Navigating Mountains and Valleys in Life

Mountains and valleys

© Barbara V. Evers, All rights reserved.

If you’ve been following my story, then you’ve met me in my teen years and walked with me through teen pregnancy, teen marriage, domestic violence, divorce, single parenting and all of the trials and blessings that came from those experiences.

These events occurred so many years ago that it doesn’t even feel like my story anymore. It’s my distant past, not my present or future. Not to say I haven’t had my share of trials and hardships since. There have been mountain and valley experiences, but a strong faith in God helped me navigate the valleys.

Faith can help you turn mountains into mole hills Click to Tweet. In other words, I went through the fire and became stronger and more able to withstand what the world threw at me.

See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
    I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
Isaiah 4:10

What Were My Afflictions?

Disappearing Children

My ex disappeared with the children after an altercation where his own father called the police and reported him abusing our daughter. Luckily, he returned with the kids on Sunday, but we spent the entire weekend worrying about their safety and whether they would return. As horrible as this event was, it gave us the fuel to fight his visitation rights.

A Legal System with Issues

The investigator who arrested my ex on charges of criminal domestic violence asked the judge to cancel his visitation until the hearing. The judge agreed, but by the time my ex appeared before a judge, a different one presided over the hearing where he was charged.  That judge refused to order him to stop visitation until the court date.  Still, the investigator took him aside and advised him not to see the children.

A No-Win Decision

Did he listen to the investigator?  Of course not. While we waited for our case to go to court, I found myself weighing the options of what might happen if I refused him his visitation weekends.  To the average person, the answer was obvious—don’t let them go—but it wasn’t that simple. My attorney advised me that if I allowed him his visitation, I could be cited for negligence by the courts and possibly lose custody.  If I denied him visitation, I could be charged with contempt of court, arrested, put in jail for disobeying a court order, and lose my children.

Defensive Tactics

So I faced a catch-22 decision. No one should have to make that decision, but I did. I denied him his visitation. Each time his weekend rolled around, he attempted to get the children. To prevent the school from having to deal with his requests to pick them up (something they legally couldn’t deny him), I began picking them up from school early on those days.

He caught on and tried sending his current wife to the school even earlier. For some reason, I anticipated his move and got there right before she did.

My Daughter as Witness

The day of the hearing, our oldest daughter testified against her father.  The guardian ad litem stood between her and her father, so he couldn’t intimidate her by staring at her.  Her attorney did not give her the same understanding.  She was twelve years old.  The hearing left all of us drained, but he lost his visitation rights.

Employment Ups and Downs

During the months between the altercation and hearing, I lost my job. I found another one quickly, but that employer didn’t want to give me the whole day off for the hearing. She couldn’t believe the hearing would last more than an hour.  It lasted all day and almost went into a second day. My job involved speaking to businesses, organizations, and churches about protecting yourself from a crime. Here I was dealing with a very personal crime against my children, and she booked me to speak to a group that night. I made it, while my children went home with my mother and my father went with me. It wasn’t right, but that’s the hand dealt to me that day.

Refined Silver (Blessings)

Not everything during that period was bad.

  • My oldest daughter got a part in a huge production of The Nutcracker. The dance troupe she performed with was the best one in the upstate, so this was a huge honor.
  • My second daughter did NOT have to testify against her father.  I’m glad, but she was upset about it.  She wanted to participate, too.
  • I bought a house!
  • I started dating a wonderful man whom I later married. With him, I gained three more children to my family.
  • My experiences all added to my ability to reach people with my crime prevention messages and later created the opportunity for me to work with single mothers through a welfare-to-work training program.
  • My children and I grew very close to my parents.
  • In all that happened, the church stood by us and cared for us.

In each life, we will have mountains and valleys. Although we don’t love the valleys, we aren’t meant to live on a mountaintop Click to Tweet where the view is amazing, but it’s cold and windy, and offers no life-giving resources like water. We must move off the mountain and experience the valleys. Life can be good on the downhill and uphill trek if we rely on God to guide us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stressed or Blessed? Which Are You?

