This summer was an eventful time. As we celebrate the end of it with our friends this Labor Day weekend, I can say that I am glad that it is over. I'm ready for a new season. The story picked up with my Macbook exploding. Then our nine year old dog Sidney went into kidney failure and we had to put her down. Then my husband had what we uncomfortably -but accurately- refer to as a nervous breakdown. We entered therapy; it would have been helpful to know, going into therapy, that things often get worse before they get better. Robb and I have had some of the most significant, intense arguments of our married life. Our church was evicted from the building where we met. My friend, who I worked for, moved away. The van needed expensive repairs. And then Robb lost his job.
There was a time in my life that I would have written that paragraph and left it with the reader to let it sink in. Beg for your mute sympathy. Crave your comforting words. But as I read over the paragraph, I feel compelled to write its corollary: The other side of that paragraph...for the win.
My macbook exploded. But I had enough money saved up already to buy a new one and get Photoshop with it so that I was able to greatly improve the quality of my photos in my Etsy stores. For the win.
We lost Sidney. I still choke up at the loss of our dog. I probably thought other people were a little silly when they talked about how sad they were when they lost a pet, but now I understand and I am so much more sympathetic. Robb wrote about it for his column for the local newspaper and received a number of responses from people who needed to hear it. Who found it comforting. Who, like us, know something more about God because of a furry thing with four legs and a giant heart. It was a galvanizing, bonding experience as a family to grieve her loss. And painfully good to know that we could love and be loved like that. For the win.
We entered therapy. Through Providential circumstances, we ended up with a therapist we like and trust a great deal. He has been more helpful than I would have ever dreamed in helping us sort through what had become a very tangled mess of emotions, fears, disappointments and expectations. It's true that things got harder before they got better when we first began, but they DID get better. And now that we know what good therapy can accomplish, we'll be a lot better at helping other people know when they can benefit from it. For the win.
My friend and "boss" moved away. I learned so much from my time with Stacie. She is a successful seller on Etsy and is making her way with her business on a scale that is far beyond where I am or where I may ever be. I miss our time together so much....long talks, laughing and maybe most acutely, the feeling of making a difference. It was in working for Stacie that I realized how much I like to support from behind the scenes. I came to understand myself better by the sheer joy I felt in packing up prints and pillows, knowing that I was making things easier for my busy friend. For the win.
The van needed expensive repairs. Our church rallied with a gift of money and another friend covered the balance of the bill. In fact, our church supported us in ways that are almost impossible to define: they gave us a rest by carrying our load. They gave us time. They gave us space. They made this sabbatical happen. I have never heard of any church doing that in any of my past experiences. They are remarkable people, humble servants, hilarious and true friends who simply were there for us. I have a hard time imagining how people function without a community to love them. I can't imagine how complicated it must have felt at times for them to be doing our tasks on a Sunday morning, knowing we were home in bed or on a beach somewhere. But they fully committed to resting us. They joked with us on Facebook, took us to coffee, brought us lunch, and one precious friend, in an intimate, holy moment, sang me a song. That kind of amazes me. Through all of this, I learned a powerful truth: I could believe in my church as much as my church believed in me. I could let them serve. I have fully committed as a parent to rearing children who are independent and able to care for themselves. I had never allowed my church the same freedom. Vintage Fellowship isn't a helpless baby anymore. She's a big seven year old, and like any seven year old, she wants to help. I had been treating her like a baby and that was a mistake. For the win.
Robb lost his job. There's no magic bullet here. Tomorrow morning, he is officially unemployed. In the meantime, he has put his shoulder into helping me get my marketing materials together to make my Etsy stores as profitable and well-run as they can be. They will not be enough to support us and we'll not likely be on the front page of Etsy with a "How I quit my day-job" feature story. But so far, things are doing all right. We've adopted a no-frills budget that will work for now. There's something leaner and meaner to us than we were before; I feel good about that. We are working together as a family more. Planning better. Eating out less. Drinking less alcohol. Taking our work around the house seriously. We are focused. Aware. And speaking just for me...much more thankful. Thankful for a rosebush that just keeps blooming. For a cooler summer than ever imaginable here in the steamy south. For ridiculously huge cucumbers and a plucky tomato patch that keeps on producing. For the first three big fat apples grown on my very own apple tree. For lemon balm. For the red stripe on garter snakes so I can see them better and not be quite as traumatized when they squiggle out in front of me. For zinnias and strawberries and crepe myrtle and butterflies and glorious rainy days. For our other dog, Peggy, who is a well-spring of love and devotion even if she is not the sharpest tool in the shed.
And for my children. My rare, wonderful, hilarious children:
For the win.
Yesterday morning dawned hot and sunny. I had been watching the weather report, dreading the heavy heat we had not been burdened with at all this summer. I felt cranky about the day, trying to accept a long day at my work table, writing new Etsy listings, avoiding the misery outside. I woke up with a stomach ache after a night of intermittent insomnia, which has plagued me most of the summer, it seems. After a small cup of coffee, I wandered outside in my sweats, thinking I would at least water the garden before the sun scorched it. I found myself pulling some weeds. Noticing again just how much the rose-bush needed pruning. Rolling up my pant-legs and puttering around in my bare feet. I knew it was supposed to be hot, but the grass felt cool enough. I hunted down my pruning sheers. The sweat started to pour down my face and I took off my glasses and set them inside the door...I cut back the iris blades, and trimmed the crepe myrtle so we could get down the sidewalk on a straight path. I hacked into the unruly rose-bush, getting all kinds of scrapes and cuts. I bled. I faced my fears and dug into the lemon balm that had sheltered a snake earlier in the summer. Stood back and surveyed my work...it was good. It was trimmed-back and good. I was afraid of the heat. Afraid of the pain. Afraid of the snake. But facing it and feeling it felt good. Sweating felt good. Working hard felt good.
If I knew at the beginning of the summer that it would be like it was, I would have been terrified. I would have wanted to stay inside the house with the air conditioning and try to be comfortable. But now I know that the pain isn't so bad. Discomfort is not forever. Change is frightening, but it can be a blessing. Ever since the garden of Eden, we humans have lost track of what is good and what is bad. We don't really know how to identify those things very well. At least, not at the outset. But looking back over the summer, I am sure of the goodness. I am sure of God being in it, being with me, my family, my church, my community, my world.
That was the sabbatical.
For the win.