Embracing Change When You Want Everything to Stay the Same

Sometimes it seems much longer than two months since we loaded the last items into our car and drove away from what has been home for 22 years. In many ways, I feel like like I’m on an extended vacation. Any day now, we’ll drive those familiar country roads that have taken us home for more than two decades. I wake up in the night and wonder, where am I?  We’ve stayed in so many different locations lately. My head knows we’ve made a major change, but my heart is slow to catch up.

Since change is never easy, what steps can you take to embrace your new situation? Here are a few that are helping me:

  • Find a routine and stick with it.

Try to have some  sense of order to your days–especially when everything around you seems chaotic. Since my husband Randy and I are retired, we don’t have a structured work schedule. Instead, we’ve been building some order into each day. We take an afternoon walk, stop by the local Starbucks for coffee or plan meals at the “usual” time. Familiar routines make any place seem more like home.

  • Acknowledge your feelings.

It can feel uncomfortable being in a place where you don’t know anyone–at least not yet. And change can bring feelings of loss and sadness. It’s OK to feel this way! It won’t last forever. I’m convinced of that!Helpful ways to embrace change

 

  • Step out of your comfort zone.

Being part of a church community is important to us, so we’ve visited some new churches. Even though everyone has been welcoming and friendly, it’s still difficult going somewhere when you don’t know anyone. I realize even more how important it is to extend a warm welcome to a newcomer. I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone, and I’m now attending a women’s Bible study and some exercise classes at the local gym. I’m glad I made myself go!

  • Don’t stare at the closed door so long that you miss the open one.

I love this quote by Helen Keller. It’s good to remember when you’re missing what’s familiar. You will never go forward as long as you look backward.

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us. -Helen Keller

  • Be fully present in the moment.

I’ve always appreciated the wisdom of Al-Anon, a support group for families and friends of alcoholics.  Just for Today is great advice–being right where you are in this moment. Not longing for what has been or projecting what may be coming in the future. Just for Today I can be grateful for where I am this very moment. When I consider our many blessings, I can’t help but be filled with gratitude.

  • Know that God has a purpose in placing you exactly where you are.

When Randy and I decided to move across the mountains to the west/”wet” side of the state, we had a purpose for making this monumental change. We wanted to be intentional with our choice to live closer to family members. When we remember our “why,” it makes the “what” much easier.

Last January, I started using a huge calendar that’s spread out so you can see the entire year. I remember looking at everything on my plate–preparation for multiple speaking engagements, writing projects, getting the house de-cluttered and ready to put on the market, and moving–if and when our house sold. At the top of the calendar I wrote with a black sharpie,  The One Who Called You is Faithful and He Will Do It!” ( 1 Thessalonians 5:24) And He has! We’ve walked through each challenge on that calendar and come out on the other side. How encouraging to look at the 2+ months left in this year–not to mention what unknowns lie ahead–and be reminded that God is always with us, always faithful.

Are you facing any changes in your life? I’d love to pray for you. 

Surviving Your Spouse’s Alcoholism: Don’t Give Up 5 Minutes Before the Miracle!

Surviving your spouse's alcoholism: don't give up 5 minutes before the miracle!The last thing you want to hear when you’re struggling with an alcoholic spouse is that it takes time for changes to happen. I remember feeling frustrated when A.A. friends told me, “Don’t give up 5 minutes before the miracle!”

Five minutes?? Are you kidding? It’s been more than two decades. I’ve waited long enough!

How long, Lord? I agonized. I’ve been praying and waiting so long. Nothing seems to change. Have you ever felt that way? You feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall. Well-meaning family members and friends encourage you to give up. It’s hopeless, they say.

Giving God time to work in our lives can be the hardest thing…especially when you’ve been hurt, betrayed, or treated unjustly by your spouse. In fact, just the idea that God would ask you to obey Him in something, when it’s your partner who is so out of line in your mind, can seem outrageous.

At one point, all I wanted to do was give up. I would’ve been justified. I’d waited and prayed. I’d gone to counseling and Al-Anon. Randy could not overcome alcoholism. Then a friend had the audacity to encourage me to wait even longer. What??

