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  • Writer's pictureStephanie

Loss in the Locust Year

You may fear that the Lord has passed you by, but it is not so: he who counts the stars, and calls them by their names, is in no danger of forgetting his own children. He knows your case as thoroughly as if you were the only creature he ever made, or the only saint he ever loved.

Approach him and be at peace.

C. H. Spurgeon.

This is a hard story to write.

I've tried half a dozen times to get it on paper, and I've failed.

Probably that's because this is a story of loss. My own.

And who wants to write about that?

a boy on a hospital bed and a mom sitting in a hospital chair looking at the camera
sitting in a hospital room. again.

It has been a hard year - the hardest year I've lived out of all 42 of them.

I remember other hard ones - years when I struggled with health through pregnancies with toddler boys around my ankles, trying to keep the home and juggle nursing college too. I remember the year my 4th child in 5 years was born with major medical needs. That was hard. Then there was the year we'd really outgrown our small 2 bedroom house (we had 6 boys by then), but couldn't seem to sell it. Those years earned me some grey hair.

But the past 12 months have really shaken me.

My son faced rounds of brain surgery last spring. The malfunctions drained him; we spent months fighting to regain his health through the malaise of constant headaches and debilitating fatigue. He's been through the wringer in his short life. Lyme disease, seizures, paralysis, low iron, nearly 20 surgeries - but the past year was rougher than them all.

Meanwhile, my husband juggled long and thankless hours tied to a paycheck. I did some writing work to cover the mortgage and medical costs, but we knew something had to change. He came home strained and frustrated to half a dozen restless children whom I'd ignored in order to get pages written. Home life foundered.

Medical bills hovered, the stress of the jobs weighed heavy, and our children were growing up without the parent involvement we longed to give them. Somehow, we had to reset.

four men watching a bonfire of old wood
the boys watching the fire burn old wood just before selling the house

So we did.

We fixed up the house, we painted all the things (if you drove by in the middle of July, you might have seen me hanging out the upstairs windows dripping trim paint all over my face). We got rid of waaay too much accumulated stuff - and sold our homestead of 7 years. We paid off our college debt, credit cards, and medical bills. It was hard, but it felt responsible. We gathered our children, pocketed the change, and took a breath.

What next?

We moved in with my (gracious and long suffering) parents and began to look for a new home.

And look. And look. And look.

old broken White House fixer upper
broken house

It's been almost 9 months now.

Long months.

The housing market in New England is hot - so hot, it's burned us. Though our home sold for a good amount last year, most comparable houses are around half a million dollars this summer. Building is similar. Finding even a trashed fixer upper for half that is like looking for a unicorn.

Meanwhile, our family of 9 lives on the margins of someone else's world. Our routines dissolved. Our family time dissappeared. Our marriage felt strained (nothing like moving back to your parents' house to make you feel like you're really adulting.)

My identity changed.

I was a homemaker. A homesteader. A homeschooler.

Overnight, I lost the "home" part of those.

It was a paradigm shift.

I feel lost.

mom and young son sitting pensively by a window

I began to question everything.

Yes - everything.

Was it a mistake to sell our house, pay off debt, try to reset?

Was it a mistake to have 7 children who need shelter, food, education?

Was it a mistake for me to stay home to be a homemaker and home educator rather than pursue a career?

Was my faith real if I couldn't feel God's love for my family? His love for me?

Was God even real if He would allow His children to be stuck in this hopeless, helpless valley?

I questioned everything.

I am not a "baby" Christian. In fact, I have more in common with the Apostle Paul's "confidence in the flesh" Philippians 3 checklist than with the thief on the cross who landed in Paradise by the skin of his teeth. Born into a believing family, educated in a Christian school, went on numerous mission trips, a degree from Bible college, never been drunk, never tried drugs, and almost 2 decades of life experience raising my young men through real life challenges immersed in a Biblical worldview, prayer, and faith - I know the way to "be Christian."

two college students sitting in the ruins of an Ancient Greek city
My husband and I sitting in the ruins of Philippi, circa 2004


All my check marks are nothing.

If God is who He says He is, than it is safe to question His truth. Like gold that passes through a furnace, the pure element will not burn. Only the impurities burn away. He can handle my questions. He doesn't fear my lack of belief. If His word is true, then God is unshakable - whether I can feel Him or not.

My faith doesn't make God who He is. And my lack of faith cannot take away from His Godliness.

So I had to choose.

I could stop trusting God because I felt loss rather than blessing.

Or, I could trust that He does what is right - even when I make mistakes, or waver, or feel stuck.

The thing about loss - even of something good, even holy - is that it removes a distraction. This is a hard pill for a good Christian to swallow. We want to hear that God blesses faithfulness. And He does, often. God loves to bless His children. But He is not afraid to allow good things to be stripped away so that nothing is between Him and the person He loves.

sepia photo of a woman dressed in black kneeling and begging on a cobble stone street in Venice
old woman begging in Venice

Ask Abraham - told to move, to live in tents his whole life, to wait decades for an heir, to sacrifice that heir on an altar, and to die before seeing the promise fulfilled.

Ask Moses - told to leave the life of a quiet, contented shepherd and spend his golden years leading a disgrunted nation through the desert, and die before seeing the people cross into the land of milk and honey.

Ask Hannah - told to commit her greatest desire, a son, to a priest who'd failed at parenting, and leave him there.

Ask Job. You know his story.

They lost. A lot. Some by their own missteps. Some by circumstance. Some by sinners. All by God's plan.

And not one of them will tell me it was wasn't worth it all. To know Him.

It isn't "good" that my family doesn't have a home. It isn't "good" that homeschooling has been lacking this year. It isn't "good" that we need a house that can accommodate a wheelchair and 9 people on a budget. It isn't "good" that Ben has had to face so much physical frustration. It isn't "good" for my marriage, family, health, or finances to be in this season.

But I have to believe that God has something better than good for us.

He has Himself.

And if I lose everything else, then He will be more than enough.

Stay tuned.

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust... You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wonderously with you
Joel 2:26

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