Sunday, December 20, 2015

Ups and Downs

And He said to me,
"My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is perfected in weakness."

Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses,
that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, for Christ's sake;

for when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Each of our kids, at least, the last three that make up our little crew, have gone through what I fondly call a Daddy Stage. Most of the time, I don't doubt that they still love me, and there are times that they do indeed want me, but it's not often, especially when they are upset. Their safe place, their secure place, the place they need to be when their world is not right, is up. 

Up in their Daddy's arms.

I can't pinpoint exactly when this phase begins. It's probably been a tad bit different for each one, but there's definitely a common denominator:

Growing a baby is hard work. At least it is for this momma. I've done it a bunch of times, and you'd think it would get easier each time. But, the truth is that it hasn't. In fact, each time I've been blessed to carry a child, it has gotten harder and harder. 

In most areas of my life over these last few years, I have been learning (sometimes slowly) to accept the hard things God sends. Even to welcome them. To see them as opportunities for growth. Precursors to blessings yet to unfold. Gifts from a gracious and merciful Father to gently teach me to quit relying on my own strength and determination and to learn to lean on Him. 

When I look into the big brown eyes of S and Faith Ana, this is what I see. Good, good gifts wrapped in unexpected (and sometimes unattractive) packages. Hard things. Sometimes, very, very hard things, but good things. Things that have humbled me and revealed my weaknesses, yet things that have drawn me closer to Him. 

But this thing, this particular pregnancy, this growing a little life inside of me - this has been a hard thing unlike anything I have ever before experienced. Physically, this pregnancy has been difficult, especially coupled with anemia, headaches, varicose veins, insomnia, and exhaustion. Emotionally, many days and in many ways that perhaps one day I will find the words to share, this pregnancy has been a roller-coaster ride. And mentally, well, words just simply fail to describe how challenging these last nine months have been for me. There have been some dark, dark days. 

So, really, it's not a surprise that Haddon has certainly hit that Daddy Stage and has probably stayed in that stage longer than any of our other kids. He's definitely a daddy's boy. I'm not sure who is more anxious and excited to see Will when he walks in the door from work: me or Haddon. I think my memory of Haddon (at least during this second year of his little life) will be of him, climbing on my feet, wedging himself between me and the kitchen counter while I am trying to cook supper, pulling on my clothes, all the while repeatedly saying "up, up, up."

With tired arms, achy feet, a hurting back, and some days, a troubled and distracted mind, I don't always feel like picking him up or, quite honestly, I don't even want to pick him up. Tell me I am not alone. Some days, I distract him. {Hello iPad and snacks.} Some days, I give in, if only for a minute, hoping it will appease him, only to put him down a few seconds later when something on the stove starts bubbling over and looks and smells like an erupting, burning volcano. Some days (as much as I hate to admit it), I simply ignore him or I tell him he's ok and to go find his brothers or Evie. Thankfully, this kid loves his big brothers and sisters, and they love him and for the most part are great helpers! But it's a short-term fix, and for this boy, there's only one thing that makes all things right.

His daddy. 

The moment Will walks in the door, all is well in Haddon's little world. The tears stop. The fussing subsides. Even the full-blown, kicking, thrashing, and screaming tantrum of an almost two year old (sound familiar, anyone?) - it stops as soon as he walks in the door and scoops him up.

Some days, I find myself welcoming Will home with my own version of a two-year old tantrum, complete with tears and fussing. Maybe it's coming from a place of insecurity or feeling inadequate as a momma (the Enemy has been on the warpath lately) or maybe it's pregnancy hormones or maybe I'm just extra tired by the end of the day, but I'll find myself criticizing Will for picking Haddon up the second he walks in the door. I'll complain about Haddon's incessant fussing during the afternoon, griping about how he got woken up early from his nap by his loud brothers, and recounting the mischief that he and Evie got into and the disasters they created during the hours Will was away. I'll interject that he really shouldn't always pick Haddon up every time he asks. I don't. He shouldn't either. He's spoiling him and teaching him that this is how to get what he wants. And while there is some wisdom in this, generally, all it takes is about 15 seconds of me looking at this brown-eyed boy of mine held in his daddy's strong arms, and I rethink my position. His tears stop. His fussing turns into smiling. His demeanor changes. Mine does too, and the whole mood of the house shifts. I start breathing again, and Will reminds me that it's ok. It's going to be ok. He won't always need to be picked up or want to be picked up. Will points to the other four boys that are growing bigger (and stinkier) by the day, and I know he's right. Some days, they are so busy and distracted that they hardly notice when he walks in the door. He tells me that Haddon won't be the baby much longer (three more days to be exact!!!), and it really is ok. And, most importantly, he tells me that he doesn't mind, and I know he's telling me the truth! I love this guy's heart!

