By Rachael Carman, Keynote Speaker, 33rd Annual Convention
Some days are bad. Some weeks are bad. Some months. Some years. Life is hard. Sometimes it’s just one thing, while other times trouble seems to come at you from all directions. Sometimes everyone knows, and sometimes no one even suspects. There are times in life that can only be compared to a wilderness experience, a lion’s den, or a fiery furnace. These are situations that challenge, if not shake, the core of your belief system. They demand your attention, your emotions, and your energy.
I have faced occasions like this before, but this time it was different. This time I wasn’t single. This time I wasn’t childless. This time it wasn’t private.
To say that unemployment can be tough is a gross understatement. When Davis lost his engineering job in April 2006, we tried to look upon it as an opportunity, an adventure. We couldn’t have been more right.
We thought we would land on our feet in a matter of months, certainly within a year. We thought that we might have to move—but hey, we homeschool, so no problem!
We thought we had the situation under control. More accurately, we hoped that it would be short lived. Friends who had walked this path before told us of long, arduous journeys that exacted a high cost, and we prayed that our experience would be different.
Our adventure turned into an odyssey, without an end in sight, but with plenty of mirages that tricked us into believing our destination was near. We seemed to be collecting broken promises and meaningless deadlines. We were constantly encountering incompetence and inaccuracy, but our inexperience was unable to identify it as such, which cost us dearly in money and time and opportunities and emotion.
Now, the point is not to compare our difficulties with those of others—that would be meaningless. When it comes to tough times, no one benefits when we enter into a competition of “My story is worse than your story.” Instead, we need to encourage those who are presently walking through tough times.
As we started to realize that our situation was not going to quickly resolve itself as we had hoped, we had to start finding ways to deal with the “temporary insanity” of it all.
When things are tough you start thinking, This won’t last forever. It’s just for a period of time, right? But what do you do when the sand runs out of the hourglass? What about when your financial, emotional, intellectual, and physical resources are depleted? What about when the questions significantly outnumber the answers?
Here are five invaluable actions we did together as a family that made all the difference.
At the beginning of a tough time, it’s easier to just keep on keeping on, holding it together and maintaining a stiff upper lip with squared shoulders. But time wears on everyone’s resolve, and determination dissolves into numbness.
The emotions started to build up as the roller coaster ride continued without a break. Our situation was overwhelming on several fronts. As circumstances became increasingly difficult, with needs we were unable to meet, my emotions came out to play.
I tried to hold it all in for Davis’s sake, for the kids’ sake, but finally the dam broke. I had to cry, and it had to be okay. And you know what? It was. It was more than okay.
There were days when I was just a puddle from the time I woke up. And there were other days when a silly thing would bring on a flash flood of tears. At first I felt guilty about crying. But you know what? My kids were feeling it too, and my crying in front of them allowed them to cry and acknowledge the stress of it all.
We would all just have a good cry together and admit how lousy the situation was and how we were not in control, though we knew that God was. Our tears and the freedom to share them not only began to heal our hearts, but we bonded over them as well.
Too often as moms we try to fake-it-till-we-make-it, but no one is fooled. Our kids deserve a safe place to admit what they’re feeling, and we must give them permission to do so by expressing our own emotions.
I grew up in a house characterized by laughter, but for a long time I didn’t realize that my childhood experience was not typical of most homes. As an adult I am so grateful for the abundant heritage of laughter my parents gave me.
Consequently, the Carman house has been a house of laughter. I believe that laughter is so valuable that I serve it up many times a day. But somewhere in the midst of our trials, I no longer granted myself permission to laugh. The situation was too serious, the stakes too high, the investment too extreme.
But once I stopped laughing, so did everyone else. The kids stopped out of respect for me and the seriousness of our circumstances. Our house became something it had never been before—way too serious. Big mistake.
It seemed to me that nothing was funny anymore. Nothing. My mother saw the danger and suggested some funny movies, classics like Bugs Bunny—my favorite! We sat down with some videos, and I started by allowing myself a smile. Then a giggle and an occasional belly laugh, before I burst out in a take-your-breath-away, eyes-teared-up laugh.
Talk about a good investment! Just like seeing Mom cry gave my children permission to acknowledge their own stress, seeing Mom laugh gave them permission to live again, to enjoy the day-to-day again.
Live Life Together
Bottom line: We were all in this together. The great thing about homeschooling is that you do so much of life together. You do things together that other families rarely do.
You eat three meals together. You do your grocery shopping and meal preparation together. You clean house together. You do school together—including going to the principal’s office. You go on field trips together. You go on business trips together. You exercise together. You are sick together. You see each other at your best and at your worst. You celebrate and you grieve together.
And when the going gets tough, it shouldn’t change the “togetherness” aspect of your life.
During Davis’s unemployment, we did things together that we had never done before. We cut costs together. We shopped clearance racks together. We did without together. We watched God provide together. We anticipated His faithfulness together. And we celebrated His goodness together.
Davis showed wisdom as he led us into the unknown of unemployment. He led us boldly before the throne of grace and continued to have regular Bible studies with us. We started in James and ended up memorizing part of Colossians. This time in God’s Word became invaluable to joyful enduring and faithful perseverance through our trial.
Davis and I also read several books together, including Heaven by Randy Alcorn and Joseph by Chuck Swindoll. These served to help us sustain focus in an ever-more-blurry situation. These times of Bible reading, memorization, and reading grounded us together in the truth that we needed as the enemy assaulted us with fiery arrows.
The children and I continued to read together, too. It was important to imagine faraway places with heroes and heroines, mystery, and intrigue. We devoured several biographies and some classics. These served as an escape from the everyday stress of the unknown we were facing.
In John 8 we are told that the enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy. And I believe his number one target is the family. The devil will stop at nothing to divide families, as he knows they are the foundational building blocks for churches and communities.
During our journey through unemployment, the enemy worked overtime to wreak havoc in our family relationships. Immaturity ran rampant as our circumstances worsened and emotions fluxuated. The storm raged around us, and panic began to set in.
The answer to panic is fervent prayer. When we respond with prayer instead of doubt or entertaining notions of to jumping overboard, we can know that the Prince of Peace hears and answers. Sometimes He calms the storm, as the song goes, and sometimes He calms His child.
Praying together as a family through the ordeal of unemployment was both the greatest and sometimes hardest thing we did together. Prayer is humbling. It levels the playing field. It lays the soul bare and exposes vulerabilities.
Just when I thought I might hold it together for the day, we would kneel as a family to pray and the tears would start.
Please understand that I am not talking about doubting, questioning, or blaming God. I am talking about openly admitting that the situation is tough and stressful. Simply put, I am talking about taking the mask off and being real before our children and the Lord. My kids have known for a long time that I’m not perfect. During this time they got to see Mom desperate for God, and it was a good thing.
Stress has a way of paralyzing us. It can sometimes inhibit reasonable thought processes. But God, in His infinite wisdom, has equipped His children to perservere through tough times.
Remember, overwhelming situations often bring tears, but it’s okay to cry together. Find something to laugh about together. Enjoy and embrace your life together. Read a good book together, especially the Good Book. And don’t stop praying together.
God is on the throne, and He will see you through.
Rachael Carman. Article used with permission. You can find this and her many helpful articles and videos at www.RachaelCarman.com.
Rachael and her husband Davis, will be Keynote Speakers at the 33rd Annual CHEA Convention July 7-9, 2016 at the Pasadena Convention Center.
Her workshops are as follows:
Soaring Beyond Survival
What About That Child?
Teaching Your Children to BLESS
Excellent and timely for many, I’m sure.