On the Steps of Calvary

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.
C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity 

I grew up “in the church” as many modern day Christians like to say. My dad was a pastor before I was born, and into my early years of childhood. We moved to Illinois where “he got a real job,” as most of my school peers said. He never stopped sharing his faith with me, and I never stopped asking. My aunt continued to share her testimony with me by bringing me to pioneer girl camp. I sang worship songs. I “accepted Jesus into my heart” at a young age. 

I always knew God was there. I didn’t always know God. I learned the difference  at Calvary. 

I always struggled with my testimony. There was no a-ha! I had no radical conversion. My story seemed less interesting, and what little I had I struggled with whom to credit for my conversion. 

You see, many helped me get here. 

In reality, God changed my heart and I welcomed the change. 

I never thought much about my testimony until I came back to Illinois after 3 years of being away from our home base. 

I was pretty hardened by our sea tour in Hawaii. Deployment caused depression. My body kicked into survival mode with as busy as my husband’s work schedule was and how difficult a time I had juggling our home and family without him (thankfully I have my parents at my side). But the softening came. It didn’t happen at first for me. I got here and I mostly slept a lot. Then I went to the blend and the smell warmed up my insides. Like when you light a fire in a fireplace of a dusty cold room that’s been empty. Funny how smells can bring back old parts of you. Then I went to calvary on sunday, and I stood there looking up at the cross and thought about how much had happened to me and how different I was. Then I got this horrible feeling, like maybe I didn’t belong there anymore. Then Clayton started praying and I felt a little whisper telling me that I’m so very much the same. That I was different, but I hadn’t been spending quite enough time being the same old me. I had been a bit preoccupied with being the mom of 3 kids me.

And there she was, wiggling to be out of the Saran Wrap i had wrapped her in. Trying so desparately to let the feelings happen. This was a place where it was okay to be weak and weary. 

When I was in high school, most of my struggles centered on trying to make Sebastian understand how compatible we are. Of course, it’s a bit more complicated, but that’s the base line introduction. I was in love and he wasn’t and the struggle was so very real to 14-18 year old me. 

Deep inside it was a self love issue. If he couldn’t love me, maybe I shouldn’t. 

That’s where sin creeps in. It wasn’t Sebastian intentionally making me feel that way. I’ve said it before, our feelings are our own. The sooner we take responsibility for them, the sooner we can work with God to change our hearts. 

One day, when we were on good terms, Sebastian brought me to a youth group he had been attending. I met Clayton.

Clayton introduced me to having a relationship with God. Knowing Him instead of knowing of Him. He helped me hatch from my egg, as C.S. Lewis said.

Other people had told me this before, but God spoke to me there, at that moment. 

There I learned that being a Christian was having a relationship. Just like all relationships, you have to invest time and energy and love into them. 

I figured out how to pray, I struggled through devotions and making time for God. 

It’s been about 7 years and I still can’t get a rhythm. Praying in public feels wrong to me, it’s a privacy thing that I can’t seem to shake. Making time for devotionals with 3 kids doesn’t happen daily. If I told you it did it would be a big fat lie. 

Most importantly, I still struggle with the thought that God could ever have the time and energy to love little old me. To hear me when I struggle. I doubt him. And that doubt bleeds into my parenting. I see it. I watch it happen. I know it has to stop and I need to change again.

But if I told you my testimony as the happy story of always knowing of and eventually knowing him, but I failed to include my relationship with him now, well, it wouldn’t be real. 

My relationship with God is real. It’s raw. And I’m working on it. And a testimony isn’t just past tense. It’s present. And future. When you recognize that He is with you, and was and always will be, that’s where it all makes sense. You’ve been writing your testimony all this time, and you’re writing it every day, still.

What is important to me is sharing this story. Letting others know that there doesn’t have to be a firework display and a big emotional finding of God. There can be. But your story, your relationship with God isn’t any less real because it was gradual. 

On the steps of Calvary God made me whole. I walked up and down them many times and before I knew it, my soul was changed and my heart hungry for him always. 

