What if?

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Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

See that guy? That’s my husband. I followed him home about eighteen years ago and for a while, I split my time between his hometown and mine. But whenever I drove away, I cried. That’s because I hated to leave him and didn’t want us to be separated. But more than that, fear of what next consumed my heart and mind. What if we grew apart while I was away? Suppose circumstances changed and I wasn’t able to come back to him? I was so scared of what the future held, I tried holding him tighter (notice the grip I have on his t-shirt). In fact, because I was so clingy and hugged him so tightly ALL THE TIME, it became a bit of a joke between the family.

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See what I mean? That’s my mother-in-law and they were laughing because she was imitating me. And I laughed, too. Because how could they possibly know the real reason for my clinginess. And in truth, I didn’t even know myself. I simply believed in the power of my arms… that if I clung to Jason tight enough, there was less chance he’d slip away from me. I thought if I kept my hands on him all the time, I wouldn’t lose him. One day, I gave voice to my anxiety. I told Jason my worries. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I do remember his reply. Because he was angry. He said, “What if, Pam? What if?” He fussed about me being upset over something that hadn’t even happened. I was worked up over what might be. Anxious. And fretful. I was dark and moody over a what if that never came to pass.

And so, our story began. First came love. The picture below was taken seventeen years ago just before he proposed to me.

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Then came marriage…

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And here we are eighteen years later… needing another baby carriage!

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And so today, I understand I expended a lot of useless energy fretting over things that never happened. Today, I’m right where I’m supposed to be with the family I’m supposed to have. My cup runneth over. And yet, I find myself doing the same thing all over again. I’ve been anxious. I’ve been worrying. And I have a whole new set of what if’s that set up shop in my brain. Jason recently remarked on what a scary place my mind must actually be. That in reply to something irrational I either said or did. It could have been any of the following…

I lock the basement door at night because it’s beside our bedroom door. Reason being I fear my son will stumble through the house at night and open the basement door instead of walking through our door, which would obviously cause him to tumble to the concrete floor below. And for three months now, I’ve been driving my car to the end of the driveway when it’s time for the bus. And there I sit there with my baby in my arms, tensing up with each passing car. As they whir by, I wonder if this is the one that will lose control and plow right into us. If my son runs down the paved driveway, I cry out, “Slow down or you’ll fall!” If he touches my little girl’s mouth, I cringe and cry out, “Did you wash your hands?” Germs, you know. Of course, I wash my hands about twenty times a day. And let me not go into the details of the time I was convinced – CONVINCED – that my son and I had worms! We didn’t, by the way. And I could go on and on. The list is endless.

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 

So here’s the thing. I just went through this two years ago with my son. I confronted my fears and thought I’d overcome them. And I lay them down anew this past summer. But here I am again facing the same demons. I have to ask myself what’s happened? What’s changed? And it’s so obvious. I had a baby. And she’s fragile. She’s new. And you know… I’m just not a natural mother. I’m not like those women who are so good and easy with their kids. Some women are just gifted that way. Motherhood seems almost effortless on their part… they flow. Me? I’m uptight. Nervous. In fact, the only thing I seem to be a natural at is worrying.

When I first brought Annabelle home, she went through something called cluster-feeding. She ate and ate. She was on my chest for hours at a time. I’m not exaggerating. HOURS. One night I became frantic after one of her cluster feeds because she kept pulling back and arching her back. She just wouldn’t stop crying. Then I remembered skin on skin. I stripped us both down and pulled her tightly to me. I encouraged her to eat, but to no avail. Finally, I woke my husband in a panic. “I think she forgot how to suck!” He calmly took her in his arms and stretched her across the bed, and she quieted. Turns out she didn’t forget how to suck after all. She was just through eating.

