted to get pregnant and couldn’t you’ll be familiar with the emotions of fear, anger and desperation that quickly assaulted my thoughts.
“I’m never going to have a family.”
“Why is this happening to me?”
“What’s wrong with me?”
“How come all these people who don’t want to have babies keep getting pregnant?”
“Why, God, why?”
“Will I ever have a baby?”
“Is there something I can do?”
After much discussion, research and prayer Jonathan and I felt God gave us the go ahead to pursue “alternative” methods to getting pregnant. We saw the doctors, discussed all the options and due to my type of infertility pursued the only medical option we had: IVF (in vitro fertilization.)
Jonathan and I believe life begins at conception so we didn’t enter into this decision lightly. The process of IVF means that life for our little ones would begin in a dish. The potential of there being way more lives then we planned on adding to our family had to be discussed. We agreed that how ever many lives lived in that dish would be the number we would have. If that meant we had 7+ children, then so be it. We also made “embryo adoption” plans in our Wills for our little ones just in case once their lives began – ours unexpectedly ended. We tried to foresee and cover all the moral obligations we could to protect and care for the lives of our children.
With Jonathan’s overseas deployment quickly approaching we pushed to get the ball rolling before he left. Our hope was I would get pregnant and be nearing delivery when he returned to the United States. It sounded easy. Count these days, take these shots, have this procedure and BAM – you’re pregnant!
If only that were so.
Jonathan completed his part of the procedure and off he went to “the sandbox” as they call it. My sister joined me for my procedures and Jonathan attended by phone. They were able to extract nine eggs from me and placed them in a dish with Jonathan’s “little swimmers.” And “ta da” nine little lives of our family began. But on the third day of their young lives only four remained. We grieved for the five but remained hopeful for the remaining embryos. By day five these four remained strong ready for a continued chance to live. The doctors said they couldn’t have looked better. We decided to have two implanted – hoping for twins – and two frozen to join our family later. Modern science is amazing!
After 20 or 30 minutes reclining in an office I had these two amazing lives within me. It would be two weeks of waiting to confirm they were nestled warmly in my welcoming womb. These two weeks were the longest most anxiety-filled weeks of the whole process. I thought the shots and the procedures were the hard part – little was done to prepare me for that agonizing wait. Unclear expectations added to the tension.
Two weeks passed. Blood was drawn and hours later the dreadful call notifying me that I was not pregnant came. I had to notify Jonathan of the disappointing news by phone. Then I went back to my room and cried. I didn’t understand what had happened.
I had planned for the trip, anticipated a great outcome. I packed my bags, bought my ticket and boarded the train of my bright future. I had mapped out my course; seeking the Lord’s wisdom all along the way. The train departed the station and began to pick up speed. I was on the way to my destiny when suddenly, somehow the train I thought I boarded changed course. This new route did not seem to have my best interest in mind as it barreled down this unknown track!
What happened? I couldn’t explain this. This shouldn’t have happened. I followed my negative thoughts from initial denial to shocked disappointment, from disillusionment to despair.
After not being able to discern whether or not I was “fine”, I determined indeed I was NOT fine. I found myself in bed, in the dark, sobbing. I couldn’t figure out how I got here. Following my normal tendency to take all responsibility onto myself I tried to find out where I went wrong. Did I misunderstand? Should we not have done this? Did I allow the enemy to sabotage by not having enough faith in the promises of God? Had I forgotten to repent of some self-imposed curse? I was so angry for getting myself into this situation! I was hurting. I was angry.
Then I began thinking I wasn’t worthy of my planned destination. Not qualified. Not ready. I had been labeled with “Less Than” – less than everyone else who booked and made the trip. I thought, “God – what’s the deal? I thought you were good! I thought you loved me! You promised me! You said this was my destiny! I did everything you expected of me! What went wrong?”
I was exhausted – the tears overwhelmed me and my head was hurting from the pressure. I decided that I couldn’t do this anymore – I couldn’t live my life this way. I started to reason that I had it wrong all this time. I thought, “Faith in God is a waste of time and effort. It doesn’t work.” I began to question if God and all my beliefs about God and Christianity was all in my head. I began to question everything.
As soon as I started down this path of thinking I became afraid. Because while in the moment this felt safe and reasonable, when I projected into the future of living without belief in God and Jesus and faith, life looked even darker and uglier than it currently felt. I knew I was in trouble and needed help. Praying to God wasn’t working because all I could hear were my own reasonable thoughts or worse – silence – which felt like confirmation. So I called a trusted friend…but she didn’t answer the phone; adding the sense of aloneness to despair. But only minutes later she called me back and I could barely speak from all the crying.
All I could say was, “I can’t do this anymore…”
“Do what?” she asked compassionately.
“Have Faith,” my voice choking on tears, “It’s too hard…and it doesn’t work!”
I felt like such a failure. I was so angry and disappointed in myself because the test of my faith had come and I failed. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t persevere. I couldn’t muster up the strength. Years of being a Christian, a strong Christian, a leader, teacher, counselor, Bible school graduate and now licensed reverend all to come to the test and fail.
My good friend said many things; all with gentleness and wisdom. She reassured me that it wasn’t the performance of my faith that obligates God to favorable action and that sometimes we just don’t know why these things happen. Thankfully she didn’t offer me common cliché’s like “God has his perfect timing – Just be patient” or “All things were going to work for my good” or that “I could do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and she didn’t try to reassure me that this was an opportunity for growth that later I would be able to minister from or tell me to “Just continue to pray it through.”
But she did tell me that I didn’t have to prove my faith right now. That there were plenty of loved ones around me that were praying for me and can have the faith that I couldn’t have. She suggested I didn’t have to do anything and that God had enough Grace for me in this moment. She asked me if I could allow God’s Grace to be enough. I suddenly had a picture of a great big featherbed, a featherbed of Grace, and all I had to do was fall into it. And then the pressure came off – and I thought, “Yes, I can do that.” Faith seemed like so much work, so much pressure, but Grace – Grace didn’t require anything. Trusting in Grace didn’t require me to proclaim scriptures, declare promises, or even walk in accordance with any stipulation that illustrated my beliefs. Grace was something only God could do – it didn’t require anything of me. Grace became the lens through which I could see God clearly again. In the midst of despair, exhaustion and confusion Grace became the harnessing knot at the end of my rope and later would become the springboard for the rest of my life!
Of course this isn’t the end of the story my Bio page (along with most of my other posts) lets that cat out of the bag. But the events that led to those amazing miracles is a story for another day.
Copyright ©2012 makeitplainontablets.wordpress.com