Over the years, I had built up a veneer of confidence that has slowly been chipped away. The veneer, that is…not the confidence. You see, the confidence was just a veneer. In the environment I had grown up in, you must be strong or you would be annihilated emotionally. I learned the “steely gaze” while I was still in middle school, only to melt into a puddle of tears as soon as I was out of ear/eye shot. Then I met Jesus. Without going into my entire story of how that transpired, I will say this one thing. He gently chipped that veneer away and replaced it with something so much more beautiful. Something beautiful, something good. All my confusion. He understood. All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife and He made something beautiful of my life. Oh, I was still broken but it was a brokenness that was being restored.
Fast forward a few years and I am married with a few children, five to be exact. There was a fascination I had with lights on in houses. I loved Thomas Kinkade prints of those charming houses that glowed from the inside. It was my heart’s cry to create a home like that for our family, so I read voraciously to try to be the best mom and wife I could be. We opened our doors and turned on our lights and tried to make our home a place of refuge for anyone who didn’t have a “place”. So often I felt displaced when I was a child and it was a mission to be invitational to those who needed to feel included. This was our home for so many years. This became our home; we opened the door of our heart and our home. Young adults, dinner clubs, friends dropping by, strangers needing a bed, kids friends hanging out around the island; this defined us.
Then the words hit my heart. “He’s down”. My husband suffered a catastrophic stroke from a hockey collision that tore his carotid artery. Our lives changed trajectory in a heartbeat. While he fought for his life, we fought to keep living. Dark days loomed with no lights in the windows. This deep tragedy caused my heart to curl up into a ball and seek refuge in the dark. I could barely breathe, let alone function. Friends who knew us well didn’t let this happen. Countless acts of kindness descended on us like a flood as our lives circled around caring for Kevin. Meals were brought to our home 3x a week, scripture texts popped up in my inbox, offers of financial help, words of salve that ministered to my heart, extraordinary prayer, waiting room visits, laughter that was so needed, practical helps….the list goes on. Every kindness killed me. The tears would flow when kindness cracked open my heart again. Every tear healed my heart a little bit more. This time, the vulnerability wove my friendships to an untearable strength. There was no need to hide anymore, Ironically, the weakness made me stronger. I rested in His strength, because mine was gone. I allowed the many tears of grief and feeling quite bereft and lost. This time, I would not be ripped apart when my tears gave way as in childhood. What WAS ripped apart was my significance and my understanding of who I was. I was the giver. I was the host. I was the strong one. I was the one who offered hope. I was none of these things anymore. I was needy, lost, weak and scared, just clinging to God’s word as a lifeline. The proverbial rug was ripped out from under me and I laid on the floor bewildered.
Leaving the hospital after a week long death watch over Kevin, I was feeling bankrupt of emotion – dull and overwhelmed. Looking up to the dark sky, I saw a picture of our friends who had gathered around us. They were crawling on their knees in prayer, our family was being carried by them. Others encircled us by holding hands. This gave me so much hope. We were not forgotten; by God or by our prayer warrior friends. Our life was in His hands. Trust and confidence in Him began a new journey to a foundation, not a veneer. While this is just the beginning of this new path, we are slowly gaining a rhythm. Every little kindness still kills me, the tears flow freely. At the mention of a kindness bestowed on anyone, my eyes leak! This is just who I am now – raw, real and ridiculous. This is our story. This is His story in our lives. It is hard yet it is filled with both tears and laughter. He is not done writing our story and so we join hands with our loving Father and the people He has placed in our lives, to walk it out for His glory.
You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.
- William W. Purkey