I’m strong. So strong. I’ve dealt with things some people go a whole life and never have to face. Most days I handle it like a champ. The crazy ex wife. The racist in laws. The other grandparents who (this just in… HATE me now) decided I’m horrible too. Never in my life have I felt so much hate. I guess it would’ve been better for me to have never gotten involved with my step children. I should’ve let mom and dad do their thing and never stepped in. But since that’s not the decision I made- now I am an easy target for blame. I’m over it. I’m so over it. Did I mention I’m over it? On one hand, I feel that everything in my life is so complete. I’m finally surrounded by the people and activities and hobbies I have always envisioned. I’m making a difference in my small corner of the world. On the other hand, I feel trapped. I’m stuck in this nightmare of a family. I’m connected with the same last name as a bunch of ingnorant, racist, naive, insane people. Most days I smile and persevere. Today, I just can’t.
I haven’t been writing for a while. A while is actually an understatement. It’s been a year almost. At the end of July 2016 my house burned down. First question is always if everyone is ok. Yes, we are all alive and well. Pets included. Second question is always if we lost everything. The answer to that is mostly. If you’re talking about “stuff”. We lost most of our stuff but we gained so much more.
It was a Wednesday night. We were all asleep. I woke up to what I thought was someone throwing pebbles at my bedroom window. I got out of bed to find that the upper level of our home was on fire. The alarms didn’t go off until we were all out of the house. I ripped the kids out of their beds and screamed for my husband. You can watch the full video story here. Nine months later, I am sitting at my new kitchen table, in my new home, ready to tell you the things I’ve learned over the past few months.
1. “Stuff” Means Nothing!
Material items are just things. Stuff. Stuff Means nothing. Nothing in the world mattered to me at that moment than my family. Things can be replaced, people can’t. I think all of us have, at one time or another, asked ourselves, “If my house were on fire and I could grab one thing, what would it be?”. I can now tell you from experience that I grabbed four: Hailey, Malachi, Brayden, and Noah. Not one single other thing was on my mind. Not one. (Except my husband who I screamed for.) Well, about two minutes later I cared about one other thing. Pants. I wasn’t wearing any and I knew our yard would momentarily be filled with people. No worries though, no one saw me in my underoos. I was fully clothed by the time anyone got there.
2. Your Kids Copy YOU!
A lot of people have asked me how my kids are handing this. If they are traumatized, anxious, and if they can sleep at night. It didn’t faze them much. They were pretty much their normal selves after the initial shock. What I realized was that they were responding as Nick and I were. They were copying us. Other people were freaking out. Crying hysterically. I can’t tell you how many times I heard “What are you going to do?”. To which I’d reply that God will make a way. We’re all ok and that’s all that matters. I’m not entirely sure but I think it was more than just our own kids watching us. Remember that whatever you say is planting a seed in your child’s mind. They are watching everything you do. They will mimic you. Be worth copying! (Take a look at Romans 5:1-21.)
3. Anything the Devil Means for Harm, God Turns to Good!
I’m pretty sure the devil did this. He saw our faith growing. He saw Nick beginning to love Christ. He sees our potential. I was getting ready to be a camp counselor at our church’s kid camp, running a small group, volunteering at an inner city ministry. Whatever else my family and I will do in the future to magnify the kingdom of God, I think the devil can see that. So he tried to destroy it. He’ll do whatever he can to make you question God. Genesis 50:20 says “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.” I won’t know the extent of how this effected anyone else until I get to Heaven. But I do know that so much good came out of this situation. Not only did we get a new home, a much nicer home, but I watched the faith in my kids grow. We lost everything we had but we go back over 10 times more than we had. Ever heard that saying “God will give you double for your trouble”? Well, He did! Monetarily yes but also in relationships being restored, a stronger marriage, and just abundance in very way.
4. God Does Provide!
Immediately after the fire, “stuff” started manifesting. God used the people around us to supply all of our needs. Before I even left the scene that night my van had boxes of clothes in it. My parents and one of my girlfriends set up donation sites and the donations just started flowing in. My bonus kids’ mom was there nearly every day with the little things that I needed just to get through each day. We actually were so blessed that we were able to pass on the leftover items that we did not need to the inner city ministry I volunteered for. We had enough to bless two entire communities and still had some left! For the first week after the fire, it didn’t matter where I went, there was a steady flow of people stopping in to give hugs, donations, money, and well wishes. I felt so undeniably loved and cared for during that tough time. A lot of people I haven’t seen in years stopped in to just help. Several people who I didn’t know but that knew a friend of ours even helped. Small towns are amazing that way. God does provide. We never went without anything we needed. (Phil 4:9, Matt 6:31-32, Matt 7:11, Lee 12:24, Ps 34:10)
