Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Brandee Shafer - Guest Poster!

While I'm away, two of my favorite people agreed to write guest posts for grace, every day. Both are excellent writers that I have the good fortune to know in real life. While I only seem to enjoy time and extended conversation with Brandee Shafer in the Kroger parking lot, once she brought me cookies after knee surgery. I follow her on FB, read her most excellent blog (which you can find here) and look for more opportunities to bond over frozen peas. Or cookies. She is one of the best real people I know.

And she makes great cookies.

Officially, Brandee Shafer is an English instructor turned SAHM to the 3.5 children for whom she records her life and thoughts, through blogging. She, her husband Jim, and their children live in a log cabin in Powhatan, Virginia, where she writes, teaches Sunday school, and tries, daily, to diminish toppling piles of dishes and laundry. You can read more of her words here; I would encourage you to read her blog and bookmark it for return visits. She's awesome, and she inspires me.

Thanks, Brandee.

 When Only God Can Fix It 

 I have not been easy to love, lately.

There's this ongoing issue between God and me. When I say ongoing, I mean for many years, and, when I say issue, I mean something I've been begging God to fix from the outset. He hasn't, obviously, although--every so often--He throws me just enough of a bone to keep my thin, pale flicker of hope alive.

It seems I can roll with God so long as my ongoing issue is my only one; however, when life deals additional blows, I flounder. It could be worse, I guess, because I haven't stopped believing in God or even in an eventual victory. Then again, have you have ever lived with vertigo? Because I submit humbly: sometimes falling feels better than walking with an absence of balance.

I've learned, recently: the church doesn't so much know what to do with someone like me. Please understand, I'm referring to the church at large, not any particular center of worship. Please understand, also, I count myself part of the church and guilty as charged.

 In fact, I'm probably more guilty than most, because I almost always walk away from people who make me tired. 

I think back, and how many times have I walked away from someone I couldn't seem to help: someone whose problems God didn't seem inclined to fix within a "reasonable" time frame? How many times have I offered a hug, a prayer, and/or a hot meal and hightailed it? How many times have I slung a few of God's promises at someone, invited her to Sunday school to hear more, and gotten the heck out of dodge? (And I wonder why my class is small.)

How many times have I missed an opportunity to shine the love of Christ into the life of someone who feels abandoned (and rightfully so)? Forgive me, Father. Forgive me, friends; I couldn't see it until I became reeling and unsteady, myself. 

Moving forward (in as straight a line as possible), I'm going to avoid:
  • "God has a plan," also, "There's a reason for everything." Because--even though I believe those things, if I don't know what the plan and reason are--I find those promises frustrating. 
  • "Are you ok?" Because I've always prided myself on being wide open. If you have to ask, no, I'm not. 
  • "You're letting the devil steal your joy." Awesome. Now, on top of all my other problems, I'm in the process of being robbed. And if the very fruits of the Spirit are being stolen from me, am I even a Christian? 
  • "Everything will be ok because it was ok for me." Great. I'm happy for you. When will everything be ok for me? We're talking about me, remember?  
Hold me accountable, Folks. If I slip up, remind me, and I'll write these things up my arm in Sharpie.

Please hear me; I'm not trying to discourage anyone. We've all said the things above, and with pure hearts and perfect intentions! But I've learned the hard way what helps most, and it's: I love you. I'm here for you. I love you. I'm here for you. I love you. I'm here for you. IloveyouI'mhereforyou. Repeat. 


Robin @ Pink Dryer Lint said...

Sometimes it is so hard to know the right things to say when someone is hurting and struggling. I think that's why I'm starting to grasp that sometimes I don't need to say anything at all. Sometimes I just need to listen.

The mantra "I love you. I'm here for you." is so very good.

Ostriches Look Funny said...

The devil part cracked me upppp. But I mean, great post. xoxoxoxo

Connie@raise your eyes said...

Oh Brandee, this so hurts my heart because I well know...this life is filled with things that simply won't be "fixed" this side of Heaven. It is what it is.

But this I also know, life is all about choice. Like Lot's wife, I can turn and look behind at what I wish I had, or I can choose to look at what I've been given.

We're just all pilgrims walking the same dusty road...

Brandee Shafer said...

Robin & JoAnn, thank you for being here. Connie, Hmmm. Focus on the positive. I'm truly, honestly happy if that works for you. Obviously, it doesn't work for me, although my mom has been saying the same sorts of things to me for 38 years. To be honest, I have a strange sort of peace w/ my brokenness over my ongoing issue. I feel like I've been called to cry out to God: to pray the same, old passionate prayers over and over. But I think the church tends to respond as you do: let go and let God. Be happy. Frustrating. But thank you.

diana said...

I'm not so sure about the 'let go and let God' idea either. And I'm not sure that's what Connie was saying. And I'm not sure we can even make that kind of choice when we're in the middle of the struggle and confusion and grief. I look at the story of David and his infant son when I hear that phrase - he kept right on praying the same prayers as long as that baby had breath. He didn't let go until the end. I'm not a fan of that story, actually. But then I'm not a fan of a lot of the stories in my own life, either. But I think I get it - and I think it's tied somehow to your sense of call to keep battering God's door about the same issue. I think we ARE 'letting God' when we acknowledge our own helplessness. And what else is that kind of prayer than an utter declaration of HELP?

And I absolutely HATE the response, "God has a plan for all this." It just doesn't help. Now if you tell me something close to that like, "God will not forget this; God will somehow redeem it" MAYBE I can hear that. But in the midst of the pain, I can't hear any of that, even if I believe it to be true. Does that make any sense?

Brandee Shafer said...

It makes a lot of sense, Diana. I'm a big fan of Romans 8:28, but sometimes, I get impatient even with the idea that God's going to work it to my good. I know He can fix it, and I want Him to fix it. I'm tired of it. And it's easy to say "Don't look back," but--in this case--my issue relates to the ongoing suffering in a loved one's life. So, am I supposed to pretend like his suffering doesn't matter? Move on w/ my bad self? It doesn't work like that for me. His suffering is mine, and his (ultimately, God's) victory will be mine, too. It's one thing when the issue is in the past: you've gotten divorced, you've suffered a miscarriage, someone you love has died, etc. I've been in all those places. But this is something that hasn't been resolved, and I absolutely refuse to accept the situation as it is. I won't do it. It's not ok.

Connie@raise your eyes said...

Oh Brandee, I surely didn't mean to add to your pain or sound trite. Please believe me. I have so much ongoing personal grief and chronic physical pain. I was just sharing some of the "treasures of darkness" that GOD has shown me as GOD says in Isaiah. I make a choice daily what I'm going to cling to...

Joe Pote said...


Obviously, I don't know your situation, but in reading your post, my heart breaks for you and your loved one.

I won't tell you I understand or that I know what you're going thru..because...obviously...I have no idea what you're going thru...just that you're hurting and you have been for a long time.

I'll just tell you two little words that have made a big difference for me, at times:

"Jesus wept." (John 11:35)

Shortest verse in the Bible...and maybe the most comforting...

Jesus knew Lazarus would be raised from the dead. He knew how the story would end. He knew God's ultimate plan for good.

Yet, when Jesus saw His friend's grief at the loss of their brother and friend...Jesus wept.

Jesus didn't offer words of comfort, though He certainly had comforting words He could have shared.

Instead, Jesus shared their pain and sorrow.

Jesus wept!

happygirl said...

I, too, know the pain in waiting for God. I also know this world it temporary and my true home is eternal, as is the home of my dear one who is suffering.

I am here for you.

Nancy Franson said...

What Joseph said. I think the most helpful thing for me to hold onto when my heart is breaking is knowing that God weeps with me. And when I can wrap my heart around that truth, I feel more freedom to weep with others.

So lovely finding you over here.

tinuviel said...

You know I'm pulling with you in prayer on your issue, and the waiting and crying out is wearying. I get that. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, friend. Even when we can't feel it, maybe especially when we cant' feel it, He is near. As Joe said above, Jesus weeps with His beloved.

Obviously, I can't fix it. I can't even hug your neck, though I would if I were near. But I love you, and I am here for you.

Brandee Shafer said...

Connie, thank you. I think I'm deciding daily to WHOM I'm going to cling, and I do TRY to practice gratitude. I know that even my upset is the dark side of a blessing: that--if I didn't love this person so very dearly--I wouldn't be so affected. But that's as far as I can get, although--as I said--I handle it better when I don't have other hard things in my lap. Right now, there are a couple of other hard/scary things happening. I'm so thankful that God's provided ways for you to cope w/ the things that hurt you.

Joe, that's my favorite story in the Bible. In fact, I'm getting ready to teach on one aspect of it at a women's retreat. :)

Judy, Nancy, Christina: thank you all for being here. I love all of you.

I Live in An Antbed said...

I think we often respond to the pain in another's life according to what we find most frightening in their situation. Our response to their needs can often reflect our own deep seated fears, not necessarily their greatest need. When we simply love, there are often doors that open to serve in ways we won't see unless we wait on the Spirit to reveal our "assignment." Humility is essential so that we assume nothing. Arrogance in the face of grief or trials can be cruel beyond any other response we could make. I have been guilty of offering my "wisdom" and I pray I will never more speak anything in such a situation that I have not been given by Him to speak. I love you dear one. I am here.

Brandee Shafer said...

I know you're here, Anne, and you're very good at being here. Thank you.