I Only Planted the Seeds

I only planted the seeds.

You tilled the ground and made it fine.

It was you who broke the hardened soil, and worked through each new line.

You added nutrition to the dust and fertilized the dirt,

Scraping every inch of earth, though your hands, they bled and hurt.

You sifted through rocks and plowed the weeds, under the beating sun.

Never once giving up or shutting your eyes, till the work was done.

I only planted the seeds.

How great I must’ve thought I was, far bigger than I am;

To think that I should be the one with the master plan.

For you caused the sun to shine its warmth, and the cool, wet rain to fall;

You kept the creatures and the bugs from devouring it all.

And yet I cried out: How unfair! I wanted to see it through!

After all my work in what I did, I never witnessed the fruit!

But really, I only planted the seed, it was never my job to watch it grow.

How hard to admit it’s up to you, harder still to let them go!

For that little seed was planted with care, with tears and with my heart!

How then could I step back and let it wither, couldn’t I play a bigger part?

“These things take time, my dear,” you spoke to me,

“Your job is done! Now let it be.”

Oh that I could see what came from my tiny, dead, old seeds! I may never really know.

For it was only my job to plant the seed, now it’s yours to make it grow.

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Undeserved Grace

“I NEVER get the respect I deserve!”

“I just deserve a break once in a while!”

“I did nothing to deserve this hurtful treatment!”

These are all things we say to ourselves. And quite honestly, after the rough past few years, my mind thought about these things daily: “I don’t deserve this! I deserve better! I’ve done my best!”

Again and again, hurtful words said to me and actions done against me, replayed in my mind. And oh! The scenarios I made up in my thoughts about how I could change things, how I could defend myself, how I could make myself look better…even how I could make others look bad!

But you know what this type of thinking brought me? No peace at all. 

None.

I was tormented by my thoughts, by self pity, and as hard as I tried I could not, COULD NOT, see any chance of break through for the future. I felt hopeless. I felt like I needed justice and I needed to be set free by the person who had wronged me. And I knew that aside from a miracle, that would never happen.

Finally, I cried out to God one day saying: “God! You know I’ve been treated unfairly, you know I’ve been wronged…but it’s no longer that person who’s torturing me day after day…It’s my own THOUGHTS! How can I change?!? I’ve tried so hard! How can I be set free? I sat with my bible open and scanned the pages waiting, hoping for something to stand out, for something to give me peace…but the minutes ticked by and nothing happened. There I sat, alone in my room. The silence was deafening, the loneliness was painful. God seemed to be far away.

The next day again, I pleaded: “God! I’m just numbing my pain day after day! I sit on my phone and play games. I browse aimlessly on social media, waiting, hoping, YEARNING to fill the empty void that was once filled! Where did I go wrong? What did I do to deserve this?” And nothing. Just the sound of the clock on my wall counting the seconds away. Oh, once in a while I’d get a verse that spoke of God’s love for me or of his faithfulness to us, and I’d feel hope. Once in a while I’d read the book of Job or the story of Joseph and be comforted that God was working in my pain. But most of the time, I just felt like I was on a constant waiting list. Just holding on to hope that “joy would come in the morning”. When would morning come, God?

Then one night I had a dream, a sad dream. I dreamed that my sister, who loves me dearly, came over and was watching me. I’d do I bit of work, then sit back, drink wine, and play games on my phone. She looked at me, full of compassion, and said, “Heather, this isn’t you. I know that you’ve been beaten down, but this isn’t you.  Please, choose your next steps carefully because the road you’re on is a very dark path.” I woke up and felt deeply convicted. For this was the very thing I had been doing for the past while. Immediately, in the middle of the night, I deleted the games, social media and any distractions on my phone. That was the first thing.

This freed up much of my wasted time, but still, my thought’s drifted more then ever to what had happened to me. And I still felt discouraged reading God’s word. But I didn’t give up. Day after day, morning after morning I pushed through the pain and I opened the bible that had once given me so much joy.

Then one day there it was, a verse that I had read many many times, but never really seen:

“Therefore since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” Romans 5:1-2 NLT

Undeserved privilege. Completely, utterly undeserved.

And I broke down weeping, because no, I didn’t “deserve” the pain of this last year.

What I really deserve is hell itself. That’s what I deserve. That’s what my sins deserve. But losing sight of this undeserved grace had led me to where I believed I actually deserved better.

