Friday, November 1, 2013

I wrote this mostly for me, but you can read it, too.

One of the hardest parts of being a mother to young children has proven {at least for me} to be illness. Some seasons I feel like my kids are virus magnets, picking up everything that is possibly going around. Two winters ago, it felt like all 3 kids were constantly sick. We went through kleenex, beach towels, Clorox spray and wipes, tylenol and our deductible like it was our job. It frayed my nerves and stirred up great anxiety in my heart, to the point that in the aftermath of all the illness, I was left in the Spring feeling totally incompetent to care for our growing family well. I didn't see how my faith could really play a part in the way I manage our children when they are sick, or affect the way I feel about my situation, myself, and The Lord as I walk through it. 

God is so patient with me because often I am slow to learn. I am so thankful that He doesn't give up on me, and that He uses everything in my life to steer me on the path He has laid out for me. Now that our kids are 5 1/2, 4 and 2 1/2 (SO OLD! haha), I feel like I am able to look back at that season of illness in our family's life with a little more wisdom. Several moments in my life since then have shaped and greatly encouraged my perspective for dealing with sick kids. And what I am currently studying is building my faith up so much in this area, I can't help but revisit that hard winter in my mind and bring it all under God's authority.

Matthew 10:29-31
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father... So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." 

In his book "Trusting God", Jerry Bridges says:
"According to Jesus, God does exercise His sovereignty in very minute events - even the life and death of an almost worthless sparrow. And Jesus' whole point is: If God so exercises His sovereignty in regard to sparrows, most certainly He will exercise it in regard to His children. While it is certainly true that God's love for us does not protect us from pain and sorrow, it is also true that all occasions of pain and sorrow are under the absolute control of God."

Bridges defines God's providence as "...His constant care for and His absolute rule over all His creation for His own glory and the good of His people. ...note the absolute terms: constant care, absolute rule, all creation. Nothing, not even the smallest virus, escapes His care and control. But, note also, the twofold objective of God's providence: His own glory and the good of His people. These two objectives are never antithetical; they are always in harmony with each other."

Bridges points out that many of us deal with suffering and pain by attributing goodness to God, but limiting Him in His sovereignty in order to make sense of the events of our lives. He warns us against this, saying: "...we are to establish our beliefs by the Bible, not by our experiences. The Bible leaves us no doubt: God is never frustrated. "No one can hold back his hand or say to him: 'What have you done?" (Daniel 4:35). It is true that God is involved in an invisible war with Satan and that the lives of God's people often are battlegrounds, as seen in the life of Job. But even then Satan must get permission to touch God's people (see Job 1:12, 2:6 and Luke 22:31-32). Even in this invisible war, God is still sovereign."

I am working hard now to do what I wish I had done before I had entered that phase of my life that challenged me so much: building a very strong, specific foundation for how I live out the small minutes of my life based on what God's Word says. I've had years of Christian Education, hours of Bible classes and numerous small groups within Bible study programs, and yet I'm only just now realizing how all that I've learned and experienced has equipped me to walk through hard things on a very practical level. It takes an intentionality and focus that I've previously not had. It takes looking at an individual experience, situation, or trial and holding it up to Scripture, asking The Lord to show me how He wants me to walk, and what the Truth is about Him as it relates to my circumstance.

I've been so arrogant to think that I know how to live this life with Christ, managing it largely on my own (oh the irony). Relying more on my own wit, strength, knowledge, resources, energy, and ability than on God Himself and His Word. And yet, even these nitty gritty everyday life experiences and situations, like caring for a sick toddler or sending a preschooler into the OR for surgery... these are opportunities to remember Who is in control, Who deserves the praise, and Who is to be trusted in very practical ways.

I would do it all so differently if I could go back and take another crack at it. That's ok, though. I have today. And probably tomorrow, and possibly many more opportunities to put these learned lessons into practice. 

