How We Survived A Devastating Year

After an intense week with little sleep or real time to think, the quiet now has descended and my thoughts are swirling, invading, pushing through weakened defenses. Memories of last year and the shock, the pain, the anger are resurrected, knowledge of what we have survived, what little we knew we were to face, I find the wounds have yet to fully heal. Last year this week Chef was quite unceremoniously, entirely unexpectedly cut off from everything he was for 18 1/2 years, we were left with no income and so began a period of mourning and self-discovery marred by the fear of homelessness. Broken promises, lost routine, expectations of the future all paled as we wondered how to pay the mortgage, soon how to even get out of bed in the morning. As the days became weeks and then months, the answers we sought, that everyone seeks during sudden loss, were elusive. Ultimately, all we truly had, all we ever can depend on, was our faith.

During this season I have watched a man with great confidence be knocked to his knees, a place God met him and lifted him again. I have watched him bravely begin anew, when he many days wanted to never try or trust again. I waited for our children who most deeply knew of his sacrifices, having lived and benefited most from his excessive work and dedication, to lay aside their own needs and reach out to him, to support him during this devastating loss, only to find this an added disappointment heaped onto a horrific year. Yet we never were left waiting for support from others as countless friends and guests that he cared for all throughout the years rushed to his side, brought him muffins and pies, sent him texts and emails, called him over and over, reminded him that he is loved and that he is not alone. These people are burden carriers, those who have walked hard times themselves and know that words will never fix anything but words are offered anyway, food will never make it all go away, but food is delivered anyway. The collective carrying of the weight of the loss, one tiny bit by many, gave us respite, encouraged us to keeping breathing.

This is the day the Lord has made, let us together rejoice in all of it, the horrible, the hurt, the lovely, the terrifying, the silly, the joyful. This is the day, a new day. We begin anew, because of all of you. This is what faith looks like, faith in action. When ours was whittled down to mere words we could recite, when it was mere hunger pangs that grew louder yet we were too depressed to even feed ourselves, you spoke Jesus in hugs and banana bread. When we had little faith beyond spelling the word you reminded us time and again that surviving within a community of faith means that others carry you until you can walk and speak and preach again. God rose our community up, near and far, always at critical junctures, to bring healing words and slices of hope and encouraging directives and sobering pushes, that pulled us from despair pits back into the faith world that understood brokenness and grace and loved us even when we had nothing to offer.

We are now on the other side of the first anniversary, the true beginning of newness. Today as I clean my home, sweeping behind the couch and under all the hard to get areas, I am mentally ridding my heart of the first year hurts, those memories of that time one year ago that our world crashed. No one is here to witness the force with which I bang the broom or slam the bucket, a release of the last dredges of anger, I hope. What we lost will become memory, what has been gained will grow. Building a more solid foundation on true friends, frugality, and most importantly shared faith will lead us into this uncertain future. Fear has been introduced into his eyes, something one wishes never to see in someone they love. Still I watch as God transforms that fright into renewed compassion, a deeper humility, a broader awareness of social justice.  What the next anniversary will bring, we are never sure, yet I trust that God is does know and our wounds are indeed healing. Our purpose is being made clear, Chef is finding his way. The tears may flow today, laughter will follow just as surely in the morning.

To all who have surrounded us this year, the many of you who have lifted us in prayer and listened to us cry and wail, offered their couches for wise counseling sessions, brought meals and taken us to lunch, found tasks to keep us busy and ministries to give us something for our calendars and to take us outside of ourselves, for all the long walks and short drives, for you all, my gratitude is as deep as the ocean and as vast as the heavens. You are wound healers, burden carriers, joy bringers, angels. I love and thank you all. I pray that you never need me to offer such gifts to you yet if you do, I pray equally that I seek out your pain in such beautiful meaningful ways, that I don’t run away from your fearful eyes, but that I too have learned to lift up my bit of your wounds, to offer you respite. Thank you for being in my community, for believing in our healing God who is bigger than any one of us. Together we survived this year. Now on to our future, the beginning. I hope you will join us as we celebrate learning to walk again.

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