We're two weeks out from closing on a house in Texas (which has proven to be as fraught with unknowns as when we sold our house in Denver) and I keep checking myself, my heart, my mind, every time I tape a box closed or set something on the Give Away shelf: will I be sad to leave here? Will I miss Virginia and DC? Will I look back with longing to this season of life? It has been overwhelmingly hard in many ways, and lonely, but there were sweet stretches and I never want to forget them, not ever.
We brought Harper home here. She's not a child and I don't want to memorialize her as such, but she has been such a gift to me in particular. She gave me something to mind, to train, to care about. She gave me, on many dark days, a reason to get out of bed—even if that reason felt more animalistic and less joy-filled. She was born on the day we moved into this house, though we didn't bring her home until eight weeks later, and we will sign our names on the dotted line for a new home on her birthday this year. Something we thought impossible a year ago.
A year ago we were staring down the barrel of foreclosure and had no idea we were going to lose every penny of our downpayment and our entire savings account, effectively starting over financially in June. Then, in July, a publisher friend of mine reached out with a project she wanted me to work on. Her reasons were simple (and profound, to me). She knew I felt strongly about the flood of books being published, by the pressure to platform and perform, and even though there are probably books inside me somewhere, she knew publishing a book right now wasn't something I was passionate about doing. But this project, editing Christian classics and writing study guide material for them, seemed like it would be perfect. And it was. And it provided a salary for me we never expected and couldn't have foreseen. We were able to build back up our savings enough to buy a house less than a year from when we thought it would never happen again.
Editing those books, and, in particular, writing the study guide material for them, was such a singular blessing to me this year. I learned so much (and will write more on this soon). I said to my publisher friend the other morning: God disciplined me and discipled me through this work. I wept over brokenness, sin, doubt, and fear in my own heart as I wrote response questions to Christian's travels with Hopeful in Pilgrim's Progress. I was convicted and convinced as I worked on George Mueller's Answers to Prayer. I wrestled with theology, truth, and scripture as I worked through Hannah Whiteall Smith's words. I am still working on these projects and they never fail to convict and challenge me, not only because God's word doesn't change, but the nature of man, sin, faith, hope, joy, and life doesn't change much either. The blessing of this buoyed me this year.
I lamented to a friend this week about how sometimes I miss my singleness. I love my marriage and I love my husband. Nate is God's best gift to me in this season of life and I don't want to make that a small thing. But I have struggled with the lack of purpose I often feel in marriage. I felt so purposeful and driven with my singleness, knowing I could waste it or use it, and determined to do the latter. It gave me such drive and passion to do it well, to find others who were doing it well, and to encourage my brothers and sisters in the dry land it can sometimes be. But within marriage, I've struggled to find that same purpose, drive, and passion. It occurred to me recently, though, that when we pack up the truck and head down south, I will be leaving behind a solid year of singularity: my primary, sometimes only, calling this year was to my home and husband. I don't know if I'll ever have such a season of undistraction again. I learned to be my husband's cheerleader and friend. To be a wife and homemaker. To care about what my husband cares about, to learn to hear him, know him, listen to him, trust him, and submit to him. In other seasons of life I have thrived on my ability to juggle many things, carry many loads, do many things well. In this season of life, I couldn't run away from the One Thing in front of me and it has been so good for me.
More than any of that, though, I have learned in a deeper way and in a way I don't know if I could have learned any other way, both how important a church family is, and also how challenging it is for many people to find a home in one. I have never been flippant about my love for the local church, but I have been flippant about the hurt others experienced in them or the struggles others faced in finding a home in one. I was matter of fact, direct, pointed, without empathy for the hurt they might have experienced or their reticent to go, become members of, submit to, and invest in. It seemed to be born out of selfishness, and maybe some of it is, but after this year and our hurt and struggle, God's good gift to me was the ability to see that it is not as easy as three steps or just making up your mind. Maybe we make it more difficult than it is, but maybe we don't. We are grateful for the many pastors and church members who reached out to us, invited us, and made us feel welcome here, but the inward struggle, the hurt, the fear, and the hopes were never fully settled and that takes time.
I learned this year that time doesn't heal all wounds, but also God is never in a rush to finish healing if there's something still to learn in the hurting. I'm grateful to go back to my church family, but I go back with much, much more awareness of the struggles many Christians face in the simple act of going to church, not to mention being a part of one. I'm grateful for that wounding, although there were many Sundays this year I could barely breathe through it.
These are only a few of the blessings of this year—which in many ways, didn't feel like blessings in the midst of them. I knew one day I would look back at this year and see God's purpose in the midst of the hard things, but more than anything I'm grateful that I was able to see God's goodness in the midst of them. It's one thing to derive meaning from something. It's another to find no meaning but that on Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand. His character, his attributes, his nature—these never, ever, ever, ever change, and this carried me this year. I never faltered in my believe in his character because he never changed who he was and is. So while meaning might still feel a long way off in some ways, assurance of God's goodness, faithfulness, lovingkindness, generosity, justice, mercy, grace, patience, and more are never far off. He draws near and on him I stand.