Tag Archives: prayer

Lord, guide my children’s paths

Today my three kiddos started back to school for another year. The first day of school is always a weird jumble of emotions for me. I vacillate between being ecstatic that they have some place to be other than home, happy for a normal routine again after a long summer without much structure, and pushing down that giant lump in my throat that forms knowing they are one more day closer to walking out the front door for good, and this year will go by just as fast as all of the others have.

I think I’m probably not alone in this and most parents have a little bit of worry inside about what lies ahead for their children at the start of a new school year – will they like their teacher? Will their teacher like them? Will they choose kind friends? Will they get picked on because of their lisp/birthmark/crooked teeth/loud laugh/weight? Will they be pressured into doing something they don’t want to do? Will they come home crying because their best friend said they can’t be friends anymore? The list goes on.

At different times over the 12 years of sending my little ones off to school (counting the pre-school years), my heart has been burdened with all of these things. And, unfortunately, each of those worries has become a reality at some point over the years. So it’s not without some witness that I carry these fears with me as I wave goodbye and send them off for another year. But then I get to work and I see the reminders all over my desk about Who has authority over their year; about Who has them in His hands.

My kids attend a small Christian school, and each year the school has a different theme. This year’s theme is “know your path” and the verse of the year is “You make known to me the path of life” (Psalm 16:11).  I am in love with this theme. As a mother who strives to set her children on the right path, and as a Christ-follower continually seeking the path God has prepared for me, it is a soul-comforting, welcome reminder that God faithfully makes known His path for us.

The path that leads to Him.

The path of Life.

There are well-over 100 Bible verses that reference a path in life, many of which have provided me with comfort and guidance over the years. (If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know my personal experience with and affection for Psalm 18:36, “You broaden the path beneath me so that my ankles do not turn.”) And as I started to think about this theme and all of the prayers, dreams, and worries I hold on to for my children each year, I wanted each of them to know what it took me over 30 years to learn, what I’m still learning:

God cares so deeply about their walk that He has lovingly and intricately carved a unique path for each of them. Because the remarkably divine paradox of following God is that while there is only One Way to Him (John 14:6), He’s gifted each of us an exclusive route for getting there.

So, I did what a mom who has to write things does, and I wrote each of them a letter. For each child I chose a verse about their path that represented to me what I pray for and long for them to know, and then I shared with them a piece of my mother’s heart. I put each letter in a card, sealed the envelope, and tucked it into a lunchbox, hoping my kids aren’t too embarrassed by these personal intrusions of their day, or even worse that they overlook them entirely and the envelopes get tossed in the garbage can along with their string cheese wrappers.

I won’t share with you the full notes, as there are some things that should just remain between a mother and her child, but I would like to share with you a glimpse of my prayer for each of my kids. Because maybe you pray the same thing for your babies. Or maybe you would like to add me and mine to your prayer list. Or maybe just because putting it out there makes it feel heard.

Hannah (13, 8th grade)

Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. – Psalm 77:19

“I believe God is preparing you for a very specific path, one in which you will have great impact on the lives of others. He has given you many special gifts and talents, but perhaps the one that I believe is most special is the gift to love and embrace others for who they are. This gift is all the more inspiring when you are able to just be you – bold, beautiful, funny, unafraid YOU. I’ve seen you struggle with this at times because the outside world sometimes sends us messages that just being ourselves is not good enough. Or that we have to conform to a certain image or personality to be accepted. I know this is hard. I struggled with it for many years, and sometimes still do. But when I see you being YOU, I see people around you being touched and inspired, and I see you lighting up the world.

I believe this is what God has intended for you…When you feel challenged, hurt, confused, angry, sad, or pressured by the world around you, remember He is there and you can count on His guidance to get you through.

Daniel (10, 5th grade)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6

“I know sometimes school is hard for you, and even sometimes home is hard for you. And I know sometimes you wonder what God’s plan is for you, or how you will find success and peace. Just like Mrs. Dhom taught you in kindergarten, God has a plan for all of us. Sometimes we just don’t understand it or see it clearly. It may be hard to understand why God created you with ADHD and some of the struggles you face. But I know He has a reason. I believe part of that reason is because one day it will give you a greater understanding of others who struggle…I think having some of the struggles you do makes you rely on Him more, and this has brought you into a closer relationship with God.”

