When my kids were going into tenth, eighth, and sixth grades, my husband and I uprooted them from everything they loved and moved them to a strange, unfamiliar land 1,500 miles away. Even though it was still in the contiguous United States, it felt like a foreign country. There were very few trees, and even less grass. And the houses weren’t made of brick or siding, they were made of adobe.
The “foreign” land we’d moved our kids to was Albuquerque, NM. Our new house was situated at elevation 5326 feet, near the foothills of the Sandia Mountains, in what’s called the High Desert.
New Mexico is a hard place in the literal sense. It’s filled with dusty ground, boulders, rock landscapes (they’re called xeriscapes, another thing I had to learn), and tumbleweeds that stack up in the cul-de-sac during the windy season like snow drifts in the Midwest.
But our family also experienced a hard place figuratively. We had no friends. And we had to start over in every way—schools, church, neighborhood, job. It was rough. There were days I struggled to keep it together. Inevitably, one of the kids would then fall apart, pulling me from the shallow to the deep end of my pool of sorrow.
Maybe you’re in a hard season of your own today. Perhaps you’ve been relocated without a choice—to a land of divorce, illness, loss, raising challenging children, addiction, abuse, or caring for elderly parents—and you don’t know how to navigate your new terrain
It can be difficult to know where to begin, but we can walk out our hard journey with insight, wisdom, and clarity by packing a couple essentials.
Establish a Mindset
I chose to pack my bags for Albuquerque with a pile of positivity and hope for our future. I embraced the phrase “Bloom where you’re planted” to remind myself to look at the beauty in our new surroundings instead of focusing on what we’d left behind. This mindset helped me withstand the difficult days, and helped me keep my eyes on what I could do to be sure I was blooming and not wilting.
Your mindset can be anything that resonates with you, from a bible verse, an expression, a mantra, a biblical truth, phrase, or quote. The sky’s the limit; you just have to be sure you’re keeping your eyes on the new found mentality as opposed to your circumstance. If you can keep your thoughts framed in the positive, you’ll be less likely to get stranded down the dark path of negativity.
Determine your Non-Negotiables
Another essential in a difficult situation is to create a list of your non-negotiables. This will ensure you stay on track and provide a better plan for the journey ahead.
After our move, it was important that the kids knew we would always have the relationships we left behind as a priority in our life. That’s why one of our absolutes for the first year was to travel back to see family and friends at both Christmas and for an extended time in the summer. We also allowed the kids to attend the same summer camps and mission trips they’d attended previously. Maintaining this sense of “home”, even though we lived somewhere new was crucial to our kids’ acceptance and adjustment to our move.
As you traverse hard places, consider what your non-negotiables are in the areas of bedtime, exercise, diet, routines, and spiritual or emotional health. If you’re not sure, ask yourself what routines, guidelines, or habits you want to be sure to maintain to help you feel normal despite your difficult circumstances.
In the end, our family grew stronger as a result of those refining days, months, and years in our new land. We bonded together and deepened our faith. We learned to lean on God and each other when we had no one else.
But the essentials of a positive mindset and laying out my non-negotiables has also helped me walk through difficulties including multiple surgeries, loss of loved ones, and marital struggles. I’ve learned that no matter the trial, when we are proactive instead of reactive, we can get through it—even if it’s hard.
GIVEAWAY! Sarah has graciously offered to give away THREE COPIES of her new book to a blog reader. To enter: (1) leave a comment with your answer to the above questions, AND (2) share this post in at least one place on social media. Make sure you tag me so I see it!
Thanks for such great insights about hard times. I would love a copy of this book to share among the women I’m in ministry with.
I’m going through the recent loss of my sister in law and my mom, both to cancer.
This has turned my world upside down, and into a dark, scary world for me.
The essentials I would take with me is writing in my journal everyday. This is where I talk to God. I also feel therapy is essential for me to work through the scary thoughts and new life I’m living in without my loved ones.
Regina, I’m so sorry for your deep loss! What a hard place! I love that you know what you need, therapy helped me deeply after the loss of a best friend. And so glad you’re writing. I wish I had done more of that then… Good for you. Blessings peace and hope to you, friend.
How have you been holding up? I don’t know how you feel, but I believe God does. He cares.
I just prayed for you.
I hope your journaling and therapy is helping you navigate the hard place of breavement.
Thanks, for sharing.
Thank you for this. I’m sharing it with my dear friend who lost her baby in a tragic accident last fall.
Hi, Sarah. I really appreciated your post. As I struggle to thrive and not just survive, I know I need 4 things that I would tell our kids and even our 3 year old grandson that are non-negotiable. They are The Word, my words of gratitude and hopefully a few divine words I * heard” written in an old journal with a cover that says ” Write Here Every Day,
and last, but NOT least – my family & friends who encourage me and give me many opportunities to practice my faith.
Sounds like a great RX for thriving! Love these.