I am completely undeserving, but able to stand confidently and joyfully before God, sharing in his glory!

My heart wasn’t able to find joy because I was focusing on all the things I deserved, but didn’t get. Now joy flooded my soul because I saw all the things God has given me that I HAVEN’T deserved. And the list is very long!

I have been saved from a meaningless life because of HIS sacrifice. I have a husband who loves me unconditionally and forgives me again and again and again, I have five beautiful HEALTHY children, I have many loving and caring friends and family who pray for me, I have an amazing church, I live in a free country that I never had to fight for, I have food on my table every single day. I have hope of one day going to heaven to meet God and you know what? I don’t deserve any of it. 

It’s SO hard to change this way of thinking. It really is. But, man, the joy is worth it. Living from a heart of thankfulness, instead of a heart full of pain is worth meditating on these things and taking every thought captive.

Friends, it’s worth seeking him through the hard times, because in the ups and downs of life there is only One that has never changed. He’s there every morning when I rise, and every night as I drift to sleep, even when I can not feel him. And I lived long enough to know from experience that while there are many things that can numb the pain, there is only one that can heal it: Jesus.

“My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8 NLT

Finding Hope in Loss through Suicide

First of all if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you or someone you know has lost a loved one through suicide.

And I want you to know that I’m so so sorry.

I’ve also experienced loss through suicide, although never someone who was really close to me like a sister, or a parent, a friend or a child. And the pain of knowing them hurt enough. I can not imagine your pain or the hopelessness you’ve experienced.

I actually don’t often write about such hard topics because honestly, I don’t feel qualified. I’m not a bible scholar, I’m not highly educated. I’m not a councillor and I haven’t even lost a close loved one to suicide myself. But the other day I read something that bothered me so much, that I felt the need to share.

Now, there’s a reason I blog instead of getting involved in Facebook arguments and comment wars. It’s because I hope, that by not making it personal and by not verbally debating with someone who’s already in defence mode, I can maybe reach a greater audience with the truth, with hope, with healing.

The debate topic was this: Can a person who commits suicide go to heaven? The cold, uncompassionate responses by a few fellow Christians were alarming to me. First of all because they used scripture to back up their points and the scriptures they used actually weren’t about suicide at all, and secondly because I wondered: don’t they realize that of all the people reading what they’ve written, the chances are that at least ONE of them has lost a very dear loved one to suicide and that their comments would cause TERRIBLE pain?

Then finally, it bothered me because it’s not a debate topic!!! IT’s not!! We can not use such painful topics as topics of debate! This doesn’t HELP anyone, it just causes pain, and quite possibly it forces those who are seeking healing within the church, to turn elsewhere for help. And I want you to know that it is not only possible to find healing through Christ, it is the best way to find true healing. So I decided to write about something that happened in my own life that may help to bring healing to those who’ve been walking through this dark road of unending grief.

Almost two years ago, I was going through a very dark time in my life. I was battling with depression, loneliness, and helplessness. God was doing something very special in my heart, a work that only happens through life’s greatest pain…he was teaching me to take off the masks I had been wearing for years. The “I have it all together” mask. The “I can do it myself” mask. The “I don’t need anyone” mask. I had worn these masks for far too long, because in my early years of mothering I always felt the need to prove to the world that I had it all together, that I could do this. I was so determined to prove that I wasn’t the teenage-mom burden on the world that they expected me to be. So what God was doing in my heart was actually a beautiful thing: He was teaching me humility, openness and honesty. He was teaching me how to ask for help. He was teaching me that I am weak and that his strength is made PERFECT in weakness. He was teaching me to share my struggles, instead of hiding them away in my heart.

But there were certain people who saw this struggle and what it looked like to them was that the once “happy” girl they had known was now sad. From what they could see it looked like bitterness, unthankfulness and self-pity. So because of what they saw in me, they tried to “help me” in a way that actually was harming me. They encouraged me to pull myself together and to not turn to people for help, but to heal from these terrible things in my life that were obviously not from God. This taught me something about life that I will never forget: When God is working on someone in a deep way, it can sometimes appear to us from the outside completely OPPOSITE of what is actually happening on the inside.

Think of the story of the sinful woman found in Luke 7:36-50. On the outside, the Pharisees saw this sinful woman inappropriately kneeling and perhaps from his point of view, she was even seducing Jesus and touching his feet. What she did was certainly culturally unacceptable. But Jesus saw her HEART and what he saw was faith, love and repentance.

