WOW! So it’s 2016 already?!

That means it’s going on 11 years since I started my motherhood journey. And this blog has seen me through the majority of it! I have grown and learned so much over the past decade. It’s been quite a ride. I look back on earlier posts and remember those days when the kids were little, and I was barely hanging on. Lots of good and happy moments…but I know that the girl I was back then didn’t really know who she was yet. I didn’t know what it meant to be a mom and still be ME. I didn’t know what it meant to be a mom, period. Most of the journey to figure it out was slow and the change was unnoticeable. But there were also some major milestones along the way that seemed to launch me right into a new chapter almost overnight. Like when I discovered that being a mom didn’t have to be the ONLY thing to define me.  And that I could still have big dreams and think outside the box…and that doing so might not be to the detriment of my children’s well-being, but actually a precursor to it. I wrote about that season HERE…I was never ever the same kind of mom after that. And I’m so grateful.

I also learned that sometimes big dreams start very small…and that extraordinary could be found in the ordinary. And it’s funny, after I gave myself permission to fly I realized that I was pretty happy right where I was. The whole cage looked a lot different with the doors flung open. It wasn’t a cage at all. And this had been the crux of most of my issue. I had felt trapped and suffocated even though the sunlight and oxygen were pouring in. I just couldn’t see it before. That was the season where I fully accepted my life as a gift. A speaker once said “All of life is gratuity”…and that phrase has never left me.  I finally saw it that way. There were plenty of things that didn’t feel like gifts. My marriage was struggling, my kids were exhausting, I was battling depression. But I found so much hope and peace in the midst of it. I still look back on that season as one of the most joy-filled times in my life. Because it was WELL WITH MY SOUL.

And God did eventually bring healing and restoration to my marriage and my emotional state. I found my stride as a mother. Circumstances that I had learned to embrace eventually DID change for the better, and life got really good. We experienced an enormous time of sheer undeserved blessing. There were many “new” experiences…a new home, a new marriage, a new job for my husband. And eventually, a new baby :)

But right when I was getting my bearings and feeling like I had gotten things figure out, I hit a wall in my spiritual life. It’s funny how crisis brings you to your knees and sometimes blessings make you flee. I was so used to living in crisis and desperation in many ways that when the hardships lifted, I lost my footing spiritually. God suddenly felt far away. He was always who I had run to in my heartache or despair. But now, my heart wasn’t aching, and my heart wasn’t despairing…and I wasn’t quite sure how to connect with Him in this place. Hence, this next chapter would usher in my first Crisis of Faith.

Suddenly, in the midst of blessing, I had the luxury to question things I had never the desire, nor the time, to question before. When you’re desperate, you don’t spend a lot of time examining the life preserver thrown at you, you just grab it. I just knew I was drowning in the middle of a storm, and the life preserver saved me. Over and over again. That’s all I really needed to know. But from the comfort of a big happy boat,  I found myself analyzing things in a way I never previously had. I don’t know that this is good or bad. I spent a ton of time trying to figure out how I got there. I don’t know if I will ever know. But I honestly loathed it. It’s funny how even during the harder seasons of life, I felt so much peace…and now, here when I had been given everything I had ever dreamed of…I felt restless…lost….like my foundation was missing. I know it sounds crazy but I almost MISSED the crisis. Because I wouldn’t trade that inner peace for ANYTHING, not even perfect outside circumstances.

But I was stuck in that season for a while. And when I realized it wasn’t going to just “go away”, I  had to embrace it as yet another part of my life in need of acceptance. Maybe I’d never feel as close to God as I had in those darker times. What then? Would I question His existence simply because I couldn’t “feel” Him anymore? I had to do a lot of soul searching. What was my faith really all about? What was I relying on to be sure what I believed? In some ways, I think I always questioned these things…I just finally had the time to seek out better answers. I read about what Mother Theresa described as her dark night of the soul. She says, “I am told God lives in me — and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul,” and  “I want God with all the power of my soul — and yet between us there is terrible separation” and “I feel just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing.”

Now I’m no Mother Theresa, but I could so relate to those feelings!  And if the saintliest woman of all time could feel that way sometimes, then surely I was bound to. It brought me great comfort. So eventually I learned to live with it. I did a lot of reading, praying, sharing with friends. I freaked some of them out…some thought my faith was too unshakable to be in this place of doubt and questioning. I was just as surprised as they were. It was humbling and scary . The same speaker who once said “all of life is gratuity” also said “Be careful if you ever catch yourself saying ‘I don’t think that could happen to me’…because chances are it will happen to you. I never doubted my ability to fail in a thousand and one different ways, but I always thought my faith was the one thing that was rock solid. The thing I’d always have that couldn’t be shaken. After everything I had experienced, how could I POSSIBLY doubt??