Yes, routines. For me, my morning routine of getting out of bed, grabbing the clothes I laid out the night before and sleep-walking to the shower, then getting breakfast gets my day started and I can then think. I’ve added a stuffed animal work lavender that I heat at bedtime and even as a grown-up, it is comforting!
Would love the
I remember when my parents moved us to a small town from the city…how frightening and lost I felt. Today, as I journey into unknown, I try to take prayer and positivity with me and a large dose of faith.
Donna, I love this approach. Faith is so essential!
Thanks for giving us a chance to win.shared on fb
I love Sarah’s wisdom. The non-negotiables are so important. We are anticipating a move with similar age children and having them make choices of what they want to take with them and how they want to say goodbye to their friends here are two things I’ve considered. Thanks for doing a giveaway!
I also would love this book after going through years of hard times and holding onto the Lord.
Crystal, Yes, often all we can do is cling to the Hope Giver!
My essential would be my Bible, my close family & friend connection, & music
Non-negotiable would be prayer time
I lived in ABQ. for one year, where I learned about swamp coolers, brown air, & mañana time. On the flipside was Sandia sunsets, balloon festival, & great food.
Debra, You’ve got ABQ pegged! I’ve lived her for almost 7 years,and the sunsets and balloons never get old… nor the green chile! I love your non-negotiable of prayer time Good for you!
I would recommend taking a Bible, a trusted team of mentors who have earned the right to see me in all my vulnerability, essential oils, and alot of chocolate!!
love these essentials!
My essentials = coffee, devotionals and focusing to check that God is near. And also learning to accept who I am and learning to look after myself. All essential to being the best you can be during times of difficulty and great challenge. Also listen to music. The words can bring clarity when you least expect.
Jesus being with me in my journey of hardships would give me hope, peace and joy.
Deuteronomy 31:6 English Standard Version (ESV)
6 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
I shared on Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks so much Julie! I love this verse too!
I am much interested in the book, if posiible. Many thanks, Lori
He is the giver of Peace, Hope and Joy, isn’t he? Love this verse too Julie.
I would recommend having a strong church family.
A quote from Napoleon Hill resonates here -“in every adversity lies the seed of an equal or greater OPPORTUNITY”
Two words anchor me – GOD KNOWS
TRUTH! Love this insight Bruce.
Hard places are so hard. Thankful though storms come the one in the boat with us is also the peace speaker and water walker !
His name .. whispered. Jesus is sometimes the only word to speak
During hard times I find that the “alchemy of gratitude” is truly transforming. If taking the time to count my blessings and praise God is a non-negotiable, then expressing my gratitude magically transforms me — whether or not it changes my circumstances. Right now I am taking care of my mother who has lost almost all mobility and is very frail after a stroke. Her physical prognosis is progressively degenerative yet she has the genes of longevity and could live for years in this terrible condition. My non-negotiable is spending every morning with God and praising him for the blessings He is giving me and inexplicably this changes every dawn into a bright ray of hopefulness rather than a dread for the exhausting tasks of full-time caregiver and financial concerns from not working.
Ramona, This is so beautiful. That you take time to praise and give thanks in the middle of the storm is amazing. Press on in faith, friend. God be with you.
So sorry to hear about your mom, Moni. God bless you and the rest of the family. – Karl Cobos.
I hope to reconnect with you, it’s been awhile.
I would take Faith, hope, love and my Bible with me. Oh, and I couldn’t forget patience! (Shared on Twitter)
Although I truly appreciate the points made herein — Finding Hope in the Hard Places — for me it resembles the increasing worldview that we can accomplish life successes without/apart from our Lord God and Saviour Jesus the Christ dwelling within, and leading the way. In this context, this blog fails to provide the spiritual support and manna (Bread of Life!) that we all yearn for; that will satisfy the purpose that the Lord our God placed in our hearts whilst we were still in our mother’s womb. As professing believers, we need to take hold of His truths, and proclaim them from the mountain tops, and in the valleys. Why? Because we have been called to be witnesses of these things — that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name among all nations beginning in our Jerusalem. This is our calling — because Jesus is still both Lord and Christ,; the King of kings and Lord of lords, Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the ending. And the hope and peace and love He gives is so desperately needed in a world that sadly has forgotten His cry –as evidenced in Hosea — “My people perish for lack of knowledge …” We are called to do better. Thus, do not shrink back, but step boldly into the place wherein we know in whom we serve, and that He, the risen Lord Jesus never fails when we focus our eyes upon Him. I pray these comments are instructive. Blessings!
Jan, Thanks for your insight. This post is only a small token of the book as a whole. : ) Hope in the Hard Places is filled with Jesus and many prescriptions for seeking his truth, his word, what he thinks about us and his promises. There is even a chapter called “Gather your Daily Bread” and talks all about the manna and looking to him daily for hope and strength. Thanks again for the reminder that he is the way the truth and the life! Always the first thing we should turn to!