Olivia (10, 5th grade)

Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.  – Proverbs 4:25-26

“God has blessed you with a HUGE heart. You love fiercely and deeply. You show your love for your friends and family and even people you haven’t met every day. You always want people to be happy and you worry if they are hurting or sad…You may not realize it, but I believe God blessed you with these gifts so that He can use you to touch other’s lives.

As you start to get older, you will be confronted by people and things that make you feel like you are not enough. They will judge you against worldly standards instead of God’s standards and you may feel like you need to act, look, or be different. My prayer for you is that you will always keep your eyes fixed ahead on God and His path.”

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My kiddos all ready for the first day of school. Lord, please guide their path.

Praying God’s protection and guidance over all of you and your kiddos as they start a new school year.

photo credit: Play Time via photopin  (license)

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I failed my child

Two nights ago I lay awake for hours, unable to find sleep no matter how much I willed it to come. One painful, desperate thought kept going through my mind: I had failed my son.

It’s been a really hard year for my boy. It’s been a really hard year to parent him, as well.

We’re not strangers to difficult years, though. The early years were especially challenging. When he was four my son’s pre-school teacher basically gave-up and asked he be moved to a different class.

By the middle of his kindergarten year, after consulting with a specialist and having him tested for a variety of learning disabilities, we were told he had severe ADHD and delays in fine-motor skill development. His disorder had also led to delays in his social development. But we were also told he was incredibly smart, and the child psychologist believed that with the right treatment and classroom modifications he could be very successful in school. And she was right.

For the next 3 years we saw a big difference in our boy. He responded well to the medicine and excelled in school, receiving straight-A’s two years in a row. Despite the initial delays in his social development he managed to make friends and was generally a very happy kid.

Then last year the small private school he’d been attending since he was 2 closed and he and his sisters started at a new school in September. It’s a good school with small class sizes, a special education resource, and Biblical foundation. But it’s different.

I completely underestimated how hard the change would be on my boy — a child who likes routine, who sees the whole world in black and white/right or wrong. He declined academically and acted out in the classroom. We met with the teachers, principal and special education resource multiple times. We put into place new plans for behavior management and test-taking. Still he struggled. My straight-A child strained to get B’s and C’s. And then came his first D’s and even an F.

At home my husband and I struggled, too. My son rebelled in various ways, trying to assert some control. His natural-born curiosity, fearlessness, and lack of impulse-control led to some really scary situations. We took him out of hockey, the only sport he’s ever loved, so he would be able to focus more on school. We took away his prized Lego’s when he refused to clean his room and when we found dangerous items he’d found and hidden. We tried incentives and rewards, we tried punishment and consequences. Many nights we sat by his side to help him focus on homework until we finally sent him to bed, drained from fighting with him. Other nights we were just plain tired and didn’t have it in us.

The school year ends next week and I can’t say I feel like there’s been much progress. And so, I am left with that sleep-stealing, heart-breaking thought that I failed my son.

I could have done more. I could have monitored his grades more, met with teachers sooner, and caught-on to patterns quicker. I could have spent more time double checking his homework. I should have showed more patience and less exasperation. I should have told him how wonderful he is more often and told him I was disappointed less.

Every note home from a teacher, every missing homework assignment, every stern look from a stranger, and every comment made by another parent strengthening the self-recrimination.

Then there’s all of the well-meaning (usually unsolicited) advise from others. I could write a book.

And because of all of this I have kept the truth tightly guarded, careful about saying too much to too many. Even with our closest friends, and in our small group Bible study where we have been reading The Power of a Praying Parent for the last 16 weeks, I have been careful about how much I reveal.

But then during our study this week a friend revealed her deepest worry and fear: that she’s failed her children. While our circumstances are different and the struggles our children are facing are not the same, I know how she feels. And as my sweet friend shared her fear, I felt God urge me to tell her that this is a season in her parenting journey and it will not last forever. I also tell her that I believe prayer is powerful, and when things are hard and we feel like it’s all out of our control, we must lean on God and prayer even more.

