With thanks to my dear, true friends—amazing women of God—who have encouraged and supported us in parenting fearfully and wonderfully made children.
Today, I’m downright ugly, I think. And I want to cry hard but tears won’t come. I’m numb but churning at the same time. Am I the only one? Am I the only one who thinks ugly when she hasn’t wanted to? And worse, I’m thinking ugly about children’s disabilities and two aren’t even children any more, technically. Oh me of so little faith, today.
I listened to a mother in grocery store aisle, talking so sweet and calm to her sweet and calm little ones.
“You may each choose one sugary cereal, like Lucky Charms,” she says to her three under six.
Is she always so patient and kind? I want. I want a lucky charm to change my ungodly mood. But no lucky charm will do. Only God can change me, if I let Him, and today I need a whole lot of work. It’s not just my mood that needs changed. It’s my heart. And I sorely know it. But today gets worse.
My own groceries in tow, I come home to car angled crooked so that I can’t pull in the garage. I want the comfort and safety of a GARAGE! And no one is around to help. I fume as I unload bags in the cutting cold wind and traipse on ice, hoping not to fall and break bones in this aging body of mine. My mind is full of stress-filled thoughts, wondering what to do with challenges unseen, beneath surface of skin, screaming for attention and seemingly insurmountable.
Today I’m tired and pathetically poor—in—spirit. Just how God wants me, I know. But still I complain like the elder brother in the parable of prodigals. I believe I am entitled! Entitled to a less painful life. Entitled to children without disabilities. Entitled to others knowing how—hard—our—life—is and offering comfort and support. Just—plain—entitled. UGLY. I know. I read about Israelites grumbling in the desert over how they hate manna and could they just have a little meat??!!! I raise my eyebrows at their narcissism all the while blinded to my own.
Our kids—all with so many needs we don’t know how to fill . . .
Me—with so much sin, still needing to be healed . . .
And she arrives just as I set bags on kitchen counter. It’s 9 AM and I’m frazzled already and she knows me well enough. She knows I’m not my normal, smiling me who trusts God humbly, taking one day at a time. Today I’m worn down by demands and my own negative thoughts and I’ve turned from God because, today, I chose not to like this life of yielding. The truth is, today I’m making myself miserable with my bad attitude. But I’m stuck. STUCK—the name of the Bible study I’m about to lead for young women. Oh, the irony. We teach what we most need to learn. Keeps us humble—a good thing.
“Are you OK?” she asks in love. I can see it in her eyes. I know her heart.
What do I say? Do I stay superficial, fake smile, and say, “Yes. I’m fine.” Or do I dare real and say, “I’m a mess today and I really need God-grace and you-grace and I really don’t want advice because you don’t know what we’re dealing with and I’m scared and I’m sad and I’m mad and I’m NOT fully relying on God and—I just—would really like—a—hug—right now?
Should I show her my insides ugly—that I’m peeved and worn out and sick of the phone ringing with needs and wants and disability claim questions and it’s just—too—much? Should I admit that, today, I’m just too tired of caring for others who can’t take care of themselves?
I can’t lie to her.
And just like God, He hears my desperate plea, even in the midst of my sin. God meets me here—in the ugly space—in my cooking place—where I feed my family daily meals—and He—feeds—me—my—daily—bread.
She hugs me and says it’s OK. I’m OK. Such love seems too sweet for me right now. I want to run and hide my ugly because I’m proud and guilty—both together—just like Eve. But because of love, I stay and humble and accept God’s grace given through young woman-gift in my life.
She doesn’t offer answers because she knows she doesn’t know. But it doesn’t matter that she doesn’t know. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know. What matters is that she cares and loves and hugs and listens to me bleed in the midst of my journey—our journey.
And I can take in love because she loves real. I’m humbly softening, admitting my need. And I KNOW—SHE—CARES because she asks and she offers no pat answers and she hugs and she prays.
And she knows she’s—just—like—me. Sinner saved by grace—walking a path toward holiness that sometimes doesn’t look or feel very holy. And she dares to let me see her ugly sometimes. We ebb and we flow with the Spirit. This is the true life of saved still in flesh.
She has walked with me through years of not knowing where we’re going with three precious souls affected by alcohol before they breathed their first breath. She knows. She cares. She loves them as much as she loves me—and she backs up love words with actions. She takes our daughter out for coffee and loves her. She doesn’t condescend or pretend to know answers. She just loves, even in the messy.
Thank you God for your manna in our wilderness! My frozen heart is starting to melt. Why?
She’s not afraid of the messy and ugly and hard. She doesn’t require pretty or superficial. She asks how I am—how we are—and REALLY wants to know. And she listens. She really listens. And when tears come, she comforts. When hearts pour, she cups. I know I need to get right with God so I don’t need her to tell me this truth. This time, I need love to soften my hardness so I CAN get right with God. She gives what Jesus gives, real love.
What a gift I’ve been given! Someone who will listen and comfort and hold my guilty heart gently. There is a time for truth. There is a time for love. Over time, we need both to grow in Christ.
She gives both—grace and truth—in proper times. And she’s only 23. Amazing grace!
I hope I have given my true friends half of what they have given me on this hard journey called life.
And as I peck at these keys and ready them for print, I think . . .
We may live in a beautiful home on gorgeous property, but I would trade it all in a second for one—true—friend.
I am incredibly, wonderfully, eternally, BLESSED!
And I now realize my frozen heart has melted fully and I am thankful once again, not sad or angry or scared. I’m thankful for such a gracious God who loves us and provides for us, just what we need in the moment. Even—in—our—ugly. That’s Jesus. Loving in our ugly—not waiting till we get good enough on our own.
Oh Lord, thank you for true love. I can be so blind, so hard. Keep healing me, I pray. And thank you, thank you, for true friends who speak grace and truth over time. Just like you. Amen.
A friend loves at all times, and a [sister] is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17
[Jesus] replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:48
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2