Monday, June 6, 2011

When the "How-To" Books Fail You...

 Desperate times call for desperate measures.  Let me tell you something about my history... my world has been a whirlwind since I graduated from high school almost exactly 14 years ago, and it shows no sign of calming or slowing down for the next decade or so.

From high school, I entered Bible College, and after completing one year of religious education,  I was engaged.  We married in the late fall, and thought we'd take a chance at "trying" to get pregnant just 2 1/2 months after our wedding.  I guess there was no such thing as "trying" because we didn't have to try at all - I became pregnant immediately!  Just 3 weeks before our first anniversary, our lives came to a screeching halt when our first wonderful, albeit strong-willed baby came into our lives and made us into a family.  It was rather like being at the top of the roller coaster, just before plunging down an enormously steep hill that includes some upside down twists and turns.  I wasn't exactly ready for the ride of my life - and I actually tended to look at marriage and parenting as being "a neat experience" or "the thing to do".  I'll even admit that in some ways, I had an immature understanding of life in the "real world".  I attribute my success, or probably better phrased: "survival", to my steadfast relationship with God that has revealed itself to be far more about Him holding onto me than me holding onto Him!

Following the birth of our first child, a cycle began which unveiled itself in the appearance of a new baby approximately every two years until we found ourselves with 3 girls and 3 boys, and the reality of a big, busy, but blessed family.  We've lived on the other side of the world, had home births, had financial catastrophes, and yet somehow have developed a sense of rhythm within chaos and now find ourselves in the rugged terrain of being in "the ministry" whilst raising our energetic brood.

So you can well imagine the stress and moments of panic which I encounter on occasion - like with my first pregnancy, and later when my husband was laid off from his job and we had two small children.  Other occasions where anxiety made it's presence known were when I realized I was unexpectedly pregnant with my fourth child as we prepared to move overseas, and more recently, the realization that I am living with...(drum-roll, please...) PRETEENS!  So what does an introspective, quiet person do with these situations?  Often I turn to books.  In this educationally rich culture, there's always a book telling you the precise way to handle your marriage, family, pregnancy, or imminent financial ruin.

I could list dozens of books that I've encountered over the years and show you many books on my shelves which unveil the best strategies, "4 Easy Steps", and the "One Weekend Makeover" to change your life!  While the knowledge contained in the pages of these inspirational reading materials is certainly of great value, and I am thankful for the wisdom of people who have walked through the battle before me, I feel that something is lacking.  I've applied the principles often, determining "once and for all" in my mind to change.  I've used the secret phrases designed to unlock the door to my child's respect and obedience.  I've even resolved to have "No More Headaches" like the marriage book promised it's principles would allow me to achieve - and yet... I still don't fail to frustrate myself with selfish behaviors and an overall disappointing track record when it comes to the relationships in my life.  Now, don't get me wrong - I'm not in crisis here!  I just know that when it comes to my marriage, my kids, and in general my LIFE... there is so much MORE!  We were designed to have incredible, fulfilling relationships - they are the basis of our very existence.  Yet we struggle with the petty and mundane every-day issues, along with the larger, painful-to-talk-about situations that inhibit intimacy and closeness and overall completeness in our lives.

This past weekend, I came to a sobering revelation while struggling with my bad attitude and irritability that was mostly induced by early mornings and late nights out attending a conference with my family.  As I sat frustrated on the couch, the words clearly came to me:  "There are no short-cuts."  Egad!  What did this mean?  And yet, deep down, I had the answer that I was seeking.  I felt a sense of firm conviction that brought both relief and panic, all at the same time.

I can figure out the methods and systems.  I can apply all the principles.  I can go to that "week-end getaway" designed to refresh, encourage and resolve me to be a better wife, mom, and woman.  But there are no short-cuts when it comes to true change.

Change comes when I get down on my knees and humbly submit myself before God.  You see, in that quiet time, He gains access to my heart and mind and will.  He can speak healing to the things that are broken, and He gently chastens me in the areas of my selfish nature.  He will give me His perspective when things don't seem to make sense.  He will grow within me a greater love for my husband, children, friends and even my enemies as I am filled and refreshed with His love.  This isn't attained by reading a book.  This isn't something you can learn.  This can only be acquired by patient, continual surrender in the presence of Jesus.  There's no possible short-cut to the peace, joy and love that can be received in His arms.  I can figure it all out in my mind, and determine to change my behavior - but it's my heart that needs to be fixed.

I began this posting with the phrase: Desperate times call for desperate measures.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm desperate to live a life of surrender.  No more 'trying to figure it out' and think my way through things.  My heart is in His hands.  Surrender... continually.

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