It’s Christmas Eve, December 24, 2015. The last time I saw Amy was Sunday, June 14, 2015, 6 months and 10 days ago. I was walking out the front door of our house in handcuffs. I turned and glanced back at her and then quickly turned away. I haven’t seen or spoken with any of my children since then either.
It’s late at night, and I’m lying on the couch trying to sleep. I have a perfect view of the Christmas tree. It’s dark except for the colorful lights lit up on the tree. Presents are scattered all around. I went with Jeanna to buy every one. Everything is perfectly quiet and still. I’m alone with my thoughts. These are the two days I’ve been dreading and bracing myself for. I’ve anticipated having the most miserable Christmas of my life.
It’s the first time I’ve ever spent Christmas Eve or Christmas without my family. I imagine them all huddled around talking and laughing hardly noticing I’m not there. I wonder if they have the slightest feeling of missing me. I wrongfully conclude to myself they don’t. I catastrophize EVERYTHING in my mind.
I am still completely in the dark and have no idea where they live.
As usual, my spirits want to sink. Instead, I reach over and grab my phone off the coffee table. I turn to Luke 2 on my scripture’s app. I begin to read the account of Jesus’ birth.
I arrive at verse 7,
“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Then verses 10 & 11,
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be unto all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
I look away from my phone and stare at the Christmas tree. I ponder the words I just read. My thoughts and feelings turn away from myself and toward Jesus. I remind myself that this season is about Him, not me. As my thoughts and feelings turn toward the true meaning of Christmas, a warm, comforting feeling comes over me.
There’s still pain inside. There’s always pain, but strangely enough underneath all the hurt, I begin to feel an inner strength and peace. I feel God is pleased with my efforts and progress and that He is and has been close every step of this dark and dreadful journey.
Still, I expect the miserable loneliness to hit me at any moment. It never does.
I fall asleep feeling strengthened and resolved to keep fighting. It’s a strength that is given to me. It’s not my own.
I sleep comfortably the whole night. No tormenting dreams! I awake in the morning to the laughter and excitement of 3 little girls anxious to open their presents. It both warms my heart to watch them and brings sadness as I am constantly reminded of the shattered state of our family.
About 2 hours pass. I slip on my running pants and jogging shoes. I grab my phone and earbuds and plug them in. I head out the front door. Today is going to be a long, long walk. As usual, I hit the record button on my phone’s recording app and just start talking. I walk and talk for miles.
I just listened to the recording of that particular day. My voice is strong and resolute, even passionate. There is a determination and resolve to beat the odds. I share my feelings for my Savior, Jesus Christ and how I know He lives and in His strength, I can do all things. I mention that I’m not depressed and I’m not discouraged. I do say, that it doesn’t feel like Christmas and that it feels like a fake Christmas. I remind myself how far I’ve come and resolve to keep fighting.
Twelve days ago I was sleeping in a makeshift shelter outside in 33-degree weather. I had no phone service, no transportation, no place to stay, no money, no family, and no job.
In under 2 weeks, I’ve found a place to stay, I have phone service, I’ve been blessed with a car, and I have some money in my pocket. I could have never foreseen this. I’ve come so far and every step I’ve taken has been a step of faith into the dark unknown. Yet, as I continue to press forward, leaning into the headwind, my faith, hope and resolve strengthen. In ways impossible to have foreseen I’m blessed with exactly what I need when I need it.
Still, all I really want is to be together with my family NOW.
I’m sitting up one night and have what I guess you could call an epiphany. The story of Noah’s Ark comes to my mind out of the blue. As if someone is speaking directly to me, I hear the words in my mind,
“Before Noah could invite his family and all the animals on the ark, it had to be built, prepared and ready.” Then these words,
“Build your ark and when it is ready and everything is prepared for each member of your family, then you can invite them to enter with you. And then they can decide for themselves.”
I wanted so badly to be with my family, I couldn’t see that, in all reality, it was impossible. We had no home. I had no job that could provide for them. I had to first, step by step, get everything prepared. Building my ark included securing a job that could provide for our entire family and finding a house that would accommodate us. I couldn’t settle for an hourly wage. I needed a job that paid enough money to provide all the family needed. I somehow also had to find all the upfront money it would cost just to move everyone and everything to wherever it was I found a house.
I saw no way any of this was possible, at least at any time in the foreseeable future.
My mentor, Larry Powers, suggestedthat I should take a construction job for 6 or so months and prove to myself and others I can sustain a consistent work schedule and then see what doors might open. He was very open with me that his biggest concern was he couldn’t see how I could provide for my family in the foreseeable future.
A large part of me saw no point in even trying. But, something inside me told me to keep moving forward and believe that with God nothing is impossible.
I can’t begin to convey how from this point forward EVERYTHING speeds up and comes together in miraculous, unimaginable, and remarkable ways.
It all begins with a very unexpected phone call I receive out of the blue from my oldest daughter, Baylie. She’s getting married and calls to let me know she wants me there at her wedding. This is the first contact I have with any member of my family in over 6 months. To hear her voice, to feel her love and kindness takes away all my pain and for the first time in many months, I feel true joy and happiness.
At the same time, I feel crushed that I have no money to even contribute to her wedding expenses. That feeling would prove to be unfounded as my circumstances and resources are about to drastically change in one dramatic, unimaginable turn of events.