Darkest Days

Photo: Mircosoft Clifpart - a candle burns in the dark
A light unto the darkness

By Charmin Foth

I recently read that experience without sharing leaves no room for growth. Instead, bad experiences turned inward make you bitter and isolated. Wow! Been there, done that, brought home a whole crate of T-shirts. So here I am opening myself up, exposing the dark.

I will be honest, sometimes I have an ungrateful heart. I think at one time or another we tend to want things now, instead of later. We ask, “why me?” or “will this ever end?” I know that I can end up in a big ole’ pity pool, wallowing in it, and never looking to the future. Sometimes I have to look at where I have been to appreciate what I have now.

It is no secret that everyone has to suffer through hard times and dark periods in their lives. I have often heard it said, “It is not the situation, but how you handle the situation that matters.” I suppose that is true to some extent, but what about those situations that you don’t handle with grace?

In those times when you don’t make the best decisions, you end up on the wrong side of things but somehow you make it out alive. Do you hold on to that shame and hurt, hoping no one will ever see the dark that lives inside you? Are you bitterly ashamed of your past and pray no one will ever know the true you?

I am certainly no stranger to dark times. As a matter of fact, if you had asked me 25 years ago where I would be now, my answer would have been, “Dead.” After the death of my young husband when I was 19, I descended down a dark and treacherous path.

You see, I had convinced myself that it was my fault, and I felt like those closest to me blamed me and hated me for his death. Beyond that, I convinced myself I didn’t deserve anything or anyone good in my life. I sought out dangerous people and compromising situations. I dated all the wrong people for all the wrong reasons. I just couldn’t buy into the premise that I was worth it, so I treated nice guys horribly and kicked them to the curb. Being abused, became my normal because I thought I deserved it.

I battled with my worth and my past for ten years. It haunted me. More than once, it almost killed me. I felt alone, isolated and scared of the person I had become.

I didn’t have the strength to walk away from the things that had beaten me down. It took a series of unfortunate circumstances (isn’t that always the case) for me to seek a counselor. Many see counseling as a sign of weakness. I see it as the strongest moment of my life. It’s where I began to see past the darkness.

I had spent so much time railing at God. Screaming. Crying. Why? Why? Why? For me, coming back to a faith I had lost, saved me physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Everyone wants the quick fix. There isn’t one; there is no pill, no magic bean, no physical interaction that can take away the pain you try to hide, medicate, or abuse out of view. Counseling takes time and work, hard work. Faith takes believing. God never said life would be easy. He never said bad things wouldn’t happen. By surviving your worst situation, you can encourage someone else. But God can’t use your story unless you are willing to tell it.

To look back on my past now, I am grateful, not only for where I am now, but that I made it through. I may not have the nicest house, or drive a new car, but I have riches beyond gold and silver. He told me that I am beautifully and wonderfully made and that He loves me in spite of myself.

Isaiah 61:3 (KJV) says this:
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that he might be glorified.

God gave me beauty from the ashes of my life and gave me joy for my mourning. I exchanged my heavy heart for a garment of praise.

I am no expert and I can’t wave a magic wand and fix problems. If you are hurting, I strongly suggest finding a Christian counselor, someone who won’t try to fix you with a pill. Find someone who will listen and lead you on the right path. Know that you are NEVER alone, God always walks with you, even in the dark times.

Now you know a little about one my darkest times and how it has made me grateful for the light. So, will my journey into dark places help you? I hope it does.

If not, that’s ok too. I’ve given you a bit of my story, I pray God will now use it.

Republished from June of 2013.

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Celebrate when you can…

By Charmin Foth

while_you_were_out__largjpgWith Valentine’s Day in my rearview mirror, I am reminded of my first Valentine’s Day married to Andy.

When we met, and for 8 years after, Andy was a Seargent in the U.S. Army. Being an Army wife wasn’t always easy and sometimes it was downright hard. But the struggles we faced together made us stronger as individuals and as a couple.

Most couples find that the first year of marriage is always hard because you are getting used to one another’s habits and traits. Sometimes finding common ground can seem almost impossible. That wasn’t the case for us. We are in sync, we have always been able to finish each other’s sentences, to the point that we seem know each other’s thoughts and say what the other is thinking.

Still the first year Andy and I were married was a difficult one. We were married the last day of May and in September he was sent to an Army school for training and we were separated for a year almost to the day.

Our first Valentine’s Day didn’t happen on February 14th. On February 14th I was alone, working 14-hour-days and I knew Andy wasn’t coming home during that time. We didn’t have any money, so I couldn’t afford to send him something expensive to let him know I was thinking of him. So, I did something a little unconventional and something I do well, I wrote him notes.

I took one of those little “while you were out” pink message pads that offices sometimes use, and for every day he was gone, I wrote a note. “While you were out… Today the dog got out and I had to chase him down the street, I wish you were here to see it.” “While you were out… Today was Saturday and I had to watch cartoons without you.” “While you were out… You won’t believe what happened to the neighbor.” “While you were out… I missed you terribly.”

You get the picture. Every day I wrote one of these notes. Some days it was my only way of communicating with him and he didn’t even know it. Some days were funny, some days were mushy, some days were sad. It was just a little glimpse of how my life was going that day, set aside just for him. We had a set of French doors at the back of the house and each day taped one of those notes on the door until I had one big heart outlined on the door. But Andy still didn’t get to come home, so I kept adding notes every day, with just little bits of how I felt while he was away. I filled in the heart with at least 100 notes.

When he finally did get to come home for a visit, he pulled into the drive and made his way in through the French doors, where all he could see from the light burning inside the house was a hundred little pink “while you were out” notes. It was one of the best Valentine’s Day celebrations we had, and it wasn’t anywhere near February 14th and it didn’t cost us hundreds of dollars. I still remember him pulling each note off the door, reading them, laughing and his eyes tearing up as he made his way through each note. He read them all and he knew I had thought of him, every single day, even when we couldn’t talk. He knew he was loved and I loved him all the more for taking the time to appreciate the small stuff.

That year I learned the hard way that the Army way of life meant celebrating when you can, not by the date on the calendar. It taught me that sometimes you can be separated for what seems like an eternity, but that doesn’t mean you love each other any less. And, that if you can survive the heartache of being alone, you can celebrate the joy of being together, and it makes the moments you have together more special. Sometimes you don’t get to hear the words “I love you,” when you would like, but you keep the faith that the love is still there.

Learning these lessons made my life as an Army wife easier, they made my life better. They weren’t easy lessons to learn but I thank God every day that I was able to take those lessons to heart.

So, remember to celebrate the moments of life together, when you can, not based on the calendar. It’s not about the quantity of time you have together or about the quality of the gifts you receive,  it’s about the quality of time you have together, the meaning of the gifts you give and the depth of the love you share.

Happy Valentine’s Day, no matter what day it is.

Thanks for reading.

Reposted from 2011