The last few years have been hard. I know that seems like a very uncelebratory way to usher in a new year. It feels good to say it out loud. Specifically, the last three years have been really hard. In August of 2006 we moved to Missouri for what we thought would be a two-year stint, but here I sit in my home in Springfield more than 6 years later. We had no idea the journey we had embarked on or what we would encounter along the way.
The first half of our Missouri story was actually pretty good. We bought a house, the Counselor finished his Master's degree and became a--well--Counselor, we bought one dog and rescued another. We both had decent jobs. It was shortly after we arrived in Springfield that Kevin's sister, Karen, was diagnosed with cancer...for the second time. This time was bad. Our Virginia family's life seemed to be put on hold, but ours seemed to march along. We were apart. We were growing. It felt like we were here so that we could be there for them in whatever way we could offer. We were not in the midst of it so I am sure it seemed it didn't impact our lives. I am not sure we felt like it impacted us as much as it did. Then Kevin's grandfather too fell ill.
We rushed back to Virginia. It was almost as though he waited for Kevin to arrive before the man I believed looked like God went to meet his Savior. He spoke over my husband in a way I had only read about and I watched Kevin take it all in as a student learning at the feet of a teacher. When we came back to Missouri, we were different, changed. We decided that I would leave the comfort of a stable job and do contract work to finish my doctoral degree with the completion of my dissertation. Kevin would work for a social service agency to be the stable income.
Things fell into place. Provision was always made even if it arrived at an odd time. The savings we had built up would carry us through. As the process neared an end we made the monumental choice to stop using contraception and take our chances on becoming parents. It didn't take long.
This is where is gets hard. Neither of us were longing to be parents. It would be a step of faith. A leap. The economy had tanked, our savings was running out fast, but we had faith like we had never had before. Then the degree and the dissertation were delayed, but a beautiful baby girl eased the sting. We brought our girl to Virginia to meet her Auntie KK and then to North Dakota to meet the whole Anderson clan. Then it all fell apart. Karen left. Another baby was conceived. Mourning turned to terrible sadness. It is like the world stopped turning.
When I tell people that our family doubled in size in 22 months with babies 13 months apart...and I completed a doctorate...all people tell me is that they are sorry. I have gotten used to it, but it still stings in a place far from human reach. To say that our lives were set on auto-pilot is an understatement. Many told us just how hard it was going to be; few offered anything in the way of help to ease the burden. A fog set in.
I was asked by a colleague a few months ago just how I got through it. What did I do to make it better? Being the good church girl that I am, I had my prepared platitudes of God's grace, my son's presence, and more stable work contract to pull me out of the mire. All true, but incomplete. We have gone through the motions. The few times I have confronted the loss, the challenges, the sheet exhaustion I am so broken that I quickly put it away for fear I will sing more deeply. We exist. We just do the next thing because sometimes it is all we can do.
All of this has taken a toll. It is visible in many areas of our lives. I see it most in our finances, the care of our home, in my approach to work and the Counselor's ability to take the next steps. But I see it most in my relationship with the Lord. I have rested on the foundation of my faith given me by my family and in the Word planted in my heart, but I cultivated nothing. I begged God to be there in the trials, but let the disciplines of a spiritual life slip away. Yet, 2012 has been different. One, we did not have a baby this year. Can I get an amen? Opportunity is again presenting itself. Change is afoot. The fog is starting to lift as sleep becomes a reality again and some of the pressures are lifted. I have never shied away from hard. I enjoy a challenge. Tell me I cannot and I will. Just existing was starting to get old. And I am not interested in giving up or giving in. It does not honor my children and it would disappoint our Karen if we died along with her refusing to live life fully. I am lonesome for the presence of the Lord. I miss the closeness and the fire of the Spirit.
So this year will be different. Inspired by my friend Sarah Bessey I am going to choose a word for 2013. Look, the Holy Spirit did a major work in her this year, so I am not entering into this lightly. I come at it with fear and trembling. The fog may look more like a blanket of comfort when we meet again a year from now, but I am doing it. I miss LIVING. I miss passion and purpose. I miss goals and dreams. I miss ME. And I miss my Savior.
My word for 2013 is Intentional. I want to live fully right where I am as Ann Voskamp encouraged. I want to approach my work, my family, and my relationship with God in pure passion. I don't want to just get through, I want to take this year by storm. I have been praying about this word since the last semester ended. I got through it, but I missed a lot. I don't want to live like that. I will need help. I am no longer an island who only has to concern herself with my own actions and choices. I have to do this in relationship to my husband and children. We are a unit.
I will need all of the help I can get, but I am ready. Life is born of struggle that is internal. I know this year of intentional living will not be a cake walk. I know that hard has not left my lips, but that out of this year will come a better me. I can't wait to see where this year of intentional living takes me and my family. Here we go...but first...sleep!