Sunday, October 18, 2020

I Am Smiling Through the Tears

 I've been blogging since March, 2006, and in those nearly fifteen years, my blog direction has changed many times.  When I hit the "publish" button for the first time, I was a homeschooling mom, yearning for more children, either through my own body or through the beauty of adoption.  My blog name matched that season of life---Heart for Home and Orphans.  As the door on that season of my life closed, my blog evolved into something different, and it has continued to do so many times in the past several years.

And now, I'm feeling like my blog direction is to change once more.  While Clothed with Joy definitely reflects what the Lord has done in my life, every time I seek Him about what he would have me write about, my long battle with infertility is what is put on my heart.

Infertility defines my Christian life.  It has consumed me since 1993, and even though God has given me peace about it, I still struggle with it on a regular basis.

While many bloggers do well writing about anything and everything, I do better with a theme.  Home, family, and hospitality have been my go-to subjects for awhile now; although I continue to be passionate about those things, the Lord has put on my heart that the heartbreak of infertility is what he has most gifted me to write about.  

In fact, several years ago, He put the title Smiling Through the Tears on my heart.  I thought maybe I would write a book and give it that title, but, alas, I'm feeling more certain that it is the name of the blog I have been called to write.

So, although "He has removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy," this blog is going to be called Smiling Through the Tears.  My writings will be mostly about the lessons I have gleaned through walking the agonizing road of infertility; even more, I will write about learning to love God even when I don't like His answer.

I hope you will join me on my journey, which will begin in early November, after I return from a trip to visit my parents.  I will be offline until then.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Giving Thanks When It's Hard

Can you imagine being unemployed for 25 months? Can you imagine giving thanks for that period in your life?

No way, you're thinking. I could never give thanks for unemployment. Never.

I used to think that too. But I don't think it anymore.


In December, 2003, my husband, Gary, was six months in to what would turn out to be 25 months of unemployment. While he was able to obtain a part-time custodial job and also some part-time construction work to bring in a small income, he didn't land an "in his career field" job until July, 2005.

It was a very bleak time for our family, as we lived off our home equity and the meager income from those two part-time jobs. We were in this position because of me---because I had been so discontent that I had begged Gary to move from Idaho back across the country to Georgia. He had left a well-paying (though stressful) job to make that move, and when things didn't work out there and he couldn't find employment, we moved back to Idaho

We arrived back in Idaho in October, 2003, and job doors remained closed until July 2005; it was in that very difficult time that God put on my heart to begin giving him daily thanks for the blessings in my life.

It was Psalm 50 which spoke to my heart one morning in December of 2003 (v 23a  "But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.")  As surely as I know my own name, I knew God was instructing me to start a gratitude journal. And not just a gratitude journal, but a daily gratitude journal, recording five things each day.

Really, God? You want me to give thanks? Every day? For five things? How can I do that when we are in such difficult circumstances?

"Yes, my child," came the answer, "five things every day. Even now...especially now."

Digging out an old journal that had been lying around unused for years and opening up to the first blank page, I sat for what seemed like hours. What could I possibly thank God for in the midst of those bleak, uncertain times? An eternity later, I scribbled down...
1. Thank you for the ability to see 2. Thank you for the ability to hear 3. Thank you for the ability to breathe 4. Thank you for the ability to talk 5. Thank you for the ability to walk

The next day was equally tough, but I finally managed...
6. Thank you for good health 7. Thank you for a loving husband 8. Thank you for my beautiful daughter 9. Thank you for my fun-loving son 10. Thank you for our sweet beagle, Nikki

On and on it went like this until, finally, # 105---Thank you, God, for providing for us in this difficult time.
and then #185---Thank you for a job interview for Gary. We put it in your hands and ask for you to open the door.

#404---Thank you, God, for keeping that employment door closed. We know you have something else in mind and that you will reveal it at the right time.

Okay, so here I was giving thanks in all circumstances. But could I thank God for those circumstances. In a few more weeks, I would find out.

