I’m Giving Up!

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Warning: This post is raw. Maybe one of my most vulnerable yet. But the overwhelming positive response I have received from those who have read my posts has inspired me to keep writing. Keep being vulnerable. Because I am finding that I truly am not alone. Each time I push the blue Publish button, I pray that at least one person be impacted by the words that the Spirit tells me to write.  And I hope that this post may resonate with that one person out there.

I am a wife. I am a full-time homemaker. I am a stay-at-home-non-working-homeschool mom. Everyone has a different story to share, different callings, and different convictions.  This is my perspective, my struggles, and the lessons I am learning through my lens.

The last few months have been rough. And that’s a big understatement. It’s been a really difficult time for Brett and me with changes in our current situation and the unknown of our future. Brett is seeking the Lord for direction but getting hit with brick walls and more unanswered questions. I am trying to be a supportive and an encouraging wife (which is not always the case). Then we have two little sinners in our house that thought it would be perfect timing to make Mommy miserable.  In fact, they thought it would be awesome to figure out how to push each other’s buttons so all Mommy hears all day is the older one constantly scolding and the younger screaming back. And the older….she’s 5 going on 15 with her attitude.

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I’m exhausted. Oh, I sleep through the night unlike my friend with twins who looks at me with envy because she knows my kids sleep until 8 am.  Or my other dear friend who has 3 children of her own, one being a newborn, while being the guardian of her two nieces. She had been taking care of 5 kids 6 and under.  They are exhausted.   But I’m not only talking about physical exhaustion, but mental, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion.

This wife and mommy stuff is hard.  No one can truly prepare you for it. You can read every marriage and parenting book. Read the best blogs. The 10 tips. The 5 must haves. The 3 don’t ever do’s. But when real life hits you between the eyes and you feel like you are drowning (and actually have tormenting dreams of drowning and waking up yelling for help), you have to somehow make sense of it all.  And it would be easy-peasy to be a wife and mom if life were not complicated.  No. It’s full of burdens, trials, temptations, sin, fear, disappointment, insecurities. The list could go on.

Am I doing enough? Is what I have to offer as a wife and mom adequate? Am I failing? These questions quickly turned into lies and twisted half-truths that Satan whispered in my ear. The conversation sounded a bit like this:

Serpent: You aren’t a good wife. Look at how you treated Brett when you……   You don’t seem to be a very good helpmate if everything you try to do does not encourage him.

Christina: Yes, I’m failing as a wife by focusing on myself when he needs me most right now in his own struggles.

S: Your kids are being disobedient and do not listen to you. You must be doing something wrong.

C: Yes, and they are driving me crazy. I feel like a broken record. I’m burnt out and about to check out.

S: I mean is this really what you want?  You are around them 24/7… oh look at another mom who is posting about her home business again…maybe that’s what you need. You need to do something for yourself! You are servant all day.

C: Yes, there has to be more to life than being a wife and mom!  Other moms got it figured out how to be wife, mom, and this #girlboss stuff. That’s what I need.

S: Yesssss….Because you are more than a wife and mom, right? You have goals and dreams and passions!  You need more to make you happy and satisfied. Being only a wife and mom will never…be…enough. 

Sadly, I caved into Satan’s lies.  And being deceived I took a bite of the darn apple by fantasizing a life of “what ifs”.  “What if I didn’t finish college in such a hurry and pursued more education or worked with my professor in nutrition research like he encouraged me to do? What if Brett and I waited to have kids so I could explore life more, travel more, be “myself” more? What if I worked at least part-time? What if I give up on this homeschool thing and put Kherington in school next year; then I really wouldn’t have to hear her attitude all.day.long and could do more of what I want to do!”   The what ifs kept playing on and on in my head.  Satan dangling the shiny apples of a “better” life.

The root of this apple tree was discontentment. And the bitter taste permeated my soul.  I wanted to give up. I lost hope. I was tired of fighting the spiritual race and wanted to hang up my running shoes. I was done waiting on the Lord and His timing for Brett’s and my life.  After crying and silently yelling at God in the shower one day, the Spirit revealed that deep down I was angry at God. Angry that we’ve been waiting for 3 years for something that we were 100% sure that He had called us to do: be missionaries who make movies.

