Grief and Revelation at the USPS

The beach was lovely.

In every way.  (Proof above.)

We are home.  Unpacked.  Laundered.  And trying desperately to ignore the calendar.

My new neighbor came over yesterday and told me about all the school supplies she bought and how organized she is and how ready and prepared she is and asked have I checked on this or bought that or signed up for this.  Welcome to the neighborhood.  I gave her a half smile and a nervous laugh and told her about my plan to pretend school wasn't starting.  She looked at me blankly.  Not funny.  And then I got slightly nauseated.  (Fear will do that.)  Because out here, away from all that is familiar, I don't even know what time school starts.  I have been carefully avoiding anything in my mind past July.  See how that works?  Last night, in a moment of pure panic, I asked David if we could please move back home...where everything is known and sure and easy.  He just smiled.  And then told me about his own terrors.

Today I went to the post office.  And when I was walking in, I overheard two men talking outside in the shade.  The dark haired man was saying, "...but there were 300 applicants, so I don't know."  The other man was looking at him shaking his head.  One of them sighed.  I recognized the casual clothes, the tense set of the shoulders, the lost eyes, the worried fists shoved into pockets.  I looked away, not wanting to intrude, or more likely, rip open my own wounds too soon.  It's still much too soon.  I had to suck my breath in hard as it was.  As I walked past, I thought about giving him a hug, or at least putting my hand on his arm, and telling him that things get better, telling him that things will work out, telling him that things will be hard, and then harder, and then hardest of all, but then better.

But as I stood there in line, I was overwhelmed with the knowledge that I'm still waiting for "better" myself.  Don't get me wrong.  Things are good.  Having a job is good.  Paying our bills is good.  Food on the table is good.  Roof over our heads is good.  Watching David leave the house in a shirt and tie and a smile is good.  

But it's still not better.

It's not even close to better.

And here I am about to send my kids into the great unknown, where I don't even know when school starts or if there is a bus or when recess is or if they will make friends or if their teachers will be good and kind and brilliant or if we've done the right thing by moving them clear out here where everything is unknown and most likely not better.  And every uncertainty and fear and dread I have about the enormous and looming unknown started to wrap itself into a giant maelstrom inside my chest.  I left my place in line and fled.

And by the time I got back to the car, I was coming undone.

Huge, racking sobs right there in the parking lot.

Snot and spit and tears and keening, regardless of who was watching.

And then, as I sat sobbing in my car outside an unfamiliar post office, terror and fear raging their way through my mind and heart, I remembered this quote given by the marvelous James E. Talmage, about the apostles as they faced the storm on Galilee.   

"Into every adult human life come experiences like unto the battling of the storm-tossed voyagers with contrary winds and threatening seas; ofttimes the night of struggle and danger is far advanced before succor appears; and then, too frequently the saving aid is mistaken for a greater terror. But, as came unto these disciples in the midst of the turbulent waters, so comes to all who toil in faith, the voice of the Deliverer--"It is I; be not afraid."

The emphasis is mine of course.  Because those are the words that burned their way through the haze of grief and anxiety, leaving me calmed and surprised.  Because it seems that I am making this mistake all the time these days.  Greater terror, everywhere.  When it's actually saving aid.


And then those six words at the end of the story.  It is I; Be not afraid.  

I sat there quiet and stunned as heaven then asked me a gentle question: Who else would it be? 


And for one beautiful, blinding moment I felt better.

For good measure, Matthew's account adds the command to be of good cheer as well.

Hear that?  Chin up.  Who else would it be?

The Long Overdue Update

There is no good place to start.

Let me sum up.

For a long time it felt like we had been forsaken.

For a long time it felt like we had been left alone.

For a long time I had to force myself from fear to faith, at first at the start of every day, and then at the start of every hour, and towards the end at the start of nearly every other minute.

But then, just at the moment of great alarm, salvation arrived.

Last Monday, David dressed in his new shirt and tie and drove to a new hospital and started his new job.  That same morning, after I ironed his shirt and kissed him goodbye, I met the moving trucks at our new place and started the overwhelming job of setting up house.

Savannah says that's my new favorite word.  Overwhelmed.  I said, "What do you mean?"  "Well, now you say it all the time."


