Sunday, December 8, 2013


            I love Impressionist Art.  Monet is my favorite.  His Water Lily collection is amazing.  I can’t help but smile and relax when I see it.  It just makes me feel happy and at peace.  I love the colors and the mood that Impressionism creates.  The unpredictable beauty of “random” splashes of color.   
            If you stand too close, there is little definition, little that makes sense, and little that resembles what life “should” really look like.  It's messy and splotchy.  A dab here, a speckle there.  But when you step back and take it all in, it is beautiful.  It makes sense.  And you can’t help but go, “The artist knew what he was doing.  This is gorgeous.”
            To me, life is a lot like an Impressionist painting. 

Sometimes, it doesn’t resemble our idea of what life should look like.  It’s messy and splotchy and unclear.  Sometimes, we have a hard time understanding what God is doing and why He is doing it.  It doesn’t make sense.  Sometimes, we’re not even sure if He is really listening or if He really cares.  And sometimes, life is so messy that we lose heart, that we feel hopeless and discouraged.  We can’t see how anything good could possibly come from it. 
            But if we give it time and if we look hard enough and from the right angle, we can find the beauty in it.  Hidden blessings.  Lessons and truths that enrich our spiritual lives, even if they are bittersweet.  And we’ll begin to trust that God is indeed in the process of making something beautiful out of our messy lives. 
            Of course, it might never make complete sense to us on this side of eternity.  And we might always live with pain.  But someday it will all be clear.  And someday God will redeem it all and make it all right again.  And it is then that we will be able to step back and see the full picture that He was working on, and we will say, “The Artist knew what He was doing.  This is gorgeous!” 
            I am a Bible-believing, Christ-following, completely-committed Christian.  But my life is messy.  More often than not, I feel like a loser.  A failure.  Lonely.  My husband and I have not been blessed with financial abundance, in the way that the “prosperity gospel” preachers define “abundance.”  We have always had just enough, sometimes less, as we struggle to raise our four kids on one income.  And even to maintain “just enough” means sacrificing things that other people consider “essential”: normal cell phones, hi-speed internet, a second car, setting our heat to a comfortable temperature in the brutal Midwest winters, house repairs, shopping for new clothes.  Those kinds of conveniences and comforts just haven’t been a regular part of our lives.
            Nor has normal, deep relationships been a part of mine.  My mom and I have a very thin relationship.  My five brothers and I basically live like strangers.  I have virtually no contact with my biological dad and his other kids and family.  And I have three other dads (two ex-stepdads and a current one) that I have little to no contact with, too.  My cousins and I barely know each other.  And I have had a hard time establishing deep, lasting relationships with other women, despite my many attempts.  (I am friendly with everyone and know a lot of great, godly women.  I just don’t have much of a friendship with any of them except one or two.  Thank God for those one or two!)
            I struggle with feeling like a joke in just about every area of my life.  I struggle with feeling down way too often.  As a homeschooling mom, I am my own worst enemy.  (As most parents are, homeschooling or not.)  It doesn’t matter if I have tried my hardest or done my best, I always feel like I will fail, like I will let my kids down.  And with four boys running around the house all day, I can never keep it clean.  Another failure.  And every night, at least one kid tells me that they hate what I made for dinner, which has sucked the life out of my joy of cooking.    
            And then, the icing on the cake, I accomplished something that I thought was a big deal.  I wrote a book about my life.  (I didn’t officially publish it, but I did put in on a blog for free.  A huge book about the struggles of coming from a broken home and the journey of learning how to be a child of God, learning how to trust that He is a good, loving Father and how to let Him love me and heal those old wounds. 
            I thought it was going to be inspiring and help others on their walk with God.  I felt like this was a way that I could contribute more to God’s Kingdom, on top of raising my children.  But after sharing it with a couple dozen people I know (and several dozen that I don’t know online), NO ONE wanted to read it (except for one reader online, and two people I know that at least started it).  Not even my closet friends, family, or church family bothered to read it.  And that hurt.  That really hurt.  Actually, it sent me into a four-month depression last year. 
            But . . . this is just where I needed to be.  Because God has been teaching me something through all the disappointments.  He has been teaching me to find Him in those hard places, to find the hidden blessings.  To learn the hard lessons.  And to glorify Him anyway.  This is what can take all of that pain and turn it into something beautiful and worthwhile. 
            My life may be a mess, filled with too much unpleasantness and chaos.  But when I fall down at God’s feet or fling myself into His arms – when I take my eyes off of the pain, and bring it all back to God – it becomes serene chaos.  A beautiful mess.  (Thank you to the movie Flywheel for the “serene chaos” phrase.  Watch this movie, people.  It’s so uplifting!)                
            I’ll be honest, I don’t quite know where I am going with all of this yet.  I didn’t even want to write it since I am still reeling from the sting of rejection, of spending five years writing my life story, only to have one person bother to read it.  Ouch.  But every day, I find myself talking to myself about the pain I feel.  The emptiness and loneliness.  The struggle of the uphill climb, just trying to make it through each day.  The lessons that I am learning because of it.  And I am tired of talking to myself.  I need to get this all out on paper. 
            And I believe that there are many others who feel the same way that I do, who may find some encouragement in reading about what someone else is going through, or who just like to read something thought-provoking.  I don’t know.  Really.  I don’t know much at all.  But I am tired of the messages that teach people that “good things will happen if you just have enough faith.  If you please God, you’ll get what you want.  He’ll bless you with an abundance of riches and success and influence.”   
            But what about those of us who tithe faithfully, giving above our means to charities, and yet still struggle and sacrifice to make our monthly bills? What about those of us who have sought to live a holy life, striving and hoping to make a difference in other people’s lives, only to find out that others don’t want to hear what we have to say?  What about those of us who don’t have other people in our lives to cheer us on and encourage us?  What about those of us who have no grand, glorious job, but who wake up every day and faithfully do the same thing over and over again, and yet have nothing to show for it? 
            Are our lives less pleasing to God, less blessed?  Are we somehow less godly than those who have more to show for their “faith”?  Or are our definitions of blessings and abundance and faith and God wrong?  Are we looking in the wrong places, from the wrong angles?       
            This blog is not really for those who feel like they are living the comfortable, successful life.  Whose lives already resemble a perfect picture.  This is for those who struggle, who feel overlooked by others, set aside by God, and who are just trying to make it through every day without collapsing into a pile of tears.  This is for all of us who feel like life isn’t what we thought it should be, but who desperately want to see God make something beautiful out of our messy lives.  I want you to know that your life still matters.  That there are blessings in the pain.  That these struggles are worth it.  That there is beauty in there somewhere.  And that God isn’t finished with you yet. 
            Even if you are a lonely, failing loser, you matter to God and you can have a deep, enriched relationship with Him because of your hardships.  Maybe even a deeper and more authentic relationship with Him than those who have it easy in this life.  And I am hoping that by sharing my journey with you, you can find a little hope and encouragement in the hard times.  And you can know that you are not alone. 
            Thank you for reading.  May God bless you with a deeper, more mature spiritual life as you walk with Him.