Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Hand of God

I have a friend who is really struggling with her faith.

I can understand, because I've struggled much with mine over the last two and a half years.

We got together last week for the first time in over a month, for a mommies night out.  Had dinner...just us.  Saw a movie...just us.  Went back to where we had dinner to snack and keep talking...just us.  Because we both needed it.

She's seen, especially in the last year, just what the struggle for the Fries has cost us.

As we both sat in our mom-vans and continued to talk after leaving Friday's, she asked me, "Can you really see the hand of God in everything that you've gone through with the girls?  Or was He just not there?"

I know that's how she's feeling, that God just isn't there for her.  Isn't interested in her life, doesn't care about her, and is woefully silent.

And I know, because I've lived a lot of the last two and a half years in that same kind of faith-fog.  Wondering where my almighty God is, as I struggle to give the girls security while our lives remain in uproar.  Where He is, when my husband has to go away for ten days on a job-related mission trip with his youth group teens, and I'm left to deal with three little kids who now have forced visitation with their biological mother, whom they haven't really seen in six months and know even less, all by myself...and my parents are out of town.  And, since the kids and I will be staying at their house for four days before they get home, I'm good and alone in dealing with this.  Wondering where God is when I realize that my estranged sister-in-law gets to live her life with nary a blip because of all the court stuff, but we live on tenterhooks and eggshells and the constant fluctuation of not knowing what's going to happen from one day to the next.  How unfair is that?  This doesn't affect her day-to-day life at all.  Where's God when I have not one but two health crises in less than nine months?  Where's God when my husband's boss, the senior pastor of our church, decries what we're doing, by taking in the girls, saying that it's a bad thing and orders Hubby to not let it affect his work?  Where's God when the job goes downhill, not because of the work Hubby's doing, but because the senior pastor has an agenda to get rid of him?

Yeah, I'm all too familiar with the "Where's God?" questions.  If only, during these dark moments, God would be as easy to find as Waldo is.

And yet, I could only give her one answer:  Oh, yes.  I can see the hand of God all over this situation.

She wanted details.  I don't think she knew what she was asking for...or how far back the list of God-incidences would go.

But I gave them to her: 
  • Hubby joined a Southern Gospel quartet waaaaay back in 2002 or so.  By late 2003, he accepted that God had called him to leave the quartet--a lifelong dream of his, really--and devote himself more to the needs of the church we'd been attending.  God asked him to commit to that church for three years.  Dan asked, "Then I can go back to quartetting?"  God said, "Talk to me in three years."
  • We were ready to have a family...but never got pregnant.  From early to 2003 to early 2009, we did nothing to stop pregnancy.  And nothing happened.  Those years were filled with a lot of heartache for me, especially as I watched my friends have children.  (Yes, this was part of the list for a reason.)
  • The senior pastor of our church announced in May 2006 that he was resigning, effective in six weeks.  We loved this man.  I had told Hubby, more than once, that as long as JB was pastor at that church, I had no intention of leaving.  His ministry was THAT good.  JB juggled lots of hats, and was a very busy man, but I never felt, when I had a need to speak to him, that he was too busy to make time for me.  I told Hubby we were simply going to follow them to Illinois and be little JB groupies.
  • In August of 2006, as we drove out to my folks' for my mom's surprise 60th birthday party, I casually announced that the worship pastor of my parents' church had resigned and they were looking for a new one.  I hadn't realized the 3-year deadline was encroaching, but Hubby had.  God had been speaking to him, reminding him of his call to full-time ministry.  Hubby's conversation with God at that point, as we tooled down the PA Turnpike at 65 mph, was basically, "God, if you really want me to apply for that job--the church is huge!--you're gonna have to make it really clear."  About then our car threw a piston rod.  Mile marker 216 or so.  Yeah, that's important.
  • September 2006: We now know for sure that God is going to start shaking things up.  And so, God asked us to leave the church we'd been attending for six years.  A church we loved.  With people we loved.  So that we ourselves could take some time, recharge, rejuvenate, before we plunged headlong into God's plan.  So we said goodbye and left the church in November.
  • October 2006:  I had much-needed wrist surgery, and this pulled me out of the field in my caregiving job.  And it landed me in the agency's office.
  • December 2006: On our way to my folks' for Christmas, we met for a brief informal interview about a youth/music pastor position at a church in Chambersburg, PA.
  • January 2007:  We did a more formal interview in Chambersburg.  Hubby was offered the job.  We accepted...and moved to Chambersburg in the end of February, 2007.  And I was able to keep my job, converting to telecommuting to manage the agency's scheduling system.  And did I mention?  Chambersburg is pretty much straight due south of mile marker 216ish on the PA Turnpike.
  • Chambersburg, PA, is a lot closer to York, PA, where my brother, sister-in-law and three small nieces lived.  Columbus, OH, where we had spent all of our previous married life, was not close.
  • May 2008: When my brother determined that he needed to get the girls back to PA, their state of legal residence, after my sister-in-law announced (again) that she wanted a divorce and she was serious this time, we were in a position to help out.  For three months, which has stretched into almost two and a half years now.  And with no children of our own, we didn't have to up-end the lives of anyone but us and our cats with bringing in three little girls.  (Imagine that.  I'd always been a big proponent of adoption.  This wasn't adoption, but it was the same general idea.  Not how I expected my life to go, though.)
  • June 2009:  We have my parents' full backing when we file a lawsuit for full custody of the girls, who have now lived with us over a year, because their parents chose to switch the girls' guardianship to someone else...someone whom we felt would be a danger to the health and well-being of the girls.
  • July 2009:  I'm involved in a major auto accident (combined vehicle speeds of 70+ mph) that fractures four bones in my right ankle (surgery required to fix two of those) and the radius bone of my right wrist in two places.  The girls and I live with my parents for two and a half months as I recover.
Much bleakness covered our lives, starting in June 2009.  We fought through a court presentation at the end of June, followed by that ten-day work trip of Hubby's and ten days of visitation with the girls' mother, who hadn't even told us she was coming back.  My recovery from the auto accident was a long, hard road, especially at the time.  It's humbling to be 34 and have to have your mother cut your broccoli into bite-sized pieces for you, because you can manage a fork, but not both that and a knife, what with your dominant hand being stuck in a lovely cast.  The first court hearing date was scheduled for October of 2009.  That one didn't happen; SIL had her lawyer petition for a continuance, since she was still serving in her overseas posting.  I was worried about our assigned judge, who had openly declared that he saw the momentum in the case being returning the children to their mother.