Later that night as sleep eluded me and the thought that I had failed my son echoed in my head, I wondered why I couldn’t find comfort in the same advice I’d offered my friend a few hours before. I didn’t think for one second that she had failed her children and I completely believed the words God had placed in my heart. But I couldn’t apply them to myself. I had prayed all year for help, for change, for direction, and I still felt at a loss.

So I did the only thing I knew to do: I turned to the Word to try and find some comfort and wisdom. Sometimes words of comfort come quickly, other times, not so much. I read through several Psalms, 1 and 2 Timothy, and parts of Isaiah. I was encouraged by the Word, but felt nothing I read was speaking directly to my failures as a mom. Then I settled on Ephesians.

“So overflowing is His kindness toward us that He took away all our sins through the blood of His Son, by whom we are saved; and He has showered down upon us the richness of His grace—for how well He understands us and knows what is best for us at all times…Moreover, because of what Christ has done, we have become gifts to God that He delights in, for as part of God’s sovereign plan we were chosen from the beginning to be His, and all things happen just as He decided long ago. God’s purpose in this was that we should praise God and give glory to Him for doing these mighty things for us, who were the first to trust in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:7-8, 11-12 TLB)

It was in these words that I finally found comfort. They reminded me that God alone knows what’s best for me and my family at all times; that we are His chosen and that He has a plan for each of us. They reminded me that I am to praise Him for all things…even difficult parenting seasons.

And this is what I was missing.

I have been so focused on the hard, the less-than, the short-comings, that I have not taken time to praise God for this year. I confess, I have not looked for the good. I have forgotten that this is only one chapter in a book that’s already been written, by an author who delights in me and my son, an author that understands how I feel before I do, and who knows what is best at all times.

And finally I realized, it was time to change my prayer. Instead of asking for God to get us through this season, to change my son’s behavior, or to show me how to “handle things” I need to say “thank you”.

Thank you God for this season. Because although it’s not been easy, I know it is still part of your plan for my boy, and for me. Thank you for understanding my son, even when I don’t, and for choosing us to be Yours. You know what is best for us and You see and understand things I do not. So I entrust my son to you. I let go of my failures and hand them over to You. For even though I fall short, Your love never fails.

To the other moms and dads who feel like they have failed in some way: remember you have a Father who knows what is best at all times, even when you don’t. Take comfort in that and sleep well tonight.

one chapter in a book that's already been written

16 things to give up in 2016

Did you make any new year’s resolutions this year? We’re a little over 1 month into 2016, and according to Statistic Brain Research Institute, 36% of all resolutions have already been ditched.

I’m personally not a big fan of new year’s resolutions. In general I find them to be lofty goals, like lose weight or quit smoking, at which you can either succeed or fail, with little room for anything in between. I am, however, in favor of trying to be my best self…the self God created me to be. The older I get the more I find that my journey to personal betterment has more to do with letting go of worldly tendencies and self-destructive behavior, so that I can make room for the truth of God’s promises. This is not a pass or fail exercise, it is rather a continuation of my journey to live a life of joy and freedom.

Here is my list of 16 things to give up in 2016:

    1. Trying to do it all by myself – or as I sometimes refer to it, the “I got this” syndrome.  It’s my default setting. Whatever comes my way, my initial response is “I got this.” But the problem is, trying to do it all alone is, well, lonely. And sometimes overwhelming. And almost always not what God intended for me.”For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘fear not, I am the one who helps you’.” – Isaiah 41:13

 

    1. The illness of busy-ness – A typical conversation with just about any friend or family member: Them: “So, how are things going with you?” Me: “Oh, you know, the usual. Busy!” And it’s the truth. We always seem to be busy…my husband and I juggle full-time jobs, three active kids, leading a small group, church commitments, family and friend relationships, house projects, and occasionally try to squeeze in some favorite hobbies and past-times.In the last year we have been intentional about trying to reduce the amount of commitments in our schedule, but I will tell you we still have room for improvement here. It takes a real effort to say “no” to the wrong things and “yes” to the right things. Even if the right thing is a Sunday afternoon napping on the couch.