We can not see people’s hearts. Period. Now before you think I’m saying that everyone is going to heaven, which is not at ALL what I’m saying, I want to share something that I have not shared with many people because it is extremely close to my heart. I also knew that many people would doubt its actual occurance, so I never bothered to share it. After reading the ongoing debates about other people’s salvation I felt I NEEDED to share this, as personal as it is.

About the same time this dark struggle had been going on in my life, I was weeping and praying. I asked God where he had been the past years when I felt so alone. I reminded him of the promises in his word that he would never leave me and I asked him why he had left me.

Then God gave me a vision. Now I don’t get visions often, only a couple of times in my life have I even got a small picture, but this one was as real as a dream except that I was awake and it helped me to see God in a very real and dear way. As I was praying, scenes from my life flashed before me eyes and each scene was very familiar. I saw horrible times, lonely nights of holding screaming babies, moments I had been in all alone without anyone to help, and I saw something so beautiful that I never doubted God’s presence again. In every picture of my life what I hadn’t seen at the time, but I could see clearly in my vision was Jesus. He wasn’t just standing and watching me as I went through my trials. EVERY SINGLE SCENE he was right there, cradling me in his arms, holding me, crying with me. And in that moment I truly understood the meaning of his name Emmanuel: God with Us.

Now this was life changing for me, but the last picture God showed me was completely different from the rest because it had nothing to do with me. I saw a man I knew hanging. He was in his final moments, struggling and fighting for his life and for a moment I was horrified because I had no idea what this had to do with the rest of my vision. But as I watched the scence unfold I saw something amazing. Jesus was standing right in front of him reaching out his hand. At first the man couldn’t see him because he was overcome by his struggles but in the final moments he saw Jesus and he grasped his hand. Jesus held him close in his death.

And from that moment I KNEW that the young man was in heaven with Jesus.

We have no way of knowing what is going on in other people’s hearts. But God does. And he is present in every moment of every single person’s life. All they have to do is reach out and grasp his hand. He’s waiting.

The Cross

Heart full of pain, pack heavy as lead,
Not really alive, neither fully dead.
Wandering on to meaningless trails,
Endless darkness, walking the rails.
What am I here for?
Stumbling pain unto pain,
Life is a joke! Nothing to gain.
Flashes of visions: A man on a cross.
Why was he there? Never quite knew,
With all of my struggles, didn’t care to.
Why must everything bad happen to me?
How to avoid it, when one couldn’t see.
Darkness so thick you could choke on the black,
The load just increases upon my sore back.
Strength slowly dying, along with my soul,
Dreams become curses, crushing my goals.
Oh God, what’s the point? Are you even there?
Or am I just cursing into thin air?
If really existing, you’d make yourself known!
Why live anymore if I’m walking alone?
Night cold and hard, yet easier to breathe,
Darkness still felt, but thinner it seems.
I was told to follow my heart all along,
So why did this happen? Where did I go wrong?
Walking along the path that was shown,
Never thought I’d be stuck here, cast out and alone.
“Help!” The cry feels stuck in the air,
“Help me! Please! Much more I can’t bear!”
No sooner the words escape from my lips,
When the heavy pack drops from my grip.
In terror I struggle, I can’t let it go,
Turn back to grab hold, but notice a glow.
A dim light, so faint, didn’t see it before,
Grabbing my pack, I turn to see more.
Dawn peaks her head up from under the night,
I draw ever closer, so mysterious the light.
A loud sound hits the Earth, I hear it so near!
A gruesome sound that turns my stomach in fear,
A man groaning in pain, I rush to the sound,
Crying out loudly, for this man must be found!
The day steadily grows clearer and so does the cry,
Hurry to make it or this man will but die!
Then…there he is, hanging – Oh Lord! It can’t be!
A man cut up and bruised on a dark, blood-stained tree!
“Who did this?!?” I scream!
“How dare they?!?” I shout!
The evil that put this man here, it’s no lie,
The person who did this deserves to die!
Then the eyes of the man turn and look straight at me,
I can barely describe what it looks like to see,
Such innocent eyes, filled with love and pain,
Powerful eyes, but gentle the same.
How could there be such humility there,
Joined with authority in the same stare?
I look all around, searching who is to blame,
Justice would treat them exactly the same.
The man starts to speak, the Earth shakes with his words,
And I know that this Man is the Lord of all Lords!
“My Child, Understand, I was put here for you.”
Falling down on my knees, “Oh God, what did I do?”
Surely, I had nothing to do with this Man,
I had nothing to do with the iron piercing His hands.
Then my pack that I’m holding splits right into two,
And as the nails spill out, I see that it’s true.
The pack that I held, held the proof I was wrong,
The nails that I carried told the truth all along.
It was my very nails that held up the Son,
I could now only scream, “Oh, God! Look what I’ve done!!!”
But it was no use, for the Man’s life was gone.
Weeping and wailing, I fall to the ground,
My sobs carry for miles, a hopeless, lost sound.
Lowly before the cross I now lie,
Not to get up, for down here I will die.
Time standing still, the world holds its breath,
Then who comes forth – but the Man! Defeating his death!
Jaw open, limbs shaking…how can this be?
And my heart trembles greatly as He strides towards me.
Out in the open, nowhere to hide,
Exposed in my filth, dead to my pride.
I brace myself greatly and wait for the blow,
But to my surprise, the Man stoops down low.
He lifts my tear covered face in His hand;
The same voice that formed the sea and the land,
Speaks over me these three precious words, “I love you.”
Then says, “All that I wanted was that you would see,
What I really did for you on that old cursed tree.
And now you have done all that you need,
For in repentance and rest you will find that you’re freed!
It is finished, throw that old pack away!”
The Man stood there shining, brighter than day.
In death I died with Him, in His life I live still,
Now my heart cry becomes, not mine – but His will!
No longer a slave to the sins of my past,
I am saved by His blood, safe at home, free at last!

