Friday, January 30, 2009

Troubles at Every Turn

The past few days have been bad.

Really, really bad.

I spent most of them crying, holding my head in my hands, and wallowing in despair.

Things are tough in the Soderstrom household. Financial problems have resulted in us having to part with both Brett’s vehicle and our house. The idea of moving while pregnant is daunting, to say the least.

We are still in a quandary as to what to do over the loss of Brett’s Jeep. If you know of someone who has an old “beater” or a dirt-cheap car that runs somewhat reliably, don’t hesitate to let me know.

Since we will be moving to an apartment, I’ve also had to contact the House Rabbit Society to see if our bunnies can be accepted back into the program. Thankfully, it looks like they can be re-fostered. Whether we will be able to re-adopt them in the future is still up in the air.

Brett is taking this harder than I am. Although I love the rabbits very, very much, I know the task of taking care of a child – especially as a first-time parent – will take up my time and energy.

I also know returning the bunnies to HRS will be for the best. HRS volunteers love rabbits as much as we do and will take excellent care of our sweet pets. I just couldn’t abandon them to a shelter where they might be euthanized. This way gives them a great chance to live with caring families who I trust will love them as much as we do.

We’ve known we were going to have to let the house go for a long time. I am, by a social nature, more of an apartment dweller, so the prospect of apartment living (again) is actually quite exciting for me. Not so for my husband, who highly values his privacy.

Not that I’m looking forward to moving. Not at all.

When we learned about losing the Jeep, the world seemed to start crumbling down on me. I don’t know why it hit me so hard. But it did.

Everything has been compounded by this horrible cold that has hit me with a vengeance. Now, in addition to morning sickness and nausea, I have coughing, sneezing, congestion, and the worst sinus pressure headache I have EVER experienced. My head is a ten thousand pound weight on my shoulders.

I cried at work all day yesterday. Just bawled and bawled silently in my office. I cried on the way home. I cried in Wal-Mart. Then, I drove to Mom and Gary’s and cried in front of them for two hours.

I listed the litany of my troubles to Mom.

We are losing our house.
We have to find an apartment willing to rent to people with way-less-than-perfect credit.
We have to move.
We have to send our bunnies away.
We are losing our Jeep.
We have to find a way for Brett to get to work.
Brett may get laid off in July when the baby’s due.
I will most likely get laid off in October when our company merges with three others.
We might not be able to afford even an apartment.
I could lose my insurance.
The baby could have no insurance.
My head is killing me.
I’m so sick.
I’m behind at work.
I just want to give up.

You can IMAGINE how fun that was for Mom and Gary.

They were angels unaware, as always, and comforted me with kind words and spiritual reassurance.

I thought of a note I had sent our Pastor only a few days ago. I’d said, “I am in the pit of despair, in spite of knowing God is in control. Is that even possible?”

But I didn’t need Pastor to answer the question. The truth is no, I can’t be in despair if I believe God is in control.

For the first time in my life, I seem to be surrounded by troubles on every side. And yet, if I trust in what I know to be true, then I have to trust God has His perfect purpose. These trials are designed to stretch, grow, and refine me into the person God wants me to be.

In the past three years, especially, I have learned the ONLY way I truly grow spiritually is through trials. Knowing that, however, does not bring the warm fuzzies when I’m in the midst of testing. If anything, it becomes a beacon – something I can see, know is there, but still seems inordinately far away and unreachable.

As I look back though, I find comfort in how far God has brought me.

Three short years ago, I was ready to leave my husband and start over again. It was through that marriage trial God brought me back to Himself. I experienced a refreshing spiritual renewal that drew me close to the throne of God in a way I had never experienced.

It cemented my faith, illuminated it in a way I can’t imagine living without.

I wonder some days how unbelievers can get through the day. With the run of days I’ve had, if I were an unbeliever, I would just say, “Shove it! (only I wouldn’t say shove it) I’m done with this!”

I’d find the best drugs I could afford, shoot up, blast Coldplay as loud as I could, drink margaritas by the gallon, and go out in a pathetic blaze of glory.

I wonder, as always, WHAT do unbelievers live for, if they believe this is all there is? I can’t even fathom.

Being a believer gives me something unbelievers don’t have. Perspective.

As these billows steamroll over me, I can stand and say, “I believe God is sovereign. I believe this is His purpose. I trust Him to provide for me, His child.” I can pray and know that God hears me. I can watch as God changes me and find the unbelievable freedom that comes from being submissive to what He has planned for me.

I am losing “my” earthly safety net – home, transportation, money, job, insurance, etc.

But, was it ever really “mine” to begin with? Is not EVERYTHING I have from God’s hands? I can do nothing apart from God.

It’s only in despairing moments like these that those words bring comfort – when God is all you have to cling to, you realize the immenseness of GOD – you NEED nothing else to cling to, anything else would melt away.

As my sad story tumbled out to Mom last night, I tried to balance all the bad with all the blessings. Namely, the miracle percolating in my womb. I wondered how I could even be sad for a moment when this growing gift is ever present with me.

Mom and I talked, comforting each other, she begin to remind me that being entrapped by our troubles can sometimes make us blind to the trials being experienced by others.

I remembered back to when I was a fat kid in junior high. I always used to think that kids who were thin had no problems. In my eyes, being fat was the worst thing that could happen to a kid.

As I relayed this depressing news to my parents, I was shocked when they started laughing.

My dad just shook his head. “Everybody’s got problems, kid. Even the skinny ones.”

He told me about kids who struggled in academics while I sailed by with straight A’s - kids in broken homes, while my parents loved each other - kids who didn’t know what they were going to have for dinner, while there was always abundant food on our table.

“I’d say you have it pretty good, wouldn’t you?” He gently chided with a smile in his eyes.

