It began much like any other day in grade nine.
I grabbed a piece of toast on my way out the door and walked the mile to school. I went to history, math, English and then, at the end of the academic day, bolted out to the ball field for practice. The best part of my day.
And, the moment that permanently altered my life.
The faces looming over me are familiar, each with a knotted expression. Their lips are moving but they appear mute. Blackness. My eyelids press hard against the weight of unconsciousness. I am shaded from the shocking blue Arizona sky by the circle of tall bodies towering above. Where am I?
My left hand can’t clench. It just sweats in my baseball glove, limp by my side. My right hand claws at hot sand, grasping, dropping. I am on the ground. But where? The answer must be beyond the shins surrounding me. I turn my head. Aaahh. Searing hot jolts fire up my jawline, bursting through the joints, igniting my temples. I can only hear pain. Talk louder, people. Tell me how this happened!
This excerpt from But Pain Crept In reminds me that I began that particular day oblivious to what was to come in a few hours and echo for over forty years. For that I am grateful.
I have no desire to foresee the future. I could have agonized for years, worrying and anticipating pain, had I known at the time the implications that ball-to-jaw moment would have over the course of my life.
But I didn't know all that lay ahead. And when the days of intense pain arrived, I was buoyed to know the One who would walk through it with me.
People sometimes joke about me being a "famous author" or they will say "I guess you can retire soon now that you're published." Both are far from true.
My heart for this book is not fame or royalties. I wrote it with the prayer that anyone immersed in pain - physical, emotional, social, relational, spiritual - will find hope to press on.
If that's you, be assured that even in the depths of agony, you are not alone. There is One who can transcend loneliness and darkness and meet you, be with you. I've been there.
If you would like a copy of But Pain Crept In and feel you can't afford it, please message me. We'll find a way to get it into your hands.
With love and gratitude,
This has been quite the week.
Our family gathered on Christmas Eve and enjoyed our first-ever matching pajama sleepover. By 4:00 a.m. Christmas Day, our sweet little Grayson was vomiting amidst smiles and confusion at his body’s involuntary behavior. By 7:00 a.m. he felt better.
Within 40 hours, all but one of the rest of us adults went down.
In my 52.5 years, I have never experienced such a violent stomach flu. As I crawled out of the bathroom toward bed, yet again, I realized I had lost count at my 20th trip during the night. Thankfully, by mid-morning, it was over.
Two days later Abbotsford experienced the harshest ice storm in our history. Our world began to glaze.
I was sitting on the couch reading when an unusual sound from the front yard caught my attention. It wasn’t a sharp crack or explosion-like noise, but something bigger than a passing car or pellets of freezing rain.
As I turned to investigate, I watched two branches from our 40+ foot red maple tree smash to the road. Out went our power.
“Bill, there goes part of our tree,” I announced calmly. I suspect he expected to see a limb or two on the snow-covered lawn. His shock was evident; the damage severe. I have cried all week.
This was the family tree we planted 27 years ago; the one with five branches thick enough to hug; the maple our boys climbed and swung on; the one that cooled us from summer heat and filled our street with autumn beauty.
Brokenness is raw.
Now two-fifths of our magnificent tree lay broken and splayed across the lawn and street, twisted and exploded. I wondered if the remaining trunk, with a four-foot gash, would ever support what remained. Seeing one so previously majestic grieved my heart.
Brokenness is vulnerable.
The timing of the crash – Friday of New Year’s weekend – gave me five days to gaze at our fallen friend. A flurry of calls to arborists and wood-wise friends provided solemn news: the rest of the tree was coming down. On Wednesday it did.
I knew it would be difficult to watch the end of an era.
Yes, it’s “just a tree” as some have noted. Yes, I am intensely grateful that no one was hurt and property damage was minimal. Yes, we can re-plant and enjoy a different look. All true.
Yet, this was our tree. Grandbabies won't climb it. We will no longer be able to tell new visitors, “When you turn onto our street, look for the huge maple tree in the front yard. That’s our house.”
It’s winter. Even if we wanted to act right away, we can’t replace the tree in this season. So I process this loss how God has taught me over and over. I will do my best to sit in the mess and wait – wait for Him to heal, for Him to direct, for Him to teach.
And, some day we will replant.
In the meantime, I will choose to give thanks for the 27 years we lived in the shade of such beauty.
With love and gratitude,
In The Midst