Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Denying Myself, Serving My Daughter

23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily,[a] and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels. 27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God.”  Luke 9:23-27 NKJV

Have you ever read something in the Bible that took on new life to you?

After I had Jaycee, some verses became more alive to me due to my new role as a parent of a child with medical and special needs. This scripture in Luke is one of the first ones that both challenged me and reassured me at the same time.

For any Christian, this verse sets the bar high. We are to take up our cross DAILY, which means we need to surrender ourselves to serve God fully. In other words, we are to die to self and follow Jesus no matter the costs. This can mean that we are expected to say no to selfish desires that will cause us to be pulled from God. These can be little things (movie choices) and big things (relationships) that we must decide. This can also mean that we are not to love our lives more than we love God. This means some may make the ultimate sacrifice for God like the martyrs from the Bible (i.e. Stephen). Fortunately in America, we don't usually face this situation.

As a mother of a child with special and medical needs, this verse reminds me of the bigger picture. Like any other woman, I expected to give birth to a healthy baby, raise that child for 18-21 years, and have all sorts of mostly positive experiences in between there.

Then suddenly life presented a different path. My baby was born with heart problems and a genetic condition. I would possibly be raising this child for the rest of my life.

At first, the thought of raising a child forever was overwhelming. But, before I dealt with that, there were immediate issues I had to face first. I had to deal with the fact that my child needed therapy several times a week to help her muscles and development. I had to deal with doctors and specialty appointments to keep my daughter healthy and alive. I had to make trips to the pharmacy and track medications daily. This was not the mothering experience I was expecting. I had to manage my emotions and thoughts about the situation. I loved my daughter, but caring for her was much harder than I was anticipating.

Through prayer, God showed me how to manage my emotions. I needed to view my role as a mother not as work but as a bigger lesson in self-denial that would glorify God. I would have to make job decisions (part time employment versus full time) because of my daughter's needs. I would have to choose vehicles based on their space for her equipment. I would have to give up sleep and recreational activities to help her and care for her. I would have to spend money on her medical bills that could have been used for something much more exciting and happy. I would have to devote extra time to teach her skills that come naturally to other people. Some of these things were easier to do than others, but when I viewed my care giving as serving unto God, hard things became less hard.

There is a beauty in self-denial, because that is the place where true life is found. It is the place where I learned that my needs aren't really that important. It's the place where I found the satisfaction in serving another person. It's the place where God shows me how strong I can be. It's also where love is found.

Because of my daughter and the gift of being her mother, I have learned how beautiful serving someone other than yourself is. Love motivates me to keep going when I feel discouraged. Love pushes me to give more time and effort when I feel there's nothing more to give. Love helps me see the value of all lives no matter what abilities they have. Love shows me that there is nothing more important than our relationship with God and other people.

I have came a long way since becoming a mother 10 years ago. Sometimes, I still have to check my attitudes and stop my pity parties. But, those moments are becoming less frequent. After all, I don't want to gain the whole world. I just want to impact my own little world around me.

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