Friday, April 12, 2013

Broken Vessel

I am one of those people that is good to know when you're going through stuff.  I'm calming, I'm encouraging, and I have deep faith in the One who has carried us through hard times.  I can say something quirky to make people laugh, even when they thought their smiles had dried up.

I am not bragging about this ability.  It's just the way I am, and I think God intended me that way.

Unfortunately, I seem to not be able to encourage myself when going through difficult times.

My battle with myself has always been my anxiety.  Look how I even call it 'my anxiety' like it's a pet that I have to take care of.  I nurture it, feeding it fearful thoughts. I try to play 'worst case scenario' with myself as preparation, know where all the emergency rooms are located. You know, 'plan for the worst, hope for the best'.  I'm one of those goofs who wears clean underwear, not because it's hygienic, but because I might be in an emergency situation that will involve having my pants removed. Then I play mind-games, like "Well, because I'm wearing clean underwear, I probably won't be in a wreck." or "Well, the house is a wreck, so there's sure to be a disaster!"  I call these mind trips "Going to Funkytown".  Over the last few months,  I've been making a lot of trips to Funkytown.  I imagined the worst - things I can't even write about here because, you know, they're the worst.

I think because I am imaginative, I am a good writer.  I can create fiction anytime, anywhere. This is great when writing a story, not so great when I apply it to my life.

While we were in the middle of having one child, possibly more, diagnosed with a life-long, life-threatening heart condition, I was deeply ashamed of how I felt, of how I acted, and how I retreated to the computer for (terrifying) information.  I wanted to movie-slap myself back into shape.  I wanted to be one of those Christians that other people look at say, ,"Wow. Her faith is amazing.  She's going through so much, and the woman doesn't even look fazed! Even her hair looks great!"

My hair may have looked great, but the rest of me did not. I had two or three fever blisters, a stye, my gray hair had grown way out, and I had the perpetual look of someone who had played too many video games.

I mean, I know Christ. I believe God's promises for my life, and for the lives of our children. I was shocked at how rocked I felt.  All of my children were alive, well, and nothing terrible had happened. Yet, I felt like I was in mourning, and  looking back I think I was. I was mourning the 'perfect' lives I wanted for each our children. I was mourning the fact that things weren't going to be the way I thought they would be. It may sound weird, but I was also mourning that the world was not perfect. I mean, I've always known that this world isn't perfect, this was just the thing that tipped the scales because it was home. I thought of all the children who suffer horrible abuse, people shooting people for no reason, the precious babies in Newtown, cancer diagnoses running rampant through my Facebook feed, world hunger, and failing DNA. For the first time in my whole life the world felt burdensome.

After the dust had settled a little, my mom took us all out for lunch. I've always loved people watching, but this day I was really looking at the people, noticing things that I would normally skip over. A little girl with leg braces on came in holding her dad's hand. She had a heartbreaking, beautiful smile..  An elderly couple, on the way out the door, had such sweet faces I wanted to hug them. There was a woman wearing a scarf on her head, a tell-tale sign of chemo, who was enjoying being with her whole family.  As we sat waiting for our lunch to be served, I looked around the room. It was packed with people who had their stories, all of them coming out of, going into, or in the midst of something major. Isn't that how it is for each of us, all the time?

We're all coming out of, going into, or in the midst of challenging life circumstances.

That's part of the deal of living in this beautiful, messed up world. We are going to go through crap, some of us even go through what seems like hell. I believe, I know, and I trust that the vehicle to get us through is faith in Jesus.

Jesus does not require perfect faith, or even huge faith. Just mustard-seed sized faith. The main requirement of faith is perseverance, and perseverance is not always never pretty.

I thought that when I went through a rough time I needed to look strong, so that others would see the work that Christ was doing in me. It took a tear-filled day in public to open my eyes to the truth:  It is our weakness that binds us together, it is in our brokenness that Christ can shine through (thanks for that Liz Vos!)  I knew this truth, but I it had been a while since I lived that truth. ( 2 Corinthians 12:9)

So, here I am, Kara Shepherd, broken vessel for Christ. Perseverance or bust!

I do have on clean underwear, though, because that's how my mama raised me.


  1. My love of cowboy movies brings this from "Josey Wales". The Indian chief, Lone Watie, went to Washington. They told him to endeavor to persevere. He said, 'We thought about it for a long time, "Endeavor to persevere." And when we had thought about it long enough, we declared war on the Union.' So, don't just persevere, continue the attack.

  2. Oh Kara, this is good and so true - we live in such a broken world. I know people that seem to remain so perfectly strong through crisis while I, on the other hand, have to work out the details, come to grips with letting it completely rest in God's hands. Thankful for His amazing grace and love. He is my strength and He shines greatest in me when I am weak.

    I SO get the imagination thing. A blessing and a curse, right?! I heard a song a long time ago that has stuck with me:

    Laying down my vain imagination, focusing my thoughts upon you Lord, meditating in your loving presence, not allowing fear in anymore. Caputuring my wandering thoughts before you, casting them before my Lord and King. Standing pure and holy in your presence. Looking through eyes that now are clean. (Chorus) I look to you, the author and the finisher, I look to you, the lover of my soul. You consume my heart and my vision. And through your love I am made whole.

    Thanks for sharing your heart...