This has been going round and round in my head and my life for the last 5 years, and I'm so thankful God's put all the pieces together and I can honestly say I've reached a point of contentment in my life, and man is it freeing! The - It Is Well With My Soul type of contentment! This post is largely for me to mark this stage in my faith, personal and parenting journey, but also maybe to provide hope for somebody that's on the doorstep of being content. When I think of being content, I thought of Paul's words in Philippians 4:12, when he wrote of having lived in plenty and and in need, hungry and full, but it's taken on a new meaning for me. Not just in material things, but in concepts. The secret of being content is in Jesus and only through Him, and for me was through a journey of other big words and seasons - Regret, Struggle, Acceptance, Peace and Joy.
5 years ago our lives were turned upside down....5 years, 6 months and 5 days to be exact. Brennan, Landon, Katelyn and Brooklyn were born 17 weeks, 6 days early and we had no idea what was in store! Three days later Katelyn died, many times in the weeks shortly after, Brennan, Landon and Brooklyn were very critical and Landon many times still in the last several years. I've cycled through different periods of grief. Grief over death, over changed dreams for my kids, over seeing my kids live a of special needs and everything that comes with it, over changed relationships. I had so many real struggles with what-ifs, wanting to change the past or situations, regret over not doing enough therapy with them, anger toward my prenatal doc, comparison with healthy preemies - you get the picture...regret and real struggle. Most of my kids beat the odds - 3 were alive and making progress and I desperately wanted to believe the cliche, "I wouldn't change a thing." I was/am thankful for the experiences we've had, people we've met, perspectives I've been opened to, but I couldn't buy in. Who would willingly choose to loose their daughter, see their kids live such difficult lives? Real struggle here. Apart from my own internal struggle; parenting in general is hard - parenting kids with sensory issues, cognitive impairments, physical disabilities, explaining these to Hailey and each other and encouraging each of them to see each other for the beautiful person God made them but being free to work through their own thoughts, feelings and questions and grief - sometimes we did well, sometimes not so well and need to ask the kids for forgiveness and help!
I tried to do this on my own and change my attitude when needed, but I'd get knocked off center, just the normal challenges of the day (of course, in retrospect, right?!). Dog gone it Jennie - Trust in the Lord, with ALL your heart, lean not on your own understanding. Not part of it, not the easy parts, not the parts I think I need work on. Give myself to Him and see the plans and paths He has for me. Now, the human side of me still struggles with why me and why the kids, but - why not us? Things happen, there's evil and bad situations in the world. But I HAVE FAITH that He has a plan for me and for us for His plan, not just for my life. Throughout the situations that come up, He will comfort us. He will give us peace that passes all understanding. He will take care of me and my family. I love this quote from CS Lewis: "God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it; not without pain, but without stain." We're not meant to live an easy life because we're Christian's, but when we experience God taking care of us, that's a show stopper. When I was in the middle of the regret and struggles and sought Him, I never felt such peace. I certainly am thankful I haven't had a life of daily battles, but the depths have magnified the joys.
This picture of Brennan and Landon is a snapshot of that - their relationship means SO MUCH, especially because of the life they've already lived and all that's impacting the life they're living!
Now the next big word, Acceptance. I accepted diagnoses (though difficult too!), the modifications we needed to make at home, changes in how we parent and talk to each kid but also convey expectations for what they can do, changes in relationships, different lifestyle, many of the outside stuff; and my heart accepted my new life. This stuff is hard, but I've accepted it's necessary. That's the part of the cliche I would buy into, for as different as my life is now than I had planned, I wouldn't trade these kids. Brennan, Landon and Brooke had a 15% chance of survival and I am blessed to have them, I remember that everyday. I think Contentment is beyond Acceptance though. Once I feel content, I can truly look forward, not just backward or in the day-to-day. Maybe it's just semantics, but for me, it was a difference and has been in lots of areas.
I just love the joy, love and laughter on their faces! There's so much going on bigger than they know, but they don't worry. It is what it is! :)
I think true Peace and Joy for me has come after I've become content with my life. "The secret of being content in every situation..." is from God. He's prepared my heart and changed my heart. Situations aren't necessarily going to get easier, but how I navigate through them is. I'm not fighting them (or the overall picture of my life) - I'm going with the flow, because I trust the Creator. When I'm going with His flow, I'm aware of the teachable moments for myself or with my kids, I have energy, peace and patience for the challenges - I'm not leaning on myself. I've seen parallels as I've had different seasons in my life - pretty sure that's God at work, getting me ready for the next thing in store, understanding Him better, understanding my kids better, understanding how He made me better; and I'm really excited!
Never in a million years would I have expected to be living this life, but I'm thankful I serve a God that's bigger than my expectations and carries me through, no matter the specific situation or season!