5. Everything Goes Full Circle!
As I sat in awe at the generosity around me, I wondered aloud why so many people were so quick to help us so freely. A friend said to me, “it’s because you’d do it for me”. Then I started noticing in several of the cards and letters that people would write something I had done for them in the past. Usually things that I forgot about. One package arrived from someone I use to be very close to who really did something terrible to me. I hadn’t heard from her in nearly 18 years. She sent a letter apologizing and that letter meant more to me than the money and the gift she sent. My husband cried on several occasions and told me that if it weren’t for me or for my family that he would have nothing right now. The love received was not only a result of seeds I had sown in the past, but my family as well. Some people helped simply because someone in my family had helped them in the past. This was an incredible thing to witness. I’m not sure if I found all of them but I found 66 verses in the Bible on the law of sowing and reaping. I am definitely not going to cite all of those but I will cite one. 2 Corinthians 9:6 says “Remember this, whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”
It took nearly a month to demolish the burned house, a few weeks to itemize everything I had in the house for the insurance company, (shout out here to State Farm’s Brett Younce for being so amazing. If you’re in the Grand Rapids area and you switch to him, make sure you tell him Julie Harnish sent you 🙂 and five months to rebuild. (You can watch the rebuilding video here.) We have been in our new house since Christmas Eve. I’m not saying it was all peachy keen. There were hard days. It’s still weird reaching for doors that aren’t there anymore and light switches that are now in a different spot. I often go to grab my (fill in the blank with some random item you need) and realize I don’t have one of those anymore. I wouldn’t wish a house fire on my worst enemy. What I am saying is that there is positive in it. It all worked out okay. It turned out to be a blessing. Mostly, I am so happy to be home.
P.S. A friendly suggestion: raise your contents coverage in your insurance plan. You do not realize how quickly every little thing in your home adds up. We were under insured in the contents department.
There are certain things that just set our hearts on fire with a holy anger or a passion that God plants in you in order to fulfill His purpose in your life. Here’s a couple of mine.
The first is instilling in my children the fear of God. If I would’ve known as a child how much power I had in Christ over my thoughts alone- I could’ve avoided years of agony. If we don’t teach our children what to believe, think, and speak, someone else will. But if they know who they are they will have the confidence to overcome peer pressure and societal pressure. It is my job as a mother to equip my babies to live in the world but not be of the world.
Another thing I’m passionate about is children in third world countries. Not the ones who are just poor but safe, loved, and fed. But the ones who are living in war zones, scared all the time, starving, can’t go to school, don’t have water, orphans, and could die from a simple illness. Those children my heart breaks for. I want to help them all! But I can pray for now. I can educate others for now. I can support a couple for now. One day, though, I will go there to take care of those babies.
The average American doesn’t even know what real food is. If you’re one of those- real food grew and was alive at one time. Real food can heal from the inside out. If it comes in a box it’s most likely not real food. If it had more than 6 ingredients on the back and you don’t know what some of them are, it’s definitely not real food! I am passionate about food. I think it’s a vital necessity that we teach the next generation about nutrition through food. Did you know what doctors and nurses are not taught about nutrition in medical school? We need to show people! We need to grow it ourselves and educate our kids on how eating right can ward off illness. So I HATE Monsanto! I am anti GMO and farmed fish. When you start to research the carbon footprint of the produce even that we buy from the store- why not use farmers markets? Or grow your own! Pesticides are hurting is worse than you can imagine. Don’t get me started on flouride in our water! I urge you to do some research on this if you are unaware.
Along with nutrition for health, anyone who knows me knows I’m passionate about big pharma. Uggh!! It gets me so angry! Nearly everyone I know is on at least one prescription. Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it safe! God created natural remedies for nearly everything. I know I will most likely be hated for this next statement but here goes: I believe wholeheartedly that things like cancer, ADD, Autism, ADHD, Anziety, and more are man-made illnesses. Years ago, these things were nearly non existent. People argue that they weren’t non existent but that we were just not educated on them. Listen, you can choose to educate yourself or not. All I can do is maybe encourage you to learn for yourself. Big pharma is a business. Business makes money from repeat customers. Any med you’re on has worse side effects than whatever your ailment is. Then you’ll need another med to fix the side effect. I can even go a step further and say chemicals are bad all together. Nearly every advertised hygiene product is chemical laden and will make your symptoms worse. I won’t get into any more detail because most of you wont believe me anyway. Just know that natural is always better! Hospitals are a huge blessing and they are needed. But not the way we’re using them in America. We’ve just been conditioned to believe in a certain way of doing things. Unfortunately, it’s all a lie and it’s all about them money. Oh I can get fired up about this!
I am passionate about travel. I’m not talking about flying somewhere to stay in an all inclusive resort and flying home. I’m talking about meeting people who are different than you, embracing new cultures, and experiencing a new way of living. It enlarges your paradigm and allows you to be more empathetic and loving even. There’s a great big world out there. Go play in it!
