I grew up in a dysfunctional home.
My dad was a Bipolar disorder sufferer. His mental health was hardly ever stable for more than 6 months at a time. My mom worked most of her married life just to keep us out of debt caused by Dad's excessive spending during his manic times. (Manic Depressives/Bipolar Disorder patients can be compulsive spenders as well as extremely generous givers of their money during *high* moments).
I only realised recently, that although our experience was not your normal, happy suburban family story, as a young child I just accepted it as normal. I don't really remember thinking "we're not normal" until in my early teens.
However, although I may not have realised it as a young child, experiences shape you and some can scar you.
I've never been one to believe in the popular phrase "children are so resilient". It may seem at the time that they bounce back into life and carry on as if nothing unusual has happened, but trust me, if you look closely you'll see the negative effects of stressful times acted out in their daily behaviour. It may come soon after or it may come later in their teen or adult life, but unfortunately it does come....
Like it or not I have to admit that what I experienced as a child influences so much of how I handled life, it still does.....
The good news is: I'm now a daughter of Christ, adopted into His family where I now believe that as the Potter, My Shepherd and my Healer, He can restore the years which the locusts stole away as a child. He can apply the healing balm.
I refuse to believe that "a leopard can't change her spots", especially when she has Christ as her Redeemer. I choose to believe that with Christ in me He can change me to be more and more like Him.
Unfortunately though, as a result of my childhood experiences my knee jerk reaction to stressful moments has always been: Why me? Why this? Why now? When will it stop? Instead of having peace and joy I choose to get angry at yet another tough moment to endure-does life always have to be this tough?
Our last three to four months have been filled with sickness. After a winter of a terrible flu for the kids-which we seriously thought was whooping cough for Jenna- it hit Ray (who never gets sick) and finally myself. Having just recovered from that Jen went down with high temps which lasted 6 days followed by Ray getting hit with similar symptoms but worse results: glandular fever which had him flat on his back for a week with blurred vision from conjuctivitus. Michael followed next-confused by the temperatures and hallucinations and nightmares caused by the temps-he was extremely difficult to calm at night, thankfully his high temps lasted for a shorter period.
I'm not a great nurse. Whiny children who needed me within their sight 24/7 and a husband who couldn't breathe or sleep peacefully really tested my servant heart and patience. (I haven't handled sleep deprivation very well in the past). Normally I would have gotten impatient, lost my cool and I would have just wanted it all to STOP! But while we went through this storm I felt the Lord saying: I'm with you in this storm, smile! What? You've got to be kidding? Smile? Not me Lord, I'm better at moaning and complaining and wondering what on earth have I done wrong to deserve this? But repeatedly He said: With me in your boat you can smile in the storm. And so I did. And we survived. And we learnt many important lessons. My children learnt about putting other's needs before their own. And I learnt to look for the blessings in the midst of the storm.
A week after everyone was fully recovered I was going through another storm: the emotional after shock of a sick home. In this storm I didn't smile. I got angry. Why does *this* have to happen now? Haven't I had enough? My eyes and ears were closed and although I had just been through a storm where I had been continuously reminded that the Lord is always with us I thought: I'd take control again. I literally tried to row my own boat. Our routine had been lost while going through the sick times and instead of lovingly trying to lead our little sheep back to greener pastures while listening to My Shepherd's voice, I tried to control them.
The result: tantrums and tears.
I thought I was loosing my children's hearts.
After a very hectic tantrum session with Michael (who has a will of iron) I lay on his bed trying to calm him. And I didn't know how to! In desperation I prayed -yes, it does take a while for me to realise who actually needs to row our boat!
That's when I realised, he was struggling because he had never before experienced his mommy or daddy being so sick. His little world had been rocked so much He didn't know how to express it. Being defiant and angry is his way of expressing his confusion. (Something he obviously learnt from his mommy)
Going against every parenting book I've ever read, I felt I needed to tell him: I love you! Instead of trying to win the battle by controlling him, I had to listen to that small still voice telling me to love him. And so, lying there with a little angry boy, kicking and screaming and trying his best to hurt me I started to repeat: I love you Michael! to him. Eventually I could see his face calming and he stopped and lay peacefully beside me.
And the storm stopped.
Yes, the Lord had taken us through the sick storm and I'd learnt a little more about having peace within a storm, but I hadn't remembered that even after the storm I still needed to continue to rest in Him! Trying to take back control instead of resting in Him and following His lead I had almost plunged our family into an even bigger storm.
I'm sharing this today because I want to remember that it is always important to seek the Lord first and to remember that even in the storms there are blessings to be thankful for.
Does this mean that I will always ride the storms with a smile? Most likely not. Life's not perfect. I'm not perfect. I'm learning to accept that now.
And when I forget that, please remind me: His grace means that even when I kick and scream and throw a tantrum, He never ever stops loving me in the midst of the storm!