How did that sneak up on me today!? I'm disappointed in myself that today is the first day I have really thought about the Easter season and preparing my heart for it. We haven't been to church as a family in weeks, due to the way we felt we needed to prioritize life in the short term (translation: I simply could not handle anymore sickness, sleepless nights, trips to the pediatrician and anxiety over the health of my kids while dealing with increasing pregnancy challenges!). And although I'm so thankful for our family's general health in the last 2 months, we really miss worshiping as a community with our church body and the kids can't wait to get back to Sunday School.
Anyways, that is how Lent nearly left me in the dust this year.
I spent the quieter parts of the day thinking about how I wanted to engage my heart in the season of Lent as we anticipate Easter. I pondered what I could give up that would daily remind me to move towards the Lord in my sacrifice and increase my intimacy with Him in the process.
The usual suspects came to mind - TV, technology, desserts, things that generally lead to self indulgence, etc. But these fell flat and left me digging for something more meaningful.
It wasn't long before I knew in my heart what the Lord was quietly calling me to sacrifice. I mulled it over this evening and decided that yes, I engage with and have become more than acquaintances with something that has no place in my life whatsoever.
I don't know exactly when its seed was planted or how the roots sank down so deeply and quickly. I am not sure if it has been the 'perfect storm' of challenging circumstances recently, if my pregnancy left me feeling more vulnerable, if the lag time between intensive Bible studies allowed my mind and heart to wander, or if it's all of that and maybe more grouped together... and Satan (oh yes I did just go there!) decided it was the perfect time to make his move.
But I'm going to actively give up fear, and the worrying and planning and scrambling that follows in its wake, and lay it down on the altar before God like the idol it is and has become in my own life. I hate that I ever bowed to it.
This might make perfect sense to a few of you who are reading - I would venture to guess that my young-mother-readers are the quickest to identify with how this can become such a stronghold in a woman's heart.
Fear has controlled my heart and mind (and subsequently my days) in a variety of ways. When Robbie was 2 1/2 weeks old, he projectile vomited for several days before he was diagnosed with Pyloric Stenosis and able to have the corrective surgery required. During a few of his last vomiting episodes in the hospital just prior to his surgery, he choked and Rob and I needed to call nurses into the hospital room to suction him and clear his airway. We were exhausted brand new parents, I hadn't even fully healed from the birth, and our nerves were raw. I didn't realize how that experience would leave its mark on me as a mom.
Fast forward to this past November, when Ellie spiked a 104.5 fever that caused a febrile seizure while I was home alone with the kids. Watching your child stop breathing in your arms and choke, then fall into an unresponsive state is horrific. And although I knew what was happening, and had the clarity of mind to tell myself in the moment not to panic because help was on the way / this happens to lots of little kids / there is little chance of any lasting damage, etc., that experience also left its mark on me.
Then came December and January, and my fears were realized. The kids came down with the stomach flu one at a time, then deep chest colds, then the stomach flu again, then gastrointestinal bugs, then Croup, and for weeks we had hardly a day between illnesses where everyone in our family was healthy. It was exhausting for me, as I was towards the end of the second trimester of this third pregnancy and already operating on limited physical and emotional energy. But something about my children physically vomiting triggered that deep anxiety that I had felt when Robbie was 2 1/2 weeks old and we couldn't get him to stop vomiting... and every time cheeks would get hot and pink and fevers would climb, I ran for the Tylenol and vigilantly stared at the baby monitor through the night, losing sleep over the idea that my child could seize again while I slept and what would happen then?!
Aside from fearing for my children's health, I began to worry that I wasn't a capable mother or able to handle the more challenging situations that we are often faced with as moms. I was so relieved when Rob would come home from work, and dreaded his leaving every morning. What would happen in the hours while he was away from us, and how would I manage without him?
I handled Ellie's second round of the stomach flu poorly while he was in Texas standing up in a dear friend's wedding at the end of January, and it was after that we decided to limit the kids' exposure to illness as much as we could. I was beaten down physically by all the illness and lack of sleep, but to be honest? I was a mess emotionally and my confidence was shot. Oh, and the thought of adding another totally helpless, dependent-on-mom infant to the mix in a few short months was frightening.
Thankfully, February was a month of introspection. It has been a process but I am so thankful for the growth I've experienced and confidence I've regained as I've addressed some of my fears and anxieties. Maybe the pregnancy hormones are leveling off here at the end as well, and the slow thaw of winter into spring is a reminder that better days are ahead. The to-do list is nearly completed for baby #3's arrival, and we are nestled together in our home and slower routine until we become a family of 5 in just 4 weeks or less. We are so excited to meet the newest Livingston and fall in love all over again. It's going to be wonderful.
Here's the thing, though. There will always be dangers and unknowns that threaten me, my husband, my kids, my unborn baby, our simple life, the dreams we have, the plans we might make. I am tempted at every turn to fear the unknown, the what-ifs, and to wonder if I have within me what is necessary to face difficult circumstances.
This is why I will be giving up fear for Lent. It's a daily discipline for me right now, to sacrifice the false sense of control that actually breeds fear. Instead I will pursue God himself, and put my trust in him, choosing to actively believe him every day.
The Bible study I'm doing right now couldn't be more perfect for where I am at spiritually right now and pairs perfectly with my needs. There is a 5-statement pledge of faith that we are to speak out loud repeatedly as we move through the study, and I think it's so timely that these 5 statements are helping to cast out fear in my heart.
1. God is who He says He is.
2. God can do what He says He can do.
3. I am who God says I am.
4. I can do all things through Christ.
5. God's Word is alive and active in me.