Small Surrenders {Guest Post}

My sister, Amber Vander Vennen, is a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom to six beautiful children. Earlier this year, her youngest son Bennett was diagnosed with cancer. Today, she writes from the heart to talk about what makes small surrenders in life so dang difficult. And she has many great, brutally honest things to say. {Photo by Katherine McClure Photography.}

My sister, Amber Vander Vennen, is a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom to six beautiful children. Earlier this year, her youngest son Bennett was diagnosed with cancer. Today, she writes from the heart to talk about what makes small surrenders in life so dang difficult. And she has many great, brutally honest things to say. {Photo by Katherine McClure Photography.}

Wow. This is hard to write.

My sister sent me an email: “You know how we had that conversation about how it’s harder to surrender in the smaller things of life than in the bigger things? No pressure, but would you like to write a blog post about that?”

YES! I shrieked like a little girl in my heart, but then felt utter panic: What do I know about surrender in the little things? I fail at this every day. Every. Day.

We had been discussing the storms of life in which we’d found ourselves. Last year, Kendra found out at 20 weeks that her precious daughter had a chromosomal abnormality and probably wouldn’t survive. Sweet Aliza passed away before they ever met her. This May, our 20 month-old son Bennett was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and now we are going through the treatment process of chemo and the struggle of managing all the side effects.

Kendra has been writing for five years, since she moved away after getting married, so she shared her journey on her blog. I began writing when I started Benny’s Caring Bridge. We had both received many praises for how God allowed us to weather our storms with grace.

But we both knew the truth.

While there is something about these huge, life-altering events that allow you to step back with your hands up and say, “Okay, God,” we still stink at doing this when, for example, our kid talks back, or our toddler gets diarrhea in the middle of the park, or our husband fails to read our mind.

Surrender is so hard. But why?

Since that fateful reply to Kendra’s email, God has laid on my heart a couple of root causes in my life. Maybe they are causes in your life, too.

Fear.

I like things organized. I mean, I would never call myself a control freak or anything. I just like each room of my house looking like a Pottery Barn catalog all the time. I am afraid with a large family that our home will go to heck in a handbag if we don't stay on top of it. Which might be true, but I shouldn’t allow my fear of a mess to keep my family from living their lives.

I want my family safe. My inner Mama Bear has come out a few times in my life. Once, during a scary river tubing incident in which I screamed all of Satan’s favorite words at my mother about the company that allowed us to take my babies down a river with level two rapids. {Did you know your voice carries over water?} Another time was when my husband allowed my daughter to struggle more than I wanted during swimming lessons. Don’t. Mess. With. My. Kid.

I want my family to follow Jesus. Pretty legit desire, but how do I respond to their lackluster choices? Do I allow my fear to take over and make it my job to, as quickly and passionately as possible, fix them? Or do I bring both their behaviors and my feelings to the cross?

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. {I John 4:18}      

Pride.

This was the biggie. I am swallowing hard and sweating even as I type this. Everyone who knew anyone who knew us was aware of what was going on with Bennett in May. What only a few people knew was that we had begun the adoption process in February, and our home study visits weren’t going well at all. We were very honest about struggles we’d had in our marriage and the social workers told us, “We’re sorry. This isn’t far enough in the past, and we can’t approve you.” 

So you’re tellin’ me that a child living two clothes from naked, without parents and getting fed once a day is better off in Haiti than with us as their parents?! Ouch.

Honestly, I was having a much harder time with this than with Bennett’s diagnosis. I was so full of pride, that I was more upset about a blow to my pride than I was about my son having cancer.

What a revelation.

A friend told me a few weeks ago, “When I first became saved, I had to pray against pride for months and months.” Yes. That’s what I need to do. And not just pray against it, but pray that the Lord would have me pause in these stressful situations and bring my struggle to Him first.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up. {James 4:10}

Unrealistic Expectations.

So, perhaps a perfect home isn’t the best goal when you have six kids and homeschool. {Or if you have any humans living in your house whatsoever.} Don’t get me wrong, I will never stop being organized or striving to teach my kids how to take care of their stuff. But let’s be real.

Realistic expectations are the key to success in any situation.

Why should I expect my husband and kids to be perfect when I clearly am not? Why would I expect external situations to fix my internal problems? Only God can grant us the things in this life that we desire, and He will only fill the holes in our hearts with Himself. Because to do anything else would be a gyp.

Cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.  {I Peter 5:7}

 

It isn't easy to surrender, to give up what we would rather hold on to, but the surrender and sacrifice Christ demonstrated in His own life beg we do the same. Both in the big storms that leave us clinging to Him through our next breath, and in the small surrenders we are faced with each and every day.

As Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes in her book Surrender, "In light of the incredible mercy of God poured out on us, a full and complete sacrifice of our lives is the only logical response we can make."

 

Grace and Peace,
Amber