 

    1. Self-doubt – I don’t think this one requires much explanation. but if you’re a chronic self-doubter, like I am, the good news is when we doubt our own abilities, we can turn to Jesus, who said: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

 

    1. Not getting enough sleep – Probably the single worst bit of self-sabotage I inflict upon myself is not getting enough rest. And I know better. It’s critical to our mental, physical, and spiritual health to be well rested. So giving up the late nights is going to be a priority for me in 2016!”It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” – Psalm 127:2

 

    1. Resentment – Oh boy, am I really admitting this out loud? I have a problem with holding on to resentment. It’s usually over little things — washing dishes my children forgot to put in the dishwasher, folding laundry while my husband falls asleep on the couch, compromises I didn’t really want to make — and often I don’t even realize I’m doing it. But it starts as a little seed and then grows into a heavy stone in the pit of my stomach, causing me to either withdraw from the ones I love, or get angry with them. This is not healthy for me nor my relationships!

 

    1. Rushing to everything – My family is perpetually 10-15 minutes late. It seems no matter how early we start, or how much warning we give our children, something happens — a lost shoe, bad hair day, cat vomit, etc. — to delay us. And I HATE being late and feeling rushed! I turn into mean-mommy and start yelling and it makes everyone miserable.While I don’t know that there is a full-proof way to avoid all of those things that slow us down (cats will inevitably vomit at the worst possible moment), I do know that doing less will result in more margin, and more margin comes with less rushing from place-to-place. That, coupled with a hearty dose of keeping things in perspective (is it really the end of the world if we are 10 minutes late to that event?) will hopefully help me ease up on the rush and accompanying stress.

 

    1. Time sucks – This definitely goes with number 6 and the idea of creating more margin. But to me it’s not just about doing less, it’s about doing less of the meaningless, and creating space for the meaningful. Not turning on the TV in the evening guarantees I won’t get sucked into a show and stay up too late. Not opening the laptop or picking up my phone, means not getting sucked into Facebook or Instagram.  I don’t think I’m alone when I say the FOMO syndrome that makes us feel the need to stay connected 24×7 is sucking up too much precious time! Time better spent playing with my kids, sleeping (see #4), reading the Word, praying, or talking to my husband.

 

    1. Waiting to pray – this one is somewhat connected to item one. In my attempt to try and take care of everything on my own and juggle everything, I often forget to seek God’s guidance for things in my life until they get really messy. I strive to live a life where praying before and over each decision or area of life is my go-to move.”Do not be anxious about anything , but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6

 

    1. Complaining – Are you familiar with the app Time Hop? Basically it connects to your social media accounts and then every day sends you a screen shot of what you posted 1, 2, 5, or however many years ago. Having kids, I enjoy this because it can be a nice reminder of how small they were only a few short years ago. But as I started reading these posts of Facebook past, I realized I like to complain. A lot. Seriously, if I read one more “oh it’s been such a long day, work is so hard, blah, blah, blah” post, I will block myself from my news feed!This little bit of personal insight has really motivated me to start changing my tune. Not only do I suspect people are tired of hearing it, but the more we complain and focus on the bad stuff, the harder it is to look for the good stuff. And there is always good, if we choose to look for it.

 

    1. Putting on a brave face – Can we all just agree to stop pretending everything about our lives and our families is happy and perfect and clean? I mean, not only is this not authentic, but it actually prevents us from developing deeper connections and relationships by not being honest and open with our friends and family. I realize this might seem like I’m contradicting myself after reading number nine, but I do think there is a balance between always complaining about life, and being willing to answer truthfully when someone says, “how are you today?”

 

    1. Wanting to change the past – Oh gosh, do I ever need to let this one go! I kid you not, I will lie awake at night re-hashing conversations that took place 10 years ago, wishing I could have done or said something differently. Really? What a waste of energy. I cannot change the past. I can always apologize for things I said and did and, often, I can confront someone who hurt me and tell them how it made me feel. But none of that will change what happened.”Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” – Isaiah 43:18

 

    1. Wanting to change others – Can I just say, writing this list is starting to hurt a little bit? I don’t really like publicly admitting all of the things I need to work on. But the good news I can make changes in my life to correct these unhealthy behaviors. What I can’t do is make other people change theirs. And just like with number 11, agonizing over it, wishing it, obsessing over it is a waste of time.God can change people’s hearts, I can’t. And truthfully, I am not qualified to diagnose what is wrong with everyone else (except when it comes to my children’s personal hygiene habits. I will diagnose unbrushed teeth all the live long day).

