Monday, January 9, 2012

2011...A Year of Change...

I feel like I need to write some things down after pondering what it means this week to start a new year, and turn over a new leaf, a new chapter in our lives if you will.  I would be remiss if I didn't write down my feelings about this past year, and first and foremost make sure that if anything, my children can look back and remember this year for what it was, a year of change for our family, both good and bad.  The beginning of this year brought many challenges, trials, and frustration.  At the same time that the owners of the funeral home stopped paying us on an almost million dollar note that we carried back on the business, the store that we had started in the mall was failing miserably, and the lawyers were counseling Todd that it was just too risky at that point to get back into the funeral business.  We were left seemingly without options, and sometimes, for me, it seemed as if we were left without hope.  It was then that we knew that we were going to have to make some major changes if we were going to survive this trial.  Some of those changes, looking back, were not changes I was ready to make at the time, but were necessary nonetheless.

Most of the changes were made for financial reasons.  We had put so much money into the house, and trying to get out of debt, that we were left with very little savings, and no clue how long those savings would have to sustain our family.  That meant, that everything we owned outright, had to be on the table.  At first, I thought we could sell some little things, get by for a few months, and hopefully the lawsuit would come to a speedy and just end.  So, we sold the boat, a timeshare, and traded in my newer car, and Todd's new truck for two junky, but drive-able cars that would get us by, and give us some cash.  I will never forget trying to explain to the car dealer what we were trying to accomplish, and him looking at us like we must be stupid.  I got the better end of that deal, since with 6 kids, I still had to drive out of there in a used Suburban.  Todd, on the other hand, drove into that dealership with a year old gorgeous Toyota Tundra, and drove out of there with a 6 year old Chevy Cavalier with 50,000 miles on it.  For $5K, though, it was a smokin deal, and we knew it would be a great 3rd car to have someday for the girls to drive!

As the lawsuit dragged on, and our store closed, we were hoping that we would be able to at least get back some of what we lost on the store in our tax return.  But the way the taxes were structured, we could only receive a tax credit, and couldn't get any money back.  Not only that, but as the lawsuit was getting more involved, lawyer bills were totaling as much or more than our house payment each month.  It was then, that we knew that we were going to have to put the house up for sale.  I would be lying if I said that I was okay with that.  At first, I was very frustrated, and very angry that we were going to lose the house that we had put so much work, and so much money into.  I felt very embarrassed when I would talk to people about it.  Once the sign went up, I felt like hiding in a hole.  It was humiliating to me.  I was afraid of what people would think, what they would say about us, but I also knew that we had no choice.  Because of the down payment we had put on the house, we had equity in it, but because of the state of the economy, we knew we were never going to make back the money we had put into it.  It was heartbreaking also to have to tell my kids we were going to move again, after I had promised them we were staying in this house forever.  My teenagers threw that one in my face over and over, as if I was doing it just to torture them.  Again, we listed the house at such a low price that we thought it would sell quickly--but it didn't.  As I saw our savings dwindling during the last part of the summer down to nothing, I started to panic.  Throughout the year, we had always been able to do something to stay afloat, but it seemed we were at the end of our rope.  Then, again, a tender mercy.  The month our savings ran out, we got a full price offer on our home.

Again, the blessing was bitter-sweet.  We were relieved to be getting some money out of our home, but left again not knowing what we were supposed to do, or where we were supposed to go.  When I realized that there were very few options available in our ward, I was heartbroken.  I hoped to at least save the kids from another rough move.  I thought if we could find something in our ward, even to rent, it would make it easier on all of us.  Again, the Lord was aware of our family, and provided in our time of need.  My sweet friend Tonya talked to a neighbor who had just moved out of his house a month before in our neighborhood, and asked him if he would consider renting it to our family.  He agreed, and even said he would rent it for a reduced price, much lower than what we had been paying in our other home.  Even better, it was smaller, and the electric, gas, and utility bills would be much more manageable since we would again be living on our savings from the proceeds of the house until the lawsuit was cleared up, and Todd was able to work again.  The move was fairly easy, as far as moves go, and no one was left bloody or bruised this time (see that post HERE), and it was such a blessing to my family to be able to stay in the ward and have that consistency in our lives when we needed it most.

