I'm Michelle, and I blog at Shell Bell. Writing a post for Erika is a huge honor. This girl rocks, and I wish she was my next door neighbor. (See?Me too! says Erika.)
If there is anything I have learned in my short twenty three years of life, it's to expect the unexpected.
I did not expect to graduate from college with zero job prospects and later be forced to take a job that was so stressful I became physically sick.
I did not expect my wedding to completely fall apart and to be quite literally stranded in a foreign country on my honeymoon.
I did not expect my father-in-law to pass away on a snowy evening in January, mere hours before my husband's flight to visit him.
I did not expect to be living among the Ohio cornfields again after kicking the Midwestern dust off my feet four years ago.
I did not expect experiences, distance, and beliefs to slowly chip away at each of my friendships the way they have, leaving me no one but my husband and parents by my side.
I did not expect any of these or so many other things to happen, and I most certainly did not welcome them. I spent years arguing, fighting, and crying to God over the way my life had turned out. But looking back, I can see the hand of God in it all. God took my tiny seed of faith that had yet to truly bloom. It took the rains of God's mercy and the toil of perseverance to make that seed grow into something beautiful. I learned that it takes those hard, rainy times that make you feel like you're drowning to fully understand the essence of faith, to understand that before this world was formed, God knew this situation would come to fruition. Not only did He know that, but He already had my escape route planned, even if the exit is farther down the highway than I think it should be. It takes adversity to grow our faith, because if every day were sunny and warm, that seed would shrivel and die. There would be no blooms, no beauty.
It's in these times, when so much of what we hold dear is taken away, that we learn what is really important to us. When our world is turned upside down, the things, beliefs, and people we hold dear are turned right side up. It's a brief moment of 20/20 vision that can positively affect the way we live the rest of our lives, if we let it. Like a parent taking away something dangerous from a child, so often God has to remove something from our lives so we can see Him more clearly. We most likely will never fully understand the reasoning of these events on this side of heaven, but we can rest assured that the one who created this world knows what He's doing. Those heavy rains of tribulation carve out canyons and valleys, washing away the muck and mire and giving us a clearer view of God's love and mercy each time.
I've learned if I keep thinking the grass is always greener, it never will be. Better friendships, a bigger apartment, or a better job might make things a little easier, but there will always be some sort of trial in life. It's not the sunshine and easy times that turn the grass green, it's the soaking rain brought by the dark storm clouds that causes the grass to grow and turn a striking green. In the end, I have to choose to be content with my life and embrace it for what it is. I can't live in fear of the inevitable struggles and disappointments, because so often they're in my life to teach me. I have to choose to be joyful, even if it's just in a warm cup of coffee or snuggling with my kitty while the first signs of daytime sneak through the blinds.
My life is quiet these days. It could not be more different than the life I envisioned for myself, and that was a hard thing to digest. But we can pay the bills, we have a happy marriage, a sweet kitty, and a tiny apartment in our favorite corner of the city. I'm slowly choosing to embrace difficulties. I'm learning to ask Him what He wants to teach me instead of begging for an escape. I've noticed the more I shift the focus off my problems and onto God, the more I see His goodness. And in the end, it's all about Him anyway.