My mother died when she was 48. I always imagined I would die around the same time. I’ve found this is a common thought with people. We assume our lives will be as long or as short as our parents lives were.
When I turned the age my mother was when she died, my journey moved into a season I hadn’t anticipated seeing. Almost 10 years have passed since them, and I’m telling you, my 50s ain’t been a cake-walk.
However true to His promises, God has taken trauma and chaos and woven them into some of the richest years of my life. Seems as if, the first 50 years were about “practicing my faith” and the next 50 will be about “living my faith.” So here it is: The 5 Worst-Best Things that Happened to Me, Since I turned 50.
I ALMOST LOST A CHILD
I celebrated my 50th birthday in a pediatric hospital with my then, 15-year-old daughter. About 6 weeks earlier she was in a car accident. The car rolled, and she was ejected as the car up-righted itself, landing on her head. This left her cognitively diminished, and paralyzed on the right-side of her body.
God’s presence was palpable in the community of friends that surrounded me, the skill and knowledge of the medical staff, as well as the power that He has demonstrated through her recovery. I learned of my own uselessness, it is a great freedom.
I HAVE A DISABLED ADULT CHILD
As you can imagine the trauma to my daughter’s body and soul have left their mark on all of us. There are daily struggles that a family with a brain-injured member must endure. Struggles that most people cannot even fathom, let alone deal with. These offer me daily reminders of God’s provision. I do not have the luxury of waiting to think about things later. You will never know what a parent of a disabled adult child suffers, until you are given the label yourself.
Yet, I have experienced the reality of God’s DAILY mercy. A “people pleaser” by nature, God has given me courage to speak up for myself and advocating for those without a voice. Today’s world is busy, and people are burdened and distracted like never before. Although I am often lonely in my plight, I am never truly alone. Life with a disabled adult child serves as a constant reminder of my need for God, His direction, and His rest. Lessons I might have avoided if given the chance.
I LOST MY HUSBAND OF 34 YEARS
So, what happens when you realize your life isn’t going to turn out how you thought it would? Way I see it, you’ve got four choices:
- Turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, or shopping,
- Run away,
- Go crazy, insisting that things WILL turn out how you thought it would, or
- Surrender and adjust.
Option 1, holds no draw for me, although tempting, the guilt of not fulfilling my responsibilities would be worse than the situation at hand. Option 2, “see option 1.” Option 3, although tempting for a recovering control freak like myself – isn’t a viable option. Been there, done that. So, I’m left with option 4, to surrender and adjust.
A few months before my daughter’s fate-fill car accident, my husband and I were facing the reality of serious financial hardships. The accident and subsequent events pushed my husband further into his family illness of alcoholism. As the journey became harder and harder, his struggle became harder and harder. As a young man, he was so resolute about not falling prey to this family illness. I admired his tenacity, and joined my voice to his, “That will never be our life.”
But the disease of dependency and addiction is a cunning, baffling, and powerful thing. He lost the battle in 2015.
With God’s help I have only begun the process of retrieving myself. Drowning in the mud left by his disease, I have depended on God in ways I never thought I would have to. Releasing my imaginary control over the situation, and doing my best.
I WAS 1500 MILES AWAY when MY CHILD WAS BADLY INJURED
Just a few months after we buried my husband, I experienced another extreme crisis. I have a crazy talented child, who is in the top of her field. Just two days after returning to her university, the fall of her sophomore year, she sustained one of the worst injuries a performer could endure. I cannot describe the feeling when I heard her voice telling me about the horrific events that led up to the injury. It is the feeling of constant nausea. Internally the upset is so profound nothing can settle it.
Another set of powerful things happened. Support from our community, healing where there shouldn’t be, and the freedom to be with her as she recovered. The miracles too numerous to count. And today, she is still on her path, pursuing her future. The journey, albeit a difficult one, has been one that proved to me, there isn’t anything too difficult for those who are willing to trust God. Even in the face of an incredibly difficult situation. I have also learned to trust God to be there for my children when I couldn’t. A humbling lesson for sure.
IDENTITY CRISIS at the HALF-WAY MARK
A few months before I turned 55, I was let go from a 25-year ministry position in my faith community. A victim of a poorly planned and executed building project, our administrative staff was cut in half, and our pastoral staff was cut from 5 to 2. I was one of the 3 cut. Although no harm intended, and it was necessary for the solvency of the community, I was devastated.
But again, God has worked this to my good. I am now free to use what I learned in those 25 years, to reach you, and others who have felt the betrayal and loss of purpose that I have felt. I haven’t recovered my identity, I am creating a new one. And I know it is possible.
As my 50s draw to a close, I’ve discovered, this is how God works. Did he “plan” all these Worst-Bests for my benefit. No, I cannot imagine that He did. God never rejoices in our suffering. He mourns with us, sharing in our grief. He does not rejoice in it!
He will lighten our weariness, if we let him. He will bring others to share our burden if we ask for help. He will be present to do the difficult things when we can’t.
Many have said my faith is simply the stuff of childhood wishes, that God isn’t interested, or perhaps my trust is just a crutch, but this is not my experience of faith. God has brought many bests from the many worsts that have befallen me. Rose colored glasses? No, my real life experience.
So, I ask you. What best is God trying to bring from your worst?
What burdens are you carrying that you’d like to set down?
What are you wrestling with?
How can I help you learn what God is trying to show you? I’m ready, if you are.
– My family, on my 50th Birthday –