Anger Denatured into Gratitude

A once ridiculing, anxious soul is metamorphosing into unconditional gentleness. Where once was fear now is filled with peace and where once was guilt is now filled with hope.

My mother.

Unfortunately, in comparison to me- the steps I’d thought I’d taken to overcome bitterness and anger are now so clear against her grace filled love. My mom is transforming and I stopped somewhere a long the way. Or maybe I took a pause to clean out some old dusty cupboards of pain.


Being a child with divorced parents isn’t a whole ton of fun. It creates some sort of childhood trauma that manages to covertly infect most neural pathways to your mind and heart. Oh, memories! I sigh- and the purposely forgotten memories! And holidays- what a wonderful time to remember how broken your family is! This is not a rant, I promise. 

Through one recent conversation or another I found myself angry. It was something to do with plans and what dinner was at who’s house and why it was so unfair the kids had to go the other parents instead of coming to some Aunt’s house. Some sort of blame was exchanged…blah, blah, blah. I ended up angry towards my mom and then sort of stopped communicating, and really, what led up to that isn’t the important part, but I was angry and I left angry back to Iowa.

Along the 5 hour drive I meditated long and hard on my anger. At first I didn’t understand why, I just was, you know? So I just let myself be angry and sooner or later a cry for justice was to be found.

“It’s not fair!” I found myself exclaiming. There was a huge injustice done to me with my parents separating: I didn’t ask for it, I couldn’t do anything to stop it, and yet somehow I was in the middle of broken promises and lonely relationships. “What about justice?”

I let myself call out the injustice that had happened. It’s like there’s this imaginary pressure to not be impacted by divorce, like, it happens all the time or it’s not so bad or something. So all along the way of the last 10 years I’m bottling up this anger and sense of injustice inside, wanting to expressing it, but not knowing really what it is that I wanted to express. Yet I was letting it seep out every time my mom asked me when my dad is having thanksgiving or when I’m going over to his house.

Kind of ridiculous if you ask me now. Especially since she’s like this sweet lady who asks so prudently. Then I’m this ravenous wolf who just got punched on a wound.

So here I am in the car, “What about justice?” I say (seemingly to God) Of course, being God, he could almost laugh. Who could have a better understanding of unfair suffering than God? Jesus on the cross, anyone?

He doesn’t though- laugh, I mean. He comforts me by reminding me He knows about the injustice. It’s not fair. It’s not right. It’s not acceptable. He hates divorce! (Malachi 2:16)

Who could have a better understanding of unfair suffering than God?

And then of course, people kept sharing verses and articles on Facebook about unjust suffering and forgiveness…etc….. you know how that happens…

Verses like 1 Peter 2:19-25

For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God.

and 1 Peter 3:9

 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

Genesis 50:19-20

But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

And then I almost felt the Spirit asking me “What kind of justice would you like?”

Well… I don’t know I guess, I thought, it’s not like I want them punished (they believe in Jesus and his forgiveness and are in enough of their own pain) and in all actuality having them back together probably wouldn’t make anything much better either…. I guess I just wanted someone to hear me say it wasn’t fair. 

So I emailed my mom and apologized and helped her understand why I was so angry all the time. She apologized for her part, I apologized for mine and we both agreed to work towards forgiveness. I thanked her profusely for her grace as she is always so kind to me when I am unkind. She doesn’t mind the hits because she loves me so much and that’s pretty amazing.

That was all a month ago. On the drive back home for Thanksgiving today I asked myself what kind of attitude I was going to have this time. I prayed for a gentle one and I realized anything other than that would be a cry for justice. Then I asked myself, “How long will you cry out? How many do you need to hear you say it? Will it ever be enough?”

You’ve said it. It’s been heard. By God, by your mom, and by a lot of others. It’s been taken care of and it’s time to move on now. It’s time to be grateful for what you do have (believing parents, a home, food, people who love you, clothes, a job, income, school, air to breathe) and to be content with the portion God has given you. It’s time to stop looking at your circumstances with a microscope….

It’s time to be thankful. And so I shall!

Happy Thanksgiving! May God help you understand what good He is doing through your unjust suffering and unfortunate circumstances.

“Understanding unjust suffering is about not getting God to change your circumstances but beginning to understand how your circumstances are a part of His divine plan and you responding to that plan.”              Overcoming Unjust Suffering, Living on The Edge

 

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In the pursuit of Joy. Day 4

What is stealing my joy?

I finally found a definition of joy I agreed with from D.A Carson who described joy as being satisfied and finding pleasure in God and what he’s given us. However, he followed up his definition with something that was really impactful for me: we are grateful for the things that give us joy, but when we don’t have joy its because there’s something that God has given us in our lives or something about who is that we are not grateful for.