When I attended the Women of Faith conference this past August, one of the speakers shared a personal story about a time her infants were very sick with fevers and illness. She and her husband were very poor - no money for Tylenol or doctor's visits. And she was so afraid, but she paced the hallway of their home, and did the only thing she knew to do. She cried out to God to heal her babies. And then she sang praises to God, even as her children suffered and she was rendered 'helpless' as their mother. She sang Scripture right back to The Lord, affirming who He is and the power He holds. She cried out to Him to help her because of who she knew Him to be, because of His Word. 

The title of her talk at that conference was something along the lines of "An Aggressive Praise". It moved me. I have never had a mind so clear and a trust so firm in The Lord that my first thought, when my children are suddenly sick or suffering, is to sing Him praises and thank Him for who He is. To call out to Him because of Who His Word says that He is. Sure, I pray over my kids and ask God to heal them, but I'm too busy running around getting cool washcloths and tylenol for fevers, preparing the next sick bed with bucket nearby, leaving messages for the doctor on call, or taking my children to the ER to actually stop, be still, and demonstrate my absolute trust in Who God my Father is by singing His praises with a quiet, focused heart. All of those practical things are sometimes necessary parts of taking care of a sick child, but I'm so sorry to look back and see that what was missing was a confession of God's providence, His sovereign control over every minute aspect of our lives and an unwavering faith and trust in Him as events play out that are uncomfortable and scary. I worried, panicked, and sprang into action out of my own {limited} strength. 

I want to choose differently from here on out.
I want to choose absolute trust and faith in God.
I want to choose to praise Him when I am faced with more than I can handle on my own.
When I'm afraid, outmatched, and feeling incompetent, I want to remember the sparrow.
I want to sing songs over feverish babes about the power and holiness of God.
I want wisdom from above when I am making decisions about how to best care for my family, in nights sickness but also in days of health.
I want every aspect of my life to be faith building because I live knowing that it is all under His authority.

I want my kids to see that my faith and trust in God is very real, and I want to pass that on to them.

Last weekend my littlest was very sick with croup. It was day 3, and the illness was peaking. Her coughing fits were scary, as they always are with croup. But even as she slept for about an hour at a time between coughing fits, her breathing was raspy and concerning. 

I laid with her in our bed that night, keeping a watchful eye over her as she suffered. My first instinct, especially with breathing issues, is always to take my kids to the ER. I feel helpless and stupid to pretend to know how severe their illness is, not being able to actually see inside their bodies or have a medical background and experiences with many forms of illness. And one of my greatest fears is that my children will suffer at the hand of my care, or worse, because of my neglect to care appropriately for them. For this reason, I always overcompensate.

This time, though, The Lord reminded me of all that He has been teaching me, and He calmed my spirit enough to wait. I prayed over her feverish body, and exercised faith and trust in my God who made her and knows her more intimately than even the best doctor could. I asked Him for wisdom to know if and when to take her to be seen, and fought back familiar feelings of incompetence. I repeated back to God that He could heal her, He could prompt me to have her seen, He is with me and He loves us. 

I did all the little things that a mother does to alleviate the symptoms of croup.
I also made the hard choice to trust at the same time; trust that God was in control of the virus in her body, trust that He was in control of the outcome of the illness, and trust that He was watching over us with love.

For maybe the first time, my faith was strengthened by my child's illness instead of shaken by it.

Baby steps.


kacey said...

upon reading your IG teaser, i BOOKED it up to my computer to sit and read your words. thank you for sharing. thank you for encouraging my faith and growth by living out your own. you are as gifted of a writer as has ever been. love you.

Meg said...

Ashley you have such a tender heart. Thank you for sharing it today. I totally get that weight of responsibility that comes with mothering sick children. Your words reminded me of Ann Voskamp's - I'm in the middle of One Thousand Gifts - the first reaction in midst of difficulties is to THANK our God. Blessings to you today, as you have been to me.

Wear Share said...

I've always thought you had a calmness towards mothering. I love your blog. I learn so much.