This photo, “Sometimes He answers prayers with a storm,” has been on my mind lately.
We are in a storm. Within the storm, our world and lives are changing.
I chose these words because this has been my experience. After publishing a few poems and having five children, my entire life changed in a day. It was the storm of storms. At the time I could not imagine the end from the beginning. All I knew was the list of things I was losing in a day. I lost a marriage, a new home, a father for my children, income, everything in a one day life-altering storm of events.
Just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, all I could do was hang on while the world spun around us.
When the storm began, I sat on the side of the road in a VW Van with my babies and turned it all over to my Heaven Father.
When the storm was over, I found myself living by the sea near my childhood home, just as I had always wanted. I had the love of my life and he had adopted my children. We had a sixth child who survived a life threatening illness, All was well (messy and chaotic but happy). We were safe in a place that became a haven for us and for our extended family. My prayers were answered.
God’s plans for me are always better than my own. But Sometimes while he was rearranging my life to make space for more blessings, the unknown was challenging. It took all of my faith for me to wait patiently, like a child waiting for Christmas morning. Patience is a virtue on my “To Do” list.
Two things bring me peace when storms are raging.
We may not always understand why we have the challenges we do or why some prayers seem to go unanswered, but the scriptures tell us:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
New Testament, Romans 8:28
We can pray and to ask the Lord for comfort and to help us understand what is happening to us or for help with decision. He is waiting to talk to us, even if it is just a feeling, a thought, or warmth in our heart. (Learn how to Hear Him here)
We are not alone in the storm. Hang on. I believe you can find your personal growth and happy ending even if the middle is messy.
Last week I asked how you were doing and what was on your Pandemic Blessing Card. Here are some of the beautiful things you shared with me.
“I firmly believe God has a purpose for all of us and equip us with talents and resources throughout our lives we need to fulfil that purpose. I’m not saying that in vain because I was born with a born defect that means I am bound to a wheelchair for life. It would be easy to blame whatever but why would I survive for nearly 50 years if doctors bluntly told my mom there was no medical way for me to survive past 48 hours. So whenever circumstances threaten to overwhelm me (as it does with all humans) I try and remember that I have an undisclosed purpose.”
“…I have spent the last 4 months in a rehab facility following a really bad fall. With this quarantine I have not been able to see my family and I truly miss the hugs from my son…I am reminded of how much I have to be thankful for even midst this horrible time. I had forgotten. But not now. Thank you!
- My leg will heal.
- I will walk normally again.
- I will give my son the biggest and best hug ever.
- I have made many new friends.
- I have been able to read as much as I like.
- I have been shown once more that God always opens a window when he closes a door.
- I realize that others are so much worse off than I am.
- And so much more.
- My faith has been restored.”
“Some of us were able to travel to see friends who have a lodge away from internet and WiFi and cell service. We ate good food, went hiking and enjoyed nature.”
I would love to hear how you find faith or if it is a struggle. I would also love to hear ways you, #HearHim during our storm.
When I was twelve, I prayed for a bicycle. My father, a spiritual man, told me I shouldn’t bother God with it. That I should solve my own problems. I was pretty sure he was wrong, so I just kept praying and saving my meager earnings. Sure enough, a brand new bike showed up. To my young heart, it was a miracle.
I reasoned God blessed me with a bicycle because I was a good girl, at least that is what my father told me. We were both wrong. Later, while we were tossed about by the winds of life, we learned the truth.
We learned to see the Lord, while life’s challenges raged like storms all around us. We learned ways to Hear him, in the gentle whisperings of the spirit and see Him in the large and small miracles that came in answer to sincere prayers. We felt Him in our hearts and searched for him in the scriptures.
We both gained a firm belief in the Lord’s love for all of us. He meets us where we are, and during his lifetime blessed many people who the world labeled as unworthy, like the woman caught in adultery or the woman at the well.
Bad things happen to good people. We will all experience storms or trials in our lifetime.
The Lord may not remove the storm, but He will not leave us alone in it. He wants us to know Him, to learn to hear Him, so when the wild winds blow we can find Him and the shelter He offers us.
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in this life is to see the signs of the Lord in the storm. The tender mercies Psalms 145:9 talks about when it says, “The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.”
Many years ago, I began a daily list of things I am grateful for. It became my greatest anti-anxiety medicine. When I couldn’t sleep, I would quiet my worries by listing all the blessings I experienced that day.
