Let’s say you have this “thing”. Everyone has a “thing” you love so I know you’ll understand. For me it’s chocolate milk. I love it like plants love water. We literally drink 5-7 gallons of milk a WEEK in our family – white and chocolate combined – we looooove it. So let’s imagine you’re a chocolate milk addict too. You drink it every day. Every meal! It’s your very favorite. And then one day you wake up and every drop has been stolen. You’ve been robbed. You’re shaken, but it’s okay. And then you go to the store, and there’s not a single gallon on the shelf.
No milk. On ANY shelf.
This is your sustenance!
Did I mention every meal?
Instead, the grocer gives you a pound of unsweetened green tea. Not remotely anything like milk. You snarl your big ole’ lip at it and take a sip and squinch your eyes and refuse to drink this horrible drink. But it’s all there is. You wonder when your milk is coming back. You raise a big stink, and over the course of a year without chocolate milk or white milk or any sort of milk you have an all-out southern comeapart where your “crazy” is wide open for everyone to see. As in, one more of these and the paddy wagon is comin’ for you. Authorities have already been alerted.
Now we both know this post ain’t about chocolate milk, don’t we? This post is about you and me, and what happens when God allows the things we love to be replaced with things we don’t love. How we respond. Who we hurt. And what to do. Bear with me. To write this post I have to show you my wounds and battle scars and pull back the curtain so you can see real life behind it.
Last year we moved from our home state to a new state. You already know that. We moved a few times when we were in our home state – for better schools, for better lives, and truly prayed over all of it. But even when we moved across town, all of our “things” were still there. Our friends. Our church. Our dance studio. Our safety net.
And then God moved us. Really moved us. He lovingly picked us up and transplanted us from a flower bed in one state to one in a completely different state.
We might as well have moved to Timbuktu.
All of the wonderful things I’d been told about our new state began to come unglued one at a time but there was no going back home, because there was nothing there for us. No job. Which basically pays for everything else. All of the promises for our future seemed to be in our new state, yet nothing was exactly as we’d been led to believe when we moved.
Despite that, we tried to love our new circumstances. We struggled to not compare this year with past years, but everything was a stark contrast to where we came from. And me? I struggled to hide how much I disliked tea when all I wanted was a big ole’ glass of milk. Don’t get me wrong, I tried to find God in every circumstance, every change, every blocked path and every blessing. I pointed out blessings to the kids, and to myself. And to myself. And to myself some more, because I needed to in order to stay sane.
God provided some wonderful things, and there were rainbows in the rain. I found humor in our year, in struggles and trials, and pointed these out to the family, but they weren’t buying what I was selling, and eventually, I decided I wasn’t buying it either. Right then, I really didn’t care who knew that I didn’t like tea.
And that’s when the crazy came out and I became a screamer. Not all the time. Not every day. Not even every week. I couldn’t turn it off, because I didn’t know how I’d turned it on. “Crazy” would just snap on like a light switch, where I’d literally had all I could take of whatever hand I’d been dealt that week and lash out at whoever was nearest. It would come at the end of a long day or in the middle of the week, and I could feel a physical change. Four times I’d hyperventilated myself into a tizzy and locked myself in a car, closet, or back room while I screamed my anger at God and anyone else would could hear through the concrete walls. By the fourth comeapart it wasn’t even behind walls. No hiding it, no it was right out there for the whole town to see.
I wondered if I was borderline depressive. I didn’t have any suicidal thoughts, but the anger – rage – at the loss of what we had and how it was gone was there and I just couldn’t turn it off. I was angry that God was still making me drink tea all this time.
I told myself that I’d learned whatever lesson God was teaching me.
Okay, God. I’m ready. Ready for milk again. Wheneeeeeeever you want to give it to me. I’m here. Waiting. Bring me the Promised Land so I can stop being angry.
But I wasn’t ready. Not really. I knew this was not the normal joyful person I’d been for 30 (ahem, cough, cough) years. I’d asked my friend if she could pinpoint a time when I’d started being grumpy, and she had no trouble narrowing it down to an exact time. Bless her heart, she was a trooper and stuck with me through all of my complaining. I’m sure she gets a special jewel in her heavenly crown one day just for being my ear for the past year.
It was almost a year of listening to me gripe and complain. Hubs and the GT’s would ask me “what’s wrong?” all the time. They even pointed out that they wished they could trade in grumpy mommy for normal mommy. I thought about it, and prayed about it, and thought some more on how I could be the joyful person I used to be. I didn’t like this new me better than anyone else did.
Monkey Backpack sat me down one day – God love her. She pointed out bright spots that I hadn’t seen in the past year. And then she asked me the really hard question that I didn’t want to answer. The one I know God told her to ask. “Is Gary seeing God through you these days?” No, of course not. No one was, and I hated it. “So decide right now that you won’t mention moving again. Decide you will make your current house a home instead of searching for something else. Support them. Teach them. Praise them. Laugh with them. And if you must grumble, grumble to God.” And then she reminded me of Phillipians 2:14-15,
Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.
My family couldn’t see what wasn’t there. And my normally bright-as-the-sun light wasn’t there, for sure. If my light was down to a simple flicker, the only one who could fix that – truly correct it? Me. It wasn’t that I needed to ask God to bring my light back, it was me who was hiding it all along. I was waiting for God to fix everything and put it back to my old normal, while He was waiting for me to be thankful, patient, and joyful in this normal. He was waiting for me to show the children how to react when things don’t go our way. He was waiting for me to be a light to my husband and those around me so they know what to do when things aren’t going their way. To not just write about it – but to truly live it. And he was waiting for me to be happy where I was, even if that meant we’d never drink a single drop of milk ever again.
To do that meant I would have to surrender my vision of perfection and trade it in for His vision of perfection. That’s hard. Really, really hard. You know, to trust that this, too, is part of God’s plan.
And to be honest, I almost didn’t write this post because it’s messy and embarrassing and SO UN-KAREN-LIKE, but I know there’s someone out there who is screaming at God in a closet who needs to know that she’ll be okay.
And you will, friend. You will be okay.
I followed MB’s advice because I knew she was just being a vessel. I vowed that I would grumble to God instead of my family, and that I would be the light. Period. Not a flickering light. Not a burned out bulb. I would be me.
You’d never guess what happened.
The kids were happier. Our home was more peaceful. And I got – and gave – more hugs in the following week than I think I had in the past two months combined. There was more joy in our home. Yet the circumstances hadn’t changed – everything was exactly the same as the week before. The only thing that had changed was me. I purposely changed how I reacted to conflict. I purposely changed how I reacted to adverse conditions. I purposely changed how I loved my family. I surrendered my own vision of perfection and began to trust that this step was not a haphazard wrench in God’s plan, but that it actually was part of God’s plan.
And that’s where you come in, if you’re stuck in a closet and you’ve gone through an entire box of tissues and your throat hurts from screaming and there is no light at the end of your tunnel.
I’ve been there.
You are loved.
You are cherished.
You will be okay. I promise.
And this place you’re stuck in? It is part of God’s plan.
It may seem to take forever, but until you see your own light at the end of the tunnel? Decide today to be the light inside the tunnel. Because that’s what God needs. For YOU to be the light until you get to the end of the tunnel. Go ahead. Shine your light, no matter how small it is. He’ll see you. They’ll see you. And they’ll see Him through you.
Hang in there, friend. I’m cheering for you.