So when I read these words this morning, a post from a while back from a blog I haven't checked in months, I could relate on so many different levels. Maybe you can too! Can I encourage you to take the time to read the whole post

Here's a little excerp from it that I've been pondering throughout the day:

“Up, please” is dangerous for the child who’s not been tethered.

And for you. And for me.

Because somewhere in that grafting, when we said “yes” to Jesus — at seven or sixteen or twenty-three —  the inertia of humanity and life has taught us that “up, please” is for babies and we don’t know how to be babies to God.

I’d rather not be like a child. I don’t want to fumble over my words in a crowd or have my daughter’s wounds get triggered in public, for others to see. I don’t want to be the medical conundrum...I don’t want to be pushing forty and needing to ask the question: what broke at fifteen to make me still.keep.struggling. with that same issue? I don’t want to bleed, for too long at least...

I don’t want to need.

I’ll say it again: if I’m honest — I don’t really want to need Him.

I want to crawl out of weak skin and learn the five points on how to grow my passion for God — ’cause wouldn’t we all rather learn it in a sermon than with our lives? Yet He keeps inviting me to be bare with Him — to literally, sit before Him and let down my heart and ask the questions and wait on His answers. Be vulnerable and stay vulnerable is quite the invitation in a world where efficient mastery and polished appearances are praised...

The dozen moments in a day that I resent because they remind me that I’m weak are the ones when He wants to hear my faltering voice: “up, please.”

Needy tears have become a treasure here. When pain isn’t shoved back into submission through self-flagellation or masked underneath layers of “I’m fine!” but instead spills out through eight and ten and eleven year-old versions of “up, please,” we celebrate. We give long cuddles, just to re-affirm them that hearts that are bleeding raw before God are the ones on their way to coming alive. 

When I read these words, I thought about all the things that have happened this year. All the hard things. All the struggles. Mainly, all of my struggles. The mistakes I've made. The things I wish I could do differently. The ways I've failed. This year, more so than any other, I know what it means for a heart to bleed raw. As I look back and remember it all, my heart, bloody and messy as it is, is a heart overwhelmed with the faithfulness and gentle mercies of my own Heavenly Father. Time and time and time again, He just keeps pouring His blessings down on me. No matter how fussy I am. No matter how disagreeable I've been. No matter how the day has gone. No matter how badly I have blown it. As many times as I ask and even when I don't, His arms are always available. Today, He met me with these priceless and precious words that my heart so desperately needed as He patiently reminded me that His strong arms - my Daddy's arms - were made for this very thing. For reaching down and scooping me up. For holding me close. For not letting go. A year that started off with a miscarriage, followed by several months of feeling very, very badly but not knowing why, finding out I was severely anemic, then pregnant again, and then finally nine of the hardest, most challenging months of carrying a little person inside of me that I've ever experienced. It's been quite a year, but here's the thing: He has lifted me up and carried me through every bit of it. 

The great God wants our conspicuous crises to be occasions of conspicuous testimony;
our seasons of darkness to be opportunities for the unveiling of the Divine...

Make a pulpit of every circumstance...

Springs in the Valley

Is it just me or is it hard to be vulnerable and even harder to stay vulnerable once you drop the pretense and lose the pride? To quit pushing so hard, trying so hard, working so hard and simply to accept what is hard? To be weak, raw, messy, bloody, and exposed? To be like a child? To be like Haddon? This is exactly the place where the Lord has had me these past 12 months. And while in many ways, I'm still in the thick of it and still find myself struggling with the same things that I did yesterday and the day before, I'm just now slowly starting to see. I'm finally starting to see those little arms reaching up and those big eyes looking up, and I'm hearing that precious little voice, often sobbing, asking for up. 