The Power of the Tongue

“No one ever wants me around because of you guys!”

Those were the words I spoke to my children the one day when I was frustrated by their behaviour. Immediately I regretted them. For they were not true, they were deeply hurtful, and I could not take them back…I could only apologize. And apologize I did, but I knew that those words were still there, in the minds of my children.

And the truth is that those words didn’t come out because of my kids actions. Those words came because of my undealt with pain. They came out from my heart, where deep within, I have experienced rejection, hurt and judgement which was linked to me being a young mom and also having a big family.

Yes… I felt rejected by my friends when I became a mom. And although I chose to let go of some of my friends because of other reasons, some of them quietly disappeared from my life as I slipped into a different stage of life than them: Motherhood.

I was 18, a child myself, and my three month old baby had just been admitted into the Children’s Hospital, he was sick. Very sick. And many times that first week I thought we were going to lose him. I lived off of 2 hours of sleep or less a night and the hours I was awake I was in constant fear and stress. I felt like I had failed my son. I wondered if he was sick because of me, or my lack of knowlegde in parenting. I wondered why they couldn’t find out what was wrong with him. And I watched them poke him every hour for blood. I watched them dig IV after IV into his arms, legs, and head knowing that even if they were successful in a few hours the tiny vain would collapse and they would have to do it all over again. We lived at the hospital for six long months. And the pain of watching him suffer was unimaginable. It took all of my attention and all of my energy.

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But there was another pain…during my sons entire six month hospital stay, only TWO of my high school friends bothered to stop by. The rest had forgotten me. Oh we had lots of support… family, new church friends…but MY friends, they were gone. And because I had so many other things to deal with at that time, I swallowed the pain and tried to forget the fact that becoming a mother meant loneliness.

Time and time again, I pushed down painful things said to me, like the time one of my friends called me just two days after I had my third baby, asking if I could come to her show that evening. I told her that I’d love to see her but I couldn’t, because I had just had a baby. She got upset at me and never called again.

Or the time after I had four kids, when one woman told me that she would love to have my family down if we weren’t so big.

And that time I excitedly announced my pregnancy to someone who instead of congratulating me, informed me that she didn’t think she would be able to watch ALL of my kids. I was hurt that this was the first response that came to her mind, as I rarely asked her anyways.

Words! The rejection of them sting. And here they laid dormant in my heart, not held against those who said them, but rather my own precious children…who had absolutely nothing to do with them! The wounds caused by these careless words hadn’t been dealt with properly and as a result, I began to inwardly blame my kids for all the friends I had lost. For every time I wasn’t invited. For those lonely moments where I realised that we weren’t welcome somewhere because of them. And that day, I spoke very hurtful and careless words that may someday sit in their little hearts, needing to be healed.

