July Happened


So, July happened. At first, it was like a tornado that turned my household upside down. Then it was a hurricane -- a torrent of emotion so fierce and frightening that it swept me off my feet. It left in its aftermath a landscape calm and cleansed and full of much work to do, but much hope for new beginnings as well. I thought we could breathe again. But, then there were the thunderstorms, one after another until I began to anticipate a new one every day. And sure enough, usually there was one. Finally, we got to the end of July and I looked up and declared that it had been the worst month in 25 years.

Twenty-five years ago this month I was in the hospital with cancer, a life-threatening infection, and no white blood cells. Hardest month I ever lived and also the month I thought I learned, once and for all, what it was to surrender to God. 

Until July 2015. Apparently, there were lots of lessons left to learn.

In reality, there were no significant natural storms in July, Thank God, there were no neoplastic illnesses, either. There were "just" the unexpected struggles that come with the middle years of raising a large family. There were the days when I looked back on the young woman I was--so brave and so open to God's plan for her body and her life--and I wondered if she wasn't brave at all, but foolish. I wondered how she could have thought she could possibly do a good job of parenting so many people. I wondered what she should have done then to be better prepared for now. 

If I am honest--and I am in this space-- July shook my faith. It challenged what I believe about God and His plan for families more than any other time, even more than that time in August all those years ago. I reached out tentatively to other women who have traveled this journey with me throughout the years. When I made myself vulnerable, when I let them in just a little, our eyes widened together in surprise. You, too? Who knew?

Of course, there were women who knew. Women who are just a decade or two ahead of us knew that these years would be full of these challenges or similar ones. But no one wants to be the woman who whispers to a younger woman, "Enjoy it. Store it all all up. It's going to get really hard." And certainly no one who is a champion for openness to life wants to say, "You know, with every one, you increase the risk that your heart will break." Those are truths too impolite, too negative, too counter to I-don't-know-what. 

Here's the thing, though, about the horrible August: God was in it. He was running hard after me that August. He was standing in the physical pain and the emotional hardships of a bed in 9 West. He was shaping our young family and forming something rock-solid and truly beautiful out of our suffering. We were forever changed--together-- for the better. 

I didn't know that then. I was too young and I'd lived too little to see the plan unfolding. 

A week ago, I'm not sure I knew that about this July, either. I couldn't draw the parallel, couldn't summon the faith. I just felt depleted. And bewildered. 

Today, it's August. Today, I see that the storms that swept through our summer came with grace sufficient. I have to keep repeating that aloud to myself, so thin is my hold on faith and hope. But I do have hold. I am old enough, have lived long enough, to know God is in the storms. That thin ribbon of faith weaves itself through my days and fills my lungs with air when it hurts to just take another breath. He is enough. 

When I tell the story of August 1990. I always say I'm grateful for the fruit that was borne in the suffering, but I'd never again want to have to sow those seeds the same way. I'm happy for the lessons, but would definitely prefer not to learn them that way again. 

July happened. I hope--with the faintest whisper and with every fiber of my being--that the storms have passed. And I am grateful that I have just enough faith to know that He is working something mighty in the aftermath. But please, I don't ever want to walk this way again.