So why is that so different? Well instead of forcing myself to consider all the things in life I’m grateful for and trying to choose to be happy and joyful by focusing on those things (like Philippians 4:8 though valuable), I instead ask myself the question: What is it that God has given me in my life that I am ungrateful for?

Oh. I see. Now it’s really about the fact that I’m not trusting His plan with that situation in my life. Or whatever it is. It sucks and the great thing about God is that you can tell him that! You can tell him how much pain you feel. And you can tell him how you don’t understand. And you can ask him for the strength to get through it. And it’s quite possible that only He can provide that joy in that time, and so we ask him for joy in the unpleasant circumstances.

Is it possible that God works all things for the good of those who love him? Is it possible God cares truly about me experiencing His utter and complete goodness? I think so. I know so. This I know because berries taste sweet and because a child’s laughter fills my heart and because music connects dots in my soul and these things have nothing to do with whether I have money or was born into a “good” family. There’s non-circumstantial goodness out there waiting to give God the glory. This I know also because God’s good book says not only that God works all things out for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28) or that he desires to give his children good gifts (Matthew 7:11) but that He hears our prayers, forgives our overwhelming sins, fills us with good things from His house, answers us with awesome deeds, is our Savior and the hope of all of the ends of the earth, he formed the entire world including the mountains and the roaring seas, he waters the land and cares for it, he gives us delicious food and all of this causes us to be satisfied and find pleasure in our great wonderful God and even creation itself shouts for joy and sings (Psalm 65).

Until next time.

A Letter to my Mother.

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Kido immediately jumps on my shoulders whenever I come home.

At home in Wisconsin for Spring Break! Feels a little more like winter break though. When I got home, I was happily greeted by my cat and an otherwise empty house. My room was ice cold because its been closed off since I left home last in January and the fridge was surprisingly empty. (These details are important because it leads to me walking aimlessly around the living room for a few minutes)

Then I stumbled upon a letter my mom had stored in a picture frame on our mantle. I remembered writing it, but I hadn’t remembered what it was really about so I took it out. I wanted to share it because I remember God convicting me to write this to show my mom gratitude and to focus on thinking about “what is pure, what is true”: what is good. It was good for my heart to do. Not to boast in my self, but to give God glory because He is the perfecter of our faith and the reconciler of our relationship with Him through Jesus that overflows into our relationships with others. Mother’s Day is coming up in a couple of months, maybe consider writing your mom a letter to tell her how special she is to God and to you regardless of your past experiences! Whatever is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things! (Philippians 4:8)

To my beautiful mom, “Walk beside me and be my friend”-Albert Camas
Love. If I can say anything first, its that I love you! Even in all ways I fail to express it, I do. I’m so glad to call you my mom because I see so much of God’s love through you. You always sacrifice for me and you’re willing to do pretty much anything for me. I really appreciate it and I thank God for you. He guides us on a great journey through life and I’m so glad that we are on that journey together.
The failings and trials along the way: I can’t count them, but only to attest that God is far greater than ourselves and that He can overcome anything. Besides, there are too many things to be grateful for to waste time thinking on the things that are harder to be thankful for. Thanks for always providing for me even when it was hard, thanks for always being there for me, teaching me things, and making me work hard, even when I didn’t want to. I see how hard you work and how you made so much out of so little. I’m proud of you. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without you.
I love my beautiful mom because she taught me how to serve people and how to have joy in life. She continually teaches me through her life that God loves us a lot, has made the greatest sacrifice: himself; and shows me that we can have life and have it abundantly. Though we are far apart, like with God sometimes, she loves me still, unconditionally.
So thank you mom! I want to honor, respect, and serve you that the world may see God’s restoring power and love through our relationship which is always being transformed into something greater than ourselves.
Loving and humbly, Teresa
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” 2/21/13

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My mom and I at the west coast in May 2012

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that is may benefit those who listen….Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Eph 4:29,32)

Carry on in faith AND love! (1 Cor 13:2b)
-Teresa

Pizza and learning to play without the queen.

(This is a long one, but a long time coming! God has done some great work!)

First I think I need to describe my grandfather. Yes. This is a good idea.