The other day we had a family meeting.  I tried to tell the kids how I was feeling.  I told them it was like I was digging out from a mudslide while it was still raining.  Ethan looked outside.  To see if it was raining.


So, we are starting over.  New job.  New house.  New ward.  New friends.  New schools.  New streets and grocery stores and doctors and gas stations and banks and post offices and when I drive down the street I don't know what's going to be on the next corner.  I've been to the grocery store twice and got lost coming home both times.

It won't take long I tell myself.

What's not new?  The weather.  After all those plane flights and hotels and tempting views of some gorgeous eastern rivers, the place prepared for us was on the other side of the valley.  Just an hour up the road.  No one was more surprised than I.  And I wonder when I will learn that I am not in charge.

For the record, there are joys to this new life.  My favorite:  that particular joy of greeting your husband at the end of the day.  I'm in the kitchen starting dinner.  He walks in in his shirt and tie.  Hey you.  And then a little passionate necking.  (This never gets old.)

And what I think about most as I sort and unpack and hang and rearrange, is how Sariah made a home out of a tent and how when she was unpacking carpets and dishes and liahonas out in the desert she might have used that word "overwhelmed" too.  And how even though it might not make much sense to me now, the Lord knows what he is doing.  He has a plan.

Even in the middle of the desert.

Manna, Again

I noticed today that I've written so few posts this year, that my Christmas letter is still at the bottom of the page.  


I keep thinking that at some point I will have something good to share, something exciting to share, something different to share.

But the limbo continues.

Every week at church people come up to me to ask for an update.  And they are always disappointed.

Imagine how I feel, I think.

And so, fundamentally, things are still the same.  David is still looking, I am still praying, the kids are still hoping that at some point their parents will wake up and return to the present.  But life also goes on in its dependable, inexorable way.

Caleb's science fair came and went.  The snails were examined under his microscope and then met their ignominious end in my large soup pot.  His conclusion?  Plastics are very bad news, especially if you're a mudsnail.  Not so great for humans either as it turns out, and so we've started a slow, steady purge.

My painful root canal came and went, thanks in part to a friend who intervened at just the right moment.  I was nearly out of my mind with pain and had lost all ability to reason well.  By the time the endodontist saw it, I had a very nice abscess coming along.  I begged for death.  Instead he prescribed two hours in his chair and a round of antibiotics.  Delightful, with more dental work coming next week.

David's surgery came and went.  Without complication.  Thank heavens.  He has been happily eating whatever he wants for two weeks now with no problems whatsoever. 

David and I came and went back east for second interviews and a "get-the-wife's-approval" trip.  We found a charming community, six inches of snow, a job that David was made for, as well as a terrible longing to be settled and employed.

Other job opportunities came and went, a few of them more painful to see go than others, but we move forward believing we are being led to "the right place."

I had a few speaking assignments that also came and went.  One day I went to the temple with such a long list of things I needed help and inspiration on, I thought the Lord would turn me away at the doorstep. 

I'll be honest.  Most days I vacillate between terror and calm, fear and faith, abject discouragement and happy optimism, and all that before I've even had my shower. 

But it's the limbo, the monotony, the waiting, the every-minute slow crawl of the clock towards the unknown future that is the hardest.  It's given me new appreciation for the children of Israel who complained that yeah, the Lord was providing for them, but couldn't he please provide something different.  And this makes me humble and repentant. 

And also, acutely aware of the miracles.

A couple of days ago I was standing on the banks of the Susquehanna, a river I never imagined I would have the opportunity to see in person.  A couple of nights ago I was eating dinner at a tavern in Delaware with some of our dearest friends in all the world, stunned to be sitting across a scarred wooden table from them.   A couple of mornings ago sat on a 727 next to my husband and as I watched him preparing for his upcoming interviews I thought I had never loved him more, that maybe I was just beginning to understand marriage for the first time in my life.  It was a revelation.  And a couple of evenings ago, as I knelt next to David in a strange hotel in a strange town on the other side of the continent and begged for blessings, I remembered Nephi's words that the Lord is mightier than all the earth, then why not this, and I felt the sure witness of those words as strong as I ever had before.

None of which would ever have happened without leaving the fleshpots of Egypt in the first place.

I see that now.

There is no other way, afterall.