April 12, 2013

Into the Forge

I had an epiphany of sorts about a year or so ago, and since then it's been stuck in the back of my head. Some days it's a constant voice in my ear and other days it's only a faint background noise, but it's always there. I haven't wanted to share it before because I felt that I needed to get the words right first. This wasn't something I just wanted to slap up onto my blog haphazardly; it needed to be molded, shaped, worked into the kind of story or lesson that would make sense to someone other than myself.

On Wednesday, I attended a ladies' class at church called "Real Women, Real Stories" and the speaker discussed a song by a woman named Laura Story entitled "Blessings". Here is the chorus:
'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near?
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

After discussing Laura's story and hearing our speaker share her own story, I felt like I couldn't hold this back any longer.

If you've read my blog at all, you know that I live under the cloud of Murphy's Law. Just look at my Friday Flashbacks--it's the whole reason they exist. I'm not grumbling about it; it's the way life is. And I'm sure I'm not alone. I have never had to deal with tragedy in my life. Compared to others it's been a fairly easy life. I still have both my parents, my siblings and my kids. I've never been divorced or suffered from addiction or dealt with major medical problems.

But I can attest to the fact that life is hard. Some days I feel like life is like that bird sitting on the light pole at WalMart just waiting to take a crap on your head. It sucks.

While I don't have a tragic story to tell, I do have a long history of...I'll call them "dings". If you've ever lived
in TX, you know what a car caught in a hailstorm looks like. If you don't know, let me describe it to you. It's as if someone climbed up on the car with ball peen hammers strapped to their shoes and tapped out a dance to the rhythm of "Welcome to the Jungle" by GNR. You know a hail damaged car by the pock marks covering the hood, roof and trunk--hundreds of little dings. That car is my life. I've never had a car that was totalled in a life-altering crash; I have a car that is covered in dings.

It's all those little things in life that, taken one at a time, may not be so bad. But when you are under a constant deluge, it starts to take its toll. Most things have occurred since I've been married, but considering I've spent almost my entire life married, that is more of a commentary on my life in general and not on my marriage or my husband. MC has been self-employed for most of our (almost) 18 years of marriage. If you know someone who is self-employed, you know it's feast or famine. For us, it's always been more famine. Ding. Throughout the years, we've bought houses as fixer-uppers knowing we would gain equity if we fixed them up--but we never did. Ding. We've lost 3 houses and 1 car to repossession. Ding. Once we started popping out kids, I stayed home to take care of them and so we lived on one unsteady paycheck. Ding.

After Howdy was born, I was introduced to the world of depression. This started my on-again, off-again relationship with medication. Ding. When Bubba was 2 days old, he had to have a life-saving surgery and spent 2 weeks in the NICU. Ding. We had no insurance. Ding. When he was 15 months old, he was diagnosed with Autism. Ding. While pregnant with Sassy, I drove myself to a psychiatric hospital while fearing they would find me unfit and take away my children. Ding. 

We can only afford older, used cars that typically have over 100,000 miles on them. I have gone through 6 that I can remember. Ding. My current vehicle has no heat, no a/c, no vent or defrost, 1 working window, no radio and doors that unlock when they feel like it. Ding. Since moving back to TX, MC has had 3 really good jobs come up that we thought were done deals that ended up falling apart--one of them after we committed to moving back from WA. Ding. 

I have had Bell's Palsy 5 or 6 times--I've lost count. Ding. After the 4th time, the doctors discovered that it's not actually Bell's Palsy but a genetic defect that can be corrected through surgery. I have no insurance. Ding. Each time it occurs, I recover less. Ding. 

After spending a year so broke our friends at church actually took up a food collection for us and I tearfully accepted free school supplies, I finally got a job. Yay! In ISS. Ding. We don't take vacations. We don't splurge on clothes and toys and entertainment. We do have cable TV and we do have cellphones. Those are our luxuries. My kids are learning not to ask for new clothes or new shoes or frivolous things like CDs, games or toys because we can't afford them. Ding. 

I have had a tire blow out on a loaded U-Haul that I was driving, run out of money while moving to WA and got stranded in CA, lived in a house that flooded every time it rained, had 3 different purses stolen, had a neighbor kid steal $1500 cash that MC dropped, been detained for shoplifting, had pets die while traveling, and made at least 3 trips to the ER with my kids. I've had 2 ulcers, viral meningitis twice, pneumonia more times than I can count and I started going grey at 15. Ding, ding, ding!

Have I depressed you yet? Take heart because here is where my epiphany comes in.

It's easy for me to go back and look at all these events and see where God's hand was. At least, most of the time. Despite all the hospital visits as a child, I am still here. Despite all my broken down cars, I have never been involved in an accident more serious than a fender bender. Despite losing homes and being broke, we have always had a roof over our heads. We've never gone hungry. At our worst, we were still better off than many people across the world and even in this country.

But here is what came to me. What if God was using all these events, all these trials and burdens and misfortunes to mold me into something better? What if each time something "bad" occurred, God scooped up that event in His hand and yielded it the way a sculptor would yield his chisel? Chipping away the harsh corners, smoothing out the rough edges, digging in to bring out the details? Creating a statue is a long process that requires patience and dedication. It requires the vision to see which parts of the stone need to be hammered away and which only need to be reshaped and polished. It requires returning to the stone again and again, chipping away bit by bit until you get the desired results.

What if that is what God is doing with me?

And how much harder would it be if the stone resisted?

Think of a blacksmith. A blacksmith uses the heat of a forge to soften steel, making it pliable, bendable, moldable.
Rods of steel are heated among coals that are over 2200 degrees Fahrenheit. Once properly heated, the blacksmith uses his hammer, anvil and chisel to mold the metal rod into something useful, something with purpose, something valuable. What if that metal decided it didn't want to bend? What if, despite repeated thrusts into the forge, it refused to become malleable? How much harder would the blacksmith have to work to finish his creation? How many more trips to the forge? How many more swings of his hammer? It's only when the steel rod bends to the will of the blacksmith that he is able to create his masterpiece. Only when the steel stops resisting is the blacksmith able to see his vision come to life.

So what if the next time Murphy's Law rears its ugly head at me, instead of ranting and raving to God and anyone else who will listen, what if I stop and just let God take me where He will. What if I was able to just go with it, lift it up to God's hands and say, "Father, please use this to mold me, to sculpt me, to polish me into the vision of the child You want me to be"?

Will it still be stressful? Will I still be scared? Probably. But when you get on a ride at the amusement park, isn't it a lot less scary when you know what the end looks like? When you know that no matter how many dips and turns and gravity-defying falls you may take, you'll come out okay at the end? And you won't just survive, you'll always have the memory of that adrenaline rush and when people ask, you can say with a smile on your face, "What a ride!"

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