Monday, September 28, 2009

A Disease of Perception

I am convinced that I suffer from…I mean am blessed with a new, yet to be appropriately documented disease. It is the disease of Perception. I would also offer that most people suffer from…are blessed with this disease and are unwilling to see and admit it. But instead of pointing my fingers at you I will explain how this “disease” manifests in my life and what I am actively trying to do, with God’s help, to treat this disease.

I am admittedly one of those people who, depending on the situation, naturally gravitate towards the “negative”. If something happens I can very quickly think of several things wrong, several things to be upset about and I have to think hard to come up with positives…my mind just doesn’t naturally go there.

Let me give you an example. On Friday Dominic stayed home to work on putting new linoleum in our entryway. He ran to Ace to get something to help with the job and his car dies. I mean running one minute, next minute the starter is gone. So long story short he gets it to a shop in Beresford where they quote one price, charge about $100 more and tell us that his radiator is also broken.

When Dominic calls me to tell me the good news (can you hear the sarcasm?) I instantly think “Why this, Why now, Why can’t we catch a break, How come this stuff always happens to us…” Whine, whine, whine. It makes me nauseous just typing it out. But it is where my mind goes.

After my brief tantrum conversation in my head I take a step back and try to be intentional for a moment. Try to think of some things that I can be grateful for in this situation. Well when I stop to think about it there are several things:

1) We have AAA so we got the car towed for “free”.
2) We have a second car so at least we can still get to where we need to go until his is fixed.
3) My dad has an “extra” vehicle and has offered more than once that if we ever need we can borrow it. (Dominic is driving it as we speak)
4) We had money in our savings – not much but some - and so we can pay for this fix with cash.
5) We have both have full time jobs that allow us to be able to save for things such as this.
6) The situation could have been MUCH worse.

When I am intentional with my thoughts and focus on those things that I can and should be grateful for my attitude about life drastically changes. I am able to walk this journey praising God for whatever might be in my path rather than complain about whatever doesn’t go my way.

And I am by nature a complainer. It isn’t something that I am proud of and I am working hard to eliminate that part of my character and replace it with something good. But I can’t do it alone. Thankfully I have a husband that keeps me grounded. We have this thing we do in our house where we say that we “get” to do something rather than “have” to do something.

When I look at life as a “get” to I start to recognize that I have the opportunity to be the best person that God would have me to be each day. I don’t have to do any of this. But God allows me opportunities to be of service to others, to reach out and help someone in need, to be an example of His grace and His love.

And these aren’t things that I can accomplish on my own. It is only with God’s help that I am a person that can do those things. Because it isn’t in my nature to give without expecting in return, to show kindness to an enemy or to not focus on what’s in it for me.

But I find that when I focus on others, I get outside of myself. I start to see the beauty in life through others and I am constantly reminded of all the things that I have to be grateful about. Slowly God is changing my heart. Allowing me the opportunities to work on my character defects and then He is filling the holes that the defects have left with things like love and peace and kindness and gentleness, patience and self control.

And don’t get me wrong – there is still a LOT to work on. I have said it before that my journey is about progress not perfection. I am making progress. Sometimes it is painfully slow and I can’t see the changes occurring and other times I am made aware very quickly that I have now chosen to think a new way, respond a better way. And I know that isn’t because of who I am or what I have done. But what God has done through me.

I do have a disease of perception, but it is slowly changing from something that I “suffer” from to something that I am blessed with. Thank God that He allows me the opportunity to figure that out!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Back to the Beginning

About a year and a half ago I started this blog. Prior to that I really had no idea what blogging was all about. I had heard the word “blog” before but honestly I didn’t know what it meant. In March of 2008 Dominic and I had tickets to a Point of Grace and Selah concert. About a week before the concert I heard on the radio that Selah would no longer be attending because Angie, the wife of the lead singer Todd Smith, was pregnant with a baby that was “incompatible with life” and she was going to be delivering soon. The station then gave out Angie’s blog and told the listeners to check it out and leave the family prayers and support. Thus began my introduction to the world of blogging.