But I had to learn (and am still learning) that JESUS is the only thing I’ll ever have. And Jesus is not the same thing as my faith in Jesus. Oddly, I was putting too much faith in my faith…and not enough in HIM. This is a confusing and small difference but I can only describe it as transferring my confidence from myself and my ability to believe or not believe to JESUS. I’d done that very easily in the harder seasons…this time it had to be more of a conscious choice. And it was much harder.

In total this season has lasted about 3 years. And while it was a great season of blessing, it was very tough spiritually. But I am so grateful for the ways my friends spoke into my life. Even if I lost confidence, they never did. When I said I was struggling to believe God’s love for me, one of my dear friends said “He loves you so much…and if you can’t see that right now, it’s ok. I believe it for you”. Another time when I was feeling guilty that perhaps I was in this mess because I had somehow taken a wrong turn, a friend said, “This isn’t about what YOU are doing…It’s about what HE’s doing…He’s expanding your capacity to love. And so for a while, as you expand, you might feel emptier…but hang in there, because He’s about to fill it up”. I’m so grateful for these friends and countless others who patiently watched me flail but never for a moment doubted that I would come out the other side.

And that brings me to present day. While I wouldn’t say I’m completely out of this last chapter, I think I’m standing on the precipice of the next one. I definitely feel like I’ve expanded. This crisis of faith has opened a whole world up to me and awoken me to parts of myself that I can now see were always there. The questioner and the doubter has ALWAYS been me. I think I discovered that even in this chapter, what felt like losing myself was really finding myself. Once again, I see that the cage doors are wide open and my world has been expanding, not shrinking. What I thought was regression was progression. That’s so like Jesus…the way up is ALWAYS down first! I don’t think my faith will ever be the same as it was before. It’s more complex now. I have a deeper grasp for WHY I believe what I believe. And I have a brand new passion for a world that never existed to me before. The world of faith and doubt is one I’m intimately acquainted with now…and perhaps I am more useful to those who find themselves there than I would have been had I never experienced all of this. I have greater compassion for those, like the man in Mark, who say “I believe, help me in my unbelief”. Or for the doubting Thomas…who needed to TOUCH the physical scars on Jesus’ hands in order to trust. If that’s you, I totally get you now.

So this next season I’m entering into makes sense. It feels like a culmination of the past 10 years…as though everything I have been through was leading me to this place. This next chapter will still be about me being a mother and raising my babies…but I’m also going to continue my education. I am nervously excited to start classes online to complete my Master’s Degree in Apologetics from Houston Baptist University. I have been praying about this for almost a year and I really think it’s where I am meant to go. Everything I have gone through…dreaming big dreams, expanding my capacity, questioning my faith…it all has prepared me so perfectly for this new place. I am scared to death, but I am so, so excited. The program is heavily centered on writing so I will finally invest some time into actually WRITING rather than rambling :) And I will learn how to put my passions onto paper…how to articulate all of things that are spinning around in my head, especially after these last three years of soul searching. I am SO grateful for a husband and friends and family who all support me in this. I am so grateful for a life that has been shaped by a God who sees further down the road than I do. And I am so grateful for a chance to take a leap of faith and see where it lands me. I didn’t have this on my radar AT ALL, but I’m saying yes. I’m learning to accept the gifts as they come, with open hands and a sense of wonder…and gratitude. Because if there is one thing I’ve learned it is that all of life really IS gratuity.

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4 Responses to “2016: Where I’ve been and Where I’m going”

  • I AM SO EXCITED FOR YOU! When Christianity Today ran Andrea Dilley’s piece about women in apologetics, I remember you mentioning your interest in this specific program. You’ll be an amazing asset in your virtual classrooms. I’ll be watching your journey from here, and cheering you on.

  • Motherhood Confessions:

    Thanks so much, Michelle. Yes I believe my exact response to that article was “I have found my people”. It’s been chasing me down ever since!

  • Dad:

    I am so glad you’re setting sail on this course. You are blessed with a talent for writing and you never “ramble”! I am not only a proud father, but also a huge fan! We need you in this field…. you WILL make a difference.

  • Motherhood Confessions:

    Thanks Dad!

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