When life gets tough, the Christian family calls on secret reserves...
An Unintended Journey
by Kathy Murphy
Blame it on my elementary school teaching background (which I enjoyed for several years before joining the Free Will Baptist Bible College faculty). I’d rather join you on a rug for story time than write about it. However, since there is no rug big enough for all of us, we’ll try it this way. And what better story to write than love story!
Cafeteria Love Story
The story begins where many love stories do—in a college cafeteria, a young man and woman enrolled in George Peabody School of Education at Vanderbilt University. Both worked on campus and received one free cafeteria meal daily. Janice worked in the cafeteria and checked off student names as they moved through her line.
Tim was quite fond of Janice. That’s why he came through the line each day with a mischievous grin and a twinkle in his eye, and provided her with an alias. It was his way of grabbing the attention of the girl of his dreams. While she searched her list for his just-invented name, he would sneak away and enjoy his free meal. It took a few days for her to learn his identity. It took longer for Tim to drum up the courage to ask her for a date. While Tim did cause a bit of frustration until Janice figured out the name game, I find his story endearing. You see, this is the story of how my parents met.
Tim and Janice started dating and became engaged. Then he shipped out to Vietnam. When he returned home, he was told by his fiancée, “Everything is in order. We’re getting married on Saturday.” They married and had two daughters, my older sister Christy and me. When I was two, we moved from Newport News, Virginia, back to Nashville, Tennessee, where Mother taught third grade at Woodbine Christian Academy.
A few months later, a drunk driver killed my mother in a car accident, leaving my father to raise two young girls. He did an outstanding job, and I only remember going to church once with my dress on backwards.
You may think this a tragic end to the beautiful love story we began. But you see, the love story is not about my parents. It is about our Savior, and the story continues.
Love Blooms Again
A family friend gave my father the address of a woman who lost her husband in a car accident. She also had two daughters, Robyn and Jennie. So, my father and a Southern Belle from Georgia became pen pals. The story continued to unfold, and Dad remarried. Today, he refers to her as his “mail order bride.”
There were four girls now, and the Lord blessed our family with a brother and a sister, Timothy and Ruth Ellen. If you are doing the math, that is five girls and one boy. We sang our own version of the Brady Bunch song. I used to think having six children was exactly what I wanted, however, my husband and I stopped at three. Let’s just say we are more than content.
Fast forward to the fall of 2006. It was a stressful time. My husband and I were both making career changes. I was transitioning from elementary school teacher to Teacher Education instructor at FWBBC. He was transitioning from retail sales to law enforcement.
Early on October 11, we received word that my brother Timothy had been killed in a car accident. When the room stopped spinning, I tried to make sense of it. I remember thinking, “Lord, our family has already been through such tragedy. Why Timothy? Why our family? Why my parents?”
The days that followed were dark and difficult. We couldn’t imagine how life could continue. But today I can honestly say that God’s love, grace, and mercy are sufficient.
My purpose for sharing the story of my family is to encourage you when life takes you on an unintended journey. The lesson of Isaiah 55:8-9 is that the Lord continues to teach us. It is not our purpose to understand His ways, but to trust His ways.
Consider the life of Joseph. He did not ask to be thrown into a pit by his brothers, even though he played the role of obnoxious little brother quite well. Life dealt him injustice after injustice, yet God was faithful and ever-present in his life. After arriving in Egypt, Joseph earned a position of authority, but life again handed him difficulty when he was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife and imprisoned.
God’s ways are revealed through the unintended journeys Joseph traveled. As a boy, he studied while his brothers worked. He later saved the people from famine. God’s preparation began long before Joseph faced his hardships. This brings us to when Joseph is reunited with his brothers and an important principle—our reaction to the injustices in our lives.
Do we embrace and forgive one another as Joseph did? Or do we choose anger and bitterness? If God can forgive my sins that nailed Jesus to the cross, surely I can forgive my husband when he hurts my feelings, my friend who betrays my trust, and the drivers who took the lives of my mother and my brother.
How do we continue when life gets hard? We seek guidance in His Word. For you see, before my brother Timothy was born, God knew that a car accident would take his life. Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” Just as God knew Timothy in the womb, He knew you. He knows the hardships you have faced and the ones yet to come.
As Daniel purposed in his heart to remain undefiled, we can purpose to live in belief that God’s ways are higher than our ways and His love never failing. We trust, we hope, and time reveals His perfect ways.
I am sure my birth mother was a great mother. I probably would’ve had a good life with her, but I am thankful for the plan God unveiled and the mother He provided for me—the mother I know and love, the mother who raised me and taught me by her example how to be a godly wife and mother. God’s plans and timing are far better than any blueprint I might design. I was privileged to have two moms. They were both teachers, and that is a big part of who I am today.
I do not know what causes you hurt or the decisions you face. But I do know God wants us to be hopeful on our unintended journeys. We can be hopeful even when we reach a point that we don’t know what to pray. The promise of Romans 8:26 is both comforting and powerful.
Three Little Blessings
When we read God’s Word and pray, we recognize God’s goodness and His blessings in our lives. Let me tell you about my three little blessings.
My daughter Emily is seven years old and an excellent big sister. I remember her perplexed expression when one day she asked, “Mommy, when I grow up, can I be two things?”
I answered, “Well, of course, Emily, why?” Her response? “Because I really want to be a ballerina and a Cheetah girl.” What does a mother say to that?
Meredith is four and a little quirky. We never know what she is going to say. I could tell you about the time she got the words grandma and groundhog mixed up, or the time she said there is another Meredith she hears in her head. She thinks it’s the devil, so she doesn’t listen to him. Last week on the way to school, she asked me how God created the world. I told her that God is so powerful all He had to do was speak the words, and the world was created. She sat there for a moment, then I could see a sparkle in her eye, and she asked, “Could God share that power with me?”
And then there is Andrew, named after my brother who was Timothy Andrew. Just as Timothy was the only boy in our family, on my side of the family Andrew is the only grandson of eight grandchildren. He looks like his Uncle Timothy, and we think that is such a blessing. Andrew is not quite two years old, and we can tell he is definitely all boy. I have stories about him, but I am afraid you might call the Department of Child Services after hearing them.
Leave the Choice to God
I am thankful for the few memories I have of my mother. I am told that I favor her in my appearance and mannerisms, and I cherish that. We have many fond and humorous memories of my brother who was forever trying to scare or gross out his sisters. He made us laugh and could always talk us into scratching his back. Timothy was a kind, big-hearted adventurer, always up for a camping trip or hike.
If I had been in charge, would I have chosen the same plan for my family? Likely not! But I am here, and my Savior’s love has accompanied me. For that I am blessed and grateful.
I wish I could spare you life’s hardships, but nowhere does God’s Word say we will be spared hurt and heartache. Instead, we are promised hope. As I reconsider Meredith’s question, I think God does share His power with us. He gave us the gift of His Word. It is our map, our comfort, and our hope.
Maybe that’s what the prophet had in mind when he wrote in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
About the Writer: Mrs. Kathy Murphy joined the Teacher Education faculty at Free Will Baptist Bible College in 2006.