Last week I mentioned that I love people’s stories because storytelling is one of the most profound ways I learn. I believe storytelling has the power to teach, reveal, inspire and imprint truth on our hearts in a way little else can.
I’d like to share a little bit more of my story. My hope is that perhaps you can relate, or know someone who can. Or maybe, you will get to know me better and we can continue to share and grow together.
I want to expand on my lesson learned from 2018 that Deconstruction leads to reconstruction (See Top 5 Things Learned in 2018). In reality, the deconstruction or “falling apart” started three years ago. However, it’s been in the past year that I’ve processed the impact and slowly reconstructed the building blocks of my faith and life.
WARNING: There is some heavy stuff ahead…but I wanted to show up authentically. And the outcome is one of hope.
As everything fell apart, I realized I had God in a box.
I operated out of the belief that by acting “good,” good things would happen in my life. I had tried to rationalize the workings of God. When this didn’t hold up, I discovered I had a heart problem. I was trying behavior modification to get a good life. But God wanted my heart. There was nothing to earn– His grace could and was sustaining me. I had it backwards– I didn’t need to act right to earn His love– I needed to surrender to His great love and my actions became a reflection of His goodness.
The deconstruction began three years ago when we lost my husband’s dad to cancer.
Daddy-O was a role model, a leader, a loving father and just plain funny. I met him as a 15-year-old high schooler and over the years came to love him as my second dad. He made lattes at every family gathering, hated playing games (which made us both anomalies and kindred spirits in the Bourdo house) and he shared my love of Spanish. We passed the time with mini Spanish lessons..he was my most entertaining student. I could go on..but you get the idea, he was a big person in my life and was my husband’s person.
Watching him suffer and hurt was one of the hardest things we have endured as a family, and his passing left us heartbroken and living in an overwhelming state of instability. In the chaos and despair of losing him, I found an invitation to trust God to be in control. Clearly I wasn’t, so He must be. I felt God draw near in our broken-heartedness, I mean the nearest I have ever felt Him. He showed up in people, in meals, in people unpacking boxes in our new house & watching our kids. And in my tears, I knew I was being held together by Him, because I couldn’t do it myself.
We welcomed our second child into the world a year later.
Our family was slowly healing but our foundation still felt shaky. I vividly remember the day my husband went back to work after his two weeks off. I looked around the house and realized I was officially outnumbered. One mom and her post-c section body and two kids. (Moment of confession – I totally called my mom, so the moment of panic only lasted for a bit that day. My mom is one of the best fixers & comforters around) .
Nothing teaches having no control like having children. They are unpredictable, messy, beautiful, aggravating and delightful. They teach me daily that chaos is beautiful (instead of frightening) because it’s an invitation to surrender control and enter into God’s presence. Chaos with them means life, color (literally on surfaces that shouldn’t be colored), laughter, dance parties, & toys everywhere.
My daughter turned 9 months old, & I decided to stay home…welcome identity crisis. Oh and postpartum hypothyroid (aka napping like it is going out of style).
I was a Spanish teacher for six years to grades K-8 and I loved it. I still do love it. But with the birth of my daughter it no longer made financial sense for me to work and pay for childcare. I want to pause and say that I am so grateful that I can stay home AND it’s also hard. That’s what a lot of therapy has taught me…life can be this and that instead of this or that. I lived in the latter for about 20 years.
As a SAHM I would go places and people wouldn’t know what to ask me. The extrovert in me slowly began to melt into a sad little puddle. I realized I felt the transition on the outside but much more deeply on the inside. I had placed all of my identity in my work as a teacher, an educator, a doer, a leader. And I had come to depend heavily on external mirrors of people telling me – good job, of students saying they learned so much, colleagues appreciating the ideas and plans I created. At home with a baby and three year old, my feedback sounded much different.
I realized it’s because I lost the mirrors that could speak in “adult” and instead I was speaking “toddler” all day long. This feeling of loss was layered with a loss of energy and anxious voices in my head that I couldn’t turn off. Unbeknownst to me, my thyroid quit working at some point after the birth of my daughter. It wasn’t diagnosed until she was two years old, so during the whole first year of her life I was struggling with a deep loss of motivation and energy, and a heavy helping of negative, anxious thoughts. I had no idea who I was anymore.
I attended a Holy Yoga retreat in the mountains on a whim and this quote by Thomas Merton was a theme of the weekend and became a launching pad for the reconstruction of my identity and my purpose. (More to this story for another day. Weird, another story!?….this seems to be a theme.)
“There is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace, my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him.”
This was where I needed to look to find myself – in God. In my hurt I had been running away from God, looking for answers. He gently invited me to turn around. He had not moved. He had not changed while it seemed to me everything was falling apart. By turning around and moving towards God, I felt myself fall into His open arms of unchanging, unconditional love. I quieted my soul and found in the silence I could hear His still small voice saying,
“I delight in you my daughter, not because of what you do but because you are my beautiful creation.”
I once heard it said, “It is at the end of ourselves that we find God.”
In my brokenness, He drew me back to Himself. Perhaps you have come to the end of yourself. Or you’ve experienced a moment of deconstruction? Maybe you are living there now. I’d love to hear your story.