 

    1. Preconceived notions – Oh boy, if I had a dollar for every time I ended up disappointed due to false, preconceived ideas of how someone or something should turn out…well let’s just say I wouldn’t be wearing shoes from Payless. I do this a lot around holidays and big events. I get these big ideas in my head of what the day will be like, fantasizing about how perfect it will all be. Then the slightest mishap or conflict will send my Utopian bubble a-bursting.In my heart, I know this comes back to the idea that I struggle with just letting go and trusting God. How different would holidays and special events look if I just walked toward each one thinking “whatever you want for me to learn, to experience, and to feel today God, I praise you in advance, and look forward to this day”?

 

    1. The comparison trap – Related to numbers 3 and 10, the comparison trap is just that — a trap. It captures your joy by making you think that you are less than that woman or family over there. When the truth is, you probably don’t see the real them anyway. And even if you do, what God has designed for another, is not what He’s designed for you. But that doesn’t make what you have any less. I need to do a better job of remembering this, especially when watching HGTV.

 

    1. Guilt – Oh guilt…my old nemesis. I am so over you! The mommy guilt, the wife guilt, the friend guilt, the daughter guilt, the employee guilt — enough already. We are parting ways in 2016.”There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1

 

  1. Waiting for Godot syndrome – Remember reading Waiting for Godot in high school? Just in case you forgot, it’s a play by Samuel Beckett about these two guys named Vladimir and Estragon who spend the entire play waiting in vain for someone named Godot. Poor Vlad and Estra are not happy people and in the end as they realize that each day pretty much plays out the same way: waiting for something that never comes.How much time have you and I spent waiting for something important, something big to come that would change our lives, or fix everything that we don’t like? “Once I get that promotion” or “as soon as the kids are all in school” then life will get better/easier/etc. The problem with this frame of mind is that we end up constantly looking ahead to when we can be happy, instead of just being happy right now in this very moment. And often that “thing” we keep waiting for never comes. Or when it does we are painfully let down because the truth is that “thing” cannot make our lives whole. Only God can do that.

Do any of these ring true for you? What else are you giving up in 2016 to live a life of joy and freedom?

Finding rest in hope

It’s 4:30 a.m. I cannot sleep.

I feel a burden deep in my soul and it is so heavy sometimes I feel like it’s crushing me from the inside and I can’t breathe, my stomach hurts, my heart aches and all I can do is let the pain leak out through my eyes.

There is so much hurt and pain all around me. Friends with broken marriages, broken hearts, broken bodies, broken dreams. Those mourning the ones they love the most and trying to find a new normal. Others who have seen or experienced unspeakable evil. And I feel it. I feel all of their pain. I carry it with me…and I cry out to God, why?! How?!

Why is there so much hurt and loss and suffering and pain and struggle?

How do I help or comfort or ease or carry those things that are crushing the ones I love?

And I do the only thing I can do, because I know sleep will not come and tears will not wash away this burden: I seek His word. Over 1,100 pages in my bible, but I ask God to direct my eyes to the right spot and I find Psalm 16.

