I am home now. Thank you to everyone (Debbie, Pam, Stephanie, Karana, Lannece, Nikki) who made our trip possible. It was a precious time. A dark valley. A brilliant mountaintop. This will be a long blog. It's mostly for me. I am honored to share my journey with you, should you care to read it.
Where do I begin? Matt and I pulled out of Arkansas at 6:00 a.m. last Wednesday, an hour later than planned because Matt's alarm didn't go off. Our right front tire went down in Jackson, Tennessee, and we had to make an unscheduled stop for a new tire. That put us behind another hour. We met up with friends for lunch in Nashville, but they were delayed and the restaurant had a half-hour wait. Behind another hour. Then there was no going over the speed limit AT ALL...not even a little bit. Why? Because we saw 38 state troopers between Memphis and the North Carolina border. Yes, I really did count. I always count state troopers when we're on a road trip. Helps pass the time. Anyhoo, that was an average of one state trooper every 12 miles. Then there was construction in several different places on the way which slowed us up even more. I did get to enjoy the beautiful fall colors in west and central Tennessee, but much to my dismay, it was dark before we got into the Smoky Mountains. We drove the painfully slow, dark 50 mph from Knoxville down through Asheville. It was almost 11:00 p.m. before we rolled into Joe and Bev's driveway in Salisbury, NC. One loooooong day! But it was great, too! Matt and I spent the first 2 hours on the road in a wonderful time of worship together. We talked about God, His goodness, how He speaks to us as individuals, and how we want to be more in tune to His voice. We prayed together, shed a few tears, and sang through the worship playlist on my iPod. Loved every minute of it.
It was kinda weird watching Matt and Bev see each other for the first time in 12 years. The last time they saw each other was when Matt broke up with her. Wow...I just had to try not to think too hard about it or it was just plain weird. We were all too tired to visit much then, so we headed to bed. In the morning Bev's husband Joe was off of work, so the four of us had breakfast and did some catching up on our families. Then Matt had to hit the road again, back to Kingsport, TN, for his LifeChange event. It was an important conference for him, the last step in his new job training. Bev and I had a quiet weekend together. We did some errands, went to a women's ministry event at her church, and went with Joe to Dan Nicholas Park to enjoy the fall colors.
We watched movies, napped, and talked. We also pulled a practical joke on Matt. Bev used to be a beautician. So we told Matt that Bev had bleached my hair and colored it blond. We put one of her wigs on me, took a picture, and emailed it to Matt at his event. He fell for it, and proceeded to show the picture to his colleagues at the event. Ha ha!!!! I love a good joke!
I also did portraits of their family. here are a few of my favorites.
Matt came back on Sunday night. And then things really got rolling. We stayed up until 11:00 just talking. On Monday morning, Matt and Bev, both early risers, got up before me and had a chance to work through some stuff from the past. They talked through some old hurts, answered some hard questions, and brought complete closure to their past. It was healing for them both. And healing for me as his wife.
Matt asked her if she believes God allows all things to happen for a reason. When she said yes, he asked her what we were doing there at her house in North Carolina. She then told him that for several years she has prayed for him: that God would keep Matt focused on Him; that God would give him a special wife who was just right for him; and that God would bring Matt back into her life so she could know he was doing well. When I felt that strong urge to look up Beverly at the end of August, I know now even more that it was the prompting of the Holy Spirit. God answered Bev's prayers for Matt. How glad I am that I listened to that prompting!
When I woke up and joined Matt and Bev, we finally broached that unspeakable question: what if she doesn't survive the transplant? And then the tears flowed. We cried together and talked through it. She is not afraid to die. In a way, she even welcomes the thought of going to Jesus. I'm tearing up remembering it. It was so hard to say goodbye and drive away from her. For the next 3 hours as Matt and I drove, we talked and cried through the events of the weekend. Neither one of us can really process everything that has transpired in the past few months. All we can do is marvel at the greatness of God, who in His infinite wisdom, saw fit to bring us into such a unique relationship with this precious family. "'My thoughts are completely different from yours,' says the Lord. 'And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.'" Isaiah 55:8-9. Oh, how good God is!
Matt and I have learned so much from this relationship. Of course there's the obvious reminder that God alone knows what is best for us. But we have also experienced a change of perspective--a change that has come from spending time with someone who is nearing the end of this life. Our entire outlook on life has changed. All of a sudden new priorties have come into focus, and many other things no longer seem important. As we travelled through eastern Tennessee, we asked each other these questions: What matters in life? What are we doing that matters? What are we doing that doesn't matter? How do our lives fit into the scheme of eternity? How can we keep an eternal perspective as we walk through our everday lives? What does God want from us? How can we serve Him better? How can our lives bring glory to God? A lot to think on.
We spent the evening and night with our dear friends Chance and Jen in Tennessee. We hadn't seen them in 2 1/2 years, so it was lots of fun to catch up with them and love on their new baby girl, J. On Tuesday morning we headed out on the last leg of our journey. We were mostly quiet on the remaining 5 hours of our drive. We were delighted, of course, to see our kiddos again. But when we got home, it all came crashing down on me.
The wave of emotion that hit almost knocked me over. As I walked into the safe haven of our home, I felt like I was melting, smothering under the weight of the last week. I kissed the kids goodnight, passed them off to Matt, and crawled upstairs to our room. For 3 hours I sat cuddled in my bed with a roll of toilet paper (I'm out of Kleenex), my journal, my Bible, and my iPod. I felt desperate, in need of a touch from God. I poured out my heart on 4 pages of my journal. Then I opened my Bible to the book of Psalms. In the quiet of my room, I called out to God. And He answered me. I read and read, soaking up words of comfort, reminders of God's faithfulness, assurance of God's sovereignty, and promises that God has perfect plans for me. For Matt. For Beverly. The songs of worship on my iPod reaffirmed the words I was reading. After reading Psalm 23-Psalm 118, peace came. Exhaustion followed that wave of peace, and I drifted off to sleep.
Now it is the day after. Even the mundane details of today felt different. I have a new measure of patience with the kids. I saw today's discipline times (there were several) as opportunities to teach Snapper and Pepper about God's character and his desire for their lives. Laundry was a sweet act of service for my precious husband. I prayed through the prep of 4 meals (which are now in the freezer). Thank you notes to some of our supporters were a chance for me to thank God for them, pray for them, and encourage them with written words. My day almost seems unreal. Even now as I type, I'm asking the Lord to continue to draw me and grow me closer to Him. Oh, I'm hurting. But if there's one thing I'm aware of right now, it's that God meets me in the midst of my pain. And close to Him is the only place I want to be. How I love Him!
Okay, enough for tonight. I'll close with a little funny from today. I didn't want to eat the pork they served for dinner at church tonight, so I made an awesome beef stew and biscuits from scratch. I took a picnic basket of dinner up to church, and our family ate alone upstairs. I even brought honey for the biscuits. Snapper decided she wanted honey on her biscuits, but she couldn't get the honey container open. Instead of asking for help, she decided to try and open it with her teeth. To everyone's surprise, the honey lid popped out one of her baby teeth! Can we say shocked and amazed? That tooth wasn't even loose yet! As the blood gushed, Snapper was too surprised to even cry. I walked her to the bathroom to help her get the bleeding stopped. She giggled and giggled, shaking all over the whole time. I laughed until I cried! It was so funny, and her reaction was so cute. I love this losing teeth stage! She is so adorable with another space in her smile!