I want to say that each person’s situation is unique. We all have to make our own choices. Sometimes we have to leave our marriage or file for a separation or even divorce. If you’re being abused and your safety is in question, then you must get help. I never want to judge another person for their decisions.

Yet something powerful happens when we surrender. OK, God, I’m going to trust you with my marriage. It looks impossible to me, but I’m willing to wait longer to see how You’re going to work all this out. By letting go, we give God permission and room to do miracles in us and in our marriages.

What if I had given up? I would’ve missed the miracle of Randy’s recovery from alcoholism and the amazing transformation of our marriage nearly 20 years ago. Even though I made many difficult choices along the way–setting boundaries and even separating from Randy for a while, I’m grateful I gave God and Randy more time. I don’t blame people who advised me to give up. Our marriage looked beyond hope. I almost believed Randy would never be able to stop drinking.

We often make those judgments without considering God’s part in the equation. He is able to do far more than we could imagine. It took more time for trust to be rebuilt, for our relationship to grow and change with sobriety. Praise God, the miracle happened! We still don’t have a “perfect” marriage. News flash: two imperfect people coming together equals something less than perfect. But it’s good , so good doing life together with this man God has given to me.

Marriage is a way for two spiritual friends to help each other on their journey to become the persons God designed them to be…a new and deeper kind of happiness is found on the far side of holiness. Marriage is glorious but hard. It’s a burning joy and strength, and yet it is blood, sweat, and tears, humbling defeats and exhausting victories. -Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

Yes, marriage is all of these. But the rewards of coming out on the other side are priceless. We enjoyed our son’s wedding as an intact family and we’ve welcomed two precious grandchildren. Now I have the joy of watching them interact with their “Pappy.” I almost missed these moments. I’m thankful I didn’t give up.

So how do you keep going when you want to quit?

  • Be willing to wait on the Lord. His ways are not our ways!

Our thinking is limited. God’s resources are infinite.

We think the answer is “A” or “B” and God says, “Oranges!” –Bill Myers

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

  • Ask God to change you.

God uses marriage to change us, to help us become more like Him—if we’re willing. We have to consistently check our attitudes. Am I being selfish? Am I only thinking of “me” instead of “we?”

God uses adversity to refine us and shape us into His image.

When you start thinking of your spouse’s weaknesses, then start asking God to help you with yours…learning to love, appreciate, and be thankful for that imperfect spouse is one of the most soul-transforming things you can do. -Gary Thomas

  • Wait with Expectancy

God usually does the unexpected–and sometimes it’s more than we ever imagined.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

-Ephesians 3: 20 (MSG)

No matter where you are in your marriage, remember, the miracle might only be 5 minutes away!

Other posts in the “Surviving Your Spouse’s Alcoholism” series:

Surviving Your Spouse’s Alcoholism: Life at the End of the Bottle

Surviving Your Spouse’s Alcoholism: Boot Camp Basics

Surviving Your Spouse’s Alcoholism: Finding Courage to Be Yourself

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving Home: New Amazing Awaits!

Starting a new chapter in my life has always been difficult. About twenty-three years aLeaving home is never easy, but a new amazing chapter awaitsgo, we put our house on the market in Auburn, Washington where we’d lived for more than a decade. I remember the ache I felt when I saw the “for sale” sign in our front yard. Two little boys had grown into high school graduates there, I’d pulled off a surprise 40th birthday party for my husband Randy, and we said good-bye to our Okinawan kitty who had adopted us for 16 years. So many memories! How could any other place feel like home? It wasn’t the first time I’d asked that question.

When I was 13, our family moved from Iowa to Pennsylvania. My familiar world ended. My dad, ever an optimist, felt certain I’d love it there. It took a while. By the time I left for college, I felt homesick for the Pennsylvania home where I’d been transplanted.

Home is where you hang your heart

Through the years, I’ve discovered every time we’ve packed up all our belongings and moved, home is the place where you hang your heart. Whether it was Iowa, Pennsylvania, or Okinawa, Japan, I’ve always found “home” in every place we’ve lived.

I’m reminding myself of this (not always successfully) as there’s another “for sale” sign in our front yard. Within two days we had an offer on our house.

“The buyers love your home,” our realtor told us. We love it, too, and that’s what makes leaving so difficult.

