And as I look ahead to the next two weeks, and the possibilities for growth and new opportunities, coupled with the sadness I feel about heading to Kansas for the one year anniversary of Mark's death, I know we'll be okay. We aren't thrashing around in the deep end of the pool anymore. We've begun to heal. Slowly but surely, with help from friends, family, pastors, and counseling, the boys and I are making strides in the right direction.
It hasn't been easy. Those of you who follow this blog know that it's been a trying week. Praying about a particular situation for months, I finally got an answer. It was the answer I was expecting, but following through took a lot out of me.
Sometimes being a grown up stinks. Life's not easy, and it's sometimes not pretty, and feelings get hurt along the way. But I persevered, knowing without a doubt that I was doing what needed to be done.
We are most definitely doing something right. Last night, as Ben lay in his bed, he exclaimed, "I've had a great day!" That was the first time I've heard that phrase from him in many months. My eyes filled with tears as I quizzed him why the day was great. He ran through a list of activities that we'd been involved in--none costing money or gasoline....just being with friends and each other. Amen.
Visiting with my counselor today, I tell him about a run I took on the Lake Wichita trail before the boys were finished with the school year. There's a huge mound of dirt near the lake, that is solid and tall, with a steep path to the top. The top offers a beautiful vantage point. From it you can see the whole lake, turn and view much of the city. But it's a steep hard walk up, and a terribly steep descent to get back onto level ground.
I decided I was going to scale that "mountain" during my run. About halfway up, it dawned on me. Here I am, a single parent, running alone, with only a cell phone and water. Scaling up a somewhat treacherous path...what if I slipped? I could just see the headlines in the paper, "Outdoors Columnist Breaks Leg on Murphy's Mound." I slowed down and began to climb more cautiously. I got to the top, and the view was magnificent. But I didn't tarry long, knowing I would need to be extra careful on the way down. The steepness caused me to lean back as far as I could on the descent. Probably looked pretty funny. I said a quiet prayer of thanksgiving as my feet jogged back onto the concrete trail and I headed for home.
I've heard of mountain top experiences, and being in the valley, spiritually, my entire life. But I never thought about the actual climb to get to the top of the mountain. You aren't just plopped on top of the darn thing, you have to work hard, it's a struggle. You sweat, you train, you sometimes want to quit. Along the way, there may be big rocks, fireants, thorny bushes, and steep paths. Getting to the summit is work. The climb can be perilous at times. But whenever you get to the top it is oh-so-worth it.
Such is life. We work, we struggle, we try do the right things. We strive to live a life God is proud of. And sometimes, we reach a summit. It can be excruciatingly difficult to get there, but whenever you finally arrive, and take in the heavenly view from the top, it is a feeling like no other. Everything below looks smaller. You gain a new perspective. It's sooo nice up there at the top.
But you can't stay there forever, even if you want to. Life calls. There are children to raise, work, school, household duties you are responsible for. Sooner or later, for better or for worse, you've got to begin the descent back down to reality.
Last July, my family went from mountaintop experiences July 1-July 24, then skidded/tumbled/belly flopped into a deep dark valley on July 30. It is by far the darkest, saddest place I've ever been.
Guess what? We weren't in that valley by ourselves. God was there, all along. He walked with us, carrying us most of the time. And as days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, we climbed out of that valley, using the Light. It's the best flashlight in the world, never running out of batteries :)
I know we're not back on a mountaintop yet. Thankfully I see signs all around that we are making progress. The sun shines brighter. We smile more. All three of us are confident and secure in the love that our God has for us. There is joy, real joy, in our lives. Despite what we've lost.
I pray that the joy and security we've found will carry us through the rest of this month. Just as I wished for January before Christmas, I'm wishing for August right now. There are life-changing opportunities coming our direction, decisions to be made. And there is a grave to visit in Kansas, one we haven't seen since Thanksgiving.
God will carry us, if need be. He is actively, expertly restoring our lives. And we will be better for the experience, no matter what happens.
"Though I sent my great army against you--
those swarming locusts and hopping locusts,
the destroying locusts and the cutting locusts that ate your crops---
I will pay you back for those years of trouble.
Then you will have plenty to eat and be full.
You will praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has done miracles for you.
My people will never again be shamed.
Then you will know that I am among the people of Israel,
that I am the Lord your God,
and there is no other God.
My people will never be shamed again."
Joel 2: 25-27 (NCV)
Joel 2: 25-27 (NCV)