Everything frozen is captivating me at the moment—the frozen roads and gravel drive ushering me to our home—frozen path leading me to our barn full of horses—frozen water drips hanging from benches and twigs.
After leaving our 22 year old daughter for her first night’s stay in assisted living—her own apartment with a caregiver in an apartment below and other women with special needs in their own apartments—I wondered whether my heart was frozen or warm. I love God and I love my daughter. She wants to live at home with us forever.
But is that love—to let her stay because living in another place with another caregiver and others who need care reminds her of the orphanage where she spent her first six years of life? Does love insulate and protect from hard feelings? Does love allow someone to stay frozen in fear? Or does love always seek what’s best for another, regardless of how hard? Does love override the deepest screaming feelings we have and venture into territories never trod before?
After two full days of moving, Anna wanted me to take her to see the movie Frozen. I was dead tired and animated movies aren’t my favorite. But there was no doubt. We needed a break and we needed mother/daughter time in this gut-wrenching life transition.
As we settled into our seats and the movie began, it didn’t take long for us to become transfixed by the exquisite animation, the lyrical music, and the lovable characters. I hoped Anna grasped the main theme of how sacrificial love heals, releasing captives frozen by fear. That was the obvious theme. But the movie made me think about something I’ve learned by raising Anna, our oldest, and our other two children who also have disabilities.
I’ve learned that we’re all disabled.
And we’re all able.
We’re all blessed with gifts and we all have weaknesses. Sometimes gifts can be weaknesses. Sometimes, weaknesses can be gifts.
Anna came into this world with her developing brain damaged by alcohol. She has lived, and will continue to live, with permanent disabilities, barring God’s miraculous intervention. At times, I have fumed at her birth mother who died six months after dropping Anna off at the Russian orphanage. Why? Because life is difficult for Anna. But then I stop, knowing I don’t know what pain Anna’s birth mother might have been trying to drown with alcohol. Who am I to judge? We all have our ways of drowning . . .
But this precious child, now woman? Anna lives each day with disabilities no one sees and expectations of others she cannot meet. She has hopes and dreams.
So did I.
We didn’t know Anna had these challenges when we adopted her. We didn’t know any of our kids had such challenges. My hopes and dreams have needed remolding by the hands of our Maker. He has shown me that my hopes and dreams are miniscule compared to His—for me—for my kids.
But . . .
Before the enlightening . . .
I felt angry and sad and I admit, at times I allowed such feelings to consume me. But our ever-merciful God has been good to me, even so. He has patiently loved me, melting my frozen heart. And the greatest gift?
God has shown me that disabilities can be gifts.
Things we label negative can be positive when they usher us into the presence of our loving God.
What has raising three children with invisible disabilities taught me? I’m learning to depend on God more and more.
Being someone who is smart and capable and gifted by Him in multiple ways, I’ve learned that my gifts can be my greatest curse. Because the gifted can begin to believe they are self-sufficient. I have. The gifted can become proud. I have. The gifted can try and steal the glory that belongs to God only. I have. And I have suffered much for these sins.
But God, in His mercy, has only allowed the suffering to usher my frozen heart into His healing presence. Yes, He has commissioned me to adopt, love, and raise three children with invisible, difficult disabilities. And, it seems, I have had to learn my lessons the hard way. But if I learn, no way is bad, even if it’s hard, because the real goal in life is for us all to come closer to our God who made us, who loves us more than we can imagine. The weaker I realize I am, the stronger I become. I have learned that my strength comes not from talents bestowed, not from privileged genes passed on, not from hard work, but from our great God—the one and only.
And the hardest lessons? The most painful and wrenching?
When we commit our hearts to Christ and want more than anything to become Christ-like, we must be crucified. There is no other option. Self—must—be–crucified. One thing must be nailed through till it bleeds out and dies—the lie that we can live a true life without God at the helm. And when we die to the lie of self-sufficiency?
We are resurrected by the only One who holds life and death in His hands.
My life lessons have not been easy. In fact, they have killed me, over and over. Even now, I am bleeding out fast, again. And this is a good thing. Some call me crazy. Yes. I’m seeing life upside down and I’ve never felt more blessed, more joyous, more peaceful, more alive. But . . .
I have been wrecked by God. Because when I committed my life to him at 16, I gave Him permission to thaw me from my frozen false self—to remake me in His image—to save me from my ice castle of pride and fear. I invited him into my dead cold heart. And His sacrifice—His actual bleeding out of holy warm blood on wood—HE—created? His prayer to forgive me for I know not what I do, what I think, what I feel?
This Jesus! He is the healer of frozen hearts with the kiss of His cross. He turns what we think is good upside down. Nothing will stop Him from teaching us that HE is our all-in-all, not WE. And when we come to that moment—to that place—to that crucifixion crossroads where we—let—SELF—die . . .
The frozen begins to melts. The softening starts and we absorb. We move into life, not away . . .
WE SEE AND TOUCH AND SMELL AND TASTE AND HEAR . . .
And we begin again.
We step into a new life . . .
A true life . . .
And life as we know it will NEVER be the same again.