Mel Monroe: Virgin River
Have you ever seen the show Virgin River? From the moment I watched season one when it came out, I loved Mel Monroe. I felt a kinship with the character, a nurse practitioner who completely reboots her life from scratch in a rustic Northern California town. She experienced profound loss in her life and yet, moving forward, has the strength to let go, start over, and dare to dream again. She is a paradox. A brave, force-to-be-reckoned-with woman tempered with a heart of gold.
The scenes that got to me the most were of her in bed at night, reliving memories and heartache as she cried quietly into her comforter. I have never identified with someone on screen so strongly. I understand that the grief and sadness that sneaks out in the dead of night doesn’t often show during the day.
Why share this with you? Well, I promised you a part two on my decision to change my career (and life). It turns out, we have to go backward in order to understand the context of my decision. Nothing has been more difficult to write and share as of yet. It feels too personal, too emotional.
I’ve blogged about a Biblical response to our heart’s desires in the past. This time around, I wanted you to come along and dig with me for the treasure that is found when we vulnerably share our hearts with one another. In my mind, I think that no one can understand the depths of the battle I walked in the past couple years. But that is simply not true. I won’t know if you identify with my story until I dare to share it with you.
Like Mel, the only audience to my inmost struggle was an empty bedroom. I let some friends and family into the struggle, but only partly. There were times I could not hide my distress. But if I did let someone see the tip of the iceberg, you can be sure 90% was under the cover of the frigid waters where only deep sea divers in drysuits explore.
Do you think that God can use All Things to direct his children? I do. I think Virgin River was part of my journey. While I’d not experienced loss akin to Mel, I was in the midst of grieving what my life was supposed to look like. Nothing had turned out how I expected. I wrote in my journal back in 2019, “I wonder if I could have the courage to leave everything (career, house, life) behind and start over somewhere new?”
A New Thing
God knew the answer. Fiercely, I held on to safety in the form of my stable and well-paying job. But God began to strip even that away from me. Not out of punishment, but out of love for his daughter who was stuck in a holding pattern. I had been waiting for the man of my dreams to find me and deliver me into a new life with the hope of my own family one day. I knew that my life could finally begin and I could start living my dreams.
It became clear that my Abba Father wasn’t content to let me live in impatient despair any longer. It was time to start something new. In Isaiah 43 (one of the best chapters on hope I’ve ever read!), the Lord says, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:19 NIV
No, I could not perceive it, for many years. It ticked me off when friends would say that verse to me, and yet I felt like all around was dry desert. Nope, I see nothing. Not even a tiny sprout, or a thistle. Just pebbles and clods of dirt. I didn’t know that it would get worse before it could get better. Otherwise, I might have been content to languish in the barren landscape for many more years to come.
Desperate for Change
How did the Lord get me to consider a new path? Well, by making me uncomfortable. You don’t need the details, but just know that God regularly put me in situations where I was in no way, even remotely, doing the things I was trained for, excelled at, or which fulfilled me. I walked around with my lips pressed tightly together behind my Covid mask, physically restraining the anxiety and anger, from spilling out. I felt desperate for change.
It was during this time that a dear friend had a miscarriage. For some strange reason, it triggered my deepest fear. I thought, “Jesus, that isn’t supposed to happen to them! I have no way of creating a family right now with a loving husband, but they can, and they are supposed to! It’s not right!” If I couldn’t have kids, I was comforted that the people closest to me were able to.
I have PCOS and know that infertility can be a major issue. I’ve always said things like, “if I have a baby…” or “I can always adopt…” That’s true, but I came face to face with the realization that I desperately wanted my own tiny baby one day to hold and cherish. Yep, that word again. Desperate. You can’t understand that panicky, anguish unless you have walked the road of desiring something for so long, only to be thwarted year after year.
All the things I said in the past to protect my heart crumbled to dust. I grieved that I couldn’t see the prospect of lasting love and companionship in a husband on the horizon. However, underneath that, I came face to face with the deep desire to have biological children that I’d been resolutely refusing to acknowledge.
It was September 7, 2020, and I remember working all this out with Jesus on a long, long walk in the meadow. I stopped to look at a monarch butterfly that landed near me. God has used monarchs in the past to remind me of his presence and love.
I wept as the realization hit me that I may never get married, never have kids. And yet, God is still present, still good. I recounted the million ways he’s taken care of me, sheltered me, provided healing and friendship.
I was at a fork in the road. On the one hand, I could continue to walk the path of sadness, unfulfilled desires, and grief. On the other, I could let go and trust God with my whole life, come what may. That’s when I created my “even if…even then…” statement.
Start Over with Trust
Even If my deepest held desire does not come to pass in the whole of my lifetime, Even Then I will trust you.
Why would I say such a thing? Isn’t that lacking in faith that God would fulfill my desires? No, I don’t think so. I had to get to a place where I admitted my desire before him, held it in my hands, and then set it down. My arm-strength had failed from holding it out toward him for so long. To be fair, he never asked me to constantly press my desire in front of his face.
He won’t forget the tears and prayers I’ve offered about my desires. I was unable to see him clearly until I set the idol of my desire down. Then I truly looked at him. I had to decide…is he trustworthy, is he good, does he have my best in mind – even if it looks different than what I desire? My answer was, and still is, yes. How about you?
In September, I thought I was at rock bottom, but it turns out that without a desire to focus on I was left in a pretty bleak landscape. Who was I without this obsession? What was there left to hope for? I was like a ship without an anchor.
My counselor had suggested I find a hobby – something to focus on and replace the all-consuming-focus I’d had on marriage and family. I began to pray in earnest for God to reveal my next step. Two days later my mom texted me something she’d seen on Facebook that her pastor had posted. A free 9-month writing class was starting in two days. “You said you wanted to write a book,” she wrote. Was this the answer to my prayer?
What do I have to lose, I thought. A novel ought to take some focus and be a great distraction. So I enrolled in the School of Kingdom Writers, Arche Year class. I had no idea what was coming, and no clue that this tiny step forward would ignite an old, seemingly dead, desire into flames again. Forgotten hopes of ministry, sharing my heart for Jesus, writing, allowing my story to impact the Kingdom for his glory have all been breathed back to life.
Goodness and Mercy
Of course there’s more to this story, and I might even get around to telling you the rest one day. 😉 For now, I will leave you with the conviction that was born out of this season of drought:
I am convinced that come what may, Even If – Even Then, God is the author of my story. Jesus and I have only just started to write the first paragraph of Part Two.
Surely his goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. (Psalm 23:6)
I hope you were encouraged by this part of my story. Most people have experienced a deeply held desire that has not yet been met. I’d love to partner with you in prayer if you are in the midst of the battle. Email me at email@example.com and subscribe to my newsletter to get email updates on blogs, guest posts, and news.