Monday, November 24, 2008

Am I Blessed?

For three or four years now I've been sending out a letter with my Christmas cards. You know, one of those family updates to let everyone know what's been going on in the last year. I started doing that because of infertility. I knew people were wondering what was going on and I felt like it needed to be addressed. I didn't give everyone a play-by-play of all the trouble we've had, but I made the situation known and thanked our family and friends for their continued prayer and support for us. For the years that followed I continued with the recap letter even though I find it difficult to do. I guess I want people to know that even though we struggle, we have joy in our lives each year as well. It's time for me to write the letter again, and again I'm sad to look back on a year with no new baby.

This has me thinking a lot about something. If there is any topic I have wanted to blog about, that has been rolling around in my head for months and months, it is this one. It is the subject of blessings. What does it mean to be blessed by God? Am I blessed by God? I regularly hear people tell mothers how blessed they are. They walk right up to them and say, "Wow, God has really blessed you," or "You are the most blessed woman." I don't think anyone has ever told me how blessed they think I am! Am I less blessed than a mother? Why do we usually associate blessings with children?

I know I've just thrown a bunch of questions at you! I have been thinking on this and trying to study about it and soak up everything I hear on the topic like a sponge. I've talked it over with friends and family, listened to sermons, read the Bible, prayed about it, and spent hours discussing it with my husband. Today I want to share some things with you that I have learned about blessings. I'm definitely no expert, and I welcome any insights you might have on this as well.

Yesterday at church we had our annual Thanksgiving service and luncheon. During the worship time our music minister called for folks to share how they were thankful. I sat and listened as person after person stood and talked about how God had blessed them with such wonderful parents, families, and children. I have to tell you, it was special and I also thought about how thankful I am for my family. But I couldn't help but feel sad too in a way, for myself and for others in the room who perhaps didn't feel blessed. Maybe there was someone else like me who didn't grow up in a stable home with two godly parents. Maybe someone else had a dad who left them and drank too much. Maybe there was a single or divorced man or woman who felt alone and had a tough year. Maybe there were couples besides us who prayed all year long for a child and were disappointed and heartbroken. While I was sitting there in church I had the overwhelming desire to stand up and speak for those people. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking but I knew I had to do it. I stood and told everyone there that even if they didn't have loving Christian parents or a spouse or a house full of children, that they were also blessed! I told them I was thankful for God's blessings like our salvation through His son Jesus, and hearts that are obedient to Him. I don't know whether it meant anything to anyone else, but it meant something to me. I didn't get through it without tears, which disappointed me, but I hope the message was clear. Please don't get me wrong, I DO think we must thank God for our parents, spouses, and children and everything in between! I just don't want to lose sight of what our blessings really are.

A few minutes later in that testimony time at church, a young man stood up and said that he was thankful to God for all of the trials in his life. He was thankful for all of the family hardships that he'd been given that have made him the person he is today. This young man is about 20 years old and has known more trials than I could even know. He came from a family of alcoholism, abuse, and neglect and was adopted by a loving couple. They have, I think, 4 biological children and I believe another 8 or 9 adopted and foster children, and this family has been living in tents and mobile homes ever since their home was destroyed by Hurricane Ike two months ago. He didn't say a word about any of that stuff yesterday, only how thankful he was. I was amazed. I'm not normally an "Amen shouter" but I couldn't keep myself from speaking out right then and telling him afterwards how much he had touched my heart.

In the Bible, in Matthew chapter 5, Jesus gives us what we call The Beatitudes. I think it's interesting to note whom He calls blessed:
Blessed are the poor in spirit.
Blessed are those who mourn. (Are you feeling blessed yet? This one stands out to me.)
Blessed are the meek.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Blessed are the merciful.
Blessed are the pure in heart.
Blessed are the peacemakers.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.

The Bible shows us that Jesus used external "blessings" like miracles and healing to open the door for what He really came to do. I believe that our real blessings are internal: those that happen in our hearts. God's greatest miracle is that He saves us and changes our hearts and calls us His own. A good definition of blessed is to be fortunate. We are fortunate to have God's hand of protection upon our lives. If you do have a happy marriage, you are fortunate to have that. If you do have children, you should consider them a blessing and a gift. But the absence of those external things does not mean the absence of God's blessing in your life. Those are not the ultimate blessings!

Through all of this study I've learned something very valuable. I don't want to pursue having children more than I pursue righteousness and obedience to my Lord. I want to seek His kingdom first and let Him take care of the rest.

Even when I don't feel blessed, I know that I am. I'm careful about how I use that word now. I don't want anyone to look at anything I have on the outside and see that as a blessing, but I want only to be seen as blessed if people look at me and see my Savior. I want to tell you, single friends and childless friends and my dear friends who are parents, we are all blessed because we are God's children.

When I write that Christmas letter this year and when I celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I'll be thanking God for my blessings. And perhaps for the first time I will truly understand what that means.


Lauren said...

How beautiful! This reminds me so much of something I've said (many times) before that a wise friend shared in Bible study last year: we seem to think "easy = good, hard = bad," and it's an easy slip to begin thinking that God thinks that way too. Also, we in the Western world in particular have erroneously shifted to defining "blessings" as having lots of stuff, or having everything you want, and never waiting or wanting for anything. God's "best" that He has in mind for us is so much better than the piddling little "good" we may think we need to survive, whether His best is edification and the developing of our faith through joys or through trials. I'm so glad that you followed your heart and spoke up of the many ways in which you and others are blessed. You are a blessing to me!

Hucklebuck said...

What an amazing post. I think this is the best thing you have ever written. What a great explanation of what true blessings really are.

Andi said...

I feel like I say the same thing over and over on my comments here, but Stace, you amaze me. I'm guessing I shouldn't put you on a pedestal, but . . .

And, I agree with Lauren - YOU are a blessing to me. Oh, and thanks for making me cry at work! Sorry, Huck taught me to do italics and such.

Stacey said...

Thank you guys. You are all blessings to me and I mean that in the sense that I am fortunate to know you! :)

Andi, I'm glad you are using your new tricks! I am trying them out too. What a great opportunity to thank you for sending me this link. The sermon on Blessings really helped me put my thoughts together on this.

Tanner's said...

Like so many of your post this one hit right to the core of my heart, thank you Stacey!
Love ya,

andrea_jennine said...

Well said! I've thought a lot about this, too. Not to downplay the gifts of marriage, children, etc., but I've come to realize that so much of what we Christians call "blessings" are in reality common grace to believers and unbelievers alike. Both Christians and non-Christians get married; both Christians and non-Christians have kids. Our true blessings, like you pointed out, are salvation and the grace to endure and thrive in faith.

Sunny said...

Stacey, this is beautifully said. I think of the beatitudes a lot and think that these are the reflections of Christ that I long to have. Even when in my spirit, I know I'm being huffy or getting frustrated with people and it hasn't reflected outward (yet) -- I try to stop and turn it right over to Christ and tell him that I want a pure heart. I want a heart that LOVES PEOPLE, a heart that beams thru to my outward way that Jesus lives in me! Jesus is what is behind all my actions. Jesus is my everything. I believe that Jesus was all of the beatitudes and more and so that is what I strive for. I'm blessed too. I'm blessed to get up every day and know that without a doubt I have a home in heaven and a Savior that watches over me and knows every hair on my head. How much more blessed can you get than to have the Creator of the Universe care about you like you are the only one IN the universe? That's love. That's blessed. Love ya, girlie!

Connie said...

I am speechless, Stace! I am amazed by your strength, wisdom and eloquence! I'm so proud of you for standing up for those that couldn't and saying what I'm sure they wanted to say. God has blessed with an amazing ability! Just look how many lives you've touched with your beautiful words. You are so brave. I wish I could've been there to say "Amen! Amen! And Amen!" Oh how I love Jesus and Stacey! XOXO

Anonymous said...

Hi Stacey
This is soemthing I've thought about often as well. I don't believe that we're not blessed because we cannot have children. I actually hate it when people say someone is blessed because they have a child because all that does is make those of us who don't have children feel unworthy. I too believe our blessings are within.
Great post!

Amy said...