And, so fifteen years later, here I am again. Wrapped up in my own troubles, craving sympathy, and childishly sniffling in the blanket of woe-is-me.

After Mom’s gentle reminder, I found myself thinking of a sentence in Pastor’s recent e-mail to the church family. He said, “This is a time of suffering in our church, some suffering in the shadows, and some suffering in the limelight.”

When I read the note, right away, my mind went to our situation. Pastor knows of our difficulty, and I felt very much like we were one of “those” he mentioned suffering in the shadows (not anymore - as I write this - you will intuit I am not so good in keeping to the shadows).

Pastor was also speaking of some dear church friends who have been praying and preparing for a blessed adoption for years. Now, the adoption of the precious children they have eagerly accepted into their hearts is in serious peril. Our entire church knows of the struggle, and we are all are embracing this couple with love.

They are suffering in the limelight.

I thought also of my cousin Naomi, delivering her baby three months early, and the fears and tears that must wrack her soul at this time. Mom told me of other friends who just yesterday learned their baby had died in the womb. They were, of course, heartbroken and stunned by the loss.

I left Mom and Gary’s feeling strangely emptied and yet uplifted. When I got home, I prayed first for our situation, and then began to list those who are also suffering, going through trials – known and unknown. I found the concern for others dampened my previously woe-is-me spirit, as I lifted these people up in prayer to He Who Heals.

I know I am not through the thickest of it yet – with a baby and a move coming – but I found the old adage I learned as a child still applies. To have true JOY, even in the midst of all this, I should live as - Jesus, Others, You.

This morning, I sang, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy down in my heart.”

And you know, I really do.


Valorie said...

Thanks for sharing, Ann-Marie. I am so sorry all of this is happening. Know that I am praying for you on a daily basis. My favorite verses are Prov. 3:5-6. These verses have sustained me through so much. I tend to worry a lot about the future. I have to remind myself that God sees the bigger picture. Big HUGE {{{{HUGS}}}} for you.

Laura Brown said...

Oh noooo ... I'm so sorry. I wish I could take the bunnies for you.

Apologies if this is too intrusive, but when you say you're losing the house, do you mean it's about to be repossessed, or could you have a chance to sell it first? Is there any possibility of your being able to negotiate with the mortgage company to gain more time?

Anouk said...

Dear dear Ann-Marie, I've been thinking about you and praying for you. I'm so glad I get to "know" you better through these posts (we really do need to get together at my house for coffee or whatever you drink - sorry, I don't have margaritas though :)

In some ways, I felt like I was reading my own journal - that God is using these times to strengthen and teach, that we wouldn't choose these things but have the assurance of God's sovereignty. My catch phrase lately has been "I don't understand, but I know." I know that God is in control, I know He will be glorified, I know He will give grace.

And His grace and peace are truly amazing . . . you might even say they surpass all understanding (hmmm, where have I heard that?)

Anyway, I'm rambling . . . but I wanted you to know that I'm praying for you and am thrilled to see God at work in your heart as He has so patiently been in mine. Thanks for sharing. And let's have coffee sometime soon. Love, Anouk

Karyn said...

Dearest Ann-Marie,

I love you and am praying for you. I have this other friend who always thinks of the godly perspective first. Me, I have to pray about it and cry for awhile before I reach the right perspective. He recently wrote me about some friends who were involved in a car accident.

"While we believe something (like God's provision), it is often just a shallow faith unless we have experienced it. That is why I praise God for bringing such things as this accident into the lives of these team members, because it adds a fullness to their lives that others have yet to experience. This is just what I have thought of recently; I believe it to be true of Christ's love, His protection, His grace, many things such as these."

I thought of this as I read your post. My first reaction is to say how I wish this wasn't happening to you, but after reflecting on all you are learning through these trials, all I can think of is to pray that the Lord will continue His amazing work in your life.

CANDICE said...

I'm not a very good writer Like you and all your friends, but I love you and Everything is going to be okay. Just take it one thing at a time. It will all fall in to place. Your child will always have insurance so don't worry about that...Illinois law. All Kids. I love ya. I'm getting excited for your next ultrasound! I think the Brett's car thing threw you for a loop! It will all work out. You will pull through. You are strong.

psturg said...

I'm sorry you are hurting. We love you both. I wish we could be there to help.

Juliet said...

No pat answers! I know that Brett and you have a plateful.

I just finished this month in the book of Genesis. And I will leave you with a quote from that study. "From this study of beginnings, we have discovered that our life purposes can be found in God alone."

God will see us thru this! Love you with all of my heart! MOM

a joyful nusiance said...

I love you and am praying for you. I am so glad that God has shown you his love and his peace. The best evidence of that is growing in your womb.

Anonymous said...

Forgive me for the humor if it erks you but I have to say, now is a GREAT time to relocate to Arkansas = ) I have room here for all three of you! Or there are some lovely much-less-expensive-than-in-illinois apartments that you could get comfy in just around the corner. I'm sure Walmart could put you to work, so Think on it! Love and prayers!
PS: I just don't know about the baby "percolating"....

The Beard Bunch said...

It is so good to see your strength! I know you don't feel it right now, but your post sure shows it. You know He is in control, even when it doesn't feel like anything is in control. Think of Job; he whined too. I don't think God minds when we feel sorry for ourselves a little, as long as we remember to turn to Him.

I was thinking the same thing that Candace mentioned. I know kids can get coverage, and, so could you while pregnant (worse case scenario). Just reading all of the comments, you should feel sheltered in prayer.

"Weeping lasts for a night (sometimes a long night)but joy does come in the morning!" That is my paraphrased version :)

Jennittia said...

I love you and have cried so hard as I can identify so much with your loss. I will call you this week-- your faith is so uplifting!!