It’s Not About You!

You know how sometimes you have a conversation with someone, and something they say rings true in your head and plays on repeat a million times over?

A few years ago, before I had so many little ones to care for, I worked with a fun, eccentric, deeply emotional woman who I totally looked forward to seeing every day in the office.  One of the many things I appreciated about her was her inability to hide what she was feeling (even though she didn’t like this particular trait about herself).  One day, I walked in her office to find her obviously troubled. As was characteristic of myself during those days, I was often overly paranoid that I had done something wrong, and so naturally, I asked her if I was to blame for her current emotional state.

Then came the broken-record moment between us.  She turned to me with brimming tears and a half-smile.  She chastened but joked, “No.  This is NOT ABOUT YOU!”

As life led me through two deaths, two more births, and several adoptions, I’ve carried her words (and can still hear her saying them) with me throughout the years that have passed.  God has used those words to teach me that not everything that happens is about me.  Not everything is caused by something I did wrong, nor is everything about something going right for me.  Instead, EVERYTHING is FOR God’s GLORY.

Losing her was not about me.

Losing her was not about me.

When my daughters died, it wasn’t about anything I did wrong.  It wasn’t a punishment or a reflection of my lack of faith.  It was about God receiving the glory.   He was writing a redemption story, even though I couldn’t see it at the time.  (Job)

When my adopted children concoct new ways to make my life miserable because they know no other way to express their angst, I know that the way they’re acting is really not about me. It’s not personal.  And the way I respond doesn’t need to be a reaction from personal offense, but instead from a place of mercy and grace.

Learning to take things less personally has helped me to have more of an eternal perspective as well as feel less burdened by things that happen that are really not my fault.  It’s not that I don’t have a sense of responsibility for my actions or don’t examine my own heart, it’s just that I realize that I can have much more of an internal sense of peace when I don’t assume that all the bad things around me are caused by me.  I also know that all the good things that have happened for me are not about me, either, or have been caused by me, but have come from God.  Knowing in my core that “It’s NOT ABOUT ME” has helped me be a better mother, a better friend, and a better follower of Christ.

“Your will above all else, my purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise”
(Hillsong United – From The Inside Out Lyrics)

 

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Fourteen Years and Nine Children Later

Me and my hubby looking older and much more “experienced” than 14 years ago. We’re also so much deeper in our faiths and so much deeper in love.

Here I am on my fourteenth anniversary, and I can hardly believe it!  I stand in awe (and sometimes still in shock) of all that we’ve been through as a couple. I praise God for how far He’s brought us in our marriage.  I found myself reflecting today on the lessons I’ve learned – or rather He’s taught us – during the last fourteen years, and I thought maybe I’d write a few down. By the way, I take no credit for these. :) They are just what God has impressed upon my heart over the years.

So, even though I numbered these, they really are in no particular order.

1. My husband is not the provider he thinks He is.  Sure, my hubby works really hard, and He is amazing at what he does.  He was awarded Teacher of the Year last year, the year after we lost Rose.  But, He’s not our sole provider.  God always, always, always gives us the opportunities for my hubby to provide for us or He provides for us in out-of-the ordinary ways that we would never have expected.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. …(Matthew 6:25 and following)

2. My husband and I are not each other’s primary source of satisfaction or fulfillment.  When we depend too much on each other to meet our needs – whether they be emotional, spiritual, and even physical, our relationship suffers.  When each of us individually really seeks God first, we are pulled closer together, and our marriage is stronger.  We are able to love more freely and unconditionally, because God is filling us up first. I am much less disappointed with my hubby, and he with me.  He is not my everything, and I am not his everything.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. (Psalm 28:7)

3. Experiencing trials and tragedy together has significantly strengthened our relationship.  Two deaths, five births, and four adoptions have put just a tiny bit of strain on our marriage (do you sense the sarcasm at all?).  I’m sure it’s no surprise that divorce rates are higher among couples who lose a child.  We have learned through the many changes in our family over the course of our marriage to lean on each other but also to allow the other person to grieve individually.  We’ve learned how to encourage the other to handle the stress of births, deaths, change, and uncertainly in the healthiest ways possible.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2-3)

