Today is an anniversary I wish I didn’t remember. An anniversary that caused my family untold pain, but has gifted us with the sweetest joy we never would have dreamed of otherwise. Yes, these are unusual words, but they are part of my family’s story.
First, the anniversary. Seven years ago today, my mother-in-law passed away suddenly. We weren’t expecting it though she had been experiencing some health issues. In fact, my husband had taken her to the emergency room the previous evening, but they had sent her home saying she just had a simple infection. There was nothing simple about it though. She passed away that afternoon, and in the hours and days following, I felt like I was in a fog. We took care of everything that was necessary and made all of the notifications. We had a viewing and a graveside service, and everyone came and told us how sorry they were. Then, they left, and we were left to pick up the pieces. Anyone who has been through settling an estate knows of the difficulties, and I’m pretty sure we had them all in the year it took to settle everything. We had been living with her at the time so we ended up having to move, but it worked out in the end because my husband had found a job about an hour away from where we were.
We had lived in the city where we moved to previously; actually, it was the city where we had met and where both of our children had been born. It had been several years since we had lived there though so there was a time of adjustment. We were grieving too so it was not an easy time. My children were nine and twelve, and they had just lost the only grandparent they really knew. But, we kept going. We had to. We relied on each other and bonded as a family.
Was that the end of the story? No. It turns out God had bigger plans for us than we ever could have imagined. Because, you see, during that time, we did not have a faith family around us, and we were not involved in a church. Yes, we said we were Christians, but were we practicing Christians? If I wanted to be honest which I do, I would have to say no, we were not practicing Christians at the time. We did not rely on God, and he was not the companion to us that He is now even though my husband and I had both been professing Christians since we were teenagers.
So, God had more work to do before He led us home. A year and a half after my mother-in-law died, my husband got sick, had to have surgery, and subsequently lost his job. I felt so lost. It seemed like nothing we did was working out, and people didn’t waste chances pointing this out to us. There was no work to be found where we were so we traveled across the country to family who said we could stay with them. My husband looked everywhere for work. He didn’t limit himself. Shortly after we arrived, he applied for a job opportunity in a state we had crossed. It took four weeks for the interviews to be completed, and then he got the job on my younger son’s twelfth birthday! We drove back the opposite way to our new state. We were so happy to be on our own again!
It is almost unbelievable the way God showed Himself then, but once I explain it, you will understand what a miracle it was. First, I need to explain that during all of this time, I had been homeschooling our children. We had just finished our fifth year when we journeyed across the country. Anyway, I had made several online friendships during the years we had been homeschooling, and I always consulted them when I had homeschooling questions. Moving to this new state brought questions. I asked them, and it turns out one of the ladies lived three miles from where we were going to be. We met her and her family the first weekend we were there, and we hit it off. Our first friends in a new state.
I sank to my lowest point that fall and winter. Six weeks after we moved to our new state, I miscarried our third child. My friend was there for me and my family, and I will never forget what she did. By that point, my heart was starting to search for something though I wasn’t aware of what it was.
Winter turned into spring, and my older son decided he wanted to play baseball. We learned our way around our new city that spring going to the different ball parks and made some great friends in the process.
By the time baseball ended, the load on my heart had lessened a little more, and I was ready to answer the question my son asked me one day. He asked if we could find a new church. It took me unawares for a moment, but I realized his heart was searching for the same thing mine was–a home and a relationship. I called my friend and asked her. She said, “You need to bring him to Crossbridge. Mackenzie says it’s the most welcoming youth group she’s ever known.” Her daughter and my son were the same age so I listened. My son and I began to visit Crossbridge that summer, and she was right. They welcomed us warmly. It was just a few short months before my husband and our other son joined us. We felt the presence of God in a way we had never felt before, and He re-entered our lives in a big way. It was the neatest feeling to know without a shadow of a doubt that God was in my heart, and He was there to stay.
I have learned more in the last three-and-a-half years about my faith and what my God means to me than in all the years previously. It wasn’t the end of bad times. I have dealt with depression, and we have dealt with job loss and illness since. But, I know that even though this story started with grief and the ache of loss, I know also that this grief we went through led us home to our God and to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior and that I would not trade for anything!
God’s blessings on all of you today.