Not long after bringing Annabelle home, we realized she spits up after every feeding. This just adds to my fears. She could choke. So I try to keep her upright as long as I can. The worst spitting episode came was when my son gave her a bottle. Because he held it in her mouth, the spit up went up her nose and she did choke. Once she was able to, she cried so. And me, too. An hour later, I cried again when I told my husband. Ever the voice of reason, Jason said she seems okay now. Later, though, after hearing some weird noises coming out of Annabelle, I remembered a dry-drowning article I read. So I sat there and peered at her for hours. Again, I woke my husband in the middle of the night. “She’s having trouble breathing and has little bubbles coming out of her mouth!” I actually thought she was going to dry-drown on her own spit up. Alas, we made it through the night and she was okay. My husband was right after all.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7

Reality? After eighteen years, I still cling. I still fret. I’m still anxious. I worry about things that are out of my control. I’m secure in my marriage, so now I fear losing something else. A million new what if’s have taken over my heart and mind. And it’s absolutely exhausting. I’ve been relying on my feeble arms and my human strength in an attempt to control everything. EVERYTHING. And I imagine the worst. And today, it’s as if I can hear the echo of what my husband said eighteen years ago… “What if, Pam? What if?”

So today I must contemplate what feeds the what if’s of my imagination. What compels me to lock basement doors and hold my breath as I sit at the end of the driveway. And it’s not necessarily an accident or sickness I dread, it’s what could be the end result of those things. Fear of losing the one I love. That’s what it was eighteen years ago, and it’s the same thing today. And so, I worry about it. I think up all kinds of crazy scenarios that might happen, and try to stop them before they do. And I think if I hold on to what’s most important to me, I can control what happens to them. But I can’t do that. No one can.

In light of my lack of control, I have to consider another “What if?” See, a while back I read the question, “If God were real, and He is who He says He is, what then?” It was meant to be a challenge because a lot of us say we believe in God, but do we really? I mean deep down in our soul believe. Because if God is real, and if His word really is truth, what then? The right answer… I would not fear. I would not worry about tomorrow because I know that He is in control. But for the life of me, something won’t let me let go of fear.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18

I love the picture below. It captures all I hold dearest. That’s my family. This is my town. And look at that little angel. For three months now, I’ve been clinging to her. I hold her so tightly in my arms and cover her with kisses. And that’s not a bad thing. But the danger in holding her too tightly is losing my grip on God. And thus, faith is diminished. I’ve not been leaning on those everlasting arms, rather, I’ve been trusting in the human arms that hold my daughter. I’ve been looking to me to keep my family safe, not God. And I know I can’t do that. Deep in my heart I know I can’t control anything. So why do I keep trying?

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Eighteen years ago, Jason said “What if, Pam?” He was the voice of reason. And he was right because the things I feared never came to pass. And in looking at the picture above, I see the worst did not happen. I didn’t lose Jason after all. Instead, God gave me even more than I could have hoped for. The scared young woman I was had no clue what God had in store for me. For us. And so today, I pray I can remember the truth about what if. That most of the time, what if doesn’t even come to pass. That the terrible things I scare myself with are all in my head. And no matter how hard I try, or no matter how hard I cling to someone or something, some circumstances are simply out of my control.

You know, what if could happen. It could. And if it does, I just need to remember the other “what if.” Because what if God is real and He is who He says He is? Well, then… He’ll see me through it. Whatever “if” turns out to be.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

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What choosing life looks like…

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The above is similar to something I saw on Facebook recently. And there was a challenge… repost if you’re against abortion. And I thought about it. But I hesitated. And then I just scrolled on. Because honestly, I wasn’t up for it. See, I’ve been in a funk. My new baby is here and I’ve been pretty busy. Sleep has been interrupted and my hormones are all over the place. ALL OVER THE PLACE. I have crying and laughing episodes within minutes of each other. In fact, this  past weekend I just sat on the couch and cried and cried. Tears streamed as my husband and son sat near me. But they weren’t alarmed. No, there was no cause for real concern because this is just the norm for me. At least for now it is. My son even says, “Mom, you’re so sensitive.” And so, I am. Sensitive. Ultra-sensitive.

You know, there’s no real reason for my funk. On Saturday, after a very trying car ride into town, I tried to use hormones as an excuse. But my husband called me on it. And rightfully so because what in the world do I have to complain about? I have been blessed. Incredibly so.

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See what I mean. Look at who rests in my arms. And gaze upon the boy who sits by my side. They’re my children and the joy they bring is evident upon my face. At least it was that day. Truth is, I’ve strapped on those inward goggles. I’ve been a bit homebound lately, and so, me and my little corner of the world is all I’ve seen. And despite blessings beyond compare, I’ve felt some sadness. Perhaps a bit of post-partum depression. But this morning, I seemed to have woken up. And it seems I am to revisit a subject I prefer to remain closed. But every now and then, He prompts me. And so, here I go again…

Choose life.