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21

I sometimes wonder why our words hold so much power. Why we’ve been given such a powerful gift, to speak life and death. And I wonder how many careless words I’ve spewed, which I will someday be held accountable for…

How many words have I spoken to my husband or kids that will sit in the back of their hearts, only to come out in times completely unexpected and unrelated to me?

Our words can really hurt! And they can cause huge damage! I’m sure every one of us still remembers the sting of at least one hurtful word said to us on the playground at school or at home with our parents or siblings. And the problem with the tongue is that no one has complete power to tame it. No one can completely watch what they say one hundred percent of the time:

“…the tongue is a small part of the body, but it boasts of great things. Consider how small a spark sets a great forest on fire. The tongue also is a fire, a world of wickedness among the parts of the body. It pollutes the whole person, sets the course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing…” James 3:5-10

So does this mean all is hopeless? No one can tame the tongue, so we should all just give up trying?

Not at all!

Our words reveal our hearts, there’s a verse in the bible that says: “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

This verse is saying that as long as we’re holding on to our pride, anger, bitterness, self-pity, or frustration our words will in fact reflect these things and bring death to those around us.

But if my heart is alive with love, joy, humility, peace, patience and kindness my words will bring life.

This means there’s GREAT hope. Because while there may not be a way to control our tongues the way we’d like, there IS a way to get rid of the hurt and the lies we hold in our hearts. We can break every lie with truth!

So when my thoughts start going in that downward spiral, when I feel like everyone has abandoned me, I can say “NO! That’s not true! We have MANY new friends who invited us over and enjoy being with us, not just in spite of our children but BECAUSE of the connection our children have given us!” and I can choose to let go of the pain of rejection, of holding on to friends that have moved on without me and I can rather embrace and thank God for the new friends and blessings he is pouring into our lives.

Taking every thought captive is work. It’s HARD work. Because sometimes I just want to curl up into a ball in cry and feel sorry for myself. And sometimes I do. But I have to tell you it’s SO worth it. Because when your words start bringing life and healing, not only will others love being around you, YOUR heart will be filled with joy because your words are reflecting it. And that is the kind of fruit I want to eat.

 

 

 

Stop Claiming your Thoughts are God’s

There are not many things that make my blood boil… but there are a few things that make me furious… these include:

Children being abused, neglected or  abandoned.

People abusing their authority over others who are weaker than them.

A person in power who turns a blind eye to evil and refuses justice when it is in their power to judge.

Rich living comfortably at the expense of the poor.

And I’m sure there’s a few more but one thing that bothers me just as much as those listed above are those who say “Thus says the Lord” when the Lord Almighty has not spoken.

Now don’t get me wrong, God speaks. God speaks today in many ways. He speaks to me and guides me in many ways…he comforts me when I’m hurting, he gives me courage when I’m afraid, he corrects me when I’m wrong. He’s even given me clear direction when I’ve felt completely lost and told me very specific things about my children so that I may better know how to raise them.

But there’s one thing he doesn’t do…he never tells me that I’m the centre of it all and that the people around me are here for my benefit. Actually, his message never is centred around my life completely. His message always points me back to himself. His message never puts down other people. His message brings life, repentance, forgiveness and truth.

Now what on earth got me to start writing about this today? Well today I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed and I saw this:

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And it really, REALLY bothered me. Not because the message was entirely untrue…. actually there is some truth to it. But because the message was not biblical and it claimed to be straight from God’s mouth.

And if it said: “The reason some people have turned against you and walked away with from you without reason, has EVERYTHING to do with you, because they will not go where you are going next. They will only hinder you on your journey because they have already chosen their purpose in life. Let them go and keep moving, greater is coming,” I might even agree!

This would be true in many situations for me. I have had to let go of many good friends in my teenage years, because if I would have held on to them I would not have become a good wife or a good mother. I couldn’t hang out with people who drank and did drugs if I wanted to move forward in my life. I couldn’t go to those parties or bars if I wanted to live purely before God. I couldn’t go on hanging out with all sorts of other men and expect to have a healthy marriage. And it was ENTIRELY because of me! I had changed. I was a new creation. I was no longer content to live for myself.

But the thing is:

a) I completely changed what the quote said to make it biblically true,

and b) I didn’t say “God says” because he didn’t say it! I actually made that quote up!

