I live in a big house in West Linn, Oregon. It has many rooms and thousands of square footage. Some look at my house and cast judgments on me thinking they know who I am or the type of person I am by the house I live in. In reality, this house speaks nothing about who I am. It's simply a roof over my head and the heads of my children. The square footage does not make this a home, the love my family fills it with does.
I have lived in many homes in my 40 years of walking on this Earth. When I was 8 years old my mother and I sat and counted the number of homes that she had moved us in and out of at that point and I recall it almost tripled my age at that time. It was rare for her to keep us in a home for very long due to lack of money and incorrect choices she made at the time. I do not think my mother will ever fully understand the damage she caused my siblings and myself by moving us so much. Not only did she move us in and out of homes, she moved us in and out of schools too.
When I was 14 years old I found myself, once again, packing up our belongings and preparing for a move. My mother did not have the money to pay the rent and we were being evicted from the house we were living in. It was the summer before my Freshman year in High School. I remember it was a hot summer that year and I was looking forward to getting my tan on prior to my big move into High School.
This move however, was different. With this move there was no new home secured and waiting for us to move in. With this move we had no where to go. I remember my mother trying to make light of the situation by telling me it would be an adventure. She suggested to my two older brothers that they find friends they could stay with while she secured a new home for us. She told me that we would stay in a hotel until she could finalize our location.
My bothers were able to find some friends to stay with and ended up spending their summer in a tent in the back yard of those friends. My mother stayed true to what she said, her and I hoped around from hotel to hotel for what seemed like an eternity. Now when I say hotel I do not mean the Heathman hotel in Downtown Portland. These hotels were less than desirable locations and generally only rented their rooms out by the hour. Nights would be filled with constant noise, the police being called, fights breaking out and me laying in fear that someone was going to break into our room and kill us in the middle of the night.
I would beg my mother to please take us to my Aunt and Uncle's home asking them to let us stay in their basement until we found a place. But for whatever reason, that never happened. Finally one day towards the beginning of July I found my mother driving us around in the dead of the night with no place to go. She had ran out of money and could not afford a hotel room. That night was the first of many nights where I found myself faced with the fact that we would be sleeping in our truck rather than in a room somewhere.
For the rest of the summer my mother and I spent countless evenings going from parking lots to rest stops along the freeway to sleep in. My mother did her best to try and ease the pain and fear I was having but couldn't hide her own. For weeks we slept in the cab of our truck. I would use the rest stop bathroom to clean up or shower in or I would go to a friends house and clean up there. Most of our day was spent driving around and eating where we could afford to eat while the hours ticked in my mind counting down when the night would return. Each night would bring more fear, more resentment and more pain then I knew what to do with. It started me on a path that to this day I would struggle with, fear.
I was lucky that my brothers kept an eye out for me. If they were going to a friends house for a party they would bring me along. It gave me a chance to have a roof over my head and a bathroom to use even if it was only for one night. Some of their friends knew we were homeless so they would have us over for a couple days at a time and we could pretend that this was a normal life for a little while. But reality always came back to me when my mother would show up to pick me up.
It's amazing to look back on this time and really understand fully how it has affected the person I am today. I don't view this time in my life as a poor me scenario but rather a stepping stone to who I am today.
Most people come out of situation like I just shared with a sense of entitlement, the world owes them something for all they have gone through. Other people allow it to consume them and take them down a path of self destruction with drugs. But some, like me, come out the other end of this struggle with a will that grows in them and feeds them. Am I happy I was homeless? No. Am I thankful fear took hold of me at that age and still tries to bring me down? No. Am I thankful that God saved me and taught me a lesson in love, survival and dedication? Absolutely!
A few years later I took control of my own destiny and I started my path in life. I finished High School, and although I did not go to college, I began to take the steps that would lead me to the life I live today. The time I was homeless was the stepping stones to the life I lived going forward and are still the stepping stones to the life I live today.
Nothing is easy in this world. Family, careers, relationships, health......none of it's easy. Nothing, worth having, is handed to you on a silver platter. Life is hard and you can find yourself at the bottom of a pit thinking it can't possibly get any harder, only to have the floor fall out from beneath you. But what is amazing is the love of God.
This life we live here on this Earth is not the goal, it's simply a stepping stone to a bigger life we are meant to live. God gives us free will to make the decisions we want to make. God gives us Ah-ha moments to understand the lessons we are going through. God also gives us unconditional love and the opportunity to mirror that grace in our own lives.
Everything God has walked with me through has brought me to this exact moment in my life. It has prepared me for battles I never thought I would ever have to face nor even thought I would have the courage to attempt. My trials and tribulations in my life are painful at times but they are here to help me grow into a bigger spiritual being that I am meant to be. They are preparing me for the life I have yet to live, the life beyond the dirt of this world. I embrace my past and I embrace my struggles and I thrive to understand what each of them will bring forth to me.
I live in a big house, but my real house is beyond this world and I am meant to live there and live in greatness.