First there is the fall, and then we recover from the fall. Both are the mercy of God!
- Lady Julian
It's been a year (okay, 13 months) since we moved our lives from our beloved Orange County to Northern Indiana. I tried to write this post last month, but I simply resisted acknowledging that it's been a year. In all transparency, this year has been so very hard for our family of five. The truth is, too, that we've never shied away from hard in our family, so we've taken the hard as a challenge to be accepted rather than a reason to curl up and die.
Why is it been hard, you may ask? Oh Lord, so very many reasons.
The first 6 months we were in straight up survival mode. Brian made a massive life transition from being a stay-at-home dad to being away for his new job about 60-hours a week. Due to the management training program he was in, his "job" changed every week and my 100% introverted husband had to draw on all his extroverted learned skills to meet new people all day, every day. His alarm would go off around 4am, he'd leave our sleeping family, and he'd drive in the dark through 2-lane country roads to a new work site every Monday. Then he would drag his body home around 4 or 5pm every day. He'd do his best to engage his fried wife and emotionally raw children for a couple hours, but he didn't have much to give. By 9pm my normally-night-owl husband would collapse into bed so he could start it all over again. Past struggles with depression and anxiety began rearing their ugly heads in my man.
I essentially became a stay-at-home mom who worked in all kinds of weird hours and traveled for my sanity. I escaped to California 5 times in the first 8 months after our move. I was entirely responsible for our home life (sans mowing our half acre yard which Brian did on the weekends) - laundry, cleaning, shopping, meals. All of it fell on my shoulders. I starting googling crockpot recipes and made my own laundry detergent. I became a desperate housewife and craved work other than caring for my beloved family. I ACHED for my framily in SoCal in ways I'll never be able to articulate. I ached so much that I couldn't even pick up the phone most days. I just sent lots of desperate texts. My nerves felt raw for the solace of the beach, our favorite places that we'd established for 11 years, and the racial/ethnic diversity that's forever changed me. I felt like I was in a state of culture shock.
And our children. It felt like our kids lost their little minds. For nearly every day of this entire first year, at least one of our kids would say something like,
Our kids grieved the move from SoCal something fierce. I was convinced prior to moving that the new, big house, our giant backyard, all of their cousins to play with nearby, and the oozing love from grandparents, aunts and uncles would be enough to cover their losses. How wrong I was. They acted out, screamed and yelled, cried and sobbed, threw things at me, disobeyed and ran away, and they were so very angry for m-o-n-t-h-s. I wondered where my children went. And I felt alone in it. Brian was here but he was so overwhelmed and exhausted with his new jobs' demands that he couldn't engage with me in their losses. So I grieved my own deep losses and carried my emotionally explosive and wounded kiddos' losses practically alone. Y'all, it was so bad that even a year later tears are flooding my eyes remembering that season. Judah, Addise, and Asher were so raw, so sad, so confused, so lost.
And so were we, their parents. None of us had much of anything good to give to each other. We just were sad and cried a lot. I felt like I was on the verge of an anxiety attack most days. I had more meltdowns than I could count. Brian and I gained weight and felt like crap. We suffered in silence because we couldn't care for ourselves, much less each other. We did our best to hold our kiddos in their grief and say "me too" a lot, but most days we felt like we were massively failing them as they face their losses. Judah and Addise became racial and ethnic minorities in their classrooms, experienced racism first-hand, and were we having daily race conversations in our home.
There were several other painful realities that we swallowed whole in those first 6 months, too, but not all things are for public sharing. Through it all, we looked for little lights. I remember telling my long-time mentor and friend, Nancy, "I'm so freaking tired of looking for little lights. I can't spend my entire life searching for LITTLE. LIGHTS!" We had fallen hard and life felt so very dark and cold, especially in the middle of a Midwestern winter. Laughter was vacant. The truth was, there were lots of little lights all around us, but the compounding grief for our family was too heavy.
Then, six months into it all, at Christmastime, Brian and I had a "come to Jesus" moment: his job wasn't working. The job that moved our family 2000 miles from a place we loved to Indiana wasn't working. So, Brian did the bravest thing I've ever seen him do: the day after his 37th birthday, he quit his job. And our family experienced the greatest peace we'd felt in months. We determined to figure it out with work and finances. We would not sacrifice him for the sake of pride or a paycheck. We missed him profoundly and the Brian we loved was a shell of himself. Our family was more important than that. Brian is more important than that.
These past 6 months, we've been figuring it out. I've picked up the work I love to do and financially, we are doing just fine. We've considered moving, staying, quitting jobs, taking new jobs. We've laid it all out there. And Brian has been coming back to life. He's spent this Spring and Summer working really hard as our personal landscaping guru (with loads of guidance from my dad). He's planted 17 trees and over 100 flowers and bushes on our half acre lot. He's designed 20 yards of mulch to make beautiful plant beds all over our property. He's something life-giving about working with his hands in the earth. He's been nourished and strengthened in cultivating beauty. My Puerto Rican man is very brown, kissed with the sun, and he's coming back to life. And our kiddos are doing better. They still ask about SoCal and miss it, but they are coming into their own. We've made this home more like us and we are doing the best with what we have.
Our church has given us a place and purpose that is still being defined and sharpened. It's been a place to be anonymous and receive after an adult lifetime of giving. It's been a place of d.e.e.p. healing for me as a Jesus follower, pastor, and teacher. It's been a place to discover and dream again. And it's been such a fun place for our kids to belong and explore their own relationship with Jesus more. A little light that's been pretty big. And there are burgeoning friendships that are kindred and real for me. They give me hope and laughter and connection.
One thing I know to be true:
Your body travels by plane.
Your soul travels by camel.
Brian and I also know that we will be obedient. For this season, we are here. We know there is purpose for us being here. Purpose that is still being worked out in our waiting, steady plodding, and intentional conversations. We also are attentive to our longings and attachments and passions. We are living in the both/and. The little lights are becoming brighter and laughter is returning to our family. We know that God works everything together for good, even the pain that's come with this move.
Truly, we have experienced mercy in the falling again and again.
For that we are grateful.