Surrender: Letting Go of Who You Think You Want to Be

This little word came to me in December; God whispered: “this one, this word, surrender, we have work to do here, daughter.”

Since then He has whispered something about it nearly every day in many different ways. {He’s very creative and He knows how to get my attention}

Surrender- it may be the one thing I need to tattoo on the back of my hand where I can see it every day.

Surrender don’t come natural to me

I’d rather fight You for something I don’t really want

Than to take what You give that I need

-Rich Mullins

Because, you see, I have to. Surrender. Every day.

If you know me even a little bit, you know that I have an elevated confidence level when it comes to my profession. Not when it comes to self {still working on it}.

My self-confidence was so low as a child and as a teen and as a new mom, I’m not sure I had any back then. Heck, I barely knew who I was.

Then came nursing school and my instructors taught me that women living in the era we were living in had the right, nay, the responsibility to be bold, assertive and confident if we were ever going to get anywhere in that socio-medical minefield that was female nurses caring for male doctor’s patients.

The times they were a changin’.  Women’s lib and feminism made the headlines. Every day. Our attitudes about ourselves changed with each new item in the news.

After all, I was entitled. I was woman…. Thank you, Helen Reddy, for that one…

We skipped completely over “do unto others” during the late 70s to the rhetoric that said – you have rights, you are whatever you want to be, you can do whatever you want to do and no one can take your rights away.

We bought into the mantra that said: “I want what I want and I should have whatever I want, whenever I want it, and my wants come before everything and everyone else.”

So much for families, friends, faith….

My wants came first and people were in my life to ensure that I got what I wanted or they needed to get out of the way because they were hindering me. My wants were paramount.

That was the loudest message I received in nursing school. Everything we were taught was wrapped up in those newspaper articles and tied with the bra straps from the burned bras.

It almost destroyed my family without me even realizing it. Submission was a dirty word in my newly grown up world. It was all about me.

Then God got my attention and put my head back on straight. It wasn’t a bolt of lightning or anything that was sudden and public. Just some circumstances at church, a nugget of a verse here and there, comments by friends and then, umm, there was that whole month my husband and I did not say one word to each other; and the kids, oh, yeah, the kids, who were all of 2 and 3 then- I did have to think about the kids didn’t I?    {insert sarcasm}

There were some tense conversations when we did talk and I woke up one day from the “dreams” that had been placed in my head; the tape set on repeat that said: “All that matters is what you want ”.

It was, of course, the enemy, whispering to me as my instructors treated me as if I were the darling of the class many days and encouraged me to strike out on my own. I could do anything, be anything according to them.

Oh, how that stroked my infinitely small quantity of self-worth.  Perhaps you know the feeling?

When your ego is pumped by people with no vested interest in you, it can be very flattering.

It’s one thing when the people who love you compliment and build you up- that’s their job after all, right? They’re saying it because they love you, right? But when someone in authority over you chooses to stoop low and boost your confidence it must be real, mustn’t it?

Go ahead and laugh.

I was that naïve that I didn’t see the truth at first.

Oh, he’s an expert at that.

Reality check: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

By the Grace of God, I got back on track. Yes, I was living through that period of time when women’s lib was front page news every day, and I was still in nursing school, but the reality of the fact that I was a wife and mother first and my responsibilities were to them had pulled me back from the brink of destruction of a family- mine.

He helped me realize:

First: I am His child

Second: I have an earthly family that came way before the world’s siren call

Third: I am responsible and accountable to Him for the way I behave, treat, and teach that family

Fourth: His purpose for me uses the brains He’s given me and the knowledge I learned to help others, not further my own selfish agenda.

Fifth: I am His child. He will not let me fall.

Stumble, maybe. Learn from it, definitely.

Surrender. Yes.

Those “dreams” that weren’t part of my calling.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. Proverbs 3:5-7 NIV

 

Dear Little Man

 

littlemanweb

Dear Little Man:

Little Man. 

That is how I see you, not as the sweet babe in this picture.  I see in my mind a young man, grown, tall, lean, with a sparkle in your eye. The baby of the family; at least for now. That position will cease to be yours with the next generation.

You have been born into a privileged estate. You may never know anything different.

What makes me say you are privileged?

You were born into a family- whole and intact. A mom, a dad, and siblings who love each other and that love will surround you daily. And that family will teach you and care for your physical, emotional and spiritual needs. They will introduce you to the Author and Creator of the Universe, the High King of Heaven and His Son who gave up all He had for us.

Your grandparents (all of us) are praying people. That means we rely solely on the Lord God Almighty for our strength. We will pray for you. That is certain. We don’t know whether we will see you as a grown man with our earthly eyes- you are the youngest and only the Father knows the number of our days. But, we will pray while we have breath.

You have a Godly heritage. He is the center of our existence and we will all strive to show you Him every day in every encounter and when we fail utterly we will ask your forgiveness and point you to the One who never disappoints.

You have been born into what some say is the most affluent culture on earth. By accident of birth you have been born in America. Where you can practice your faith freely. Where you can state your opinion whenever and wherever you want.  Where you have the right to defend yourself. Where, if you are charged with breaking the law, you are considered innocent until proven guilty.  Where you can choose what you want to do with your life when you grow up. Where being a citizen is a right by birth and also a privilege and a responsibility. You can vote your choice here with impunity. No one will haul you off to jail if you support the losing party or make you a non-person because of your choice.         Yet.