Immediately, my perspective on life was permanently and profoundly altered. I found daily reasons to rejoice. I learned to see Him.
But, you may ask, how can we rejoice in this place, at this time?
In this place ~ Covid-19
We are in quarantine. It is late, but the house is not quiet or tidy. My daughter, her husband, and my eight-year-old grandson moved home six weeks ago. My grandson is roller skating throughout the first floor instead of brushing his teeth for bed, my adult daughter and her husband are upstairs calling him. Two televisions are competing for attention.
My kitchen is cluttered with a project. We are in the middle of a pandemic and because a loved one asked; we are sewing face masks. We have sewn well over a hundred and more are lined up waiting to be finished. I have work to do before I sleep.
And yet, I am filled with joy as I count the tender mercies of the Lord, the answered prayers, and little miracles that surround us. Everything is as it should be (Something I never thought I would say in a pandemic). But first it had to fall completely apart.
At the first of the year, it seemed our lives unraveled around us. And yet, in hindsight, we can see how the trials led us to miracles. Things that at first seemed like bad news have been revealed as blessings. Prayers that had gone unanswered for months, were answered in a week. Everything in our lives changed to prepare us for the storm already raging just out of sight.
We felt confused while our lives were unexpectedly rearranged, but at peace all at the same time. Looking back, the pattern of the Lord answering every prayer is clear. He provided for all of our needs before we ever heard the world “virus.” And he spoke to peace to our hearts.
We are like you. Some of us are working, some are not. We scrambled for toilet paper. We have family members with seriously compromised immune systems, and we are afraid to go out the door without a full hazmat suit.
But on the first Sunday of home church, the historic Sunday when church was cancelled worldwide, we counted our blessings and we knew we had felt the hand of God in our lives.
The kids moving home had changed from a trial to a blessing. We relished the ability to be together, support each other, and combine our food storage. My new job temporarily went away with the virus, giving me time to prepare and enjoy the birth of my son’s baby. And just over the horizon, unknown on that Sunday, was something wonderful, already in the works. The quiet days of a simpler life in quarantine allowed us to appreciate each other on a deeper level.
Friends and family members have expressed experiencing similar blessings, or tender mercies, during some of the darkest days in world history.
That first Sunday, we marveled at the ways Heavenly Father takes care of his children and knows them all by name, even though they number more than the sands of all the seas. We recognized His hand in larger things, while He still showered us with tender mercies. Even when we wondered if he would ever answer our prayers, He already was.
Tomorrow will come
We may not all survive. The storm may continue on. But while the winds blow, we will be on our knees, seeking Him, listening for Him, and trusting the plan He has for us, knowing he is mindful of us. He will answer your prayers. Be patient. We are part of His eternal family. We Hear Him promising to come again.
“And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him…” (1 Kings 19: 11–13)
My gift to you, while we wait for tomorrow to come. The lowest price Amazon will allow.
Have you ever wearied the Lord in prayer and wondered when he would answer your prayer, or if he would answer? Have those answers come in unexpected ways? I know I have. I have wanted more time for family and writing. I think I have my answer and it will mean more time to write.
I love to write stories about characters that have deep needs, face insurmountable odds, are tried during the storms of life, face destruction, and still find their happy ending. I write about unexpected heroes and heroines, who after the storm is over, realize the hand of God was at work the entire time. And the events they thought would annihilate them were actually the best thing that ever happened to them.
Why do I love to write stories about people who face impossible odds? Because that is the ongoing story in my life, and I would bet a few of you have been caught in the rain before. But I believe in miracles and I believe in happy endings, so here we go! New job and more writing.
Today, I found one more survivor. This afternoon, the sun was out, and I worked in the garden. I weeded and pulled out the plants that hadn’t made it through the wild coastal winter months. We have had snow, fierce winds, and record rainfalls. I opened the gate to put my tools away in the backyard and look what I found. While everything else turned brown and withered, this beautiful little plant flowered through the dark winter months on the north side of the house. It blossomed against all odds, just like the heroines of my stories.
A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak on Hope in church, while I was praying and working on making more space for family and writing. It was a great opportunity to explore one of my favorite words-hope.
More on hope later-for now, here is one of my favorite quotes:
I asked Kimber King, author of "The Trouble With Fairy Godmothers," why she was committed to writing clean novels and she said, "I believe that books should inspire people to becoming better versions of themselves, and to..."
She’s hiding in her present.
