“Momma,” she peeked up from the passenger seat peering at me through heavy, dark lashes, “this Christmas isn’t very merry.” It was Christmas Eve.
“I know, baby. I’m so sorry.” I held back tears just long enough to make it home.
The oldest, the rock, the one who blooms no matter where the Army plants her, had finally had her fill. And I couldn’t say anything but “I know.”
It started in November: Our renters in another state abandoned our house with a few days’ notice, and left no indication of the condition of the house. Three days later, four of Joe’s friends were killed in a Blackhawk crash.
The first part of December was filled with memorials and funerals to honor the lives lost and grieve with their families. The men we lost were husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers. They were funny; some of them liked fishing; all of them were friends.
Mid-December was filled with repairs done to our out-of-state home. It was destroyed, and new renters would be arriving five days after Joe got there to make what he believed would be minor repairs. New appliances, new carpet, freshly-painted walls, re-installed cabinetry, replaced hardwood floors, and a rebuilt fence later, we lost thousands of dollars, and all of our Christmas spirit.
Adding insult to injury, we had also decided to move over the two weeks leading up to Christmas. At the time we signed the lease, none of the other events that had taken place were even on our radar. Moving to a cute house in a quiet neighborhood seemed like a great idea.
Needless to say, by the time Christmas Eve rolled around, we were huddled in our new house, tree barely up, licking our wounds. And we stayed that way until February. Hiding, just praying nothing else would happen.
When I looked at my husband and my older children, I could see the same weary expression on their faces that gazed back at me in the mirror. We lost some of our joy, some of our trust in people, and we certainly lost the secure feeling most military families have when their service members are stateside. Even being home didn’t guarantee daddy would walk through the door at night.
With financial and emotional security all but lost, we soldiered on.
I’m really good at soldiering. Pulling myself up by my bootstraps, making a plan, relying on myself to get us back on track. Army wives don’t have time for self-pity. We get stuff done.
It’s that mentality that kept me from God—which is exactly my M.O. When things are great, and plans are in place, and life is easy, I praise God. I pray constantly and read my Bible frequently. When I’m “soldiering,” I avoid him altogether. I don’t have time to be vulnerable or open up to him, because I’ve got this.
The worst part about my soldiering mentality, is that I know better! During Joe’s last deployment, I went to church. That’s it—no extras. I didn’t even pray much. I had an out of control child, a full-time job, two other children, and I couldn’t even pray. Because I’ve got this.
But the truth is, I’ve got this is another way of saying Don’t look at me, I’m a hot mess.
And, last winter, that’s exactly how I felt. Don’t look at me. Don’t ask me how I am. And, for the love, please text instead of calling.
God is funny though, isn’t he? Because he knew I’d need encouragement from him. He knew I’d abandon my Bible, and start to rely on myself instead of putting my trust in him. He knew I’d let my circumstances determine my faith. So, he started bringing me back in gently.
It started sometime in January with Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (NLT) Right there, in red even, Jesus is saying I’ve got this.
Heavy Burden? Yep.
Rest? Yes, please! You’ve got this? Go ahead and take it. I’m pretty tired.
So, little by little, I started letting him in again.
And in February, the light broke through with this verse:
“Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, ‘I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.’” John 8:12 (NLT)
I imagined being trapped in a mine, in total darkness. And, just as I’d given up all hope, there was a tiny pinprick of light. It was a torch, and Jesus was carrying it, leading the way to safety and freedom.
I prayed right where I was that the light of Jesus would take away the darkness in my heart, and in my family. And at the IF::Gathering in my city, I told three complete strangers that I was sick of being in the dark, and was ready to feel the light of Jesus in my heart again. (Sometimes, when you put your junk out there, Satan can’t shame you with it anymore.)
I still feel a little weary sometimes: When Easter passed, it hurt knowing my husband’s friends wouldn’t be joining their families; when I pay our credit card bill, or check in on our much smaller saving account and relive the financial devastation; or when I think of the amount of disappointment our kids must have held over the holidays. But I don’t let it bother me for long. The light, the one God placed in me, is still burning bright.
The best part of weariness is getting to the other side. When you wake up one morning and realize it’s over, you get to go back and count the ways God helped you through a difficult time. The crash taught our family to value the time we have together, and to not take one another for granted. That “routine” doesn’t mean “guarantee.”
He also showed up through his people: we were given a financial gift that offset our home repair costs by about half, several people from our former city showed up and helped Joe fix fence posts, paint walls, repair a play set, and do whatever else was needed. Friends opened up their home and let Joe stay with them, which saved us hundreds of dollars. We knew each and every one of those people were brought to us by God.
Weariness is something we’re all familiar with. You’ve probably got a story even more challenging than mine. Just remember, God is with you in it. He really will give you rest if you ask him. He’ll lead you to the light. And in the meantime, while you’re stuck in the dark, remember this: Jesus’ light will sustain you. This may be long, and so very difficult, but you are not alone. He promises to be with us always.
I’d love to hear how God has gotten you through a storm! Perhaps your story might encourage another? Please share in the comments section below!