Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Faith Restored

I attended the same church from the time I was 2 until I moved away at the age of 41. I was baptized and confirmed in this church. I taught Sunday school. I participated in Bible study classes. I was on the drama committee. And under all of that, I believed. There existed in me, a plain and simple, unwavering belief.

The past five years have been rough. My kids and I have enjoyed some good times, some laughter, some happiness, but woven throughout has been an undercurrent of sadness, apprehension, worry and despair. Still, I've held to my faith. I've believed that things happen for a reason. I've tried to be patient, certain that my knowledge of the situation is minute and I can't possibly comprehend, at this moment in time, the bigger picture and why things have happened as they have. I know I need to maintain a positive attitude and be thankful for all the many blessings I have: six awesome kids, our health, friends who look out for us, a job I like . . . But it has gotten hard to remember the good things, the positive points of light interspersed with the bad.

My house is in foreclosure now. It was in foreclosure a couple years ago, but I was able to attain a modification in the nick of time to save it. Unfortunately, that isn't the case this time around. Funny, that the amount I owe on the house is the amount my ex owes me in child support. Unlike my ex, I can't give my mortgage company an 'I'm sorry. I don't have it now. I'll pay you when I can' excuse. It's a gut wrenching feeling - not knowing where you're going to live in a couple months, knowing that the rentals around you are about a third the size of your current house and more money that what you're paying now. Not wanting to be homeless, not wanting to live in a hotel, not wanting to stay in a homeless shelter. It all sucks.

And it has all made me lose faith. I've found myself thinking, over the past few months, that there is no God, and if there is, He sure as heck doesn't care about me. Understanding my foundation, it's hard to fathom how I got to such a low place in my faith. In the past, throughout every struggle, I've always received some little bit of inspiration at just the right time. As I was about to give up writing, I'd get an email thanking me for something I'd written. When I didn't know how I'd pay a bill, just the right amount of money would find its way to me. When I started fooling myself into believing that no one cared, I'd get a phone call from a friend. But none of those things had been happening recently. And I sank lower and lower instead of keeping a positive attitude and simply believing that things would work out.

And then something happened. I've been struggling to find the words to express my gratitude about it for the past couple weeks.

I received a letter in the mail from a reader. It was a hand-written, 2-page letter thanking me for being an inspiration to her. She thanked me, encouraged me, and prayed for me. It was exactly what I needed, when I needed it most. It brought me to tears. And it made me think that maybe, just maybe God is still here; does still care.

Then I got a phone call from the UPS store where I've had a mailbox for the past couple years. The owner explained that an envelope with no return address had arrived for me, but my mailbox had expired a few months earlier. I didn't realize I no longer had a mailbox there! He said he'd hang onto the envelope if I wanted to stop by and pick it up. I did. My youngest three kids and I stopped to pick up the envelope on our way to the mall. It was $100 cash from an anonymous person. Just the day before I had gone to the store to buy presents for my kids - toothbrushes, underwear, and socks, and my card had been declined. I had forgotten about my insurance payment that was taken out of my account, so my balance was too low to get them anything. And then this amazing act of kindness happened. I cried again.

After getting the envelope with the money, my youngest three kids and I continued to the outdoor mall to pick out a present for someone. As we were walking around, we saw a woman offering small, homemade wreaths "so she could buy Christmas presents for her kids." I didn't have any cash on me, so we walked on by, but I felt bad and guilty as we made our way in and out of stores, looking for our gift. Remembering the envelope of cash I had left in my car, the kids and I walked back to the parking lot, grabbed one of the 20s from the envelope, and found the woman. "I was recently blessed with some money and I want to pass that blessing on to you," I told her. I gave her a big hug, wished her a merry Christmas, and the kids complained on the way back to our car, not that I had given away some much needed, much appreciated money, but that "I wanted to give it to her. No, I wanted to! I asked first!" I hope the anonymous person who sent this is happy that I paid it forward a little, and not upset that I didn't use all the money for its intended purpose, but I couldn't not help this woman when someone had so generously helped me.

A ton of food was donated to my school for our homeless and struggling families. I was able to take some home and it has helped tremendously.

Then another gift from a reader arrived. Attached was a thank you to me for bringing joy to others, and a generous gift card for Target. With this, I was able to buy my kids some clothes so they each had something to open on Christmas day.

Finally, the day before Christmas, a nice man and his beautiful daughter rang our doorbell and handed us boxes of wrapped presents. These are the same people who have delivered us presents every year that we've lived here. Five years! For five years, some anonymous person (and it KILLS me that they're anonymous because I want to thank them!) has adopted us and gone out of their way to buy gifts for each of us.

I had a nice Christmas. Yes, it was nice because of the tangible. nice and generous things that friends and strangers and anonymous people did for us. But those acts did so, so, so much more than that. It restored my faith. It made me feel ashamed to doubt God's love. It made me pick up a Bible and stop dwelling on all the crap, and instead embrace all the wonderful blessings. Now, even faced with homelessness (although I'm admittedly not looking forward to the prospect), I can breathe a little easier knowing that we'll be okay no matter what happens. Maybe, for whatever unfathomable reason, I need to know what it feels like to be without a home. Maybe this somehow fits into a much bigger picture. Who knows? All I know is that we'll be okay.I'm reminded of the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness. Will Smith's character went through a lot of crap before he came out on the other end. And yeah, it sucked for a long time. But stepping back and seeing the big picture - it all worked out well in the end. Although if God is taking requests, after this homelessness stint, I'd really like him to show me what it's like to be happily married and have enough money to not only pay my bills, but help out other people. Just sayin' . . .

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