Photo taken by Emily Elizabeth Photography
Many of you have heard bits and pieces of my story throughout the past two years. Some of you have been the ones that have cried with me and helped me through some of the darkest moments of my life. I didn’t really want to write this post because I knew it would mean I had to recall each moment over the past couple of years that has caused so much pain. But God knew that this story needed to be shared. He allowed me to walk through this difficult season so that I could learn the depth of his love for me. I don’t share this story because I want sympathy or because I want to shame. I believe that God has given me this story because he wanted me to be able to point back to how good he is, even in suffering. So with that, here it goes.
It’s been two years.
I still remember exactly where I was when I received the call. It was week one of my summer mission down in South Lake Tahoe, CA. My mom had called earlier in the week to let me know they were no longer coming to see me. She also had something to tell me but she wanted my dad there too. Okay. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Two days pass and it’s hard to keep me mind from wandering to what it could be. Sickness? Job loss? Death? Divorce entered my mind briefly but I quickly brushed it away. I had just seen them happy, together a week before. Everything was fine. Fast forward to Wednesday. I was on my way to teaching night when I shared with my friends what was going on. One of them immediately suggested divorce but I again brushed that away because everything was fine a week ago. I parked my car and went inside.
The call came.
I grabbed my phone, walked outside, and sat on the front steps. Hello? Both my parents answered. I was anxious but not prepared for what they would say. We’re separating. What? No you were just fine a week ago. Denial and grief washed over me. I began to sob on those front steps. I can still feel that moment. The air was warm, the sun was out but I suddenly began shivering. It felt like everything had stopped. Suddenly my family was no more. My world was fine one moment and then the next everything had exploded, shattered, the pieces fell in slow motion.
I sobbed on those steps for several minutes, unable to stand. I heard music coming from the chapel, beautiful worship in stark contrast to my broken world. One of my friends stuck her head out, concerned that I wasn’t back yet. She saw my face and sat down beside me. I was unable to put voice to what was happening but God provided comfort.
Weeks had passed since that moment when suddenly, everything became even more complicated. More tears, more hurt, and more pain. My summer in California comes to an end but I’m faced with a new challenge: pack up what’s left of my life in my childhood home that has been sold. More emotions, more tears, and more pain. As I sorted through the sweet memories of the past when things were put together, albeit still broken, I remember all that happened. I was unable to process these intense emotions so I crumpled to the ground and sobbed. It felt like I couldn’t breathe. With no one around, I reached for my phone to call a friend. Her words are forever in my mind. “When all you can do is cry, God knows what you need. He hears you even when all you can do is cry.” God provided peace and I move forward.
Months later, life has become a way to avoid and deny what’s really happening. I was living in two separate worlds: home and away. Broken relationships and painful arguments were a regular part of my life at home. Peace and denial were part of my life away. I spent time away because I couldn’t stand to face what had happened. A mentor once told me that what I was walking through was similar to grieving a death. I was just grieving the loss of my family.
Life keeps getting busier. I graduate college and the divorce becomes official. Emotions keep swirling around me that I don’t quite know how to process. But I don’t need to see a counselor, I’m fine. Deep inside though, I become bitter. God sees and calls me to forgive. Through his grace, I can but, saying those words are completely different than living it. Most of the time, I avoid but when I’m faced with reality, I become angry. God sees and provides peace.
I make it through the summer, all the while still unable to process these difficult emotions. But I don’t need to go to see a counselor, I’m fine. Fall arrives. Change occurs. God is still moving in my life but it’s hard for me to see. He provides a job. The first month is great but then I am faced with a new fear. The intercom comes on, telling us to go into lockdown. Fear. Then it’s over. Will I ever be able to feel safe at school? Days pass and my joy decreases. Anxiety rises up and depression sets in. I cry out to God, just asking him to let me feel normal again. And again I say, “But I don’t need to go to counseling. I’m fine.”
Then, I hit rock bottom.
I am not fine. But God has provided life. I begin to see a counselor. Days that feel long and dark suddenly start to feel bright again. I am starting to feel normal, even almost joyful. God provided.
Christmas comes. I thought that the first Christmas would be the hardest. I was wrong. Arguments explode, hurt increases, and trust dwindles. But God is not done. He brought me through the fall and will bring me through this. I come home and start a new job. This new job is hard, but I keep moving forward. I pray for change. Months pass and change actually happens. There are moments when I allow myself to remember. The bad memories of the past two years come flooding forward but the incredibly sweet moments where God has undeniably provided from the bad overwhelm me.
God has been so good.
He has shown me that even in suffering, there is good. In each moment of pain, I became closer to him. Sweet relationships have developed because of the hurt that I experienced. God carried me when I couldn’t carry myself and provided for every one of my earthly needs. But he also did something even more amazing, he increased my faith, trust, and patience. It’s hard to think that God sometimes uses suffering to grow and strengthen our faith. While these past two years have been hard, God has used each moment for his glory. For each hard time, an abundantly sweeter moment has resulted. While I still can’t explain why, I know who has come alongside me and I really think that’s all that matters. Answering those why questions will never bring me peace but, realizing that Jesus has been with me through it all brings light into a dark situation.
The life I am living was one that I never imagined. I never thought that I would still be living in Spokane (and loving it!), teaching in a ridiculously hard classroom, and still single. But I could not be more grateful for how God has provided for me and grown me in this season of life. It’s crazy to look back on all that has changed in just two years. Yeah, it was hard. Yeah it sucked. But Jesus is always greater.
This next year, more change will happen because that’s life, but I’m excited to see where God takes me next.