Angie’s blog had an immediate and profound impact on me. At the time I was still struggling with my recent miscarriage. To be completely honest I was angry. Angry that God would allow something like that to happen to us. I felt like for the first time in a long time that Dominic and I had things “together”. We were praying together as a family, we had found a way to resolve problems in our marriage in a reasonable way, we were communicating and bonding like I had always hoped we would. So I felt like there were 101 reasons that we “deserved” to be pregnant. And when I feel I deserve something, well I like to see it work out. And when things don’t go as I plan I tend to get a little angry and resentful. And to top it all off I felt my anger was justified because of all the reasons I stated above that I also deserved the pregnancy.

It is a vicious cycle and one that leads to loneliness and despair. I could no longer see God in my life, or at least see God in the way that I wanted to see Him. You see I had heard that Bible verse about having the faith of a mustard seed and being able to move mountains. So I knew that God could save my pregnancy if He wanted to – I believed it with all my heart. I got down on my knees that morning in February and begged Him to do what I couldn’t – save the life that was growing inside of me. I pled with Him, reassuring Him that I believed, I had the faith that He could do it…so please just do it!!

When He didn’t perform what I was calling a “miracle” in me, in the way that I wanted, in the time that I wanted I was sure that I must have done something to deserve it or that God just didn’t love me the way I needed. I spent months thinking of nothing but my own difficulty. I was bitter when I saw women who were pregnant and wondered what they had done to deserve something that I didn’t.

I would talk to my friend Clare asking why I couldn’t “get over” all of it. Part of me wanted to feel normal again and part of me felt comfortable wallowing in my own self pity. I know that sounds crazy but it was my reality. But one thing that helped me so much during this time was reading about how Angie was working through the loss of her daughter. I was so impressed by her love for God in spite of her circumstances and I wanted what she had. I wanted to love God regardless of whether my life was perfect or not. I wanted to trust Him even though I couldn’t see how I would ever recover from the loss. I wanted to believe that He could redeem that part of my life into something good.

So I started to talk to Him, in complete honesty. I wasn’t afraid to be angry with Him. I usually apologized for being mad, but I needed to get it out. As time went on God began to heal my heart. With love of good friends who supported me and let me talk about it over and over again I slowly changed. It was something that happened without me even realizing it really. It wasn’t until I got that call from Beth back in September a year ago telling me that she was pregnant , and all that I felt was complete joy for her, that I realized that the resentment was gone, the bitterness was resolved and God had made me whole again.

Quite a journey. And as many of you know He didn’t stop there. Tomorrow will be Elijah’s 4 month birthday. The circumstances around my getting pregnant with him when I did, the fact that Beth and I delivered 9 days apart, isn’t something that I could have orchestrated if I had tried. God had a perfect plan in that situation and today I can reflect on the journey that brought me here. I wasn’t able to see the “whole” picture. I wanted to manage my life so that it would be most comfortable for me. What I couldn’t see then, that I realize today is that when I am most comfortable I tend to pull away from God. I think that I have it all under control and my relationship with my Savior suffers. When my life isn’t perfect, when I struggle, when I stumble, I see the need I so desperately have for Him to take back the reigns of my life and lead me on His path.

And I have been given gifts because of this experience. The gift of friendship with women who have also had similar experiences. I connected with an amazing woman Suzanne who I got to meet in person when we travelled to California last summer. Suzanne has had more miscarriages of any woman I know. And yet when I shared the news of my pregnancy last September she responded with such joy and support I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed that God would put such a woman in my life, who acted in ways I couldn’t when I was in her shoes. I have been given a heart for women that I didn’t have before. I have had the opportunity to reach out and offer hope to others as they struggle with the loss of their child. It is something that has been made even more personal to me. And something that I appreciate now today, a gift I couldn’t have anticipated over a year and a half ago.