With nothing but her guitar and a few belongings, Hope Flanagan escapes the abuse and negligence from her mother’s boyfriend. Hope’s lucky enough to find a warm exhaust vent in an alley of her coastal town and blessed with help from a coffee-shop employee who sees her desperate situation. But Hope is determined to stay under the radar from social services and the other homeless kids, who seem to go missing once they fall under the notice of the local homeless tough girl.
She’s hiding from her past.
Grace James works with the police to help survivors of abuse while desperately fighting to keep her own family safe from her vindictive ex-husband. News of her husband’s release from prison pushes her to accept help from the handsome and secretive Officer Joe Hart. But then her mother brings home a stray from her coffee shop, and Grace finds herself catapulting through her fears to do for Hope what she just might not be able to do for herself—find out who she really is to save her before it’s too late.You can find "Finding Hope" on Amazon:Paperback, OR Kindle, Kindle Unlimited
Open Read More to listen to Hope's Playlist
I will never forget the moment I realized that everything I believed about my sweet life was wrong and that I needed to leave behind my marriage, my adorable little home, and essentially everything I was or thought I was. I stood in a therapist’s office on the phone. I was calling my mother to ask her to watch my children overnight so I could go home for the last time and pack to leave my innocence and shattered hopes. The conversation went something like this…
“Hi Mom. Can you keep the girls one more night?”
“How long is this going to take, Shannon? I have a lot of things to do.”
“An eternity, mom.”
The line was silent. She knew where I was. She knew what I meant.
At that moment in time, more than anything on earth, all I needed was someone to hold me and tell me we would be okay. That we might be homeless and helpless, but that they would be there for us and that our Heavenly Father, the Savior, and the Holy Ghost would never, ever, leave our side. But that isn’t what happened.
Heaven will forever bless my family. Even though my parents had their hands full, they made room for us. And may God forever bless the members of my mother’s church, who knew me as a young woman, and never doubted me or my decisions.
But, may Heaven forgive the people at church who said the darndest things.
I wish I could say that my experience of having people at church make unbelievable statements is rare. It isn’t. Survivors of domestic abuse, infidelity, spousal addiction, and those of us who struggle to keep difficult marriages together, and all the other things life throws at us, have heard it all.
Have you ever said something to someone at church and regretted it? I know I have. Do you wonder what to say to your fellow church members who are struggling with challenges like mine? Or do you wonder why people care so much about what other people say? Shouldn’t we just buck up, get over it, and do what is right?
Five months into my divorce, I rented a house and began attending church in a new town. They had all seen the single mother and her five small children move in. From the moment I crossed the threshold at the neighborhood church, people said the darndest things. Here is a short list:
“Have you ever been to church before?”
“I heard you’re divorced. There are two sides to every story.”
“I think people should try harder.”
“You should go home and put your marriage together as God intended.”
And, “Why did you marry him? There are always signs. You should have known.”
Gradually I stopped talking to people. Eventually, I would randomly go to my mother’s church. At one point, I stopped talking to anyone at all except a kind neighbor and my family. Then, to avoid a complete mental breakdown, I began hiring a sitter so I could run once a day because my therapist said it would help.
My sweet father held a garage sale so he could buy me very expensive Nike running shoes and the best in Nike running gear for the over one hundred degree summer temperatures. One of the local clergy said a prayer in a meeting, and in the prayer blessed that I would stop running through town in shorts (honestly. I would have laughed if I wasn’t so concerned for the clergy’s mental health).
I am tough. In fact, I have pretty thick skin. The topper will not be repeated here. Suffice it to say, I left the church and didn’t return for more than a year.
I wish I could say I was alone. Recently, I have spoken to several women who are struggling with the things family, friends, and church members are saying to them at their most vulnerable moments.
I had come to church, bruised, beaten, broken to fill my soul and find connection and sisterhood. I had found something I would learn later was, “Victim Blaming.”
We have all done it. We have seen a couple in our little church get divorced. It rocks us. We look at them and wonder what happened. We think things like, if it happened to them, could it happen to me? They seemed so perfect.
Then, out of fear, we look for ways we are different. We think and actually say things to each other like, “It happened to them because he drinks. We don’t drink so it can’t happen to us. I would have left him too, the poor Alcoholic.” or worse, “Of course he cheated on her. Have you seen how she treats him or keeps house?”