You can see the point that I'm trying to make here is, time after time, when I thought that things wouldn't work out, when I thought that there wasn't a way to fix things, when I thought I had lost HOPE, (my word of the year last year, remember THIS post), a loving Father in Heaven let me know that He was in charge.  Even though sometimes I fought against Him, even though sometimes I thought my way was better, even though I didn't understand, and sometimes was ungrateful and even selfish, He was there for me and for my family.  If there is anything I have learned this year, it is that He knows me, He knows my struggles, He knows my pain, and even though He doesn't always fix things, and He can't always make things go the way we want them to go, He will NOT leave us comfortless.  He will NOT leave us alone.  He will provide a way if we are trying to do what He wants us to do. There were times this year when I left Him, but never a time when He left me.  Each time I was ready to humble myself, each time I was ready to ask, He was there to answer, and oh how grateful I am for the tender mercies the Lord has shown my family this year.  In my trials I have realized that not only do I have a testimony of my Savior, not only do I believe in Him, but as I have suffered, I have truly come to know Him in a way that I never thought could be possible.  My pea-sized brain has a hard time comprehending HOW He knows me, how he knows my struggles, but he does.  Each time I have had doubts, each time I have questioned, each time I have agonized, whether in my heart, or even aloud, whether God cared, or whether he even knew our struggles, I have felt that quiet reassurance that indeed He was there.  He cannot save us from trials, they are a part of life, but He can carry us through them, and I have also come to believe that He suffers with us, just as we do when our own children hurt.

Lastly, one of the most powerful lessons I learned through this year was this:  weakness is NOT sin.  So many times, when I would question, when I would have doubts, when I was suffering, and I didn't understand why things were going so horribly wrong for our family, I would feel like God must be angry with me.  I would feel like I was being punished for having these doubts, for not being faithful in every moment, for not being as good, or as faithful as I should be.  In all actuality, those thoughts, those feelings of discouragement, and despair were coming from the adversary.  He is an expert at getting good people to feel bad about themselves, and if he can succeed at making a good person feel bad enough, he can make them give up all together, and it is then that hope is lost.  As I studied the scriptures, as I learned about trials, and tribulations, I realized this:  Many of the greatest men and women in the scriptures had moments in their lives when they had doubts, when they didn't think they could do what they were called on to do, when they didn't think they were good enough.  Many of them, in their tribulations cried out to Heavenly Father, and the Savior to help them, to comfort them, and to succor them in their time of weakness.  We are mortal.  We are going to have times in our lives where we are weak in our faith, where we doubt, where we question God's plan.  In the garden of Gethsemane, even Jesus himself cried out for His Father.  He needed comfort, He needed to know that He was there.  If your trials are such that you feel like giving up, you feel like they are too much to bear, hang in there, and cry out.  When I have done that, I have felt peace.  The trials were still there, but I have felt peace in my heart knowing that God would not leave me to face them on my own.  And this year, for me, that has made all the difference.

2012 will be another year of changes I'm sure for my family.  It's like the song that says "The only thing that stays the same is everything changes". Though Todd is finally back to work, the lawsuit is still ongoing, and who knows if there will be an outcome anytime soon, if at all.  I have learned that as much as I would like to, I cannot control everything that life brings.  I am slowly learning to let go, and let God.  I am slowly getting better at turning that control over to Him, and just trying to let the spirit guide me.  The nice thing about a new year, is we have a clean slate.  There are memories to be made, and stories to be told, and I just hope that I am around for another year to write them.  One thing is certain, our life will be usual, and I will be here to share it all.  Happy New Year!

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