If only I would always do the same. Every day. As many times a day as I needed to. If I would just look up and lift my arms up and whisper that simple, little word. Up.

To live in the wisdom of accepted tenderness is to let go of cares and concerns, to stop organizing means to ends and simply be in each moment of awareness as an end in itself...We can embrace our whole life story in the knowledge that we have been graced and made beautiful by the providence of our past history. All the wrong turns in the past, the detours, mistakes, moral lapses, everything that is irrevocably ugly or painful, melts and dissolves in the warm glow of accepted tenderness.

Brennan Manning
Ruthless Trust

My instinct, my modus operandi, the typical, learned way I respond to my Heavenly Father  is nothing like the way Haddon responds to his earthly father. When I'm sad, angry, hurting, scared, depressed, or simply when I'm just down and don't even really know why, I don't always look up. In the past, I might beat myself up. I might pull myself up by my own bootstraps and sheer determination (better known as stubbornness). I might tell myself to toughen up. More recently, I might just give up. 

Some days, I'm like S and Faith Ana. I think deep down they both know and are learning to trust that the strong arms of a daddy are a good thing, but because of how they were wounded during those first six years of their life, there are still times when they bristle and push away from their daddy's embrace. They simply don't know what it means to be held, even when that's what their hurting, little hearts are crying out for. Other days, I'm more like my other brown-eyed boy. The one that is growing up so fast. The one who is passionate and wears his emotions on his sleeve, this one who is strong-willed and like his momma in so many ways. He's been on his own roller coaster this year and has had his own share of struggles. Adjusting to  homeschool and having his daddy for his teacher hasn't always been easy, and he and Will have certainly had some clashes, conflicts, and less than memorable moments. I cannot tell you how many times the Lord has given me a glimpse of my own heart as I've stood back and watched these moments play out. Like him, I've fought my Father. I've not liked what He's asked me to do. I've wrestled, and I've resisted. And, you know what? As I look back and reflect on this year - all the craziness, all my struggles, all the messes and disasters that I have found myself in - in all of it, His arms have always been reaching down, inviting me up. No matter how hard I put up a fight (or don't fight and simply give up - I'm not sure which reaction is worse, and I've done both many times lately), no matter how many times I push away, no matter what, NO MATTER WHAT, He's always there to pick me up. 

Dear friend, you do not have to understand all God's ways of dealing with you. He does not expect you to understand them. You do not expect your children to understand everything you do - you simply want them to trust you.

And someday you too will see the glory of God in the things you do not understand.

Streams in the Desert

This year, these hard things, all of this, it's helping me to learn how to see God just as Haddon sees his own daddy. Today, I'm safely and securely scooped up in His strong and faithful arms. Tomorrow, I might be wrestling and pushing away. Ups and downs are very much a part of the landscape of my heart right now. Like I said, it's been a roller coaster around here, and, yes, I still have so much to learn. Actually, I have even more to unlearn. I'm unlearning old ways and old patterns of thinking, and this has been hard. For me, it's been a painstakingly slow and unsteady process. One step forward. Many steps back. Thankfully, I have an unbelievably patient Daddy and kind Teacher who is helping me to unlearn the wrong ways of seeing Him and of seeing myself. And through this process of replacing the lies with the unchanging and timeless truth of His grace and acceptance and unconditional love, I've found myself clinging to Him as I've never done before. I've found that up in His arms is the very, very best place to be. 

God never wastes His children's pain! God loves much those whom He trusts with sorrow, and designs some precious soul enrichment which comes only through the channel of suffering.

There are things which even God cannot do for us unless He allows us to suffer.

He cannot have the result of the process without the process.

Streams in the Desert


P.S. Three more days, Lord-willing, until our arms have one more little person to scoop up! Will you join us in praying for a smooth (and quick!!!!) induction on Wednesday morning and for this newest little one to be healthy, strong, and ready to come home to a loud and lively house?

1 comment:

  1. I don't know if you have bumped into this adoption blog, but her most recent post reminded me a lot of your family. Hopefully it is an encouragement: