Our house fire the night before Mother’s Day was scary, but the hardest moments for me happened the following day. On Sunday afternoon Peter and I drove back to our home to survey the damage. My husband and I had opposite reaction: Peter felt encouraged seeing it in daylight – he thought it looked better than it had the night before. I must have been so focused on our children that I didn’t get a proper look around after the fire. Because I thought the house looked and smelled utterly horrendous the next day.
Now that the dust had settled – or in this case, the soot and ash – the house was covered in a black and white flour-like film that smeared when you touched it, and reeked like you cannot imagine. The house smelled so bad from the smoke damage that my preggo self was only able to stay inside for a couple minutes. My husband stayed inside just a bit longer to collect a few belongings, and earned a headache and stomach ache for his troubles.
I said goodbye to Peter, who would stay in a local hotel that night, and started the drive back to my parent’s hometown to be with our children. It was in those quiet moments on the road that the full weight of what lay ahead for our family sunk in. I realized we wouldn’t be moving back home next week, or next month. I thought of all the work and DIY projects we had done in our house to truly make it a much loved home, all sitting there covered in ash. I let the pregnancy hormones and the pitty party feelings take over – and I gripped the wheel and wept.
“Before I bring my need I will bring my heart
Before I lift my cares I will lift my arms…”
“First” taps into a truth about the Christian life – a truth particularly relevant to motherhood – that is so simple, so reasonable, and yet so easily forgettable.
Have you ever wondered how in heaven’s name Job endured losing his wife, his children, his house, his wealth, his friends, his health, his self respect, and STILL had the courage to say, “Blessed by Your Name”?
Have you ever wondered how the mother of the seven brothers in Maccabees endured watching her six sons brutally – horrifically – murdered before her eyes, and then has the strength to turn to the seventh son, her baby, and say “Son, you better live up to your brother’s example and not disappoint me or your family.”
Where does that love for God, despite the difficulty, come from? How does anyone, especially a mother, have her heart in such a right place that she can survive anything, endure anything, be grateful and thankful and hopeful…in the midst of anything?
Job and the Maccabean mother, they had figured out a timeless truth. Saint Paul understood it, too. In her book One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp also taps into this very same mystery. And Lauren Diagle sings about it in her song “First.”
“Before I speak a word Let me hear Your voice
And in the midst of pain Let me feel Your joy…”
The “secret” to endurance and joy in the midst of pain, suffering, and hardship is to first come before God and to focus solely on Him. To focus on how wonderful He is, how truly awesome in a way that our minuscule human brains cannot begin to fathom. He is a Father, full of mercy and tenderness. He is a Son, ready to love and bleed and die for His beloved. He is a Spirit, so eager to come as the “Great Comforter” to the one in need.
“You are my treasure and my reward
Let nothing ever come before I seek You…”
When we can come before the Lord with a heart of thankfulness for who He is, before we ask for what we need, it changes EVERYTHING. I dare you to try it, because after you have focused completely on God for His sake, there is precious little room left in the human heart for pity parties.
I listened to Lauren Diagle’s song on repeat as I drove through the Carolina foothills that Mother’s Day night, and my heart changed. I started thinking of all the little miracles that had already taken place to protect our family and our home. I thought of the outpouring of grace, of friendship, of prayers, that was already overflowing. My heart worshiped, and truly, my feelings of despair and self pity and annoyance and worry and stress started to melt. He is so good. So beyond good, all the time, even in the trials.
Let’s be real, I don’t have this gratefulness and right worship thing all figured out. For every moment of thankful perspective I’ve had about the fire, I’ve had ten thousand stressed out, annoyed, ungrateful, wit’s end moments this past month. Tomorrow is the one month anniversary of our fire, and we are still living in a hotel, waiting to move into temporary housing for the summer. When I find myself falling into dark thoughts about our situation, I listen to Lauren’s song again, and try to shift my focus. It really makes a difference.
I share this song and this experience with you because I have listened to you; I have walked with you as a friend; I have experienced many of your same struggles, and to the mom reading this right now, I know that your heart is full of struggles and needs too.
My house fire is small stuff compared to what many mothers are going through. Miscarriage. Divorce. Lost jobs. Stressful finances. Single parenting. Addiction. Depression. Exhaustion. Overwhelmed and losing all sense of who you are or who you want to be. Motherhood is hard, whether it’s the struggle to change the latest blow out diaper or get up for one more middle of the night feeding or face the next smart mouth comment from an ungrateful teenager….it is hard.
But before you bring all of that to the One who knows the hard best of all, bring yourself – your heart – and focus on Him instead of on you.
Heaven gazing makes it nearly impossible to continue navel gazing. And sometimes, that’s what us moms need most of all: a shift in focus, and a shift in perspective.
Each of us, in spite of the crosses, is blessed beyond measure. Sometimes we just need to put Him first to recognize it.
Could y’all humor me with a request today? When you have 3 minutes and 46 seconds to yourself, could you put on your earbuds, click on this link to the song FIRST and let the words soak in. Even if you hate the voice or hate the tune, let the words wash over you. I hope and pray it ministers to your heart the way it has to mine.
“Humbly let go. Let go of trying to do, let go of trying to control, let go of my own way, let go of my own fears. Let God blow His wind, His trials, oxygen for joy’s fire. Leave the hand open and be. Be at peace….This is the fuel for joy’s flame.”
– Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts