Our wedding party was chosen, the invitations mailed, and the menu set—after months of planning, it was show time! The “happily ever after” I’d always dreamed of was days away. The only thing in our way? A wedding crasher named “Hurricane Hanna,” scheduled to hit Virginia Beach on our big day.
Determined not to let a little (or big) storm deter us, we made adjustments and went with the flow. When a hurricane threatens your wedding, you quickly realize that all the planning and carefully selected floral arrangements really don’t matter. I was past caring about the wedding; I just wanted to marry my best friend and start our life.
In honor of this new skin on the old blog, I’m throwing an open house. For the month of July and into the first days of August I am going to introduce you to some others in my life who have their real stories of how He has used the seemingly “bitter” to create new space for Him (and sandwiched in between I’ll have some of my own writing). Though I could write a whole post about each one of them, I’ll let their stories speak for themselves.
Today, I introduce you to Elizabeth Williams. There are few people we have the privilege of both knowing and being known by across many seasons of our lives. Elizabeth is one of those. I met her when she was a first-year in college and I was only newly married. Six children later between the two of us (and one for her on the way!) and I’ve watched her only grow in hunger for the Lord. This girl has depth. And she’s seen me fumble quite a bit and still sticks around. As you might imagine, that just makes me like her even more…
Image courtesy of Patricia Lyons
On the wedding day, when the ceremony began, Hurricane Hanna was in full swing. However, as the doors of the church opened and we walked out as husband and wife, to everyone’s surprise, the sun came powerfully pouring in, its vibrant rays filling the sanctuary. The storm had passed and the sun had arrived—time to party!
Though uninvited, Hurricane Hanna proved to be a valuable addition. This may come as a shocker, but being married doesn’t mean that your life will be perfect and all your plans will fall into place. Just like Jesus said, “In this world, we will have trouble.” The storms will come. God used Hanna to show us that when the storms are raging and the sun is nowhere to be found, we can’t give up hope that God is with us. He can and will quiet the storm and lead us out. The sun will shine again.
A valuable lesson, but one we were not prepared to apply to our new family so soon…
Image courtesy of Patricia Lyons
While on our honeymoon, before we could even settle into our new apartment and unpack our wedding gifts, we learned of another storm brewing back home: Lehman Brothers collapsed. I’ll be honest with you, I still can’t fully understand the impact of that, or what it truly meant at the time, but my business-minded, investment savvy husband knew it was not good. Soon after we came home, my husband learned that most of his company’s biggest clients had pulled back their business and his division was in trouble. To preserve his job, he transferred to a larger division within the company, which kept him employed, but was far from perfect.
I watched as my new husband, full of life, ambition, and innovation, was whittled down to a “9 to 5er,” stuck in a rut, living for the weekends, and trying to get by in a job that didn’t suit him. That, combined with the loss of my job, resulting from a partisan swing in Washington, landed us stuck, looking for new opportunities and a way out. So much for the “honeymoon period” everyone raves about!
Early in our marriage, we came together and prayed and pleaded for God to open new doors for our little family. What followed was a season of being led to the threshold of several promising doors and new opportunities, only to watch as each door slammed tightly shut. When the first door closed, we were disappointed, but not defeated, but by the time the fourth and fifth doors closed, we felt discouraged and emotionally drained. Was God even listening to us?
We were stuck in a pit with no way out. Those of you who’ve been there know that when you’re buried deep in the pit, it can seem impossible to trust God and believe that He will rescue you.
A year into “the pit,” I sat down with a treasured friend and mentor who asked me all of the right questions and finally said, “It sounds like God is taking you lower in order to take you higher. Be grateful for the pit. Some couples don’t go through the pit until they’re 40 and then they don’t know how to walk through it, because they’ve never weathered any storms together. Embrace this season and hold onto the Truth that sometimes God takes you lower so that when He takes you higher, you know that it was God, and God alone, who brought you to where you are.”
That night, listening to the insights of a friend I so deeply respected, changed things for me. I left grateful and encouraged for a perspective that gave me an increased desire to cling tightly to God and call out to Him from the bottom of the pit. While the doors remained shut, we began to embrace our season in the pit. It became an opportunity to wait, pray, and allow God to sharpen and refine us until He was ready to pull us up. Don’t get me wrong, there were still plenty of tears and questions as we trudged along, but our eyes were opened to see that God can use the pit to mature and prepare us for what’s next, taking us lower before He takes us higher.
Once we received God’s open door, we thought we were FINALLY out of the pit, enjoying our stint on level ground. In our minds, we had made it! You can imagine our shock and displeasure, when just a few months later, we tumbled to the bottom of the pit once again…ugh! We didn’t expect to be back so soon, but with each set back, disappointment, unanswered question, and closed door that came our way, we discovered we were a little more prepared. Less tears and more prayer. Less anxiety and more patience. Less fear and more reliance on God’s Truth.
We no longer resent the pit. The pit is where we are stretched, sharpened, and able to encounter God in the sweetest of ways. In six years of marriage, we have seen God lift us out of the pit multiple times. Each time, we resurface strengthened and beyond grateful for a God who promises to hear our cries, lift us up, and set our feet on solid ground.
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
Psalm 40:1-3 (NIV)
Image courtesy of Patricia Lyons
Elizabeth is a lover of strong coffee, power walking, and pretty much anything with bows.
She writes over at www.elizabethrobertsonwilliams.com about faith, life, and a touch of the unexpected—you know, the really important things like online sales, Princess Kate, and must-have cosmetics.
She lives in Virginia Beach with her husband Bernie and her one-year-old son Bear.