Monday, April 28, 2014

I'm so proud of you.....

The  dictionary describes pride as a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.
It seems somewhat egotistical to be proud of one's one achievements but most would think it admirable to be proud of another person's achievements...but is pride ever okay and what should we really be proud of in ourselves and in others???
And why on earth am I talking about this here on this blog???  Well I've been doing some self exploration.  I began reading My Big Bottom Blessing by Teasie Cannon and have really been looking at why I doubt myself, why I think I can't be successful at things, where the wounds in my heart are and how I can trust God to heal them.  Something that has come up through this is the positive comments/compliments of others and why they can be hard to take...and why, sometimes, they should not be said.  How this ties in to my typical themes of this blog..well, hang on, we'll get to that.
In one sense I don't want to be prideful, don't want to think highly of my own accomplishments and yet at other times I know that I need to recognize far more often what I have accomplished so that I can look more positively at myself and stop loathing so many things about me.  I decided to do some research into what the bible says about pride. 
There is a difference between the kind of pride that God hates - Proverbs 8:13. 
To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance,evil behavior and perverse speech and the kind of pride we feel about a job well done. The kind of pride that stems from self-righteousness is sin, and God hates it because it gets in the way of us seeking Him. Psalm 10:4 explains that the proud are so focused on themselves that their thoughts are far from God: In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
This type of consuming pride is the opposite of the humbleness God seeks from us.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). The “poor in spirit” are those who recognize their brokenness, how destitute they are spiritually and realize that it is by God's divine grace alone that they will come to Him. The proud, on the other hand, are so blinded by themselves and their accomplishments and possessions that they think they have no need of God or, worse, that God should accept them as they are because they deserve His acceptance. 
In Proverbs 16:18-19  we learn the consequences of a prideful nature....
18 Pride goes before destruction,
    a haughty spirit before a fall.

