Going into the building was the last thing I wanted to do. So many changes were happening at once, but I was moving forward, trying to make life seem normal after the wreckage.
I was newly divorced with two young girls, one eight and the other barely thirteen. It was up to me to make sure they saw me as confident because I felt enough damage had already been done.
I had a mix of emotions, from guilt, fear to relief. It was as if I would circle through those repeatedly, never really staying secure at any given moment. I expected bad news to come all the time.
My lawyer had me complete paperwork to apply for medical assistance through the state. I had a family member make sure to tell me I was on “welfare,” which disturbed me. It was stated in a way to let me know that I had fallen to a level of low that they for sure never would.
I had difficulty believing I was relying on taxpayer money to live. It brought me so much shame that even with “free” healthcare provided, I rarely went to see a doctor, even if I was deathly ill. And during this time of high stress and negative thinking, I was sick a lot.
I chose not to accept food stamps, which seemed like I totally hadn’t plunged into darkness. It gave me a shred of hope that I could at least buy food and household items without it being a handout. The comment by my relative had bothered me so much that I brought it up to the therapist I was seeing. I had been given a court order to attend counseling sessions, so the girls and I complied.
The therapist’s response was,
“I would gladly pay for you to get back on your feet again. For you and your girls.”
I never forgot the remark that was made to me because it was cruel, but it also made me see how far I had come to understand all of this where before I hadn’t.
If someone mentioned that their marriage was over, I used to let it go in one ear and out the other. I had absolutely no understanding of the pain involved, so I stood silently by. But after mine, I was able to ask questions, understand, and put myself in that person’s shoes. I wanted details so I could help if I could.
I realized that the demeaning comment that was made was from ignorance.
I had to deliver the applications to the office building following legal advice. I waited in a room with countless others who all had the same dead look in their eyes. Many had small children with them while others were like me, sitting with a number in hand and a packet in the other.
A few floors down, there was a community food shelf that my dad volunteered for. Every Friday, he would get up early and drive to various grocery stores to pick up boxes and donations. He would then drop them off and go to work handing out items to those in need. He knew I was struggling mentally with all of this, so he would pull up into my driveway and carry in what had been left after every one of his shifts.
“I just brought you a few things,” he would say to get past my objection.
Because my kids were so happy to see him, I allowed him to help me. But, I hated that I was in this situation, to begin with. It took a while for gratitude to replace my low feelings.
Because money had been so scarce, I had even cut back on what I ate; It was a form of self-punishment for being one half of a failed equation. I felt like I deserved nothing good, and the girls were innocent victims, so I wanted everything to go to them.
I worked three jobs, home-schooled, and felt like I was living in hell. All the outdoor work was mine to contend with, from raking, mowing, and snow removal. I couldn’t afford to hire anyone, so I had to learn quickly.
When they wanted lights on the house for Christmas, I got on a ladder and did it myself.
I had asked for help from someone who knew how, but instead of coming over and showing me what to do, he tried to explain it over the phone. This was not helpful at all. It reminded me of this verse, 1 John 3:17:
If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear. (Message)
It sent the message to me that I wasn’t worth the time.
I went to church, prayed, read my Bible, and taught various children’s classes, but I was fighting off panic attacks, sleepless nights and felt dread as if something terrible could happen at any moment. Yet, I slapped a smile on and pretended that all was well.
Somehow, a friend convinced me to go in to have a physical. I think she could see the stress wearing on me.
“If something happens to you, what would happen to your kids?”
Because I solely existed for them, I listened and went in. A few days later, I received a phone call.
“The results of your mammogram show something abnormal on your left side. We need you to schedule a follow-up appointment so we can run more tests.”
The next phone call was from a support counselor.
“Are you afraid of getting a cancer diagnosis?“
“No,” I said. And I meant it. I was so numb and worn out from all the turmoil of my life, I didn’t care anymore.
“Are you sure you aren’t worried?” I didn’t have any of it left.
“No,” I repeated. “God will help me. Whatever the outcome, I will be okay.”
I could say all the right things robotically, but I didn’t trust God altogether because of all the bad that had come my way.
A few weeks later, I was in another waiting room with a lady who had the same appearance as what I had seen in the financial assistance office. It was the look of dejection and uncertainty. The person with her tried to cheer her up, but she kept crying. When her name was called, she slowly got up, slumped shoulders, and went off to find out her fate.
Usually, that would have made me afraid, but I wasn’t. When you don’t care anymore, fear can’t even find you.
“We saw a shadow on the left.” The room was dark and only lit by the machine. “We want to do a test that will give us a sharper image,” the technician said.
As she went through various procedures, she asked me about my life. So I told her everything. All of it. It poured out of me without any emotional upheaval.
She stood back from me for a minute and said,
“Do you know how strong you are? Do you see that in yourself?”
“No,” I said.
“You are so strong. I have never met someone as strong as you.”
And, yet, I felt alone and weak.
When she said “strong,” I instantly saw my youngest daughter hugging me. When the breakdown of our family began, she would run up to me, throw herself around my waist and not let me move. No matter how I tried to get away from her, she would hold me in place, and she would say over and over,
“Mom, you are strong.” This little eight-year-old child was the voice of God, and I hadn’t even realized it.
The results came back that nothing was out of the ordinary, so I was spared.
Many more trials have come since then, and most not pleasant; however, I have learned in each instance. And I have seen the faithfulness of God.
The other day, when I said something out loud that was bothering me, the same girl who told me I was strong 15 years ago looked at me and said,
“Mother, you hear from heaven! Why would you even worry about this?”
She’s right. Sometimes we don’t see in ourselves what others can, and a reminder is necessary. God can bring that to you when you need it most. Even in a coffee shop.
I was with my oldest daughter at a mall, and to our surprise, all drinks, no matter the size, were $1.00.
So I let her pay. On the wall, we saw a row of pins hanging. A guy who worked there said,
“Take one. They are complementary.”
I chose the one that has been my lesson while here on earth. The enormity of a problem is only as much as you worry about it.
When you put it into God’s hands, you become an observer, as you watch heaven take over and transform it, you stress less about the small stuff.