We had declared November the month of margin. At the end of the summer, I asked Sean to pick a month to take a break from extra events. We pushed hard over the summer with his d.j. business, projects, and side jobs for both of us. “We can only run hard for so long and I think we're going to need margin.” I was speaking at a women’s retreat the first weekend of November and we planned to have a relaxed month immediately following.
One evening at the end of October I was tucking my kids in and could hear my sister-in-law talking on the phone in the kitchen. “Which hospital? How soon? Let me write that down…” I hurried to the kitchen as she hung up the phone and turned to me. “It looks like Dad had a stroke. They are life flighting him to Portland.”
It turned out my father-in-law had bilateral subdural hematoma; a brain bleed. The doctors made no promises about recovery.
Miraculously, they were able to do surgery and even more miraculously, he is recovering. Sean cancelled his last two events in October and spent two weeks in Portland as his dad began recovery and we began asking, “What next?”
November took a different shape as Sean and his dad sat in a hospital room making hard decisions. Instead of transitioning back to his huge beautiful home a block from the beach in Long Beach, WA,
it was decided my father-in-law would transition to an assisted living facility in our town. We aren’t sure if assisted living will be permanent, but he will live near us permanently. We are currently listing the Long Beach house and navigating what this new stage will look like.
The week Sean was preparing to drive his dad from the hospital in Portland to a rehab facility near us, I was wrapping up preparations for the retreat. I was feeling badly about leaving as soon as Sean would get home. I had been managing the home front and hadn't even seen his dad since his hospitalization. I was also reeling from the recent news that my mom would be moving to Montana I had been mentally preparing for the first holidays since my parents' divorce, but hadn't anticipated the level of change that would shake my kids and my family. Nothing felt normal. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to push through or concede and crawl into bed until 2017.
The day after Sean brought his dad up north, I left to speak at the women’s retreat.
As intense and crazy as it was amidst the circumstances, it was exactly what I needed. The women were warm, welcoming, and receptive. My sister and cousin joked that they would come as my “roadies” and then ended up actually doing roadie work–helping with tech, keeping the coffee coming, and praying over me all weekend. I’m not sure if I laughed or cried more, but I do know there was plenty of both.
While I was at the retreat, Hudson's team won their championship football game, Darla had a bad fall and was forced to sit out for her last volleyball game, and Haley woke up throwing up. Everyone kept assuring me everything was covered…so I kept standing up to share God’s Word in a cozy lodge in the trees. Having a couple days to focus on prayer and God's faithfulness, in the company of women determined to do the same, filled me even as I poured out.
In my last session we talked about Embracing Community. As a side note, I mentioned that embracing community as the Church, the body of Christ, doesn’t mean having our act together. As much as I’d love to always be the one bringing meals and praying for others, being community also means being honest when everything is falling apart in your own life. I shared that I am letting go of self sufficiency and allowing others to be the body of Christ for me.
Turns out the real body of Christ isn’t restricted to sitting in a pew, singing songs. The real body of Christ cleans your bathrooms, folks. The body of Christ were the family members who fed Sean when he was hanging out in the hospital, who made their guest bed for him to sleep in, friends who offered to help pack up the Long Beach house. They were the guys in Sean’s ministry group who took turns bringing dinner (and dropped off donuts and hot chocolate in the morning. If that isn’t love…) The body of Christ was a friend I ran into at the coffee shop while preparing for the retreat who stopped to pray over me. Another friend set up a GoFund me just to bless us…having no idea that we took some discouraging financial hits in the last couple months. At church last Sunday one kind question from a friend unexpectedly sent me into an ugly cry. There’s relief in not trying to have my act together–falling apart while empathetic friends stop the conversation to pray and hug before we all return to our crazy lives. The practical needs, the way others can shoulder the emotional and spiritual weight, it's all vital to keeping us upright.
November was not a month of margin. It catapulted us into a December of Sean preaching, doing weddings and Christmas parties, and the heartbreak of a very dear friend losing his wife.
Life isn’t always conducive to margin. I try to plan for it. When there isn’t a way around the intensity, I often come back to Psalm 34. I’ve spent a lot of time parked in these verses:
The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints!
There is no want to those who fear Him.
The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing. Psalm 34:7-10
What I think “not lacking any good thing” should look like is often different than God’s idea…but when I’m seeking Him, He has a way of rearranging my perspective.
We spent a weekend in Long Beach as a family in November, getting things my father in law would need at his new place. I determined to work hard at packing and organizing...then intentionally took moments to reflect and slow.
It was hard to give up my month of margin idea. Yet, when my father-in-law comes over for Seahawks and Sunday dinner and my boys sit as close as possible to tell him stories, I see God hard at work. I see how He uses the strangest twists to answer prayers. I see how He uses His people to care for us when we're flailing around, flaking out, out of breath and out of steam.
Thank you, dear friends and family, for covering us. Thank you for reminding us of God's faithfulness in your actions, words, and prayers. And, hey–if I don't answer my phone in January, or answer your emails, it's possible I took a month of margin. Or maybe I'm hiding in bed... yeah, there's a good chance I'll be hiding in bed.
Just throwing myself out there a bit...