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Monday, January 5, 2015

Lessons from Pain

We all have our own crosses to bear in life. We will face struggles and hardships and I try to find God's goodness in all of those type situations. What lessons can be learned? How can I grow from this? How can I turn it into a positive?


For the past two and a half years I have been dealing with a lot of personal pain. Long story short: my mom is no longer in our lives and neither is my brother nor the rest of my mom's side of the family. In a nut shell my mom and I never had the most ideal mother-daughter relationship and that only got worse as time went on. Things finally progressed to a point where boundaries had to be set and when those boundaries weren't acceptable she chose to no longer be part of my life. I don't understand why my brother and the rest of the family chose to also not be in our lives, but that's the choice that was made.

This situation sucks. And it hurts. And time isn't making it hurt any less. This past holiday season was the most difficult for me yet. I can make sense of not having a relationship with my mom. It's hard, but I can accept it and have a peace about it for the most part. I miss my cousins and my aunts and uncles. We were always very close and it's sad not to have them anymore, but I can also make sense of that. I am thankful that my mom has them. I have my little family and she has her extended family. That's a blessing.

I'm having a much, much harder time accepting that my brother isn't in my life. I just don't get it. We were raised in the same home. We experienced very similar things. I don't understand why it had to be a choice for him? Why did a side have to be chosen? Why can't he and I still have each other even though I don't have her? My heart hurts for my brother. I think of our childhood together. Our friendship we formed when I was in high school. The close bond we had as we got older. I think of what could be now. Kye's at such a fun age and they'd have such a blast together. Britt is SO like my brother in her silly ways and I can picture him laughing with her. He's always had that special way with kids (he was always way better with kids than I was! ha!) and I know he'd love Tess and her gummy smile. But most of all, I want to be able to laugh with him. To tell "remember when" stories and to have each other's backs like we always used to. That special bond that siblings share.

While I am still hurting. Still left with so many questions. Still trying to heal. I am also still learning lessons. This situation is the heaviest cross I've had to bear and it has taught me many things. I know no two situations are alike, but I thought maybe some of the wisdom I've gained could help someone else who may be struggling.

1. Sometimes You Have to Love From Afar: I had a reader leave this as a comment on one of my blog posts and it really struck a cord with me and has stuck with me. I think about it often. Because it's so true! I don't love my family any less than I did before all of this. Every day that I live I will love them. I may not get to see them anymore. But that doesn't change the love I have. And I pray that they also feel that same way. We can all love each other and want the best for each other no matter where we may be.


2. Focus On The Big Three: When I get that overwhelming feeling of sadness, I have to remind myself of my focus in life. God, Zach, my kids. Those are the "Big Three" in my life. Every decision I make first must filter through those three things. Does this choice glorify God? Does it benefit my husband and our marriage? Is it what's best for my children? If a choice isn't what's best for those three things, then it's not a choice I need to be making. Focusing all my energy on those areas of my life helps make my priorities so much clearer and my decisions so much easier to make.


3. Be The Bigger Person: This has been my #1 area of growth over the past several years. This blog has helped big time...any blogger will tell you that the "haters" come pretty often. How do you handle the rude comments? I try, very hard, to always be the bigger person. You'll see that I typically don't respond at all to rude comments. I try to act the same way in my personal life. The Bible talks about "heaping coals of fire" on your enemies head (Romans 12:20). While my family are surely not my enemies...there have been many hurtful things done towards me. I try my best to either not respond at all or to respond in a loving way. As my mother in law would say "sometimes people teach you how not to be." When I am able to be the bigger person I still go to bed at night hurting from the pain they caused, but at least I don't go to bed feeling regretful for the way I responded.


4. Be Empathetic: I am so thankful God blessed me with the ability to put myself in other people's shoes. I am able to think about things from the perspective of someone else and it really allows me to see things differently. Yes, it hurts that my family doesn't want to be in my life. But I know they are hearing all kinds of stuff about us. I can't even begin to imagine what's being said, but from their perspective they are hearing things from someone they trust and it's natural to understand that they'd believe them to be true. I'm not angry at any of my family for any of the hurtful things that have happened. I know they are coming from a place where they think they are being loyal and defending someone they care about. I try not to let that be a reflection of me, but instead try to remember where they are coming from. Sometimes seeing things from someone else's point of view allows us to better understand them and also better cope with our own positions.



5. Relinquish Control: Everything that has happened started off between just my mom and I. So even when I found out that my family cut ties with me, I still continued to reach out to them. The biggest way I did this was to continue to mail them Christmas cards, birth announcements, etc. It makes me very sad that I have to stop doing those things. But I learned this holiday season that, unfortunately, by continuing to make an effort out of love, I was also allowing people to have control over me and my emotional state. I was giving them an opportunity to cause pain and to affect my ability to enjoy my holidays with my family. I can still love them from afar but I cannot allow that kind of control to continue.



6. Leave The Door Open: When people hurt you it's natural to build up a wall around your heart. From day 1 of this situation, I have had the goal to remain open. I understand right now that my brother and my other family have chosen not to be involved with me, but I pray that someday that changes. And if and when it does, I don't want to be bitter or resentful or angry. I want to welcome them with open arms.

7. Choose Happiness: So often we look for happiness in things or in people. We revolve our joy around things that can let us down. Things can go away. People can disappoint us. When I hurt I allow myself to hurt. But I don't dwell in it. I have to physically choose joy. I have to put the pain down and decide to find the good in my life and focus on my blessings. It's a choice! We only get to live ONE life on this earth. Why not choose to live the happiest life we possibly can?



8. Let Your Light Shine: More than anything else I am God's daughter. I want to live my life in a way so that others can see Jesus through me. It's okay to hurt and it's okay to be sad and to long for things of this world, but it's more important for my efforts and focus to be on the eternal home I will have in Heaven. I can't let my pain consume me. I can't let it dull that light! I also try to always remember that the actions I take, the words I choose, and the way I live my life is either going to help bring others to Jesus or push them away from Him.


9. Remember Your Legacy: I think often of Abraham and Issac. And how Abraham's faith lead to the lineage of Christ. We don't know what the future holds or what will happen generations from now. I don't come from a Christian family. And I firmly believe that a lot of what I'm experiencing is the persecution that the Bible talks about (Matthew 5:10). I try to think a lot about the bigger picture. How the pain I'm enduring now will be so, so worth it if it helps lead my children, and future generations, down a path of righteousness.

10. Look for God's Goodness: God is always good. Always and in all ways! Sometimes it's hard to find the goodness in situations. It's hard to find the blessing in it. But there are blessings in the hardships we face. During times of trial we have the opportunity to learn and grow and draw closer to God. While I hate the situation I've been dealing with, I'm thankful for the growth I've experienced through it. (Romans 8:28)


In no way to I have it "all figured out." My personal struggles and pains are ones that probably won't be changing anytime soon. All I can do is strive to be the best I can possibly be. To handle myself in a manner that is Christ-like and to remain focused on the many blessings I have surrounding me. I hope that if you are facing times of personal struggle that maybe some of my lessons will help you during your time of difficulty. Know that you are not alone! 

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