Pray for waders, and maybe a boat.
Seriously though, sometimes life can really suck. For instance, the past year of my life has been full of the most rewarding and simultaneously difficult moments of my life.
God gave me a boyfriend who has helped me find my light again, despite the fact that I seemed determined to drown it in despair. God also gave me my boyfriend’s teenage daughter.
I’m sure there are some step-parents out there, but for those of you that haven’t had the pleasure, suddenly becoming a maternal figure for a 15 year old girl (who also happens to be much taller than me) can feel a lot like diving into a rushing river before realizing you don’t know how to swim.
For the sake of privacy, I’ll refer to her as “Miss M”. She’s beautiful, funny, smart and a complete mystery to me. As the product of a broken home and a lifetime of conflicting disciplinary tactics, Miss M manages to combine the inherent attitude of a hormonal teenager with the self-righteous enthusiasm of someone who feels they’ve suffered more at the hands of the “cruel universe” than anyone else alive.
Before I go further, let me add that I’ve grown to love this young lady unconditionally. I feel a little weird admitting some of the less-than-friendly feelings I’ve experienced, but my hope is that someone living through a similar situation will see that there is land on the other side of that river.
This past fall, she moved in with her father when her mother moved to another county. I expected there to be challenges, but I was woefully unprepared for what followed. Between the slipping grades, the boy drama and never-ending power struggles between parent and child, the tension in the house was palpable, and the slightest off-hand remark could turn the kitchen table into a war zone. I have a natural aversion to conflict – a physical reaction that usually leaves me feeling shaky and ill – so these encounters often left me questioning my decision to be involved at all.
Outside of the war zone, I was dealing with ongoing unemployment and the unhappy legal proceedings associated with a divorce. I was an adult living with my parents after a decade of living on my own. At every turn it seemed that I was faced with yet another challenge: the economy was terrible, my depression was deepening, my car was falling apart, and guess what…the cat barfed on the carpet.
So I prayed. So much of my life felt outside of my control that it felt like prayer was the only step I could take. I’d tuck myself under the covers at night and repeat the Lord’s Prayer over and over and over. I didn’t pray for God to fix things; I prayed for God to give me the strength to see His will. The rains were falling, and the creek was rising, and I really needed Him to teach me to swim.
And He did.
He showed me sides of myself I didn’t know I had – I found the strength to be one of the few people Miss M trusts completely. He gave me the courage to assert myself during confrontations in order to return peace to dinnertime. He blessed me with a big sister that listened to hours of whining on the phone to patiently remind me that God had a plan for me, and that He never gives us more than we can handle.
The waters still rise, and occasionally the floods return, but when they do, I stop and I pray until the rain is done.