The Methow Valley where we relocated 22 years ago, promised an amazing adventure. And yes, it is our home. It’s hard to say good-bye. Once again, I wonder how any other place will ever be home. My head tells me another adventure awaits. As always, my heart is slow to catch on.

Home interprets heaven. Home is heaven for beginners. –Charles Parkhurst

If you’re facing a similar change in your life, here’s a little of what I’ve learned–and need to continue reminding myself!

  • I comfort myself with scriptures that remind me of God’s faithfulness. A few of my favorites:

Jeremiah 29:11– “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Proverbs 3:5-6Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.

Deuteronomy 31:8The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Isaiah 41:10So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

  • There’s something to be said for the perspective that comes with age. I still get a little shaky when facing the unknown, but being this age, and not 13, gives me a huge advantage in believing all will work out for the best. My dad would be proud of the progress I’ve made!
  • You are never alone. Years of experience have taught me God is in every detail. He prepares the way for every step I take.
  • It’s OK to feel sad and accept that part of change involves some feelings of loss. Shedding a few tears is healing.
  • Allow yourself to anticipate something new and amazing!

The day our house went on the market, I posted this real estate picture on Facebook. A friend commented, “New amazing awaits!” I can hardly wait to see.

 

 

 

 

 

Surviving Your Spouse’s Alcoholism: Finding Courage to Be Yourself

What seems like a lifetime ago, I started attending Al-Anon because I was struggling to cope with my husband RaHaving Courage to Be Yourselfndy’s excessive drinking. I didn’t know where to turn. Finally, I realized I needed help. At Al-Anon, I met a compassionate young woman who encouraged me to call her anytime if I needed to talk. One night I did just that. I poured out my heart to her. Then I called back later to apologize for being real. I minimized what I was going through. Things weren’t as bad as I had made it sound. My friend just listened.

Later, she wrote me a letter. She said she felt honored that I had trusted her enough to share my real self with her. She knew that took a lot of courage. She also gently told me she felt sad because I had called back, facade firmly in place, and apologized for being real. She said it was wonderful to see the real Deb getting some air. She told me her letter might make me mad. That was OK. Go ahead and yell at her! But she felt she needed to be honest with me.

Speaking the Truth with Love

I’m grateful for my friend’s honesty. She cared enough to tell me the truth with love. It would be a long time before I had enough courage to let the real me get some breathing space, though. It’s embarrassing to admit you’re weak and not strong, that you have huge problems in your life. Sometimes if you really speak the reality of what you’re feeling, you might be afraid you’ll start crying and never be able to stop. That’s how I felt…

Why are we so afraid to be our authentic selves? We’re part of a culture that seeks validation. With the rise of social media over the past few years, there’s a tendency to measure a person’s value by the number of Facebook friends or “likes” they have, or the number of Instagram or Twitter followers. I’ve noticed some young women post new “profile/selfie” pictures frequently, looking for validation from their “friends.”

We’ve been programmed to appear to have it “all together.” Our culture rewards those people who seem strong and self-reliant, the ones who pull themselves up by their bootstraps no matter what is happening around them. Sometimes we label as inferior and weak or lacking in character those who are willing to be vulnerable. It’s risky to say this really hurts or I don’t know how I can make it with this pain or I need help. It seems like we don’t have enough faith; that we’re not strong enough when we compare ourselves to others who seem brave and put together.

I’m fine…really I’m fine

It’s like a badge of honor to not weep when you’ve lost a loved one…or you’re experiencing some type of pain in your life. Or when you’re struggling with the pain of a spouse’s addiction. I’m all right, you say as you suck in your breath to hide your brokenness. God will give me everything I need.

Yes, that’s true, God will give you everything you need. But He created us to feel, to have emotions, and to have the ability to express them. He created us to need connection with each other. Real connection–not the shallow kind we often find through social media platforms.

Dr. Brene Brown writes in her book, Daring Greatly, about being vulnerable and real:

Connection gives purpose and meaning to our lives. Shame breaks that connection when we mistakenly believe that if people really knew me, they wouldn’t want to connect with me. In her research, she found that the one difference between “wholehearted” people and those who feel like they have to protect themselves is a belief that you are worthy of love and belonging.

