Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Godly Man

When I was 18-years-old, I packed up and moved to Los Angeles, California to attend Bible college. It was less about wanting to learn more of the Wordand more about trying to find a preacher husband like my daddy. I had been praying for a godly husband for as long as I could remember and I figured that was a good place to find one.

I came home after a year, without a husband. It's amazing just how badly you can do in college when you're not actually there to learn anything.

A few years later, while in school to become an occupational therapist, I met and fell in love with Shawn...decidedly not a preacher, but a really good Christian guy who is very much like my daddy.

While I had obviously moved on from my desire to be a preacher's wife, I still had some hang-ups and ideas about what constituted a godly man. He must be at church every time the doors opened, raise his hands in worship, rise early in the morning to read the Bible, witness to his co-workers, listen exclusively to Christian music, etc. I decided my husband was lacking in these areas, so I set about to change encourage him.

I set the radio in our shared car to Christian music. I removed his magazines from the bathroom and replaced them with a Bible. I bought him family devotionals. If he chose to miss church, I feigned my best martyr smile and set about readying the children until he guiltily agreed to go. I was so subtle in my nagging encouragement. 

If you haven't figured it out, Shawn has mastered the long-suffering fruit of the Spirit.  And, he loves me. So, he put up with all my nonsense and did his best to live up to my ridiculous standards of spirituality to make me happy.

And then something happened. After the birth of our fourth child, I suffered from severe postpartum depression. I found myself in an angry fog that I could not escape. I was unable to function. I was miserable and, I'm sure, miserable to live with, as well.

My husband saw us through. While continuing to work full-time, he cooked meals for us, changed diapers, bathed and dressed children, and generally ran the house. Beyond that, though, he took care of me. I remember him running hot baths for me to soak in and handing me my Bible and journal and shooing me out the door to the nearest coffee shop. When I'd walk by him, he'd scoop me into his lap and pray for me and let me cry.

During my depression, he became the hands and feet of Jesus for me. He loved me as Christ loved the church and gave himself for me. He sacrificed his own comfort, time, and desires and kept the "in sickness" part of his marriage vows. Finally, when it looked as if I may never return to "normal", he gently sent me to my doctor.

After a six-month course of medication, I did return to my old self, but our marriage was never the same, thankfully. I finally realized that God had sent me that godly man I had prayed for. I'd been married to him all along.  It was not out of character for him to serve us. He's been doing stuff like that our whole marriage. I was just too thick-headed to see it.

This is what godliness is supposed to look like. How did I get it so wrong?

"The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." I Samuel 16:7b

Now, seven years later, this man is traveling half-way around the world to become Daddy to a child he's never even seen. He is sacrificing his plans, his security, and his future to care for one of the least of these. He has no idea what awaits us when we get there, and he hates to fly, but he's leading us there anyway because he's good and brave and his heart is broken for children with no one. He is determined to right a grave injustice.

It takes my breath away when I think about it and he is absolutely my hero.....and one of the most godly men I know.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Hair and Faith

Recently I wanted a change and began researching hairstyles. I finally decided on a sleek, smooth, classic bob, slightly longer in the front. Excitedly, I took several pictures to my stylist.

She started cutting and realistically decided I had too much curl underneath for that to work. Instead, I came home with a layered, curly, "sassy" 'do that works with my hair's natural bent.

My husband liked it, as did my kids, and the "sassy" comment came from one of my co-workers who were all very complimentary, as well.

Still, I spent one very frustrating hour with a blow dryer, flat iron, round brush, and product trying to mold it into the sleek bob I had envisioned.

I would get one part of my hair smooth, only to have another section spring up and refuse to lay flat. My efforts were in vain and I was beyond irritated until, very clearly, the Lord opened my eyes to a spiritual truth.

For the past year, I have been working full-time while my wonderful husband stays home with the kids. Prior to this, I was a homeschooling mom juggling a large family and some hugely unrealistic expectations for myself.

I'm not sure where the expectations came from....possibly my peers, my church, homeschooling magazines and conventions, blogs, books, I can't say for sure. All I know is that, somewhere along the way, I got this picture in my mind of what a homeschooling mom of many was supposed to look like. And it wasn't me.

I never even questioned the validity of the picture, I simply tried to become it.

Organized, efficient, methodical, frugal, focused, quiet, calm, industrious.

Baking bread from grains I ground myself, cooking delicious and nutritious meals on a meager budget - from scratch, packing lunches with homemade snacks and fixing crockpot dinners for co-op days, decorating my home in the latest crafty style (ala Pinterest) and keeping it immaculate, creating lesson plans for all the ages designed to seamlessly learn together, organizing everything alphabetically for easy use, ....

You get the idea. All that was missing from my mythical picture was the proverbial denim jumper.

I was under the impression that this is who God wanted me to be. I begged Him to turn me into her. I went to conferences and prayer groups, did personal and group Bible studies, had friends and my husband pray for me all in an effort to become this mythical person.

Don't get me wrong. I know enough to know that no one is perfect, but I really did believe I should strive for the ideal, and I really believed that this was it.

I was becoming discouraged and eventually became depressed. I struggled with my faith. It's difficult to continuously beg God for something that never happens. I would "get it together" in the area of meal planning, only to fall hopelessly behind in housekeeping or laundry. I would feel like I was doing better in scheduling only to completely space a therapy appointment. I would stick to my budget for two weeks, only to forget to turn on the crockpot and blow my weekly food allowance on one meal from a fast food restaurant.

I was exhausted, overwhelmed, deeply depressed, and hopeless.

It's taken me a year to get some perspective, but God really opened my eyes in that one futile hairstyling session. I was trying to turn my hair into something opposed to it's natural flow.

I spent years trying to turn myself into something I was never created to be.

Trying to smooth one area of my life only to watch my inadequacy pop up in another area. Focusing only on my weaknesses and refusing to play to my strengths until my strengths became weaknesses to me.

There is nothing wrong with the woman I described. Those are wonderful ideals to live up to....if that's who God created you to be.

But it wasn't me.

And that's okay.

God created me with certain giftings and then He gave me this huge, wonderful family...that I will never be able to organize. But, instead, he gave me the ability to be interrupted. I used to be so frustrated at my lack of focus (surely a godly skill and necessary to accomplish acceptable tasks like cleaning a closet or scrubbing a sink) instead of rejoicing in my flexibility. With seven children, interruptions are constant, much like Chinese water torture if one were prone to be task focused. Thankfully, my ADD allows me to roll with interruptions and to deal with the problem at hand. I may not have accomplished much toward home management at the end of the day, but my children felt heard.

My spontaneous nature allows me to change direction in the middle of the day and my kids might suddenly find themselves schooling in the park. Did it really matter that some of them might have been wearing yesterday's shirts or mismatched shoes? 

God gave me a soft heart toward those in need and an ability to move people with words, but I allowed others to convince me that organizing my closet was a holier pursuit than time at my computer. After all, "God is a God of order." (To be clear, I didn't actually abandon my computer in favor of organizing, but I sure felt guilty about it.)

There are other examples, I'm sure, that I'm just now uncovering...or rather, that God is just now revealing, but you get the idea.

I'm free to be me, now, and I'm working to stay that way. I'm discovering deeper waters of grace and I'm careful about the influences with which I surround myself. Mostly, I'm staying close to Jesus, an example of flexibility who received interruptions as divine appointments and used His soft heart and persuasive words to bring glory to His Father.

I want to be like Him.