January. Wow, my last post was in January. I knew it had been a while, but 5 months? I think that is the longest I have gone without writing! It feels good to be back. Where did I go? Well, at first I was embarrassed. I felt like I needed to announce that we are expecting our 5th little one - which I never officially did (but I guess I'm doing now?). As much as I wish I was one of those confident people who doesn't care what people think. I'm not. I struggle with it - A LOT. I was personally excited the first couple of weeks, but afraid to admit it. Then, when the pregnancy hormones kicked in full force, the word excited was no where in my vocabulary. Scared, yes. Doubting myself, you bet. I found myself constantly analyzing the comments I get at the grocery store (your crazy, I'm glad its you and not me, you DO know what causes that, right?, How can you give them enough...time, attention, money, space?). At the time, those comments weren't bothering me just because of what people thought, but because of the way I replayed them in my head and allowed myself to believe them). Now that I'm my 24th week - things still aren't easy. MUCH BETTER, but not easy. Expecting, with a house full of little ones (four 6 & under) is hard work - physically, emotionally, mentally, even spiritually. Incredibly worth it & full of blessing...but very challenging. There have been a few things that have brought me great encouragement through out this process, and I'd like to share them in the hopes that they will bring some refreshment & inspiration in and through whatever you may be facing.
A dear friend of mine told me a great story about her son. He was wrestling (I think in a championship match) against an opponent he had lost to the previous season. It was a close fight and I believe they were either tied or his opponent was ahead by one. Just before the end of the match, her son got himself into a winning - but very difficult position. The audience could see the obvious pain on his face - but, if he could hold himself in that position for just a few more seconds - he would win. They cheered loudly! And his father, knowing just what his son needed to hear began yelling "hold on" "hold on" "hold on" and that is just what his son did. He held on, even though he was in pain, and he came out on the other side a champion!
I have a tendency to be pretty hard on myself. I want to win my wresting matches with a beautiful pain-free expression on my face, a perfect attitude & with ease. But I love the idea that in those tough times, if we just hold on (even if we have to occasionally grimace in pain), we can come out on the other side, a seasoned champion! I also loved the response of the audience & especially the boys father. They weren't saying - "its too hard, just let go", or chanting "give up" "give up" "give up". They cheered him on even though he was choosing a difficult journey. To those of you who have been cheering me on with your own versions of "hold on" "hold on" "hold on" - there are no words that can express the depth of my gratitude.
This quote from Max Lucado's, 'And the angels were silent' has a similarly encouraging theme...
"Jesus doesn't say if you succeed you will be saved. Or if you come out on top you will be saved. he says if you endure. An accurate rendering would be, "If you hang in there until the end...if you go the distance." The Brazilians have a great phrase for this. In Portuguese, a person who has the ability to hang in and not give up has garra. Garra means "claws." What imagery! A person with garra has claws that burrow into the side of the cliff and keep him from falling. So do the saved. They may get close to the edge; they may even stumble and sliede. But they will dig their nails into the rock of God and hang on. Jesus gives you this assurance. Hang on . He'll make sure you get home."
Matthew 24:13 - "Those people who keep their faith until the end will be saved."
Speaking of Jesus, another source of encouragement has been the story of the loaves and fishes. In the past, whenever I've thought about Jesus feeding 5000 people (or more) with 5 loaves and two fish, I've focused on trusting God for physical provision - knowing that God would provide. But recently, I've read it in a different light. I've found myself focusing more on the boy - and what he had to offer. Not much. Compared to the need, he didn't have enough. There are days when I don't have enough to offer. My children sometimes need more than I have to give. But, I've found myself praying - "Lord, here are my loaves and fishes, this is all I have - please multiply it!" And you know what, he does - we make it through another day... and although I don't know if I've gotten to the point of leftovers yet, I have hope - and perhaps I'm getting there.
John 6:8-13 - "Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten."
Lastly, and this one might make you laugh (or judge me) or both, but here goes - The new Tom Cruise movie "The Edge of Tomorrow". One reviewer described it as "Groundhog day meets Aliens". Last night, Matt dragged me to it kicking and screaming (actually he said I could go see a chick flick if I really wanted to, but I decided to sacrifice my desires and see an Alien movie, aren't I a good wife?) Anyway, in the movie - a group of military men were getting ready to jump out of an aircraft and attack the enemy. The sergeant or general (or whatever he was ;) said, "Men, it is ok to be scared. Without fear there is no courage" Again, because of my perfectionism, I am tempted to get down on myself when I am not in complete control of my emotions. But the idea that without fear there is no courage, reminded me that it is ok to be afraid sometimes, doubt sometimes, be exhausted sometimes - as long as we don't give up. Keep pressing on. Keep moving forward. Getting through those hard times is where amazing things like courage, stronger faith and endurance come from.
Later in the movie, William Cage (Tom Cruise) finds himself living the same day over and over again (something to do with an aliens blood giving him the ability to reset time). Unfortunately for him, it is not an easy day. It is a day filled with mockery, fear, warfare, death, and sacrifice. The first time he lives this day he is a complete coward, a loser really. He encourages people to fight for their country and yet he is too afraid to do the same. Again and again he faces the same day and learns slowly but surely how to fight his enemy, think outside the box, face fears and put others above himself. By the end of the movie he is a courageous warrior - a hero. On our way home, I jokingly said to Matt that sometimes I can relate to the idea of being stuck in the same day over and over. More dishes, more laundry, more sibling squabbles, more of my weaknesses staring me right in the face etc..
As I was drifting off to sleep I realized, that although I can relate to the feeling of the same thing day after day, just as there was an amazing growth process going on in the life of William Cage, there was and is also a growth process going on in my life. Though I started out totally selfish, spoiled, impatient, lazy... slowly but surely God is refining me. He is using the hard parts to make me stronger. None of it is wasted. Too bad, I thought to myself, that I don't get to start over every day with all of my mistakes erased (like Cage's character)...and then I remembered the precious blood of Jesus - which for me, does exactly that!
Psalm 103:12 - "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."