You see, we loved our house and our ward and our incredible neighbors. We had prayed about being in this home and felt strongly it was where we would and should raise our children. We went through many obstacles and struggles in an attempt to keep it our home after some unexpected financial situations arose. We were able to get a loan modification that helped us greatly. We felt grateful and blessed. However, when the final papers came in that would make it all legal and official, the payment amounts were hundreds of dollars more than what we’d been paying and what we’d been told would be our new ‘official’ payment. As we struggled with what to do we took a hard look at our desire to live honestly in all our dealings. We admitted to ourselves, and our bank, that we could no longer afford to live in our home that we so loved. So we stopped the payments and we put it up for sale, hoping to find a buyer who would rent it back to us, allowing us to stay there as we dreamed. We found a buyer and rejoiced. We were saved! Our prayers were answered! The notice came anyway. The bank would not consider our short sale and an auction date had been set. We were heartbroken. Isn’t this where the Lord had told us we should raise our family? We maintained we would keep a positive attitude. After all, we’d had a rough couple of years as a family and were anxious to have a fresh start. We’d already made some positive changes in our home, maybe a physical change was the next step in starting over? That didn't change the ache of leaving our neighbors of 4 years, our children’s best friends, or the daunting feeling of moving right after Christmas.
So two weeks later another notice arrived. I won’t ever forget that day. It was just after K’s birthday- he had his annual well-check that day. I saw the notice as I left that morning. The house had been sold at auction. We were to call the number listed to find out what to do. This was really happening. I was told by realtor friends that we would have 30 days to move out. That would give us time to find a new place (we were already looking on the sly, trying not to clue the children in until we knew what was going on) and to pack up. So DH called the number listed while I took both of the Ks to K’s appointment. After the appointment I went to drive by some homes that a friend had told me about for rent. I spoke with DH in between- we had two weeks to be out of our house. He’d tried to bargain with them but it was to no avail. Even with young children at home. Two weeks to find a place to live, pack up, and be moved out! So I’m on my way to look at this house for rent when I get rear-ended. Talk about a crappy day. The Ks are completely freaked out, but thankfully fine. I’m grateful it wasn’t my fault. As I’m walking around my suburban, that was hit by a giant truck so now I’m can’t open my back doors at all, I realize I’m super nauseous and dizzy. As someone who’s already had 4 concussions, I know what that means. Not to mention the whiplash. Super. Just what I need. So now I have 2 weeks to pack and move into a house that I have yet to find, with a busted vehicle, concussion, and bad back. I seriously couldn’t get out of bed the next day. I truly had to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. Otherwise I was afraid I wouldn’t stop crying. Well, I felt very strongly that we needed to go ahead with touring the home we’d planned to that night even though I’d only gotten out of the ER an hour or so before. At this point we finally had to tell the kids what was going on. I was up front and honest with the homeowners about what was going on with our current home, and about the accident I’d just been in since moving around was a bit difficult. We had looked at some 20+ homes already. When we walked into that house that night, we knew. That is how we ended up in the house we are now renting. My heart was full as friends and family helped pack and move us. I cried about not having best friends next door. People who had truly been angels and saviors in our lives. I cried to withdraw my students from a great school. I cried to leave the ward that I had grown up in as a youth myself. I cried to leave our bishop, who had become our counselor, friend, confidant- and who was a major part of saving our marriage. I was anxious for a fresh, new, start. I was also terrified.
Then we went to church that first Sunday in our new ward and I knew all would be well. I was greeted by many who made me feel right at home. The landlords had told us that it was a great, friendly ward with a lot of kids the same age as ours- that was a big draw. What they couldn’t have known was that there were friends of my mom’s from each home I’d lived in who were in this ward.
