Our kids were dressed up head to toe in rain gear. Daddy Alsum was sweeping off and cleaning up outside in preparation for the storm that had already begun. Lark was slipping and sliding all over the soggy deck, while Hart was pretending to clear out the grooves between the planks with a screwdriver just like Daddy was.
Where do I even start, when our past year has been so challenging?
We restarted a journey about 12 months ago to help Daddy Alsum get back to being healthy. It has been an ongoing struggle that we don’t usually understand. I wish people’s understanding and attitude towards mental health was the same as how they would consider physical health issues. As well-meaning as people may be, suggesting that someone just needs to pray more in order to not have depression or anxiety is no more helpful than giving the same sentiment to a cancer patient or someone with diabetes or epilepsy. Our bodies were created as a system not merely physical or spiritual. We are more complicated than that. We personally do pray that God would lift off the burden of this depression, but we also have medicine, and supplements, and counseling.
We had our share of physical health problems early this year, when I discovered that I had two kidney stones just shy of an inch in diameter each. I woke up in the middle of the night feeling sick, but we just assumed it was the stomach flu that was epidemic at the time. James went to work as usual and I stayed home with the kids by myself. By the afternoon, I had put both of the children in a small playpen in their bedroom and was curled up on Lark’s bed with a bowl. Having had a natural childbirth only 8 months previously, I can tell you that the pain caused by those stones was worse. I phoned James in a desperate panic and he came home. I had paged our family doctor and she put in an order for an ultrasound to see what was going on. They told us I needed to go to the hospital immediately, so we did. They placed a stent, but the physical pain caused by that was without doubt the most excruciating I have ever felt. I had to wait weeks until they had an opening for surgery to remove them, but when they did we were fortunate enough to have my mum come and stay from England for 3 months to help us.
This Spring, we had an unexpected miscarriage. At our best guess, we would have been 6 weeks, but we didn’t know our baby had been there until they were gone. Our hearts hurt for the child we won’t get to meet this side of eternity, but we will love them from here and remember them always. It is something I had begged God would never let me know personally, but here we are.
September brought another unexpected loss. It was a Thursday. I had just finished a bowl of casserole we shared as a family on Daddy Alsum’s lunch during work. The children and I were now waiting at the library for Daddy to get off so we could all head home on the bus, when I received a message from my brother on Skype. I called him back immediately. My mum had had a stroke and he was in the ambulance on the way to the hospital with her. I was thousands of miles away with nothing I could do. We Skyped via my brother to talk to my mum on Friday morning early before James left for work. I had already received an email from a nurse telling me that my mum had maybe hours to live. My mum went to be with the Lord shortly after we hung up.
Lark and Hart on our way to England
This week, my Grandad (my mum’s dad) also passed away, just a month after his daughter. This was a man who was like a father to me in the absence of my own: The one who came to birthday parties. The one who went to my graduations. The one who walked me down the aisle. After all the Skype calls, he finally had been able to meet Lark and Hart in person when we came for my mum’s funeral, and he just lit up watching them. We unfortunately won’t be able to return to the UK again this soon.
So, that has been our year. When it rains, it pours.
Morton Salt’s Umbrella Girl
Here’s a fun fact for you about that phrase. Even though it is used almost exclusively in a negative context, the original meaning wasn’t that way. It was used in a marketing campaign by a salt company. It meant that, even when it was humid, the salt wouldn’t clump together. So, here’s what is pouring in our life as well.
We have been in our own home for almost a year now. We have a great car that fits us all in and gets us all where we need to go. We have been making good friends at the church of which we have been a part for 6 months. My husband has a fantastic job. We have two wonderful rambunctious incredible toddlers, who are growing and learning. We are also expecting our third child’s arrival at the end of March next year. You will hear even more about “baby in Mummy’s tummy” soon.
God’s love and grace and peace have been pouring, in spite and because of the storm.
We need to have courage and strength, and there is only one place we can get enough of that to make it through all the various circumstances we are currently undergoing. Our God is our safety and, as hard as it is day-to-day, we can carry on because of who He is for us. It is so very much not about who we are, which is incredibly reassuring, because I don’t feel very strong or courageous without Him.
From mine to yours,
My brothers and sisters, you will face all kinds of trouble. When you do, think of it as pure joy. Your faith will be tested. You know that when this happens it will produce in you the strength to continue. And you must allow this strength to finish its work. Then you will be all you should be. You will have everything you need. If any of you needs wisdom, you should ask God for it. He will give it to you. God gives freely to everyone and doesn’t find fault. But when you ask, you must believe. You must not doubt. That’s because a person who doubts is like a wave of the sea. The wind blows and tosses them around.
James 1:2-6 (NIrV)
Here is something I am still sure of. I will see the Lord’s goodness while I’m still alive. Wait for the Lord. Be strong and don’t lose hope. Wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27:13-14 (NIrV)