Friday, March 28, 2014

O You Afflicted One...

***The past 3 weeks have been some of the most crucial weeks of my life.  The thing about a blog is that you kind of only get a small glimpse into a very large picture.  I do my best to paint as big a picture as I can, but it never compares to the life I actually live.  3 weeks ago I wrote one of the most excruciating posts of my life and the truth is, I almost decided to officially close my blog that week.  My writing till that point was still pure- everything I wrote I still meant, but it was becoming a smaller and smaller truth.  I was losing myself.  But instead of closing the blog, I poured out the depths of my heartache with all of you- and then I waited.  Waited to see if I was still there. Waited to see if I was starting to come back.  The next week came, and still I waited.  I didn't want to wait last week- I was compelled to.  Compelled not to pen because something was still in the balance- I could feel it in my soul that something was at war.  But I was losing.  I was too tired to fight…I know you pray for me.  I know each and every one of you who have been lifting me up in prayer.  I know because your prayers waged a heavenly war on my behalf and I am not sure I will ever be able to thank you for coming alongside me- for standing in front of me and my family and defending us against attacks that almost won.  

But they didn't win.

Your prayers.  My waiting.  The tension I felt building while I was losing myself all came to a head this week.  I am going to tell you what happened a few days ago and let you know that you're prayers were instrumental in this story.  No, it's not a dramatic story- in fact, it may seem so simple to you reading it.  But my mind was bound; and now it is free.  For the first time in a long time, it is free.  And I feel peace.  

I feel like me.  

I feel ready to write again.  I have never before been ready to move forward until now.  I never fully embraced the changes my household had to make until now.  I have not had peace in my heart until now.  

So...Let's Roll:

I had an incredible breakdown a few days ago.  For a long time now I was living in a prison…I was locked inside my own head only venturing out a rare few times to talk.  I was getting increasingly isolated from everyone around me.  Every time Jeff would ask me a simple question I would either erupt or just shut down.  Neither of these actions bear any resemblance to who I am as a person- but lately I became unrecognizable.  I simply chose to live in my head…wait, that's not right.  It's not that I chose it, it's more that I couldn't find my way out.  I could not get past my grief and my fear- fear of losing my kids and grief of knowing that it would be all my fault.  You see, it's not just about the homeschooling and the chores and the meals…there were reasons I did those things.  I believed in doing things to the best of my ability, and I believe that the decisions we make have an effect on our kids' futures.  When I send them to Christian school, I am terrified of what other influences they may encounter from the older kids at such young ages- things I wanted to protect their eyes and ears from while they are still so innocent.  But now I can't.  When I diligently ran a chore chart and had Bible time it was because I wanted them to learn the value of hard work and discipline, know the Word and its principles and I wanted them to become responsible people who know the Lord.  But now I can't.  When I cooked good, home-made meals I knew I was nourishing their bodies and showing them how to properly take care of themselves.  But now I can't.  I just was lost in a whirlwind of thinking that everything I was building a foundation for was all being torn down- that my kids were now being thrown to the world, their character and minds and spirits just haphazardly being shaped by whoever and whatever they encounter when all I ever wanted and all I ever worked toward was the very opposite.  

One night Jeff just got me to open up for a brief moment.  And when he did, I let it all of this out.  

And out it came.

It was not pretty.  It was a heart wrenching mess of a mother's heart bleeding on the floor over fear of losing her children to the world.  I screamed.  I cried fiercely.  I didn't let him even attempt to offer any answers because I knew there really weren't any.  Week after week I talk about being present wherever you are in whatever way you can be.  I just haven't been able to grasp how that was going to work for my kids.   How can I be anything to them when I cannot even enforce something as simple as making their beds?  How can I be present when I am not longer able to teach them?  

I don't know why it takes me so long to talk to my husband.  Because when I finally do, I remember all over again why I married him.  He is like a rock.  A rock I can stand on in the hardest times; a rock of wisdom that doesn't come from flattering words, but that comes from the heart of God, and from Scripture.  Jeff told me the problem was that I was still trying to find a way to be present THE WAY I USED TO BE.  I was trying to do what I could, where I could, in whatever manner I could the way I USED TO…and because that is simply impossible, it was driving me crazy.  Literally crazy.  

He reminded me that God's promises do not rest on the outward- they rest on the heart.

My charts, and my homeschooling, and my home cooked meals, and my diligence as a mother were all great things- but they were things.  The real importance, was the heart that it all flowed from.  And he reminded me that my heart has not changed.  God's promises never hinged on my actions.  They were never attached to my abilities.  It was not my foundation, my doing, or my hands that were going to keep my kids on the path God wanted for them.  You see, 8 years ago when I was six months pregnant with my firstborn son, God gave Jeff a promise for our family; for our kids.  It goes something like this:

"All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
And great shall be the peace of your children." Isaiah 54:13

Oh God, I forgot.  

I forgot about the promise God made to two kids just starting out on their journey and about to have a family.  I forgot that GOD promised to put a hedge around my home with His hand and bring them up in His ways.  I forgot He promised a household of PEACE.  And most importantly I forgot that it was Him…I was never the one who was going to fulfill this promise- it was never by the strength of my own hands that my kids would be taught by the Lord and covered in peace.  It is the unshakable, unmovable, unchangeable right hand of God that established my children before they were even born. 

And it is God who is keeping them now.  

