Saturday, October 18, 2014

endurance {and when grace abounds}

You look at the weather-beaten sailor, the man who is at home on the sea: he has a bronzed face and mahogany-coloured flesh, he looks as tough as heart of oak, and as hardy as if he were made of iron. How different from us poor landsmen. 

How did the man become so inured to hardship, so able to breast the storm, so that he does not care whether the wind blows south-west or north-west? 

He can go out to sea in any kind of weather; he has his sea legs on: how did he come to this strength? 

By doing business in great waters. 

He could not have become a hardy seaman by tarrying on shore. Now, trial works in the saints that spiritual hardihood which cannot be learned in ease. 

You may go to school for ever, but you cannot learn endurance there

you may colour your cheek with paint, but you cannot give it that ingrained brown which comes of stormy seas and howling winds. 

Strong faith and brave patience come of trouble

and a few men in the church who have thus been prepared are worth anything in times of tempest. 

To reach that condition of firm endurance and sacred hardihood is worth all the expense of all the heaped-up troubles that ever come upon us from above or from beneath. 

When trial worketh patience we are incalculably enriched. 

The Lord give us more of this choice grace. As Peter's fish had the money in its mouth, so have sanctified trials spiritual riches for those who endure them graciously.

Charles Spurgeon

We had a wonderful time at the beach a few weeks ago. As I was looking back at our pictures today, I couldn't help but smile as I remembered how much fun we all had. Our time away was truly a gift on so many different levels, and I am so thankful…

I am also so very, very grateful to my mom and a sweet friend who stayed here at home with Sophi, Faith Ana, and Haddon. I struggled with the decision to leave them, especially Sophi with her multitude of behavioral and attachment issues, and also Faith Ana, since she's only been home for such a very short time. And my sweet boy Haddon! I hated leaving our littlest guy behind.

But as I've shared openly and transparently about our ongoing struggles with Sophi, the Lord has been impressing several things on my heart…

First, He's been teaching me all about endurance. I'm learning what this word means and especially how it applies to parenting special needs kids. These past few months have definitely called for an endurance unlike anything I've ever experienced...

But more than just enduring these trying days, my heart's desire is to learn to endure them with a graciousness and a patience that can only come from above. It certainly doesn't come from within. There's no telling how many times I have said this over the past few years, and I'm sure the Lord will continue to teach me this lesson many times in the days ahead: That hard is good, and I'm finding it true all over again. These hard things have uncovered so much about my own heart. Namely, my own pride and my self sufficiency. And I know this is a mercy. I'm so grateful for how the Lord is using these things to humble me as I learn to acknowledge my need for help. He's reminding me that to be able to walk through these challenging days with endurance, He must be my source and my strength. To give grace, I must receive grace. To be able to effectively and graciously love and care for these children, especially these two little girls with such profound needs, it is vitally important for me to take time to take care of myself. The past few months have made me realize how very important rest and renewal are for my soul. And the timing of this trip couldn't have been more perfect. I was drowning and didn't even realize it. I needed a chance to catch my breath and how grateful I am that I was able to listen to the Lord's gentle nudgings {and my boys vehement pleadings} and be able to spend five full days with five of my most favorite little people in the whole world. Of course, I was glad to have their Daddy tag along, too!

Our days were lively and full. We woke up early, stayed up late, and spent most of our time down on the beach kayaking, fishing, building sand castles, and going on adventures. It wasn't exactly restful, but spending time simply playing with these precious little people did my heart so much good. The Lord used those days to renew my heart, refresh my spirit, and remind me how much fun it is being a momma. I am one very blessed woman.

Sophi and Faith Ana did extremely well while we were away. Sophi had her moments, but both girls asked for MaMa and DaDa often, which, of course, is a healthy and encouraging sign. I fully expected Sophi to struggle when we got back home, so it didn't come as a surprise to see her angry, confused, and defiant. She has re-tested boundaries in ways that she hasn't done in a long, long time and regressed again with her potty-training. Once again, I feel like I'm in the middle of stormy {and stinky} seas as I struggle to care for and love this precious daughter of ours.

