I loaded the kids into the minivan and buckled them as quickly as I could. I didn’t want to get caught in the rain. It was an unusually cloudy day in early January, and I sensed a storm coming. North Texas is mostly sunny with a side of watch-out-there’s-a-crazy-hail-storm-or-tornado-on-its-way. Unpredictable weather is just part of being a Texan.
I walked around to the driver’s seat and jumped in. But before I pulled out of the parking lot, I checked the weather. No hail. It seemed it would just be cloudy all day. I determined that I was being too analytical and decided to stick with my original plan. We were going to the grocery store.
I grabbed a small, hand-held cart.
“But, what about the big cart, mama?”
My middle daughter, Bella, looked up at me with hopeful eyes. “Not this time, babe. The hotel has a small fridge, so we’ll just pick up a few things. Besides, I don’t know how long we’ll be there.”
I hid my uncertainty from the kids as much as I could, but I couldn’t hide the truth from myself. I didn’t know how long we’d be in the hotel. That thought terrified me. I filled my small grocery cart as the kids roamed through the aisles alongside me.
My intention was to grab fruit (everyone loves fruit), some lunch meat for sandwiches (another go-to with little clean up), and a few snacks. Our favorites are popcorn, pretzels, and trail mix. I landed on carrots and hummus, too, because, you know, veggies are important.
As we checked out, the cashier made small talk with my kids.
“I’ve never seen you here before. Do you live around here?”
“We’re homeless.” My oldest daughter didn’t even skip a beat.
I smiled and nodded. But I died inside.
We returned to the hotel, where we had been living for just two days, carried our five grocery bags across the lobby to the elevator, rode up to the 4th floor, and walked down the hall to our room. I settled the kids with a bowl of popcorn, a coloring book, and crayons.
I locked myself in the bathroom and sobbed.
My daughter was right. We were, essentially, homeless.
The problem wasn’t financial, it was circumstantial. We found ourselves in the midst of a major life change. We had some life-changing decisions to make. This season of transition was wildly uncomfortable for my nature, which is typically, a–hem, put together. Coupled with a slew of undetermined details and potential opportunities that didn’t manifest quickly enough, this transition deemed us residents of a local hotel. With our belongings in a storage unit, we waited for life to return to normal.
Months before, we intentionally deviated from our suburban life and took an extended vacation that we affectionately called “the sabbatical.” Our life encountered a natural invitation to adventure when my husband sold his company and we simultaneously wanted to take advantage of the profitable real estate market and sell our home. Rather than move across town, we opted to use this in-between time for an extended trip.
As our sabbatical came to a close, we scoured real estate websites for a new home. My husband perused new job opportunities, none of which had solidified. We grew increasingly uncomfortable in our decision as to where we should purchase another home and which job opportunity would be the next best thing. Stepping out of the sabbatical and returning to a more established home life was the place we got stuck.
Just as my daughter had said, the most accurate description was: homeless. Stuck. A total in-between riddled with uncertainty. The sadness was there. I still remember sitting on that bathroom floor as my tears hit the ground.
Even in that small hotel room, I knew deeply that God was right there. And as my sorrow gently lifted, this thought came to mind…this wasn’t a punishment, it was a promotion. The Lord knew exactly what my heart needed so that I could go to the next level in relationship with Him. This struggle was more evidence of His love than anything else.
If I could find a way to fully trust Him right in the middle of the uncertainty, if I could find a way to confidently declare I belonged to Him, if I could find a way to trust that He would direct our next steps, if I could do all of that…I knew hope could break through.
And, that’s simply what happened. With clarity, we saw opportunities God was placing in front of us. We didn’t have it all figured out, but we made small, simple decisions and took the next step in the right direction. We moved into a small apartment, and now, a dream home. Over time, we saw the faithfulness of God as we remade home and let’s be real- He remade us. Hope wasn’t a feeling we mustered up, it was a person. The God of Hope himself wrote our story.
Early October, something big happened. I opened my front porch to see two big cardboard boxes nestled in between my mums and pumpkins. Cue the tears because I ripped open that box to see inside my new book (We’re) Homeless: Making Home Wherever We Go. I fell to my knees sobbing, but this time…there was no sadness, all tears of joy, and no hotel bathroom (only an oversized dream home porch) to catch my tears.
Have you heard people say, “Your pain has a purpose.” And it sounds so cliché and definitely not what you want to hear when life is crumbling. But, to be totally honest, I couldn’t deny it. The fact that our pain has a purpose was literally right there in front of me. I was holding a tangible expression of it. Ahundred and fifty pages of my own story in my hands…and *spoiler alert* it’s not a story of a homeless family, it’s a book of hope.
Whatever you’re facing today, remember this: God’s writing your story. And if there’s any way right in the middle of the struggle, you can invite Him in…I think He’ll come and meet you there. And while it might not make sense for awhile, what if He is completely preparing you for good things ahead? What if the circumstance that seems terrible now, was just the path to Him in the first place?
Here’s the lesson I learned. Home, after all, wasn’t a place. It was a heartbeat.
When there was no home at all, we had everything we needed. Here we were, an imperfect family squished into a hotel room, but we had one another.
Walt Whitman says, “we were together, I forget the rest.” And I feel like in so many ways, the togetherness saved us from caring about the things that just don’t matter. Where did we belong? To each other.
As I move on from this season, I hope to carry that heartbeat everywhere I go.
Brooke Sailer is a creative thinker, writer, teacher, gift-giver, and also…a diaper-changer, shoelace-tier, and lunch-packer. She lived a real-life fairy tale when she married a handsome bachelor after dating for only one month and ten days. (Sorry for the heart attack, Mom.)
Brooke is the very proud wife of Scott Sailer and mom to their four kids. She went from watching HGTV nearly eight hours a day to being a committed, driven, super-mom and leader in her community. Besides having a million thoughts that accidentally became two books, Brooke makes some pretty amazing skillet tacos. The Sailers live in Argyle, Texas. For all the everyday stuff, you can find Brooke on Instagram @brooke_sailer.