I know that there is a possibility that someone reading this has also experienced the loss of a pregnancy. If that is the case please leave me a comment or send me an e-mail. I would be honored to pray for you. My prayer is that regardless of what situation we find ourselves in, no matter how dark, that we would be able to see the face of Christ in it. That we would be drawn to Him and would feel His peace. And that God would take the ashes in our lives – whatever they might be - and make them a beautiful offering of His redeeming mercy.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A couple of pictures

I just had to share a couple of photos. Elijah is holding his head up strong in the top picture. I was trying to "catch" him rolling over...but was unsuccessful. He, like most kids, don't want to perform when mom wants them to!
The picture of Dominic and I was taken before my work party a few weekends ago. We haven't been good in the past about getting shots of us together so I am trying to be better about it. It helps that Isaac is old enough to use the camera correctly. I really like the neighbors trash cans in the background of the photo. I guess we need to better "position" ourselves in the future! :)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Family Updates

This post is for my good friend Clare who told me last night that she is tired of checking my blog and not finding a new post! :)

Life has been crazy lately. We are getting into a new routine with Elijah in the family. Gabriel started Kindergarten and loves it. Some days he comes home and is asleep right away. I think that school all day wears him out a bit! But so far he has enjoyed each day. He likes to bring his lunch with him whenever I will let him and was excited to have Dominic come and eat lunch and play at recess with him yesterday.

Isaac, from what he will share with me, is doing well in school also. He is becoming accustomed to his braces and tolerates them without being angry that I “forced” him to have them. We will see what happens next week when they are tightened again! :) I have told him many times that some day he will appreciate this and that we were willing to find a way financially to pay for it. He doesn’t believe me now, but I know from my experience that I am very grateful that my parents “forced” me too!

Elijah is growing like a weed. I am telling you his little thighs are so fat! This is the one time in his life that it is adorable to have fat thighs! Last week he rolled over from his tummy to his back several times. Dominic said that his head caused momentum and forced the rest of his body over. I don’t care how or why it happened – just am excited that it did. I was carrying on and clapping when it happened I think Elijah must have thought I was nuts!

It is hard to believe that I have been back at work for over a month now. The transition has been really good. I work with an awesome group of people and it is fun to come to work every day. I still would love to be home more, but if I have to work – and I do – then this is the place for me!

Dominic has worked on building 1 bench for our new deck and is in the process of building another. It is fun to see him get excited about something like this and he really does a good job so I am so proud of him! I know he has really taken the back burner lately with Elijah here. I admittedly spend most of my time at home catering to the baby and other family needs like laundry and lunches that Dominic and I get very few moments together as a couple. I know I don’t tell him enough how much I love and respect him and how grateful I am that he is a part of my life. Dominic, although it is a crazy busy life, I wouldn’t want to share life with anyone else!

We are all looking forward to the long weekend and might try to get in some of the bands at the Lifelight Music Festival this weekend. I can’t believe that it is September already. Fall and soon winter are fast approaching and some days it feels like time is slipping away from me.

I will be participating in a book club in a few weeks. Check out this site for more details. We will be reading the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I cheated and started the book already – I know I will have to go back and re-read the first few chapters when we start. But I have already been challenged and convicted by this book and can’t wait to dive into it in depth with a group of fellow believers. I am sure that as we go I will post more about it so look for that in the future. We plan to start on September 13th.

Finally I would like to end this post with a prayer request. When I got back to work I found out that my old boss – who still works at the bank – lost her baby granddaughter 9 days after she was born to an undiagnosed heart condition. The whole situation is very tragic and has weighed heavily on my heart the last few weeks. I knew that “T” was pregnant about the same time as I was and knew she was due in late June, early July. Every time now that I look at Elijah and see the miracle that he is I am reminded that “T” has empty arms and must be missing her daughter terribly. I know that she and her family could use all the prayers she can get. So please remember her if you would. Although I can’t understand why it is that things like this happen I am grateful for the hope that I have that one day those situations will be redeemed through the blood of a Savior who loves us.

Have a blessed holiday weekend.

The Smith Family Journey

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