There is history in your family, too. Of love and loss; of brokenness and healing; of orphans and veterans of wars; of country hicks and big city folk; of children who barely learned to tie their shoes as an adult and those who could solve a high algebraic equation in their heads; of dreamers and realists; of writers and doers; of educators and medical professionals;  of travelers and homebodies; of those who hold a college education and those who never got past the third grade; of step and half siblings; of marriages for life and multiple marriages in one life; of pious little old ladies and swearing sailors; of great cooks and let’s go out to eat grandmas; of Mr. fix-its and Mr. financial-whizzes; of crazy people and those who loved them; of patriots and protesters; of Tennesseans and Texans and Mississippians and Scottish and Irish and German and Scandinavian, too. So you see, what you will be is made up of all of this. I just don’t know how that will look in the little man I now see.

I was asked today how it felt to be a grandma again. I really couldn’t answer in a small sentence. That’s how this post came about.

I think it feels like this: I have been given the greatest opportunity that one can be given.

There are eight little souls who will be impacted by my presence in their lives.

I can be a positive influence or a negative one. I can be a Godly or a worldly representative. The choice is mine to make and this is the most important choice a grandparent could ever make. I choose to handle each soul with care and careful discipline.

I am a boundary maker and one who builds esteem. When you are small I will correct you when you are being willfully disobedient in my house. When you are older I will give you my opinion-it will not be my place to discipline you; and you may take or leave my words with a grain of salt but I will hope that you will value my words. I will see your strengths and weaknesses for what they are and I will encourage you to always do your best, to be honest and live with integrity. I want you respect others regardless of their sex or their standing in life. I will love you to my last breath and beyond regardless of your situation in life. We all make mistakes; no one is perfect. Life is meant to be lived – so live with joy even in the pain; live with hope even when there’s only darkness around you. And finally, in the words I live by:

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14

  Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault though you live in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe, as you hold out the word of life- in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in for nothing. Philippians 2:14-16

And finally:

 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:15-20

Always remember I love you,

Your Nana

Only Good Memories

Pain, sorrow, grief, sadness to the core; does it affect the things we remember? After my daddy died, my mother began waxing poetic about how she missed him and how good their life together was….nice, but, untrue, really. 

They argued long enough and loudly enough to make a fight between two tomcats look like the social event of the year. For most of my childhood he was a falling down alcoholic, one, who could keep it together for work- most of the time. She, on the other hand, had a tongue that could slice hardened steel like it was warm butter and she would goad him until he couldn’t stand it anymore. Then he would lash back at her-thus starting one more argument that would seem to last forever. She didn’t want the neighbors to “hear” them, so she would make him get in the car and drive so she could yell in the relative isolation of the vehicle. Most of the time I had to endure those trips pretending to be invisible. {and she never understood why my head was always in a book? Well, duh.}

After he died she would just go on and on about him. She loved him. She missed him. She needed him. He was a wonderful man. A wonderful companion. Sometimes I would comment on something that reminded me of one fight or other they had. According to her,  It was an argument, a discussion, a disagreement- never a “fight”. “We never fought.”  

She would vehemently deny the whole point and say it never happened or say that I had it wrong and would then relate the event as she remembered it. I never understood it. I asked her once why she only chose to have good thoughts about him and remember only the good things and she responded that when people die you just remember the good things- the bad part you forget. 

Being a nurse, I remember being in my psych nursing class and learning that the negative events in our lives are those that become the most vivid and enduring memories.  I cannot even attempt to answer my own question as to why she chose her memories. I have no clue. I suppose that was the only way she could cope after a lifetime of conflict.

Sometimes I wish that I could remember the good things about her… but I can’t. It’s the painful memories, the ones where I felt as if I didn’t matter as a child, I was belittled as a teen, and my own parenting was disrupted by her actions. In the end, the memories of the  disintegration into the madness that was our relationship until she died that I remember in living color.

There is a part of me that is so envious of everyone who had a “storybook life” where two parents loved each other well and showed it, where the individual was respected as a child and when a parent is lost, a healthy sorrow ensues. Actually I just wanted a real family, not one where I was an afterthought. 

(point of clarification: my parents were my grandparents who raised me after my biological parents divorced when I was 6 months old. I was dumped on my grandmother- my grandfather was serving in Korea at the time of my birth. They had been married less than a year when he shipped out- he was husband #6 or 7- never knew for sure).

Today she would have been 102 years old were she living; however, she gave up her fight with this world five years ago. I would like to miss her and to miss being with her. But I spent 35 years of my adult life missing a real, loving, trusting relationship with a woman who was irrevocably broken by the choices she made due to her mental illness. I think I grieved enough when she was alive to last the rest of my life.  

Back to the good/bad memories question…living long enough with the negative can extinguish the memory of the good.

 I think that’s one of the reasons Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8- “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

 And this is what I can try to do- fill my heart and mind with the things listed above- truth, honesty, justice, purity, loveliness, goodness, virtue, praise. 

When I am full of these there will be no room for the negative, tainted, ugly, evil, damning thought. I’m not there yet.

Maybe she got that part after all….

Me? I am still waiting for the good memories to surface. 

Maybe they will.

Someday. 

This morning, one of my blogging friends posted this as her status on FB:

“Too often we focus on the negative when there is SO MUCH positive to celebrate! How are you celebrating the positive in your life today? I’d love to hear.”

In light of what I wrote about, Traci, I suppose that I should tell you that the positive I’m focusing on is Life. Birthdays do that for me- We’ve just celebrated the oldest grandchild’s birthday; about to celebrate the next to youngest grandchild’s birthday; and then comes another one’s birthday the first week of September; then we celebrate a new life’s arrival mid-September; and another grandchild’s birthday in October. Whew! So much to celebrate- perhaps those negative memories will fade just a bit.