November 22, 2015

Part One: Pray, Hope, and Don't Worry

It was a mundane summer morning late in June. Michael had been gone for work for 10 days. The kids had become more restless, more upset, more discontent. I was frazzled, at my wits end with everyone. It was the usual cycle, all over again.

That morning, Chloe had gotten in trouble for something; I don't remember what. I'd put her in her room for time out. But, as usual, she followed me into my bedroom, screaming and crying.

"I just miss Daddy!"

My ears were deaf. I'd heard this line of reasoning too many times to count.

"I only did _____, because I miss Daddy!"

I'm sure, to some degree, it was true. I knew that they really did miss Michael. But, this had become *the* excuse in our house for every naughty thing they did. I never knew how to react, whether to validate or ignore their obvious anger that Daddy left for long periods of time. There was nothing I could do about it, that was his job. Validating them only made their behavior worse. Ignoring them made them feel like I didn't care about their feelings. A lose-lose situation.

So, instead of doing nothing, I yelled right back at her.

"You know what Chloe, if you miss him so much, you better start praying he finds a new job!"

And she got down on her knees right there in front of my crucifix, and started sobbing out a prayer. I don't remember what she said because I had tuned her out. That was all I could do in that moment.

This was not the peace I asked for seven months earlier.

It was Christmas time, presents spilled out from underneath our tree. Soft white lights lit up the front of our home, reflecting off the piles of snow, giving it a warm, welcoming glow. It should have been a joyous season.

But, inside I was falling apart. I was angry with Michael's job because it required so much travel.  I was exhausted from managing our family while he was gone. I felt desperate and hopeless, like I was failing our three kids because I had absolutely nothing left to give to them. Nothing.

I was out of ideas for fun things to do with them. I was in survival mode on discipline; meaning, it was rarely effective. The kids were running me over day in and day out.

Around this time in December, a few friends said they were going to pray to Mary Undoer of Knots for varying reasons. I thought to myself "Sure! What the heck, I'll do it." I begged Mary to undo this knot, to either give me peace, or give him a new job because I honestly did not know how I was going to survive.

Within a week of praying that novena, I felt a sense of peace and my strength renewed. I accepted our life as it was more deeply than I had before. I wasn't fighting it. I focused on doing it, doing our life, to the best of my ability.

Then, the New Year came, along with a lot of instability in the oil market. By the middle of the first quarter, Michael's company had already laid off many people in his same position, and issued sweeping changes in how they did business to save money. It was nerve-wracking.

Michael started applying for other jobs around where we live. Months went by and he received hundreds of rejections. It broke my heart. He is so smart, and works so hard to provide for us. I could tell that his ego was taking a beating, and he was starting to get really worried. More people had been laid off from his company. More changes were being implemented. And we were helpless, stuck in a mortgage that was more than we could afford without his income from the oil fields.

He had a few phone interviews in April and May. But, I never felt like those jobs were a good fit for him. He didn't understand why I was hesitant. They were jobs, he'd be home more, we would be able to pay our bills (barely). I told him repeatedly, “I'm praying for perfect.” And I was praying, desperately, that God would hear me, hear us; that He would give us a way to make all of these pieces fit.

So, we carried on. Days melting into weeks, and months. Michael came home from his shift on July 2nd, just a few days after Chloe's heartfelt prayer. It had already been a long, trying day. The kids awoke at 4:30 in the morning. Chloe had escaped from our house and walked to the neighbor’s at 6:30 in the morning. I was full of anxiety and trying to figure out how I could keep them all safe when he left again. I made up my mind that we would install security key locks high on all the doors since she could now open deadbolts.

When he finally got home in the early afternoon, I was completely spent. I started telling him about the day, and my fears about how I was going to keep the kids all safe when he went back to work.

He listened to me cry, but I could tell something was off. When I finally got it all out, he sat down next to me. He said he was really sorry it had been such a horrible day. He understood my fears, and said "But I'll be here now, since they've given me no choice."

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