I guess seasons of life are a given....I'm sitting in a coffee shop looking at the splash of gold and red outside the window.
I screamed out the door this Sunday morning earlier than I felt was my constitutional right (you know...the pursuit of happiness...) Mr. Blueberry Eyes was joining his scout club for a bike-a-thon and it fell to me to deliver him to a location about 45 minutes from my house. I dropped him off and headed to a City Brew to work on my teacher plans while I wait. I was grumpy. I stumbled (with my heavy work bag) to the counter, hair slightly tousled, not rocking the no-make-up look and the gal behind the counter practically exploded joy all over me. Loud. Effusive. Praising every choice I made. Now, there is something you should know about me. I'm not a morning person. I'm not grumpy in the morning...just DON'T be loud. Don't ask me a million questions. (My dad always said that I don't wake up. I come to. Truth bomb.) But this girl. Seriously. She is Tigger. It was so bad (good) that I Could. Not. Stay. Grumpy. She was a complete crack-up. She had me grinning before I left the till area. As I sat down, it occurred to me that I hadn't had devotions - a staple in my morning routine. That realization and her out-of-control joy prompted me to change the course of my morning. I'm going to take stock of my recent past. My blessings. My stresses. The direction of my days.
So....back to seasons. I used to sing, until I lost my song. I used to journal and blog, until I lost my words. Grief and stress overwhelmed me and I saw myself standing on the edge of an ocean. I was waist/chest deep in the water and all I could do was brace for the next wave of chaos, grief, and disappointment, hoping that that wave would not be the one to knock me over and permanently take my air. There was nothing left for song or words. Just hang on. Plant those feet. Try to breathe.
In the course of a few years, we had to close our business in the economic downturn of the 2010. The Wood Artist had to work away from home for 4 years. During that time:
* Our son was diagnosed with severe learning disabilities. I started to navigate the world of language-based differences, dyslexia, dysgraphia, sensory processing, and anxiety disorder. I plunged head-long into therapies as only a mother can.
* Our daughter entered her teen years, complete with driver's ed., first love, and heartbreak. She developed food allergies that made me completely rethink and retrain our diet.
* A loved one descended into extreme mental illness, rendering her completely and entirely unsafe to be with. I discovered that our daughter was in extreme danger because of this loved one's choices and had to take steps to protect her.
* Another loved one descended into the dark tunnel of addiction and resulting incarceration. I was holding down the fort, mostly alone, navigating the justice system, taking the witness stand twice (once with laryngitis so bad the judge took pity and had the baliff bring me water while I rasped into the mic, staring down the lawyers in a corrupt system. I dove head-first into custody issues at a time when child services in our town was so corrupt and inept they repeatedly made it into the papers. Relentlessly, I fought through jail visitation, being treated like I was the criminal.
Old friends would often gush, "Do you still sing?!" I would look at them with panic in my heart. No. I. Don't. Did I ever sing? When was that? Why did I sing? I can't even journal my own thoughts. Why would I sing? But I couldn't say that. It was a season. Cold. Harsh. Dark.
On the very day The Wood Artist was driving home from the oil fields for the last time, my father was fighting for his life with bleeding ulcers (the effect of which he is still suffering). In cardiac distress, He was life-flighted to another city, a hemoglobin of 5. So, on a day I was supposed to be planning a welcome home celebration, I was actually scrambling for a plane ticket, hoping against hope I could make it in time. (I did. And he pulled through.)
The next few years were a struggle to readjust. When The Wood Artist left, we had children. When he came home, we had teenagers. I was so worried about finding our groove again, but honestly, it went very well. People would tease us that we couldn't count those four years of marriage since we hadn't lived together. I would say, "Honey! We get to count two for every one of those years!"
Still, the early spring can be barren, dirty, and unpleasant. We both went through mind-bending, head-shaking stress at our jobs. It was weird that we both had to deal with situations that left us completely unsure of the skills we had spent our lives honing. I decided to quit teaching. He wanted desperately out of work he is fabulously skilled at. We were broken and dizzy from the whiplash of it all. We leaned on each other hard. We prayed until we couldn't pray anymore. I begged for rest and relief.
It was during this time that I came to a few realizations:
* I am not fairy princess. I wasn't meant to be. I am a warrior princess. I have arrows in my quiver and I have a real cause to fight for. I live in a broken world and there is an enemy to fight. Bravely.
* There are people to love. No matter how sucky my day is, it is my job to look for someone to bless.
*The people you expect to be there during tough times are sometimes completely cold and silent, even cruel. Forgive them. They have their own struggles. Then there are others who you totally didn't expect. They come alongside. They quietly lean in and insert themselves into your life and say, "I'm here. I love you." Keep them and give thanks
* There are still thousands of gifts. Every. Single. Day. It is my job to notice and give thanks.
* I can choose what thoughts get to camp out in my head. Yes, really. If it isn't helpful, give it the boot.
Then God asked me to work with kids again. Now, I hate the whole "God told me this or that" thing. I've seen it so freaking abused. But there was no doubt. He wanted me to hang my shingle and bless learning-different children again. I BEGGED and PLEADED for a different assignment. I cried for months and stomped my feet. There was no relenting. I knew what I had to do. Feeling completely broken and inadequate, I surrendered. I started my defunct business again. And you know.....after surrendering to obedience, my heart followed. I love it in a way I didn't think I could. Yes, I'm still tired. Yes, I still grieve the things I've had to give up, but I genuinely love ministering to my crazy-amazing, students who look at the world backwards and upside-down. They pretty much rock.
The Wood Artist is a wood artist again and work is pouring in on him. His confidence is building back and he smiles more than I've seen in a while.
Laughing Water is at university now. She loves it and jumped into classes and jobs that make me wonder where she came from. She has learned that she loves being a social media ambassador, and totally loves the t.v. production room. Who knew? She studied in England this summer on a brief study tour with some favorite professors and is looking into two programs overseas - one for missions and one for studying at Oxford. We frequently remind each other that we are warrioresses. She is mini-me in so many ways.
Mr. Blueberry Eyes works harder at his studies than any kid I've ever seen. He is almost independent now and I'm reminded that miracles do happen. He is literally in an honors writing class. "Severe, language-based disability" be hanged. His precious heart cheers me every day and his talents and physical strength blow me away.
My brother, Laughter, now lives with us and we are experiencing an incredible healing balm. The week he came I started to sing. Just a little. I didn't even think about it. It just slipped out.
It is fall and the colors are breathtaking. Seasons. Winter will come again. But so will spring and summer and fall. I am a warrioress. God walks with me. He strengthens my hand to the bow and steadies my arrow.
Tigger is still behind the coffee counter chirping and laughing with customers. Where does she get her energy? Honestly! She has no idea she helped me find my words again. Weird. I must have been ready. - Nanette