I just read a blog about how having three children is a whole other universe to having two children.  I agreed with it but laughed a little.  Well, maybe a lot.  It could have been one of Calvin’s maniacal laughs really but it is morning and Andrew decided it was going to be a mischievous day for him.  It really hasn’t been more than an hour since he has woken up and I am already on the verge of calling in some reinforcements.

I have read from a lot of folks on Facebook recently complaining about this and that.  Life really.  Colds are pretty common this time of year but for some reason, people will complain about each and everyone of them like it is national news.  Bad days at work happen, children will be children and drivers will be drivers.1331840383639_3656448

I suppose my point is what is the point?  Is it a contest to see who has the most woes?  Who is the most stressed?  Does someone win a prize for the most struggles in life?  I am not trying to be insensitive, I am not immune to struggles and I realize all of us have times where we really need prayer.

I recently had a rough go of things when my son had a seizure.  A big one right before me and it hit me hard.  It is a devastating thing to watch.  I was so worried that he was not breathing and if this went on for too long that he would have permanent brain damage.  That plus the Christmas activities and some responsibilities with it and I lost it.  Do you know what sent me over the edge?  Complaints.  Not the Facebook complaints, complaints from people who weren’t happy with me and my husband for some reason or another.  We made mistakes and we failed to come through for someone.  A valuable lesson but a painful one that’s for sure.

I never cried like that in all my life.  I yelled at God even, while my 15 yr old cried in the back seat of the van while I took them for a drive.  He was hitting his head badly and he already had a black eye from a fit on the last day of school.  When he wasn’t hitting his head, he was biting his wrist or hitting the window.  I thought he would break it (he has done that before).  My 14 yr old also then began to cry and before I knew it, he started to hit his head.  I yelled at God and I cried uncontrollably while trying to drive home to get some help and a helmet for Andy.

It was a horrible couple of days leading up to Christmas but I mustered up some cheer to try and make it an enjoyable one for my family.  Thankfully it was a low key Christmas and the boys did enjoy themselves and I calmed down a bit.

Then some very good friends of mine came over for a visit.  These friends are refreshing for me.  They have no kids, they have ministries like us but they are real and are cool with us being real around them, and they don’t expect anything from us.  Just to be able to sit and chat.  That is so nice!  They brought a gift with them.  The husbands have this best friend gift exchange thing going on and have for years.  It was some chocolate, how did they know?  Well the wives have a chocolate thing going on and have for years too, teehee.

164991116There also was a book.  It is called “Glorious Ruin” by Tullian Tchividjian.  The cover was a picture of broken glass and the caption read “How suffering sets you free”.

I was immediately interested in this one remembering my recent struggles and the time I found Andy in his room in the middle of the night playing with broken glass from his window and there was blood everywhere.  I took it and read it that night.

After reading it, I felt like I had the answers I needed.  Of course in the thick of a trial, there is always the question “why?” and “how” do I get out of this?  But this book helped me understand that we are never promised that we would be free from woes, that we would get miracles on request or that we would have a supernatural impermeable emotional forcefield.  Jesus cried, was angry and was disappointed.  Why would we not also feel those emotions?  The book helped me to understand that I would still continue to have my emotional times and my struggles and woes.  That things are not going to change for me but that everything that I needed and would ever need was satisfied the moment Jesus said “It is finished”.  Everything I need is in the person Jesus.  His work on the cross and His grace.

From the book there was a quote from Tim Keller “Sin isn’t only doing bad things, it is more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things.  Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God.”

I was putting a lot of stock into approval from friends, and the good things in life.  I am that optimist and I think that became my pitfall because I was always looking for the good things to cheer me up.  I was devastated when people were disappointed in me and when the bad things outweighed the good things.  This rough time pointed out to me that my source of joy was in the stuff and not the giver of the stuff and that is where I robbed myself of the kind of joy that remains through anything.  The joy of my saviour, the word of God in the flesh, the perfect sacrifice and source of all grace.  Unconditional Love incarnate!  His work on the cross was completed and so I can not carry the burden of my sins anymore.  The burden of disappointing others is no longer mine!  I am no longer responsible for another person’s happiness except in meeting the needs of my family and enjoying one another.  And I can dispense of grace instead of being disappointed myself.

