Today is October 31st. For many people, this day is known as Halloween. For my family it is...
Happy birthday, Nana! (Your Rice Krispies Treat cupcakes will arrive in a little while.)
My girls will not be trick-or-treating tonight. I know some of you already think I'm crazy for this (and various other reasons). Some of you have even told me so. =) That's okay though because in my gut this is the right choice for our family for now. I mean, I have struggled with the holiday. On one hand, I think what's so bad about letting the kids dress up and go to some houses of people we know to get candy? But, on the other hand there is the whole aspect of its pagan origins (read here for more history), the scary costumes and decorations, and the evil tricks some older kids are prone to play. I'm still torn on the issue and haven't set any firm boundaries for the future, but for this year...nah. But that's just my personal conviction, subject to change. And, as we all know, there is freedom in Christ. So, for those of you that feel the freedom to dress up in happy costumes and have a little innocent fun, party on. Until my kids are no longer scared by the scream masks and witch costumes, we'll be staying in. Dark and scary is not my idea of fun, or theirs.
Contrary to what some of you have told me you are thinking after reading my last few posts, I am normally light and happy!
Oh my goodness. I do love you all! After yesterday's post, I had SOOOO much feedback. Everything from, "awesome," "love this," "a must-read," and even, "I am humbling myself now to admit that I am falling apart and need prayer," to, "I am worried about you." Even as my heart aches to know of so many sisters that are in pain, I'm thankful for their willingness to open up, admit their struggles, and ask for prayer. For those of you that were concerned, let me take a minute to reassure you.
I knew, even as I typed that post with tears in my eyes, some of you would not understand the struggle I conveyed. Or at the very least, some of you would not understand such openness. But I also knew there were some people out there who needed to know they are not the only ones that try to do it all themselves, trip, and sometimes fall, before remembering to lean on Jesus. I created this blog to be transparent. To admit that even as Christians, we can forget to rely on Jesus, and subsequently have terrible days.
Please, KNOW THIS: I am well! It is well with my soul. I can share about the hopeless moments because I know Hope! I can share about the darkness because I know Light! I can share about the pain, because I know Joy! I can share the unlovely, because I know Love!
And, as my sister so accurately explained, the written word can be a tricky thing. It is powerful. And, because the convo is one-sided, it can easily be misunderstood. Because if the readers have any questions, they are left to guess at the answers. And some of you surmised that my life is really dark. Even though the message I hoped to convey is that, yes, life can be dark, but Jesus is Light, strength, and everything! Every minute apart from Him is pain, but every second with Him is bliss! I am convinced He allows us to feel pain to draw us to Him. I don't want to miss one second of His loving presence, and yet somehow, that which I don't want to do, I do, and that which I do want to do, I don't do. And so sometimes I miss Him, and I hurt. And then I remember Him, and everything in me is filled to overflowing.
Some of you that have been reading for a while, or have known me for a while, know that I went through a dark valley when I was in college. It was when I felt the deepest pain and the greatest emptiness...and I did not share anything with anyone. I was searching but afraid to admit that I was searching. I was joyless, but I plastered on a happy face. I was completely overwhelmed by life, to the point that I slept through classes, failed to turn in assignments, slept through exams...and ultimately flunked out of college. I literally could not do the things that were required of me at the time. I literally failed. And I believe God allowed me to do so just so He could show me my innate need for a Helper.
Sure, being a momma is overwhelming at times, okay a lot of times, but I have a Helper now that abides right inside of me: the Holy Spirit. He gives me everything I need to do this thing. I may FEEL like I fail sometimes, but I DON'T. That's the difference now. God says I am holy and blameless, and, through Christ, more than an overcomer! Every time I am faced with a tough situation and plow through it, I overcome. And, ultimately, the battle over my sins has been won; Jesus has robed me with righteousness. The enemy may taunt me, but he has already lost.
We all have things in life that are overwhelming. For one person it's their marriage. For another, it's work. For this one, it's their relationship with a parent. For another, it's a child. If we embrace these difficult relationships and situations, they will shape us into the people God intends us to be. I think a lot about the verse, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." People are placed in our lives to rub off the rough edges. If we are intent on being the person God wants us to be, we are going to have to be refined. And the refining process can be painful. But the end result is GLORY!
And life is good. No, life is beautiful. Beautiful, I say. Even in the midst of the struggles, those of us in Christ are looking for Him. We see Him in our child's eyes and the sunshine. We hear Him in laughter and music. We sense Him in the winds and the storm. He is faithfully with us, even in the worst tempest. And, when the trial is over, the joy of overcoming is every bit as intense as the pain we felt during the trial.
As a friend just said to me, it seems that to the extent we experience pain, we are able to feel joy. Amen, sister! Though the sorrow may last for a night, His joy comes in the morning!
Rewind back to college. I practiced this devastating philosophy of equanimity. Basically it is some strange idea that we should have no extreme highs or lows, never too sad or too happy. Listen, I am by nature an emotional person. I am all up or all down. And for probably two years I didn't cry. Did. not. cry. But, today, I praise Jesus that I cry sometimes! And laugh hard. And feel pain one moment and the next you may find me dancing and throwing my hands up in praise. This is the crazy chaos that is me. And I am thankful.
Thankful that God made me emotional. Thankful that He saw fit to give me a man who is, by nature, the opposite of me. (Can you imagine our household if we were both on emotional roller coasters?) Thankful that God gave me friends and family that love me and check on me. Thankful that He placed people in my life to challenge me and shape me and strengthen me. Thankful that He gives me hard days that refine me into a stronger person. Thankful that He speaks to me, loves me, and assures me of His presence.
Even this morning as I was driving home from dropping my big girl at preschool, I was reassured of God's presence. I was praying for a young girl; although I have never met her, I know she is the daughter of an addict. I was asking God to draw her to Him, to keep showing her the evidence of His love, to keep reassuring her of her value. And then tossed up with a smile, "And I could use a few reminders too." At that moment, I passed the corner of a two-story house and the sun shone right in my face. And my whole body smiled. Thank you, Lord, for immediate answers to prayer.
And that, dear friends, is why today, on a day that seems to emphasize darkness and scariness, I am celebrating Light and Joy. That's a happy me that you see on this Halloween.
Now, everybody go think happy thoughts! All works for GOOD for those of us who love and trust in the Risen Savior.