I read verses 5-7: “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.  I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.” – Psalm 16:5-7

I won’t lie, at first these words give me no comfort. They trouble me because while they ring true, I cannot come to terms with the thought that my “lot is secure” and the boundary lines have “fallen for me in pleasant places” when I see so much suffering around me. Why is this the scripture He led me to in the wee hours of this sleepless morning? And yet I know there is more. So I read Matthew Henry’s commentary of this Psalm:

“In this world sorrow is our lot, but in heaven there is joy, a fullness of joy; our pleasures here are for a moment, but those at God’s right hand are pleasures for evermore. Through this thy beloved Son, and our dear Saviour, thou wilt show us, O Lord, the path of life; thou wilt justify our souls now, and raise our bodies by thy power at the last day; when earthly sorrow shall end in heavenly joy, pain in everlasting happiness…..Heaven is an inheritance; we must take that for our home, our rest, our everlasting good, and look upon this world to be no more ours, than the country through which is our road to our Father’s house….Those that have God for their portion, have a goodly heritage. Return unto thy rest, O my soul, and look no further. Gracious persons, though they still covet more of God, never covet more than God.” – Matthew Henry

Henry’s words remind me that this world is temporary. The declaration of verses 5-7 aren’t referring to my lot here on earth or an earthly inheritance. The “boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places” because my inheritance is heaven. The sorrow and hurt and pain that I see and feel around me will end. There will be joy and everlasting happiness. It is His promise to us.

I go on to read verses 8-11:

‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence. – Psalm 16:8-11

Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Even when the world around me seems desperately broken and hurting, God remains next to me, my source of strength.

My body will rest in hope. I have hope because God’s promise is TRUTH. Heaven is our inheritance. The pain here in this world is only temporary, our suffering short. We do not own this heartache, this road to our Father’s house. And this hope gives me peace and lets me rest.

And while I still pray for my friends, asking God to heal their pain, and lift their sorrows, I take to heart Henry’s words: I covet more from God, but I shall not covet more than God.

Lord, help me get through this

Today is kind of a big day for me.

Nope, it’s not my birthday. Not my wedding anniversary either.

One year ago today I mailed my capstone and finished grad school.

Yeah, so what? (you’re probably thinking) Lots of people finish graduate school.

And you’re right. But this anniversary is really not so much about finishing grad school or even finishing my capstone project and handing it over to the FedEx guy. It’s really about what happened when I walked out of the FedEx office and climbed into my husband’s truck. When I finally gave in to the tears I’d been holding back for weeks. The ugly, dripping, snotty, wrecked sobs. When I let go and let myself feel the weight of the previous three months — the hardest months I’d experienced in years.

Do you ever have a week, a month, or maybe even a year when you start to think, “Really God? What else could go wrong? What else could possibly come my way? Why is all of this happening to me?” And then finally, “God, I really can’t take one more thing. I just can’t.”

That was how things were for me last May. As already mentioned, I was in the throws of finishing up grad-school. I was already worn down and burnt-out from 3.5 years of going to school part time while also working and caring for a young family. And this final push was to be the most challenging as I worked to create an 86 page integrated marketing plan for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital — in 9 weeks. Then, just as I was starting on my project, my husband came home early one afternoon. He had lost his job.

We were shell-shocked. He’d been employed with the organization for 3 years and just received a raise three months earlier. We never saw this coming. But I knew it was no time to get sucked into worry and fear. So I steeled my shoulders, took a step forward and said “we will get through this.” And I prayed, “God, I trust you. Please help us get through this.”

The following week my husband started feeling sick. He went to bed and woke up the next morning and half of his face was paralyzed. The doctor diagnosed it as Bell’s Palsy. While treatable, the doctor said it could be months before the paralysis was fully healed. Treatable or not, when the face you wake up to every morning — the face of the man you love — becomes paralyzed, it’s freakin’ scary! But, once again, I thought, “I can’t show worry or fear. I need to be strong and help him get through this.” So I steeled by shoulders, took a step forward and said “we will get through this.” And I prayed, “God, I don’t understand why this is happening. But I still trust you. Please help us get through this!”

A few weeks later I was driving to pick up my kids from school and I got in a horrible car accident. My car was totaled. Miraculously, both the other driver and I walked away uninjured. I was very shaken up by the whole thing because I knew it could have been so much worse. I knew that if my kids had been in the car with me, it probably wouldn’t have ended with everyone walking away. But, I couldn’t go there. I couldn’t dwell on that. Instead, I steeled my shoulders, took a shaky step forward and said, “I’ll get through this.” And then I prayed, “God, really? How much more? I trust you, I do, but really, how much more can one person take?”

