Do you remember the summer you were thirty-one years old?
Honestly, I don’t. But lately some memories are trickling through…
Such as our glorious joyful wedding celebration and then driving together up the Pacific coast from my old home near San Francisco to my new home near Seattle with the Welcome Home sign hanging on our front door.
And, did I mention that the day we returned from our honeymoon, my new three kids got out of school for the summer and Mike went back to work?
Most everything else after that is a bit of a blur.
God had answered my prayers above and beyond how I could have imagined the script of my story. Having patiently (and sometimes not-so-patiently) waited for the love of my life, I met Mike, who had been widowed three years prior and was busy juggling single parenting and campus ministry.
I took on marriage and motherhood all in one single walk down a very long aisle and was over-the-moon happy.
But I also felt totally overwhelmed. Every single thing in my life had changed, except God.
Thus, I have suppressed much of my memory of that summer. Psychologists say suppression “is the conscious process of pushing unwanted, anxiety-provoking thoughts, memories, emotions, fantasies and desires out of awareness.” When circumstances in life become more than we can handle, we make a choice (sometimes unconsciously) to forget them.
Today, thirty-eight years later, I dig deep to recall those faltering beginnings.
In my fog of memory, I see piles of laundry and hours spent in the kitchen trying to make magic—healthy meals on a budget that were tasty to kids and my new husband alike. I remember registering at the University of Washington for a night class on how to advocate for our special needs child who was a challenging puzzle to me.
I know there were fun times like discovering all the wonderful parks and lakes near us, but I also enrolled my kids in just about every Vacation Bible School in the area, so I could take a shower! Somehow in the midst of all this juggling, I managed to pass the legal requirements and home study, culminating in my court appearance to legally adopt Justin, Timmy, and Fiona.
Still, I felt like a complete failure when after only a month after our wedding, we began marriage counseling. I wanted to be everything to my husband and children who were still reeling from loss.
But I hardly even recognized the person inhabiting my body.
Strength and skills I knew so well were no longer required, and everything I needed now was way beyond my comfort zone. My expectations of everyone around me—but especially of myself—were unreasonable. I was filled with striving and survival. My insecurities were exacerbated by my own comparisons to their late wife and mother who had died all too young.
All my dreams had come true, but I was drowning in them.
This snippet is but a portion of my lifelong story of grace, of coming to the end of myself and finally allowing God to step in and assure me of His unfailing love and acceptance. Of finally opening the gift I don’t deserve and can never earn—grace—and allowing it to be the foundation of my life and identity. Of drawing on divine strength to do that which I could never do on my own—vibrantly live what seemed too often to be an impossible life.
This is how I have spent my years. Living out that story. Learning how to become soul strong.
- I had to fail and fall so God could lift me up and I could echo with certainty, “Nothing is impossible with God.”
- I had to release my efforts of trying to be perfect, trying to be all.
- I had to realize that God would give me exactly what I needed (time, resources, ability, wisdom, strength) to accomplish what matters most.
- I had to both let go and grab hold—to relinquish and receive.
Only by the grace of God are those same people still present in my life. They love me deeply and I them. You see, we actually survived that time of feeling overwhelmed as well as some much more difficult seasons since then. Perhaps you also know how overwhelmed feels…
What story are you living now that will one day be remembered? I’m praying God gives you the soul strength to move forward with hope and expectation for this new season.
May the grace of Christ, the love of God, and the friendship of the Holy Spirit bring you comfort and strength, Lucinda
“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”
©2022 Lucinda Secrest McDowell www.LucindaSecrestMcDowell.com
Lucinda Secrest McDowell is a storyteller and seasoned mentor who engages both heart and mind while “Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength.” She has authored 15 books including “Soul Strong – 7 Keys to a Vibrant Life” and “Life-Giving Choices – 60 Days to What Matters Most.” She writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and shares encouraging words at LucindaSecrestMcDowell.com