Sunday, September 30, 2012

purposeful suffering

Suffering is a topic that I don't blog about often, yet recently it has been my constant companion.

I have just read Ann Voskamps' Because We All Have These Days When We're Just Hanging on by a String. I have just passed through a time of pain, of soul-searching and sadness. I dug deep in the Word, the life-giving Logos from my Father. I meditated on His promises and lifted my eyes from the very-present trouble in my life onto the hope that He provides believers. For if I am to believe, I must trust. Ann says about a friend:
"She knows there's no lone victors and every conqueror always has a team, so she reaches out to me last week. Tells me with she’s on the front lines and the negative thoughts are shelling her hard and she’s trying to hold the enemy back with the Word because the only way to ever gain ground is to get deeper into God."
I can identify with this sentiment. I have reached out to my sister Tricia to help me, to pray for me and to hold me up. It does me a world of good to know that she has my spiritual back. And my God-fearing Mama's prayers as well.

The pressure and pain of my life center around my life and family:
  • the pain of watching someone I love disobey the Lord, and my knowledge of the ongoing curse of consequences
  • the pain of having a beloved family member cut off by divorce
  • the pain of a brother not walking with God, purposely running away
  • the pain of not having any help with household repairs and remodeling
  • the pain of daily existence with overwhelming stress
  • the pain of feeling inadequate
  • the pain of Tricia's debilitating MS
  • the pain of Mom's elderliness and frailty
  • the pain of my unmarried state
  • the pain of the depraved state of our culture
  • the pain of feeling I am shouldering my burdens alone
Tricia and I were speaking the other day about being childless. I think that even if I never birth children of my own, I have had spiritual children to pass through my life at different times for over 20 years now, children and young people whom I have invested in, mentored, discipled, and loved. In my finite human mind, they do not seem enough. But if they are all that I will ever have, then our omniscient God deems them enough.

Psalm 25:18 says, "Look on my affliction and my pain and forgive all my sins." I have said this. I recognize His wisdom. I know that my pain is nothing compared to what Jesus in His earthly life and the saints have suffered, so I try to keep what I am going through in perspective. Yet, "Jesus endured the suffering of the cross because of the joy that was set before Him" (Hebrews 12:2). So I MUST look forward to the hope and joy of the end results of it all in my spiritual life.

"Thy Word is a lamp to my feet., and a light unto my path."
Shedding light in my darkness and discouragement
Shedding light on my sins and fears
Shedding light on the truth and real-ness of God in times of pain and need

I am gaining ground and getting deeper.
I want to be Cross-eyed, to be able to understand the purposeful suffering I endure.
I still expect miracles and showdowns.

And God will win in the end!


Before September is properly passed, I want to record my favorite month of the year here. This September found my dependence on the Lord depended. In general, I do not become overwhelmed easily. But the stressors of this month, along with the passing of another birthday, found my spirit sagging close to depression. Thankfully, the Lord heard my cries for help and has delivered me. I echo St. Augustine's thoughts:
"Sometimes we do not merit seeing God in a difficult occasion, because we have not cultivated grace in our inner man. We have not sought God in order to grow in grace. That is to say, we do not merit the honor of being set by God in difficult circumstances- situations in which He wants to be made known- because we have not grown in our ability to see Him in our inner man." -St. Augustine, in On Seeing God

In my uni studies, I have studied recently about "Sabbatical living," a concept largely lost on Western culture, but not obscure to me. Since I was a child, we have observed a weekly rest day, free from the demands of life and the busyness of work. As of late, I have determined that I need to take it more seriously, especially since I have been relegating household chores and housework to this day. I reason that I have no other day to get it accomplished, but I have been robbing myself of resting and replenishing. Hense my stress levels pushing me to depression.

Several hours of meditation and memorizing Scripture (I am curently pegging away at Psalm 91), prayer, and reading meaningful books do wonders to my spirit and soul.

I do not realize that when I neglect it, my spirit starts to wither, and I try to re-coup its loss by being busier than I need to be. My heavier burdens are family duties, spiritual burden of family members who purposely live in opposition to the Lord, household needs that are not met adequately, repairs and remodels that additional money and hard-working men are needed for, future unknowns, the pressure of uni classes added to my already high-octane life...these are my issues.

I have missed a wedding this month. I found out that the groom, who I know, has been sinning against God and his wife, who I do not know. It pains me to see him sully her life with his, so I could not, in clear conscience before God, witness those vows.

I have celebrated new life at a baby shower for a former student and secretary (Sarah), who looks forward to welcoming a precious baby girl (Sophia) into her family. I wanted to get her something really nice, something to treasure and keep, so I finally settled on the Spring Portrait Huggable Huggums Madame Alexander baby doll at Let's Play.

I have spent some time in my garden, which has needed some TLC for some time now. Weeding is the name of the game. yesterday, I spent several hours weeding and have a HUGE 3-foot pile to show for it. Now to inaugurate my burn barrel to dispose of them. I am sporting under a dozen ant bites on my hands and arms to show for my labors. I have spent too much $ on ant-killer this year; I think they move from place to place in the yard, instead of dying like they are supposed to!

I purchased three bargain Christian Regency era novels at Lifeway on the day that Mama bought me a large print New Living Translation Life Application Study Bible for my birthday. What a Bible! So far, Tricia and Mom have been enjoying the books (Linore Rose Burkard's The Country House Courtship, and . ;-)

My birthday was spent in Foley with a day of shopping. At first, on our drive out, I thought it was going to be a disaster (Mom was in a mood), but it ironed out (I prayed very hard!), and I had an enjoyable day overall. Fresh Produce had just received a new shipment of dresses and shirts (it's been a long while since they have had anything that fit me). I was blessed with a nice 20% discount, so I bought the girls two sweet blue sundresses. I enjoyed Kitchen Connection as well, getting myself some needed kitchen things (and some foofoo items as well)! Sarah met up with us for a late lunch at Lambert's (enjoy those "throwed rolls"). Delicious food! I spent the next hour browsing in Old Time Pottery. I didn't find much to buy (I was looking for a mercury glass vase or container to add to my dresser collection), but I did get the baking pan that I needed. And then we headed home.

Tricia went out of her way to make my birthday weekend special, and I appreciate and love her for it (and also for being an all-around awesome best friend/sister)! We had a delicious coffee and breakfast biscuit the next morning and spent the day at home and visiting Cori and precious nieces that I love so dearly! That night was the "family birthday dinner" at Carrabbas. Brother paid for my dinner, but spent the evening baiting Mom. It was not enjoyable at all, and in the end I wish I hadn't planned it. We ended the night picking up Krispy Kreme donuts to enjoy over the weekend. Yum!

I am loving my Keurig!!! It was my birthday gift to myself (we don't exchange gifts as a family anymore), and I have been especially enjoying the macadamia flavored coffee. There are so many flavors to explore; I have already found some that I don't like, but more that I do. :-)

Last weekend, I finally was able to store the last of the Christmas storage bins away, as well as clean up and de-clutter the house (living/dining rooms, laundry room). Today I hope to vacuum the main living area, tackle the girls' playroom, and clean out the fridge. In addition to resting, of course! ;-)
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