This Thing Called Life

I have been trying so hard to understand this thing called Life, but my focus should be on the One who created life. After all, how can I expect peace and joy (oh, how I long for peace and joy!) and spiritual growth without seeking Him first?

For so long I’ve been completely unsure what to think or what to do, mainly for myself and my son. My husband and I struggled (still do!) to handle our out-of-control son. This has been from the time he was a toddler. To us (and others I’m sure), it looks simply like disobedience. Years of this! I avoided (still do!) going places because I wasn’t sure how reactive he’d be and I wasn’t sure how to handle it if he was. Often, we would leave a place as soon as we arrived because I was either already in tears or nearly there. But as the years unfolded and new struggles immerged – ones apart from merely behavior, I began to realize there was way more to it. (Also, he has been receiving therapy for a speech delay for over two years.) When I reflected back, I realized he always struggled, even from the day he was born. Recently, I began to suspect ADHD and a few weeks ago he was finally diagnosed.

Meanwhile, I struggled with intense emotions. For years, really. I equated it to my back-to-back pregnancies (three boys in three years). The anger, the constant irritability, the mood swings. Hormones made sense, only it was like daily PMS. But the emotions, they were so intense. They would rob me of my sanity, of enjoyment of my family, of my connection with God, and they hurt those I love dearly. Anyone who knows me well knows I cannot contain my emotions. When I’m troubled, everyone knows it. They barrel right out of my heart and mouth. They’re right out in the open for all to see: extremely reactive, easily frustrated and angered, ready to erupt with intense empathy, confrontation, laughter, comfort, encouragement, tears, and bubble over with enthusiasm. (Yes, some of those are actions; I am very reactive all the way around.) Sometimes crying and then laughing with only minutes to separate.

And then to make everything more difficult, my family was abruptly jerked back into our seats as we began climbing the Leukemia roller coaster last year. In a matter of thirty days – from beginning to end – my dad’s life ended. This roller coaster had no thrills and when we stepped off the ride we were terribly stunned, grieved and horribly whiplashed with reality. He was my spiritual pillar and the rock in my life, not to mention wonderful father. I miss him terribly. At times, I have blamed God – angry He took him from me – but at the core of all the heartache I have tried so hard to remain hopeful in His plan for me – for our family – even in my dad’s death. Through it all, He has a greater purpose.

I often accused God of cursing me with intense emotions and hormones. How can I manage a home when I constantly struggle to hold myself together?! Add a son who also struggles to control his emotions and behavior, and then add two more busy sons and a marriage that wobbles because of my unstable emotions. Every day was more than I could handle. I felt like a prisoner in my own world. Every morning I would be overwhelmed as soon as I heard their voices. I longed to appreciate them again. To enjoy them. To be grateful for each moment I had with them. But for years I lost that. I couldn’t even begin to imagine losing them, but daily life was just crushing me. How could life be so hard?? After researching my son’s struggle with ADHD, I began suspecting it in me. (Though I haven’t been diagnosed, I am certain I would be.)

Everything makes sense now! Struggling to control your emotions is very typical in ADHD, in fact, it’s a big part of it.

When a lightbulb is turned on and it illuminates your whole life, suddenly a dark path becomes lit. When you are continually bracing yourself as soon as you wake because you never know what the day might hold, but now you find yourself a little less tense upon their waking and even catching yourself smiling. When you are unpredictable and you don’t know why and your child is unpredictable and you don’t know why, but finally, you have an answer. (The answer within itself is certainly not a fix-all. It is merely an explanation – a tool to aid us as we navigate our way through life. There is still much work ahead of us!)

Everything I used to think, everything I thought I knew about myself – the difficulties and challenges – they made sense. It’s no lie – chatterbox, cry-baby, air-head, overly sensitive, blonde, daydreamer, stupid, moody, hyper, weird, goofy – these names hurt me as a kid. And I began to believe them, and that I had nothing more to offer. I shared in a previous blog that I wanted nothing but to be a mother and wife and that college would only hinder me from that dream. I wasn’t completely honest. I didn’t think I could succeed in college anyway. It scared me. I knew I couldn’t pay attention. I knew studying came hard. I knew I was easily overwhelmed and distracted.

