Have you ever had moments in life when all of your choices were bad ones? When no amount of thinking, praying or talking things through would fix anything? Moments when no amount of will power, elbow grease, positive thoughts or sugar can make lemonade out of the sour fruit you've been given? I have. I reached this point of hopelessness, fatigue and surrender this past December, and it was a moment that forever changed me and forever made me dislike the phrase, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."
The crux of that phrase is dependency on ourselves (our bodies, our minds, our hearts) to will ourselves to happiness. But I reached a moment when I couldn't will myself - I had no juice left in me. I was spent. I had squeezed and squeezed what good and hope I could find out of my situation with all of my might, but it wasn't working. I was over come with fear, having panic attacks, angry, stressed, sad, exhausted to do much of anything. I was in survival mode. Just trying to get through each minute of each day until I could hit my pillow and sleep.
To know me, is to know that I'm a fighter. It's like I came out of the womb ready to battle. I'm a rally-er (if that's a thing). I love to rally others to fight too. I rarely stop to smell the roses, to celebrate because, for me, when I am happiest is when I am fighting and restoring things and people, and there's always work to be done. I'm a positive thinker and the first to believe the impossible is possible. So, making lemonade out of lemons is what I do. I own that phrase. Give me a problem and I will solve it!
When my marriage was on the rocks three years ago I fought, and we signed up for counseling, as well as individual counseling. And when Levi started getting sick regularly I powered through doctor appointments, playdate cancellations and sleepless nights. When my arthritis resurfaced I mind over mattered it, got in to see specialists, took my meds and it was fixed. When time was scarce for my business I burned the midnight oil and got it done. For all of 2016, I basically woke up in fight mode and went to sleep in fight mode - always ready to battle everything and everyone - determined to fix, help and win.
With my inherent fight matched with Ryan's instinctual flight we were just a mess. When things got harder at home with kids and work I just squeezed harder trying to control what things and people I could whether that was Ryan, Elle, Levi, my house or my job. Meanwhile, Ryan tried to make life better by fleeing from the chaos. We coped the way we knew how. I felt abandoned by Ryan in my over-responsible state and Ryan felt unloved in his. When December came around after a hellish November (ear infections, tube surgery, two spells of hand foot and mouth, plus entertaining family) we both came to a point of hopelessness for "us," and we both wondered if separation, the only unturned stone after years of counseling, would be the solution.
Those first nights of December we sat together at total loss on how to fix the mess, and then Levi got strep. And though that me seem small, it was the straw that broke the camel's back. I thought my body was going to collapse. I felt like everything was just falling through my hands. I had no control over my circumstances, and now I felt like I was losing control over myself. I did the only thing I knew I could. I escaped.
I called a sitter for the kids, and I fled to Sedona where my parents have a vacation home. When I got there I just sat alone in this big quiet house, breathed in deep and exhaled tears. Tears of fatigue, hopelessness and anger at these lemons, at myself, at Ryan and mostly, at God.
So, I did the one thing I remembered I'm good at - writing. I wrote a letter to God on a yellow legal pad. (I'm looking at it right now as I write this post.) It said:
"God, I know you are with me. I know you are here. I know that you made me. But, I don't know how to love you. I don't know how to feel you. I don't know how to trust you." There was more, but all you need to know is the ending said, "Do you really love me, God?"
In my head I knew the right answer, but my heart didn't. I needed with all my heart to know that He did love me - that He was still my Protector, my Defender, My Father, My Friend.
There was just silence after I set my pen down. And, feeling a bit drained and bored I went into the garage to rummage through some of my old books and things from high school. I found my old year books and old report cards, and there sitting in this cardboard box was a keepsake box. I opened it, and to my surprise there was a pristinely wrapped present in the shape of a small rectangle. It was covered in light blue wrapping paper with a vintage floral print. I thought, "Why would my mom leave a wrapped gift in this box and not tell me?" I had never seen this paper before, and I definitely didn't wrap myself a gift and leave it there. Of course, I opened it (heck, a little gift sounded good right about then anyway). It was a book, Praying God's Will for Your Life, by Stormie Omartian. I thought to myself, "Huh, sounds a bit cheesy, and whose name is Stormie? There's no one in the world that would have given me this book. I said to myself, "Okay, God, apparently you want me to read this book because this is too weird. In fact, it's so weird it sounds like You. And, well, I have nothing better to do. I'll do it."
So, I did. I read almost half of the book in one sitting, and I sobbed through most of it. Though I have been a Christian for 16 years, I had forgotten how to really trust God. And trusting God, needing God is really the foundation of Christianity. I remembered the foundational Truth that no matter how hard I try I can never conquer the lemons of life on my own. I can never make lemonade sweet enough without God. And even if I somehow managed to, it would never quench my thirst.
So, I let go. I let it all go. I just dumped my whole pitcher out that day. I said, "Here God. You take it. I can't do this," and wept. I asked for forgiveness in that moment for not trusting Him with my babies, my marriage, and my life. And miraculously, I was overcome with peace. I was renewed in that moment. It was like all of the sudden my empty pitcher was overflowing. And you would think it was this everlasting water that you hear the Bible talk about, but it was even better. It tasted like iced coffee, with two pumps classic and 2% milk because my Best Friend, my God knew what I was craving. He sure loves me indeed.
So, I think the saying should actually go something like this: "When life gives you lemons, give them to God, and He'll give you iced coffee," or whatever quenches that thirst of yours. ;) Sorry, Bey, I love your album Lemonade and all, but I think we need a second one now.
When I came back home my problems were still there - still more lemons to face. In fact, Levi has had two more cases of strep since, and Ryan and I are SO much better, but definitely a work in progress. But, there's something different now. I'm not trying to make lemonade out of the lemons we have or the lemons that will come. I'm just handing them over to God, and trusting Him with what I need. I can't say there haven't been times when I've acted like a toddler whining, "Me do it! Mine!" But, He's so patient, and eventually I give the sour fruit to Him.
The human part of me prays you never have to come to a point like this in your life, but the spiritual part of me hopes you do, so that you can witness the miracle that comes with no longer relying on your own power; and, rather, experiencing the peace that comes with surrendering your lemons to the only Power that can make the sweetest lemonade (or iced coffee in my case). He has already won the war for you my friend. I promise. I bet my life on it.