2020 rolled in with great pomp and circumstance and I was ready for a fresh start; 2019 wasn’t my favorite and I had high hopes for a better year. But, as we all know, this year hasn’t been anyone’s favorite. Early on our shiatzu of sixteen years passed away and I cried my eyes out even though I don’t think the dog ever really liked me. When he passed it felt like an entire season of life was laid to rest with him. He was the dog of our youth, the years of small children and struggling starts. The virus descended upon us in March and my college aged sons came home to finish up the rest of their respective semesters. They were confused and disappointed about their situation and that led to frustration and sadness. One of my sons was finishing up his senior year and wasn’t able to say goodbye to many of his friends before graduation. I am sure some of you have children who had the same experience. One of my sons, I won’t name him to respect his privacy, began to struggle with a mysterious sore throat. At first we didn’t think much about it, but as it lingered, we began to get concerned. We were a houseful of adults at this point, each struggling to comprehend how life had changed so much in such a short amount of time. Not to mention, the genuine fear of what was happening to society, and the death tolls were heartbreaking. How do you explain to your children who are old enough to understand all is NOT well that everything is going to be okay? Especially when they can see for themselves that it may not be okay anytime soon. We had plenty of conversations, some helpful and others not so much. And, in the midst of this, my husband found out his job was in jeopardy.
For those who don’t know me personally, my husband is a pilot. He flies for a major airline. He worked his way up from the regionals to the majors for thirteen painful years. Those small jets are just as small in the cockpit as the seats in the back. He did his time “in the trenches” we like to say. He worked his way up and eventually landed the job of his dreams. So, to find out after only two years of working his dream job that it might be gone, was crushing. Remember, we moved the previous year FOR his job and hadn’t even lived in our new home a year when the virus hit. I was still struggling with my own emotional pain, my son was suffering with a throat issue we couldn’t identify and my husband’s job was in jeopardy. It was a hard time to say the least.
And, all of this with five very different grown people living under the same roof.
Tensions and emotions were high.
The pandemic has torn through our entire world leaving heartache and loss in its wake. I don’t think anyone will be the same when this is all behind us. There will be stories to tell for many years to come about the pain we’ve endured. I’ve learned in my fifty years that times of pain are when I grow the most. Well, maybe not immediately, but sooner or later growth begins to sprout from the ashes of refining fire. It’s a difficult process and no clear thinking person volunteers for it.
We struggled through spring and summer with news of my husband’s job, our livelihood, changing from day to day. A stimulus package passed to help the economy and it bought many companies and small businesses more time. But, the inevitable was always looming. Job loss…unless something was done to control the spread of the virus. Mask mandates were put into place, lockdowns implemented. We were asked to stay in our homes and only go out for essentials. Toilet paper became gold. Who knew?? We lived on stretched nerves and watched the “death ticker” on news channels in disbelief. My son struggled with his throat and began to see doctors and specialists. All of this in a new place where we knew less people than we could count on two hands. I was lonely and found myself constantly tired and taking long walks regularly, longing for escape. I know many of you will read this and feel like I‘ve read your mail. I think of you often and pray the Lord will restore to us what has been taken. If you’ve lost a loved one, I am so very sorry for your loss. These days are so hard and it seems they keep going.
This fall my son’s throat issue finally began to resolve. After many doctor’s appointments and a lot of money for medical tests, we found out much of what he was dealing with was his body’s way of handling stress. So, no medicine can give him the relief he needs. Less stress is what the doctor ordered. Good luck with that. He is in a critical year of college and is trying to navigate it during a pandemic. My husband found out he would indeed face loss of income for the next several months since travel is banned in most places.
A couple of weeks ago my daughter came home from work with what we thought was a stomach virus. She was so sick. She never had a fever but she was as sick as I’ve ever seen her. She called out for work only to find out several others had called out as well. She is an essential worker so she’s worked through the entire pandemic. She’s worn a mask and followed all the rules. Her employer advised her to get tested for COVID since so many were out of work at once. Sure enough, the test came back positive. So, my daughter, husband and I quarantined. Thankfully, she fully recovered and, strangely enough, neither my husband nor I were infected.
