I've been hesitant to write, hesitant to share. I've asked for advice and been told that the best thing I can do is be honest. I'm okay with that. I like people shooting straight with me. I try to do the same with others.
I hesitate because I recognize that people are people, and people have a tendency to judge quickly without taking the time to think or even attempt to read the whole story. I hesitate because while I KNOW there are so many who love us, there are some who still like the ability to feel better about themselves by seeing the brokenness of others. And while I know that my transparency makes that possible, I also recognize that the difference between myself and the people who make it their life goal to look down on others is this... Peace. And regardless of the status of my daily walk... I have peace. And that's worth a whole lot.
Very few people know the depth of all that has transpired in the past year. There has been a LOT of good that has come. So too, there has been a LOT of hardship. Those who are closest too us, have seen the blessings AND the tears. I've tried to minimize the difficult stuff, and maximize the easy days. I'm trying to live by example to my kids that joy is constant, and happiness fleeting. I'm trying to lay the framework to them to praise even through tears. We haven't shielded them from the truth. We are not sugar coating our situations, but rather emphasizing that there can be good found even when life hurts and trying to gently teach them to live with gratitude for each day.
One of the most valuable lessons I have gleaned in the past year is that there is NO guarantee of anything... Even when the outlook is sunny. Even when our plans have been SOLID. There is no guarantee. Even when we have KNOWN that we KNOW that we KNOW.... We didn't know. There is no guarantee.
But as crazy as it sounds, even in that state of unsettledness, there is comfort. If I know not to rely too heavily on my own wisdom, then it doesn't take my breath away when things fall apart. When I don't put too much pressure on my husband to be my knight in shining armor, he surprises me by being my constant, by being my steady. I have a greater appreciation for his strength now than I EVER have.
He sees clearly that while it is most certainly his role to provide and give and sacrifice for the family, there are some things that are just plain out of his control. And instead of being angry about that, he does everything that he can. And when everything that he can isn't enough to make ends meet, he doesn't get angry. He gives more. And he supports my efforts too. He prays for me. He encourages me. I'm thankful for him.
At the end of April 2014, we were doing well. Kerry had a good job in the oil fields in Colorado. He was working 80 hours per week for two weeks. Then he would come home to us for two weeks. The pay was good. The benefits were solid. He was working hard, coming home tired, and providing. We were paying down past debt. We were getting ready to rent out our house here in Georgia. We were content.
He herniated a disc on the rigs towards the end of one of his two week shifts. And just. Like. That... Everything changed.
He went from providing, to barely being able to walk.
While workers compensation was doing their investigation, we were told to sit tight, that there was no need to file for short term disability. And when a 20 day state mandated time for due diligence came and went, we were concerned, but tried to do what was right. We sat tight and waited for word on how to further proceed. By the end of the summer, with no income, we lost our health insurance and benefits. And then we got the notice that workers comp was denying our claim because they had come to the conclusion that Kerry had pre-existing injuries that he didn't divulge.
So no income. No workers comp. And a lot of questions.
I can't go into the details since we have our final hearing pending in just a little over a month. But suffice to say that there was a short time where we received unemployment, and then... Nothing.
And here we are, nearly a year later, still standing. We have done our level best to minimize all of our bills. We have sold everything that we can possibly part with. And are preparing to sell our second vehicle in order to continue to pay bills and survive until our hearing. And through it all, we can honestly say it's been difficult, but worth it.
In the past two and half months, my art has taken off. FLOWN. I have never sold as many pieces as I have this past year. I shake my head to see what the Lord is doing. I had always been afraid to work in color until I was snowed in and bored in Cheyenne Wyoming. I never painted a single watercolor until that winter... and the sky's the limit now!
I have the opportunity to showcase my artwork in a restaurant that is opening in downtown Macon. And the Lord has also provided the possibility of using my art as a means to help communities raise funds to save historic buildings and draw attention to the needs of the counties they are in. I never imagined that was even possible. But it is.
I have had so many people encourage me, push me on, prod me forward. I have been blown away by the amount of support that we have received in the last year. There have been people who have reached out to love on my family, and they haven't even known the depth of the issues that we face. I can't even begin to tell you the number of times I've been reduced to a puddle by an unexpected check, or art commission, or care box for my children. And it's always been just at the right moment. Just when I am ready to collapse and give up, there is another reminder that we are doing what we need to.
First and foremost, to those who have loved on our family. THANK YOU. I have not taken a single thing for granted. And you will never know the depth of how much you've touched our lives. This past year would have been unbearable if we had walked alone. We love you. And especially those who have reached out to my children, from the deepest part of me... Thank you. It is so difficult to let your children see your weakness, and to see them go without. It hurts. And yet, this past year has been an opportunity for me to humble myself, let my guard down, and allow people to minister to us. There have been so many times that I gave when I could, and to receive is MUCH harder for me, but I have grown in the process. And I'm grateful. So grateful.
Next, this is where the honesty comes in. We have 36 days until we are due in Colorado for our final hearing. We recognize that if we are denied workers compensation that our lives will be forever changed. We know that we will lose our home, and we have acknowledged that may be a very real possibility. These 36 days seem like 36 more months. I am painting as much as I can, and increasing my workload while Kerry is helping with the kids and doing website promotion to get my art off and running. We are off to a good start, but there is still a huge gap between where we need to be and where we are.
I've never been afraid of hard work. I've never been one to look for the easy route. And right now is no different. I'm putting in the hours, and we are taking each day as it comes. I'm going to post a link at the bottom of this blog to a GoFundMe page that I started a little over a month ago. Our family is trying to make this dream a reality, and while the pieces are in place, we still need to have running water and a roof over our heads. We only have 36 days until we know what our next steps will be.
I recognize that I still have to option to put my kids back in public schools, leave my husband at home and go back to work. But I can't do art and work a 40 hour week. I'm not strong enough to do it all. Kerry needs medical attention to see if he can ever gain feeling back in his leg. We recognize that he will never be able to do a heavy physical job like he was before. We aren't angry. We are just walking it out one day at a time.
It's good to have family and friends that believe in us. Thank you for your prayers, your texts, your letters, and your love. We couldn't have gone this far without you. The Father has been good to us. And regardless of the outcome, we will praise.
Please share this story, and the link. We don't care if it's $5 or $500. The highest donor will still get the portrait of the ship that I'm working on. There's a picture of it on the GoFundMe page. And I'm still sending out originals to those who donate. No matter the size. We are grateful for your help.
It's the pink button right below.