Now sometimes God does remove people from your life, for seemingly no reason. This last year he removed some very dear friends from mine. It hurt. It stung SO bad. I’ve cried and begged him to bring us back together. And I don’t know why it happened, or why he allowed it. But I know for certain he didn’t do it because they were “hindering me” or because I was “hindering them.” In fact these people were always a positive influence in my life. They spoke truth. They did not compromise their relationship with God for lesser things. And honestly I am who I am today because of these dear people. But God, for now, has seemingly led us on different paths. Whatever the case, I believe he still leading all of us… we’re still all going in the same direction, we’ve just parted ways for now.

And here’s my problem with lies spoken in the name of God: when we believe that God is only on our side and against those who’ve hurt us, we have made false image of God that we are bowing down to. It’s not him. It’s not God. You are bowing down to an idol. God doesn’t bring people into our lives so they can serve their purpose in our self-centred world and then remove them when they can no longer meet our needs. That’s called Narcissism, a belief that everything exists for MY good.

God brings people together so that they can learn to serve and love each other. He wants us to stop and care for those around us who have fallen, not to shove them aside and keep climbing higher. Now if those who stumble are dragging you down with them, then yes you may have to leave them in God’s loving hands, or turn them over to someone who’s stronger than you to help them. But it’s not a light decision and it’s definitely not because they’ve “fulfilled their purpose” in your life…as if God would create people to serve you.

Now, the last thing I want to do is to make people fearful of sharing any encouraging words or things that God has spoken to them. But please, PLEASE, if what you’re sharing isn’t directly out of the bible, do not say “God says” or act as if it’s a direct quote from his mouth. Share it as your thoughts or say, “I felt like the Holy Spirit was speaking this to me today.” Then you will not risk deceiving those who may not know the Living God or the Words he speaks.

Because one of the greatest tragedies in the church today are people who think that their thoughts are God’s thoughts and speak/judge accordingly. We are often so blinded by sin that we cannot see clearly and as good as our intentions are, they aren’t pure like God’s. We see things dimly, but he sees it as it is. We judge partially, but God’s judgements are based on truth. And let’s face reality here: God does not think like man.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

So please, dear friends, take credit for your own thoughts and give God the glory for His.

The Struggle and the Blessing

So…I actually accidentally published this already before it was done. If you happen to follow me, you will have received an email with a blog post that made absolutely no sense. It’s the way I write, sometimes I start a thought and then I add a completely different thought to another paragraph. Once I put it all together it makes sense, but I’m afraid if you enter my brain while I’m writing it’s like entering the brain of a four year old with ADHD who has just finished drinking a 2 litre bottle of pop. Just be happy that it was only an email and that you don’t have to live inside my head.

Lots of people ask me if I’ve always wanted five children. I really don’t mind answering that question. I actually enjoy it, for the question amuses me.

The answer is no. Never in a million years would I have chosen to have five children. Nor would I ever have thought that I of all people would be a mother of FOUR boys. I didn’t even like being around boys when I was really young. I grew up with only sisters. I was much too calm, too organized and I liked all things girly. I also liked being alone, playing or reading quietly. I remember being appalled at the boys I did come in contact with who would burp or fart loudly and then obnoxiously laugh. These such people I avoided at all costs.

The question on the heels of that answer is, “So why in the world did you have five children?!?” Ha! Another good question. And there are actually two answers to that one.

First of all, I changed. I no longer look at life as something I can mold and manipulate to be what I desire. I discovered through many hardships, that some of the biggest challenges bring with them the biggest blessings. And when I try to control circumstances around me to fit what makes me feel safe, what provides me with stability, and what essentially is ‘my way’ often it doesn’t be turn out to be what I expected. So I became open to see what life would hand me, rather than what I could make it do for me.

Second of all, we were never the type to carefully family plan. We got pregnant when we got pregnant, simply because I was unable to go on birth control and we weren’t a fan of some of the other methods out there.

When I had my first two kids – a boy then a girl (exactly the genders I wanted and the order I wanted them in), I very seriously considered being done having kids. We had one of each, the million dollar family – or so it’s called. After all, there is a lot more you can do with just two kids. Hotels are set up for four. Cars easily fit a family of four. Two parents…two kids, each one takes a child and it’s SO much easier to have control. I could make sure that they get disciplined every time, that I can always be there to comfort them if they get hurt, that we could afford to buy them all the things they need. Each child gets new clothing, no hand me downs.