He was average height and dark skinned. Polish. I remember him best seeing him growing his giant, tall tomato plants in the garden; always shirtless, his skin was tight but also wrinkly. When he spoke his polish accent shaped every word, it was a low grumbly voice. Inside the house, he would always offer us (the grandkids) gum. My favorite was finding really old Big Red in a drawer because it would snap when you bent it. My grandpa was a hard worker and spent time in a concentration camp as a POW during WWII, but he never talked about it because somethings in life “were best left in the past”. He coined the catchphrase in our family “you can do it like a lion or you can do it like a lamb, but you still gotta do it” and that was the mentality my mom passed on to us kids. My grandpa didn’t have a mother figure in his life, apparently she had died when he was five so his dad raised him and taught him to play chess. When my great grandfather taught my grandpa and his siblings to play, they learned to play without the queen: to teach them that the other players had very important roles and could win the game without her and then also to show them that as they depended on each other (the knights and rookies, pawns and bishops) they would work wonderfully together and if the queen came back into the game, the rest of the pieces knew how to function to their ability and could compliment the queen. This my grandpa passed down to my mother as well, as her mother was diagnosed with delusional schizophrenia and was placed into an institution so my mom too had to learn to play without the queen.

chess-shutterstock

My mom was telling me this story tonight as we sat at a local pizza place (its much too classy to be called a ‘joint’) in my hometown.  I want to share with you an amazing story that unfolds to show God redeeming love and power! Last Thanksgiving break I remember my mom telling me that I couldn’t understand disappointment because I had such an easy life; I remember responding with tears and shouting as I confessed to her that I had been suicidal and stuck in depression for most of my childhood. Before coming back she had blamed me for the riff in her relationship with my dad, words that stabbed far deeper than any knife could and I cried myself to sleep listening to Hold My Heart by Tenth Avenue North praying and waiting for the pain to stop. Coming back to school, surrounded by believers I sought to allow God to change my circumstances and to change my heart. Exodus 20:12 says “Honor your father and mother so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” and Ephesians 6:2-3 quotes Deuteronomy by saying “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” I went to a conference over Christmas break that year on the same topic. I knew regardless of how I felt about it or how much I thought she earned or deserved honor, I was going to honor because of the promise God made if I obeyed. It’s been a roller coaster of humbleness since.

Now that I’ve caught you up on the mess (and you can read plenty of previous posts on the matter) I’d like to tell you where we are now.

My mom and I sat at the restaurant for an hour talking about the magnificent work Jesus has done in our lives and the brokenness it has come through. Both of us. Mainly her. Oh Frabjous Day! Cahloo! Callay! How I chortled in my joy!Better yet, we wept beside one another in a church in my hometown yesterday when singing From The Inside Out by Hillsong. What is the cause for this change?

God is at the end of your rope. A couple times a week I pass a sign outside of a church on the west side of Ames and that’s what its said for the last week. God is at the end of your rope.

I mentioned in my post Lord the Healer and Redeemer that my mom’s boyfriend Jeff was diagnosed with cancer and only had a limited time (3-9 months) left to live. 3-9 months turned out to be three weeks. I received a call one night from my mom that Jeff wouldn’t make it through the night. God put it on my heart to share the gospel with him so I left everything and a beloved sister (my kindred spirit) drove 6 hours with me. In the span of 22 hours, we drove there, met his wife and kids, and paced and prayed for 7 hours (well, my friend slept somewhere). I had no idea what I was doing- but I knew that as the hour grew later (or earlier I should say) my time was coming as his time was ending. 6 am I asked to speak to him alone. His body was frail and almost non existent on the hospital bed. His eyes yellow. He reached out often to grab things that weren’t there, but when I called his attention he would look at me. As I shared I asked if he wanted to accept Jesus as his payment for his sins, but no answer. I left it in God’s hands. 5 hours later I gave him a hug and said goodbye, I whispered into his ear to watch for Jesus and lifted up the rest to God. I left and couldn’t hold in the tears. The sadness was too real. I hugged my mom tightly and we talked of Gods love. My friend and I drove back to Ames. 22 hours. The next morning was a friday and my mom had called to tell me he had passed. It’s been God’s healing work ever since.

I had been praying recently in the last month for my mom, that she would find a church to get plugged into and another believer to come a long side of her. Last week (or so) my mom called me on a Sunday to tell me about her time at church for the 3rd week in a row and how she wanted to make it her highest commitment. No excuses. She just ordered glasses and as soon as they came in she was going to start reading two pages of the Bible everyday. I’ve been sending her messages on CDs about topics I think will help bring healing to her heart and songs about God’s love to bring comfort. She’s been going to church with a woman named Judy, who I was able to lift my hands of praise next to at church. I couldn’t wipe away the tears fast enough.

Its like- in the depths of ALL of this brokenness that just thrives all around me, knitting my family together, God is working powerfully. Theres still more work to do. But if you are encouraged by anything out of this, let it be that God can and will change your life and your family’s life if you seek to obey His words. It may take a long time, but let it be worth it. It makes take hours of tears and heart wrenching pain, but get through it. Keep fighting the good fight of faith. Keep thanking God for the hard stuff even when nothing in you wants to. Look your self in the mirror and say “Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits- who forgives all your sins, and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfied your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:1-5) And don’t let your self forget it.

This thanksgiving I’m thankful for everything above written. Even the messy stuff. It was worth it just to experience the glory of God within my family.

What are you thankful for?