Then something amazing happened. I opened the Bible later that night to reread those verses for myself only I decided to go back a few verses- just to see what came before it.  When I did, I began to weep.  God knew.  God knew when he was giving that verse to a perfectly healthy 22-year old girl about to have her first baby that one day she would go back and read the verses that preceded it.  

Because He had more to say to that girl.  

“O you afflicted one,
Tossed with tempest, and not comforted,
Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems,
And lay your foundations with sapphires.
I will make your pinnacles of rubies,
Your gates of crystal,
And all your walls of precious stones.
All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
And great shall be the peace of your children." Isaiah 54:11-13

Oh God, I am the afflicted one.  I am tossed and not comforted…until GOD.  God says He will lay my stones and secure my foundation.  He will set my high places, sure up my gates, and steady my walls.  AND MY CHILDREN WILL BE TAUGHT OF THE LORD AND GREAT SHALL BE THEIR PEACE.  He gave us the promise before our children were born- and then 8 years later, in the darkest moment of my life when my health has taken away my very ability to raise my children and keep my household, He gave me the rest of that promise and reminded me that before we even had our kids, He was building up the foundations of our home.  That before the sickness came and before the rooms filled with the laughter of our six beautiful babies, God had already laid down gems and rubies and crystals and precious stones and laid them down in a way that no storm could EVER destroy it.  

This storm can not destroy it.

You see, when God makes a promise, He seals it with Himself.  One of my favorite stories in the Bible is found in Genesis, when God appears to Abraham and promises to make Him the father of many nations.  He promises a man- an old man with no children whose wife is too old to have any- that he will be blessed and his descendants will be more numerous than the sands on the beach.  And to seal this covenant with Abraham, God has Abraham take a certain few animals, cut them in half, and make an aisle in which they would both walk down together- him and God-thus sealing the promise between them.  So Abraham does this- he cuts the animals, lays each piece on either side making the aisle…and then he waits for God.  Waits for God to meet him so they can seal the deal; finish the promise.  So he waits.  And he waits.  And he waits so long that vultures begin to come and try to eat at the animals…eat at his promise.  But Abraham fights!  He fights for his promise!  He fights for his children!  And their children!  No God…I will have a family!  They will be blessed by You!  YOU PROMISED!  Oh how I have fought.  

And while he is desperately fighting off the vultures, he collapses out of complete and utter weariness.  

And that is when God shows up.

In an act of stunning enormity, God- as a blazing fire- walks down the aisle ALONE thus sealing the covenant promise.  Only he did not seal the promise with Abraham.  

He sealed it with Himself.

Because Abraham would not have been able to uphold his end of the bargain.  Because somewhere along the line Abraham would have messed up and then the promise would be broken.  Maybe one day Abraham's faith would have wavered.  Maybe year after year Abraham would have forgotten all about the promise.  Maybe Abraham would have gotten so sick that he no longer would have been able to care for his family the same way he was able to when the promise was made.  

No.  God sealed the covenant with Himself- the only One who can always walk in complete perfection.  The only One who will always keep His standards.  The only One that is pure.  God's promises are upheld because HE upholds them.   They do not rest on man.

For the first time in a very, very long time, I feel peace.  I fully see the scope in which my children are truly in the Lord's hands.  Homeschooling is not what would have protected them.  My vigilance in their chores is not what would have developed them.  My meals are not what would have made a home.  Because all of those things are movable.  But what is NOT movable is that which the Lord Jesus Christ establishes and when HE says something IS…then it IS.  

And He has said my children will be taught of the Lord.  And He has said great will be their peace.  I fought, and in my weariness I simply could not fight another second.  So God showed up to fulfill His promise.  The rest is up to HIM.

Later that night Jeff took my hand and walked me downstairs and I wept as I tore down the huge chore chart in my dining room.  Oh what freedom I felt.  I gave everything I had when I was healthy- and I will give everything I can being sick.  And I will finally be able to do it with peace in my heart.  I know I will still struggle occasionally with fear over my children- but now I know where to turn.  The fear has vanished because of the simple reminder of that day in the nursery when Jeff showed me the verse God promised us for our kids.  

And God keeps His promises.  


  1. Excellent. Someone years ago told me a story of a Monarch's struggle to emerge from the chrysalis stage of life to being able to fly. They told me the struggle was necessary in order to emerge with wings necessary to work. Hmmm...sounds good. Until WE are struggling. I LOVE the part in this blog about the "difference between being present the WAY I USED TO BE." I"ll be using that for the many changes WE are going through as I too have been "stuck" in that BUT I WANT TO BE ABLE TO __________ (the blank is different for all of us of course). Thanks - as usual - for sharing and inspiring us.

  2. Ashley, a friend alerted me to your blog and I am so glad she did. I am a mother of 7 children with my husband of 22 years. I also have struggled with living with a chronic illness (systemic lupus), from which I have had many ups and downs. Your words are so important for so many to hear. We must remember that we are not on this journey alone. In some of my darkest times, it has been my children themselves who have risen up to support me and remind me of God's promises, believing in the Lord, their roles, and the love of a family sharing God's love with each other. You are in my prayers.

  3. Ashley, you don't know me, but I go to Calvary. I am so inspired by your blog. Our challenges are very different, but I just am so amazed by your heart and your wisdom beyond your years. Thank you for sharing your heart so openly.