We hadn't yet closed on land we were buying, and even so, didn't have a house on said land, and we had to vacate our apartment, and we didn't have the money to rent another apartment because my husband was between jobs. So there we were, a family of six, moving to a new town, no cash, no house.
What we did have was popup trailer. So, we pulled into a campground and put our pennies together and rented a spot for a week.
I remember laying in my sleeping bag one night, watching our canvass walls ripple under the wrath of a summer storm, praying the contraption didn't fall down around me and my sleeping children (some on the other pull out bed, one on the sofa that we turned into a table during the daytime) thinking, how did it come to this? I thought I was better prepared. I had savings, and besides, we'd been serving the Lord as missionaries. Didn't life come with some sort of guarantees?
Not the kind I was hoping for, apparently. Because life is like that - one moment you're moving forward, the next, life hiccups and you find yourself in a place you never dreamed you'd be. I remember feeling hollow, as if any moment I might break in half, that we might just disappear.
These brittle feelings of the fragility of life returned to me over the past two months as I read the replies of my "Live Happily" contest. I was really struck by the commonality we share - many people wrote of wanting to grow old with their husbands, or get out of debt, or having children grow up to love the Lord. There were even heart-wrenching ones about seeing loved ones who'd passed away, or wanting to right old wrongs. Here I thought this was a sort of fun question to ask, but God used it to cause me to dive deeper, and explore the truths behind the questions, behind the answers.
Can I be happy when I'm homeless? When my husband has lost his job? When my children are sick, my body fails, when I can't pay my bills, when I'm overwhelmed? When someone I love dies?
And what if I get my dream come true? Why, even when things are good, do I sometimes feel unhappy?
Ironically (or probably, providentially), I just finished writing a book entitled "Finding Stefanie" (book 3 in my Noble Legacy series) that explores the topic of contentment, and a woman who finds herself in the middle of a life she didn't expect, or sometimes doesn't want. The verse from Philippians 4:13 wove often through my thoughts - "I have learned the secret of being content, whatever the circumstances -- I can do everything through him that gives me strength." It's a verse that focuses NOT on circumstances, but on the revelation of God in ALL situations in my life. And it strikes at the heart of the contentment, the happiness problem.
Max Lucado writes: "Contentment is a difficult virtue. Why? Because there is nothing on earth that can satisfy one's deepest longing. We long to see God. The leaves of life are rustling with the rumor that we will - and we won't be satisfied until we do." (from: When God Whispers Your Name).
Ah ha! I think I get what Paul is talking about - contentment isn't about my surroundings, it's about how God uses those surroundings to reveal Himself, through my joys and my needs.
Maybe then, it is possible to Live Happily. Because in my heart, I believe God wants to be seen by us. Wants to rescue us.
Wants us to see our longing fulfilled.
Thank you for sharing your struggles and dreams with me - I believe God used them to again, help me grow deeper in Him. And I pray that as you walk through the trials and joys of your life, you see God meeting your deepest needs.
Thank you for all your letters these past couple months - I've been swamped with finishing homeschool (Yay! I've now passed 4th and 6th grades!) and a couple books. I'm slowly getting caught up on mail, so if you've written to me in the past couple months (thank you!) hopefully you'll hear back soon!
And, as always, thank you so much for reading my books and letting my stories into your lives. Your support is deeply appreciated!
In His Grace,
Susan May Warren