It’s been more than two years since I blogged on here. My journey has taken me far from where I was when this blog began. It’s been more than four years since our foster journey came to a screeching halt, and our children are about to turn four and seven this Fall/Winter. It’s funny how different God’s plans are from ours sometimes. But I do know, His are always better. Had we continued on our foster journey, we may never have met our dear biological daughter, Claire Helen, who brings us more joy, laughs, and frustration than we could have ever imagined!
Now I come to the meat of this post.
October 7, 2013. A day that will mean nothing to most but for me, it was, by far, the worst day of my life. On that day, my life took a turn in a direction I could have never foreseen. Ever. As I look back over the last year, only one word comes to mind: Grace. Grace abounding. I can’t believe how far He has brought me in one year.
Some of you know what happened to me on October 7, 2013; others do not. Until then, I thought I’d been through my fair share of suffering and pain. I will spare the details here because the point of the post is not that an awful thing happened to me that day. The point is that Jesus, my sweet savior, can make beauty out of ashes.
Life as I knew it changed from morning till evening that day. All my security, my identity, my joy and my purpose was taken from me that day (or so I thought). In the days and weeks following it was difficult merely to keep my head above water and to be the mom my kids deserved. There was so much changing in my life-in their lives. So much to work through, to make sense of. But, it didn’t make sense. Many rallied around us, came to my aid, joined my team, and it was amazing. Others didn’t know what to do.
After the dust settled, we made the decision to move back to my childhood “home” of Tampa to be near family. Already I could see God’s graces touching me. Most of the plans we had for our future were thwarted, but I began to see that God had another amazing plan, basically throwing us into the laps of three faithful pastors and an amazing church in Tampa: Aletheia Tampa. These people-essentially perfect strangers-loved on us, accepted us, prayed for us, and showed us grace like we had never been shown before. As people began to hear our story, they didn’t run away like we expected them to. They didn’t say “that’s too much” or “that’s too hard.” Instead they said, “We’re here; and we’re not going anywhere.” And that was exactly what we needed to hear.
God placed me in a small group at another church with women who were walking paths similar to mine. Long, hard, painful paths. But there, I found much hope. I found friends to hold my hand, pray for me, cry with me, and just be there. I found a safe place to share my fears and hurts. I found women who had walked the path before me and were experiencing God’s redeeming work.
I found an amazing job and coworkers. Michael did the same. We moved in to a great house in a neighborhood full of little kids who love to play outside and come to knock on our door to see if Michael Paul can come out.
My family is close by. I can have lunch with my Mama whenever I want. I can have sleepovers with my nieces and nephews and now Claire says her cousins Ava and Pearl are her best ever friends. And God has moved in my family in huge ways-which I would have not gotten to witness firsthand had I been so far from home.
God is moving. In the last few months, he has been rewriting my ideals of what my life is supposed to look like. There have been so many days I have just looked to Him and said, “God, I don’t understand. Why me?” But, in the last year, He has taught me so much about suffering and difficult circumstances. I truly believe they have nothing to do with punishment and everything to do with sanctification. I’ve learned there were things in me that had to come out. I was finding my worth, my identity, my purpose in everything but God. Who I was was a mom, a wife, a pastor’s wife, a nurse, when really all that it matters that I am is: His. His daughter. His child. His faithful follower. My hope is in Him, only Him. But it took Him literally tearing many of those things right out from under me for me to see it. And I believe, sometimes that’s His only option.
A few weeks back, Pastor Aaron preached an amazing sermon on existing for Jesus. He said:
“Either I exist for Jesus, or I exist for myself (or others or titles or fame). He alone is our source for joy. If you believe in an eternally loving God, you will not be bound by your temporal situations. If your hope is in something bigger than your circumstances, you will not be dominated by them. To exist for Jesus means we view everything as a gift-even suffering.”
I’m a different person than I was 365 days ago. My life looks so very different than it did then. I’ve learned that when hard things happen in peoples’ lives, many friends will run, and few will remain. But God always supplies those you need when you need them. I’ve caught little glimpses of what Jesus must have felt that night in the garden, feeling all alone, looking upon those the absolute closest to Him and asking “Will no one stay awake with me?” I hope I have learned how to be a better and more faithful friend.
I have learned the true meaning of the word forgiveness and what it looks like to truly extend that to others and accept it for yourself. I’ve learned what an amazing gift free grace is. I did nothing to deserve God’s grace-I did everything not to deserve it; and yet He gives it to me, no questions asked, no contingencies. I’ve learned that being Christ’s child is ENOUGH. (Friends-keep reminding me!) I don’t have to be anything else to anyone else. I just have to be faithful with that. I’ve learned the true meaning of the word covenant, and what it looks like to keep one-even when it’s hard.
Today, I trust God more than I did 365 days ago. I’m learning to love him more still! I understand grace more. I understand how it is to completely rely on God because there seems to be no one else to rely on. My family is growing stronger. My marriage is growing stronger. My friendships are richer and more meaningful. I don’t take things for granted like I used to. God has taken what Satan meant for evil, and made it for my good and for His glory.
Each day as I walk forward in that truth, I can choose to believe what God has told me or to walk in doubt, self pity, and selfishness. To be honest-some days I choose the latter. When I’m least expecting it, a smell or a photo takes me back to that day or the weeks following, and I wallow and throw myself a pity party. If that’s you–turn to Jesus! If you hear me doing this-slap me! He is the only thing that satisfies! He is the only hope, the only source for joy! I’m grateful for my pastors and brothers and sisters in Christ who remind me when I need reminding the most.
I won’t say I will ask for suffering or difficult circumstances (who would?) but when they come I will again turn my eyes upon Jesus, and I know He will be by my side. I know He continues to grow me. He has changed my heart so much but reality is-I’m still an ugly sinner who needs Him every day.
So while, on 10/7/13, I thought it was the worst day of my life, I can look back now realizing it wasn’t the worst at all. It was a day God got my attention and said loudly, “I have so much more for you, Katie. Will you wait and see?”
“Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” Phil 1: 18b-20