There was this one block of time that God gave me most of the things that I wanted that I thought I needed and that I had not gotten up until that point in my life. Interesting how all of that worked out for me.
You see, I was tired of the seemingly boring mission of being a stay-at-home mom (I felt no pride over having a clean kitchen with no dirty dishes in the sink or having all the beds made or having empty laundry baskets) and I was tired of defending my calling to homeschool. It’s not that I didn’t feel joy inside by doing the tasks required of me to pull off these callings or that I didn’t enjoy the eternal rewards. It’s just that I was weary of feeling insignificant around the moms who got to spend all day at the salon or the gym or dining with friends or shopping and I thought I wanted a taste of their lives. I wanted a bigger house and I wanted a nice new minivan or a big SUV. I wanted enough money to do everything I wanted to do. I wanted friends in high places. I wanted to finally be a published author. I wanted to be important. That seemed like enough to ask for at the time.
Well, it all started with the quest for the new house. We put the house in the country up for sale and began looking for the house that would help us keep up with the Joneses. I was making friends with people who seemed to have what I wanted. I received inspiration and knew that blessings from above were going to pour down upon my head so much that I’d have to keep an umbrella above me and a rain slicker on to keep from drowning. Right about along that time, we began to feel dissatisfaction with our church, as well, and felt a little helpless to change the things about which we were convicted.
Then, my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and our focus had to shift. He was given six weeks to live and nothing else in life seemed more important than caring for Dad. You would think that would be a big deterrent, but we continued on our quest for the ultimate dream house. While I was away every day and night taking care of Dad, my husband operated his own business and held down the fort without me. The kids spent much of their time with their grandparents.
We finally found a house in the midst of all of our chaos and it was just in time to move Dad in with us, as the hospital was sending him home but he couldn’t live out his last days on his own. This would solve our problems, right? I mean we finally had the house that gave us some status, in the right kind of neighborhood, and there was a perfect room on the main floor for Dad to stay. Well, Dad only lived with us a few weeks between stays in the hospital, visits with my sister, and his final days in the hospice, which hardly compensated for the fact that the new house was much more expensive than the little abode in the country.
So at this point, I had the house. I had the friends. Although I had continued to homeschool simply because Dad’s illness came along so suddenly that I had no time to make alternate plans, I was not participating in the day to day schooling because so much effort went towards Dad. So the guilt of putting them in school didn’t have to crash down upon me but I didn’t have to worry myself with teaching them every day either. We just did school when time allowed for it and the kids did their workbooks and reading on their own. There were days sprinkled here and there where Dad became a third student and great memories were created, but those days were few and far between. My heart was like a runaway child, wanting to flee yet wanting to be captured at the same time.
Then, Dad died. Five months after they said he would. Suddenly, I had money. Inheritance can be and is a wonderful thing. We took a much-needed vacation by way of an airplane to the Keys in Florida. We were big stuff! Next, I got the minivan. Wow! What a wonderful material possession. I was a happy little minivan mom driving my kids and their friends all over the place and bringing them to my nice new house in my upper middle class neighborhood. I even had money to decorate the house and buy furnishings. Cool. My husband didn’t have to work quite so hard at his business because we had a little nest egg for the first time in our married lives. I even accomplished my goal of becoming a published author when an article I wrote went to print in a creation magazine. All of life was good, right?
No, my friends moved up to fancier homes and suddenly, I felt insignificant again. I had the money now to go to the salon and the gym, but still didn’t have the time or the lack of restrictions because I had children at home who needed instruction. And my values seemed to be so different from the values of my friends that truthfully, I didn’t want to do those things anyway. I felt a little like Kathy Bates in Titanic when faced with the rich, snooty women who measured her not by her money but by her upbringing. It’s a wonder they didn’t fall backwards off-balanced by their heads tilting so far back from looking down their noses at her.
Also, there was still the church issue that seemed to intensify now that I was back at church on a regular basis after Dad’s death. So we left. We know that we were right in leaving, but the next church we became a part of was not the best decision of our lives either. Good things did come out of it. We saw adults saved and even my own children accepted the grace of God. I acquired a few rare gems of friends and they are very special to me even now. I even acquired a job and for the first time in a long time felt significant outside of my home – my new, bigger home to which I could feel proud to invite people. But quickly, I was sucked into the wonderful world of jealousy, envy and gossip and friendships I had made were destroyed. Bridges were burned that will never be rebuilt. Thankfully, God’s grace covers all our transgressions.
But we pushed for things that should have never come to pass. We ignored warning signs that God put out there. We closed our eyes to the roadblocks and went around them. We asked God for certain things. We begged Him for certain things. And just like with the children of Israel who begged for meat every day, God gave us what we wanted. But just like the Israelites who got what they wanted, that meat started to sicken me.
Fast forward two years, and suddenly, the things that I had wanted, which were the things that God had given me, no longer seemed to be that important. In fact, they were choking me. The house was unaffordable and was a prison. The inheritance was gone. The job was not fulfilling. Instead, it prevented me from doing the things I loved with the people I loved. No longer did I have time to write. Something inside me stirred and I knew that having everything you want outside of God’s will is nowhere near as good as having nothing and living in His will.
Ecclesiastes 2:10-12: I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.
The same friends that had poured blessings on us before were now almost shunning us for being in need, for being poor stewards of the gifts God had given us, and for getting involved in the petty divisiveness that Satan so basked in. But on the brink of losing the house and on the precipice of losing our dignity, I gave up my van. It was strangely the hardest thing I had ever done. It represented a rarely received gift from my Dad, even though it was received after he went to his grave. After the loss of the van, came the acceptance that the house had to go next. But acknowledging the necessity and it actually coming to pass were two different things. During the eight month process of our house being up for sale, we witnessed God’s true miracles. The church we had become a part of crumbled and I lost my job.
But soon after we found a new church where we could rest and heal for a while. We needed to grow before we could serve others. Dan was blessed with a wonderful job. I had a little more publishing success. The children blossomed. Our homeschooling ship was moving at full steam ahead again. And we had learned a very humbling lesson. We had learned that even though God may give you the things you ask for, they may not be in His PERFECT will for your lives. And true happiness apart from the will of God can never happen.
Romans 5:3-4 says: “…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” [NIV]