I'm asking the Lord for sea legs. I'm asking Him to work brave patience, strong faith, and firm endurance into every fiber of my being right now. I'm asking Him to fill my heart with compassion and love. To give me strength for what's hard, to provide rest when I'm weary, to fill me with hope when I'm discouraged, and to shine His light when all I see is darkness. I'm asking Him for wisdom and direction in several specific areas issues relating to Sophi. And not a day goes by that I don't find myself on my knees asking for forgiveness for the many ways I blow it, which I do quite often. It's so easy for hard days to make a hard heart…

Parenting this child {and all these children} is very much doing business in deep waters. It's exhausting. It's draining. It's an overwhelming responsibility, and sometimes it's just plain scary. And I know it's not just me. Parenting, in general, is hard work. It doesn't matter whether you have eight children or only one, healthy kids or girls like mine with special needs. Parenting is not for the faint of heart.  

There are days when I feel like I'm barely keeping my head above the water. Days when I long to be like the "weather beaten sailor" Spurgeon talked about in his sermon, at home in deep and rough waters, but by the end of the day, I just feel plain beat. Worn out and worn down. Maybe I endured the day's challenges, but I certainly wouldn't call it gracious endurance.

My words often come out louder, quicker, and harsher than I intend. I fuss too much or discipline too severely. My spirit is too critical or my standard too high. It's such a temptation to focus on little people's faults instead of celebrating their victories. This is especially true when parenting kids who came from hard places. The victories are often so small that if my eyes aren't open and my radar isn't up, I'll blink and miss an opportunity to speak the words of affirmation and blessing that I know these children so desperately need. 

Yesterday was one of those days. Just as Sophi struggles to use her words, tonight I am struggling to find words of my own to adequately describe how hard that day really was. Unpleasant, miserable, and stinky don't do it justice. And I'm not talking about her accidents or her behavior. I'm talking about my own heart.

When this very long and tiring day finally came to an end and all the little bodies were tucked in their beds {minus the two who were at the beach again with their grandparents}, I knew it was time to lay my heart bare before my Father. Of course, He knows it all without my saying, but nonetheless I told Him about my hard words and my critical spirit and even worse, my hard heart.

And can I tell you what He said? It was so simple, but so, so perfect...

Grace abounds in deepest waters.

The words come from a song I must have listened to ten thousand or so times when I was flying over the middle of the ocean on my way to Bulgaria to pick up Faith Ana earlier this summer. Words that the Lord used to strengthen and encourage my heart when I was alone, overwhelmed, and anxious. When I wondered what in the world I was doing, these words gave me direction.

The same was true for me last night. When I wondered what in the world I was doing and especially when I wondered how in the world I would be able to keep doing it, those words were the truth that my overwhelmed heart needed to hear. Like a light blinking brightly on top of a lighthouse, the words from that song, His words to my heart, pointed me to Him. To Grace. 

Parenting special needs kids {parenting any kids} without giving grace to them {and to myself} will ultimately lead to disaster. 

When I run into those rocks and hard places that otherwise would have shipwrecked me, grace protects me

When the the storm is raging {or the child is raging}, grace keeps me anchored

When I have no energy left and I feel myself being pulled under by exhaustion and hopelessness, grace keeps me afloat

When I've tried so hard and everything that I can possibly think of has failed and I no longer know which direction to take, grace is always the way to go

Grace is the lifeline I must hold on to as I'm doing business in these great waters, being a momma to all these precious little people

Praise the Lord, His grace is sufficient. That in my weakness, He is strong. That through my failures, He brings about good. That in all these things that are hard, even when it's my own heart that is the hardest of all, His grace abounds. 

And can I share with you one more thing? This morning when I woke up, His mercies were new. Miracle mercies. My heart was softened toward this sweet girl and I had my sea legs on, prepared for whatever the day might bring. I was expecting stormy weather {and stinky smells}, but the Lord surprised me. Sophi had one of the best days she's had in over four months. No rages. No tantrums. No accidents. In fact, the only time I had to correct her was because she was laughing so loud I was afraid she was going to wake up the baby.

Today I had a chance to catch my breath and when I did, I breathed in deeply His grace. It was a good day, and I'm so thankful for His faithfulness to answer our prayers and for His grace that abounds in deep waters.

Praise the Lord!
For He has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength, my shield from every danger.
I trust Him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy…

Psalm 28:6-7


P.S. And just for the fun of it, I'm going to include a few more of my favorite pictures from our trip...

1 comment:

  1. Melanie, I so look forward to reading your posts. What an encouragement you are to mothers! You are doing a wonderful job!