That’s it! Believing you are worthy of love and belonging. Believing you are enough–just as you are. I’m thankful we don’t have to manufacture our own sense of being worthy. When you believe that God created you in His image, you belong to a greater story. One that gives you plenty of reasons to risk being real.

 

You might be interested in reading some of my other articles about alcoholism:

http://debkalmbach.com/friends-help-you…ouses-alcoholism/

http://debkalmbach.com/how-to-survive-y…ouses-alcoholism/

http://debkalmbach.com/surviving-your-spouses-alcoholism/

 

 

 

 

Surviving Your Spouse’s Alcoholism: Boot Camp Basics

Prayer is the number 1 way to combat alcoholism. Photo by Ben WhiteIn my previous article about surviving your spouse’s alcoholism, I compared the struggle with alcoholism to an intense battle. It certainly is a battle on multiple levels: spiritual, physical, emotional. At first, I didn’t have a clue how to “fight” this battle. I needed basic training. I had to admit there was a problem before I could reach out for help. That’s a huge first step!

When I discovered Al-Anon, a support group for family members and friends of alcoholics, I felt elated. Now I could  find out how to fix my husband’s drinking problem. I looked at the people sitting around the table in the church fellowship hall. I knew they had the answers. When I poured out my pain, everyone listened with compassion. Then one older woman said, “I used to think if my husband stopped drinking, if only he would change, then our lives would be great. What I’ve learned is I can’t do anything about my husband. The only person I can help is myself!”

What? You’ve got to be kidding. You mean there’s nothing I can do to change Randy? And you can’t be serious that it’s partly my problem. My problem is him! If only he’d stop drinking, then our lives could be normal. I wanted to  blame Randy for everything that was wrong in our world. At that first Al-Anon meeting, I had no idea I had embarked on a boot camp of personal growth and discovery that ultimately changed my life.

Have you ever felt that way? You see your husband or wife as the problem. If only she would stop drinking, then you could be happy. It takes a lot of courage to evaluate our own behavior, the ways we’ve contributed to our problems. When we stop trying to control our spouse and stop playing into negative behaviors (such as arguing with someone who’s drunk and irrational), then the familiar, unhealthy cycle is interrupted. A counselor once told me alcoholism is like gears moving in sync with predictable behaviors. When the non-alcoholic spouse stops doing what is familiar, then the gears don’t move so well and may eventually come to a halt.

If any of this were easy, we’d figure it out quickly and then go on happily about our lives. Healing is a process and unlearning years of learned behaviors takes time and more time. But it’s so worth it! And sometimes, changing our behaviors can motivate our loved ones to want to change, also. There are no guarantees, but the good news is that we will change. We will be different if we go through the “recovery” boot camp.

I used to lament to a friend that I felt stuck. Nothing seemed to be changing in my life. I was worried that I’d be in the same place several years in the future. My wise friend said, “No, you won’t. As long as you’re taking steps toward growth and change, there’s no way you’ll be in the same place because you’re moving forward!”

Moving Forward

So how do we start the process?

  • Tell yourself the truth.  I found it impossibly difficult to finally say the words, “My husband is an alcoholic. Our marriage is in shambles. My life is a mess. And the most important words…I need help!”
  • Stop pretending. Yes, there’s an “elephant” in our homes wreaking havoc and destruction. We have to acknowledge that truth. I remember keeping a smile plastered on my face and telling people I was fine—when in reality, I felt broken. I barely kept myself afloat emotionally, physically and spiritually. It’s okay not to be fine.
  • Find supportive people. We have to be willing to take off our masks and trust a friend, a counselor, or a support group with our truth. Not everyone will understand, so it’s important to find people who are trustworthy of helping you carry your pain.
  • Believe in a Power greater than yourself. I came into Al-Anon believing in a Higher Power, Jesus Christ. The challenge for me was to deepen my faith. I admitted I couldn’t handle Randy’s alcoholism. I surrendered.

Surrender

In a battle, surrender is seen as a position of weakness. You call it quits, wave the white flag, and put yourself in the enemy’s hands. When we surrender in the battle that is alcoholism, we take a position of strength. We admit I can’t do it. But there is One who can. I will let Him. I have been relieved of trying to do it all, to make someone change, believing it’s my responsibility when it isn’t. Only God can change a person’s heart.

Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. -John 8:32.

Truth gives us the ability to walk into the light instead of staying forever hidden in the darkness. Truth brings freedom and relief. Some days it will feel like boot camp. I didn’t sign up for this. How come I have to do all this recovery stuff when he isn’t doing anything? That’s how I felt at times. The hope is that we are growing into the men and women God created us to be. We’re not stuck any longer.

How do we learn to respond differently? Prayer, practice and time. Three steps forward, two steps back. But always moving forward. Being open and teachable. Recognizing what we’re doing that isn’t working or helping us or our spouse get well.

Hope begins when I tell myself the truth.

 

A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017)

 A collection of essays dealing with pain and lossThis collection of essays from Frederick Buechner delve into the nature of how we deal with pain and loss. Buechner is no stranger to this topic as he has spent much of his life grappling with his father’s suicide when he was a young boy. As an adult, he faced the anguish of his daughter’s anorexia. Even though God may seem silent during  times of crushing grief, Buechner discovered God’s presence and his grace–that he truly is close to the brokenhearted.

The author, an excellent storyteller, tells about an experience at a retreat. Someone commented to Buechner that he had experienced a great deal of pain in his life, but he been a good steward of his pain. That was a new concept to Buechner–and to me as well. I like the idea that we can choose a positive way to manage the sad and puzzling events that happen in our lives. We can be good stewards of our pain.

Buechner says the tendency is to push pain away, to forget what happened, to never speak of a loved one we have lost.  Yet miracles happen when we walk through the gates of pain.

Miracles happen because of the willingness to open the door into your pain. Open your ears and your eyes to the elusive, invisible, silent presence of healing, of the power of God to heal, which moves as quietly, as undramatically, as the wind moves.

The author concludes that joy is at the end. When we enter through the gates of pain, we can encounter joy. Treasure can be found when we are willing to work through our sorrow. Buechner’s gentle, easy style draws readers in and gives hope. His compassionate, authentic wisdom make this book well worth reading.

 

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

Surviving Your Spouse’s Alcoholism: Finding Life at the End of the Bottle

Cunning…baffling… powerful..The bright side of alcoholism is recovery!. Alcoholics Anonymous uses those words to describe alcoholism. It’s true. I’ve never felt more confused and powerless than when dealing with my husband Randy’s alcoholism. It’s an intense battle—one most of us are ill-equipped to fight. The harder you try to get someone to stop drinking and change their behavior, the more futile your efforts.

During the worst of Randy’s drinking, I had a recurring nightmare. Randy and I were prisoners behind enemy lines in a war-zone. The scene that kept repeating was one in which I had escaped and was trying desperately to pull him to safety. I couldn’t do it. Each time I had to run for my life, leaving him trapped in the line of fire.

That’s an apt metaphor. If your husband or wife has a drinking problem, you’ll understand. No matter what you do, you can’t seem to get through to them.

Why can’t he stop drinking? It seemed easy for me. I could put down a drink after a few sips, and never want more. For Randy, it was impossible to say no to the next drink–even with serious consequences on the line. At first I  thought it was my fault. If only I were the perfect wife, amazingly sexy and beautiful, then Randy would rush home after work to be with me. Wrong! There’s no way to compete with an addiction.

When I finally found Al-Anon, a support group for families and friends of alcoholics, I learned about the 3 C’s.

  1. I didn’t Cause Randy’s alcoholism.  Nothing I did or didn’t do made a difference in him becoming addicted to alcohol.
  2. I couldn’t Control it. I didn’t have any power to keep him from taking another drink.
  3. I could Contribute, though. I could act in ways that perpetuated the unhealthy patterns. Or I could learn some new ways to respond that could possibly help Randy want to get sober. Most of all, these new changes helped me.

Before Al-Anon, I didn’t have any recovery tools. All I could do was obsess on fixing and controlling Randy. I nagged and lectured and scolded. To no avail. I threatened to leave if he didn’t change. Maybe you’ve done the same.

