Our first hikes together were on St. Petersburg sidewalks, my husband and I and our about-to-be-adopted children. We all held hands and meandered through a park where we skipped stones on the pond and all spoke with each other in Russian. We walked every day while waiting for our court date to become a legal family.
Ever since Russia, hiking has been a constant in our family’s life. We all love the togetherness we feel when walking through God’s creation in all different seasons, times of day, and weather conditions. Our hikes help us appreciate life’s complex beauty. Not all days are sunny and warm.
This past Sunday, we drove a mile down our country road to hike in the state park edged by Lake Michigan and trails cutting through forest and wild prairie. In the cold and cloudy late afternoon, we trekked to Puckett’s pond. Cattails danced on the breeze and we found ice passing away. Soon, we’ll be plunking lines from the pier in hopes of hooking a trout. New life always comes, just when you think you’ve had enough, had more than you can bear, are sick and tired of the cold outside and the cold inside, and you’ve had enough of the gray. New life always comes. Hold on, my soul . . .
I remember the summer past when these fields were green and the bird boxes were filled. Red-winged blackbirds perched on just a blade of swaying big blue stem. How can the weight of such dark with a just a brushstroke of bright be held high by such a tender shoot? And yet, we are . . .
The signs tell us of grasslands and wildflowers and how fire keeps them thriving. I think about the choices we make—how much we like easy, not realizing how heat and hard grow us strong, help us thrive, spread new life on the winds around us as we open from broken and spill out.
But who likes pain? “Pain is painful.” (My favorite quote of genius, C.S. Lewis. Simply profound.) But if we believe that going through pain will bring something good, we can deal. Better to face it and deal.
And here’s truth . . .
When we come to a place in our lives where the pain required to change is less than the pain of staying the same, we’re ready to try a new way. We’re ready to find a true life.
But . . .
Prairies must burn.
Woods must break.
Ponds must melt.
Our lives are a series of seasons and conditions. Some may be harsh. All are for good. All embraced produce a true life with God, held in His hands. Ask me how I know . . .
It has been nearly a year since our 23 year-old daughter spent twelve days in a locked psychiatric wing of a hospital with a new diagnosis of bipolar disorder with severe psychosis. For me, she had become the statistic I feared, knowing that nearly 80% of children who experience brain damage from prenatal exposure to alcohol end up diagnosed with a mental health disorder. I feared we had lost her when she lost her mind. Strong medications necessary for restoring reality sucked away her spirit. I described her then as having had a chemical lobotomy. I suspected what certain family members might be thinking, especially of me. I braced myself in God’s truth.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:39)
Our family has never, ever experienced such abundant provision as we have this past year. It would take more than a blog post to tell. Through a constant effort to find the right combination of medication, and after a recent slip, Anna is stable and better than ever before—smiling, calm, and remarkably spiritually astute. In all her brokenness, she is a blessing because I have learned, through her, how to embrace brokenness as the window through which we fly straight into the arms of God, finding the never-ending love, peace, and joy for which we all long.
Lesson learned from the prairie and from Anna?
Nothing clears blinding, choking smoke like a consuming fire.
The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1
I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. Psalm 27:14
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17