I came across an old email that I sent Isaac in April of 2018. He was angry with us and I was trying to share my heart. I told him that even though he didn’t want to admit it, he and I were a lot alike. At the time I had been asked to write out and share our story of unemployment and how it had affected me. It was an incredibly dark time and I felt like God wasn’t there for me. Looking back I was able to see the many ways He provided during that time.
I will be honest, I have felt so very sad the last several weeks. I can’t seem to get out from under it and once again it “feels” like God is so very far away. I know that He never leaves us, but I have felt alone. I wonder how often you have felt that way too? Especially in this most difficult “pandemic time.”
I wanted to share these words I wrote a few years ago as a reminder that God redeemed our hard before and I can trust He will do it again. Maybe if you are reading this you need the reminder as well?
Those words hang large and prominent over the French doors in our living room. A constant reminder to this word-girl of all the times that God has spoken redemption into my life. If we had all the time in the world and a few cups of hot chocolate we could sit down together like friends do and I would share with you all of the miracles that I have experienced in my now 43 years. I don’t use that word lightly and I couldn’t always see them right away, but there have been miracles.
You see in so many ways I was broken. I was lost and hurting and seeking something, anything different than what was in front of me. And yet I was stubborn too, certain that I knew better than God how to handle the unique details of my life. I spent years treating God like my spiritual vending machine. When I needed something I would pray about it and hope that I would get a “Snickers response” and not a “Bit-O-Honey response” (apologies to all my Bit-O-Honey loving readers!) I wanted God to give me what I wanted, and when I wanted it. And when He didn’t answer in the way that I had hoped, I would grow bitter and angry. Time and time again over the course of many years I played this game with God. When things were sailing along smoothly, I would praise His good works. I would write about His great mercies and seek to encourage others in their time of trials. But when my own trials hit? I was a ship tossed in a raging sea, water quickly filling my vessel and threatening to overtake me. I wondered where He had gone, the darkness came and it came often.
In 2010 our family experienced numerous changes. I was pregnant with our fourth child and my husband Dominic was in the process of starting a new job with a firm in Minnesota. For 8 months we lived apart during the week, cherishing our time together as a family on the weekends. While the living arrangements weren’t ideal, we had entered into the situation knowing that it would be temporary and that with God’s help we could get through anything. It truly was a time of growth for our whole family. We prayed together more than we ever had, we appreciated each other better and found gratitude in the little things. It wasn’t easy but it was the first time that I felt like we had really listened to God’s calling for our family and so I had great confidence in His plan for us.
In June of 2011 we moved into our new home in Southwest Minnesota. A perfect neighborhood, great schools and we quickly found a church that we loved. Everything was falling into place. And then in late 2011 the bottom dropped out. In a matter of a few short months we went from two high paying jobs with wonderful benefits, to both of us being unemployed, uninsured and facing the reality that we might have to walk away from our dream home, our dreams here and move into the basement with one of our parents. These were incredibly dark times.
My husband handled the situation much better than I did. Every day he would tell me that it was going to be ok. He didn’t know how, but he knew that it would be. He trusted that God would take care of us. Even if it meant we had to give up everything we had come to Minnesota for, we would still be together as a family and that was what was important.
I on the other hand fell right back into my old patterns. I sunk fast into a dark depression. I was convinced that we would not be ok and believed with my whole heart that what had only months ago seemed like truth from God, was actually a lie and now we were reaping the results of following that “calling.” I was so ashamed of our circumstances and what we were going through and it felt incredibly hopeless. I couldn’t see how the situation could possibly turn around. I didn’t want to accept help from others, I was so full of pride and admitting that we needed help was so difficult for me. I became fixated on the negative. If someone would say 1 positive thing to me I would quip back with 13 reasons why it was actually negative. I knew that I was falling deeper into that pit but I was certain there was no escape.
I started to imagine how things might get better if something happened to me in an “accident.” I knew that I had a couple of life insurance policies that could help cover our family expenses for quite some time, and I thought that would be the answer to all of our problems. Speaking those words out loud to my husband, and seeing the fear in his eyes when he reached out to my parents for guidance on what to do for me, felt like confirmation that I had completely lost my faith. Where was God anyways?!
But God was bigger than my lack of faith. He knew the path we would be walking, none of it was a surprise to Him and He loved me through my time of fear, anger and questioning. What I saw as hopeless, God saw as possibility. My biggest regret today is that I had a hindsight kind of faith. Today I can see all of the miracles and gifts that came from that dark time. I couldn’t see them in the moment but today I can look back and see all of the ways God took our ashes and made something beautiful out of them.
Shortly after this time, Dominic started his own business. It was a huge step of faith and we literally got down on our knees every day and asked God to guide us. We had the love and support of our incredible family who not only encouraged us but financially supported us for a time when we were unable to fully take care of ourselves. I learned how to say yes and thank you with gratitude and without shame. Going through that experience has helped us develop a greater heart for giving generously ourselves because so many people modeled that for us so graciously.
A year after the business was opened I had the opportunity to come to work with Dominic as his office manager. In those darkest of days I could never have imagined that one day we would be working together, side by side, running a successful business, helping others and providing for our family. I just couldn’t see the possibilities, I was so focused on the lies that hopelessness whispered to me. But it is easy to get stuck there isn’t it? So often we don’t have a choice in what happens to us, but we do have a choice on how we will respond.
Our lives today aren’t picture perfect, whose are right?! As often as we find ourselves on the mountain top, we too find ourselves in the valley. What I have discovered over the years of walking and wrestling with my faith is that God is there in both. I can praise him at the highest peak and He will be there and I can cry out to him in the darkest pit of the valley and there He is too. It was always I that had turned away, in those times that felt desperate and out of control and as though He had left…I was the one that had taken the reins, pushed my agenda, figured I knew best and tried to be my own God. If He felt silent it was only because I had turned my back on Him.
What I do have today is a greater peace than I have ever known because I daily, and sometimes hourly, give my life back over to Him. It isn’t always easy and I still fight the natural inclination to take control. But ultimately, I know what happens when I rein and what happens when I am willing to ask God to lead me. I have seen God redeem my broken places, take my emptiness and replace it with hope. He has restored my marriage and my family time and time again and I remain forever grateful. He is a good, good Father and He can redeem your darkest hour too.