bringing it all together
this morning i had the privilege of speaking along with two other women at my mothers of pre-schoolers (MOPS) group during our "tea and testimony" event. i was so honored to be asked to speak and share how god has worked in my life, especially as a mom. i thought it presented me with a beautiful opportunity to share the last 21 months of my story since bina was born. the script below is what i shared with the group. i'm so thankful for how god has worked in me. he is so good, so kind. he makes pain into beauty, again and again.
and before i begin, here are some photos of my sweet little wanderer, my bina the explorer, from yesterday morning. first she wandered, then she came back and played peekaboo behind my "hate has no home here" sign. how i love her and her adventurous and playful spirit. i will strive to always give her a secure and loving foundation that she can always return to, so that she feels safe to exercise her curiosity, wander far, and adventure big.
and now for the script. disclaimer: this doesn't fit my normal no caps format. i'm too lazy to take all the caps out. ;)
MOPS Tea & Testimony Script
God has hammered home some truths over the last 21 months since Sabina’s birth: I am broken, everyone is broken, most of us are just giving our broken best, and God is the only one who loves perfectly.
I used to hate the story of David in the Bible. David is a hero because he delivered God’s people from oppression. He ushered in a golden age in the history of Israel and his kingdom is one that is looked back on as a standard. David is also famous for writing many of the Psalms. But he is not without character flaws. David was a womanizer, a man who went so far as to impregnate a married woman and have her husband, a faithful soldier, killed. And yet, the Bible describes him as a man after God’s heart. I’ve struggled thinking, how could this be so? I went so far as to think: if David is a man after God’s own heart, I don’t want to serve that God. Over the last six months, God has changed my heart. I now see the story of David as a comfort and encouragement. As David continually repented of his sin, God continually forgave. Someone as broken as David can be a man after God’s own heart. Someone as broken as me can be a woman after God’s own heart.
Since becoming a mom, I often think about my own mom. This motherhood thing is hard. I don’t know how my mom did it raising three. She moved with my dad from Atlanta, Georgia to Birmingham, Michigan when I was two and my brother was one month old. They moved so my dad could begin working for the family business. My mom was not comfortable around most of my dad’s family, had no friends, and was with a two year old and a one month old. That kind of sounds like hell to me. But she did it. She gave her broken best.
My first months of being a mom were hard. Much harder than I anticipated. Motherhood was not what I expected and I couldn’t remember why I wanted it in the first place. It seemed like if Sabina wasn’t nursing or sleeping, she was crying. And my body was not strong enough to do the things I wanted to do to soothe her or myself. I was recovering from a c-section and struggling with post-partum depression. I found myself mourning the loss of my life before my tiny human came into the world. At two weeks post partum I would have given anything to go back to work. At least I knew what the heck I was doing there. Of course, by 12 weeks I wasn’t ready to go back to work and agonized over that transition. My experience gave me so much respect for my mom, in her brokenness giving her broken best to her children, and for every woman who has walked this road. Motherhood is hard. No matter what route you take, motherhood is hard.
God has been so faithful on this journey. My own broken journey has given me more grace for myself and others, especially for my own mom. I see that what I give is my broken best, and that only God loves perfectly. It makes me sad, but it also gives me hope. God’s perfect love can redeem my brokenness. It can cover over my broken attempts to be the best mom I can be. It can cover me when I am crippled by insomnia and depression. I keep going. I keep giving my broken best, knowing that God is a big God with a big plan and I, and all of my broken journey, can be part of it if I stay surrendered to him.
In mid August of 2016, about three and a half months after our move to Michigan from Austin, Texas, I experienced depression with anxiety and insomnia. I had dealt with insomnia once before, during my last year of college before getting married and into my first year of marriage. We got married two weeks after I graduated, and I planned my wedding in Michigan while living in the state of Missouri and finishing my last year of college. In hindsight, it was not the best plan. However, having my husband share the bed with me eased my insomnia struggles and I hadn’t had a problem with it since. That was almost nine years ago now. Pretty good track record on that front.
My post partum depression was obviously linked to a particular event, I got help for it immediately, and it passed. I knew that selling our house in Austin, leaving our community, moving across the country, buying and renovating here, starting new careers (mine now at home), and starting from scratch relationally with friends was going to be a big stress, and it was. But this was not our first cross country move, we had done it together twice before. Though we didn’t have a kid and two dogs in tow previously. So I thought after making it through all that stress, I would be fine. If that didn’t break me, what could? I made it through the hard part and could finally enjoy life as a stay at home mom.
As it turns out, it was when things quieted down and I had time to think again that I broke. I would go several nights in a row with an hour or two of sleep, sometimes none at all. I started celebrating when I could get any sleep. An hour was better than none. I completely lost my appetite and lost 10 pounds in two weeks. Things were getting really bad really fast. I found myself thinking David and Sabina would be better off without me.