The school situation was an adjustment. No surprise, P slid right in and made a new friend right away. She did have some trouble with bullying by some girls who kicked her out of their group when she stood up to them for intentionally messing up the chalk drawings done by other students. I was sad for her to learn that lesson but so very proud of her for standing up for what was right. Little did I know what a lesson she was teaching me at that time. She didn’t let it get to her too much and in no time had made more friends and felt right at home. W had a harder time. His new teacher was a very difficult one and not a good fit for him. We had been incredibly blessed with his last one and I would have driven him there daily if only they had allowed me. I did try but they wouldn’t consider it because of overcrowding. He was having frequent migraines and his reading level was dropping. I fought my way all the way to our assistant superintendent but to no avail. I kept W involved because I wanted him to know I was concerned for him and would do all I could to help him, but that I also needed him to do his best in class as well. After speaking with his pediatrician and with a good friend who lobbies for the school district, we decided that pulling him out of school for the remainder of the year would be better than his staying in with frequent stress and migraines. I told him this and that I would be willing to homeschool him. It was a hard decision on all our parts but I feel like he just needed to see that I was willing to do that for him. His confidence seemed to improve after that and he made some friends in his new scout group. He figured out his teacher a little better and how to not take her so personally, and he decided to go ahead and stick out the year in school. I finally got them to listen to me about his abilities (and the fact that he was not reading at a first grade level like his teacher was trying to tell me, but rather a fifth grade one) and he was able to test for GATE and get started right away. All these things helped him remember what a great student he was and he finished out the year beautifully. K2 had to switch his speech therapy teachers as well but we could immediately tell what a blessing that would be as his new teacher has been fantastic for him and he made immediate strides.
As a family, we all felt overwhelmed by the love and welcoming arms of our new ward family. Treats arrived welcoming us. Parents quickly helped figure out what kids were the same age so friends could be made. There is a park next door to our school, which we can easily walk to and from each day, and we soon found ourselves right at home with the others as we stayed after school to play and visit awhile. What a blessing!
It’s funny how you can feel so blessed and yet have such a hard time all the same. It was a few months after our move that I started really missing people. I hadn’t seem my family for a while so I missed them. I’d tried to arrange for us to get together over an overlapping spring break weekend halfway between our homes, but they cancelled. I still talked to and occasionally saw my former neighbor, but it just wasn’t the same as having her right next door where we’d chat outside nearly every day. K2 had had MRSA so we had either been stuck at home for a couple of weeks or at dr appt after appt trying to get the poor sore cleaned out without doing actual surgery. I’d gotten out of the house finally for a book club craft night, only to find myself feeling incredibly uncomfortable with conversation going on. Not wanting to make a scene but also desperately wanting now to be home, I quietly left. I felt worn down, and so alone. I remember how alone I felt but I also remember how much I felt my Savior there beside me, supporting me, and praising me….and how close I felt to my husband as I knew that we were going through hard things but doing so together and as very best friends who had been greatly strengthened and brought nearer to each other and to our Savior together. I had been serving as a women’s support group facilitator for a group with the church’s addiction recovery program. It had been a tremendous blessing and life support for me….but I had to stop going at this same time and turn the role over to another because of a new calling I had received in the ward. I felt so blessed to see the journey I (we) had made over the last year or two and where we were now. I felt so blessed to have this fresh start before us but it overwhelmed me all the same. It was an adjustment. It was a change. Change can be, and often is, good. Change is also hard.
