About two years after living in our temporary Minnesota home, we were ready to flip it and go for that dream home where we hoped to draw pencil marks on the walls showing how tall our kids had grown; plant trees which would someday grow tall enough to decorate with Christmas lights; and create an environment that we hoped our girls would long to return to with their families one day. But life exists outside of our dreams.
The economy fell into a recession… especially the housing market. All brakes went on. Instead of moving forward with our grand plans of a craftsman rendition of a dream home on some lake, we were quietly thankful that our affordable little home remained just that – affordable.
Meanwhile, my career was accelerating. Nope… not in the way of finances (hey – I’m in the world of education – not banking :)! Rather the velocity increased in the way of time, training and learning. My career began to morph into part classroom teaching and part coaching other teachers.
My job was to introduce and instruct established teachers in a new and internationally effective reading program, straight out of New Zealand. Because this concept was new to the Midwest and to our district and to its established teachers, it wasn’t always well received. Therefore, in addition to just simply doing my job, the politics of the job began to take up more and more of an already full schedule. Forty hour work weeks quickly grew to 45, 50, 60, 65+ hours a week… along with a nightly ‘to do’ list staring at me when I was home, trying to be “present” with my family.
Now remember, someone like me truly doesn’t mind this much work. In fact, I’m a bit like a gerbil on a wheel – as long as the wheel’s spinning, I’m good. What does happen to folks like me… is we lose sight of the people and relationships right in front of us.
Our family had become involved in short-term mission work, Bible studies, sports, youth groups, music lessons, etc…. Despite our best efforts, we had become the typical way-too-busy American family. I had too many balls in the air and I was constantly trying to find that elusive balance between my career and my family.
Amidst everything – the too busy but still happy family life and my too busy but still satisfying job – sometime in January of 2011, we started re-researching the possibility of finding that dream home. The market had found some stability and our house was estimated to turn a profit. By the end of February we had remodeled the basement and repainted the whole house. Our home was ready to be put on the market and the dream house was once again in our sights.
Then, on February 28, 2011, everything changed. There was a wild glide into mid-air, a thud, a flash of light and a sudden, blinding pain… and nothing has been the same since.
I didn’t understand it – that everything had changed for me. Not then. I didn’t understand it as we raced to the hospital the next afternoon with my head hanging over the puke bucket while I was on the phone with a colleague, asking her to conduct the training I had planned for the next day. I didn’t understand it as the doctors discussed airlifting me to Minneapolis for an emergency brain surgery while I made plans in my head for Lucie’s surprise birthday party now only a month away.
As the doctors explained to me what a Subdural Hematoma is, I was thinking about our house. The realtors would be there in a week to take pictures. Did I have everything ready? Should I take all of the family pictures down like they suggested? Did I have all my testing done at school, before kids left for Spring Break? Were my report cards completed? ...CAT scan… (are they the same as CT scans?) Why was Lucie going through so much at school? Why did kids leave her out? Am I spending enough time with my children? Do I know them? Was Lydia truly as happy and as confident as she seemed? … heart monitor?… (why? I get the brain scan but… an MRI now? ) When would I get all the student’s data entered from the testing if I were in the hospital? How would I be able to analyze the data if I couldn’t even see the bucket in front of me earlier today? Could I still speak French? Oh, no! What if I lose my language abilities in both French and English… let me try it. OK, no words French or English… just confusion. I’ll try later. …more doctors shining more lights in my eyes… (I feel like the lights are killing me). Where’s my mom? Is she still on her trip? Why is Lucie at the foot of the bed? She looks sad? How can I comfort her? My dad looked quite pale when he came to get Lydia for us, why? What is Eddie doing? … please don’t make me try to follow your finger again… Would someone please get me a Sudoku, so I can prove that I still have a brain? Wait, I don’t play Sudoku… note-to-self… learn how to play Sudoku!
As unbelievable as this sounds, about four years passed before I was able to understand and come to grips with the fact that nothing was ever going to be quite the same for me again. There would be blessings, but they would look a bit different and they’d be harder to see. Not harder to see because they were smaller – I don’t think God gives us small blessings. I think His blessings are all infinitely enormous, all equally wonderful.
I think it’s our vision that fails us. His blessings were there through all of this dark period. Some I couldn’t see at all and missed entirely, and others I could barely make out through the fog – I saw only bits and pieces. But He was teaching me to look closer and to try and focus on what He was doing in my life.
Eventually I got so if I squinted, I could start to see the beautiful pattern in what initially looked like a big, ugly mess.
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8
I believed that verse meant He wanted me to never give up… and I was a stellar model of that in my newly ‘concussed’ predicament. I thought the words were about me and what I could do. But I have since come to believe that this verse isn’t about me at all. It is about Him. He wants me never to give up hope in Him.
Ever so slowly I learned to give up on myself and to trust in Him. All of my efforts to overcome this injury were failing. Not one of my attempts at a normal life were successful.
Finally, grudgingly I agreed to hit the pause button on all of the many plans I had made for my life.
But the pause button wasn’t enough. He wanted me to hit STOP…