“Look Dad! A Bazooka!” exclaimed Rick as he swung around, aiming a five pound tube of hamburger in my direction. I called back, “Incoming!” as I ducked behind the grocery cart and checked off my grocery list, “hamburger” which would become part of next week’s potato pie; tacos; chili and goulash.
We were a family of three sharing in the daily and weekly routines of life – school and homework; household responsibilities; pee wee football practice and games; singing and dancing lessons; playing with the neighborhood friends and classmates on weekends. We had a busy, full life and yet there was that on-going awareness among the three of us that we used to be a family of four until the….divorce. The three of us met with counselors and were coached to openly talk to one another. The talking would mostly happen at night, during the quiet times, just before bed, and just after prayers and the “last” drink of water. I can still see their faces with smiles, giggles and on occasion touched with tears. I was also seeing how strong and how resilient these two were. As they grew through the elementary, teen and young adult years, my continual prayer has been for them to discover their own identity, develop strong character, excel in their talents and gifts, and above all else to know Christ, having their life anchor in Him who sustains. As they have grown through life and all of its raw realities, they are strong in character, excelling in their talents and gifts and have their anchor in Christ. And yes, there are still times when this Dad still worries and frets and wants to rescue, but I refrain most of the time, watching and listening for them to also grow in their faith and find their way in Him.
During these forty days of Lent, I have been reflecting and writing about some of the most difficult, challenging times in my life. Those have also been the times of my greatest spiritual growth.
One of those growth moments came just after the divorce. I was on my knees in the living room after the children had gone to bed. It was one of those times when there were not only tears, but there was sobbing, the deep gut-wrenching kind. I literally was crying out to Jesus to help me with all the responsibilities I was facing…I had never been down that road before.. There was a long list of questions and concerns, anxious thoughts, fear of the unknown and old doubts. I asked the “why” questions such as “Why me?”.. The response I received was, “Why not you? Are you better than others?” “Why did this happen to me?” The honest reply was, “You made life choices like everyone else and you cannot blame everyone else. Hold yourself accountable.” “What about the future for the children, for myself, for being clergy?”
When I stopped sobbing and became still, I had a realization that has always remained with me which is, after the crucifixion comes the resurrection. I recalled what Paul wrote to the people of Galatia, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” I acknowledged that there was a death taking place in me, not as a victim of circumstances, but there was a reshaping, a remolding that was in process as God’s vessel. I began to realize that I needed to, in a sense, step back and watch God do His work in and through me. Once I surrendered everything that had clouded my mind and soul with the myriad of questions, doubts and fears, I began to experience a peace that could only come from Him. I began to realize that whatever had taken place in my life, and whatever was going to ever happen that ultimately everything would be alright. I said “yes” to Jesus’ lifelong offer to be my constant companion, my confidante, my helper. Philippians 4:13 began to have a newly realized meaning for me… “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
What an amazing journey from that time in the fall of 1987 to this! I was not thrown out of the United Methodist Church due to my divorce. Rather I found support, encouragement and guidance. The dear people at Latham in Huntsville and their Senior Pastor Jim Bailey and his wife Marion literally took us in. Kristina and Rick brought their homework to church in the evening while I attended evening meetings. A couple of families provided a standing invitation for the children to go to their home while I attended to church responsibilities. I was able to find and hire a very special grandmotherly lady to be at home when the children arrived from school and do light housekeeping for us. It was not easy, but God saw us through. Life challenges have continued through the years. When I remember to embrace them rather than run from them and blame others, I learn and grow. Sometimes I become weary from the growing!
I have also discovered that humor helps and I learned to discover the comical side of life and also see it in the scriptures. Wherever you may be along life’s journey, remember that God is always with you to sustain and strengthen. Allow yourself to laugh in the midst of the struggle. Most of us are familiar with the saying, “When life hands you lemons make lemonade.” My dearly beloved Janice who has experienced life challenges with grace, strength and wisdom, sometimes quotes “Maxine” of greeting card fame. At the risk of offending some, please forgive. Here is the “Maxine” quote which Janice shares: “When life hands you lemons, put ‘em in your bra. Can’t hurt. Might help.” She shares, “Sometimes it just helps to laugh.”