As I did when I was struggling with post partum depression, I sought help. I found a general practitioner and got back on the same medication I was on post partum, though it took double the time to begin to work. A friend of mine from church who also struggles with anxiety connected me with her psychologist who has been a lifesaver. Jamie, my table leader, has been a comfort and encouragement to me. I shared my struggles with insomnia and depression in our small group asking for prayer and Jamie’s husband Sam shared he had struggled with insomnia before too, related to work stress. I felt less alone. Functioning people have this problem too!
God has spoken to me through his word, through sermons, through friends, through podcasts, and through books recommended by friends and on podcasts. One Sunday in the midst of my struggle with insomnia and depression, a man from our church shared on grief. He encouraged the grieving to show up in their weakness and be themselves. So many characters in the Bible did this. David and Job are the two I keep returning to.
Save me oh God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold. I have come into deep waters and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night but I find no rest.
The lord is close to the broken hearted, he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
In October I attended a women’s retreat. It was a big step for me, my first night away from home since the insomnia began. I was nervous, but I went. And I am sure God wanted me there because the retreat summarized and affirmed all that God had been teaching me through my struggle with depression and insomnia.
The first session focused on the storms of life: what they are, their purpose, who we are in the midst of them. We read through the book of Job and listed his experiences. Job is a man who had everything: God, family, friends, health, money, possessions. The story of Job illustrates that sometimes bad things happen to good people, yet God is still in control and his wisdom is beyond what we can understand. Throughout the book of Job, we see that God allows Satan to take away all of Job’s family (wife and children), possessions, and even his own health. On top of that, even his friends turn against him.
While all this is going on, Job experiences a myriad of emotions. Job couldn't sleep. He felt bitterness. He felt separated from God and like God despised him. He examined himself to see if he did anything wrong to cause his current storm. Job felt like God had hidden his face from him. He couldn't see God. He grieved deeply and felt no relief. He felt abandoned and in great despair. He felt broken in spirit and hopeless. He felt trapped and surrounded by darkness. He felt isolated, unloved, alone, abandoned.
Reading these things made me feel less alone. I felt all of them. God allowed Satan to test Job. Job's experiences, thoughts, and emotions didn't mean that he was separated from God and they didn't mean that he didn't love or trust God. There are many characters in the bible that love God and feel and experience these things in the midst of storms. I was not the only one!
The session that spoke most to me addressed where Jesus is when we pass through the storm. He is with us! Nothing can separate me from him and from his love. Going back to Job, we read that just because we can't see God doesn't mean he's not there. Sometimes we don't see him through our storms. Maybe God is being quiet. Sometimes we just have to wait because he's not saying anything. Sometimes we've moved away from him. Whatever the case, our storms are managed by God. God is silent for most of Job, and then he reveals himself to Job in chapter 38 and following. When he does speak, he's saying "listen dude, don't you know who I am?"
Chapters 38-39 are basically God reminding Job just how big and powerful he is (and in doing so, how powerless Job is). In the end, Job confesses that he knows God can do all things and that no purpose of his can be thwarted. Our hope is in God. Whether he speaks or is silent. Whether we feel him or not. Whether we live in abundance or scarcity. Our hope is anchored in the faithfulness of God. I am not the one in control, God is. I am not the powerful one, God is. And I find my strength in him.
I slowly came out of my season of insomnia and depression. I had help from new and old friends, from family, from a great psychologist, from God’s word, from books and podcasts. It took time, but God got me through it one day at a time. That season reminds me of the fact that I am fragile, a broken vessel. It reminds me that I need to live in community, that we all need to live in community, because sometimes we can’t do things on our own. Well, a lot of times. But sometimes in particular when you feel like you don’t know if you can keep yourself and your child alive each day, it takes a village.
Motherhood has taught me to judge less. To extend more grace. To listen. This is what I want extended to me. Brenee Brown says in her book Daring Greatly that the two biggest shame triggers for women are appearance and motherhood, even if you’re not a mother. Everyone has an opinion, everyone thinks they’re an expert. All the information is conflicting. And you know what, we live in a broken world with broken people. And we’re all, for the most part, trying our broken best. And we all need God to use us as his vessels every single day. Lord, less of me, more of you. Don’t give me more of your spirit, let your spirit get more of me. Love more, forgive more, listen more, judge less.
My post partum experience and a number of other factors have led me and my husband to consider domestic infant adoption to grow our family. This past summer we got off birth control thinking we’d get pregnant again quickly. That didn’t happen, and looking back I see that was for my good. All of my broken experience, I think God has used it to direct our hearts in a direction that we may not have seriously considered otherwise. Before we got off birth control we had been praying that God would grow our family, if it be his will to do so, in the way he wants and in his timing. As we walk this journey, I see God’s faithfulness in so many ways. Connecting us with people and resources. Opening eyes to see things that they wouldn’t have otherwise seen. Our eyes and the eyes of family members who were originally opposed to the idea of adoption. It’s beautiful to step back and say – God, do with me and my life what you will – and see him work broken things into beautiful things.
At Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) we’re studying the book of John and one week the lesson touched on Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. Judas was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. At the last dinner Jesus had with his disciples, Judas left to turn Jesus into the Jewish authorities. The Jewish authorities came to get Jesus and brought him before the Roman authorities to demand that he be killed. Jesus threatened the power of these earthly authorities by claiming to be the son of God. Their plan to stop this threat was to end his life. In the eyes of man, it looked like those who opposed Jesus had won. But in reality, Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was a necessary step in God’s big plan of redemption. Ultimately, Jesus had to die to take on the punishment for our sin so that we might be restored to a right relationship with God. I look at my trials like that. My post partum depression, my recent battle with insomnia and depression, those things were necessary steps in God’s big plan of redemption for me. He is continually working his good through my pain. Even when it looks like my pain is failure, he can use it as triumph.
One of my biggest concerns moving to Michigan was starting from scratch relationally again. And it has been so special to see God weave relationships together. He is so clearly at work. Our first Sunday at LifeChurch Livonia in May 2016 we were invited to Jamie’s small group by a group member. Jamie invited me to join the MOPS group for summer playgroups. I met Beth and Mallory. When I started BSF in the fall I was like oh no way. I was still struggling with insomnia, anxiety and depression. I had no idea how big of an operation it was. There were over 500 women. I expected a small group of 20. Clearly I hadn’t done my research. I was completely overwhelmed. But then I saw Beth and Mallory. Mallory was new too, and we attended the newcomers’ session together. Beth ended up being in my discussion group (what are the chances of that?!). I met my friend Rita in the discussion group, who has adopted two infants domestically. We are using the agency she used to adopt her second baby. My husband and I have met with her and her husband to discuss the process and their experiences. BSF has been such an integral part of my spiritual development these last seven months, and had it not been for the connections God ordained, I may not have even stuck it out. God knew what I needed when I needed it, and he provided.
Motherhood is not what I expected. And I kind of hope it never is! It continually shows me that I need God. Every single day. I need God. He is the only one who loves perfectly. I love brokenly. I give my broken best. And so do all of us. If David can be a man after God’s own heart, we can be women after God’s own heart. May God get more of us so he can continually work though us, his broken vessels, to accomplish his big plan of redemption.
To wrap up, I want to share the personal statement of faith that David and I drafted as part of our adoption application. It will go in the back of our photobook showcasing our family for birth moms and dads to read and consider. It addresses four things: (1) who Jesus is (2) the role of the Holy Spirit (3) how our faith grows and (4) our plan for our children's spiritual development.
We believe Jesus is God’s one and only son. We believe that human disobedience to God has broken the perfect relationship we had with God in the beginning. This brokenness has been passed on to all people, but all along God planned to use Jesus to restore the broken relationship. Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection made it possible for us to be restored to a right relationship with God, and there is no other way to be restored to a right relationship with God than through Jesus. Jesus’s work made it possible for God to adopt those who believe in him into one family. We have purpose and hope through our personal relationship with Jesus. We seek to be obedient to him because he has shown us such great love.
After Jesus was raised from the dead, he sent the Holy Spirit to be our constant helper so we would never be alone. We welcomed the Holy Spirit into our hearts when we made Jesus the king of our lives. He is our advocate, our teacher, our comforter, and our strength. He helps us understand the Bible and works in us when we wrestle to understand difficult teachings. He leads and guides us as we seek to do what God wants and make decisions big and small. He brings to mind the truths of the Bible when we face different situations in our daily lives. The Holy Spirit works through us to accomplish the purposes of God the Father as we seek to live according to what God wants.
Our faith grows through regularly reading the Bible, praying, and spending time with other believers. On Sundays we attend a local church that is committed to teaching the Bible. We volunteer in the nursery. We belong to a small group of believers where we study and discuss the Bible. We spend time with the families in our small group outside of our regular meetings so that we can live life together by holding each other accountable, challenging, and encouraging each other. Our faith grows most as we nourish our personal relationships with God through reading the Bible and prayer and then live out what we learn in community with other believers.
Our plan for our children’s Christian development is, first, for us to be the people we want them to grow up to be, and then to surround them with positive examples. We want to give our children the opportunity to make their own choices, and pray that they will ultimately have a personal relationship with Jesus. Our children will know that our home is a safe place for them to doubt, question, develop their own thoughts and opinions, and grow without judgment. We will model for our children that we are worthy of love even though we are all broken. We want our children to know that they are always loved by us and God no matter what they say or do. Nothing can separate them from our love or God’s love. God is the only one who loves perfectly and we will seek to point our children to Jesus, our perfect example to follow.