When You Feel Broken-Consider This

It probably comes as no surprise to those that know me, that I love sea glass. When I find a piece along the beach, I can’t help but pick it up and wonder about the journey it’s taken in its lifetime. Edges worn smooth over decades of rolling through water and against rough sands, sea glass has a thing or two to teach us about our own journeys in life. I did some research about the process a piece of glass tossed in ocean waters goes through, and what I found actually shocked me.

As the glass is broken down by the salt water, it becomes more and more like a gem stone. In fact, the gemstone classifications that apply to diamonds, are also applied to pieces of sea glass- only in reverse. Sea glass is considered more beautiful if it contains impurities such as pitting and frosting.

The very things that cause damage are also the things that make it the most beautiful in time. The endless tossing in relentless waves creates a harsh environment to be immersed in, day in, day out. What was once a bottle, recognizable for its value to all who held it, is now broken and useless. Salt water erodes the glass pieces, creating smooth edges that replace the jagged and harmful. Pits are formed in the glass when the very ingredients used to make it are released from the glass, leaving shallow craters behind.

Isn’t it the same with us? We are thrown into situations that feel harsh and abrasive. Rough waters threaten to break us down completely, leaving their mark behind. We are forced to let go of what can feel like the very things that once made us complete, as we surrender to this new sense of normal. The salt of change can sting, and we wonder if we will ever reach shore- and if we do- what will we have to offer? Are we still valuable in this new form?

The answer of course, is YES. Our value to Christ is not dependent on our abilities, appearances, or perceptions- thank God. Our value in the storm, and after the storm, is the same as it was before the storm. The love of Jesus is unchanging, unwavering, and unshakeable.

What we have to offer this world is only increased by the rough waters of life. Our ability to minister to others is made beautiful by our own times of pain, wrestling through waves of change and grief- our moments of brushing against sand that chafes but also smoothes our jagged edges. We are made beautiful too, if we allow ourselves to be refined in rough seasons that threaten to break us down. 

So friend, the next time you find yourself tossed about by a situation you didn’t ask for- consider the beauty that is created in the refining of rough waters. You may feel broken- but you still have value and purpose. He’s not going to leave you floating in the waves forever. You will reach the shore, and the beauty in your imperfections will be admired and used by the One that loves without condition.

 

When Independence Feels Like Isolation

He stomps his foot and scrunches his brow into a tight crinkle. “I DO IT MYSELF.” I quietly shift my weight down to one knee to get on his level and ask gently, “Can Mama help?” His determination grows fiercer with my question, and he again replies, “NO. I DO IT MYSELF. ME. I DO IT!”  His chubby fingers pinch the zipper pull of his Spiderman jacket until his fingernails whiten as he yanks harder and harder to unzip the jacket. It won’t budge. I know that he will eventually need my help, so I stand up, sigh, and wait. I busy myself in the kitchen, silently counting down to the inevitable wail that is sure to come. 3…2…”HELP ME NOW MAMA! IT’S STUCK!” When I get to him I can see beads of sweat have formed on his forehead, outward signs of the effort to outgrow a need for me. It’s hard work being two. I reach for his zipper, and this time he doesn’t pull away. He looks up at me and I can see he feels a mixture of frustration and relief. I free him of his jacket and he thanks me, while toddling off to play.

With my first son, an exchange like this would leave me exasperated- but with the second child comes understanding (and a little exasperation, let’s be honest). I know that the independence my boy is seeking is not only normal, but necessary. He’s learning that he can do some things alone- and for others, he still needs help.

It made me wonder, though, how often do we do this to God? How often do we tell Him NO. I’ll do this myself. ME. I imagine He does the same thing for us that I did with my child- surely He knows the inevitable wail for help is coming, and He patiently waits. He waits for us to try and try- for our hands to grow tired, for the beads of sweat to appear on our brows- He waits until we are ready to admit we can’t do it alone. How long this process takes is really up to us. He’s always ready to help. And even though I know this- really know this- I still find myself forcing a solution to a problem I can’t fix on my own, time after time. Our independence can build an isolation from God that was never meant to exist.

Our need to do it ourselves stems from what? Are we so brazen to demand that we receive credit for a job well done when none of it was ours to begin with? All we have is His. The internal fight for control between us and our Creator will never amount to more than tired arms and defeated surrender. I don’t believe our Father wants us to surrender in  frustrated defeat, nor does He take joy in our weakness. Gloating about my ability to remove my little one’s jacket with ease was the last thing on my mind. I was simply glad he was free. Happy to assist him so he could do what he desired. I believe God wants us to surrender in humility, with gratitude that He is able.

