Even on your darkest day- courage over comfort
You will find your balance and lose it and find it again,
chose courage over comfort.
There is nothing fun about hardship and I have a fear of bringing others down. Like an imbalanced game of tug-of-war, I want to carry others in their pain but won't relinquish my own struggles for fear of being "too much". To me, it feels more polite to suffer silently. Maybe it's because I'm a Texan and us southerners don't go out without our faces on, but if I don't have something pleasant to say, I think it's best just to keep it to myself. It's easier to zone out and watch 2 seasons of Gilmore Girls instead of processing issues with real people because Lorelaie always has something more dramatic going on in her life, let's be honest. Or on the other end of the spectrum, I just "take my burdens Jesus," which becomes an excuse to not be transparent with my friends because I don't want to be seen as needy, clingy, desperate, or unfaithful in the midst of pain.
I think sometimes comfort is the enemy of courage, and courage is exactly what it takes to speak up when your voice is shrill.
I've seen women do it, tell their story in the midst of infertility, miscarriages, divorce, and loss. I've seen women boldly ask for help and it made the celebration all the sweeter, even from a distance. Makes sense, those that who weep together would party together too. However, I'm naturally drawn to seeking comfort. I like that there is no risk of being seen as complaining when you just take care of yourself...excuse me, just let Jesus take care of you. I do believe that God will care for us and I do think that we should take our burdens to the Lord, but he also gave us community for support, encouragement, and correction. When trials come, you have to have the to courage to speak up, tell your story, and ask for help to see the breakthrough.
I wanted to write an inspiring post about how to worship your way through hardship. How joy is so much sweeter when everything is stripped bare and chose gratitude instead. I suppose I've been waiting to publish my writing until that was my story or until I had found my way out of this crap-year and had the literary equivalent of a before and after photo. But that's not happening and there is no guarantee that that time will come soon (although, dear God I hope it does). This is how I've really been:
Over the past year and a half, I have lost my balance. The church plant my husband and I moved to Kansas to help launch shut down, scattering the community (the family) we loved so dearly. That broke me and I had to grieve a dream and a life imagined now gone. We sold our first home, the home we saved for and dreamed of for the first 3 years of our marriage. I cried the day we got a realtor, cried with my neighbor Kathy the day we put the sign out in the yard, and cried the day it sold. We moved to a new city and started over with community, unearthing loneliness and vulnerability of building new friendships without history. So we got a puppy. Poor little Doc Holiday got Parvo and didn't make it past the first weekend we got him. And after months of my body rebelling against me, I was diagnosed with PCOS. As my doctor explained what that entails, I heard "you will have difficulty getting pregnant naturally" and numbness took over, hopelessness, and worse; I wasn't surprised by the pain. I expected the worst. That's been our lot, maybe that will be our story from now on. Hardship, downward slopes, the good-old-days behind us and buried in Lawrence. If you know me, this is a far cry from "each day is a fresh re-start" woman I am.
At the beginning of the year, I literally marched around my kitchen island in Lawrence every morning, claiming the goodness of God through tears and shouting. Then I got mad, like really really mad, so I went to counseling to deal with that anger after the last of our team moved away. Then I tried to pep-talk my way through sadness declaring, "This isn't who I am. I believe the best in people. I am joyful and bubbly. I'm a dreamer and doer!" but when that didn't work, I baked my way through the Pioneer Woman's new cookbook. By far the tastiest form of coping but perhaps not the healthiest.
With each blow, a sliver of my natural optimism diminished and a small but bright burning borrowed hope took its place.
The truth is, I don't have it in me right now to be warring in prayer, which is hard for me to say. I've had to send long, broken, down-right depressing messages to my friends asking them to pray for me because I don't have the energy to do it for myself. I've sat in my friend Nicole's living room time and time again explaining medical jargon I don't fully understand, every time my faith for healing gets smaller, asking her to believe with and for me. Do you know how yucky that feels? To admit that your light has dwindled when you swore that in the face of darkness your light would shine brighter still. Only to realize that on your darkest day you're left stunned, holding a tiny match-stick-flicker of hope, asking for others to lend their lamps so you aren't swallowed by the darkness. It's knee-shaking humility. It's the stuff that makes you question the existence of God himself. It's real life.
Yet, even in my darkest day, I've had the tiniest sliver of hope. I mean teeny-tiny Polly Pocket-sized hope, and it's not even entirely my own, but it's hope still.
Even on my darkest day, that little sliver of light is brought by the pure grace of God. In my weakness and infertility and depression, he has not abandoned me because I'm a bummer, which I admittedly am right now. He's not expressed disappointed that I haven't written my best-selling book yet or that my dreams are not as vibrant as they once were. He's seen my puny prayers, my tears during worship when I want to be raising my hands but just manage to show up, and he lights my light again and again. Promising me moments of hope and vision and reason in place of my out-of-control emotions and fears, that's who God is. He's seen me low and says, "I will bring you high again, don't lose heart. You are not alone."
Even on my darkest day, my people have lent me their hope. They have not criticized me because I am not as light-hearted, or rounder in the face, or less optimistic. Nor have they let me wallow in self-pity. Instead, against all my fears, they've offered encouragement and let me borrow their faith when I've had little of my own. They've gotten on either side of me, linked my arms, and helped me move forward to take ground. They've prayed on my behalf, listened to my pain, and thanked me for letting them in. thanked. me.
I realize that my problems are small in the scheme of the world, which has kept me quiet. I realize that not everyone is as fortunate as I am to have an incredible husband and people full of enough faith to glean off of, which has kept me quiet. But in spite of all of that, I've realized the cyclical nature of our lives does not change when people suffer silently. People just feel more lonely when they think they're the only ones struggling. Death and life, hard times and good times, they still happen whether we tell our stories or not. They relentlessly come in waves, receding and flooding us, so why not share our stories? Why not ask for help when we're low or ask people to believe for miracles with us?
My encouragement, my reason for writing this at all, is for those reading this by match-stick on your darkest day to not be ashamed of your tiny light or be lulled into false comfort. Instead, be courageous. Even when courage just sounds like a whimper for help. Be brave and ask for others to lend you their light. Because the light is coming. There is hope, whether you're carrying it or not, and there is more than enough to go around- all we have to do is have the courage to ask.
Here's to greater things yet to come!
Caleb thank you for loving me and being the best friend and husband I could ever have asked for. To Carly, Alexa, Sierra, and Nicole- thank you for holding my arms up during this year. No words will convey how much I've learned about love from y'all. Mom, our 5 pm calls have helped more than you know. And to the countless others who have walked alongside us and are believing for fertility and healing, we are deeply thankful and humbled. Thank you.