I’m in a hard place now as I care for my father. Would love this book.
Praying for you Tracy.
Great encouragement. Would not have made it this far if I had not held tight to the hand of Jesus!
YES! His hand is steady and sure when we are weak and shaky.
In my hard places, my Bible is with me. My faith is strong, but my faith is weak! (“Lord, I believe! Forgive my unbelief!”) So I keep my Bible near. There are tear-stained pages where I wept after my 18 year old son died unexpectedly. The grief so great I couldn’t read through the weeping, but I knew I was holding onto God’s Word – and I knew he was holding onto me. If my house was burning, I would grab my Bible. I know i could get another one, but this one has the wrinkled, tear stained pages that are a reminder of the Hope that comes from knowing, really knowing that He is with us in the hard places. His tenderness with my broken heart drew me to him and caused me to seek refuge in his arms. Even when I am completely overtaken with sorrow, just holding my Bible is enough to remind me that He is always holding me.
Kim, I’m so sorry that you lost your precious child. what grief! But what hope you give the rest of us, knowing our God is holding onto us as you are holding His word. thank you for this powerful testimony and for your (tear-stained) FAITH! You are a gift.
Would love this book as there are several of us in hard places at this time. To answer the question – essentials for me as I journey a hard place are >> my Bible and worship music. Both keep my eyes and my heart focused on Him. This sounds like a beautiful book! Blessings!
Joanne YES! music and his word help me through too. Bless you.
I am an only child, and my mom and I are SUPER close. (I’m close with my dad too, but my mom is my best friend; we love it that way.) I think I’m seeing the beginning signs of memory loss. It SCARES. ME. TO DEATH.
I often forget to take my faith and church family along the journey with me. I was raised to be self-sufficient, so I forget I don’t have to carry the load ALL by myself.
jennifer, yes! Turn to the people you love and trust… they want to walk alongside you in this dark place. God will reveal the right people to walk with you, but you have to let them.
Jennifer, I love this. Take your church family with you. There is a WHOLE CHAPTER dedicated to this in the book : ) It’s called Traveling Buddies. Also, you might want to pack 2 Timothy 1:7: For God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-control. I need that one daily!
would love the book for our church library.
“Cancer, chronic illness, loss of a loved one, divorce, depression, prodigal children, caring for aging parents, and countless other unknowns…”
Yes,yes,yes,yes,yes, (thank you God for my daughter staying strong), yes and yes to the countlees other… But they each have helped me in my faith, my newfound strength in God’s goodness and HOPE in Him.
So I count my living with a chronic cancer, while caring for my mom, a blessing and the past lessons, prepared me well.
One of my favorite quotes… “God will always do His part to nurture us into a more real picture of what He intended our nature to be from the start.”
(Is it possible to not share this publicly?) Thank you for sharing this information. As a child we moved every year and many times several times a year. It is impossible to develop any friendships when you live like this. In adulthood it is the same as for friendships. Then our son was incarcerated with a first offense lifelong sentence. At this point I really crashed. I will not tell others about this, and I feel like a failure. I’m ashamed, embarrassed, guilty and more. Our 12 year old grandson committed suicide and fell even more. Somehow I need to come to grips with this. Seems as if I take one, two steps forward and get hit again with 10 backward steps. I know Christians care, but when you too ashamed to admit – you become lost.
I would take my Bible for encouragement and hope.
I have moved somewhere full of unknowns 2 times, both far away and far different than a place I had ever lived. From Ohio to San Antonio, Texas then back to Ohio and then from Ohio to Las Vegas, Nevada.
Las Vegas was God calling me here and I have gotten huge healing and found my calling and passions here.
Where God guides, He truly provides in more ways than I can imagine!
Sarah, this Florida girl just travled out that way — to the Grand Canyon. In fact, we were originally to drive through Albequerque but our plans changed a bit and we went through Las Vegas. We too pulled up roots a few years ago and it was painful. I knew God was leading but it takes time to see the fruit. We are still, today, reaping fruit of that move. God is surely Hope in our hardest places.
I love making a list of your non-negotiables. I would have to say at the top of my list is sitting down with God each morning. When I know, it is going to be a hard season God must be first and first thing in the morning. When I don’t make this non-negotiable, I always regret it. Things seem harder.
I found this post helpful. It is encouraging.
My family is preparing to move to another country, in the secomd half of the year. Our concerns are, moving away so far from family that meet ups will not be regular, adjustment for the kids (the oldest will be 6 and the youngest 5 months by the time we will move), and money (the city we will move to is two or three times more expensive than the one we live in).
Thinking about it leaves me amd my wife scared sometimes.
My essentials will include holding on the promise that God is able and willing to keep us and meet our needs, prayers (by my family, friemds and ministry partners, and keeping in touch with family and friends regularly.
Thank you for sharing.