This was written a couple months ago but never published….until today.
We sat on the carpeted stairs leading up to our huge, shared room, talking about our life, our family, our luck. Me with my frizzy, chin length curly hair and braces. My older sister with her lighter, straight shoulder length hair and beautiful smile. I was always jealous of her petite frame and thought I was fat when really, I just had a different build than her. She is built like my mom’s side of the family – shorter, smaller builds. I, on the other, hand inherited my dad’s German build – more muscular, taller, big-boned as I used to say. We still don’t look much like sisters, but I adore my smaller big sister more than words can express. I only wish I could have seen the beauty of our differences instead of spending years in comparison.
So that day on the stairs of our big two story entry way right on the edge of Bellevue’s Fontanelle Forest with it’s huge swaying, protective trees…we sat together talking about life when one of us said, “We are so lucky….we really have the perfect life.” And in my eighth grade brain, a perfect life was a nice, big house in an expensive neighborhood; married parents with a stay at home mom; plenty of money for nice, stylish clothes; and lots of great trips around the country each year. I do not know where the conversation took us or why we went there to begin with, but I vividly remember the peace and contentment and security of truly believing we had the perfect life. Our home was peaceful with little fighting and lots of love to go around. Friends and family entered our home often with lots of yummy food and conversation. We played games, laughed a lot, spent loads of time together as a family of five – my parents and two sisters and me. We even had a teen line which back then was a luxury many of our friends did not have. My parents were very involved in our lives and attended all our activities. We went to church every week and grew up with a strong faith and good morals. My sisters and I were blessed to be protected from abuse and trauma that many have to face in their growing years. I do not know if we even realized how hard life was for so many of our acquaintances. I just knew I had a really good life – that I was blessed with safety, security and comfort.
My struggles began my senior year of high school. Combine a boyfriend I should not have been dating, an eating disorder and major depression, and life got hard really fast. My parents were smart enough to get me the help I needed, and by my sophomore year of college, I was happily attending school and doing well again. My husband and I started dating that year and then my mom got sick and was soon diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. That perfect childhood soon felt like nothing but a distant memory as my parents’ marriage fell apart. I became my mom’s guardian when she moved into a nursing home at the young age of 49 while the dreaded MS started to steal her mind. My sisters and I begged for a break from the heartache but that break never came as MS took our mom from us far too early. We all moved through the pain and sorrow of loss and found love and life again in marriage and parenting.
It seemed like no time at all before our fourth child was born which brought a whole new set of problems. Years of fighting for diagnoses, solutions, and calm led us to many new normals as we were challenged with surgeries, therapies, adjustments in medications, altered plans. Raising a special needs child was not on our bucket list of things to accomplish, but it is exactly what God gave us. To say it has been a long and harrowing road would be an understatement, but together we have found a way to press on and overcome each new challenge. We have found joy in the midst of sorrow.
And here we are so many years later — two married children, a new grandson, another son serving in the military, and our sweet youngest slowly declining and losing strength. We have been facing the long goodbye for many years now watching him lose his voice, his ability to eat and drink, his balance and his physical strength as various body functions fail and seizures ravage his brain ensuring every day is a new challenge with his health. Yet as the seasons change with growing children and continued medical challenges, life has slowly stabilized and become almost predictable these past few years. The heartaches have become farther and fewer in between; the financial struggles have dissipated; the worry over lost skills and abilities for our youngest have normalized; the joys of adult children have increased; and the blessings of a loving marriage built on commitment and longsuffering have multiplied.
So here we sit thinking back over the past 26 years of marriage, the past 23 years of parenting, the past 17 years of raising a profoundly disabled child. We feel so very undeserving of all we have been given in the provision of needs met, the blessing of supportive relationships, the seasons of calm and stability. And yet it is so easy to wonder over the next challenge and season of pain. It is as if we believe we are running out of blessings and peace, and a new season of hardship is around the corner. For many years we became accustomed to new trials and challenges expecting them one after the other. And now that life has brought a longer season of relaxation and rest from acute hardships, we find ourselves waiting for the next shoe to drop, for the next huge challenge to hit as if we do not deserve to have a long season of peace and blessings.
This season we find ourselves in is bringing a big change in that after 26 years in Lincoln, we are moving to Papillion. We are heading home to the familiarity of childhood experiences and memories. A brand new home awaits us that has been purposefully planned to meet our youngest’s needs. A new city with much to be rediscovered, a new church, and a new set of friends we have yet to meet are waiting on the horizon.
Yet with the anticipation for all that is to come, there is timid and reserved excitement paired with fear that we do not deserve a new home, new relationships and new experiences. Fear easily abounds and overcomes our mindset and emotions when not kept in check because a lie exists deep down that says we do not deserve blessings and seasons of bounty. A lie that says we were made for hardship and constant battles. But we know it is a lie. We know God promises life and liberty from trials. We know all our blessings and joys come from Him. In John 16:33 He says, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” We really are not here for comfort and ease of life; those things are not promised. As I like to say, this life is the closest thing to hell a believer will ever experience. As Christians we have eternity to look forward to where sorrow and pain and heartache will have no place.
So at the end of the day, when the quiet comes, when darkness presses in, when things settle in for the night, His promises are still true. While heartache and difficulties are an expected piece of this life, God also has many amazing promises of goodwill and blessing. And the two can co-exist. And we can rest in the midst of happy, stable seasons. And blessings can abound even if life does not turn out as we expect.
Some of my favorite promises are these:
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, becasue they trust in you. ~ Isaiah 26:3
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. ~ Matthew 11:28-29
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future. ~ Jeremiah 29:11
The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still. ~ Exodus 14:14
If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. ~ Romans 10:9-10
While we may not feel we deserve happiness, blessings and peace, we also know those are gifts from God. We know when more hardships come – because they will come – God will continue to meet our needs as he has done for the past many years. We know we can enjoy a new home. We also know when a new hard hits, God will provide and joy will always find us.