When we looked forward to our move with a hope of fresh starts, we had no idea what we were really getting in to. After my feelings of exhaustion and loneliness, I made a bit of a vent on facebook. It was nothing more than a vent but some took it to heart and found offense where none was intended. Before I knew it, I found one of my very best friends from my youth sending me hurtful and painful emails detailing everything wrong with me, and taking a stab at literally every aspect of my life. I had made the hard decision to say something about something that was bothering me. I thought I had clarified it in a way that would make it clear that I meant no personal attack, but merely a stating of a decision I had made and a desire for everyone to be better- figuring we could all agree on that even if we respectfully held different opinions on other things. I have always figured friends could agree to disagree and still respect and love one another. However, I could no longer ignore that voice in my head constantly saying “Dare to stand alone” or “stand in holy places“. I found myself being reminded of my sweet daughter who said to her new friends, “I don’t think that’s a good idea” and holding her head high after they said she couldn’t be in their club any more. I thought of the primary children I had just been called to teach about choosing the right. I thought of the pain I had endured and the questions I had faced, soul searching I had done, as my marriage hung on a thread while Satan had ever so slyly weaseled his way into our home. I didn’t want that for any of my friends, and I certainly didn’t want that again for myself or my family. So it was that I said what I would and would not allow in my home or in my life. So it was that I suddenly found myself in one of the hardest situations of my life. So it was that I lost my entire social circle in seemingly one fell swoop. I never thought I would have to be in that sort of a situation as an adult. I certainly never thought that it would go the way that it would. We so often think that we will be blessed right away for “standing for truth and righteousness” and for choosing the better part. Losing my best friend, losing my book club, losing my girls’ night outs….certainly didn’t feel like a blessing. I was sad and angry and hurt for a long time. At some point I realized that I was grieving like the loss of a loved one who has left this life. I prayed for help and direction and for the negative feelings to be taken away. I didn’t want it to be as hard as it was. I didn’t understand why it was as hard as it was when I had done something right. As I prayed, the only response I would get would be an overwhelming assurance that I did the right thing and that it would be ok. Satan is tricky though and that feeling wouldn’t stay for long. I don’t recall how long it was but eventually the feelings faded and I found my courage, and myself, again.
It started when my visiting teacher showed up on my doorstep. She had come to bring me a treat and to apologize for not being a ‘better visiting teacher’ because she hadn’t really come yet to visit and bring a message. I don’t know what came over me but I was feeling especially honest and had just been praying about how I’d felt about this lost friendship. I suddenly just spilled my guts to this poor visiting teacher. I just told her what I needed. I shared with her what had just happened with my social life and that I didn’t really need someone to come by and bring me a spiritual message out of a sense of duty. I said, quite frankly, I just need a friend. You know what? She was an answer to my prayers that night. She then told me about a playgroup and a book club and just sort of about the social life of the women in the ward. She made an effort to make sure I knew about those things I could be involved in and she did it out of love. What a blessing! So I found myself back in a book club (I’ve still been in my mom’s old book club, which is a total blast, but scheduling has made it hard to attend often this past year), and back to hanging out at the park with moms while the kids played and just plain feeling right at home again. I knew that was my Heavenly Father’s little way of letting me know that He hadn’t forgotten me and hadn’t left me in just the company of my husband and family (which are fantastic, don’t get me wrong).
That was the spring/summer. I had many other instances over the summer where I found myself overwhelmed by love and support from sources other than those I would have expected it from. I found them as blessings after having again to stand up for myself or my family when it was hard. I have been open and honest with my children as we have gone through various situations and I am amazed at their maturity and ability to empathize. We have grown even closer as a family. We are so blessed!
Now as the year has drawn to a close, I have reflected much on where the year has taken us. I have absolutely loved my calling at church, one I was really hesitant about at first, and I have made great friendships as a result of it. I get to work with some of the best people and I have the example and strength of the children to lift me up. I am deeply in love with and proud of my husband. And I mean that. I have seen the work of the Atonement through him and I have seen how our natures really can be changed by applying it and by hard work on our part. That is my hope for myself in 2013. W has been blessed with the most amazing teacher for him and has just completely blossomed. I’ve even been impressed and surprised. I never thought he would come out of his shell as much as he has- especially with the parents he has! P has made some really great friends, without having to sacrifice any of who she is. Our new home has a separate room in the garage that has become DH’s woodshop. He has ‘found’ himself there and uncovered a talent and hobby that took off largely because of some people in our new ward. I am convinced that he would not be where he is today were it not for that little room of his and the support and encouragement of people who like his stuff.