Last fall, we had the “green light” on a film project that we had already been waiting for 2 years to be funded, that would have moved us for 7 months to a different country. I had the house half packed up and pulled us out of ministries, my part-time job, Brett’s freelance business, children activities, everything. Brett and I were pumped for the awesome opportunity to be Jesus’ light on a secular film set. However, the “green light” turned red when the investor didn’t pull through.  And now it’s June. And we are still waiting. We decided to stop living in suffocating “wait mode” and live in the here and now. I just put my house decor back up last month. Yet I still have an open moving box in my bedroom taunting me that I have yet to unpack.

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My heart turned ugly.  Discontentment had made it black. Blinded me from Truth. Entangled me in deeper sin. Fortunately because of the grace of God and His Spirit, I finally heard His warning over the lies that Satan was drowning me with. I needed to change my heart or I was headed for destruction. So I pulled out my journal and wrote a 12-page honest prayer to God. Here is a small part of what I told Him…

“I have been tired of feeling like a wife and mother isn’t good enough for not just the world’s standards but even Your standards. Because I believe the lie that I have to do more for You. My biggest fear is standing before You someday and I didn’t do enough. I don’t believe that I am doing enough as just a wife to Brett and a mom. Because it doesn’t seem very radical. It’s boring and mundane some days. I see people do amazing things and other women given platforms… And I feel like I’ve been asked to do nothing but be a wife and mom.”

There’s some honesty for you.  And as I was honest with God,  I finally shut out the lies of Satan and let the Spirit, whom I had been ignoring, speak to me.  I journaled His Truth as I sat and listened…

You have an identity crisis (Ephesians 1). You are being selfish and prideful (Prov. 16:18). You have not been willing to drink the cup I have given you right now in your life (Mark 10:38). Everything you have and these circumstances are divinely from Me (Colossians 1:15-18). Nothing is accident (Jeremiah 29:11). You are who I made you to be and where you are is where I want you to be in order to be who I created you to be (Psalm 139).  You have been deceived into looking for joy, happiness, acceptance, importance in other places. 

“Yes, you want me to be pleased by you but it’s not by selfishly being noticed or being used in a “big” way that you Americans like to categorize ministry. Any selfish motive will be burned away (1 Cor. 3:12-15).  I am the opposite of Satan’s counterfeits in this world.  The first shall be last (Matthew 19:30).  The cup and baptism is suffering, not always pleasures and happiness in this world (Mark 10:35-45). You must lose your life to gain it. Take up your cross and carry it. Die to yourself (Mark 8:34-38).  Be willing to be used, but be poor in spirit always before Me (Matthew 5:3).” 

I was immediately broken and responded to the Spirit…

“I have to give it all up, Jesus. I have to surrender everything. The question is: am I willing? To take the cup and drink it whole-heartedly, no matter what? Yes, I surrender to what you have asked me to be right now in this moment: a helpmate to Brett, mother to Kherington and Damon, a friend to those around me, and to just write.  No promoting my blog or trying to be “someone.”  I hear You telling me…’just write as I tell you to.’

“My identity is who You say I am. Nothing and no one else in this world can define me. I can be free to be nothing else. You made yourself nothing! Became a servant. Humbled. I now become nothing. I am Christina Varvel, Your servant daughter. I am done trying. I am done living “for” You. I need to live with You.  Seeking You, wanting nothing else but You. To be satisfied in You, hungering and thirsting for the rest of my days.”

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I posted this picture and the following on social media regarding what the Lord was asking of me:

“Life is heavy. It’s full of burdens. And if you are a driven person like myself, you tend to keep pushing through the pain, worry, and unknown. Can’t give up. Can’t give in. Pull it together. Muscle through it. Keep trying. Don’t let anyone know you are struggling.
Yet, there comes a breaking point. I can’t do it. I’m weak. I’m not strong enough. I need help.
I carried this 40 pound baby down a mountain. I wanted to prove I could do it. But I came to a point where if I kept trying I’d only hurt myself and drop the camera I was holding onto for dear life. So I handed it to someone else. I gave it up to someone stronger. And I walked down the rest of the mountain free. No fear of dropping what I was trying to hold onto because it rested in someone else’s arms. My arms were sore still with some pain of letting go, but in the end it was worth it.
So in the heaviness of life, I’m letting go. I surrender. I’m done trying to hold onto the things in life that only weigh me down. I hand it to Jesus. Because He said, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” I want to run down the mountain free with Jesus and experience all He has for me. What are you holding onto? What you think may be helping is actually hurting. Stop trying so hard. Surrender. Jesus is willing to carry it all for you because He carried a cross to die on to save you from yourself.”

