I have seen some hard years in my lifetime, but 2009 and 2010 were among the most painful and challenging years I have lived.
I took the photo above on a particularly hard day. When I saw my face after a really good crying session, I decided it was photo worthy. I keep it as a reminder of this very difficult season.
Then, I spent 2011-2013 actively recovering from many of the events that happened during that time.
Yesterday, I was reading a journal from 2010 and found an entry that recapped a 20-minute period in 2010. During this particular 20 minutes, I was already in the middle of a divorce, in the process of losing my home, was separated from my husband and navigating the waters of single parenting while running a ministry.
My ex arrived to visit our daughter. As a step in my recovery and healing, I asked if he had a few minutes for me to share an “amends” letter I had written to him. He was still choosing other women and a lifestyle that made restoration in our marriage impossible, yet I knew that I still needed to take responsibility for “my part”… “my side of the street” as they say in the 12-Step recovery world.
I spent the next several minutes apologizing for the wrong I had done in our relationship. On this list were things like “treating him like a child by taking responsibility for things I shouldn’t have, not letting him lead, trying to make it my job to fix and change him, not sharing my wants needs and feelings and thus not “showing up fully” in our marriage. The list goes on, but that is a whole notha blog.
Nearly a year in Step Study had culminated to this point and by the time I finished reading the letter, I felt like I could use a 12-hour nap. I was emotionally zapped.
Speaking of naps, my then 2-year old daughter hadn’t had hers. So, when it was time for her to leave with her father and walk out into the 110-degree valley heat, she wasn’t having it. She proceeded to have a total meltdown and was screaming, “I don’t want to go! I want to stay here!” As a mom, that is never easy to hear.
I was standing at the kitchen window watching my daughter who was still screaming in the driveway as her father coaxed her into the car when my phone rang. It was the Santa Barbara Police Department calling to let me know that my father, who had been battling some severe mental health issues, was on the front page of the newspaper that day.
It seems my dad had rented out the top floor of a hotel during a huge event during which 10,000 people were in the streets that day. My father proceeded to take off his clothes and stand on the balcony of the hotel waiving a gun. This resulted in a stand off with a SWAT team. I later saw footage of the ordeal, complete with snipers positioned to take my father out if need be. I am not making this up.
I hung up the phone and picked up my computer to compose an email to my friends requesting prayer. When I opened my computer, I saw an email from my tax accountant with some more bad news. At that point in my life, my ex’s business had been audited by the IRS for several years in a row. Since we had filed jointly, my name was also on the returns, which meant I was being audited. Just when I thought I was in the clear, my accountant was writing to let me know that although we thought I paid them off completely, there was a snafu of some sort and “we” owed them a couple thousand more dollars. Did I mention I was already in a financial bind and was losing my home? Did I mention that everything I have written about in the past 6 paragraphs happened in a 20-minute period!!!!??!?!
That 20-minutes period was a slice of my life at that point. There were times that the chaos and pain was so intense, all I had the energy to do was breathe. My prayers were often nothing more intelligible than whimpers and groans.
As I look back on my journal entries from this time, I see a thread—that thread was trust. At the end of each day, I chose to trust God. Despite my circumstances, I made a decision to trust that He is good, that His plans are good, and His character can be trusted.
When He didn’t deliver me from the trials, I trusted that He would deliver me through them. It was trust in a God that redeems and restores and uses all things together for the good of those who love Him that got me through.
In his book, “Draw the Circle”, Mark Batterson writes,
“We’re often so anxious to get out of difficult, painful or challenging situations that we fail to grow through them. We fail to learn the lessons God is trying to reach us or cultivate the character God is growing in us. We’re so focused on God changing our circumstances that we never allow God to change us! So instead of ten or twenty years of experience, we have one year of experience repeated twenty times.”
At the time, I desperately wanted God to snap His fingers and make all of my problems go away. But as it turns out, the testing of my faith produces perseverance and perseverance must finish its work so that I may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:3).
It was trust that kept my heart vulnerable to God and allowed Him to do a character refining work in me in the midst of the pain.
And it was trust that enabled me to walk through the pain. It was trust that enabled me to grieve in a healthy way. It was trust that led me to a place of surrender. It was trust that helped me to both accept the reality of my circumstances while maintaining hope that they would not last forever.
Today, while I am still in a process of God restoring and redeeming, in many ways, I am in a new season. God’s sovereignty is a complete enigma to me. Somehow, in He has not only brought me to a place where I can accept all of the disappointments and loss I experienced during that time, but to a place of utter gratitude for them. I would NEVER want to go through that season again, but I wouldn’t trade a moment of it for who I am becoming and where He is taking me.
Harmony (Dust) Grillo
Harmony Dust founded Treasures in 2003 while completing a Master’s in Social Welfare at UCLA. To date, she has trained outreach leaders that have gone on to establish more than 97 sex industry outreaches on 5 continents. She has been featured in various media sources, including Glamour Magazine, The Dr. Drew Show, and The Tyra Banks Show. She is a sought after speaker and her memoir, Scars & Stilettos, gives an account of the journey of going from working in strip clubs, to leading an organization that reaches women in the sex industry on a global scale.
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