4.  We’ve learned to pray for and with each other.  Nagging doesn’t work.  Prayer does.  And there’s something very powerful about someone who loves you intimately praying out loud over you, speaking truth into your heart.  My hubby and I have experienced new levels of vulnerability and trust by praying with each other.  I have grown in my compassion and understanding of his challenges by praying for him constantly throughout the day.  Prayer changes people; it changes the one who is praying and the one who is being prayed for, because God hears our prayers.

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. (Luke 18:1)

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Colossians 4:2)

Pray continually. (1 Thess. 5:17)

5. Children do not hold our marriage together.  First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes…(you know how it goes.)  Our marriage comes first.  God designed it that way. He wants us to cleave the closest to our spouse, not to our children.  I know that if I did not cleave closer to God and to my husband than I did to my baby girl, I would have fallen completely apart when she died.

By husband is my best friend, even when there are no warm fuzzies.  I love spending time with my children, too, of course, but if I constantly choose my children over my husband, our marriage suffers.

6.  Children are not our source of happiness.  They are a major source of happiness, but they are not THE source of happiness.  Children are an AMAZING gift.  AH-MA-ZING.  But God asks us to make Him our ALL in ALL.  Not them.

Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Psalm 127:3

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Psalm 34:8

7.  Family “planning” isn’t necessary God’s plan.  In American culture, there is still an unspoken expectation for couples to have children, a certain number of children, both genders of children, and all biological children.  It’s hard to feel content when everyone else constantly seeks to tell you what they think your family should look like.

Together, my hubby and I have learned not to depend upon having children, upon having a certain number or gender of children, or even upon having a certain number of biological children to determine whether or not we feel our family is perfect, or whole, or complete.

We recognize God as the author of life, the Giver of all good gifts, and the one who gives us our children for a short time to lead and guide them.

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.  James 1:17

For you created my inmost being;  you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  Psalm 139:13

8.  Relying too heavily on short or long-term goals is a sure way to set ourselves up for disappointment.  God wants us to plan.  He wants us to be responsible and organized and productive and all that.  But, He also wants us to be open to listening to His Spirit as He seeks to speak to us.  There have been many times in our marriage when we had planned to accomplish a certain goal by a certain date or to use a certain amount of money for something, when we were clearly called to go another direction.  He has a way of doing that…of shaking things up a bit and changing our plans in order to remind us to be completely dependent upon Him.

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.  (Proverbs 16:9)

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

9.  Live for today, and relinquish control of tomorrow to God.  We’ve learned this in the hardest possible way.  One moment, our first beloved daughter was alive and well in my womb, and within moments of her birth, her health began to decline until she passed away five days later.  One moment, my beautiful two-and-a-half-year-old daughter was eating her first moon pie, and moments later, her stomach twisted, and she was in cardiac arrest in just a matter of hours and dead in a matter of a few days.

We do not know what will happen from one day to the next.  If I have time to spend doing anything, I know I should spend it letting Jesus pour His love out of me and into them.  If one of my children were to no longer be with me tomorrow, the most important thing is that they know Jesus.  That’s it.  Not all the education or sports or special opportunities in the world will get them anywhere if they leave this world without Jesus.  My hubby and I have changed and continue to change our priorities to focus on the spiritual wellbeing of our family.

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” James 4:14-15

10.  God always has our ultimate good in mind.  My hubby and I have learned to take God at His word in this.  He promises to work everything for our good – in our families, in our marriages, in our jobs, in our relationships but most of all, in our hearts.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

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I am so thankful for the journey of my fourteen-year marriage with my husband and the journey we have walked together.  I look forward to however much more time God will grant us together and the many more lessons He will speak to our hearts.

Philippians 4:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

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