Bedtime was always a struggle.
On a normal day, putting three rambunctious kids to bed can be challenging. After my husband died from cancer, I was left as a young widow with three daughters ages two, five, and eight. Bedtime often broke me. It was like a neon yellow highlighter stroke, a reminder that Ericlee was no longer there to help me. I was suddenly a single mom.
My husband and I were partners in parenting. We prayed for our family together. We agreed on discipline. We tag-teamed when the other person was tired or frustrated. Now I had to be the mother and father in parenting.
I finally got to the point where I had to surrender. There was no use trying to play the proverbial whack-a-mole game every night. As soon as one child was asleep, another one popped up and needed something. I was already emotionally wrung out and so were my girls. I prayed and made a survival decision. All three girls piled into my king-sized bed—the one I had shared with their daddy for eleven years. And now it was our bed. I held my girlies close at night, and often let the tears flow. They struggled to sleep, and so did I. Some nights it was hard to imagine a hopeful future.
I had always imagined my future with Ericlee. We had built a family, a ministry, and community. We chased our dreams together. He was my coach, my confidante, my biggest cheerleader. We were supposed to grow old together.
It felt like my girls had been cheated out of time with their daddy. He wouldn’t be able to attend their high school graduations or walk them down the aisle at their weddings. I feared his absence would damage them emotionally and their grief would overcome them.
In the quiet recesses of my heart, I had to believe that God saw me in this wilderness, in this grief, and that He cared deeply for me. He had a plan. I just didn’t have eyes to see the details yet. And that’s what hope is all about. Hope is believing what we cannot see. Hope is remembering God’s faithfulness in the past and believing in His goodness in the present and for the future.
Hebrews 6 reminds us: “We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us…” (Hebrews 6:18-20, The Message).
I clung to hope like a rope that was rescuing me from an ocean of grief. These were uncharted waters for me. And day by day, God showed He was present with us. He was cultivating within me a heart of hope. He provided that lifeline.
One way I navigated the stormy waters was through a practice of gratitude. I kept a little journal and tried to jot down a list each day of the gifts I was grateful for. I wrote down the miniscule and the big scale. I felt Him in the splashes of color waltzing across the sky each night at sunset. I heard Him in the made-up songs my two-year-old would croon in the car on road trips. I saw Him when that overflowing manila envelope arrived in the mail with money a church had collected to go toward our medical bills. I tasted Him in the homecooked meals friends brought each night to see us through that hard season when even cooking felt like a heavy task.
He was my comforter, my provider, my husband in a time when I felt like I was swimming in stormy waters alone. As I learned to give thanks in the grief, I began to get glimpses of His glory. Instead of being fraught with anxiety, little by little I learned to breathe again. Each day was a step forward toward hope and healing.
It’s been more than six years since my husband soared to Heaven. I continue to be amazed at the doors God has flung open for my daughters and me. As we have clung to hope, God has given us opportunities to encourage other widows and their children.
God also brought my new husband Shawn to redeem our story in an unexpected way. Shawn was one of Ericlee’s best friends. He was a long-time supporter of our ministry and often came to visit us through the years. We often prayed for Shawn’s future wife. Ericlee had a strong feeling in his spirit that God had someone special for his beloved, single friend, Shawn. Of course, no one could have anticipated that God was preparing Shawn for me. He was the hope and future I never could have imagined.
Friend, if you are feeling overwhelmed and hopeless today, hear this: God is for you. He is sovereign. No matter what impossible situation you are navigating, He is working underground right now on your behalf. Cry out to Him. Trust Him. His promises are still true. Hold tightly to that rope of hope.
LEAVE A COMMENT: When you’ve felt overwhelmed by this world, how has God calmed the figurative storm for you? Did it happen when or how you expected?
This story is part of the new Create in Me a Heart of Hope Bible study by (in)courage. Check it out here and consider it for your next group Bible study!
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