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I had an epiphany today driving down to Pittsburgh to see my family for the day (a 2-hour drive). I’m really beginning to enjoy those drives though because of two reasons: (1) the gorgeous Pennsylvania autumn colors in its landscape and (2) I get to listen to two straight hours of Christian music on Family Life and K-Love. I get to think about God for two straight hours and sing praises to Him – it’s SO refreshing! I’ve been stuck on Jeremy Camp’s “Christ In Me” and Hillary Scott’s “Thy Will”. I enjoy playing them on repeat when I’m feeling I need to hear those words from God. And then hearing my 4-year-old occasionally chime in on some of the worship songs he knows makes it even better.
But during this particular drive, I realized that something good actually came out of a terrible struggle my family and I faced for the first 7 months of 2016.
I’ll save the whole backstory to this for another post but my husband (Luke) decided to leave his active duty military job where he was stationed in Illinois for the past 6 years (which included 2 overseas tours) and try to move our family back to Pennsylvania where our families were (his in Erie, mine in Pittsburgh). He wanted to begin to build some roots and have our children grow up around their families. We are both very close to our families so this was exciting for us! Though this decision caused many arguments, I completely understood why he wanted to get out. We had also JUST found out we were expecting our fourth child and he knew if he reenlisted that he’d deploy again in July 2016, a month BEFORE my due date. So we packed everything up the day after Christmas, and we moved back to PA.
After his enlistment was up, he enlisted into the Air National Guard the following day and had intended on doing a 4 month Guard stateside tour/job to buy some more time to look for a more permanent job. He also had been offered a job in Erie at a manufacturing company but it was almost a 50% pay cut which was extremely scary for us. That was our backup plan that we had hoped not to have to go to. Well, orders never came down for the Air National Guard “tour” so we had to go to our backup plan. And because it was such a huge pay cut and we have your typical bills including two car loans and LOTS of student loans, we ended up having to live apart. Me and our 3 boys (ages 3 and twin 1-year olds) stayed at my aunt’s house in Pittsburgh while Luke worked in Erie and stayed at his dad’s house then came to be with us on his days off. We lived apart because my aunt was the only one who had plenty of room for a separate LARGE family to live with comfortably. We had the whole top floor in her house.
This living situation brought on such stress in our marriage and in our family – it was horrible. We argued a lot on the decision to even get out of the military because Luke did not really have any great job options and after all of this happened, we began to argue even more. Luke completely stopped smiling-none of us were happy. My heart ached for him, I could see his confidence just fading away. He felt awful. As his wife, this was extremely difficult to watch. It was SO hard with him being away from his boys, missing the first kicks of the baby, and for the first time, missing appointments at the OB with me.
We felt like we didn’t belong anywhere AND we were separated on top of it all. I hope NO ONE ever has to go through that.
Throughout all of this, whenever I’d get the chance to be alone in the van for a grocery shopping trip or something, I started listening to K-LOVE, a Christian radio station. My goodness did those songs speak to me! One in particular that really had me hold onto my faith that things would get better was the song “Praise You In This Storm” by Casting Crowns. I remember just sobbing the first time I heard it. It was everything I needed to hear. And another one that really got me was Jeremy Camp’s “He Knows” (Jeremy Camp has quite a few great songs!). These songs completely spoke to my heart. God knew how to reach out to me because every chance I got, I was always listening to music. He told me through those songs that everything was going to be okay and to just trust in Him.
I realized through those songs that it was just as important to praise God through the storms as it was the joyful times.
Listening more and more to the Christian station had me praying my heart out to God, asking for help if He could spare some. That we needed to somehow live together and get out of my aunt’s house and him out of his dad’s house. Not that we were in terrible conditions, we were very blessed with cozy, safe places to stay and loving family who took us in. We just desperately needed our own space and to be a family again. He had already been on two tours overseas, coming home just recently in July 2015 and the LAST thing we wanted was to be apart!
Well, I believe the following was an answer to our prayers. Luke found out in June 2016 there was a deployment coming up and they needed someone, which meant he’d be active duty again for 6+ months so his income would more than double what he was currently making in Erie. Through hesitation and tears we discussed it and knew it would be a really great way to save money and get ahead of the game. So he put his name in for it, not even sure if he’d get it. Well, I remember him getting the call and the tears instantly welled up in my eyes as soon as he told me and we just held each other. We knew we chose this, but at the time we really had no other options. We needed help fast and I believe God placed this opportunity in front of us to help us. It was such a terrible feeling, but Luke wanted to provide for his family if he knew of a way. We couldn’t even afford to live together at the time anyways and felt like that was worse. This also meant he would completely miss the birth of our newest child. That is what broke my heart the most. You see, Luke is the most incredible father to our boys. He loves them more than anything! I couldn’t have asked for or imagined better. So thinking about him not being there when our little boy #4 was born really choked me up. Sharing that experience with him was something I always looked forward to, which is an understatement. He’s an amazing birth coach, supporter, everything.
He sacrificed being there and experiencing holding his son for the first time so that he could provide for his family. I have such a strong man on my hands and I’m so thankful for him every day. I couldn’t do what he does! I know I couldn’t.
Going back to my original thought about everything happening for a reason, I believe that struggles are blessings as well. I believe we need to praise Him through those struggles as well as the good times because those struggles are part of His Will for us and they lead to greater things. If my family and I wouldn’t have gone through everything this year, I would not be getting closer to God like I am now. I wouldn’t be studying His Word on a daily basis, I wouldn’t have the patience and peace like I do with my now FOUR little boys (ages 4 and under) while Luke is away, I wouldn’t be learning how to better my marriage and better myself the way God calls me to, and I wouldn’t be able to share my stories with you. I am thankful God put us through the struggle because it has changed my view on those things in life that the world tells us will make us happy. I used to stress about those too much and I realize now they don’t matter and we’ll always be chasing after them and they’ll never make us happy! My relationship with God matters! My husband matters! My children matter! THESE are the things in life God wants us to care about.
Going through the struggle we did has brought me closer to God and that makes it all worth it! The happiness I have gained and the peace I have experienced after becoming closer to God has made the struggle more than worth it.
I was ALWAYS so hesitant to become closer to God. I was worried what others would think, I was worried I would have a moment where I would change from the person I knew to someone I didn’t know. Almost like a freak. I was worried people who were my friends wouldn’t want to be my friends any more if I became labeled that “Jesus Freak”. I was even worried my husband wouldn’t love me as much if I became closer to God, that I would change into someone he wouldn’t love the same. Let me tell you, being in a relationship with our heavenly Father is absolutely nothing like that! It is the BEST friendship you could ever imagine! Yes, a friendship! 🙂 Do you suffer from anxiety? Depression? Do you worry all the time? Try to imagine being freed of ALL of that! Try to imagine those chains that are weighing you down completely breaking off! I was a worrier – I still am, it’s something I need to work on and pray for the strength to overcome every day. But every day through prayer and the grace of God, it gets easier to put my worries into God’s hands and start enjoying life instead! Being closer to God means having absolute true happiness!
I love what it says in Isaiah 41:10:
Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious. I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
How awesome is this? This incredible friend PROMISES you this! He promises so many wonderful things! I challenge you to crack open your Bible and find a promise God makes and let me know what you find. Those promises are endless and so comforting.
I feel like at 27, I have FINALLY found my calling from God – to tell everyone about my experiences and about the goodness of Christ. He calls us all spread His wonderful Word to everyone!
Here is the song by Casting Crowns: Praise You In This Storm. Listening to this for the very first time was the first step in my journey of becoming closer to my heavenly Father and brought me to tears.