I still have a hard time believing that my year has come to an end. Last night, while most of the other patients were sleeping, I took my son for a walk down the abandoned halls of the children's hospital. It's kinda funny... of all the nurses I met during our two week stay, I knew the night nurses best because I often spent that quiet time walking the halls... praying. Praying. This is what I first thought about when reflecting on this "Crazy Love" experiment. Many people have asked how this little project has changed me... and an easy answer to this is that I pray more. But, more importantly, I pray for others more... I pray for God's will a whole lot more. Long gone are the laundry lists I used to throw up... like the never ending Christmas lists of a spoiled, self-centered child. I'm not as selfish... and for that I am so incredibly thankful.
To truly understand how far God has brought me, you must first understand where I was before this journey began. One year ago, I was living very comfortably. My husband had a great job, our kids were becoming self-sufficient... I often referred to this as seeing the light at the end of the tunnel... which meant that I could FINALLY take up those things I had put on hold for so long... because I was all about sacrificing for my family. But, this was now "my time" which meant starting that elusive non-profit that I so desperately wanted to create for so long. I just wasn't quite sure how things were going to fall into place, so I prayed... and God answered... but not the way I planned for Him to answer... not the way I hoped He would answer.
During this time, I went on my first mission trip. I won't retell the amazing experience here (you can read about it in the April 2010 blog postings)... but it was life changing. I came home deeply disturbed. Heart-broken by what I saw. Angry that children are allowed to live in such horrible conditions. Ashamed of how I live. Looking back now, I can see that God used this experience to stir my heart... to prepare me for what He was about to do in my life... for, you see, so many times I have looked back on that experience to remind me of so much: that I am blessed, that I am capable of more, that there is a greater need, that there is much to do... but, most importantly, that I'm not as important as I thought I was. That mission trip introduced me to humility... an introduction that was imperative for the next part of the journey.
A few months later, my husband and I made a bold decision. He was going to accept a job with greater flexibility so that I could focus on building the non-profit. While this meant losing a third of our income, what we gained was having dad around a whole lot more... blessing #1. For three weeks, the time my husband had between jobs, he played Mr. Mom while I worked full time on the non-profit. I had a brief taste of professional life... something that I often longed for... and something that I really enjoyed. Life was good for about a month.... and then everything changed.
That July, we found out that our family would be growing. A new baby would be joining the mix... and ruining MY plans. Now that I have gained an incredible amount of perspective, words cannot express how horrible I feel about that time in my life... specifically how I felt. Thankfully, God's grace is all consuming... and I understand now that going through this experience (having these emotions) was a necessity for my growth. It pains me to know that one day my son may read this and know that there was a time that I didn't want to be pregnant... I can only hope that he will forgive me... forgive my selfishness... and know that after everything is said and done... the gift of him was God's way of saving me.
From my perspective, at that exact time, being pregnant was a death blow to my dreams. Having a newborn would make starting and running the non-profit impossible (on top of homeschooling the other three kids!). But, we also had other issues to tackle... namely my husband's new income... which was barely covering the bills for our family of five... would it hold out when there's another mouth to feed? Not to the mention the fact that I was going to be the mother of four... FOUR... who has four kids anymore... except warped religious people that homeschool their kids... Oh my, what was I becoming? (Maybe this helps you understand where my desperation was coming from!) For about two weeks, I vacillated between sadness and anger. Sad because I was grieving the loss of a life I was ready to live. Angry because God didn't bless the plans I had to serve Him. Eventually I was so overcome by these two emotions that I became consumed by them. I was becoming bitter... and I saw how this bitterness could make me turn my back on my faith. That was when I made I bold decision. When I explain it to others, I say that God led me up a mountain top... at which point I had to make a decision. I could climb back down, ultimately turning my back on God. Or... I could blindly step from the precipice... a leap of faith, if you will... and trust that God's plans are best... even if I don't agree with them. I decided to take the step and I'm so incredibly thankful that I did!
During the months that followed I learned the following: The non-profit was more about me than God. For practically all my life, I have been working diligently to prove my intelligence to others... and as a stay-at-home mom, that battle was raging in me. The non-profit, while born out of pure love for serving God, became corrupted by my desire to prove that I was worthy... of what... I'm not sure... and I don't think it really matters anymore. Months ago, I literally put the non-profit on a shelf. The door isn't closed, but I won't revisit it until I feel confident that it's what God wants me to do. Even now, it's still difficult to swallow... but it's okay. So, that leaves the following question: If not the non-profit, then what? Well... that answer is easy... and obvious... but also a little difficult to swallow given the circumstances. It's my family. God has made it incredibly clear that my family is my priority right now. That's a really hard one for someone like me because I feel as if I've already given so much of myself to my family... but, truth be told, I have never given myself fully. And this is what God has taught me about my relationship with Him, as well. I have never given myself fully to Him. As long as God and my family are another box I check off at the end of the day, then I will never begin to understand the joy that such relationships can bring to my life.
At the end of the book, Chan asks us a very important question: Is this what I want to be doing when Christ comes back? Whenever I think about this question I picture some kid getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar... getting caught in the act of doing something he wasn't suppose to do (and he knew it, of course)... but the temptation was so great that he did it anyway. From an eternal perspective, I don't want to get caught with my hand in the cookie jar... doing something that I know I shouldn't be doing (whether that's seeking my own glory through establishing a non-profit or choosing to browse the Internet for the umpteenth time instead of spending time with my family.) In fact, just asking myself this question a few times a day has really had a lasting effect on my behavior.
Through all of this,I've learned what it is to truly love God. Have I experienced that "Crazy Love"? Well... not yet, I guess that's part of the continuing journey. But, I have experienced, felt, the peace of Him in the unrelenting storm. God is no longer a box I check off on my daily "To Do" list. I look forward to growing closer to Him... to teaching my children about Him. And I look forward to giving more and growing closer to my husband and children because I know this is where I'm suppose to be. He wants me to know that being a wife and a mother isn't something I must simply endure... but that it's another way to experience his abundant love. That's an adventure I am truly looking forward to taking... God is so incredibly good.