Tragedy in life often gives us perspective and helps us realize what is truly important. This is definitely true for our family and what we've been through the last few months. I am confident that difficult times, trials, whatever you want to call them, are God's way of teaching lessons in life -- whether we want to learn them or not.
One verse that God has used to reiterate this for us is Romans 5:3-5. When the boys were born, Jeff and I struggled a lot those first few weeks. We had reached a level of exhaustion we'd never known before and felt completely and totally inadequate at caring for those two little people. I still have an email in my inbox that Jeff sent when they were about a week old. He'd had a quiet time that morning, and read Romans 5. He came across this verse and sent it to me, as encouragement that what we were going through was not in vain. God was going to use it to build us up, and God used Jeff to deliver a message I desperately needed at the time. I love when He does that. I have since re-read the email from that day at least a dozen times, and the words are even more fitting for our life now than they were then.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5
Many times I roll my eyes and scoff at verses like this from the Bible. I think, "Thanks a lot, God, but I'd rather not. I'd like to learn my lessons a different way, please." Even last week at church, when they were previewing the upcoming series, titled Perspective, I laughed a little. Next week's message is called Joyful, No Matter What. Talk about timing, huh? I guess because I know all too well that it's true, but in no way does that make it easier to practice. Being joyful in a time like this sounds like a bit of a stretch, but I know that God uses these situations to make us better, bring us closer to Him and to teach us to rely on Him for what we need. And that's perspective I can always use.
In an effort to try not to lose this perspective, here are a few things I am promising myself and my family...
* Focus on what matters, and forget about what doesn't.
I have always struggled with seeking the approval of others. I would wonder what people might think if I did this or said that, if my house wasn't clean or my clothes weren't just so. While I still have to remind myself often that other people's opinions are not what matters, I feel that I have made great strides. I know that God's approval is all I need to seek; I have to focus on what He says about me and claim those truths for my life. I don't have the time or energy to spend thinking about what others might think. Even when I do let my mind go there sometimes, something else will quickly take my attention. I think this is God's way of taking a lot of this away for me.
* Say the nice things you're thinking.
This goes back to the first one a little, but it deserves it's own bullet point. I sometimes avoid saying things to people - nice things - and I really don't know why. In part, probably, because I'm afraid of what they might think. It will look like I'm a Facebook stalker if I comment on this picture, or I never talk to this person, so how will it look if I comment. Or in person, I'll think someone's outfit is cute or their hair looks good, but I won't speak up. I've realized that is just silly. These are shallow examples, I know, but I'm going to start somewhere. The outpouring of support we have received in the form of Facebook comments and messages, blog comments, texts, emails, cards and so much more has been exceptional. We have heard from people we don't even know, people we haven't spoken to in years and our closest friends. Each message, comment and kind word has been so touching, I am inspired to pass along a small portion of that in any way I can.
* Take more pictures.
I haven't done a great job at this yet, but I intend to do better. I did get a family picture session scheduled quickly after leaving the hospital last time, and I am so happy I did. Laura Eckel took some beautiful photos of our family that I know we will treasure always. We have received offers from other photographers to do the same, and I am looking forward to taking them up on it. It is tough to get the camera out when our hands seem to be full all the time, so the iPhone pics will have to do as well.
I'll leave you with a few of Laura's photos of us...