About three years ago, in the midst of one of my “desert seasons”, God gave me a picture of the back of a jigsaw puzzle. On some of the pieces was written a lesson He was teaching me. I remember wisdom, patience, abundance . . . There was no picture on the puzzle just the brown cardboard backing and the words but I knew that someday, after all the pieces were labeled, I would be able to turn the puzzle over and see the beautiful picture on the other side . . . the masterpiece that God had molded my life to be through all of these little lessons.
The puzzle vision has lied dormant for a while but when I sat down to write this post, I realized that more pieces had been added. Among them are unworthiness, gratefulness, provision, faithfulness and contentment.
Tuesday night on the eve of my return to work, I had intended to have a peaceful and prayerful night out with my husband, sans kids, to prepare me for the next day. What happened instead was the meanest, ugliest, nastiest depiction of the flesh overruling the Spirit. And mere days after Pastor Jon had taught us about these battles and encouraged us to choose to follow the Spirit and not the flesh. I LOST IT! I was so consumed with frustration, disappointment and anger. This WAS NOT the way this chapter was supposed to end and by golly, I was going to let anyone and everyone know it, especially my husband and God. Unfortunately, most of it hit my husband before it ever got to God. (NOT the way it is supposed to happen, I know.) I was mad at God for not giving me what I wanted, like a spoiled child, I threw a doozy of a tantrum. One that I am not proud of.
After my volcano of emotion exploded and I had time to reflect on the desecration I had left in my wake, two things happened . . . 1.) I was made keenly aware of my unworthiness and 2.) I was show God’s faithfulness.
In the moments following my tantrum, as I sobbed in my car, I thought about the way I had felt and spoken about those I love most in my life. At the height of my anger and self pity, I wanted nothing to do with them and as my emotions calmed an unworthiness settled on me. If only they had known how I had felt only moments earlier . . . I was not worthy to be in the presence of my amazing, completely innocent, sweet-spirited children or my gracious, merciful, loving husband. I did not know how I would face my children when I returned home, knowing the ugliness with which I had just responded to life. In that moment I understood more than I ever have, how unworthy I am of what Jesus did for me on the cross.
If I had physically seen the ugliness he endured because of me and my sin and was then called to look in his innocent eyes, how would I have ever faced him? But it is what I am called to do every day, to be in his presence and look upon his face like that of my closest friend. And now, I understood the depths of this even more.
God solidified my lesson and me his abundant grace and faithfulness in the prayer of a friend. I had received a text from Facebook that alerted me to a message I had been sent in the midst of my meltdown. One of my friends, April, had been praying for me for the last few days because she knew my time at home was coming close to an end and that that was not the desire of my heart. Once I had had a chance to compose myself, I read April’s special words of prayer and they struck like a poignant arrow to my very heart . . .
“Dear Lord, I pray that right now you will cover Mandy with your peace. Help her to continue to hope and trust that you are in control . . . I pray that on her first day back, Mandy will feel your presence so strongly that people will stand up and take notice that there is something special in this woman, and that . . . lives will be touched and changed because of her life and her witness . .
Those words that found me in my darkest moment have been words that have brought power to my spirit and sustained me over the course of the last week that I have been back at work. Never in my life have I been lifted up in prayer but so many sweet brothers and sisters than in this season. And God continues to use these prayers and words of encouragement I have been given as a launching point for his faithfulness in my life during this season.
Those of you, who know me, know that contentment has rarely, if ever, been a trait I possess but I believe contentment met me on Wednesday morning as I returned to work. As I sat at the breakfast table with my family uncontrollable tears streamed down my face. My daughter whispered compassionately to me “I’ll always be with you at work, mama.” (wise words she had gleaned from Christopher Robin to Pooh) And as I pulled out of my driveway that morning, I looked back to see my little girl on the front porch, blowing me kisses and signing ‘I love you’ which she had recently learned from the Sprout channel with me at her side. I could not stop the tears and walked into work head down so no one could see my red puffy eyes but I was determined to be the woman April had prayed I would be. The first couple of hours were a challenge but then a fountain of life rose up inside of me and I started to feel . . . good.
I didn’t want to feel good. I wanted to be angry and mad at God. I was afraid that if I have in and allowed myself to feel good and be happy, it would mean that I would be relinquishing my heart’s desires. That I would be giving up the hope of Kenton finding a new job and me being able to stay home with my babies. And then I realized that in order for others to see God in me, I had to be changed. It was God who was giving me this joy and sustaining me because He loves me and He wants me to be happy and content whatever the circumstances. My lifelong discontentment regarding darn near everything was crumbling in these moments and I was powerless to stop it. All I could do was embrace this lightness, this ‘good’ feeling that was rising in side of me, filling every part of my being. I tried to resist but I couldn’t. The Spirit wouldn’t let me. I had to realize that God knows my heart. He didn’t abandon me. He is still RIGHT here in my cubicle with me. And me releasing my negative emotions and embracing the true spirit of his grace does not change my desires and it doesn’t change God’s plan. He still has a plan for our lives that is good. He is working it out in the background, behind the scenes of my everyday life. And because of that, it is easier for me to face every day. I’ve found that things I was most anxious about have been areas where laughter, abundance and provision have reigned. (stay tuned for more about that)
I believe God has given me this time to redeem some things that were last. I believe He’s giving me joy that acts as a light to others so they can see Him through me. I believe He’s working in the heart of my husband and giving my kids precious time with their daddy that they would not have otherwise had. I believe God is continuing daily to grow my trust in Him as I learn little lessons along the way. I believe that my Heavenly Father and His son are being my biggest cheerleaders in this season and I believe this season is serving a purpose. And when that purpose is complete, a new season will begin and dreams will come true!!!