A Matter of Trust: Starting Over . . . Again
by Ramona Richards
In 2016, I found myself adrift. In one moment, my life changed forever, and I had no sense of direction and no solid footing. But it is in moments like this when a strong faith and a trust in God can allow Him to build bridges you didn’t even know you needed.
The year started with a devastating blow: my daughter Rachel died. While this is a life-ripping event for any parent, in my case it also brought the end of an era in which all my decisions had revolved around her. All good parents do the best they can for their children, but this is especially true when a child has special needs. Every decision about every part of my life was influenced by one over-arching question: how will this affect my child? Normal decisions that people make every day—where to live, what church to attend, what activities to participate in—tend to have different outcomes when there is a special needs member of the family.
Rachel was diagnosed in her first year of life with extreme cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, and a seizure disorder. We would never know exactly how intelligent she was because her motor skills never advanced beyond that of a three-month-old child. She could not walk, talk, or care for herself in anyway. And for the 28 years she lived, every decision I made centered on her care.
In our case, it meant staying in Tennessee, specifically Davidson County, until she aged out of school because of the services available for her that were found nowhere else. The special needs school there was invaluable in giving us both a somewhat normal existence. This meant my career was tailored around Nashville’s publishing industry. Job openings in Chicago, New York, Colorado Springs—or any of the other centers of Christian publishing—were off limits. Repeated long-term illnesses meant leaving the corporate world for a freelance career. Any ideas of moving up in the ranks toward a C-suite job took a back seat. A limited income combined with special needs meant securing a good living situation took some maneuvering. Even finding a new church after my divorce meant finding one that welcomed Rachel and her needs, including accessibility and openness.
My life had revolved around her. Now she was gone.
Grief interfered with my ability to focus, to work. Freelance jobs disappeared. I didn’t know where to turn. I couldn’t even pray. But as the small nest egg I had disappeared, I had to do something. Even when I pulled out of the fog of grief and tried applying for jobs all over Nashville, nothing happened. Then one night—almost a year after Rachel’s death—I simply said, “Lord, I’m desperate. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m yours. Use me as you see fit.”
Simple. Direct. I had a limited imagination at that point, and thought maybe He’d want me to work more in the church. Volunteer to pack food boxes. Whatever it was, I made the decision to trust Him.
Have you ever been told that if you surrender everything to God, you’d better hang on for the ride? Yeah . . . believe that.
The very next day, I received an email from a friend I had not heard from in years. It contained a link and the simple message: God’s telling me these people need you.
To say I was suspicious is to put it mildly. But Scripture tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5 ESV), and I’d promised I’d trust Him. I clicked on the link. It was a job posting for a managing editor’s position with New Hope Publishers, the publishing imprint of the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) in Birmingham, Alabama. The WMU is an auxiliary organization of the Southern Baptist Convention. Still . . . I hesitated. My first two thoughts were “I’m too old” and “I’m not Baptist.”
Trust is harder than you might expect, especially if the voices of negativity keep whispering in your ear. But I kept telling myself that if God were not in this, it would lead to nothing. I took a deep breath, filled out the application, attached my resume, and hit send.
That was a Wednesday afternoon in late February. I immediately received an email requesting a phone interview for the next day. That was for the human resources screening, and I agreed to a background check and an interview with the hiring team. That interview happened the next day. The next week I was in Birmingham for an in-person interview with both HR, and the hiring team . . . and the executive director of WMU. I stayed overnight, and the HR director set me up with a relocation director. I put in an application for an apartment—and the background check run by the apartment manager cleared in less than 15 minutes. Even the manager was stunned, telling me she’d never seen one come back that quick.
It was tempting to ask God if He really knew what He was doing with this. Everything kept moving, faster than the speed of light, so it felt to me. I had been in Nashville for 50 years. I was 60 years old, a time when many people are looking at retirement, not starting a new career. How could they possibly, truly want me at this stage in my life? I left Birmingham, wondering if I had wasted money on the trip and the apartment deposit.
Two days later, the executive director called me with the job offer. Turns out they were looking for someone with my experience because a lot of things were about to happen with New Hope. Two weeks later, I helped movers load a truck. From the time I’d clicked on the link in my friend’s email to the time a truck backed up to the new apartment with my belongings was less than a month. I arrived at my new job March 20, 2017.
I settled into the new job and new routine, my head still spinning from the whirlwind God had stirred up. But He wasn’t done. In May, my boss told me he had resigned in order to return to full-time ministry. In early July, the executive director discussed with me the possibility that WMU would sell New Hope Publishers—which they subsequently did. By September 1, I had a new title (associate publisher), a new employer (Iron Stream Media), and a new office. About the same time, my agent sold a book of mine, which launches this month.
Did I mention that God doesn’t always stop when you think He will? Over the next few weeks, as I settled into yet another new job, I started looking at houses. A year after I’d moved to Birmingham, I found a great deal on a house and moved yet again.
Was any of this easy, even trusting that God was in the details? Absolutely not. Trusting God is never easy, even when you see Him working in the everyday details of your life. We’re human, and as the old hymn promises, doubts and fears will assail us. When the darkness is at its worst, we can forget that He has assured us that He will never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6), and He will always shine a light on our path (Psalm 119:105).
Leaving Nashville was jarring; I still miss it. I miss my home church there more than I can say. I’ve struggled to find a new equilibrium. I’ve fought bouts of depression and doubt. God was definitely in the whirlwind that my life became; but in the maelstrom, I often became confused about which way to turn next. Hanging on for the ride can be terrifying.
I did discover several helpful activities—other than regular Bible study and prayer—that helped me stay focused on the journey that God had laid out before me, trusting that He was present in every event.
- I found a place of calm. More than a quiet prayer time, this was an effort to seek out a time to simply let the world flow around me, with none of the busyness of life. To think, to listen, to breathe. Sometimes an awareness of the intimate presence of God was most obvious in those moments.
- I sought out reliable listeners. I arrived in Birmingham knowing no one, but I asked for help, and God soon led me to people I could trust with my doubts, in part because they had felt them at one time or another. I was especially blessed to find people skilled in ministry and spiritual direction.
- I realized that nostalgia is a myth. Nothing will ever be as it was. This is a fact of life, no matter what the situation. Facing forward—not looking backward—is the best way to grip on the trust I’ve placed in God. He already knows the future; I can rely on Him.
An indelible hope builds when you trust God every day—a hope in the eternal, in the belief that God really does intend for good to come from whatever happens in our lives. A hope that will flicker with a touch of light in the darkest of hours. No matter where your path may be headed.
Ramona Richards is the associate publisher for Iron Stream Media, which produces books and curriculum for the Christian market. She’s the author of 12 books, including Burying Daisy Doe, a novel that was released in November 2020.
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