Oftentimes, in the rough places of life, I figuratively pack up my bags and hike down a steep, winding road of despair.
And I camp out there.
Five years ago, God brought a tremendous mountain into our lives. There were cliffs and rocky terrain. Circumstances seemed insurmountable and we literally camped out there.
We had three children – ages 6, 4, and 3.
Up to this point, my life as a homeschooling mama had been one of simplicity, so to speak. My youngest still took a nap each day while the other two had quiet time in their rooms. Life seemed manageable.
I was living my dream. It felt as if our family life was very well-planned. We felt responsible and safe.
Then, 2009 happened.
Our family and marriage were tossed down a steep slope of uncertainty due to legal issues. Making matters more complex, the economy nose-dived and my husband lost his job. He felt like he lost his identity on many levels. There was shame.
I lost my identity as well — as a mom and wife. No longer a homemaker, but a road warrior. I had to do all the driving due to the legal situation of our lives.
My leisurely mornings of coffee and homeschooling transformed into a daily routine of packing lunches, schoolwork, the dog, and taking a road trip.
Road trip after road trip after road trip. Day in and day out. We were the Partridge Family.
Except we weren’t happy song birds dressed in polyester – we were a mess. My husband and I each lost choices we normally made each day. We camped out in an RV at various campsites around the state and I was weary.
Juggling homeschooling from a minivan or the RV was tiresome. My husband was burning the candle at both ends as well. He couldn’t find another job, so he courageously started his own business. I secretly swore I would never look back and say I enjoyed this time of my life.
But a funny thing happened.
Recently, my kids and I were looking through old photos. Tears welled in my eyes as my children pressed in close to gaze at miniature versions of themselves staring back. We laughed and reminisced.
Good memories from our days traveling.
The hard years.
The days I swore I never would enjoy.
And I was reminded of what a kind-hearted mentor said to me during that season of my life: that I would one day view our undoing as one of God’s greatest mercies in our lives.
I wanted to body slam her.
Over time, God’s grace has allowed me to understand that she was absolutely right. The wake-up call was a tremendous mercy in our lives, in our marriage, and in the lives of our children.
It saved us. You see, He woke us up. Shocked our hearts awake to His voice, His immeasurable love, and our blessings.
Blessings don’t always appear in ways we might think — wrapped in foil paper and tied with satiny ribbon. Sometimes God’s greatest blessings are through messy, body-slamming heartache.
Shouldn’t I already know that?
The Chief Blessing of all time came down as a gift bundled in a stable full of animal stench to live the life of poverty and suffering. Not exactly the picture one would have for the God of the Universe.
An undoing of ourselves can be beautiful and miraculous as we open our hands and hearts to the Father and allow Him to unravel our perceived comforts and safety — filling us fully with Himself. The question is: can we embrace a picture that is different from what we had planned?
If we are open to His Spirit, we are left breathless by His unrelenting love and grace.
God graciously gives us a choice — to camp out down winding trails of bitterness and despair or camp out in the hope and joy only He can offer.
By His grace, He’s giving clearer vision to this blind girl. He’s still chiseling and refining this wayward heart.
Ask yourself today where you can press into fear and bravely embrace the life He’s planned for you.
Love the idea of embracing something different in our lives from God than what we had in mind or planned. And I love how many times those difficulties and challenges birth the sweetest memories and fellowship times with God. Thank you for sharing your heart. Enjoyed reading your story on your blog too!
Thank you Melanie. I find that I am daily gripping Jesus’ hand as I bravely walk this trail. It will take me soon to the land called Empty Nest. This is a perilous journey for me and I teeter between my companions Joy and Sorrow as I watch my grown up babies fly away. I know that The Lord is unfolding the next part of my story as He leads my son & daughter into their own journeys. And I know that He has a new thing He is doing in this next chapter of my life. Your words encouraged me this morning. Pressing in, pressing on! Blessings to you…
Lois Flowers says
“Then, 2009 happened.”
I’m swallowing back tears as I read because I can relate so well to that. My details are different from yours, of course, but the end result seems to be the same: “By His grace, He’s giving clearer vision to this blind girl. He’s still chiseling and refining this wayward heart.”
Thank you, Melanie. I needed to read this today.
Kerry brasher says
Thank you for this post. My children are the exact same ages you had mentioned your were in your post. And my husband and I have been in the trenches financially and physically. I most days feel too weak to homeschool and fear I will inadequately prepare my children for life. Your post reminded me that He is the strength in our weakness and brings beauty from the ashes.
Great blog post Melanie! Thank you for sharing your story. In 2011 I had a wake up call myself in my marriage. But God…..
Now today we are happier and stronger than ever. Times of growth are hard but necessary in our walk with God.
Awesome post. I think we are all guilty of thinking of our blessings as only the “good” things in our lives. Some of the most difficult things in our lives have been the greatest blessings: a child born with a disability, a child diagnosed with cancer, a hard move away from friends…all things God used for His glory and for our good. There are still some situations where we aren’t far enough out to see the blessing in them, but I know that it’s there.Thank you for your insights today.
Melanie Singleton says
Thank you for your beautiful words ladies. I have to be reminded constantly of His faithfulness through the storms of life. He is such a good God. Our lives are for His glory, not our comfort. How hard that truth is to embrace. Oh how I struggle still. Only by His grace and His hand upon me can I put one foot in front of the other many days!
Angela W says
Thank you for sharing about this tender time in your life and opening yourself up so others may find comfort. My story is not the same as yours…but you could not get me to repeat 2013 if you paid me! But, God has not left me and He took me on a journey that I would not of been courageous enough to go on by choice. It has been hard, but the miracles are daily and the growth is still happening.
Blessings to all who are “camping” out in difficult circumstances. Keep moving and hold on to His mighty hand.
I am a 35 year old Mom of 3 little boys and find myself in the depths of the valley for sure- recently diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, I am having a double mastectomy in 9 days. I go back and forth between despair and hope and feel that I am learning for sure all the things you mentioned- when I am weak, He is strong. This journey is hard, but has the potential for bringing me the closest to God that I have ever been. Thank you for sharing your story. It was truly an encouragement today.
Beth Williams says
Praying hard right now for you and your family! May God heal you and give you His comfort and strength during the fight!
Melanie Singleton says
Angela, I would never want a repeat either! But I am thankful He brings beauty from ashes.
Oh Carrie. God bless you. Thank you for taking time to reply. Praying for you right now.
Beth Williams says
Thank you for being so transparent! Trials will come and they are never welcomed, but sometimes God uses trials to bring us closer to and more dependent on Him.
August 2009 was a mixed blessing for me. it was the time my mother died of chronic brain bleeds. She also had dementia and sundowner’s and was bedridden for 2 years prior. I was sad, but relieved for her pain to be gone and for dad to be able to have time to himself.
This year 2014 has been frustrating dealing with my dad moving, medication issues that landed him in hospital X2 and rehab X1. Fortunately he is better and doing quite well at Assisted Living. During all this I worked a job I hate and my hubby just about lost his job. It was enough to drive me crazy. Looking back now I can see how much I depended on God to get me through that time!
Melanie Singleton says
Oh Beth, such hard things. So sorry. There’s nothing like the intimacy with the Father during tough times. I ran from Him most of my life and I am so grateful He never gave up on me! No love sweeter!