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So, This Is My Life?

Updated: Jan 5

That’s what I keep asking myself. I’m a widow with eight kids. I’m not struggling anymore. I was struggling. People see my smile, and I wonder if they had any clue what was going on.

Here I am. Maybe this is the life of a writer. I tried to go to bed. Sleep is not happening. Writing hits at odd times. I don’t have time to write when I’m thinking of something. When I have time to write, I’m not thinking of something.

But here I am. It is ironic that in the middle of the night years ago, I cried out to God, “Is it always going to be this way?” And then, I wrote a poem that night or early morning.

Now, it is the middle of the night, and I am writing about how things are totally not the same. I found this song that says, “She don’t look like what she’s been through… Her smile outshines the darkness… She’s been through the fire…” I am playing it on repeat. I went back through some pictures. I saw one with all of my kids in front of the house with their new dog. In the picture they looked like they were laughing and smiling like you wouldn’t have known a thing that was really going on by looking at that picture.

Who would believe that I had to go into hiding for a week with half of my kids because the other half had been taken from me by family without my permission and without cause? The dog came from the house where I hid. My friend rescues animals. When court orders were in place, I went home and agreed to take the dog with us because the kids wanted it. I got my other kids back.

A picture is just a moment, a snapshot.  It does not reflect what happened before or what comes after. It’s a split second in time. Something caused the smile, at least for a second, so it wasn’t a lie or a fake. The kids laughed at something, and the picture was taken.

When I smile, I have a reason to smile, at least for a second. It doesn’t mean I haven’t been through stuff—hard stuff. I was in a frightening time in my life and heard comments about my hair being in place. I couldn’t comprehend how that could be what’s on someone’s mind while I’m living in survival mode. Who cares about my hair! When you look at the surface of water, do you know what goes on a mile down deep in those waters, where it’s dark? You wouldn’t know unless you went down there.

I appreciate what I have now, maybe so much more because it was so scary then. I lift my arms to praise, not because God brought me out of the scary, but because even when I was in it, He didn’t stop being worthy of me lifting my arms. And He did bring me out of it.

I wonder does anyone understand. I have no patience for the superficial. What is the point? I was somehow thankful even when I was wondering at night if things were always going to be the way that they were, when everyone else in the house was asleep and I was up wondering. I found thankfulness before I saw the deliverance. My Redeemer sat with me in that. His life was hovering all around me to make something of all the darkness. Now, when I give him praise, do you know what it means?

So, this is my life. I’m a widow. But I’m not struggling anymore. There are some things I still can’t say. What’s the point?

You would think this is the hard part. But I have overcome by the life that was hovering around me, when I knew it wasn’t the end, even though it sure felt like it when it was hard to breathe, hard to eat, hard to move. You find out who your friends are. After all of that, life feels easy now. I have eight kids, and life feels easy, comparing. I didn’t want any of that hard stuff. But it turned into this. This place in time is what comes after overcoming. And I know many have been through worse than me. But if I can be flipped over to this side of the story, then you can, too—whether your hard stuff was worse or not so bad. The point is the overturning. Flip the script. Turn the table. Find this side of it. If I can do it, so can you.

I don’t have much patience for whining and complaining about entitlements when I had to keep breathing through survival mode. But I did keep breathing. And now I’m on this side. It’s still hard to look back. But I will not deny what my God brought me from because that may be fuel for others to come along, to keep pressing, and to make it to this side.

I saw my keepsake screenshot of when my mortgage company thanked me for paying off the loan—I saw that the maturity date of the loan was 2051. Woe. Does the word "acceleration" mean anything to anyone else? 2051 would have been when I paid it off. But because of all of this bad stuff I’ve been through, it is finished now, in 2023. I’ve lived in this custom-built house for less than 9 years. No one would hope for what I’ve been dealt. But the gratefulness I feel is indescribable. I didn’t want any of the hard stuff. But I wouldn’t trade being on this side for anything. Who could have guessed?

This is my life now. And there’s more behind my smile.

by Heather Michelle Williams

December 23, 2023

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