Raw Miracles in Real Time: Our Recent Family Journey from Almost-Homeless Crisis to Compassion
Raw Miracles in Real Time: Our Story from Almost-Homeless to Always-Hopefull
A Haunting Challenge: It was 2013, my first year leading widow ministry and I met with a fellow widowed mom to take a bike ride while training together for a triathlon. We talked while riding in my car to the Silver Comet bike trail located in a suburb of Atlanta, GA. On the way, she confided in me that she was having significant financial struggles. I listened and felt sad for her and her child. I may have also made some helpful suggestions and said I would pray for her.
Toward the end of our 26-mile ride, we stopped at the Silver Comet Bike Shop for some water and to use the restroom before going home. Once inside the shop, a sleek, new triathlon bike that was on sale caught my eye. It was discounted from $1499 to $1099! Having been on the lookout for a lightweight tri-bike to replace my heavier steel bike, I bought it with a quick swipe of my bank card and said I’d be back later to pick it up. I didn’t want to inconvenience my friend by spending too much time in the bike shop. As a widowed mom, I was so excited to finally feel physically strong and joyful while helping other widows.
Who knew ministry could be so much fun?!
We loaded our bikes back into my car, but the drive home was awkwardly silent. Something was wrong. Racking my brain as to why there was a shift in our connection, I asked my friend, “I sense some tension. Is something the matter?” I’ll never forget what she said next. It went something like,
“I shared with you that I was struggling to put food on the table for me and my child. You could have at least returned later to purchase an $1100 bike. How do you think that made me feel? You just don’t get it.”
Stunned, I immediately apologized for being insensitive. What she said, however, haunted me for years. She was right. I didn’t get it.
Fast forward to 2020.
As the founder of Widow Strong, I’ve been a full-time volunteer for almost eight years. In 2013, I had other financial reserves so volunteering was easier for me to do. By 2020, as a solo parent, I needed to provide for my daughters and was saving funds to buy a home by June of 2020. Our nonprofit programs had grown and if I could keep fundraising through November/December, I would be able to start a modest salary doing ministry work I also love. Then, unexpectedly, on the evening of October 29th, 2019, my daughters and I learned that we needed to move residences in about two months’ time.
I was not financially ready.
The lovely basement flat that my girls and I had gratefully let on a month-to-month basis for a deeply discounted rate was needed by our kind host for family reasons. Honoring this request, we prepared to move, grateful for their sincere generosity, and thanking them for a truly beautiful time. Friends, including our host, helped us pack.
My focus had to shift from full-time fundraising and running our widowed programs to boxing up our belongings and looking for a place to live through Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2019, the best months to raise funds for a nonprofit. As a full-time volunteer, I had no W2 proof of income, and so could not buy a home (even though I had a small down-payment) or even rent a studio apartment (offering to pay 3 months ahead in cash).
Where could we go? We were on the verge of being homeless and I felt that I had failed my daughters on a massive scale.
I did knock, seek, and ask for help but long-term housing options were not opening up for us in GA. We could stay with family, but all of our family members live out of state. It was now 48 hours before we needed to move and I still had no idea where we were going to live. I silently planned that I would rent additional storage space, if necessary, for the rest of our things and we would go to a pet-friendly hotel while I planned the next steps for us.
My stomach sank all day. It felt like I was falling off of a building but not hitting the ground. To liven the mood, my daughters put Disney music on and we continued to pack up. Then, 36 hours before we were scheduled to move out, an option opened up. We were able to rent a one-bedroom/one-bathroom, pet-friendly, Airbnb with a kitchenette, near my daughter’s high school, and located in a lovely home in a safe neighborhood. We were very thankful!
My girls and I planned to live there for only two weeks, having been verbally promised a private donation for my salary on December 26, 2019. Due to financial delays outside of the donor’s control, that donation didn’t happen and, instead, our stay stretched to six months in a 650 square foot space.
I became socially quiet about this portion of our journey. It was humiliating and stressful. I didn’t sleep well and gained 45 pounds. Living on the edge of homelessness and struggling for basic resources led to a depression that was second only to losing my husband thirteen years earlier. This time, having written a grief empowerment program, 180 Your Life, I had proven healthy strategies to empower my grief journey with an amazing posse of widows at Widow Strong.
I used to be the president of my competitive mime troupe in high school. Yeah, you read that right. Who knew that skill would be useful later? I was thankful for work that made me smile. 🙂
Through it all, my daughters continued to be rays of sunshine. Their faith, wit, and resilience brought laughter and hope into our home on a daily basis.
By mid-March of 2020, after paying our rent and one financial commitment, I had only $50 to support my family for the next 30 days. I could hardly breathe. Our little nest egg downpayment for a home was gone, spent on moving and prolonged living expenses.
While praying through our options, in early March, I watched the movie entitled The War Room with my daughters and with other fellow widowed moms. Actually, I watched it several times. I was desperately seeking God and converted my walk-in closet into a prayer closet just like the main character did in the movie.
(Click on this image to watch the War Room trailer for free or click HERE for the Amazon link to watch this full-length movie. Amazon rates apply).
Prayer and trusting God’s Biblical promises gave me the courage to continue seeking practical solutions when I felt overwhelmed. I shared our situation with a few trusted friends. We prayed together consistently and they offered help when they could.
This process allowed my family to experience first-hand what sacrificial, messy, beautiful, humbling community meant to a family that was really struggling. And that lesson forever changed my daughters and me.
Do you find yourself or a friend financially struggling? CLICK HERE for our link to local and national resources.
Check Back Next Week for Part 2, the continuation of our personal story of Raw Miracles in Real-Time. God isn’t finished writing our story and He’s not finished writing yours either. The hard parts become the most inspirational chapters of your life story. Please share your journey in the comments below.
If you’d like to financially partner with Widow Strong (a 501c3 nonprofit), please CLICK HERE.
Mishael Porembski is a widowed mom to two spectacular daughters, author, speaker, adventurer, and founder of Widow Strong, a 501c3. Learn more at WidowStrong.com.
These beautiful faces are a preview of the amazing beauty and community that comes from braving trails together. I’m excited to share more in Pt. 2! Be sure to follow this blog and our newsletter!