This weekend was good. Jeff loves to cook a big breakfast, so Saturday started with eggs, bacon, pancakes and coffee. I cleaned the house while he played with the kids. We ordered pizza for dinner and watched a movie. Sunday was morning Mass followed by more little projects, a nice long nap time, a trip to the park and leftovers for dinner.
A weekend of normal. The normal we have been craving for more than a year.
I can’t pinpoint one moment where we went from typical levels overwhelm to extreme. Somewhere between the onset of morning sickness and Helen’s birth we must have passed over the threshold. And then the hits started coming. Pregnancy stress, a less-than-ideal delivery, postpartum recovery, physical pain, sleep deprivation. Relationships shifting, unraveling, neglected and misunderstood. Business trips, loneliness, and a marriage unintentionally left on the back burner for too long. A new kindergartner, a challenging three-year-old, a baby with a life-changing diagnosis. Medical tests, early intervention appointments and hours spent on Google learning how to parent a blind child. Somewhere along the way we ran out of resilience, and life became survival.
There are seasons in life when the pain doesn’t lift. It has to be lived with, and in. I was pushed to my limits - physically, mentally and emotionally. Most days I felt like I was walking around with an open wound, my heart absolutely rent from the numerous blows.
God uses these hard seasons to change our hearts.
I am thankful for the things that have been stripped away this year. The selfishness, the immaturity, the laziness, the perfectionism. The tepidness of our marriage. The worries over things that don’t matter. And I am thankful for the fruit that has grown. A more active prayer life. Wisdom, clarity, insight. Faithfulness, patience and docility. A deeper, stronger ability to love.
Looking back on the last year is painful. There are so many things I wish could have been different, so many times I wanted to feel happiness without the suffering. Helen’s first birthday. Watching Matthew grow. Experiencing all the firsts of Laura’s kindergarten year. The memories are almost bitter as I remember how much my heart hurt.
But the joy was there, too.
And maybe the joys of the past year have been that much sweeter for being set against the backdrop of pain, struggle and grief. Like the stars in the sky, my attention settles on them because of the contrast. The sweet smiles of our children, the solid foundation of our marriage, the consolation of our Catholic faith.
Our family is like a ship that has been through a long, tumultuous voyage. We are weather-beaten to the extreme. We fought for our very survival through storm after storm. We stared pain and trouble and exhaustion and despair in the face, time after time. But God was with us. And He drew us closer to Him through these storms. And always, we had hope.