October 15th came and went. It’s a day seared in me. I was scarred on that day and each year it rolls around, I feel as if the day is colored in ash, like a gray haze, and it has me a little quieter than normal. After life takes its toll we all have those days. Collectively, for many of us, we have September 11th. Yet, we each have our own personal days of mourning… the day of a tragedy… the day we lost a loved one…. the day a crime violated our safety… the day of our miscarriage… the day of the fire… the day we knew our marriage was over… the day we got laid off… and for me, the day of our diagnosis. Those days seem to come fast and hard, but time seems to stand still.
I remember every detail of the doctor’s parking lot… the greenery… the covered atrium… the pebbled walk way… the bright sun… Things I don’t regularly notice, let alone remember about parking lots six years later. But the parking lot is where we dried our first tears and started to make our peace with our new normal. Those tears wouldn’t be our last.
We endured years of more than a dozen hours a week in therapy… therapy in our home, with people in our business… therapy over a half hour drive, with two bored kids in the car… therapy that essentially becomes a co-pay a day that adds up to thousands of dollars really, really fast. I stayed home to be WITH my kid, but in reality what I was doing was staying home to drive him around and manage all his appointments and have other people tell me how to be with him. There’s no discretionary time in this type of schedule. Not to mention that strangers and acquaintances, friends and family, all came with their not so helpful judgement, which they would call “advice.” I felt pretty alone. No. I felt awfully alone. That’s the right word.
So you can see why October 15th has stung.
But not this year. This year, on that Sunday, I watched a hallmark movie in my jammies and drank peppermint flavored coffee in my mama’s mug. I played crafts and relays and prayed with him and other third graders at church. That afternoon, my daughter and I volunteered at the aquarium and taught the guests about the jelly fish. And then she and I had In&Out burgers, mine with a whole grilled onion, on the way home.
I think October 15th was more colorful and delightful this year, because it’s now that this pre-existing condition has blended into our ordinary life. It’s always there to be sure, but it’s not the song we are singing right now. It’s more like base notes. Sometimes, really loud base notes, but I’m insistent to sing a better song.
Looking back I know what got me through. At the time, I was reading One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Vos Kamp. And the book challenged me to write as many as I could, as often as I could, all throughout the day, in all different categories, the things which God has gifted me… that which I could be thankful for. This serious disciple of gratitude had me putting pen to paper, maybe ten times a day, and it gave me wisdom to see God at work… silver linings on top of silver linings covering our grey cloud. It changed the way I saw my life and ultimately that changed my life because it changed me.
Sometimes God steps in and protects us from the horrible; God is like a parent who shields a child from a stranger’s dirty judgment and the kid moves along blissfully unaware, ready to trick-or-treat and get their candy from the next neighbor’s house. (Yeah, that happened last night. Like I said, sometimes the base notes are loud.)
But some days seem unavoidable, and the storms in our lives come. Then we cry out to Jesus to save us. And in a mystery I will never understand, sometimes God calms the storm. In what seems like a breath, in the time it barely takes to speak a word, the struggle is wiped away. And we rejoice. Really! We felt on the edge of a cliff and we know something (Someone!) swooped us back.
But other times the storm rages on all around, despite our pleas. And then, what counting my blessings taught me, is that sometimes it’s not the storm God calms… Sometimes God calms me. God’s presence has me… has me safe and sound in the midst of it all. And finding and naming my silver linings, keeping a thankful journal, keeps me aware of God’s presence, which is always there, but now I know.
Yet, we keep needing to be reminded.
So if you feel led, join me this November by spending your days doing the serious disciple of gratitude and count your blessings. Find a notebook for your purse, or an app on your phone and look for goodness at every turn. I can pretty much guarantee it will not be wasted time. (And ‘pretty’ is the right word here… It will be pretty!)
PS – What are you grateful for? How can I join you in giving thanks to God?
PPS – I highly recommend One Thousand Gifts by Ann Vos Kamp and the song by Scott Krippayne title “Sometimes He Calms the Storm.”