Upstairs, on the right. It’s the apartment where I lived as a teen.
Years ago, it didn’t look quite this rundown, but it sure wasn’t a place anyone with better options would choose to live. Divorce had crushed our family. It brought us to this town, miles from our friends. We didn’t know anyone when we arrived.
My husband and I stopped here last weekend during a trip to the area. We were celebrating our fortieth wedding anniversary. We talked about the times he had driven one hundred miles to visit me here. We remembered happy days. He snapped a picture of the high school I attended. We reminisced about our first dates.
Yet, even in the midst of our delightful time together, I wrestled with the memories. The impact of those lonely teen years hit me all over again. Grief overwhelmed. Wracked me with sobs. Squeezed my heart into a knot. I felt the darkness, the despair. Looking back, I realized I didn’t even know a better way at the time. The path was so familiar; it was all I knew.
And, yet . . . as I remembered . . . gratefulness filled my senses. A refrain paraded through my mind. Lord, You have brought me a mighty long way. My Heavenly Father watched over our family—even before my mother found the apartment.
With loving arms, the Lord guided us to dear members of the tiny United Pentecostal Church in town. They took us in, sheltered, and fed us. They made room in their lives, and their homes, for a single mom with four daughters. Their kindness, love, concern, and gifts of charity will never be forgotten.
God placed other people to help us—elderly neighbors, with tender hearts. They talked with us. They shared with us. They helped us in our difficult journey. And, on and on, throughout my life, the Lord has guided me to classes, people, teachers, pastors, books, and resources. Each step led me to a higher path, emotional healing, and healthy family relationships. God always places lilies in the valley. He always provides a better way.
This is the reason I write for children. This motivates me to teach preteens. This brings about hours of research. This is why I create and edit Sunday school curriculum. Children in difficulty grip my heart. I feel their pain. I understand their numb confusion. However, I also know what God can do.
An old song expresses my life story.
“I’ll tell of the pit with its gloom and despair. I’ll praise the dear Father who answered my prayer. I’ll sing of salvation at home and abroad ‘til many shall hear the truth and trust in God. He brought me out of the miry clay. He set my feet on the Rock to stay. He puts a song in my heart today—a song of praise, hallelujah.”