Refiner’s Fire

It started when Ellie was three days old;  the day my milk came in.  I ate something that bothered her when it was passed through into my milk.  She was a little fussier than she had been and her poop turned green.  Then, thinking it was something else that bothered her, I ate the offending food again on day five.  That night Ellie was screaming in pain for hours, refused to nurse, crying hysterically. It seemed there was nothing we could do to make her feel better until finally, around 11:00pm Willy went out to the store to buy some gas relief drops for babies.  She finally got to sleep around 2 am after being awake for WAY more hours than a five-day-old baby is ever supposed to be.  I realized that gassy vegetables such as cabbage, beans, onions, pepper, broccoli, etc. bothered her. I eliminated the offending foods and continued nursing. But the reactions continued, and I was often hungry and afraid to eat. When she was one month old, I removed dairy from my diet as this also seemed to bother her. A month after that I removed all corn products and spices.  One month after that, I bit the bullet and eliminated gluten as well.

Ellie has a very sensitive tummy. Praise the Lord, after finally eliminating gluten her reactions have gone down to very occasional as opposed to daily occurrences.  But as you can imagine; this new and troubling relationship with food has been very challenging for me.  This has been a refining fire; and I have learned a lot about myself that I was rather in bliss not knowing.

I had heard this before, that when you have children you realize how extremely selfish you are.  I had always thought of myself as a pretty selfless person; I mean, I tried to live the way Jesus lived. But I had never really had to give up anything until now. Not really.  Sure I donated my time, talent and treasure; sure I sacrificed myself to cook and serve people; but I didn’t really know what I meant to give up something. Not really. I was comfortable in my life. I cooked food for others that I myself enjoyed eating.  I cleaned up dishes because I liked to have a neat and tidy house and because I liked that people always thought of me as organized and an excellent homemaker.  I baked my own bread and made cakes from scratch. And it was easy. I did these things to serve people and to serve the Lord, but I also basked in praises, and in so many self-congratulations that I rarely focused on what the Lord thought of me. This got me into trouble with my limited diet.

Now; stripped of all my favorite things to cook and to eat, stripped of something that I did to not only garner praises from others, but from myself, I fell into despair.  I thought things like,”God doesn’t care if I starve” and Willy and I joked about how my diet was “Dairy free, Corn Free, Gluten Free, Fun Free“.  I felt like I didn’t know who I was; and as I was trying to figure out the new diet, I often cooked foods that I was ashamed to serve to my own husband, let alone to others.  Frustration built, my self-worth was a roller coaster, and I was “hangry” to say the least.

I felt like God and I were at odds, but really, I was just at odds with him.  I was saying, ‘No!’ like a little child.  I did not like the portion he had lovingly placed before me.  If I could’ve, I probably would’ve flipped my tray of vegetables upside down and shouted “NO! I WANT CANDY!”

I didn’t know what was good for me. This is the Refiner’s Fire.  Gold must go through the fire to be made pure and priceless.  Of course if you had asked me, this is what I’d have said I wanted, but I didn’t really know what it meant. I didn’t really know what it meant to take up my cross and follow him; to die to myself and follow him! And I know I still have so much to learn, but I am starting again.

Our children are our children; with their unique talents and their own special challenges.  I have learned so much. I have realized that I need to care ONLY about what Jesus thinks of me; to stop comparing myself to others and most of all, to stop judging myself (be it positively or negatively). I have learned that love truly is sacrifice, and I know I would make the same choice any day to provide the perfect nutrition for my daughter by breastfeeding her.  I have also learned, via the wisdom of a good mom friend, that God uses each of these custom tailored challenges to shape us into Mothers who are strong. Strong not because we are SuperMom, but because we know that God must be our strength in the midst of our incredible weakness. I am Ellie’s perfect Mom; God gave her to me, and I to her for just these reasons. He has entrusted her to me, knowing that I would make these sacrifices for her tummy’s sake, and for my sanctification.

And the reality is that taking up our cross, and dying to ourselves, is the surest way to truly live.  I want more of Jesus, and less of me.  I have realized how abominably weak and self-reliant I tend to be.  But in HIM, I am made strong. I know now that it is a gift to be pushed through so many trials, because the refiners fire makes the purest gold. I want to be priceless gold; and the good news is that in the Father’s hands I can and will be. He is not finished with me yet.  And even now, I am BELOVED by the KING! Even on the days when I don’t shower until afternoon. Even when the dishes haven’t been done for days and we’re still eating leftovers of the gooey-gluten free pasta that really needed some garlic. (I miss garlic!) He loves me. I am the daughter for whom he laid down his own life, just as I am laying down my life for my daughter.

“…If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)

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