And yet…I knew deep down that as much as this life may be the goal for other families (and it’s totally great to see families of four) that this is not what I really wanted. I enjoy big family gatherings, with lots of cousins. And I wanted someday to see my family come together at Christmas with lots of personalities and games. That’s what I grew up with! So I was torn between what I felt I could handle (two) and what I wanted deep down. My husband wanted four boys and so I humoured him that we would have kids until we had exactly that.

After we had our third, parenting as I knew it changed drastically and I became aware of who I really was. For some people this happens after one or two kids…for me it was three.

It’s SO easy to act like you have it all together when everything is good and under your control. It’s when hardships come that we are faced with who we really are. Not to say that my first two kids were perfect by any means…there were huge challenges there as well, but things changed. I couldn’t go out and feel safe with my kids anymore, I only had two hands – one to hold that five million pound car seat (praise God I’m done with those!!!) and another hand to hold the hand of my 18 month old daughter. My firstborn son, who was still two at the time, had to listen perfectly or he ran the very real risk of being in danger. If three kids woke up at the same time in the night, I could no longer give my husband a nudge to take one and I the other; we were now outnumbered and one kid had to learn to wait. And when I was nursing the newborn, my toddlers would fight!! Now what? My poor new baby never got to finish a meal!

I became frazzled, feeling like there was no peace, like there was never enough of me, like someone ALWAYS wanted SOMETHING from me and I just had nothing left to give. And it was no longer possible for me to dress them the way I wanted, to discipline them every single time, to spend the daily one on one time with them, to do my devotions, to make the fully balanced homemade meals, to have the spotless house, to get my workout in, to…well you get the idea. Suddenly I was forced to choose: What is really important?

And you know what? Slowly things in my life that at one time had seemed like necessities (nice clothes, staying in shape, clean house, perfectly obedient kids) now seemed less and less important. I began to ask myself, who do I want my kids to remember me as? A beautiful woman, who got sitter after sitter while I did my hair, nails, workout, tanning, etc? A woman who had the perfect, spotless house that they could barely play in without damaging? A woman with a strong career they could be proud of, that provided enough for name brand clothes and fancy vacations? The woman who constantly yelled at them because they were never good enough?

Or did I want them to remember me as simply ‘mom’? Who was there for them, in my bed, bible on my lap when they came in the morning for snuggles? Who wanted to spend time in the morning preparing my heart for the day, rather than my face? Who cleaned, but also knew when to stop cleaning to read a book, or build a Lego house?

I wanted to be a person who cared more about my children then the mess they were making. I wanted to spend time training them to help me with the housework, rather than hiring someone who would obviously do a much better job, even though it meant a house that felt disgusting to me at times. I wanted to be a mom who saw children as a lifelong blessing, not a temporary inconvenience.

Children ARE a blessing. They just are!

Yet why is there that content struggle in us, whether we admit it or not, to see children like a burden to carry or as a season to bear through? Why do we Mothers (and Fathers) constantly think to ourselves: When they just get a little bit older, or, once they’re done this stage, THEN I’ll enjoy them more? Why, when we look back to when they were smaller, do we all feel at least a slight twinge of regret knowing that deep down we wished some of the most precious years of their life away? I don’t want to live like that!

It was after my third child, that I came to embrace the struggle of motherhood with all that I am. And how appropriate that Jonas’ name means “a gift from God” for this is exactly what he is, he was a gift that made me realize that struggle is not something to be avoided at all costs. For in the day-to-day struggle, in those difficult stages, memories are being made, characters are being formed and I am growing more and more into who God wants me to be. And some days (ok LOTS of days) I still see that old girl, the selfish me, who wants the quiet house, the clean house, who wants order and control, who would rather finish my doing my hair before church then clean up the box of Cheerios that was just dumped all over the floor, who would rather finish this blog post then be interrupted yet again by another fight to solve…but that’s not who God wants me to be.

Because in the struggle He’s answering those prayers I’ve been praying all these years: he’s making me more patient and less selfish. He’s teaching me to gently guide my children rather than to harshly require right behaviour. I’m becoming less independent and relying on him more. I’m becoming a servant, rather than a boss. I’m becoming like Jesus.

And then I look at the neat little life I would’ve planned out for myself and I go ‘Ha! I’m glad God ruined my plans!’