The hardest experience that I ever had was when my son, Noah, was a baby. He was four weeks old. I had a c-section and I was breast feeding him so this was the first night I had enough milk pumped for my husband to do one feeding. I was exhausted. I awoke from a dead sleep because of a curdling cry from my brand new baby boy. I got up and went into his room to see my husband trying to feed him. He had to work the next day and I was up anyway so I grabbed Noah and told his dad that I’d feed him. I sat down in the glider and consoled my infant, feeding him without the bottle. I thought it was odd at the time that (I don’t know what to call him since I probably shouldn’t use his real name so I’ll just say “ex” from now on.) my ex didn’t go back to bed. He sat there and stared as I stroked my sons face and watched him eat. I’m not sure how much time had passed until my ex said “Is his arm broken?” That was the moment everything in my life changed in an instant.
I had no clue that the second I walked into the hospital that I was being viewed as a child abuser. I had no clue that when they did the ex rays, they not only saw the broken arm, but 4 broken ribs as well. I did know that it was extremely odd that my ex did not come with me to the hospital that morning but went to work. I had no idea that, for the next 6 months, I’d be in and out of court. That my child would have a different lawyer than myself and that everything in my life: habits, character, experiences, friends- would be picked apart by strangers who were fighting to take my brand new baby away from me. I was clueless then to how corrupt CPS is. And if you would’ve told me that I would spend 18 months after that living on eggshells because strangers from 3 various agencies would be popping in unannounced to check on my kids – I would’ve never believed you.
You see, I just had a new baby! I was so happy because we lost one before that and it took about a year to get pregnant again. My ex wasn’t a good spouse and, though I knew marrying him wasn’t God’s best for me, I loved him with all my heart and I didn’t believe in divorce. So despite all the women he continuously betrayed me with, I was a Christian and I wasn’t going to let my heart get hard. I was going to love him and be an example to him because we were a family and divorce wasn’t an option. Until he hurt my son.
It took 3 days in the children’s hospital for me to start waking up to the fact that my husband may have done this. For 3 days they treated us as one. We got interrogated separately but other than that, we were both suspects. As my baby boy was hooked up to a million wires and monitors, there was someone watching us the whole time. I couldn’t even breast feed with a blanket or go to the bathroom alone. For 3 days I didn’t sleep. I worried Noah had a disease and even about the effects of all the testing they were doing on him. Then the CPS worker told me that if u didn’t leave my husband, I would lose my son. They already took Malachi from my immediate custody. The only reason that isn’t such a huge factor is because I knew he was with my parents and he was safe.
I called her on a Sunday. It took 4 hours for her to return my call. I told her “I think my husband did this.” She told me that was all she needed to hear, and one hour later, my ex was escorted out of the hospital room by six officers. I didn’t get to say good bye. I had no idea how our lives would turn upside down after that. CPS forced me to file a PPO (even though I had to lie because my ex had never done anything to threaten me), forced me to file for divorce, and forced me to change my locks. My ex was immediately granted a restraining order and lost his physical parental rights to Noah. He was given only 3 years probation due to the fact that he had a clean history. He was let off after a year and a half for good behavior. The second he was out of the hospital room the person watching us left too.
Noah is now 6 years old and he wouldn’t know his dad in a crowd of people. He’s only seen him a handful of times. The sad part is there’s no legal issues surrounding my ex not seeing his son anymore. My lawyer just asked that he show proof of the 3 things he was required to do per the court 6 years ago. He refuses to do it. He has another daughter who is a couple months older than Noah (yup, figure that one out) and as far as I know, he pretty much gave up his rights to her as well.
I’ve been through a lot of hard things in my life. You can read my story of you click here. This was by far the hardest. But I have learned that sometimes the hardest things end up making us a better version of ourselves. I was a fairly new Christian back then. I walked in fear. I worried. I cried a lot. You know what else happened though? I prayed a lot. I read a lot. I got mentally healthy and healed and whole. I learned to be a much, much stronger person. I was filled with the Holy Spirit. I even was able to impact some of those random agency workers who showed up at my home for those 18 months. I also have a huge heart for single mothers. I learned how to speak good things over my life. I no longer give in to what the world would say is “normal” but I put God first no matter what. I am now a better version of myself. And who knows, maybe all of that was really for someone else’s benefit. Maybe God just knew I was strong enough to handle it and he used it to refine me.
Is this like a genie in a bottle like post or does it have to be realistic? Does the question mean “happy” or “joyful” because there is a difference. Ha ha I think I think too much. (Did you catch that?) okay, I’m keeping it simple.