So the next time you feel the beads of sweat building and the strain to be independent wearing down your strength- ask Him to help. Our weakness is His strength- and He’s waiting.

When God Says Let Go

If the title above makes you uncomfortable- maybe a little twitchy, like you need to stretch a bit- you’re who I’m writing this for. Five years ago I handed in my resignation and walked away from a beloved teaching career. After giving birth to my first son who happened to have an extreme dairy sensitivity, it made sense to take some time away and be at home with my boy. I looked forward to being a stay at home mom, but I could never have foreseen the loss I would feel. At the time, I quietly fought the decision like a wild animal caught in a net- writhing within myself, battling it out in my head with self judgment and shame as my weapons of choice. I was blessed to be given the option to stay home with my child- so why was the decision so difficult? I loved my son immeasurably more than a career- so what was the real issue?

God and I had many conversations about giving up my career, and most left me anxious, and wondering why He would ever ask me to give up my career dreams. Motherhood fulfilled me in ways I could never describe, and yet I still felt as though “Teacher” was who I was. Did you catch that? It wasn’t just what I did. It was how I identified myself. It was my identity. 

What I did was not who I was. Whether I was teaching a child to read or scraping sweet potatoes off  our kitchen blinds, my worth remained the same. It took me a very long time to accept this. A. Very. Long. Time. And through it all- every angry prayer I shouted silently, every demand I made knowing that He owed me no response- He patiently waited. He waited until I took off the professional title I defiantly held in a white knuckled grip and wore the one I was meant to wrap myself in: Beloved Daughter of God. Chosen. Cherished.

Have you ever held on when He asked you to let go? Does letting go of a dream feel like letting go of yourself? Let me tell you a secret- He’s actually asking you to find who He’s created you to be.

It can feel like all of the effort you’ve spent achieving a goal, a dream, a relationship, is down the drain- but it isn’t. God uses everything- every-thing- to bring you to where you need to be. My time spent at home with my children is worth more than any credential or title.

It wasn’t a detour- it was placing me on a new and better path. I know that now. Every giggle, every snuggle- and yes, every chicken nugget picked up off the floor, is worthy of my time and my submission to His calling on my life- to stay home, stay near to Him, and reach out to others who may be resisting His call to let go and follow Him.

If He’s asking you to let go- do it. Find your purpose. He’s waiting.

When You Feel Like Your Details Don’t Matter

There’s a bulldozer in my china cabinet. It sits amongst the beloved porcelain cats that my mother bought me seven Christmases ago- dotted with dirt, faded yellow, with a broken front loading bucket. A few days ago my oldest son tearfully held it up to me, brokenhearted that it had lost the ability to load dirt and rocks, thanks to a snapped plastic hinge. I promised to glue the hinge, and explained that it would no longer be able to swing up and down as it had in its front loading days, but that it was still useful. My tenderhearted boy was inconsolable- it was his favorite construction vehicle, and he had spent many hours pushing it through dirt, grass, and carpet (unfortunately for me, in that exact order).

bulldozerinchina-1-of-1

When his tears wouldn’t subside with my suggestions that he still use it, or place it high on a shelf in his playroom, I offered an option that I was sure would catch him off guard. I offered his faded, dirty toy a place inside my china cabinet- where only my most cherished items reside. He instantly agreed that it was just the place for it, while I reminded him that I too, had fond memories with his precious truck. I recalled his first trip to Disneyland, and how that bulldozer was the only thing that kept him quiet as we stood in endless lines, and how it made the other passengers on our shuttle bus to the park laugh a bit when he honked its loud horn.

After I placed the toy in the cabinet with some other material things I hold dear, a thought occurred to me. The irony of this dirt covered toy sitting amidst gleaming white china made me chuckle. And then I thought about how that truck matters to me, because it matters to my boy. I’m willing to place it amongst my most treasured possessions, simply because my little guy loves it, and I love him.

I have to think that this is no different than our own loves in this life, and God’s response to them. They matter to Him, because we matter to Him. It’s not material possessions I’m speaking of- but those things we are so fearful to give to Him- just in case He doesn’t see how much they mean to us. Our jobs. Our health. Our kids (preaching to myself, on this one). Our spouses. Our happiness.

The truth is, not only does He know their importance- but they’re important to Him too. The next time you’re tempted to imagine that Jesus is unaware of your heart’s desires, or the little or big things that you love the most- think of a dirty toy that sits with fine china. Your details matter to Him. You matter to Him.

Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4