The beauty in the pain

“I’m just sad.”  said the little voice in the backseat.
“What makes you sad sweet girl?” 
“I’m sad about the thorns.  Why did they put thorns on him?”

It was almost a week past that Good Friday yet she was still questioning the thorns. She just can’t wrap her 3-year-old mind around a crown of thorns.

In all my theological awareness I fumbled to answer her question.  “It was all part of the plan…. I don’t understand why there were thorns, but I know it was part of God’s plan.”

“Well, that was a bad choice.” 

I hear you.  I don’t disagree with you.  We might not ever understand the sovereignty of God, but we can trust that his plan – that Larger Story – is good.  After that crown of thorns, the cross, and the grave, we see the beauty of the resurrection, life, and glory.

But this innocent three-year-old is sitting in the pain of the thorns.

I’m not like that.  I’ve never been like that.  As a matter of fact, I have spent my whole life the majority of my life trying to avoid pain – at all costs.  I never sat and questioned the pain of the cross or the thorns… I pretty much skip over Friday and jump to celebrating Sunday.  Can you truly celebrate the restoration without embracing the pain?

The past three years have been the most pain-filled years I can remember.  And as I near my 35th I am beginning to see the beauty of pain.  As a young child, I realized I didn’t want to have children because it seemed painful and hard.  As a young adult, I thought my younger self was wise beyond her years.  🙂  Then God began to call us into this place that forced us to face pain, and some days it feels as though we are swimming in the uncertainty of it all.

Y’all, we have some of the best times.  Our lives are full of laughter, cuteness, pink and purple.  Our garage looks like the Frozen movie exploded.  We play hard, we laugh hard, we love hard. We can’t go anywhere without drawing attention to our circus. But some days it’s just hard to even walk outside.  Some days I feel the need to protect the world from the pain we carry and every day I wish I could protect my girls from the pain that follows them.  And just like a 3 yr old I sit and ask,

“Why must life have thorns?  Where were you when [that] happened?  Why must they bear the scars of pain that I can’t even imagine?” 

I live with a keen awareness that in the lives of my girls, I am Option B.  I shared with another adoptive mom last week, through my own tears, I know that I am not the first choice….you might call me God’s back-up plan.  And truthfully, I’m not even sure if I was option B, C, D or even E….  (not that it really matters).  As much as many of us wish we could undo the pain of option A, I get to choose how I live out option B.  I do not take lightly the inspiration found in Sheryl Sandberg’s story of grief:

“Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the $#!% out of Option B.”

Recently I wrote about The tears of the broken and a hard season that we seem to be wandering through.  I wish I could say everything eased after that post, but it was almost as if the game went into overtime.  One evening after navigating an epic meltdown that left me trying to find my balance again, I sensed the Lord speaking, do not lose heart.  In the weeks of elevated emotions, tantrums that were sucking life from me and leaving our family reeling, I was tempted to shut-down – avoid the pain.

But that’s not what I am called to.  When I gain perspective of what is at stake in my life and the life of our girls…. the healing I long for them to know… the peace I long for us to experience as a family… I remember that invitation to play my part in Option B.  I will not lose heart.

I don’t pretend to understand the pain, or why God in his goodness still allows us to experience it.  Pain comes in all shapes and sizes.  Your pain is likely very different than ours –  or it may be somewhat the same – either way, I hope you find courage in the midst of it.

A wise woman recently spoke at our church and her words struck me deeply, “sometimes you have to feel the pain in order to heal the pain.”  This reminds me that it will be worth it…  these hard days will one day bear fruits of life, love and hopefully some functioning adults.  In the meantime… if you see us crying, screaming, or pulled over on the side of the road…. say a little prayer… our thorns are showing 😉

(In case you’re interested in hearing Lysa Terkeurst’s sharing on pain and disappointment, click here.
I’ve also ordered Sheryl Sandberg’s book Option B and look forward to reading stories of others that have faced adversity and pain, and lived to tell about it.)


