…will make you stronger!”
At least that’s what they say! And while this summer held days that felt as if they might just kill me, they didn’t! Which leads me to the conclusion my grandmother came to decades before I did! “A little HARD work never killed anyone!” For the sake of this long, overdue blog, I will combine the two into something like this~ “Circumstances that seem so HARD you think you won’t survive, will not kill you… but they will make you stronger!”
Trouble is, I think I’m actually writing on this subject too early, as the “stronger” part has yet to come! Truth be known, I’m exhausted. Weary might even be a better description of my present state. So weary that my husband put me in a car this afternoon and sent me away to have a few days ALONE! “Rest”, he said… “Enjoy yourself!” Believe it or not- I resisted at his first offer to get away. There’s just too much to be done! (Which is exactly why I’m weary!) I don’t have a spare minute to slip away from home by myself! But after some arm twisting- I did it!!! I am typing now from an undisclosed location. But my location doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I am here ALONE!
Unlike my precious husband of 30 years, who loves a crowd and likes to be the last person to leave the church’s parking lot on Sunday morning, I prefer time alone! That’s when I can think clearly, spend time with the Lord in my thoughts and hear from Him. I am recharged by those moments spent alone, and this particular summer such moments were very few and far between. But those long, long days of summer that left me so tired and weary, DIDN’T kill me!!!! And now that they are finally drawing to a close and I have slipped away to take a breath, I can begin to see the strength God intends to build in me through them.
Hudson Taylor's book entitled “It Is Not Death to Die” is a sweet reminder that a season that calls me to a deeper and deeper death to self, will actually lead to a more abundant life, filled with joy, than an expected shortcut to the grave. If the aim of this particular season was to strip me of self and teach me a bit of sacrifice in service to others, it hit the target dead on! And while I questioned it a time or two- it did NOT kill me! Not even close!
Sadly, I’ll have to admit that I didn’t learn this soon enough in my parenting, and my Phase 2 children are bearing the brunt of my late start! At the ripe old age of 50- I think I might have finally caught on to something and I want to waste no time in showing my kids the real pathway to joy! The one they will never find in front of a computer screen or with an ITouch in their hands! In fact, I’ve decided that bringing home a child with a special need that requires much attention from everyone in the home (in this case Abby’s Down Syndrome) has not ruined the lives of my other children the way well-meaning observers warned it could. Instead, it is teaching each of us that a life of service to others is the best life of all! Most amazing is that I have never heard a single complaint from any of them when called to serve Abby in some way or the other. How is this even possible, I wonder… I suppose it’s because the instant rewards through simply being with Abby are enough to remind us all that a life of service is a shortcut to a life of joy.
I can’t imagine what my life looks like from the outside looking in these days. I’m convinced that I should have lost my mind long ago- so it’s no wonder everyone else thinks so too! Questions regarding our decision to adopt another child with DS are predictable and I have come to expect them. Just this week, after spending a few hours with our crazy family, a friend looked at me in disbelief and asked, “…and you really want to adopt another one? Wow!” Our lives are complicated and do not include a leisurely swim or time to lounge next to the pool. And while this is HARD- I’ve come to realize that the hardest work is in the molding of my own heart to do exactly what God has called me to do, instead of pining away for the life He has called others to… My nest is not empty like the majority of my friends. God’s plan for my life appears to not include an empty nest at all! I can either adjust my heart and attitude to this or I can grow bitter and resentful as I watch my friends relax on enviable vacations, while I find myself consumed in endless days of HARD. I joke with friends in an attempt to explain our decision to adopt child #8 by saying- “Once you’re in over your head, what difference does another foot or two under make?” And while I’m not stupid enough to think there is not more HARD work involved in caring for another child with significant needs, I have come to realize that the strength to give more of myself is available through the very One that calls me, and is best accomplished when I embrace that call instead of resisting it and wishing for the life and freedom of others.
