I need to write a book.
It would be called "To Do List: A Grieving Handbook for Mom's with Young Children, Full Time Jobs and No Time to Think." The cover would have a piece of paper with words written in grocery list form that goes something like this:
7:00 Wake up Kids
7:15 Make Breakfast, Brush Kids Teeth, Pack Lunches
8:00 Drop off at School
8:15 Start Laundry
8:30 Grocery Shopping
11:30 Tears and Memories
11:32 Break up Fight
No one told me that going through this process of grief is impossible with three small kids, working full-time, being a wife, homework, adoption paperwork, etc., etc. No one prepared me for the onslaught of emotions that would roller coaster through my day, not by me, but by my three babies.
No one told me that one would yell at me, treat me like dirt, and then the next second cling to me for comfort. No one told me that my optimistic child would be talking about how lucky grandma is to be flying with the angels and the next almost break into tears when she hears her grandma's voice on the voicemail. No one told me that my 2 year old would suddenly want to sleep all the time as a coping mechanism to a traumatic event.
And yet this is the daily grind in my house working out our feelings with the absence of Grandma here.
I've got numbness down. If that was the one and only stage of grief, I'd be a pro. Honestly, I walk around in a daze most of the time doing my tasks. Playing a game, making lunch, making snack, doing laundry, picking up toys. Those things are easy, they don't require any feeling.
I've been struggling with severe insomnia. I will lie in my bed awake...all night. I will watch the hours tick by without one wink of sleep. I don't think about things, my mind isn't racing. But I've been told it is. In fact, my mind is working so hard to block out things that I just can't rest. I've resorted to taking sleeping pills for the last week after 3 nights of no sleep.
Sometimes I think I'm losing my mind. I forget the most common things. I forget to make arrangements for Owen to get to picked up from school. Or I forget that I did make arrangements and pick him up anyway. I forget to fill out homework or permission slips. I forget groceries that are written out clearly on my list. It's bizarre.
The other day I was at my wits end and I cried out to God. And He responded through two people (my wise husband and the great James MacDonald) with the same verse. "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given to me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:7
The thorn that Paul is referring to is an enduring source of personal pain. A thorn can be a physical ailment, a death, a bad decision that brings a lifetime of consequences, or some other problem that will not leave you. 2 Corinthians never specifically says what Paul's "thorn" in his life is, but it was something causing him great pain. I have two "thorns" in my life, they will remain nameless (they are not actually people), but have caused many trials, pain, and suffering. And the one thing I have noticed about these thorns is that they won't seem to go away.
I've been reading Job because I feel like he is a great example of how to keep the faith even when you feel like your whole world has been shaken and taken away from you. I find it interesting that Satan is given permission to hurt Job by God, but he cannot take Job's life. This testing is Job's thorn.
Thorns are sent by Satan to harrass and torment us, but must first be allowed by God. But why would God allow us to go through the torture and harrassment of Satan? It seems so cruel! God's goal in allowing the thorn is to use it for good. Otherwise, he would not allow it. God knew that Job was faithful and would not turn away from him even if he lost everything near and dear to him, including his wife and children. God has promised not to test us beyond what we can bear. "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear." 1 Corinthians 10:12, 13
So what shall I do with this? It's hard to accept hardships. I definitely don't welcome it with open arms. I usually pray, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me." Like Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39). But I NEVER follow up with "Yet not my will, but yours be done." How many times have I asked God to take away the pain and yet never tried to figure out why He was allowing it.
I need to really follow Christ's example when it comes to honoring God in my response. He says, "Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?" (John 18:11) Have I not been preaching how great God is? Have I not made my faith known in a good God who loves me unconditionally? I am risking all I have claimed to believe to come crashing down around me. Am I going to accept the cup given to me or am I going to run and hide from the seemingly never-ending testing in my life.
But Jesus' still small voice says, "My grace is sufficient for you." God's undeserved favor for me will get me through the deepest of trials. And that is the necessity of my thorns. Until I see my need for His grace, then I will never lean on Him and let him take control of my struggles.
I want to close with a quote from James MacDonald in his "When Trials Never End" series. It's what gets me through those days when the thorn feels more like a crown pressing down on my head causing deep scars and throbbing pain than just a prick in my finger. "Be content with your thorn. Submit and embrace it. Live your life with the thorn, because you love Christ so much."
What are your thorns? How can you honor God and boast your need for him.