The tears of the broken

There are times that I feel things so strongly, the only way around it is to write.  It’s like the release button for me… it allows me to identify, sort through and in many ways gives me space to heal.

We’ve been walking a broken road lately…. at times it feels as though bodies are lying around like collateral damage – but that isn’t true.  We’re still standing, maybe limping, but surviving none-the-less.

I find myself searching for words of hope, songs that give voice to the feelings deep within me – anything that can bring relief to all that swirls around me.  Hope to replace feelings of hopelessness.  Joy to replace the pain of brokenness.  Comfort to soothe the sting of loss.  Laughter to slow the tears.

I feel deeply.

But I didn’t always.  I didn’t allow myself to feel the pain of brokenness – mine or others’.  I avoided, stuffed, covered and smothered because that is much easier than feeling.  If I look back on the last 7 years of my life I would have to say the biggest change of all is that I now feel… and I’m learning not to apologize for it.

I am finding it’s in that place of feeling that God draws near.

We have walked through a challenging month.  I’m not sure I’ll ever understand what triggers these seasons.  Lord knows if I can put my finger on it I’ll do everything in my power to avoid it…. but I may never know.  As adoptive parents, we hear a lot about “triggers” which are what we refer to as the moment just before the emotional bomb goes off.  Trace back your steps, your words, your actions… what just happened before everything blew up?

Some things are easy to pick-up on.   Fireworks sound like gunshots.  Medicine looks like drugs.  Old names remind of an old life. Old faces stir painful memories.  Structure, routine, consistency and fun times are our focus – building new tracks for the brain – this is my motivation every day.  Healing – our ultimate goal.  Redemption of this story – the longing of my heart.

One step forward, two steps back.  Two steps forward, one step back.  Then he sends gentle reminders of how far we have really come…. and the cloud of despair begins to lift.  Sweet words of a song:

It’s the dawn of a new day – You’ve painted for me
Colors exploding – telling our story

I’m waking up…

I can feel the rising of the sun
Mercy sings me the promise of your love
And I’m reminded how far we’ve come
You’re the One my heart is beating for

– Morning Song by Steffany Gretzinger

Perspective.  We have come so far.  Take a deep breath and remember – we’re moving forward.  His promise is not that it will be easy; but that we will never walk alone.

And on those days I don’t understand, I will choose to believe.  He is good.  He is faithful.  We have hope.  Love will win.

I spend a lot of my life working hard to hold everything together.  I’m aware of my weaknesses, and I try desperately to keep them shored up. I’m gaining freedom from the pressure to keep it all together…. recognizing the lie I most often hear is that I will never be enough.  There’s too much pain, we’re too much, it will always fall on me…    But then there are tender reminders that I do not walk this path alone.

I didn’t see it coming, that perfect storm of events and the mother of all bombs.  Perfect timing, work deadline, special missions, no perceived margin – but God saw us.  And as I sat in a puddle of tears that were not just my own I could choose to believe in his goodness.

He knew I needed that sweet friend with more years of motherhood under her belt to invest some time in me with ideas of quiet times, stillness, and hope for my girls.  Or the very same week another friend reaching out, can I stop by – bring you dinner?  Something in me resists help, but at the same time, everything in me longs for help.  I have to surrender and let others in.

Even in my messiness  … or should I say especially in my messiness.

The next day I stopped and bought myself flowers.  I choose to believe that beauty will come out of brokenness.  Suffering, crucifixion, and death will bring resurrection, life, and glory.

I’m not far enough in to know how this story will play out but I’ve seen enough to believe redemption is coming.

This weight that feels overwhelming, the pain of brokenness, the words that pierced my heart and made me question everything – this isn’t where I will stay.  He is no stranger to this pain.  I almost hear his still small voice saying, I know how you feel and trust me, it will be worth it.

So friend, find hope… you are not alone in your pain, in your loss or in the brokenness of this place.  When all hope seems lost, when darkness falls… let us not forget, Sunday is coming.