“I am an Epic Failure as a mom.” I could hardly read the journal entry through the tears forming on my eyelids. I was still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that this was only a few years ago, and yet, the pain in my words tore at my heart.
I read on. “I try to be a part of my kids’ lives, but I’m hollow. I’m empty. I have nothing to give them.” I am normally an optimist, and I could hardly believe that these words were mine, and yet they were written in my own journal in my own handwriting.
My mind filled with thoughts of all that was taking place during my life at that time, and I recalled the emptiness, the brokenness, and fear that overwhelmed me. I was exhausted, worn out, and a shell, so how did I get from there to here? My mind wandered through the past few years.
I remember when we had once lost it all: our home, our jobs, our ministry, and our dreams. Our marriage was falling apart, and our children were having dramatic meltdowns nearly every day, so how did I get from there to where I am today?
I walked to the laundry room to throw another load of laundry into the washing machine, and I caught sight of my twelve-year-old daughter Emilia trying to teach my son Rice how to do a word problem in his math schoolwork. Just then, my four-year-old Logan ran into the room. “Mommy, I wanna help. I wanna help.” “Okay.” I smiled. “Go get your dirty clothes from your hamper.”
“O-KAY!” Excited about his new job, he rushed from the room with his little feet padding the floor in high speed.
I sat down on a bar stool, and really started to marinate in the fact of how precious my kiddos are and that I only get them for a few short years before they’re grown and move beyond Mommy and Daddy’s home. I smiled as I took in the fact of how blessed I truly am. Then the words of the journal entry rushed back to my mind. Lord, how did I get to that mindset of feeling like such a failure? My kids are great! They are a blessing, and I don’t deserve these sweet babies, but what changed?
Suddenly a peace came over me, and I could sense His still small voice, “YOU changed. You learned to praise me.”
I recalled that time when God spoke to me after losing everything. I was praying and begging God for help. Suddenly God said, “Misty, praise me.” I was angry at God. We had lost everything, and the one person that could do something about it was telling me to praise Him…in the middle of all of my loss, all my tragedy. Angry, I yelled, “Lord, if you want me to praise you, then you give me something to praise you for!”
I waited for some kind of portal to open up in the clouds and money to pour out. I kept thinking that I need to pay bills and my husband can’t find a job. I waited for furniture to arrive in a delivery truck, since we had had to leave all of ours behind overseas from when our missions term unexpectedly came to an end. I waited for the phone to ring to hear someone say that my husband had gotten a job, but instead NOTHING happened. Then I heard the Lord gently whisper, “Find something to praise me for.”
I was so angry that I convinced myself that the voice was not God because He knew I had NOTHING to praise Him for. That night, I stewed in bed. Like a fish flops about on the dry shore, I flopped about on my mattress that lied on the floor because we could not afford a bed. I could not sleep at all. My thoughts tormented me. I finally got up and walked outside and sat on the front porch of the run-down rental house. “Find something to praise you for? My husband doesn’t have a job. We have NO income. Christmas will be here in weeks. You want me to praise you? Then give my babies gifts because I don’t have a nickel to buy them anything. Then I’ll praise you.” I jumped up from the step and turned to head back in through the front door of the trailer house. A gentle wind hummed through my hair. “Find something to praise me for.”
Tears rushed to my eyes. I glanced around. I could see nothing but despair. Then my eyes caught sight of a brown leaf plucked by the wind from the tree branch and dance through the wind to the ground. I noticed how the leaf was not alone, but it landed on a pile of autumn leaves that were scattered on the ground. I mustered up all the strength within me to force the words from my mouth. “I thank you that when we fell, you kept us together as a family…it may not be great, but we’re still together.” I smudged the tears from my eyes. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. I found one thing to praise Him for, and then, daily, I began to make lists of things to praise Him for. The first few days, the list was on a post-it note, but as the days passed, the list became a little longer, and as the weeks, months, and years passed, I found that God gave me more and more to praise Him for. That day changed my life, the worst sleep of my life, the worst regrets, the most tears, but my greatest lesson learned.
As Logan returned, lugging his laundry hamper, we began to unload the hamper and fill the washer together, just then, I felt warm arms slide around my shoulders and a soft kiss on the back of my neck. “I love you.” My husband’s low voice whispered in my ear. Yes, I learned a great lesson that day, and my life has changed for the better.
So, what changed over the years to get me from Epic Fail to Loving Life? Well, I am reminded of a lesson that Paul taught us in the book of Philippians. For I have learned a secret. I have learned to find something to praise God for in every area of my life, whether I have very little or whether I have a lot. I have learned that there is ALWAYS something to praise God for, and when you praise Him, it resets your focus to be able to realize exactly how blessed you truly are. Just try it! You’ll find that God is faithful.
“I know how to get along with little and how to live when I have much. I have learned the secret of being happy at all times. If I am full of food and have all I need, I am happy. If I am hungry and need more, I am happy.”
Philippians 4:12 New Life Version (NLV)