I hadn’t expected I’d be writing from my mom’s house. I arrived with my husband, our dog Moose, our cat Ashley, and five chickens, who were none too happy about making the trip down the mountain.
Chickens are not known for being portable pets, but we had a good reason. I’m sure you saw the news reports about the Caldor Fire that burned over 122,00 acres in California. It all started in Omo Ranch, our tiny town of a couple hundred people, and we were under mandatory evacuation.
So we stayed at my mom’s, watched the NASA fire maps, and prayed for the firefighters.
We swung wildly between being grateful to God that, until that point, our house still stood, and feeling terrible for over 400 of our neighbors, who had lost everything.
This has been the year of our “and.”
It started with my husband (and favorite human) Roger spending eight days in the hospital. I couldn’t see him because of COVID regulations. Two months later, my doctors thought I had a heart attack. And now, we’re the healthiest we’ve been in years.
We haven’t gotten COVID through a global pandemic, and we’ve lost Roger’s mom and others we love to this pandemic.
We had to shutter the biggest part of our business — in-person retreats — for the years 2020 and 2021. And because we couldn’t meet in person, we were able to launch the two fastest growing (and our favorite) parts of our business online.
We spent hundreds of hours focused on improving our house and property over the past year and a half. And now we wait to see if any of it is standing when the fires are out.
We are grateful God spared our house so far. And we are terrible at waiting to find out if it will still be okay.
This is life: Not all good. Not all bad. Lots of ands.
I am a naturally positive person. I always like to look at the bright side of any situation. But I also need to realize that most of our life is not wild swings of really good or really hard.
Most of the time, the good and the hard come nestled together with an “and” tucked in between.
The world has taught us to look at ourselves and others as either put-upon victim or conquering overcomer. The world wants us to construct a simple story of whether you are to be admired or pitied.
But our lives, our stories, are so much messier than two-dimensional characters, as the world wants to define us. Our stories, like ourselves, are complicated and chaotic. We have contradicting and complex emotions that sit right next to each other and demand to be recognized and dealt with.
We see this in the Old Testament story of Job. If anyone had earned the right to paint himself as the victim, Job had all the cards: The death of his ten children, the loss of everything he owned, all in one day.
And here is what I love about Job’s story:
He tore his mantle in “anguish of spirit” (Job 7:11 NKJV). He shaved his head. He was beset with inner strife.
Yet he fell on the ground to worship God and declared: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21 NKJV).
Praising God doesn’t mean we ignore all the hard.
We feel our feelings. We experience joy and anguish. Then we take the difficult, holy step of saying, “Not only do we trust God, but we bless His name.”
I hope in a week I will know the direction of the story in this chapter of our lives.
If our house burns, I will be devastated. I will cry. I will mourn. I will be beset with inner strife.
But I pray I will recognize it’s with the same hands God gave me these things that sometimes they are taken away. And I will bless the name of the Lord.
If our house stands, it will stand to serve those whose narrative turned out differently than ours. Because we want to be part of someone else’s story of blessing God’s name.