Give it up Mom, friend, wife, Dad, lady boss, homemaker, whoever you are.  That was my first step. Then to praise Jesus for who I am and what I have instead of drowning into discontentment and the comparison trap.   I wanted to give up being a wife and mom, but I gave up my selfish desires in order to be a wife and mom. Because this is my highest calling and where I will have the most eternal impact.

So if you are looking for me right now, I’ll be at home.

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“The Broken Way” at the Christian Worldview Film Festival

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CWVFF_Pic“I’m not going down there, Christina.  I’m telling Phillip that I can’t come and speak. Why am I even a speaker? I made one feature film and it didn’t do well because we didn’t make our money back, which means no money to make another film.  I can’t look at these people and tell them that for the second year in a row Disciples in the Moonlight is not being filmed this year. What am I doing?  I’m a failure.  Everything I touch dies. I get a lead on project after project and they are taken away or pushed.  Maybe this is not my calling.”

Tears are streaming down my face as Brett stands vulnerable before me. I put the weights down and sit on the ottoman because clearly my workout can wait.  This man before me, the one who is strong for me, fights to protect me, prays over me and takes on spiritual oppression when I’m under attack by Satan’s lies and fears, is baring his naked soul to me.  Through the blurriness of my tears, I look him in the eyes. Those same eyes that I have looked into a million times since 16 years old. It is one of the features that I love most about him because even as we age, his eyes and that look of unconditional love he gives me will never change. I can see his soul, and in this moment, there is fear. Insecurity. Worry. Failure. Lies. Bitterness. Betrayal. Hopelessness.   This is not the man I know. Because that man I know is who Christ says he is, not these lies from Satan.

This was only one of a few broken moments that Brett had in the past several months.  I asked the Spirit to tell me what to say or do.  I have told Brett over and over in past occurrences that those are lies. I’ve spoken truth into his ears. Laid my hands on him and prayed warrior prayers over him when I have found him paralyzed on the floor of our bedroom unable to get up because the fears and lies had overtaken him.   But now, I use my exercise shirt to wipe away my tears and honestly don’t know what to do anymore to help him.  I wanted to yell, “Shut up!”  Yet instead, my own fears and worries rose up.  How can I be a helpmate to my husband when I myself am battling my own insecurities, shame of sin, fears of the future?  I didn’t say anything. We were both broken. I just let the tears come. I nodded my head to say I understand.  We went our separate ways.  I don’t even remember if I finished my weight lifting.

Now, I’m on a plane flying back home to Indianapolis from San Antonio. We went “down there,” way down south in Texas.  The place that only a few weeks ago Brett was dreading to go.  And now tears are ready to burst from the overwhelming joy of what took place this past week at the Christian Worldview Film Festival (CWVFF).   Last night after a wonderful time at the festival’s ceremony and after-party with so many friends, I looked into Brett’s eyes.  And this time I see joy. Hope. Encouragement. Peace. Security. Surrender.  That didn’t come from news that his film projects are funded and off and running. Or that he got a role as lead actor for a feature film. Or that he took home a prestigious award…because all those things didn’t happen.  This is how it happened…

Brokenness. Vulnerability. Surrender. Community.

The past few years, God has been breaking Brett and me. We asked for revival a couple of years ago, and God has been answering. But that revival could only start in our hearts. A quote I read on the plane down to San Antonio spoke loudly where we are at: “Before God can use you greatly, He will wound you deeply.  Are you ready to be pruned by the Master?”*  We have been wounded in different ways, separate from each other and together. Oh and how the pruning hurts.  But it is necessary.   A week before our trip to the CWVFF, I devoured the book The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp.  This book is one that I will buy and put on my shelf, and that says a lot for an avid book reader who doesn’t buy books unless they impact my life, and I will read over and over for the years to come.  The Spirit spoke through Ann right to my heart and where I am at on this broken journey myself.

