When I first started this blog and titled it, "Raising Redheads" I had no idea where my life was going to take me. I didn't know that I could have titled it "Raising Redheads and a special needs, terminally ill brunette." Or maybe, "Raising Redheads; alone."
Yesterday I was struck by a great quote in the book that I'm reading.
"If you're going to pursue virtue, it's best not to do so with the idea that it will cut you any breaks or grant you a free pass from cancer or divorce or natural disaster or heartbreak of any other potential loss.
We don't like this. We want will; we think relentless self-improvement will literally improve our lives, allow us to literally control our happiness; we want to believe we have power over our own destinies. We, quite simply, do not have any control, not really, and this is perhaps the hardest lesson to learn."
I highlighted it because it rang so true to me.
If I'm being honest that is how I once approached life. And really it carried so far as to enter into my grief over Mabel. I believed that because I had loved the Lord and obeyed Him, because I had been a good person, a faithful wife, a loyal friend, a good daughter, a strong sister, had courtesy, was kind and strove to be those things in my every day- that I was supposed to be exempt from pain.
Or from loss. Or from cruelty. Or from trauma of any kind.
I especially believed that I was entitled to a healthy child. After all, I had prayed for her to be that way and I had believed completely and truly in the fact that God would deliver in that way. It took many months of true soul searching and self evaluating, thinking, praying and harboring over these thoughts before I finally came to the simple acceptance that no one is exempt.
Not even me.
In one sense I am so grateful to have learned that lesson over the past two years. It has made the sting of heartache burn much less. In some odd way I wasn't even really caught off guard.
The truth is this: if I have no control over whether my innocent child is born healthy or unhealthy then I absolutely have no control over the actions of others in my life. I've always known that, I'm just far less surprised by the amount of hurt can be inflicted upon another than I once was.
I started writing more than 7 years ago. At the time I was a young military wife living thousands of miles from home. My husband was gone almost constantly doing training and I was carrying our first unborn child; Nora. It was a devastating and lonely time for me but I was so happy with my role as a new wife and a young mom-to-be. I started writing from my desktop computer every single day to update the people from back home about my pregnancy and the day to day life that we were living. It was a dull, somewhat depressing one but I was content and thankful to be living it.
This week, as Spring has sprung all around me I have done alot of reflecting. Watching these sweet, ornery, loud, homeschooling, dancing children run wild in our front yard has been cathartic for me. Since the early days of my writing so much has changed in this life.
My days [although they should seem depressing and frightening] are no longer lonely. Now, I have a family that is my village. They surround me on days that seem desolate and they lift me when I feel like I can go no further.
I have survived many things that seem far too big to some.
I waited at home while my young husband went to war for the very first time. When he came home we had a baby knowing that he would be heading overseas again when she was just 4 months old. During the first two weeks of his second deployment I found out that we were expecting our second child, our only boy. I carried him inside while I carried Nora on the outside for 7 months all alone.
I was tired, scared, lonely, sad and yet--growing.
I became strong.
I was happily pregnant with our 3rd (but hopefully not last) baby at the same time as several of my friends. It was glorious that we all enjoyed that special time together. And then 3 months after having Mabel my best friend's husband packed a bag and walked out the door of their Maryland home. The months that followed were sad, hard, deep, long and dry--and yet, we were growing.
We became so strong.
The following two years were spent searching for a diagnosis to all of the terrible and awful symptoms that Mabel started showing. Doctor after doctor, therapist after therapist, day after day I spent advocating for this little girl. I grieved things that I didn't know I could grieve, I feared things that I didn't know I would ever fear. I dug deep in myself and decided that no matter what the cost or how long the road, I would find out what was wrong with our sweet, beautiful Mabel girl. And I did that. She was diagnosed with a terminal brain disease and somehow I was able to feel peace.
I had been made so, so incredibly strong.
And now, I am in a role that I never could have dreamed that I would be in:
Homeschooling, Terminally Ill. Ages 6, 5 and 2.
But not really alone...
because again, I have a village. An incredible strength that surrounds me like a fortress. It's not so much the physical help that they bring or even the emotional stability that pushes me. It's more just their presence. Their knowing. It's more the capability that we all have to just understand that we are all doing this life the very best that we can with what we have been given and we are all doing it together. So side by side we sort of rally around one another and pick up where the others leave off or just can't go anymore.
Dinners are made, kisses are given, hugs are offered, wet wipes are purchased, texts are exchanged, late night phone calls are answered and knowing glances are received with such deep appreciation.
In my life I have been lonely. I have been scared. I have been alone. I have been empathetic. I have been abandoned. I have been replaced. I have been overlooked. I have been ignored. I have been walked out on. I have grieved. I have been swallowed up by emotions that I can't even put into proper writing....
But I have also been loved.
Taken care of, dreamed about, protected, cherished.
I have also overcome. I have grown. I have been strengthened. I believe, truly, I have been chipped away at and somehow perfected by the sweet and tender mercy of a God who is much bigger than any of the first set of scenarios I listed.
I have been embraced by friends who are truly family. I have been made to feel alive and beautiful and vibrant in this life that could otherwise be very scary and deserted.
Inside of myself I have become so strong. I have become so dependent on the Lord and because of it I am truly experiencing a peace and freedom that this world can never give.
I sat back this week as the sun faded later into the evening and I surrendered to the knowing that despite it all looking nothing like I thought it would... it is oh so good.
Life and this ability to live it; it is so so good.
As people come and go; in and out-they hold my sweet Mabel girl. They let Nora adorn them with makeup and they play ball with Braden. They listen to their stories and they rock Mabel in their arms as she shakes and giggles. And as they do, I sit back and I feel such contentment.
These people-gifts that God has given me are so much more than I deserve. I cherish every single one of them to the core of who I am. I have watched God work them into the fabrics of who I am and settle into the places where they belong and because of it, I am so fulfilled.
The stories of my life, that I began writing here 7 years ago and that have changed so drastically are making me exactly who I was designed to be. I look around and I see these brave, powerful, beautiful women surrounding me and I am blown away that they are the company in which I get to keep. They live their lives with such integrity. Such deep honor to God, their families, their children.
They are single moms. They are widows. They have buried children. They have lost babies before seeing them. They have been abused. They have endured heartache.
And not one of them walked away from something in their life to simply follow what makes them happy. They have all chosen the difficult path; the unearthed road and they have done it well. They have done it with bravery and endurance.
These are the women who are standing in the gap and helping me in this hard, beautiful, unexpected life journey and I have never been more proud to be living it beside them; or rather with them.
"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all."