Choose life. I’m sure you’ve seen this phrase displayed upon yellow license plates along with children’s cartoon faces. Here, I’ll show you…

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It’s the Pro-Life movement’s cry. Choose life! And though on this plate, the faces are cartoons… in real life, they’re flesh and blood. Real live children. But I won’t enter the debate of when life begins. That’s for another rainy day because in truth, we believe what we believe. Some say life begins at conception while others say a specific number of weeks. Me? I dare say life begins before time began. Life began the moment God thought you into existence. But that’s not the issue I want to probe today. It’s this catchy phrase – choose life – that captures my attention. See, it comes from Deuteronomy 30:19 and the rest of that phrase says, “Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.” And you know, because of my past I can testify to that statement. Because I chose not to. Choose life, that is. Rather, I chose what the world says is okay. And the end result was death. In more ways than one.

Nineteen years ago, I made a choice. I was in another country and felt pretty much alone. And because I decided to do what’s deemed legal, I made another choice. The choice not to research what was going on inside my body. I had no clue what was taking place inside my womb. And so, I chose to remain ignorant. Because ignorance is bliss, right? I’m not sure if I was offered a sonogram or not. If I was, oh, that I had chosen to see. Oh, that I had taken a closer look. But instead, I made an appointment that forever changed my life. The doctor placed his hand on my belly and said, “Go to sleep, Pam…” And so I did. And it seems as if for the past nineteen years, I’ve been dozing on and off. Hitting the snooze button more times than I ought to have. But this morning, God woke me up. He said, “Get up!”

And so, here I am. Getting out of bed. And using what He gave me… my voice. Because it’s my right. Freedom of speech. And because I’ve lived through my choices, I feel I should say what needs to be said about abortion. In a non-condemning and non-self-righteous kind of way. Because I’ve heard it from others folks… those who perhaps haven’t walked through it. Well, sometimes they come across in a way I hope not to. But I walked that way. I know firsthand what it does to a woman. That it brings death and curses with it. And though I’ve come very far with it, rising above the ashes of my past, there’s a bit more to process. A nugget remains buried deep. But for today, I’ll do what I can. I’ll encourage others to go another route. The route that brings blessing. The path of life. May they choose it. For this is what choosing life looks like…

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I was brought to tears this morning. Of course, that’s not surprising. As I said, my hormones are ALL OVER THE PLACE. However, these were tears of joy for a dear friend of mine. Today is a big day as she’s adopting a baby. And while praying for her, and the mother who decided to give her child away to another, I remembered. That poster I chose not to display on my Facebook wall came to mind. And I remembered something else… that November is adoption awareness month. And I saw something beautiful. For there is a selfless woman who’s making the right choice. She decided not to abort her baby, but placed her little girl up for adoption instead. And today, I celebrate the life she chose. And not just a newborn baby’s life, but also my friend’s. For new life has been breathed into her longing heart. It’s what she wanted most… a baby of her own. A little one to call her “Mama.” And so, her dream comes true today. All because a woman made a choice. She chose life. And because she did, both she and her descendants shall live.

One man was there who had been sick for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had already been there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the sick man answered, “I don’t have a man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming, someone goes down ahead of me.” “Get up,” Jesus told him, “pick up your bedroll and walk!” Instantly the man got well, picked up his bedroll, and started to walk. John 5:8-9

This morning, it was as if I awoke from a deep slumber. See, I’ve been in a funk. Tears and hormones and darkness. I’ve been sleeping. But today I hear God anew. He asked me if I want to be well. And I do. Oh, I’m sick alright, but mostly… I’m sick of me. Because I am blessed. Despite terrible choices I made long ago, God has blessed my path. And now, He expects me to get up, pick up my bedroll and walk. Because what’s past is past. And just because I made bad choices a long time ago doesn’t mean I have to dwell there. In the dark. Sleeping. Oh, that doctor may have said go to sleep, but God says wake up. He shows me I can celebrate the other choices I made. The right ones. Their names are Levi and Annabelle. And they make my life beautiful everyday. I just have to be awake to see that.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
     and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.  Isaiah 61:1-3