In thinking about this past year, there are a couple of big challenges that I've faced that I thought were surely meant to destroy me. With even a few months hindsight, though, I'm starting to see the blessings of loss and weakness.
My cat's death is the most painful loss I've ever dealt with. This means that I've been lucky not to lose any loved ones that I am really close to, but it also means that Bear was way more than just a pet to me. I've cried more this year than I have in the past 20. I've tried hard to find the good in this, to see the blessing of losing something so dear, and with time it's starting to become clearer. Through experiencing my cat's death I became vulnerable again. I had to rely on my husband and daughter to prop me up for weeks because I literally couldn't be the strong one. My relationship with my husband is closer than it was before and I'm learning to go to him for comfort more often. I still miss my cat but I'm thankful that I still have my family. One of the biggest blessings I gained is empathy for those who grieve. Having not gone through a serious personal loss I could only somewhat relate to someone who was mourning the death of a loved one. Sure, I knew the pain of losing someone through a break up and even from giving a child up for adoption, but I didn't know the depth of pain from losing someone to death. I've come to know the grief process in a personal way and can be more understanding and supportive as someone moves through (or gets stuck at) the different phases. I'm not saying that my loss even compares to the loss of a loved one, but it has given me a much greater perspective than I had before without having to go through the death of a family member or close friend.
Pride goes before a fall. Or maybe pride goes with a fall. Whatever way you want to look at it, when you are faced with serious challenges that you thought you had conquered, you can either fall apart or humble yourself and accept that it isn't your strength that enabled you to put the challenge behind you. Being hit with depression and social anxiety again this year has been a severe blow to me. I thought it was behind me, that I had conquered that shadowy monster and vanquished it to the depths of hell, where it belongs. I imagined that I would go through the normal ups and downs of life, sometimes getting depressed but never actually being depressed. It's been hard admitting that what I was feeling was a lot more than just passing sadness. I hated admitting that I was broken, again. That's what it feels like inside. As if everything solid that held me upright has been shattered and the shell of what I was before is now crumbling. I am so thankful that I was able to get medication that has helped, and that I was on it before experiencing the more severe stresses of this year. I've learned that it's okay to not keep up with everything, and that most days my husband doesn't really care if the house is spotless or if I've been ultra productive. I've been forced to slow down and focus on things that matter. I've been reminded of the strength God gives me on a day to day basis, and I don't take for granted the mini miracles that enable me to keep going. I'm more humble because I know I can't do some of the things I've been doing without God's support, and I know that whatever healing I may be blessed with doesn't come from my efforts, but from God's grace.
Moving was never a big deal in the past. David and I would move every year in search of a better apartment complex or to a new area for employment. What changes that is when you've finally found a home. Not the brick and wood structure that we call an address, but a home where there are people you know and love, a place where you're comfortable and happy to be. When you've found "home" moving becomes a painful process of separation and growth. Through our most recent move I've found the blessing of a slower pace of life, a smaller town, and the joys of finding new places to visit. Honestly, I think I still would rather have stayed in Cincinnati, but for having to move, Steubenville isn't that bad. Now if I can just figure out what purpose God has for me here... hopefully I'll understand that more with another year's worth of hindsight.
Too many serious life changes in one year. Did I mention that Aimee is off to college next week also? And that I'll be an empty nester?! Or that our brother-in-law is now living with us for the unforseeable future? None of these is bad, but they're still major changes.
I'm not sure why God has allowed so much to happen in so short a span of time, but I also see why many of those changes were necessary, and how each has blessed me in one way or another. I don't know that I'm any stronger, wiser, or better because of what I've been through this year, but I know that all is not lost if I just keep moving forward. I don't have to take giant leaps, or run a marathon. God is okay with dragging footsteps, a weary pace, or even being carried... as long as I'm still moving towards Him.