Randy promised to stop drinking. I wanted desperately to believe him. We twirled round and round with the familiar dance. Nothing changed. I retreated into magical thinking, pretending everything was okay. Our problems aren’t that bad, really. Randy said he could stop drinking anytime. He promised to quit tomorrow. Tomorrow never came.

In the meantime, I became the “alcohol police.” I checked liquor bottles in the kitchen cupboard, measuring how much was there, how much Randy had drank the night before. I even checked the garbage cans to see if he was secretly drinking outside and then tossing the evidence. Talk about crazy behavior!

I placed inspirational books in strategic places around the house and refrigerator magnets with Bible verses on the fridge. I just knew when saw those verses, he would be inspired to change. I envisioned the scene…Randy would see the light and drop to his knees in gratitude for my help. Deb, I’m so sorry for not seeing this sooner. Thank you for helping me. I’ll never drink again. Then we would live happily ever after.

Reality Check

You know only too well, that never happens. Spouses are rarely the ones who talk their alcoholic partners into seeking sobriety.

After several years, I began to consider that Randy could be an alcoholic. I quickly countered with denial.  No way!  I rationalized. Drinking seemed normal, or so I thought. I looked the other way and pretended everything was fine. If we look at reality, then we’ll be required to do something. That seems so hard, so scary.

Fear looms with its icy fingers threatening to suffocate us. The what-ifs take over our thoughts: what if he has an accident on the way home from the bar; what if she loses her job; what if he kills someone in a car accident… scenarios play ad nauseam in our thoughts. It’s exhausting living on this emotional roller coaster—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

I felt alone—even though I had caring friends. I didn’t want to burden them. Besides, what could they do? What I didn’t realize is that you can’t face this battle alone. You can’t be an army of one and expect to survive.

Never Alone

The good news is you are not alone. Others who have been where you are can assure you there is hope! Not merely to survive, but to thrive. You can come out on the other side more whole, more authentically yourself, than you ever thought possible. Addiction has taken a toll, but it doesn’t have to win this battle. There is light and life at the end of the bottle. It takes iron determination to get there, to not give up when things get tough.

You can move forward with your life—no matter what is happening around you. You are not an army of one. You are part of an army of thousands upon thousands who have been where you and I have been and they’ve found a better way to live. As a Christian, I believe we’re serving One who is all-powerful, the God of my understanding, Jesus Christ. A Bible verse says, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) Not simply a few things, but all things. We will have whatever we need, whatever it takes to fight this battle and find healing and hope for ourselves. Maybe in the process, our loved ones will also desire to fight with everything they’ve got to defeat their addiction.

Hope begins when I believe all things are possible with God.

If your spouse has a drinking problem, I have the greatest compassion for both of you. Please let me know how I can pray for you. 

*This is the first in a series of articles about how to cope with your spouse’s alcoholism.

 

Courage to Carry On: Finding Hope When You’ve Lost Everything

Courage to carry onCourage is something I’ve thought about often during the past month–a commodity sorely needed by victims of Hurricane Harvey and Irma. Like many of us, I’ve witnessed the heartbreaking devastation of these storms as news channels have broadcast moment-by-moment updates. At times, I felt like I was watching a natural disaster movie. It all seemed surreal. But to the people of Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and other areas where there’s been massive flooding and wind damage, it’s all too real.

To say I even begin to understand is an understatement. I have no idea what it’s like to lose everything you own. Sure, it’s easy to say material things are just “things” and don’t matter. What’s really important is our loved ones. And that’s true. But putting your life together after such a disaster is painfully difficult.

I’ve experienced the anxiety and terror of wildfires burning close enough to our home that you see flames. Three years ago, a wildfire burned more than 250,000 acres in our beautiful Methow Valley in Washington state, and destroyed more than 300 homes. We watched our friends reel from their losses. We also watched as they courageously began to rebuild their lives. Two years ago, another fire devastated our area and claimed the lives of three brave firefighters. The tragedy shook our entire community. Several hundred friends and neighbors gathered in the community park for a vigil. The stillness of that August night was lit with the glow from flashlights, cell phones, and glow sticks. Suddenly, material possessions seemed insignificant.

