I always considered my faith pretty unshakeable.
If I get knocked down, I get back up swinging. My dad would laughingly tell you about the times when, as a child, I would tell God off for not doing exactly what I asked him to do. I guess I can be a bit tenacious.
But this isn’t about how well I think I can weather the storms of life. Quite the opposite actually. This is me, chatting with you about something I think every one of us goes through. I only just went through it so it’s fresh and real and still a touch raw. I think you’ll be able to relate, and maybe even find a bit of encouragement, because even though I thought it might kill me, I’m still here and I’m still whole (mostly) and after almost a year of silence, I’m still writing.
A year and a half ago, my husband and I left Sydney to begin our newest season of life in LA. Dan wanted to pursue drumming and I wanted to do whatever I could get my hands on that felt slightly creative and slightly administrative. But when Dan’s visa was delayed, we found ourselves leaving home and driving to Melbourne, not flying out of country. We didn’t know how long we’d be there, but like any wise couple with zero information to go on, we decided it would only be 3 weeks. Two months later, and without my hubby, I flew to Minnesota to spend time with my family and help my parents with my disabled sister. It was another 3 months before Dan could join me permanently.
With stars in our eyes we made our plans to move to LA, only to realize that my parents (who had decided to move to Sacramento, CA) would not be able to move across country on their own with my sister. So we put our plans on hold, meager as they were, and made ourselves useful.
By this time, we were beginning to have our doubts. LA was in our hearts, but it seemed further off than ever. Every time we made a step towards it, we felt like we were being pushed back away. Surely, if it was meant to be, it would have happened by now? I mean, it had been 8 months at this point since leaving Sydney. Eight months of trying to get somewhere and not getting any traction. Granted, helping family was our choice, but it’s not like we had huge things lined up for us in LA that we put aside. It felt like we had this dream, but no way of achieving it.
So we make it to Sacramento, and honestly, it was the most promising moment of this whole journey. A mere 5 hours from LA! Now our faith was finally proving itself. All this hard work and believing would pay off with big things ahead for us. Then the news came. My sister would be without care except for my parents until the county had assessed her themselves. This meant that my parents would need to care for her 24/7 with zero help from anyone for the next 6 months. She didn’t even have medical insurance in case of an emergency. This was a big blow for my parents who are both 60 and missionaries overseas. Dan and I discussed it and knew that only one thing was right. We had to stay and help. We let LA go once again, and this time we thought it might be for good. I wish I could say that once we made that decision, God came through and everything was just great. But that wouldn’t help anyone, because most of us go through a time where we make big sacrifices and expect big things, but all we get is normal, everyday life. And it’s hard. It’s hard to believe in anything except what you’re seeing each day. It’s hard to think that anything could change.
Those days in Sacramento were the toughest days of my life. Luckily we met some amazing people and made lasting friendships, but each day was a challenge. A challenge to my faith, to my belief that if I trusted God for something that he would do it, even when it looked like he wouldn’t. They were my lonliest days, away from my friends in Sydney and LA. There were times that everything felt so bleak and dark that I didn’t know if I’d ever truly feel happy and light again. I gave up on everything. Forget LA. It wasn’t meant to be. God wasn’t going to do it. Forget a big future and dreams and hopes. Just settle and get comfortable because what you have now is all you’re going to have ever.
Then one day it just kind of changed. I couldn’t tell you what it was. I wasn’t happier or more hopeful, I just knew it was time to go. LA was ahead of us and it was time to go there. Dan knew it too and we made our plans. Everything fell into place. It was the simplest move I’ve ever made. We suddenly found ourselves where we wanted to be. We didn’t have the work we planned for but after more than a year of waiting to move, we didn’t really care what the work looked like. I was so excited, I thought now everything would be perfect. God owed me this anyway, after all he’d put me through. Somehow in all the craziness of life, I noticed some changes to my body. I was late, with the world’s sorest boobs (yes, I asked everyone in the entire world) and I was beyond grumpy. Or crying. Or grumpy. Nope, crying. Yeah, it was a bit crazy. To me, this could be the perfect icing on the cake. I’ve been wanting a baby for years but it’s just never been the right time. I embraced this idea full heartedly now. I even let God know that this was a great way to pay me back for all the hell I’d gone through the last year and a half. This was the way to show me how much he loved me.
And just like that it was over. Whatever changes were happening, quickly left my body in a painful and teary way. I sobbed for days. My suspicions were confirmed. God didn’t love me. In fact he hated me. If he loved me, why would he put me through this right after everything else I’d been through? Hadn’t it been enough? He’d already broken down my pride and my self reliance. He’d taken away every close friend so that I only had him. He’d forced me to survive through the desert, where promises are as rare as ponds. He’d stripped me of my entitlement (or so I thought) and shown me what real trust means. And now he pulled this? I couldn’t do it. It was too far, even for him. I decided in that moment that I didn’t want to serve a God who did that to his people. I didn’t go to church for the next 2 weeks. I couldn’t. How could I face all those people and pretend like everything was ok when I felt like I had nothing left? I mean, I still believed in God. You can’t be angry with someone you don’t believe in. But I wouldn’t actively trust him. Not anymore.
I wish I could say that I had this massive miracle moment that changed everything. I didn’t. I cried a lot and felt alone and like I should never have left Sydney. I felt like something had died in me and I’d never be able to revive it. But all the while I had my amazing husband by my side, in as much pain as me, but willing to hold me up as much as I would let him.
One day on the way to work, I decided to put on Christian radio. Now don’t judge me, but I hate Christian radio. It’s cheesy, not my style and sometimes feels fake (I said don’t judge me!). But I wanted it on for some reason so I put it on, and I heard Darlene Zschech talk about trusting God through her battle with cancer. And it hit me. Right then and there in my car, I knew that God wasn’t picking on me. He didn’t hate me. We ALL go through this at some point in our lives. Every last one of us. It feels unfair and wrong (and I kind of think it is) but it’s what we face as humans. I began to think of the homeless in my city, my beautiful LA. The things they faced on a daily basis whether from their own decisions or circumstances beyond their control. And I began to be thankful. Thankful for my life, my husband, my LA dreams that still hadn’t fully been realized. I became thankful to a God who loved me so much that he forgave my mistakes before I’d even made them. Who put me here at this time and in this place to show love to those around me. Who gave me good, wholesome parents who have been married nearly 40 years, and have shown me true love that I might know how to love.
No it wasn’t a miracle, but it was a moment. A moment that got me through the hardest moments. I write this now with tears in my eyes because though it may not seem like much to you, it’s everything to me. I made it through. I still have my faith. I’m ok and I’m happy. Really, truly happy. I wish I could say I was super strong and super cool the whole time. Like, yeah, no big deal getting through that. But you know, I think it’s ok to question it all sometimes. To know why you believe what you believe. And I still don’t have any answers. I don’t know why God chose this route for us, or why we chose parts of it for ourselves, except that it felt like the right thing to do. I don’t know why we suffer or why things work out the way they do. I only know that I’m loved. And for right now, that’s enough.
So now you know why it took us so long to get to LA (or maybe why you didn’t see me around for the last little bit). And you know that whatever things you face, you’ll get through them. Not because I say so, but because you say so. And when you think you can’t do it anymore, you somehow do. And that’s part of being human, isn’t it? Being stronger than you realized.