Today is a Praise Day. I have those randomly. Un-expectantly. In every other way, today was ordinary. I put in eight hours at work, dealt with all the usual frustrations of a busy weekday. It seemed like a repeat of many others. But it wasn’t. It was special. Let me explain.
I was looking for some old pictures of my kids this morning. Digging through snapshots of memories. And they weren’t all good. Isn’t is funny how a photo can take you back in time. Make you again feel a forgotten moment. That’s where the snapshots took me this morning. Back to a time when every day was a mountain to climb. Mountains of bills. Mountains of broken dreams. Mountains of heartbreak. Thinking back to my days as a single mom.
I remember plainly what it felt like to be alone. Really alone. Alone in every way. Alone with a house to clean, alone with a yard to mow, alone with kids to bathe, supper to cook. Alone with laundry for three busy kids. Alone with all the adult responsibilities, both large and small. Waking alone and falling asleep alone.
I remember sitting in my church pew alone. Nothing is more alone than that.
There were days that I didn’t want to climb out of bed in the mornings. Days I didn’t want to work two jobs. Times I didn’t think I could keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Days the mountains looked too big. I didn’t want to climb anymore. I wanted to give up.
My pastor said last Sunday that ministry is done in the valley. He is so right. The valley is where we are broken. The valley is where the mountains look the highest. The valley is lonely. I never needed Jesus and His people more than those days I spent in my deepest valley.
The valley is dark and scary. It’s Satan’s playground. His favorite illusion is to convince us that the sun is forever hidden and the peaks are far too high. He uses earthly heartbreaks. He uses money problems and family issues. He uses divorce and death. He uses empty church pews and late night tears. He has so many weapons in his arsenal. The grief feels overwhelming. The loneliness feels like a wet blanket thrown over our faces. It makes us struggle for each breath.
I know. I remember.
Years have passed since I climbed out of my valley. And I didn’t do it alone. God climbed beside me. It took time for me to realize that. Time for me to understand how close He was the whole time. I couldn’t see him in the darkness. I could only call out to Him and stumble forward. Crying until I was blinded.
I was blind but now I see. And He was with me. Every minute in the valley.
Time has a funny way of smoothing things over, fading the worst of the memories. Blurring the edges of the most painful times. Hurt eases a little and tiny steps are taken. Tiny accomplishments celebrated. Hours turn into days and days turn into weeks, then months and finally years pass. We make it somehow. We breath in and out. We put one foot in front of the other. And all the time we are climbing higher and don’t even realize it.
Finally one day I stood in the sunshine. I was still a single mom. I still had bills and laundry. I still went to bed alone at night. But God and I had climbed my mountain, together. Other mountains of mine He has simply moved out of the way. Many times. One tiny shovelful at a time. While I stumbled around lost, praying and crying.
“My God- He can move the mountains...” That line is in a praise song we sing. I love it. It brings tears every single time. It’s so true. He formed the mountains. But He formed the valleys too. To teach us faith. And praise. He has reasons for forming both places.
Every one of us faces mountains. Scary, dark, steep and smothering. The valley seems too deep. The burden seems too much. Our issues seem too big. We stumble and cry, searching for His arms to hold us.
And always, unfailingly, He does. He is there. Right where we need Him the most.
Today is a Praise Day for me. Full of memories of the valley that He and I climbed out of together. Full of recognition that He will always either climb beside me or move my mountains. I am so thankful that I have never really had to face my deepest pain alone. I am so thankful that Satan’s weapons are not stronger than my Saviors love. The mountains aren’t too high.
I am having a Praise Day today. Just because I remember.