My Bradley and I celebrated 20 years of marriage on July 13th! For decades (literally two) we would dream of that anniversary. We assumed we would have a big vow renewal ceremony, done our way (you don't get to make all of the wedding decisions when you marry at 17!) But, home-ownership and employment uncertainties kept our celebration to a minimum. It was still a precious celebration, but just between the two of us. We made a weekend of it, at home, and it was good.
Our anniversary also marked a solid truth - our family is growing up very quickly. More about that to come below...
At the end of July we adopted another husky. Yes... another one. His name is Ember. He is a beautiful "red" husky, just a few months younger than our Loki (the perfect playmate for her) and he absolutely completes our chaos.
Our youngest child, Ellie, started middle school. At middle school. Not at home. That one was tough! This is the first time she's attended school out of the home, so it's a big change for all of us. She's adjusting so very well, her grades are stellar, and I know we sent her out with a solid foundation under her feet.
The night before school started we received heart crushing news... Brad's dad had passed away. We had hoped to make it down to Florida before he went on from this life, but timing and money just didn't allow for it - which made it all the more difficult, especially for Brad. John was a great man, he loved Christ deeply and devoted the last 10+ years of his life to serving Him. We're so thankful for the legacy he leaves behind.
We had a few birthdays while Brad was away for his father's funeral. It honestly sucked to celebrate them without him home - but isn't that just a true testimony to life? Sometimes it just honestly sucks.
The next weekend Brad and Elijah attended the men's camp out with our church. Brad had to come home during the day on the Saturday of the camp out to officiate a wedding. In the first hour he was gone, we received a phone call that there had been an accident. Elijah was chopping wood, the hatchet he was using rebounded and hit him just below the knee. He was ok, but definitely needed stitches. Turns out he needed 10 stitches, 3 internal and 7 external. He had sliced the muscle. It was pretty complex!
I assured Brad that I would handle it so he could go on to the wedding. We spent a few hours in the ER. After he was all fixed up, I took him with me to the pharmacy to get some gauze rolls and tape for the days to come. While there he bled through his stitches and his bandage. We ended up back in the ER. Nothing had pulled loose, but he required compression bandaging and bedrest for the next 48 hours.
Julie also got engaged that weekend. Her boyfriend-turned-fiance actually asked for permission to propose months ago. He's respectful, kind, and has loved her through so much the past three years. We're so excited to add him to our family in the not too distant future.
And speaking of Julie, she finished her first two years of college at Sinclair this past Spring. She was accepted into Miami University to complete her bachelors. For the last two months we were under the impression she would have to commute to school (an hour there and an hour back, daily - as an upperclassman she didn't take priority for housing.) The week before classes started we received word that they had a dorm room for her! This was quite an answer to prayer, but we had to move FAST to make it happen! It all worked out, and we moved her into her first dorm room - her first home away from home - at the end of August.
During the end of August we also saw a couple of major milestones with Ruthie and Elijah. Ruthie began her senior year of high school! She is finishing her diploma taking two college courses through Sinclair and will officially be done in December (we've requested she march for her diploma in the Spring though!) Elijah began his freshman year of high school! He's still home for school, but I know just how fast these four years are going to go.
I also began another semester of college.We've had a half dozen "big" events at church that have required so much of my time and energy in the last six months.
Ellie keeps us so, so, so busy with her cheer squads and tumbling.
It was really just inevitable that eventually the last several months would hit me. Like a tidal wave.
Every event, even the ones that were a bit more tumultuous, seemingly came and went smoothly. But once I had a chance to just sit, to just rest, the after effects of all of them hit me like a tidal wave. The emotions of loss, and growth, and new happenings, and change - it all mounted up so high, and then with a thunderous crash it came down all around me. I cried. I cried a lot. For days. I would be fine but then out of the blue I couldn't hold it together.
Through it all, my responsibilities never ceased, but I was just so heavy, so tired and weak and worn. So, like Aaron and Hur with Moses, Brad stood beside me and held my heavy arms up. When I couldn't find the words to pray, he prayed over me, and HE interceded through my groans. When the last thing my weary eyes wanted to do was to look upon scripture, he read it to me and HE spoke it to my heart.
"...The unfailing love of the Most High will keep YOU from stumbling." -Psalm 21:7b
"I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress, I will never be shaken." -Psalm 62:1-2
"Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people! Be miserable and mourn and weep. Your laughter must change to mourning and your joy to sorrow. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you." -James 4:8-10
When I'd wake up in the morning and the last thing I wanted to do was face another day, as my feet would hit the floor the Spirit would flood my heart with songs of praise, redirecting my thoughts.
"Now all I have, I count it all as loss; but to know You and to carry the cross, knowing I am found in the light of the aftermath" (Hillsong United, Aftermath)
"I'm tired, I'm worn, my heart is heavy from the work it takes to keep on breathing; I've made mistakes, I've let my hope fail; My soul feels crushed by the weight of this world. And I know that You can give me rest, so I cry out with all that I have left..." (Tenth Avenue North, Worn)
"And my soul will know when fear comes knocking there You'll be my guard, when day breeds trouble there You'll hold my heart, come storm or battle God I know Your peace will meet me there; Oh, be still my heart, and my soul will ever know that You are God, and You heard my prayer" (Hillsong United, Prince of Peace)
"Lord I hear You, I know You're there, closer now than my skin and bones could dare, breathing deep within me, You are always with me; I can see You where eyes can't stare, brighter now than the sun could ever dare, breathing all around me, God I know that You are here; For I am Yours and You are mine, and my soul knows well You are here" (Hillsong United, Closer Than You Know)
Those moments -moment by moment- they carried me.
It's not that anything was horribly wrong. A twenty year marriage is worth celebrating - A new furry friend brings so much comfort and affection - Ellie is thriving in her new environment, which is an answered prayer - John is no longer sick, no longer hurting, and heaven holds him - Birthdays are celebrations of life and love - Elijah didn't lose a limb - Julie will marry a godly man who loves her deeply, and her college career is just one more step in her being her own person, a grown woman - Ruthie and Elijah are in high school, the age that so many parents dread is one that we embrace and enjoy because our teenagers are respectful, polite, and they love BIG! Sure they have their moments, what kids don't? But I'd dare to say we're pretty blessed on the teenage front! - Busyness with kids and school and ministry, they stretch me and grow me and bend me, but they don't break me.
The tidal wave of all of this, it crashed down on me. Hard.
But I'm still standing.
I may become weak, but I'm never alone.I may grow tired, but rest is always around the corner. And that, my friends, is refreshing.
"You rule the raging sea; when its waves surge, You still them." -Psalm 89:9
In oceans deep, my faith will stand...
(Hillsong United, Oceans)