I recently returned from a trip to visit family out west. I woke up and God had placed the overwhelming need to go. I was convinced he wanted me to visit my mother’s small hometown to visit my grandmother whom I hadn’t seen in years. I assumed it was to spend time with her before her health declined. After only a few days I realized God had something much deeper in store for me.
As we loaded up the car- My mother, daughter, nephew, and I- I was so sure that I knew what God was calling me for… big mistake. Never assume that you know what God is doing. He will always surprise you. Sometimes it will be joyous, sometimes it will hurt, but it will always be for part of His plan. We Began our 28 hour drive with the intention of making the most out of the 10 days we planned to be gone. This meant deciding on the sacrifice that my mother and I would trade off driving shifts to avoid stopping for the night, thus saving time and money.
I attempted to look up Wesleyan churches in the area so that I could attend church while I was away. I found that not only is the closest (and only two in the state) is 3 and a half hours away from our destination. The more research I did, the more I discovered the vast distance between churches in this region. Few and far between is an understatement. As I looked at the map on my screen, God gave me the words “blank canvas”. That was the first spark in the beginning of a journey soon to come… more on that in the future…
Twenty-eight hours later we arrived at my grandmother’s around 10:00 pm local time. She was very excited to see us, and stayed up talking for a long time before we went to bed. The next morning we had breakfast, prepared for a day of errands with her had lunch, and caught up. It was wonderful. Then came the third day…
After running some more errands and a day planned out of full tasks, things began to change. It had began to rain and we decided to take the kids to the indoor pool the town has. When we returned, she was a different person; yelling and angry. I was confused. I had no idea what changed. The next day it was twice as bad; yelling, screaming, throwing things, accusing us of things we hadn’t and scaring the children. She kicked us out and we didn’t even understand what we did. We were all in tears, we packed the car and were ready to begin the trip home after only a few days. I’m almost sure that my bipolar disorder does run in the family now. I saw two completely different people that day and the image I had of who my grandmother was shattered.
My aunt told us not to leave town yet. She opened her home and her heart to us. Her children, my cousins, did the same. In that moment I realized that at 28 years old… I didn’t even know my aunts and cousins. So much of my family were essentially familiar strangers to me. I retreated into the car to pray alone and spend time with the Father. I knew there was a purpose for this pain but at the moment I couldn’t understand what that purpose was. My sister called and we talked for a while. Granted, we have had a trying relationship at times but when it came down to it, she was there for support when I needed her. That is family. My sister helped me to realize that God was using this one broken relationship to deepen six other relationships for me and other family members. She also helped me to see that God was, in a way, showing me something to remember if I ever think I should come off of my mental health medication again.
My aunt was a life saver and a trip saver. She embraced us and refused to let that bad situation be all we remembered of our trip. We saw so many sights, had so many experiences, and didn’t want to leave when the time came. Sundays sermon was broadcasted on live stream from my church back home and I made a point to watch it. The message that was shared was so on point that I rewound it and made sure to have my family gather around the phone to listen to it. The spirit is alive and moving. He spoke to each one of us in that sermon.
All in all, throughout the trip, God deepened relationships. He showed me my next calling and told me to wait and prepare. He spoke to my family members. He gave me a deeper understanding of my family as a whole. He gave me a deeper understanding of my mother and her upbringing, even of my grandmother and her brief upbringing. Sometimes pain brings understanding, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still hurt. We can understand how someone became who they are and forgive them without excusing wrong behavior. It is a hard thing to do though. My grandmother and I haven’t spoken so far since that day but I pray for her mental and spiritual healing. I do believe that God has started a healing in my family and the future holds so many big things that have yet to come.
Thank you, Lord. Thank you for the hard lessons and the hard times as well as the good.
“Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.” Proverbs 3:7-8
“If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” James 1:26-27