“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
After getting married, my husband moved me to Northwest Arkansas away from my family. I loved being married, but starting in a new place was challenging for this shy Texan. Soon after, I applied for a design job. With fear, I walked into my first interview to be told it was only a courtesy interview. Their firm didn’t need beginner designers because they had access to cheap interns from the University. I got in my car afterwards and cried. I felt humiliated. I prayed for a job. I did find one later at an art supply store where I earned a whopping four seventy-five an hour. I got a big raise to five twenty-five when I became assistant manager. We went out for burgers. My husband and I lived on Twenty seven thousand a year combined salary with each of us working forty hours a week. It was tight. Our big paying dream job hopes were popped with real world reality, but we survived.
Starting out was difficult. I remember after my kids were born we took a budgeting class at church where we learned to make a “spending plan” and pay with cash out of envelopes set aside for designated areas of spending, like “groceries”, “car insurance”, “eating out”, etc. Our “eating out” envelope was always empty. On a tight budget there wasn’t much room for entertainment and frivolous spending; but as a stay at home mom – I wanted out! I didn’t pray. I was tired of praying over money. So we borrowed from the “children’s clothing” envelope and went out for Mexican food. The next week we confessed to our budgeting class that we had to wait to buy our daughter shoes, because we ate the money for them. Ugh! Regret! Lessons learned. We survived.
As my kids entered school, life wasn’t as tough financially. Struggles came from other areas. I started socializing beyond home and church. Having lived a sheltered life, I was now in the public schools volunteering with people who had different belief systems, varying economic levels and strange parenting skill sets. At first judgement set in. It was easy to judge when I didn’t feel comfortable or when something wasn’t done the way I thought it needed to be done. Making “mom” friends was hard carrying around all that judgment; loving people for who they were was challenging. Converting judgement into love and compassion was humbling. I prayed to lay down self-righteousness and pick-up encouragement. Giving out encouragement is a lot prettier than distributing self-righteousness. Humility was painful, but we survived.
Both my children were bullied at various times in middle school. We were angry. We prayed often about what to do, but sometimes anger was louder than God’s whisper. One kid shoved my kid’s face down in the dirt. My “ugly” came out that day. I learned how not to handle negative situations. As my next child dealt with bullying, I tried to listen to what God whispered. No gossip. Model kindness. Engage in conversations calmly. Encourage peaceful action. And even when the opposing kid (and parent) became upset, we were to persevere in what was best for our child. For us, we arranged our schedules differently the following semester. We were kind and… we still survived. (In fact, survival was much more pleasant than when my “ugly” came out.)
We’ve survived cancer scares, surgeries, near death experiences, African roadside cuisine (and drinking Nile water), mental illness, Middle Eastern airport confusion, irrational choices, debt, broken cars, broken houses, diseases without names, hurt feelings…the list goes on. We’ve gone from standing bowing our heads in prayer to the floor, body flat, with face in the carpet prayer. Through those prayers we’ve also done something else. We’ve succeeded!
Through failures and defeats we’ve triumphed. We’ve met challenges, made a home, held babies, kept babies alive, built tree houses, rescued pets, made good grades, sung great music, created fantastic food, met awesome people, made friends from enemies, …the list goes on. Success!
I love the Mandisa song, Overcomer. It’s a cry of victory. Our victory over struggles. Struggles that have taught us, trained us, shaped us, and most importantly humbled us. Through trial and error, lack of good judgement, confession of sins, and repeated “I’m sorry”, we’ve marched on life’s road. And because we’ve failed, prayed, surrendered, begged forgiveness and asked for wisdom, we’ve also learned, moved forward, lived, and… we’ve survived.