These seasons of challenge and growth and constantly doing things I thought I never wanted to do rarely look how I expect. But they are always opportunities for me to ask for an enlarged imagination, for me to wait and see how God moves unexpectedly.
We had just moved to Florida when I met two women who were living in RVs while homeschooling their children and waiting for their homes to be built. My mind immediately went to my own five kids and how I could never do RV living. I instantly thought, “Thank goodness we don’t have to do that. These women must be saints on caffeine. None of us in this family would survive the first three days of living in such tight quarters.”
Four months later, our home was destroyed by a category five hurricane, and I was in Tennessee with the kids, talking on the phone with my husband (who was looking out at a completely decimated base) as we discussed purchasing an RV for our family so that we could be together while they rebuilt the entire community from the ground up.
We lived in that RV for a year and a half.
The truth is, though, this wasn’t the first Soft Never in my life: I was never going to marry military. I was going to wait a few years before we started having kids. I was going to have a career, not be a stay-at-home mom. I was going to get my master’s. Homeschooling was not on my radar. I would never birth a kid without my husband present.
Time and time again, God took each of these Soft Nevers and flipped them on their heads … and showed me He was enough.
I was never going to marry military:
I married that military man — and found that not only was he a fantastic husband, but that God had uniquely gifted me to be a halfway decent military spouse, thanks to my background growing up overseas.
I was going to wait a few years before we started having kids:
I was surprised by a pregnancy with our first child four months after our wedding (he was born the week after our first anniversary) — and I didn’t realize how God was using pregnancy to realign my hormones and lift some of the weight of hormonal depression.
I was going to have a career, not be a stay-at-home mom:
I would not have that career I’d planned for (at least not yet) — and getting to stay at home with my kids would provide opportunities of different kinds that I couldn’t have anticipated.
I was going to get my master’s:
I wouldn’t get that master’s (again: at least not yet, though I would support my husband as the military made him get not one, but two) — and I would learn so much in other ways that would satisfy my need for intellectual growth.
Homeschooling was not on my radar:
I ended up homeschooling — and while there are days I want to rip my hair out, there are also those magical moments that affirm our choice as a family, time and time again. And it turns out that it has worked really well for our family (and for me) on multiple levels and allowed us to grow in ways I didn’t expect.
I would never birth a kid without my husband present:
Technically, I was right on this one. I didn’t birth a kid without my husband — I birthed three kids while my husband was deployed — and each time it was an incredible opportunity to see God’s provision in my life, the community that loved me and our family, and the strength that God had given us.
But that RV I never saw coming…
I think some thought it would be the death of me, or at the very least, a time of dramatic suffering — but it wasn’t.
We were able to park the RV right by a bayou, so I teased my husband that he’d upgraded me to a water view. We had a little pallet vegetable garden and incredible neighbors who encouraged us and loved our kids. We were minutes from the beach (where we went whenever we needed a little space from each other). Best of all, we were minutes from my husband’s office, so when he did have a free moment, we could actually spend it together. And during that time, I grew: as a wife, as a mother, as a teacher, and most of all, as a writer, taking those early morning hours (when I didn’t want to accidentally wake up the five kids sleeping twenty feet away) to write my first full-length novel.
These seasons of challenge and growth and constantly doing things I thought I never wanted to do rarely look how I expect. But they are always opportunities for me to ask for an enlarged imagination, for me to wait and see how God moves unexpectedly, for me to be surprised by his provision and his big-picture perspective, if only I can have the faith to take that risky first step.
Sometimes, that risky first step looks like going RV shopping.