During the last sixteen months since the phone call, it has literally been one thing after another. I wish I could say I’ve handled it well and that I’m happy with my behavior. But, that is not the case. I have been a baby most of the time and wondered why God allowed all of this? I have thrown temper tantrums and cried out at the unfairness of it all. I find a place of acceptance for a moment and then, I go right back into my negative tail spin. It’s so hard to watch much of what you’ve worked for in life vanish in front of your eyes. It’s painful to watch those you love deeply struggle and hurt. I feel as though I’ve been stretched beyond what I’m able to bear in the last year and a half. And with my husband’s job loss, there’s more difficulty to come.
So that brings me to this…
A word I wish I could master.
Do I really believe everything is going to be okay?
I really do.
I am still saddened by the difficulty of last year and the surreal-ness of this year, but I STILL BELIEVE God and His Word. I’ve spent countless hours in communication with my Heavenly Father over the last months. Mostly in the middle of the night when my stomach wakes me up, tied in knots. I lay in the dark and pray for better days and to learn to surrender my hopes and dreams to Him yet again. It’s a tough thing to have faith when you don’t understand. Especially when you really thought you were following the Lord’s leading, and then, your life falls apart.
I don’t pretend to have the answers.
I don’t pretend to have more faith than I do right now.
What I can do is pray every day for the courage to trust.
I had a coffee date recently. I was embarrassingly thrilled for this date because I know so few people in this new place and I crave community. I literally picked her out of a small group we’ve recently joined and asked her to meet me for coffee sometime. She was so gracious and agreed even though she and her husband are busy running a business of their own. I had a delicious vanilla latte and she ordered a cappuccino, in case you’re wondering. We visited over steamy cups and I poured out my heart to this near stranger. She never made me feel small or inadequate, like I’d been believing about myself for so many months.
She spoke truth into my life and I hung on every word.
After I’d shared our situation with her, tears filling my eyes as I spoke, she put her coffee cup down on the saucer and looked straight at me…”it sounds to me like you need to be more thankful.” I nearly choked. What? Thankful? Thankful for what? For sickness, broken dreams and hard times? I thought but didn’t say. “The Bible says to be thankful in ALL things,” she went on, “give it a try.” And so, that very night, I did. When my mind woke me up with worry, I began to thank the Lord for the goodness in my life. It wasn’t easy, I had to force myself. But, once I started, I began to see how blessed I am, even in these present circumstances. I wish I could say I thank the Lord every day, I am working on it. But, I can say I’m trying. I’m giving it a shot. It’s a lot easier to be thankful when life is going your way, that’s for sure. But, thankfulness takes on a deeper meaning when nothing is going like you thought.
Thankfulness becomes an act of worship.
Back in February I wrote a blog on my word-for-the-year. I don’t always choose a word, as a matter of fact, most of the time I don’t. As I stated back then, I usually forget the word by the middle of June, so it seems pointless to me. Well, this word is especially meaningful because the Lord knew what was coming for me. The word was gratitude. GRATITUDE. It means thankfulness. To be thankful. Now, here I am almost a year later remembering this word with an understanding I didn’t have back then.
Friends, I don’t understand suffering or hardship. I never will. Understanding those things is above me, scripture says “too lofty” for my limited mind. What I do know is Jesus listens when you have a meltdown, he sees you when you cry yourself to sleep and he loves you when you feel the most unlovable. And, thank goodness, he has a plan.
Let’s encourage one another to TRUST him.
I’ll keep you posted on things around here. The next few months should be quite a roller coaster ride. But, I’m buckled in with Jesus, so I’m safe, even if life does go off the rails.
A verse that means a lot to me…
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16