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What if a long, lost relative came to you today and told you that he would deposit $86,400 in your bank account at midnight? That sounds pretty exciting, doesn’t it?

But there is a catch.  You must spend the entire $86,400 within a twenty-four hour period.  Any money not spent will be taken back.  Oh, and one last point, you can NOT invest it.  You must spend all of it.

So, how would you spend it?

We’re asked this question each and every day.  There are 86,400 seconds in a day.  If we don’t use them wisely, they’re still gone.  We can’t invest them.  We can’t grow time.

 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.  Mark 3:20

Jesus faced this problem every day of his ministry.  How many passages show the crowds finding him, no matter where he went?  He finds time to slip away and pray, but Jesus never turns the people away. Passover is coming and with it, his time as a man on this earth is over.

If you’re like me, you find yourself running and never quite getting it all done.  We have overflowing schedules.  We’re out of breath, eating in our car, not sleeping enough, forgetting things, and feeling a bit haggard.

The thing is, no matter how much we try, we can’t create more time.  We must plan to use it well.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace. 
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

How are you using our time?  Do your activities fit into these familiar verses or are you running around never quite getting anywhere?

How would you have spent $86,400?

Did you use it to the glory of God or to your own comfort?  Did you use it for something that will allow you to spend your time wisely or foolishly?  It’s fun to dream about what we might do with so much money, but we have that much given to us free of charge every single day. Maybe it’s time to sit back and look at our overflowing schedules and ask how Jesus would have spent the time if he were in our shoes.

NOTE:  I wrote this post a few months ago for our church women’s retreat.  This week, these words resonate with me, though, because I’m trying to get back on track after a few weeks of family “relaxation.” I know when I feel rushed, everyone around me begins to feel my stress. It’s not pretty, so this is as much for me as it is for you.

How are you doing with your 86,400 seconds?

Seeing God’s Hand In Your Life

© Barbara V. Evers, All rights reserved.

© Barbara V. Evers, All rights reserved.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Matthew 6:26

I’ve got to admit, I’m not one of those people who sits around worrying. I’m more of a jump in and get it done kind of girl.  This, partly, comes from the proof I’ve seen of this passage in Matthew.  I’ve been through a lot on my journey to faith.  I’ve seen days where I scrounged for change just to buy a little food and days when I wondered if my life could get any worse, but I can look back and see God’s hand in all of it.

Last month, we traveled to Emerald Isle, NC for a week at the beach.  This was our first time on the Outer Banks.  For those of you unfamiliar with the area, the Outer Banks are the barrier islands along the coast of North Carolina.  Emerald Isle is on the southern part of the Outer Banks, nowhere near the more famous sites of Nags Head or Kill Devil Hills.  While there, we took the Harkers Island Ferry over to Cape Lookout to climb to the top of the lighthouse, an experience well worth the visit.  But what has stayed with me after that trip is the lives of the Shackleford horses.

Shackleford Banks is the southernmost island on the Cape Lookout National Seashore.  Wild horses live and thrive there and have for hundreds of years.  Descended from horses brought over by Spanish Conquistadors, these horses have survived in the wild on a very sparse island off the coast of North Carolina.  The water table is high in the Outer Banks, so the horses have to dig deep to find fresh water.  Somehow, in the unlikeliest of places, these horses have lived and survived for hundreds of years.  It’s hot.  There is little shelter, yet they live.  Why?  Because God provides for all of His creatures.

The horses do not complain about their lot in life.  They don’t worry about their livelihood.

If they live and thrive in those conditions, then what conditions can we survive because God is with us?

Anything!

© Barbara V. Evers, All rights reserved.

© Barbara V. Evers, All rights reserved.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39

God loves us and provides for us.  We might not always appreciate what we receive, but we can’t deny His presence in our gifts and blessings, especially when we look back at what He has done in our lives.

There are horses in this picture. I promise! © Barbara V. Evers, All rights reserved.

There are horses in this picture. I promise!
© Barbara V. Evers, All rights reserved.

Have you ever looked back and recognized His hand in something difficult you went through?  What was it?