A great way to handle difficult or uncertain situations is to find out as much as you can about them. Be the expert on it. But I guess I’ve been striving to be an expert in the wrong thing. Yes, we should strive to fix things in our lives, especially within our family unit, but we need not be so narrow-minded that we lose sight of the Truth.

So, how does this translate into our spiritual life?

Everything should point to Christ.

God’s Word doesn’t include a step-by-step diagram for every situation, but it does hold the answer to everything. It gives commands. It offers direction. It gives hope and comfort. But I was so stuck in the muck of difficulty that I saw in it no answer or relief. It seemed none of it applied directly to my struggles. Every single day for years I asked for God’s wisdom, but the wisdom came not when I expected – in fact, years later – nor as I expected. The direction our life has taken was not at all what I anticipated.

Amidst my personal and our family’s struggles, amidst the ADHD diagnosis, amidst the uncertainty, amidst the grays of life, amidst the unknown, amidst things which don’t make sense…I need to seek God, because all things should point to Him.

1 Corinthians 10:31
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Everything I do, everything I say, every attitude, every purpose should point to Christ.

That’s what this thing called Life is about. Not the stuff. Not the trials. Not the discomforts. Not the sorrows. Not the money. Not our kids or spouses. Not our jobs. Not the challenges or obstacles. Not our limitations. Not even our pleasures.

It’s all about God. Even if infested with wickedness, hardships and diseases, this is still His world.

Sometimes it’s hard to see God in all situations, to bring Him into such earthly struggles. As believers we are supposed to obey, but how can a child be expected to obey when their brain inhibits it? And then, what does that look like in adulthood? How can you learn and grow spiritually when you have a brain that won’t allow you to process information as it should? How can you empathize with others (because that’s vital in showing love toward another) when your ability to do so is impaired?  How can you have a strong marriage when there is such impulsiveness and difficulties with intense emotions and struggles with communication? How can you teach a child about consequences when he is foresight impaired?

We all have weaknesses and limitations. But we adapt. We learn other ways to accomplish the same objective. If one cannot read, they hear. If one cannot communicate verbally, they write. If one is forgetful, they use a calendar, post-it notes or a phone alarm. If one struggles with anger, they need to learn to walk away before speaking or acting. We pray for wisdom and we adapt. Some of us have unknowingly done it all our lives.

Whether it’s through self-help, device-help, object-help or friend-help, we need to be striving to accomplish the same goal as others. We need to obey God whether we have an inhibiting diagnosis or not; we may need to tweak our method, but we strive to reach the goal nonetheless. And for those difficulties beyond our ability – which to some extent includes all of them, God’s help is the only answer.

But no matter how hard the disorder is to understand, the truth still remains:

God is able. He has the power to overcome and change us no matter how limiting or disrupting the disorder.

God still forgives. No matter how many times we lose our temper or hurt someone with our actions – God still forgives. Over and over again.

God is still good. Even though we aren’t good; even if our situation isn’t, a disorder isn’t, sin isn’t, other people aren’t – God is good! He was good when He created the universe and He is still good through all trials and tribulations. And His unmatchable and flawless character never changes.

God is still working. Challenges and hardships may skew our perspective, but God still has a plan for each of us. He is not finished. His purpose for our life will continue, according to His goodness, faithfulness and unending love.

Philippians 1:6
And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you, will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Diseases and disorders do not define you. God blessed each of us with an amazing personality and wonderful gifts. Don’t allow limitations to define you; allow God to work through you despite them.

I can’t expect you to understand my life if you’ve never walked in my shoes nor can I expect to understand yours. My life is not more difficult than yours, nor is yours more difficult than mine, it’s simply different. It’s essential, as the body of Christ, that we reach out to others and invest time in them. We have no idea the trials some face. And we have no idea the encouragement we might offer and receive by opening up to another.

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