Saturday, July 7, 2012

My Spiritual Journey

I grew up the oldest of four and the only girl. I had many responsibilities growing up that led me to become a “take charge” and “get it done” kind of person. Everywhere I went, in everything I did, I took charge and got things done---in my marriage, at my job, in my community. I was the go-to person. I was the one that rarely said, “No,” and still am to some degree, although, I'm getting better about what I say "Yes" too.

I love helping people. I love finding solutions to problems. I love “fixing” things, making them better or easier for myself or others. But over the course of my 30 something years, I have discovered that there are many things in life that I am unable to “fix”, unable to find solutions for, unable to make easier. It took me a long time to convince myself that I couldn’t do it all, and I sometimes still need reminding.

My first major reality check was when one of my brothers got into drugs and then trouble with the law. I was married and living three hours away. I felt helpless. I had always tried to take care of my brothers. They called it being “bossy”. I called it protecting and loving them. Having no control over that situation was very hard for me, but there was nothing I could physically do. Nothing I could say or do that would “fix” him, nothing I could say or do to make it easier for my parents, nothing I could say or do to stop it from happening again….nothing but pray and give it to God. This was the beginning of my spiritual journey as an adult.

Throughout the next few years, my faith grew as I continued to learn that there were lots of things I couldn’t do on my own. I tried. I always tried to do things my way first. It would have been easier to just give things to God first, but I always tried to take care of things myself. Then when things didn’t work out or got worse, I then turned it over to God and asked for help. Sometimes I gave it to Him and then took it back many times before I actually let go, and let Him. It amazed me each time how His plan always worked out much better than my original plan, but I still had trouble letting Him take care of things right from the start.

My second major reality check was when my youngest daughter was born with medical problems that required lots of surgeries. Again, I had no control over this. I couldn’t fix it and make it better. It was hard for me to watch her suffer. But by then, I had figured out that God would be the only way to see us through this. I had to give it to God and let him take care of her. During the first three years of her life, she had over 20 surgeries: laser ones and reconstructive ones. I had to quit my job. We lost our house. We could barely care for her much less the other two toddlers we had at home. So, once again, I had to give it to God and let him take care of her and us. We made it through this very difficult time, and once again came out stronger than ever in our faith.

Once life seemed to calm down, I went back to work and back to all the things I loved doing…helping, volunteering, organizing, leading, fixing, etc. After a few years of trying to take care of everyone and everything and trying to make all the things I was involved in just perfect, I realized that I was tired and overly stressed and that this stress was overflowing into my family life. I tried different things to try to “fix” the problems that were creeping into to my home, my family, and my marriage. And after lots of talking and praying, we began to make changes in our lives.

I slowly began giving up positions on various boards and committees I was on. We slowly began limiting our kids’ extra-curricular activities which had slowly taken over our lives. We slowly began cleaning out our lives of clutter and unnecessary distractions. This was very hard for me, but I knew God was calling me to slow down and let go of the steering wheel. I panicked to think about whether the person that took my place would “know what to do” or be able to “do it the right way”. I felt I needed to let things go, but my strong-willed personality just couldn’t seem to actually “let it go.” I struggled with this for quite some time before I eventually listened to God's call.

After lots of prayer, I finally realized that things would still go on without my help and involvement and that my way was not the only way. As I let go of these things and started asking God to help me see what was really important in life, our life began to drastically change. The more we took ourselves “out of the world”, the more peaceful our lives became. Things continuously got better, less stressful. The kids seemed to behave better because we weren’t running around from here to there. Our marriage seemed to take on a new “honeymoon” feel. Our home life was just all around better, and our faith life grew drastically.

But as things began to work themselves out and continuously improved around us, we began to desire more change. I felt that I was being called to something greater than just doing away with a few extra activities. As I prayed, I continued to feel the call to simplify our lives even more. We began ridding our lives of worldly things that were not helping our journey to Heaven. We began to de-clutter our house and as we did, our lives began to de-clutter. Without the distractions of the world, we were able to become closer to God. We became closer to each other. When we began to truly trust God and His plan for us and truly put Him first in our lives, things just fell right into place for us.

About this time in our life, we were approached for the 100th time to attend a Faith Renewal. Instead of saying we can’t because we have x, y, and z going on, our calendar was clear. My husband and I attended together, and it was truly a “renewing” weekend for us. We had confirmation after confirmation that we were on the right path and that God was calling us to continue this change in our lives. We left the weekend more confident about the decisions we had made. The timing was just perfect for us.

In the year after the renewal, we continued to pray and follow God’s call to be “in the world and not of the world.” We continued our faith journey by making our Cursillo that same year and truly dedicating ourselves to learning more about our faith and following Christ instead of the world. This was tough especially when others around us thought we were nuts when I quit my job, pulled my kids out of school, and began homeschooling. It’s hard to follow Christ’s plan because it is so radically different from the world’s plan for us, but we have never been so blessed in all our life. We have never felt more at peace than we do now even when trials come our way, they are much easier to deal with know that God will be there to take care of us because we are following his call.

I’ve also learned that God doesn’t let you be “comfortable” for too long. He continuously challenges us to go above and beyond. Sometimes it’s very hard to accept what He’s asking us to do. Just recently we were called to take our family including the four kids to Mexico on a mission trip. If anyone watches the news, you’ve heard what Mexico is like. We don’t watch it, but people were more than happy to tell us about all the horrible things going on. But we felt the call so strongly that we just had to trust that God would take care of us. So, off we went last month to Mexico for 10 days with our four kids. It was the most blessed week of our life. And we if had not trusted God’s will for us, we would have missed out.

Our life isn’t perfect now. We still have struggles and trials. As a matter of fact, we are in the middle of one of the biggest trials of our life. We are in the process of trying to adopt of foster son and just learned that after 2 ½ years that it may never happen for us. At first I was devastated, I questioned God as I usually do and then was reminded of all the other obstacles that have been put in the way of this adoption and how each obstacle was overcome and how much better our situation was afterwards. And so I gave it to Him one night through all the tears and haven't thought about it much since.

I don’t understand His plan, I usually never do, but I’ve learned that He always has one and His is always better than mine. I just have to let go, and let Him handle it. That doesn’t mean I’m not still worried or anxious, because I’m human. I’ve gathered all my prayer warriors to give me extra peace and comfort, but I know deep down He knows best for all of us. I just have to trust in Him.

The song below is a song I discovered a few years ago when I was really struggling with the normal stresses of life. Many nights I’d play it over and over to remind myself that I was not in control and that I had to lay it down and give it to God.

Lay It Down by Needtobreathe

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