I am free from those burdens and it feels really good!

I will likely need to be reminded over and over again, in the thick of trials, that it is not the “why” or the “how” but the “WHO”! So that is why I have little sticky notes up on my desk, etc.

So this New Year’s, my suggestion to you is to make a resolution to forget about needing the good things and focus on Jesus, you won’t be disappointed!  And for the fun of it, I will throw in a Stop Complaining in there too.

  • Thank you for sharing your heart Janice. I too have learned that we can never put meeting the expectations of others as a higher priority than pleasing the Lord. But we know that pleasing the Lord always entails serving others as the Lord Jesus so aptly displayed and taught when He walked the earth. And so, our true test of relying on Him for Who He is is to find strength in Him in all areas of our lives and not giving up on serving others, but not make pleasing them an idol in our lives. This is the heart of service. Being Jesus’ hands and feet and having His eyes. We can never please everyone. That is human nature. But we don’t need to find our value in that. And we shouldn’t give up. I know I have had to take breaks with things so that I don’t burn out. But the Lord always leads me back to His work. And it’s always a blessing. Even when others are difficult. When we do it for Him, He is pleased.

    I know it’s a struggle as a very busy and much needed Mom to find the balance. Your daily struggles must leave you drained for sure, especially with how scary Andy’s seizures must be. I can’t even imagine. I was awake at 4AM last night lying in bed and prayed for you guys. Your family is always on my heart and you specifically as my friend and sister!

    Looking forward to serving together with you in 2014! 🙂

    • Yes Sherri, I made the approval of others an idol. It is clearly the wrong motivation to serve the Lord that’s for sure! And it totally changes the way that I go about serving the Lord in the things I do for others, it really is freeing. Thanks for the prayers, things always seem calmer when folks are praying.

  • I appreciate what you wrote and your heart Janice. A heart wanting to know Christ more and live out what he has for you. A lot of people that have children with disabilities of one sort or another wouldn’t even consider serving others. I am challenged that you make that effort. I struggle with so many kids finding energy but I know I do not go through what you do. I know that is not the point but I just wanted to encourage you to keep going. You are an amazing example to others of God’s love and grace. Also I was thinking that when we are not looking for others approval in ministry we can take time to pray and see what God wants us to say yes or no to. Many times my willingness to jump right in is because I want to please others. Then I realize that I didn’t pray and that some things are not for me to do but some other sister in Christ that actually desires that ministry. And the other thing I was thinking is that God’s grace is so magnified next to our failure. Great thought to start a new year in ministry considering. We should fight the good fight of faith serving others motivated by Christ in 2014!

  • That’s exactly it Ginny, I jump right in because I want to please others and it can be bad for both myself and the one I am serving if it is not what I should be doing. I struggled so long in doing our chapel bulletins but I was always making mistakes and because John and I take turns on Sundays, I wasn’t always up to date on things so all I served to do was confuse a lot of people and sometimes even anger people. I was asked to do it so I did it but should I have done it? Probably not and perhaps prayer would have made that a better decision. Thankfully now it is being handled by an Elder who obviously knows everything and can do it more accurately. Both of us are re-evaluating what we do and think that in light of our circumstances which can be so up and down, that we need to not be committed to permanent things but project to project things and always prayerfully considered things and always in consideration of each other as these things often affect the other.

    *And just to make it very clear when I say “free from the burdens” I mean free from the burden of pleasing people not from the burden of serving the Lord. The point being that if there are folks that aren’t happy with how I am doing something and if I am doing the best that I can that the Lord has laid on my heart to do, then I am free from the burden of their discontentment. There are always folks who have an opinion about things so I am at the point where I have to start listening to the Lord regardless of what others think of me and He says I am forgiven and I have His gifts to share. It is freeing that I can serve the Lord with no regrets so to speak.*

    • Thanks for being so honest. Any time I have been in your presence I always felt such a sense of peace – even with all the challenges you face you have a beautiful godly spirit.

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