  

No Such Thing as Normal

Today, I went to see my lovely midwife. She checked on our 4th baby before I fly home on Wednesday. While I was there, I decided it was the perfect day to take my Gestational Diabetes test.

For those that are unfamiliar with this test, it takes about an hour of your life. You drink a nasty drink, then wait around for an hour so they can take your blood.

Well, during this hour I walked about the hospital grounds some. In a secluded little walk path hidden by some bushes I heard a baby crying. A new baby. You can always tell because their cries are so soft and small.

Nosy me, with three kids three and under and a fourth due in May, it’s clear I love babies, I walked toward the sound. The bushes cleared a bit and there I saw a new mom, holding a screaming baby. She was sobbing. Big shoulder shifting tears.

I suppose some people would have turned around and given her privacy. But if I was her, I would only hope that someone would come to me.

“Do you want me to try and hold the baby for you?”

She looked up at me, a bit shocked as she didn’t hear me coming I assume.

“She won’t stop crying. I can’t get her to eat and her diaper is dry and she won’t stop crying.”

“That’s okay, I have 3 at home. I don’t mind a fussy baby. I’ll sit right next to you and when you feel up to trying with her again I’ll see if I can help?”

She nodded with her lip a little quivering.

We got to talking. The baby, Kate, was born ten days ago. The mom had delivered her here at this hospital. I asked how her delivery was, to which she replied, “complicated.”

Not wanting to press the issue, I swayed a bit with little Kate who was starting to quiet down.

“She hasn’t met her dad.”

I met the mother’s eyes and never have I ever seen that sadness. You see, at a civilian hospital, you would assume this to be a single mother, a dad not in the picture. Because I go to an Army hospital, the reason the father would not be here, well, the possibilities are endless.

“He’s at sea. They were supposed to be back. She came early. He’s coming late.”

I sat down next to her. “I’m so sorry. I cannot imagine what you’re going through right now.”

“It’s normal, right? That’s what everyone keeps telling me.”

I sat for a minute and looked at this poor young mother. Completely alone. Here, on an island, far away from any family, if she has any. And others’ advice to her is to tell her what she is going through is normal.

“No. No it’s not normal. How is that supposed to make you feel when you see other new babies with both parents? When other mothers tell you their husbands were at all of their children’s births. Why you? I don’t think it’s fair to say that anything about our lives is normal. How you’re feeling right now is how you should be feeling. What you’ve been through isn’t right and wasn’t expected. Life doesn’t go as planned for anyone, but telling you your circumstance is normal is never going to help you cope with the traumatic situation you’ve been through.”

When you see someone struggling, hear them. Don’t tell them to suck it up and get used to it. This lifestyle is hard. We don’t get to make plans and have them work out very often, but we try our hardest to get whole families at births of babies.

She started to cry again, and I squeezed her hand while I bounced her baby with the other arm.

She doesn’t know me. We didn’t exchange names. When she calmed down, I helped her settle the baby and make sure she got her latched.

I stood up to leave and she thanked me. I replied, “thank you. I love holding new babies. I’m sure your husband can’t wait to see her. Just remember when you’re feeling overwhelmed that babies can feel these feelings in us and it overwhelms them too. Try to calm your nerves when you’re trying to get her to sleep or eat. I know that sounds impossible, but if you ever need help, I know there are a lot of people in this world who can help you. They’ll find you.”

I told her about a Facebook group we have on island, Breastfeeders of Oahu. She smiled and said she’d look for it today. So hopefully I see her again, although I don’t have to.

She taught me a lot about carefully choosing words today. Truly listening to someone’s struggles. Not comparing or writing them off.

You can’t always see a person’s battle. All the more reason to assume it is far more dire than they make it out to be.

Military spouses have a hard cut in particular. Have compassion on them and realize the sacrifices they have to go through. We don’t always “know what we signed up for” so don’t try using that line to make it better. Just like you can have bad days, so can we. I know it’s a hard life for those who haven’t experienced it to comprehend, but I don’t know that I’ve ever really *needed* someone to understand how hard it is. I just don’t want to hear that it’s normal.

 

There is no such thing as normal.