I grabbed my coffee-stained mug of the pile of unwashed dishes and opened the pantry. "We're out of coffee!!" I shouted to no one in particular. "We're out of milk, too," my twelve-year-old said, munching on dry cereal at the counter. I swore under my breath as I opened the fridge. There goes my mother of the year award. I am such a loser.
"Oh and the roaches are back," my sixteen-year-old daughter muttered as she wandered by. As if appearing to prove my daughter's point, a small one scurried across the counter to hide beneath an unwashed dish. We couldn't afford an exterminator. We tried to battle them with various pesticides. Amazing we hadn't been poisoned.
I grabbed my purse. "I'm running to the store." The kids could live on dry cereal, but I couldn't survive without coffee. I was already sweating profusely as I walked to my car through the unbearably muggy, July, Florida heat. I lived in hell.
Money was tight. We had to choose between food or air conditioning. My divorce was finalized a few days before. Worthless. You are absolutely worthless. Two failed marriages. What a joke.
Sunday was suppose to be my day to relax, not run errands. A day to cuddle up with my husband, who was now cuddling up with a much younger and prettier woman. Of course he left you. Look at you. Why would anyone love you?
My world was pretty much zeroed out by the events of the past few months. An ugly breakup followed by bankruptcy. I was practically catatonic. I felt like I was walking through water. The kids were devastated and angry. This was their second time going through this nightmare.
Fat and forty. Guaranteed to be along forever. Someone once said that at forty, a woman had a better chance of being killed by terrorists than getting married. I had two chances at marriage. Blown them both. And now all I had left were two angry teenagers and loneliness.
On my way to the store, I drove by a little church that I had passed many times before. That day, the church sign said, God Loves You. I sat at a stoplight and stared at the sign. I drove past the church and then decided to come back around the block. God loves me? He'd be the only one.
I turned into the church parking lot and sat there, frozen. I hadn't been in a church for more than twenty years. I slipped in the back door of the church and slid into a pew. The minister was in mid-sentence. "God loves you," he said, looking straight at me. "God loves you." I got up, raced back out to my car, and drove to the store. I couldn't stop crying. I couldn't breathe. God could love me? Me? Hideous, awful, pudgy, unloved, unwanted me?
A few weeks later, I went back to that church and started going sporadically, mostly for the social connection. I made a few friends and once a month we got together at someone's house in the evening to talk about life and pray. One night after a particularly intense discussion, we settled in for a period of silent prayer.
I sensed intense, real, perfect, powerful love layered over all the ugliness. Love in spite of it all. Love unconditional, abundant, and specific. Love of me even though He knew exactly who I really was. He knew everything about me from birth until this moment. He knew my secret dreams and darkest thoughts, yet He still loved me.
This story is an excerpt from When God Happens: True Stories of Modern Day Miracles, from Salem Books, available online and wherever books are sold.