We are engaging in typical victim blaming. It is more obvious, when we examine situations containing abuse. It is easier to see when people say things like, “She was sexually assaulted because of how she dressed.” She was sexually assaulted because the perpetrator made the choice to assault her. Only one person is responsible. The person who hurt her.
Victim blaming is how we make sense of our world. If random abuse can happen to people due to other’s random agency or choices, then we might get hurt. But, if we can find the reason it happened to “someone else” we can exclude ourselves from harm. We look for the difference between us and them, because it is like looking for Dumbo’s magic feather.
As survivors, we are already looking for a way it is our fault. It is our fault because we are loud, fat, or made bad choices. Just like others, who victim blame, we are desperately seeking a way to make sense of the senseless.
Here is what Elise Lopez, a researcher said in DomesticViolence.org’s article, Why We Blame Victims for Domestic Violence:
“Why do some people jump to blame the victim? At its core,…victim-blaming is about self-preservation.
Compare these reactions to how some people respond to seeing a photo of an overweight person, says Lopez. “People think, ‘If I were overweight, I’d go to the gym every day and I would lose that weight.’ They don’t think about how hard that would be,” she says. …They think if somebody is being abused, they probably did something to incite it.” In essence, if people can find a reason why abuse is the victim’s fault, then abuse is something that can not only be controlled but prevented. And, in turn, it won’t happen to them.”
So, what do you say to people whose lives are falling apart?
Speak honestly, from the heart. You don’t understand. You can’t, unless you have lived their life. Only one person understands, the Savior. Avoid judgment. Try to be a judgement free and shame free friend. Leave the judgment to the Savior.
Things to say to domestic violence or sexual assault survivors:
- I am glad you survived.
- It isn’t your fault.
- Whatever decision you make, I will support you. I know you know what is best for you.
- I may not know how you feel, but I am here to (list anything you are willing to offer including time, provide service, be a friend, always be by their side).
- Listen (No words necessary).
We all have friends who are making serious decisions or engaged in heartbreaking challenges. LDS Living’s article, The LDS Divorce Experience talks about members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They share statistics which show prior to divorce nine percent of those surveyed were less active and eight percent were not attending church. After, six percent occasionally went, eight percent had a short period away (that was me), six percent stopped going, and then two percent increased their activity.
Interestingly, even though I was too tender to deal with the looks, the words, the strange things people said, I personally felt an increase of the spirit. Although, I was wrestling with who I was and how I wanted to live; I prayed more, read my scriptures more, and felt the sweet peace of the Savior’s love for me in miracle after miracle. I admire the two percent who increased their activity and developed the ability to seek what they needed to connect and heal. Maybe, because I write, words mattered too much to me.
During the years I was putting my life back together, I develop compassion for people who struggle. I gradually got my feet back underneath me. I was not only running for sanity; I was running towards the Savior. I experienced the mightiest miracles during my darkest times.
While I was still inactive, I was blessed to have the rare opportunity to meet with an Apostle in my church, President James E. Faust. President Faust spent an hour asking me about my experience as a sister in the church during my trials. At the end of the meeting, he very gently asked me why I was inactive. I shared the things that had been said and transpired. He was straightforward and honest in his opinion. he was compassionate and caring.
He said the darndest thing. “Why aren’t you active?” Four little words said with love and compassion, a listening ear, and an honest response.
That was it. I went back.
People say the darndest things. Things like, “I love you,” or “I don’t care what you choose, I will be here for you.”
“The reality is, the depth of our relationships is correlated to the time in which we’re willing to spend together. It’s marked by our honesty and vulnerability with one another, by the things we have in common, and in our service to one another.” MultiplyGoodness.com
It was my privilege to be a guest on Valerie Loveless's podcast! Valerie is an author and a world changer. Learn ways to support survivors, tips for keeping teens safe, and why I love Oregon's services for survivors. Hear about Safe House, and my next novel with the same characters and setting, FINDING HOPE.
This year my church released, Come Follow Me, a new study guide or resource for learning the gospel. Each week, as I read and study, I have been struck by how much of the New Testament holds little gems of hope and healing for survivors. For example...Are there times in your life when you have felt the Savior clear the way on your behalf? Is there something keeping you from healing? Is there something you would like cleared out of the way? Have you asked for help?
By lifting others, we all rise. People are always more important than problems. Problems can bring us together, or tear us apart. In this case, being vulnerable and authentic, sharing my heart work has brought me closer to family, friends, and a whole new community.