#796---Thank you for this time of unemployment, Lord. Being in this position has enabled us to see your hand of provision in ways we never have before.

Wow, I was finally not only giving thanks in my circumstances, but I was giving thanks for them. The act of giving thanks had changed me...had given me a new perspective.
Over and over, for many more months, I would find myself giving thanks for a job interview, then giving thanks once more when that employment door didn't open. Truly, the discipline of giving thanks carried me through those days. It enabled me to look around and see all the good things in my life, instead of the things I didn't have. Even more, it helped me to trust God with our future.

And you know what...God's timing was perfect. Eventually, he provided Gary with the job that led him to the company he works for today. And Gary says that where he is now is the best job he has ever had, with the best boss he's ever had. So, had doors opened earlier, he wouldn't be where he is today.

I encourage you, my friends, to start your own gratitude journal. Doing so will bless your socks off. It probably won't change your circumstances, but it will change you and how you look at those circumstances.  

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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Born out of Loneliness

Gary and I have been married since 1986, and for the first fourteen years of our marriage, we lived less than an hour away from his parents, my grandparents, and a few other extended family members.  Living so close, of course, meant that we always spent holidays with family.  Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and even birthday celebrations found us surrounded by many loved ones.  They were lovely days, filled with laughter and sweet memories. 

In May, 2000, however, Gary and I and our two children left Florida and made the cross-country move to Boise, Idaho. With thousands of miles between our loved ones and us, spending holidays with them was no longer possible. In fact, we haven't spent a single holiday with family since Christmas 1999, which means holidays can often be lonely and somewhat depressing. For several years, we whined about not being with family during the holidays, but we eventually realized that the best thing to do when you are lonely and sad and missing someone is to take your eyes off yourselves and reach out to others. Which is exactly what we did.

Two Thanksgivings found our family of four serving at the Idaho State Veterans' Home. We served a meal to the veterans and just spent time chatting with the men. It was a beautiful experience.  Other Thanksgivings, we invited neighbors and church friends to join us.

At Christmas, we began looking around for other families who were also far from loved ones, and we invited them to share in a Christmas Eve feast at our house. We opened our door to people we knew well and some we didn't---a co-worker of Gabrielle's; an older couple from our then-church; former neighbors; families whose children Gabrielle taught in Sunday School (but who Gary and I had never met). One time, we even invited a young man none of us had ever even laid eyes on until the moment he showed up at our door Christmas Eve---he was a new arrival in town, the friend of a Florida friend's daughter. Every single gathering was filled with joy and laughter and abundant blessings.

Our heart for reaching out to others and sharing a meal with them began with Thanksgiving and Christmas, then it was Memorial Day, then Easter, then the 4th of July. It wasn't long until it became what it is now---an open door any day of the year. We simply love opening our home to others, sharing a meal together, and extending the love of Jesus to them.

Although born out of loneliness and the longing for family, God had so much more in mind.  If you are feeling lonely with the holiday season on the very near horizon, why not look around for others who are missing their loved ones too.  Invite them over to share a meal around your table.  I'm sure you will be abundantly blessed by doing so!

Friday, October 2, 2020

If I Had Known Then

Next week marks Gabrielle and Scott's 5th anniversary, and as I have been thinking about that, I can't help but wish I could turn back the clock and experience that whole day again.  And not just the day, but the many months leading up to it.

To set the stage for that longing, I must make clear that Gabrielle and I are extremely close; in fact, we are more like best friends than mother and daughter.  Although we always had fun together, ever since  she was about 16, we had been pretty much joined at the hip.  We did everything together---tearoom lunches, chick flicks, late night talks, strolls in the park, and on and on.   While I am also extremely close to my son, since Gabrielle and I are both female, we just had that "girlfriend bond."

In late 2014, Gabrielle began dating Scott, and by the end of December, they knew they intended to get married in fall 2015.  So, as 2015 began, they spent more and more time together.  Gabrielle still lived at home, so Scott came over several nights a week, and they hung out together in the TV room.  Her weekends were filled with outings with Scott, and at church, she began sitting with him (no longer with Gary and me). 