If you’ve made it this far, I’m pretty impressed. I’m almost done, I promise.
I just have to share what happened a few weeks ago.
Some time between my birthday and the middle of December I started feeling sad again. I wasn’t really sure why. Was it that I was missing my mom? I always do this time of year, but that wasn’t quite it. Was something ‘off’ at home? No, not really. I was feeling quite content in my life of crafting and mothering and I wasn’t having any of those ‘I’ve got to get out for a girls’ night!’ feelings. No, I really had nothing to feel particularly bleh about. I talked with DH and then a couple of things occurred to me. I’d been struggling with again allowing those negative thoughts of hurt and sadness about what happened earlier in the year. Thoughts of this friend kept coming to mind. Not that I was wishing anything bad on her or anything like that. Nothing of the sort in fact. Just general thoughts that then brought back that sadness and sort of those grief feelings I guess. Then DH reminded me how much we would often do together this time of year. Isn’t it funny how once you pinpoint the source of a negative feeling you can feel such a burden lifted? Well, that’s how I felt so I knew that was it. On top of that, there was the usual stress of finances around the holidays. I had been applying for jobs here and there for months. I wanted badly to pay off all our debts as a surprise gift to DH for Christmas. This was a sincere desire of my heart, to be debt free and to contribute to some extra for the kids to actually participate in extracurricular activities and just to have some extra money. I knew that I would be blessed with this because it was the sincere desire of my heart but I also knew that I desperately wanted to be home with my children and have truly been loving my role at home. So I’ve been so torn about this.
Anyway, I’ll be honest with you….I’m not particularly good at consistent prayer. Never have been. I can testify to you up and down about the power of prayer and I have had some very powerful experiences with it. But for whatever reason, I just suck at consistent personal prayer. So once again I was on the bandwagon and feeling very grateful and humble. I hopped back on the wagon for no reasons other than the fact that I knew this was something I needed in my life. I was seeing a difference in my life with daily personal prayer and my life without it. I knew I needed it. I am sure that many can relate with the financial struggles of our day. I looked at the math and, I don’t know about you but, we are truly getting poorer year by year. Utility costs and grocery costs rise while our income stays the same. That simply doesn’t add up. I continue to cut corners wherever possible and I know I don’t always make the best of choices or I know some would say to give up date night (which is a whole different argument) or other things we enjoy. Anyway, I will spare you all the philosophical thoughts on all this and get to this….
Remember that car accident that was a part of starting the year? It totaled our car. On the advice of people whose opinions we greatly trusted, I got a lawyer to handle all the insurance stuff. I have prayed all year long for that case to just be done and over with so that I would know where we stood financially. I’ve never been through this sort of thing before. I have prayed all year for extra ways to earn extra money to make ends meet or for a little extra something. A few weeks ago, as I was considering my reasons for feeling ‘off’ personally, I thought about Christmas and how I’d hoped to have the case settled by then to make Christmas extra special. I thought about wanting to get things for the kids and make it the best Christmas ever because I was so proud of how they’d handled the year. But I knew we weren’t in a position financially to do a whole lot. So I was a little sad about that, but still very grateful, and I told my Heavenly Father that.