My heart is the issue… not my ability to do HARD!
The truth is that there is no limit to what any of us can do…. We limit ourselves by thinking that the HARD should be left for someone else more qualified. Yet the qualifications are few and only include a heart that is willing!
In looking back over my life, I realize that I bought into the mindset early that my sole aim was to work myself out of a job! The goal of life was freedom! Freedom from endless work. Freedom from obligation and HARD! You know… work hard and then retire!!! It started the day I gave birth to my first born, I guess… Then I’d hit the restart button with each addition to the family. 18 more years… then freedom! I clearly remember the internal struggle I had in choosing to start this journey called adoption. I couldn’t stop thinking in terms of car seats and highchairs! Those signified another looooong commitment and prolonged years of HARD work. I obviously chose to take the journey anyway and now, 10 years later, I am starting again for the fifth time!!! How comical to think now, about the time right after I got home with my first from China and started calculating the number of years remaining in my 24/7 mothering “term”! God must have chuckled from heaven. Little did I know that two little girls with an extra chromosome each would be in my future. And while that chromosome makes them some of God’s most precious creations, it also likely means that there is no term limit for me as their mother!
Gone are the dreams of freedom from HARD work! Reality has awakened me as I have drawn nearer to God. The freedom I was striving toward was NEVER His plan. I am His bondservant! I have chosen to dedicate the rest of my life in service to my King! Freedom from HARD is not part of the deal! My sole requirement is to do what my Master says, when He says to do it! The resources (including my aging energy!) will come from Him alone!
My aging parents have just moved into an addition on our home. My mom cares for my ailing father 24/7. He had a massive stroke just months after his retirement. I watch as my mom works tirelessly and I wish for her those lost days of retirement and freedom. Then I remind myself that retiring from servant-hood was not a part of her life plan either. I watched years ago as she served three of my grandparents until their death and now, is left with the sole care of her husband. People ask constantly how she does what she does so gracefully. Some say that they could “never do that”, as if she has a special ability they don’t personally possess. And while I would agree that my mom is a beautiful servant and a faithful spouse, she would be quick to tell you that she possesses nothing special that any of us do not! God chose this path for her. She is simply doing what He has asked of her and is only able to do it with the strength He provides!
I suppose that over the past several years I’ve heard that same statement directed at me plenty of times now too. It’s one thing to look at someone who has given birth to a child with Down Syndrome and marvel at their ability to “handle it”, (as if they had a choice), or at someone like my mom who is simply making good on the vows she spoke 52 years ago. But to think that someone would actually choose such a path for themselves is understandably difficult! But be sure of this… This is not the path I would have chosen for myself either! My desire for relaxation and freedom didn’t suddenly slip away from my selfish flesh any more than it has from yours. God chose this path for me and I am bound by similar vows I made to Him as a young girl when He saved me! Mary’s words echo in my ears as she heard she was to bear not only God’s Son, but the shame of the world as well…. “I am your humble servant. Let it be done to me as you have said.”
Because I know the Lord loves me and is using the circumstances of my life for my ultimate good, I am not afraid of HARD anymore! HARD serves to make me stronger. It tests my commitment and strengthens my love. I am resolved to not avoid HARD, because in looking back I have discovered that if God withheld the tasks many would consider HARD from my calling, I would have missed some of the greatest blessings of my life!
Like this one~
|YES! She's gonna eat every single one of those jalopenos!!!! Tough as nails!|
For that matter, I suppose we should throw these two in as well, since they lengthened my mothering “term” substantially!
Oh… and this one too, since avoiding anything too difficult would have eliminated him a long time ago! ;-)
I can’t forget this angel either, even though she’s still waiting for us in China…
|Rebekah is only 5 years older than my first grandson! How's that for lengthening my days of 24/7? ;-)|
Last, but not least… If I had avoided HARD, no one would feel sorry for me and send me away to a beautiful retreat on the ocean where I’d find treasures like this one!