The job of leaving and cleaving had begun.

And it was hard on me.  I sensed over and over that I was losing my daughter.  Never mind that I was gaining a second son; for me, all I could feel was that my beloved Gabrielle was pulling away from me, that I was losing my place as the #1 go-to person in her life. 

My journal from 2015 reflects the agony of heart I was experiencing. 

With many tears and equally as many fears (that she would no longer need me, that she wouldn't want to be with me anymore), I got through the months leading up to their October wedding.  I held it together through the ceremony and the reception, but as they headed off on their honeymoon, I fell apart.  I have called that "the most profoundly bittersweet moment of my life."  I was terrified that my girl had driven out of my life.

Some good friends---and God's bountiful grace---got me through the final hours of the evening and through the days of their honeymoon (when we had almost no contact).  God's grace saw me though the next several weeks of adjusting to life without seeing my sweet girl every single day. 

Early in 2016, I began to see the reality that I indeed had not lost my daughter.  Although the nature of our relationship had changed some, we were every bit as close as we had always been.  We talked every day, we shared our hearts, we encouraged one another, we prayed together, and we did fun things together on occasion.

If I had known back in 2015---as we planned the wedding and experienced the engagement season---that my relationship with Gabrielle would be as sweet after she got married as it had been before, I would have cherished that season more than I did. Instead, I was an emotional wreck, close to tears nearly every single day.

I only have the one daughter, so I will never be the mother of the bride again.  Every anniversary of theirs, I wish I could turn the clock back and do it all over again...enjoying it this time, instead of fearing what the future would bring.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Ready or Not, It's a New Season

The "It's a Girl" sign posted in your front yard is there to greet you as you and your 6-pound, pink blanket-cocooned bundle of joy arrive home two days after her birth.  As you step out of the car and lift your new little daughter from her mandatory car seat, a myriad of emotions overwhelms you---happiness, excitement, nervousness, fear, panic even.  It's your first baby, and you have absolutely no idea what to do.  How could you?  You never even babysat anyone under the age of five.

Somehow, though, you figure things out, and you fall into a routine.  You say goodbye to the career you held for the past ten years, opting instead to stay home with your little girl.  The days turn into weeks, then into months.  You have another child---this time, a son.  The months soon become years, and you are totally embracing your job.  You love your children with everything in you, and you devote your whole life to raising them, even choosing to homeschool them.  The years become decades, and even though you're often exhausted and in desperate need of some "me" time, you're loving every single minute of your life as a stay-at-home/homeschooling mom; in fact, you don't want to ever do anything different with your time.

Ah, but then it happens...your beloved children grow up.  They finish high school.  They move into their twenties.  They get jobs.  They get married.  And you find yourself out of a job.

That's the thing...the goal of motherhood is to work yourself out of a job.  We want our children to become functioning, independent adults, don't we?  We want them to leave our homes and to develop lives of their own, right?  We want to see them fly.  Yet, it's sad for us when they do, for it brings an end to a time we've loved so much.  We moms are left floundering, not knowing what purposeful thing to do with the rest of our lives.

That's how it was for me anyway.  Maybe some moms have excitedly embraced the empty nest season and its large chunk of independence, but not this gal.  In fact, I dreaded it as one might dread a terminal illness.  For years, I agonized over how rapidly that season was approaching, and I longed to do something---anything---to turn back time, or at least slow it down. 

However, God's Word tells us that "to everything, there is a season" (Ecclesiastes 3:1), and that includes motherhood.  Just as fall always gives way to winter---whether we want it to or not---there was absolutely no stopping this season of life from arriving on my doorstep.  Like it or not, I simply had to transition to what I now was---a mid-life mom, with independent, twenty-something children.

And you know what, now that I've stopped fighting the inevitable, and instead have chosen to embrace it, I have found that this, too, is a beautiful season of life.  I will always cherish the days of having little ones in my home and count them among the happiest days of my life, but I am fully convinced that God has beauty and  joy for me in this season as well.

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