I hope you guys enjoyed reading the two fictional stories I’ve written over the last few months. I had no idea how much I would enjoy writing a short story until now. You will probably see more of them in the future so, be ready!
Sadie Henderson was dear to me as she struggled to find her way in a new home with a new role as a Pastor’s wife in the middle of what seemed like nowhere. “My Hope is Built” was mostly fictional but did have traces of real life woven into the plot. I fell in love with Sadie and Ms. Moses; their friendship was so unusual but beautiful. My hope is that all of our friendships will be as “fought for” and genuine as theirs.
The story of Clara Bell, “My Refuge and Fortress,” left me wanting more. She learned such a hard lesson to be so young. Life doesn’t always turn out the way we planned. And that’s where surrender enters. What will we do? When opportunities fall through and the very basics in life seem to be stripped away, will we trust in the One who says he will “provide for all of our needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus?” (Philippians 4:19) That’s easier said than done. We want to trust, we even tell ourselves we are trusting. But then difficulty strikes and what’s really lurking in the depths of our hearts is exposed.
At least that’s been my experience.
Many of you know we moved to a new place about a year and a half ago. We’d lived in the same small town for thirteen years and had lots of friends and a church we loved. But, my husband’s job requires a lot of travel and it was hard for him to commute from such a rural area. We knew one day we’d have to move closer to an airport, but we wanted our kids to be out of high school first. So, when the graduation day of our youngest child finally arrived, we began to make plans to move. It was a tough decision, but we knew it was the right one. We put our house on the market and it sold in three weeks. This is kind of a big deal since there aren’t droves of people moving to small towns. We were grateful and a bit overwhelmed at how fast life was changing. Because we weren’t prepared for our house to sell so quickly, we hadn’t found a house to move into. We lived with my dad and his wife for a few weeks while we looked for one in a new larger city. It didn’t take long to find a home we loved. It seemed there was one miracle after another and we found ourselves new homeowners again for the first time in over a decade.
We packed our U-Haul and headed north, leaving my long time job, family, friends and everything familiar behind. We felt the pain of leaving all the things we loved but we were also filled with joy and anticipation for what was next. “Next” meaning the next season of our lives. We are empty nesters. We have one of our adult children living with us right now, but, believe me, it’s not the same as having school aged children still at home. We only knew one person in our new city, but we knew God was for us and had literally provided everything we needed to be successful. When we arrived in our new neighborhood, we unpacked and began the work of finding our way around an unfamiliar place. All seemed to be going so well, it was almost too good to be true. I remember thinking exactly that, that it “all went so smoothly,” maybe too smoothly.
It was late summer when I received a phone call that blew my heart into a thousand pieces. Honestly, I would love to tell the back story leading up to this call, maybe someday I will. But, for today let’s just say it shook me at the very core of my heart. I can still tell you exactly where I was when I answered the phone. It wounded me in ways only the closest people in my life fully understood. It was a difficult phone conversation that led to many more conversations. And with each conversation, I felt more like a failure. I lost sleep, cried daily and tried to eat away my stress and hurt. I gained weight and felt shame and insecurity like I’d never known before. It was a devastating series of events that happened at a vulnerable time in my life. My closest friends and family were far away and we hadn’t yet found a church. My husband was travelling, my adult child worked every day and I was left alone in my new home to sort through all the feelings and hurt welling up from my heart. To say it was a hard time is putting it mildly. I don’t think I’ve ever felt loneliness like I did in those days. My self-esteem was shattered and I began to think I was truly incapable of success. I was destroyed. I know I’m painting a dark picture here, I just want you to know how difficult those days were for me. It’s hard enough to go through painful times, but to go through painful times in a new place where you feel vulnerable and alone, is another level of difficulty.
I spent a lot of time beating myself up in the days that followed. All the thoughts I’d had throughout my life about not being “good enough” or “smart enough” played on loop in my brain. And, you know what, I believed every one of them. I stayed at home more and no longer wanted to make new friends. I didn’t feel “good enough” to be part of new conversations. I got off social media and wrote little in my blog for months. To say I was devastated really is underplaying how I felt. I don’t know a more effective way to get it across than to tell you: all the hopes and dreams I had for this new place went up in flames and I wanted to hide from the world.
So I did.
What I didn’t understand then, but do now, is that God was revealing an issue hidden deep within my heart. One that I didn’t even know was there. The fact that a situation I didn’t see coming could completely crumble my self-worth was very telling. You see, my identity was wrapped up in something other than what scripture says about me. So when all the accolades and confidence placed in me was taken from me, I was left holding onto the shards of my broken image. It was then I was forced to face reality: I’d taken a gift from the Lord and turned it into an idol.
The only place we can find true security is IN HIM.
A few months passed and I still talked of the infamous phone call and difficult situation every single day. My husband was so patient with me and listened as I rehearsed the situation from every possible angle over and over. I talked constantly of things I wish I’d done differently. I lamented over my inability to let it go. I had a couple of family members and close friends who texted and called often to check on me as I struggled. Looking back I can see the Enemy found me in a place of isolation before he threw his first punch and, when I was down for the count, He threw a second.
There’ so much more to tell you, but I don’t want to overwhelm you with too many words today. I will continue with the story next week. For now, let me leave you with some encouragement. The Lord gave me a song in the midst of my struggle. It’s an Elevation Worship song and we first started singing it when we had to attend church online. The name of it is “See a Victory” and I sang it multiple times a day for quite some time. The line that brought me to tears so often, and still does to this day, was “you take what the enemy meant for evil and you turn it for good.” And that’s EXACTLY true in my life and in yours. What the enemy thought would destroy me, God has used to refine me. And, in a plot twist, the difficulty I despised I’ve come to appreciate. Because, on the other side of refining fire, is FREEDOM.
To be continued…