What happened in the next week was overwhelming. We were invited to participate in a craft show. I set a goal in my head of what we needed to earn from it to fully pay for everything I wanted to get for Christmas. I had already been selling and buying things through a fb garage sale group and largely had it done but wanted a couple bigger things and something extra special for DH. I knew that I wasn’t going to get anything because DH would be too stressed about money to spend any on me- and that was okay. But I wanted to show my appreciation and gratitude to him and my kids. I wanted them to feel as blessed as I did. So this craft show…. We worked tirelessly and were blown away at the response. What a great thing to work so hard and reap the benefits! We felt so very blessed! In that same week I finally got a call from a lawyer that there was an offer on the table from the insurance company in my case. It would be enough to pay off our debt, or at least close to it. It wouldn’t be in time for Christmas (in fact, I’m told it’s probably still a month or two out) but just knowing there was that light ahead… To top it all off, a friend contacted me out of the blue to tell me he wanted to give me a gift. He is a photographer whom I have long admired. I still don’t know or understand his reasoning for approaching me with such a wonderful gift, but he told me to choose an image of his for him to make me. Just because. I cried tears of gratitude. I didn’t tell my children what happened because I wanted their dad to be able to give me the picture as a gift from Santa (because that’s truly what it felt like)….but W and P said something to me out of the blue later that day. It seems that they too had been thinking about the year drawing to a close. “Ever since we moved here magical things just keep happening.” That is what they said. What prompted it was laughing at the money found under my doormat after someone had picked up another item I’d sold on the garage sale group. They were joking that the money magically appeared. What they didn’t know was just how onto something they really were. So we talked about it. We remembered how hard the start of the year was. We thought about how we all thought it was going to be a terrible and difficult year because of how those first couple of weeks went. We thought about the hard decisions we had to make throughout the year and the blessings we received for choosing the right. We felt humbled. And grateful. We talked about all the ‘magic’ we have seen since being here and we recognized that magic for what it is….miracles from our Heavenly Father…blessings….tender mercies. And we were overwhelmed- P, W and I- as we thought just how very much our Heavenly Father loves us to send us these things to let us know He loves us and is proud of us and wants us to be happy and feel at home. From the answer to a prayer to the random act of kindness… from the offer of friendship to the cookies on the doorstep…. from the incredible teachers at school and church to the kids who just ‘click’ together…. from the reliable babysitter you can trust to leave your kids with overnight to the family in the ward who offers to take them overnight when they’ve only known you a few months….from the presidency members who steal you in the middle of the night for ice cream on an otherwise blah birthday to the random paper birthday balloons taped on your door in the morning…. from the etsy store and fb orders to the garage sale sales…. from the box of school supplies and wishes for a good year to the giant stuffed whale ‘just because’ left on the doorstep… from the following a prompting to the answering a call…. I don’t know who all of you are that have blessed our lives but I wish to thank you each and every one. Some are angels I know by name but feel nonetheless overwhelmed with gratitude for them. Some of you are still in secret but you know who you are. I need you all to know that I am grateful for you. I need you to know that you have been answers to prayers. I need to thank you for being the magic in my children’s lives. I want everyone to know that you can feel the stress of the financial worries of the world or of your home or the stress of health issues or the stress of addiction or pornography or contention or other troubles in the home…..But you can still feel an abundance of love and of gratitude and blessings. I am not really sure how much you can without the help of others who, probably unknowingly, act as God’s hands & angels on earth. I want to thank those of you who have been that for us. I need to say how very strongly I have felt blessed in the last few weeks and how very strongly I have felt those blessings as a result of my Heavenly Father wanting to acknowledge my good choices and patience (which, believe me, is not a strong suit of mine). I don’t say any of this to be as though I am on some sort of high horse or tooting horn for when I have made good choices. Quite the contrary. I feel so far from ‘right’ and yet so richly blessed that it overwhelms me almost the point of confusion. Who am I to deserve so much? I am grateful to each of you who have made that possible. I am so grateful to each person who is patient and loving with me in my own imperfection. What a learning experience this life is! I hope that I can continue to grow and change for the better in 2013 and that my life will continue to be as richly blessed…. I hope that you will get to feel that in your own life and that I can pay forward a little of what I have received. I have so much to improve upon (a major thing being consistency) and I feel I have done so much wrong or less than what is expected, and yet I can be so blessed and grateful? There really aren't words to adequately describe but I hope that you get to experience a little of it. You’ll probably have to go through some tough stuff to get there, as I know we have, but I can promise you it is worth it. It is a taste of Heaven and joy and any task or trial is worth that.