In my previous post, My Friend, You Are Not Alone, I wrote about loneliness and how relationships and discipleship is crucial in this life.  In The Broken Way, Ann expanded on this concept, specifically how brokenness and suffering in community are the way to heal our broken hearts. I have experienced “the broken way” this past year with my three discipling relationships and even other relationships I did not mention.  Through my suffering I fought to isolate myself but instead became vulnerable. I poured out my heart, confessed my sin, and opened my hands to give to others.    And because of it I have known this to be true:  “The way through brokenness is, and always has been, to break the sufferer free from the aloneness of the suffering by choosing to participate in the suffering with them – [community] – choosing to stand with the suffering, stay with the suffering, and let it all be shaped into meaning that transcends the suffering.”  (I give you permission to read that again and let it sink in! It’s pretty deep!)

Brett and I went down to the CWVFF not knowing what to expect. We prayed and asked the Lord to use us. Use our brokenness. Vulnerability. No answers for our future. Open hands ready to give. Humbled hearts surrendered.  I walked into that place and it honestly felt like I was given oxygen to breathe.  The veil of loneliness and fear disappeared from surrounding Brett as the week went on. When someone asked how we were doing, we didn’t say “great” and a bunch of fake comments to appease the person. We were honest. “It’s been a really hard year, but this is what God is doing…”  On Friday night, the Spirit spoke through Brett as he gave a powerful message on how a wrong identity leads us to fear and worry, distracts us from the mission, and makes us question God.    He shared his journey through the past couple of years of having a wrong identity. He was completely vulnerable and even the end wasn’t tied up with a pretty bow, since we still don’t have answers for our future. (Click here to listen and watch a short video clip from his speech.)

We found “the broken way” right there at the CWVFF.  As our walls came down, others’ walls came down too. My heart wanted to burst with gratitude for every person that came up to him and told their own story of fear and loneliness.  Others suffering alongside Brett in the filmmaking world. We are not alone. There is no judgment. This is community: Those who prayed with him. Hugged him. Cried with him. Gave written and audible words of encouragement.  And all those who engaged with me in conversations that touched me deeply, whether sitting at a table, the couch in the hallway, on the floor, mealtimes, crammed in our rental car, and even the bathroom. Talking to other filmmaker wives who really do understand me. Laughing with friends like we’ve known each other for years. You will never know how desperately I needed to hear your words: “Thank you for all you do for your husband. You probably are behind the scenes but your role as his wife is most important.” “Thank you for your vulnerability. You are a warrior princess. We need to be mentoring more warrior princesses.”  “Listening to how you have supported Brett has inspired me to find a wife like you.” (Didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at that one! I had to fight to shut up Satan from reminding me of all the ways I have failed Brett through this journey.)

Many filmmakers went “down there” to the CWVFF hoping to bring back an award. Yes, some did, yet most all of us went home Spirit-filled, encouraged, and rejuvenated to continue the mission God has called us to in filmmaking.  If you want to find Jesus in filmmaking…come to the Christian Worldview Film Festival and Filmmaker’s Guild next year.  That is where revival is. That is where suffering happens together in community to bring about a purpose far greater than we expected.

As I was leaving the after-party to get to bed since we had an early flight home, I said goodbye to the founder’s wife. She told me what spoke to her the most this week was experiencing blessing through others’ suffering, which doesn’t seem right! I hugged her and said, “Oh I know. I really do know. It’s the broken way.” And Ann says it better than I can: “The fellowship of the broken believe that suffering is a gift He entrusts to us and He can be trusted to make this suffering into a gift.”

Flashback to a few weeks ago, I sat on that ottoman and at one point couldn’t look Brett in the eyes anymore because it was too painful. I stared at my weights feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders questioning, what was God doing?  We’ve been waiting for answers for a couple of years now. What more does He want with our brokenness?   Now, I know. I really do know. God has turned our suffering into a gift.  If God allowed us to suffer all this time so that Brett would share his vulnerable heart to all who heard him this past week so that lives could be impacted…then it was worth it all.  And now we come home still unsure if God will or will not allow answers for our future to come soon. Regardless, we will remain….

Broken. Vulnerable. Surrendered. Suffering with Community. A Gift.

Follow CWVFF on Facebook and check out more pics and videos from last week’s guild and festival: https://www.facebook.com/cwvff/

*From the book, The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Romance