The things that matter the most in this world, they can never be held in our hand.
                                                                                                                     -Gloria Gaither

Believe

A few years ago, I did a word study on courage. In these times of unspeakable tragedy, courage is what will carry us forward. For me, courage is built on a foundation of faith. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s looking at your fears full-on and saying, I believe! I believe God is with me through any circumstances I face, no matter how difficult. Whatever situation you’re facing, just breathing the word courage can help you remember God is with you. He is the source of your strength and the reason why you can be courageous.

When I think of courage, people like Corrie ten Boom come to mind. She and her family made the bold decision to hide Jews in their home during World War II. Corrie, her father, and sister were sent to a concentration camp when they were found out. Only Corrie survived to tell the story. She proclaimed God’s faithfulness in the midst of tragedy for the rest of her life. Countless people heard her story–including a former Nazi guard who came forward and asked for her forgiveness. Offering forgiveness to someone who has caused so much pain takes courage to an entirely different level.

And then there are heroes of 9/11–too many to write about in this short blog. The courage of people like Welles Crowther, who is known as the man in the red bandana, inspire us. Welles was twenty-four years old when the plane crashed into the World Trade Center where he worked. He managed to get out safely. But then he ran back in numerous times to save others, accompanying them down forty floors to safety. Welles lost his life that day, but his story lives on. Courage has a way of leaving a legacy.

Take Action

The Bible talks a lot about fear. In fact, the words do not fear appear at least 366 times. What that tells me is having courage and not being afraid is important enough that God inspired the repetition of that command. Sometimes we think courage is some kind of bravery we have to muster up in our own strength. Not true! Courage is a by-product of faith. The antidote for fear is faith. 

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying,  I will try again tomorrow. -Mary Anne Rademacher-Hershey

That’s what will make the difference for hurricane survivors. Having the courage to believe they can take the next step, and then the one after that, one-day-at-a-time. They need courage to believe they can walk through this difficult time and come out on the other side–probably with a story to tell and being different from when they began this unwanted journey.

Walk Through

To carry on is the courageous keeping on with whatever is at hand, whatever is next in importance to do. During World War II, when London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 59 straight nights, the city never shut down. The people of London went to work and kept their daily routines. That’s remarkable!

I would have been tempted to stay in bed with the covers pulled up around my head. Courage says to keep going, to walk through those deep valleys.

Courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don’t have the strength.

-Theodore Roosevelt

That’s the bottom line. From somewhere deep inside, you find strength that you could never have imagined and the courage to carry on.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

We are praying for everyone who has been affected by the hurricanes. May the Lord give you His peace that passes all understanding.

You Carried Me: A Daughter’s Memoir (Walden, New York: Plough Publishing House, 2017)

I saw my graMelissa Ohden memoir about being an abortion survivornddaughter Lucy’s face for the first time on an ultrasound when her mom was about 20 weeks pregnant. The clarity of her facial features took my breath away. I fell in love at first sight!

I couldn’t help but think of my experience with baby Lucy when I read Melissa Ohden’s powerful memoir, You Carried Me. Her birth mother was farther along in her pregnancy than when my daughter-in-law had her ultrasound. The circumstances were tragic. Melissa’s mother had a failed abortion. Instead of dying from the poisonous saline solution administered to abort her, baby Melissa was born alive, weighing in at 2 lbs. 14.5 oz. She was adopted by a loving couple who were willing to take on the special needs Melissa might have as a result of the botched abortion. Miraculously, Melissa had no long-term medical complications. 

She discovered at age fourteen that she was an abortion survivor. Melissa had known from an early age that she had been adopted. Finding out that she was aborted and then survived, threw her into an emotional tailspin. Her courage to persevere in the midst of heartbreaking circumstances is inspiring. As a young adult, Melissa began a decade-long search for the truth about her birth and her birth parents. The outcome is nothing short of miraculous. At times while I was reading this book (which I could hardly put down), I had to remind myself “this is a true story.”

Melissa is honest and straight-forward as she tells her story, yet she’s careful to protect the identity of her birth parents. The level of healing and forgiveness the author has experienced in dealing with circumstances clearly out of her control, is a testimony to her faith. It seems Melissa’s life was spared for a greater purpose–to become a voice for the unborn and an advocate for women, men, and children impacted by abortion.