Amen! Amen! Amen! Thank you for just being you. I love the fact that you know just what to say and how to say it to make it count. I have had so many struggles over the past year, but I am thanking our Lord and Savior for the wonder that you are to His kingdom and to my life! I LOVE READING YOUR POSTS!!!!!


I Believe in Miracles said...

Thanks for this. This post is awesome. Definitely speaking to my heart right now.

Teresa said...

Are you tapping my phone? haha! I swear to you that my mom and I were just talking about this. I said that I knew I was blessed because God gave me two wonderful kids already and she stopped me and said, "Wait Teresa just because you have kids doesn't mean you are more blessed than others, God blesses people in many different ways." It is true. God speaks directly to your heart Stacey and I think that's pretty freakin amazing and a HUGE blessing!

Becky said...

I'm so glad you were bold and stood up. I say Amen!! I have thought a lot about this topic as well. In some ways I think that we in the Church have adopted worldly thinking when it comes to marriage and children. When we view them as the ultimate blessing from God, we are focusing on the things of this world. Marriage and children are highly valued even to the world because they are the most significant things those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can find to latch onto to give their life purpose and meaning. Marriage and children are wonderful things, but when you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, there is so much more - salvation, peace with God, being adopted as His child, and a purpose and a plan for your life that is beyond anything you could imagine.

Also, I wanted to thank you for praying for me during this IVF cycle. It has greatly encouraged me.

Amy said...

I read the part about seeking obedience and righteousness more than children, and could only whisper, "Wow." That statement alone, even if it was the only thing you wrote in this blog, was perfect. I think it probably, hopefully, captured the hearts of your readers who share your struggles, including me. That needs to be written on a note card and taped to my bathroom mirror. :)

Charnè said...

Just read your blog for the first time and just wanted to say i love this post and agree with it so much

Rachel said...

Hi, Stacey! I found your blog through Hucklebuck (who I found through SCL). Thanks for your being vulnerable to write this blog, and especially this post. God has blessed me fully - with his love, mercy and forgiveness. Thanks for the reminder!

Anonymous said...

I always thought that blessings came from being used by God. After reading this I am convinced. Stacey, this is bigger than you think. So you start a "journal" for your friends and family because it is awkward to talk about your infertility. But...God directs other people to your blog. Who knows how many people visit this and it plants a seed in their heart as they read about someone who is going through the same thing, but finds solace in a relationship with Christ Jesus. You are touching lives with something that has totally devastated you. Now for something SO good to come from something painful- THAT is a blessing. A big one. -Faith

Annalien said...

Hi. I followed the link on "Taking the Statistical Bullet" to your blog. I am sorry for all that you have been through and I pray that you will have your baby very soon.

This is an incredibly beautiful post. Very thought provoking. You have opened my eyes to what is truly God's blessings - and they often differ very much from what we as humans regard as blessings.

May you continue to find your strength in the Lord. God bless!

TRS said...

Stacey - great post.
Very well thought out.
I'm so proud of you for standing up in church - and pointing out the 'other' blessings.
I am blessed with amazing friends. Realizing just now that I'm neglecting them a bit because I feel neglected and a bit wounded lately - funny how that goes.

And thanks for pointing out the beatitudes.... I never looked at it from that perspective before.

Don't know if this helps... but it's what I have told friends who are struggling with the adoption wait ... I am adopted myself and feel very strongly that God put me with my parents - because that's who He had in mind from the very start.

I've witnessed other friends who waited and waited to adopt - and when they finally got their baby - it was a perfect match. Mom feels instantly connected to her baby... baby knows too.... they even look alike!

So with that knowledge, I told a coworker who shared how frustrated he is about the adoption wait - that yes, the wait is hard, but you just have to wait for YOUR kid. You don't want just any kid - you have to be in position to get YOUR BABY.

I was so relieved when a smile spread across his face and he told me that actually makes sense and he knew he had to tell his wife.

It's true - God matches you to YOUR baby.

I can only imagine that there is a reason your baby just isn't ready yet - just as my hubby isn't ready yet. God's still working on it.

Sorry if that is no consolation - it's just one of the things that helps me get through - and thought it might be useful to you.

God Bless,