Then a few days later I noticed there was something wrong with my beloved cat of 14 years. She couldn’t walk straight or stand-up to eat. I took her to the vet and he said she probably didn’t have long, but he didn’t think she was in any pain. I watched her deteriorate over the next three days, while I struggled between making the decision to euthanize or to let her go on her own. Finally, she went, but it was not a peaceful death. It was painful and ugly and I cried for her and for me. Still, I knew I couldn’t give in to the grief. I had to power through; finish my project, show up for work, get my kids from here to there. So I steeled my shoulders, placed one foot in front of the other and said, “I’ll have to get through this.” And then I prayed, “No more, God! I just can’t take any more. Please, show me your plan. I’m finding it hard to keep trusting. To keep going. Please make it all stop.”

For the next five days, with head down and placing one foot in front of the other, I worked almost around the clock to finish my capstone. I finally finished everything the morning the project was due. I spent several hours proof reading and making edits and then raced out the door to the copy place. I knew I had to get it printed, bound and dropped off with FedEx before 6 p.m. or it would be counted late. Of course the printers at the copy place didn’t want to work. Then, the binding was off. I steeled my shoulders as I stood at the printing counter, watching the minutes on the clock tick by, waiting for them to resolve the issues. Finally, it was done. I ran out the door, one foot in front of the other, jumped in my husband’s truck and we raced to FedEx. Just as I was filling out the shipment slip, the driver came in for the final run of the night. I had made it just in time.

So, my friends, I’m sure you understand how it came to be that by the time I walked out that door and into that pick-up truck, I was done. I could not steel my shoulders any longer. I couldn’t keep going. And, honestly? It felt good to admit it to myself and just let the stress, sorrow and worry all come rushing out, flooding me until I felt like the pile of wet Kleenex accumulating at my feet. And that’s how I came to God — a soggy, crumpled mess — and said, “thank you; thank you for getting me here, on the other side.”

I came to God a soggy, crumpled mess and said thank you.

After a few days of catching up on sleep, clarity started to return and I saw just how much He had done to get me through it.

A few days later my husband was offered a job. A job he loves, and where he is much happier. And I realized what a gift those two and a half months of unemployment had been. He was able to spend time volunteering at our kids’ school. He took care of dinners and housework so I could focus on my capstone. He was able to rest and heal from his illness. And by the time he started that new job, the paralysis was gone.

Not only did I walk away unharmed from the car accident, but the woman who had caused the accident stayed with me until the police arrived, told them the truth and gave me her insurance information. Her insurance company gave me absolutely no hassle and cut me a check for more than I think my car was even worth. Certainly enough to put a down-payment on a new car.

While I still mourned the loss of my sweet girl, I realized how fortunate I was that she chose home to die, as so many pets escape to a hidden place to die alone. I was with her in her final days, and she went when she was ready, so I didn’t have to make the decision to end her life.

Oh, and my capstone? I got an A. And a shiny piece of paper that says I have a Master’s of Science in Integrated Marketing and Communication.

But the view is always clearest in the rear-view mirror, isn’t it?

In the months following I watched dear friends go through hardships and grieve losses that no one should ever have to experience. Things ten times worse than what I experienced last year. And that, of course, put my rough patch into perspective. But the thing is, in most cases they did the same thing. They woke up each morning, steeling their shoulders, putting one foot in front of the other and praying to get through it.  Because sometimes…that’s all you can do.

Steel your shoulders so the pain doesn’t knock you over.

Put one foot in front of the other so the sorrow doesn’t consume you.

Pray to God for healing or help or strength, even when you don’t understand any of it. Even when you are mad at Him for letting it all happen.

Because, He will get you through it. One day at a time, He will lead you through whatever hardship you are facing. Whatever loss you are mourning. It may only be once you come before Him a wet, crumpled up mess, sobbing at His feet. But He will pick you up and brush you off and stand you up.

And one day, I believe in my heart, one day, you will be able to look back and celebrate that time in your life because you will finally see where He brought healing and mercy. The moments He loved on you and strengthened you. The days he gently steeled those shoulders because you didn’t know how, and moved your feet forward because you were too exhausted.

You will look back and see He heard your prayers. He led you through the storm.