I suppose my entire life’s message could be summed up in one word: “believe.”
I have come to understand it as my purpose here on earth and the key to all of life’s joys and enduring sorrows. So much does this word define me that I devoted an entire chapter of my book, “Breathing Underwater” — describing faith as the foundation of all my coping strategies for getting through difficult circumstances.
<img class=”alignleft size-medium wp-image-97984″ src=”https://riverheadlocal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/southoldlocal.com_images_2014_zz_sitegraphics_blog_badges_LOP_large-270×179.jpg” alt=”” width=”270″ height=”179″>While it seems so simple and almost magical, especially as the word “believe” is inscribed with flowing cursive across gold and red banners blowing in the wind, believing can take an enormous amount of concerted effort that is not easy for people who are inundated with troubles.
But I have found believing is a choice to persevere in the struggle and look beyond the dark clouds, searching for the silver lining and the starry night beyond.
As a woman who looks for signs of divine intervention. believing in God and finding purpose beyond the day-to-day has produced results which have surprised even me.
In the past year, I’ve been amazed at the convergence of signs that have caused me to believe even more that God loves me and has a plan for my life. This holiday season I am remembering God’s faithfulness through financial trials after my husband lost his career job in 2008. We went through a very tumultuous time.
Johanna continued to require many surgeries and our health insurance benefits were running out. Overwhelmed with medical and personal debt, we made the very hard decision to file bankruptcy as our home went into foreclosure. The day after Thanksgiving in 2010, the bank informed us that we didn’t fit the computer models for a loan modification of our existing mortgage and they would foreclose in early January.
At that same time, Johanna was diagnosed with a brain tumor which was unlike the other lesions in her brain. In scheduling this difficult brain surgery we had to consider the foreclosure and when was it better for her and us to face such a difficult transition — before or after this major brain surgery.
In the face of so much loss, I realized I had only had two options: be defeated by the enormity of the struggles or believe that God had a better plan.
I chose to believe. Choosing to believe meant I expected to see a way out of our struggle, or at least a path through the pain which would enable us to survive. Believing also meant posting and reading scriptures — even in the bathroom — increasing time in prayer, exercise and exhausting every possible means to advocate for our situation.
While my husband dealt with the bank, I wrote a story about our struggle that was covered locally and I even wrote a letter to Santa Claus. In one of the local papers, there was an ad from a local realty company which asked for letters to Santa as a part of a donation drive. I wrote a letter and expressed our plight. A loan officer contacted me but didn’t see a way that he could help. Finally, a lawyer who had reached out to us got my essay to a vice president of Wells Fargo, the bank who held our loan.
And at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve, just before we were headed out to Mass, two bank executives called my cell phone, to tell us that the bank would modify our loan to save our home from foreclosure. They specifically said they wanted to call with the news and to wish our family “a very Merry Christmas.”
It was truly like a scene from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” as my husband and I and our children cried and laughed our way with joy to Christmas Eve Mass, believing that God used some amazing people and circuitous ways to keep us in our home.
I kept reading the scriptures posted in my bathroom and continued to believe God was working in us as part of a greater plan. Five years into our modified mortgage and the stabilization of our personal economy, we knew it was time to consider a move to a smaller and more affordable home.
We looked around the North Fork and, as I shared in prior columns, it was a challenge to trust and believe that God had a home for us. We even sold and closed on our home, not certain that the closing of our new home would happen in a timely manner.
But there were signs along the way which helped us to believe.One of those signs was a tiny plastic statue.
At our wedding, my husband and I dedicated our family to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In the midst of all our housing adventures, I’ve asked St. Joseph to guide us to the right home.
<img class=”alignleft wp-image-112781 size-full” src=”https://riverheadlocal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/2017_1217_LOP_st_joseph.jpg” alt=”” width=”300″ height=”400″>Our new home is a “fixer-upper” which we are feverishly renovating so we can move in as soon as possible. On the kitchen window sill, a tiny plastic statue of Saint Joseph sits surveying the details of the renovation as we acknowledge this patron saint of carpenters and foster father of Jesus to be our true general contractor.
We didn’t put the statue there. He was there the first time we saw the house and appeared in the online real estate pictures of the kitchen. We didn’t notice it, though, until we realized that it was time to make an offer on that house. The statue was a reminder to believe.
The morning we finally closed on our new home, I read a portion of the scripture which hung in my bathroom since 2008 and now was tightly tucked into my journal. The paper is tattered and worn but the words still leap from the page and help me to believe.
“God spoke and roused a storm.
It tossed the waves on high.
We rose up to the heavens, sank to the depths.
Our hearts trembled at the dangers…
In our distress, we cried out to the Lord,
Who brought us out of our peril.
God hushed the storm to a murmur;
The waves of the sea were stilled.
We rejoiced that the sea grew calm. that
God brought us to the harbor we longed for.
Thank you, Lord, for such kindness and such wondrous deeds.
We give thanks to the Lord who is good, whose love endures forever.”
At the bottom of the tattered page, I had rewritten this one verse for emphasis and to help me believe that we would get through these intense trials with faith in God:
“The sea grew calm. God brought us to the harbor we longed for.”
Our new home is just a mile from the beach. Until the leaves fell, we didn’t realize that we have a winter water view. On a windy day we can hear the waves crashing on the shore. When I hear the waves and see the water, I remember this Psalm and verse and realize the Lord has truly brought through the storm to the safe harbor.
We had to work very hard to get here. But in order to see the signs and understand God had a plan of hope, we had to believe.