I continued my list:
  • The continued October hearing was rescheduled for December 22, 2009.  My first thought was that someone's Christmas was just going to suck.
  • The December 22 hearing got continued--again at the request of SIL's attorney--and rescheduled for April 13th, 2010, with the conciliation conference two weeks before.
  • Hubby lost his job at the church he'd been at for three years.
  • The conciliation conference in late March 2010 went about like we expected, with no resolution.
  • Our lawyer requested a continuance on the April 13th hearing after we learned we'd only have two hours.  The delays were driving us crazy, but what could we do?
  • The April 13th hearing was rescheduled for June 9th.  Plus, we were assigned a new judge.  And by new, I mean new.  As in, just elected.  I was relieved anyway; about all the good I'd seen come from the first judge was that he, being former military, had quickly determined we were not in violation of the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act, which SIL's attorney had cited as reason for our suit to be tossed out (preferably), or postponed at the very least.  The new judge was a woman, and a former prosecutor in the family court.  And she was a mom.  I figured those were all good things.
  • The insurance settlement from my severe auto accident was given to us in early April.  It was substantial.
  • The June 9th hearing was also continued, again at request of my SIL, who by now was representing herself.  Our new court date was August 6, 2010.
  • We actually made it to court.  I was nearly physically ill with worry about testifying.  I wasn't sure I could pull it off until after I swore in.  I placed my hand on the banister around the witness box to step up and in, and was reminded of my best friend, and a host of others, all of whom were praying specifically for me.  The calm that settled over me was inexplicable.  My father said afterward, following the judge's decision that we would all share legal custody and that Hubby and I would have primary physical custody of the girls, that I had been "magnificent."  And he was sorry for all his doubting thoughts.
  • Even with Hubby out of work, between the insurance money that wasn't invested and my income, we've made ends meet.
"Could I see the hand of God during all this?" I asked rhetorically.

My friend smiled at me.

"No, I couldn't."  I looked her straight in the eyes.  "It was so dark sometimes.  But I can say, without a doubt, He's been there every step of the way.  All those 'unanswered' prayers for kids of my own?  He was saying Wait.  And then He dumped three of the most amazing little blessings in my lap, just when I was sure I'd never have kids of my own."

All of the court delays?  Well, those got the right judge on the bench for our case.  Our judge hadn't even been elected at the time of the October 2009 hearing date.  She wasn't in office at the time of our December date.  She'd only been on the bench four months at the time of the April hearing.  The delay between the reassignment of our case to her in April and the actual hearing in August gave her another four months to be in court, working as a judge.

Yes, even during the darkest nights and deepest doubts, God was there.  The string of circumstances, stretching back eight years, makes the truth of God's involvement in our lives stand out.

Would it have been nice to really see God working, as I felt like I walked daily through the Valley of the Shadow of Death?  Oh, yes.  I would have loved that.  I would've loved to have the confidence of faith that Hubby did.  I would have loved to have little flashing signs that said, "Hey!  God just set up another thing to help work this situation to the right resolution!"

But I can't deny the truth: God was there.  He was working on getting all the dominoes lined up just so.  He always is.

And that's something I need to remind myself of more often.

1 comment:

If you are rude, spiteful, or just plain mean, there will be a $10 charge just for putting up with you.

Please be nice.