Today's guest post is important. I'm not even sure how to preface it, it's so precious. It's beautiful and painful and it cuts to the quick of who we are, and who we're becoming. I feel incredibly honored to introduce you to my friend, Emily Lanphier. She is a deeply spiritual follower of Jesus, a wife, a momma, and a gift to the world. She writes about loss, motherhood, faith, and relationships over on her blog Her Life Is An Open Book. Please go check it out, you'll be grateful you did.
I remember the distinct moment in which THE thought descended into my brain. “You might completely lose yourself. You might lose your joy, your humor, your marriage, your motherhood… your very identity.” My hands trembled as I realized this simple thought could very easily become reality. My present stage in life was akin to me dangling from the edge of a cliff with only my pinky finger anchoring my body from a total free-fall to the depths below.
I ran my hands over my pregnant belly and tears poured down my cheeks. “I cannot lose myself,” I whispered. “My kids cannot grow up with a momma who is always sad.” And yet, here I was, living out a variation of my own worst nightmare. The death of both my parents by car crash just two months before left me to navigate deep loss amidst young motherhood and pregnancy.
The very essence of what comprised my identity was thrust into the fire. In the course of six months, my husband and I had lost my parents, changed career fields, came on staff at a new church, moved, and welcomed a third baby. When life falls apart, you find out who you really are. I wasn’t sure if I would like what emerged from my heart as I faced these trials.
I cried out to God.
I grieved and I struggled.
And then, my feet found the floor in my ocean of grief.
I did not lose myself.
In fact, I actually became even more secure in my God-given identity than before the traumatic loss that disrupted my life.
Oftentimes, out of deep suffering and pain we become more fully ourselves. Chaos is the vehicle for intentionality. Intentionality and the power of choice help us transcend loss, change, or simply the joys and challenges of parenting during the little years.
My circumstances afforded me the gift of HAVING to become anchored in my truest identity. And that anchoring happened in the battlefield of my mind. The reality is: our thoughts determine the course of our lives.
Having grown up with parents as pastors, I knew so much truth. But could I live in the truth when I faced misfortune? I had to gain power over my thought life so I could be victorious, grounded in my identity as a child of God.
Be very careful how you think. Because whoever controls your mind controls your life. Romans 12:2 became my mantra, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” I was militant about monitoring my inner voice. I clung to the truth of scripture.
I found myself taking every thought captive as I rocked my baby during the midnight hour. I began to memorize verses with my children. If I didn’t choose what I wanted to fill my mind with, discouragement and despair were my default tutors. So I trained myself. I trained my brain to think on Philippians 4:8, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” Creating new positive brain pathways was challenging at first, but became more natural with time and practice. With every fiber of my being, I set truth before my heart and mind… and I grew in the knowledge of who God says I am.
I obviously had setbacks and moments of deep sorrow, but I gave myself freedom to grieve without remaining in a state of unending sadness. Only a few months following my parents' death, I wrote a list of personal declarations so I could continually speak truth over myself. One of my favorites states: "when I fall off the horse (of life), I will get back on." I was growing in my ability to be an overcomer. I chose to not define myself by the hard days, but rather, by my ability to press forward in spite of them. We can't control what happens to us, but we have full control over our responses. No matter how low I felt, I purposed to return to a state of thankfulness and gratitude.
Adversity allowed me to experience the kindness of God in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise. The truth is that even under the best circumstances, we still have cracks in our heart from living in a broken state of humanity. But I can confidently testify that HE FILLS IN THE CRACKS. He loves us deeply, provides practically, and uses every single part of our journey to weave a beautiful story. We only need to say yes. We just need to keep our hearts soft and our minds clear so we can reach out beyond the muck and mire of this life and receive His priceless grace.
I pray we all let Emily's words sink into our minds and work their way into the way we live our days. If you'd like some material with which to "renew your mind," as Emily spoke about, join my mailing list and receive a copy of CHILD OF GOD: A Seven-Day Exploration of Who You Really Are. It can be a helpful aid in the journey of solidifying your identity and training your mind to intentionally live from that place.
TGIF, friends! Enjoy your weekend!