19 Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed
    than to share plunder with the proud.
And Satan was cast out of Heaven for his pride....
Isaiah 14: 12-15
12 How you have fallen from heaven,
    morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
    you who once laid low the nations!
13 You said in your heart,
    “I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
    above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
    on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.[b]
14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
    I will make myself like the Most High.”
15 But you are brought down to the realm of the dead,
    to the depths of the pit.
A constant stumbling block for prideful people is admitting sin and acknowledging that in their own strength they can do nothing to inherit eternal life.  We are not to boast about ourselves; if we want to boast, then we are to proclaim the glories of God. What we say about ourselves means nothing in God’s work. It is what God says about us that makes the difference. 
I have made this mistake over and over again.  I have pridefully spoke of the things I have accomplished, like my success at fundraising for Mt. Sinai or my weight loss, but in those 'announcements' I have not given God the credit.  The ideas for how to raise the funds for Mt. Sinai were seeds that God planted in my head.  One of the biggest success stories I have for our fundraising was a 100% Holy Spirit moment.  I prayed one day for some ideas about how to get healthier, or rather, what was the reason for getting healthier, for working harder physically.  I hated running, wondered why anyone would want to do it and yet I suddenly found myself writing down that I was going to learn to run and then organize a run to raise funds.  That was God.  
Pride is sinful because it is giving ourselves the credit for something that God done. Pride is taking the glory that belongs to God alone and keeping it for ourselves. Pride is essentially self-worship. Anything we accomplish in this world would not have been possible were it not for God enabling and sustaining us.. That is why we give God the glory—He alone deserves it.
So that kind of covers why I shouldn't be 'proud' of what I have done but rather pleased that God gave me the strength, knowledge, courage and dedication to do these things.  So as long as I keep that, not just in my mind but also on my lips, giving Him the credit, then I should be fine. Right???
Well maybe.  But you see the problem for me with pride is not just that I take credit that isn't mine alone but it's also that how to accept, graciously, the feeling of pride that others have in your accomplishments.  And even more so, expressing to that person that, while you appreciate their compliments and acknowledgments, you are not deserving of the credit on your own for one but also that, sometimes, they need to look deeper into our life and be 'prouder' of other things.  In other words, the things that they are telling you they are proud of you for doing might possibly be pretty superficial and not the things that reflect on your character.
And this is how this blog post ties to my usual themes.
You see I have a very hard time recognizing my own accomplishments in regards to my health and my weight loss.  And rightfully so lately since I've gained back 15+ lbs of what I had lost (and their I go beating myself up again and allowing the enemy to infiltrate my thoughts). But I also know that I have accomplished far greater things then losing 50 ish pounds, becoming more active and learning to run.  Some of those things I touched on already... the Holy Spirit came to me and pushed me to learn to run, to become healthier so that I could use that skill to raise funds for a place that is so very important to me.  But far more then that is what I have overcome, what I have done with my life in the last 5 years, who I have become in that time.  That should stand out far above shouldn't it.
The book encourages me to have 'conversations' with my inner self, with the doubtful voices in my head, with those who have either planted those doubts or who have not looked deeply enough to see the inner me and, of course, conversations with God.
One of these conversations left me spent, in tears and yet at a place of peace and I have decided to share part of it here as a next step in the healing process, in the learning to love myself for the beautiful child of God that I am, in the journey to see myself as the Lord sees me...
"Please do not think that I don't appreciate your compliments or support.  But you need to know how much it hurts when you only acknowledge to 'outer me'.  I have hated my body for so many years.  I have felt I was never good enough, that I didn't measure up in so many ways.  I did things to make myself 'BE' that not good enough person...that little girl, teenage girl, young adult, young wife, young mother.  If I wasn't good enough then I might as well look the part and eat what I want, when I want, in whatever quantity I want.  I might as well date the idiot losers that treat me like crap...because that is all I deserve.  I might as well engage in behaviour that makes me feel loved by the them and yet hated by myself for giving in, giving up things I thought I valued.  I might as well live in a cluttered, disorganized and sometimes down right dirty house because I was never able to clean well, to organize why start now.  I might as well give up on this diet...I've stopped losing weight and I miss yummy food so why starve myself of pleasure when I can't stick to it anyway and it's doing no good to try. 
So many things that I did to become the person I thought I was..if that makes sense. 
And then things changed.  First for the worse. I lost Cole, I grieved for him instead of celebrating Cameron and living with my 'live' children.  I ate and ate and ate to fill the void that was in my heart.  I cried tears of sadness, shame and anger. 
But deep inside a stirring was happening.  I longing for better things, for bigger things.  For hope.
That hope started to rise, above all the crap I thought about me, all the doubt.  It rose and it rose and came out in beautiful words, in messages of support, in blog posts.  That hope brought me thoughts of giving back for all that Mt. Sinai gave us.  That hope drove me to start groups for support and to share my story for reasons that were no longer selfish, no longer about putting a pity focus on me.
The hope pushed me forward and suddenly I began to look at photos of myself and realize how much I hated that outer me. 
And so I changed the outer me.  I ate well.  I gave up 'fun food'.  I kept my focus and the weight came off. 
But the thing you dont't know is that about this time my world crashed again and I doubted my marriage and listened to lie after lie that the enemy told me.  I spent hours walking (and losing weight too) just to avoid dealing with my life.
But then Jesus did this amazing thing.  He opened up my heart, He opened up my eyes, He opened up my ears.  I began to feel a change in me, a peace that I had never known possible.  I began to walk away from those who judge, to stop trying so hard to please them and work instead to please Him.
 The words of encouragement flowed faster and faster.  The blog posts grew deeper and deeper.  And the support I offered others grew and grew. 
And yes, I shrank and shrank. I became more fit. I became more healthy on the outside.
But it wasn't the outside that made the difference.  It was the inside.
I diverged a bit here but the point is that I overcame the worst thing a mother can experience, I turned tragedy into hope, I found a way out of deep pit of darkness, found hope and peace in helping others and, thanks to Jesus, I found my way to being healthy enough, focused enough, strong enough, to take our story and use it to help raise thousands of dollars for Mt. Sinai.  Those are things that matter, those are the things to be pleased about.
I don't 'want' to be proud of any of that but I know that God gave me the strength to do all of that, he gave me the focus, the ideas and the motivation. 
When you focus on the outer me you make me feel like the inner me isn't important, like it isn't even seen, like the only thing worth being proud of is the way I look.  And I wish it wasn't as important to me as I let it be...but that is part of that self doubt and not measuring up thing. 
But this time IT won't win.  I won't let it.  I know God made me who I am today and that, my dear, is something to be proud of.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Relating to Mary

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to sit through a Stations of the Cross presentation by the grade 8 students at my school (I work in a Catholic school though I am definitely not Catholic). This station really hit home to me and made me think....

The Fourth Station: Jesus meets his Blessed Mother
Luke 2:34-35:

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, Jesus’ mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."

Reflection: Face to face, Jesus and the Blessed Mother meet. Jesus is covered in blood, sweat, and spit, bent under the weight of the cross, subjected to angry shouts of hate.
And Mary, experiencing every mother’s worst nightmare that her child will suffer harm, feels the sword pierce her soul. Moving with fiercely protective love, she offers her son the little she can: the comfort of her presence.

Jesus, thank you for the gift of Mary, who models perfect love for us. In our love for you, make us fiercely protective of you. And help us remember that when we are present to those who are hungry, tired, and sad, those who are difficult, stubborn, and forgetful, we are loving you.

If I had known what Mary did, if I had a prophet like Simeon present at the moment I learned I was expecting twins who would have told me that my twin sons would not experience life as simple and easy as I wished for them, that they would struggle to survive and ultimately one of them would go to heaven before I ever saw his beautiful face and that the other would go on to experience repeated trials just to survive to a viable, healthy age in the womb and then would go on to be a beacon of hope for me, a precocious little boy who attracted the attention of so many just by being his vibrant self I would have balked. And to be told that their existence would pierce my heart and soul in a way that I could not imagine... well I think I might not have wanted to take that journey.
But the fact is that I didn't have a choice, nor did Mary. The fact is that although I wrote above that I might not have wanted to take that journey I know that I would have, I would walk and rewalk this path time and time again because it has made me who I am.
I did not experience what Mary did, no one beat my child, spit on him, doubted him, ridiculed him etc. But I can relate to looking at him and feeling a sword pierce my soul. My son's body was broken, bruised. It was not the body I knew he'd been given, it was not the way I wanted to see him for the last time. Losing him was never what I thought would happen, saying goodbye was never what I wanted to do. But I had no choice and my soul was forever changed when I held him, when I looked at his body for the last time. I could not change things. I could not make time go back to before his heart stopped beating. I could not erase the damage that time had done. I could only do what any mother would do.... love him, weep for him and speak words of comfort to him.
I thank Jesus for the gift of his mother Mary. She has modeled for me what a grieving mother who loves the Lord should look like... heartbroken, devastated and weeping and yet accepting, filed with hope, filled with love, filled with peace. She knew that God's plan was never her own and she accepted her fate every step of the way.
It's hard to accept my fate some days... the fate of TTTS and the loss of Cole but also the fate of the trials that are handed to me over and over again. But I know I must put my trust in the Lord and know that 'it will be my joy to say your will, your way, always'.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Troubles of our Life...the Plans for our Life