- If my house was spotless I’d be happy. Temporarily. I go through this about once every couple months. I give up. I give up on the house because it’s such a thankless job and, frankly, I might be the only one who wants it as clean as I keep it anyway. But after about 3 days I can’t take the filth and it makes me so crabby that I give in and clean it again just for everyone to come home and mess it up. I’ve never hired someone to clean my home in my life but, today, I am considering it. I don’t because chances are pretty good that they won’t do it up to my neat-freak standards. Okay, rant over. After this blog guess what I’ll be doing? Ahem… Cleaning.
- A stimulating conversation. Really. A deep conversation about anything that matters with someone who can think outside the box. If you read this, coffees on! Come on over!
- Working in my flower garden. If you wonder to yourself why I don’t just go do it then- refer to # 1.
- Hanging out with my sister. I miss her.
- Leaving on any trip with my boys. Going anywhere new makes me happy.
These are not written in order of importance. Okay, okay I’m signing off to go clean- or maybe to go to the greenhouse (wink, wink). Have a good day y’all!
By the way, if you read this all the way to the bottom would you mind leaving a comment on my blog (not on Facebook). Let me know the number one thing that would make you happy right now. It’s part of the blog challenge and I get more points for likes and comments than just readers and visitors. Ok for real now- I gotta go play in my flowers. I mean clean my house.
#blogchallenge #cleaning #happiness
- You’re NOT fat! Even if you were, it’s irrelevant. Your body has nothing to do with your soul. Love yourself the way you are! (P.S. EAT MORE ICE CREAM… You’re metabolism rocks right now.)
- Sign up for more camps, trips, & adventures! These will be the experiences that shape your character and the most fond memories you have of childhood. It will also be nearly impossible to do these things when you get older. Carpe Diem!
- GROW OUT YOUR BANGS! Don’t listen to your mother. Those look rediculous.
- Spend more time with your younger siblings.
- Choose the youth groups and retreats over parties and alcohol.
- Alcohol is illegal until you’re 21. It doesn’t make you cool to get drunk. Pursue other hobbies and do not be sad over anyone who chooses to walk away because you do. They weren’t your real friends anyway.
- Those girls who are mean to you are just jealous. They’re hurting too. Be kind anyway. Don’t let it get to you.
- Never change any plans/goals/dreams for a boy.
- You cannot truly love someone else until you love yourself. Jesus can show you how to love yourself and how to have a sound mind. Find Him!
- Once you figure out what it is you want to do or where you want to go, JUST DO IT! People will always ridicule your choices. No matter what you do, someone will have a problem with it. Be true to you. Consult your own heart and no one else.
My parents are good grandparents who would do anything for their grand kids. I also know they did the best they could and that’s all any of us can do really. I love my parents. I am thankful for them not handing me things growing up. I was taught to stand on my own two feet and work hard. I am most thankful for all of the opportunities they put in front of me like Going to camps, Europe, sports, clubs, and that they took us camping so often. Those things really shaped who I am today and a lot of parents do not give those gifts to their children. I am also thankful that they gave me 3 amazing siblings to grow old with. My parents are fun, funny, and very giving. They have a lot of friends. I love that. They really created a stable home for us and taught us how to face life. I find myself asking them a lot of questions now about homesteading type things. I think it’s amazing that they are still together. They just celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary. I am happy for them that they are so happy together. That alone is something to be envied.
I can say with complete honesty that there’s really not much I fear. I use to have a lot of fears. I was afraid of bad things happening to my kids, getting a serious illness, heights, spiders, and small spaces. The Bible says 365 times that we shall not fear- one time for each day of the year! I guess this is pretty much etched into my soul now. I speak positivity, life, & health over every area of my life and I know God is protecting me. However, for the blog challenge I was supposed to think of my top 3 fears so I spent all day thinking about what they were.
I have to admit that I spend a lot of time thinking about this. My biggest fear is the apocalypse. More specifically, end times as listed in Revelations. If you don’t know this about me I am really into conspiracies because I really don’t think most of them are theories. There’s at least some truth to them. So I spend time researching ways in which the world will end and how to survive it. Yes, it’s written in Revelations how it’ll all go down and I know I’ll win. We win. God wins. But what I fear, I guess, is the 3.5 years in which the antichrist is reigning and the rapture hasn’t happened yet. If we refuse to take the mark then we could be murdered. Maybe I shouldn’t think about this but I do. It’s my biggest fear. Especially because I honestly think the end times will happen in my lifetime.
My second biggest fear is similar to the first but just God. I guess that’s a good thing. I love Him. I know He gives us grace because of what Jesus did, but I also fear Him. We have free will and Grace or not there’s always consequences for our actions.
My third biggest fear is not seeing the ones I love spend eternity in heaven.
What are your top 3 biggest fears? Please comment and let me know. Thanks for reading!