Ok so I took a bit of a break in my writing.  I was, to be honest, shocked when I realized that it's been 6 weeks since I last posted.  I have some good reasons for that (for one I am, essentially, living the life of a single parent every evening and I give those parents credit..I have no idea how they do it..I am exhausted!!!) and some crappy ones too...lack of motivation and being torn in a few areas lately.  I do have some thoughts of some posts I want to write so let's just hope I can pull them off without it taking another 6 weeks!
Today I want to share scripture that I have likely shared before but that has come to me from a most heartwrenching and yet faithful story I have encountered in a long time.  The blog is written by a mom as she lives in the moment...the last moments perhaps...of one of her son's lives.  Ironically, a son who is also an identical twin. I will share the link to her blog at the end but suffice to say I have learned so much from this family. 
She posted one day about God's plan for us and shared this scripture....
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11
And as she watches her son slowly losing his energy, his ability to walk, his ability to make full and complete she watches him dying before her eyes to be able to reflect in a positive manner about God's plans is truly awe inspiring. 
Oh how very hard it is to understand God's plans, oh how much it hurts to accept that He is actually planning this.  What good can possibly come from this child leaving his family, leaving his identical twin and best friend?  How on earth can you possibly prosper from this pain?  I've asked myself this before too.  Why would God plan to give me twins only to take back one of them?  How could it have propered me? How could it have NOT hurt me? 
The truth is that somedays I really truly wonder about this, wonder what on earth (or in heaven) was God thinking in putting me on this journey.  But then I meet someone who is so lost and struggling.  I encounter a family that needs help to even get the treatment they need and I am able to connect them wtih The Fetal Health Foundation.  Or I reflect on the things that Mt. Sinai has been able to do with the money we have raised.  And even more importantly I have someone say to me 'your faith amazes and inspires me. What you have allowed the Lord to do in you because of your TTTS journey astounds me' and then I realize that was and is part of God's plan for me.  He did give me a hope and future just as he is giving this family a hope and a future.  I can't see His plan for me or for them but I know it is there..I know He's got his hand in everything !
"In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world."
John 16:33
 And that's just it... there are troubles in this world, we are going to have them.  But God doesn't hand us them, allow us to have them and then just walk away.  No he tells us he knows they will happen because he knows sin happens but not to worry, He overcame the world and he promises that for us, that salvation.  Now back up to the first part of the last sentence I wrote... God knows we will have trouble because he knows sin happens.  These bad things that happen to us aren't from God.  TTTS isn't from God. Cancer isn't from God. As the mom of the blog posted...
The bad stuff we come across? The bad stuff that plagues our world? Cancer, sickness, accidents... none of it is from God. The Bible says that only good things come from God.
"Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,
who does not change like shifting shadows."
James 1:17
God doesn't change, His message doesn't change.  His grace doesn't change.  He accepts us as we are and forgives us for our sin.  He promised to look after his people, he promised that the good things would come, he promised us that it would not be easy but that we could know that if we trusted him, loved him, believed he sent his son to save us and did our best to live in ways that are honouring to him and asked for forgiveness when we didn't...he promised us salvation.  He is the alpha and the omega...the beginning and the end.  He brings us into this world and he carries us through it.  He's there to hold us up when our legs can no longer carry us, he is there to dry our tears when there are rivers of them.  And he's there to take us home when our time comes. 
Sure it sucks when the time comes much to early in our opinion but God knows what he's doing and he knows we will make it.  And why is that...because in our weakness He is strong.

"But he said to me,
"My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness."
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses,
so that Christ's power may rest on me."
2 Corinthians 12:9
 When I fall to my knees sobbing because I miss my son so much, when I cry quiet tears above Cameron's tears as he tells me he misses Cole and wants his brother hear now, God's had him long enough, when I can't pay the bills and am not sure how to feed my family, when I feel lost and alone... those are my weakest times and in all of those I always know I will be ok.  I always know that God is weeping with me and he's finding ways to put it all back together again. 
I have been told many times that I am so strong.  I am not strong, God is strong.  I am weak, I am sinful, I am prideful, I am lost.. but He has found me and He has lifted me up in my worst moments.  I will boast that I have had these moments, I will admit loudly that we have hit rock bottom and God picked us up, worked to heal our hearts and our marriage.  I will admit right now that sometimes the future scares me, the unknown scares me, my repeated mistakes scare me and most of all that I might lose another one of my children... but I don't admit this because I want pity, attention, sympathy. I admit them because I know that by admitting I am weak, a sinner...a human... that He will give me the strength to put one foot in front of the other and carry on to a new day. 

For anyone who would like to read the blog I am talking about here is the link.
Mindy is such an awesome example of a trusting and faithful servant.