I wasn’t hungry. Not even a little bit. For the last month, I had barely eaten at all. The heavy weight of worry hinders the rumbles of the stomach.
But it was July 8th, my birthday, and they had invited me out for breakfast, these two sweet women in my life. Women who had cared for me well, who had bent low at the feet of Jesus on my behalf. They wanted to celebrate me, though that was the furthest thing from my mind. I forced a veggie omelet down my throat, partially to be kind, but mostly because I knew Father wanted me to eat to keep the body He had given me humming along to fight the battle at hand. They came bearing gifts, one from each of them, along with a big basket of goodies from my dear friends at work…..friends who didn’t have knowledge of what was going on, but they thought of me, even in my absence. I had been at work on June 15th, as usual, and then…..I just wasn’t. It had been a month and surely people were wondering where I was. Only a handful of people knew that my world had fallen and shattered into pieces. We were caught in the mangled and warped system of the State of Nebraska. The same one designed to protect children, now the ironic deliverer of trauma.
It felt odd to lead a life of silence. Of secrecy. It’s not my style, nor is it my husband’s. We’re the kind of people who wear emotions, thoughts, opinions and everything in between on our sleeves. Out loud and in bold color. Sometimes to our detriment, but always with honesty. Those days, the ones hallmarked by hushed isolation, felt shrouded in darkness and laden with sobering gravity. We moved through the minutes that felt like hours bolstered by God alone. He breathed for us, walked for us, talked for us. We were held inside the skin of capable, adult bodies, but we needed Him to care for us like newborns. We depended on our God completely.
After breakfast, I went home to rest. I never really felt rested or restored. I just hovered on the edge between sleep and consciousness. But resting felt like the only way to carry on. The exhaustion of waking up, and wading through the muck of lawyers and court dates and supervised visits with my girls, was enough to deplete us completely by mid-morning. Unlike years past, rest was my birthday plans. No parties. No laughter rippling around a table of friends and family, bouncing off the walls of some favorite restaurant, huddling over a scrumptious dessert gobbled up after jolly singing. Just rest. It felt like a sweet respite from thinking.
Even in my depletion, in the lowly state of oppression, I knew the promises of my good God would be fulfilled. Not because I deserved it, or anything really. I deserve nothing. None of us deserve anything good. It’s only the miracle of the Spirit in me that restores me to receiving grace and mercy. And I knew that when He makes a promise, He means it. Father is not flippant or scattered or finicky. Even in the midst of despair, the resolve in my heart was solid: this God who had taken the broken shell of a girl, filled her with new Life and given her a purpose in the Kingdom would absolutely, without question, 100% bring us out of the depths to full restoration. And more than that, He’d crown us with honor. Because the sons and daughters of the only true King receive all. He gives freely and unconditionally. He gives out of love.
Yesterday, I found myself surrounded by a group of caring, Godly women once again. On the brink of another birthday, here they were, women standing around me in a circle, offering up prayers to the God we all have in common and love so. But instead of rescue and resolution, they prayed for joy, for peace, for a year sweetened with the honey from the Creator who loves to shower His kiddos with extravagant gifts. They declared this a year of good things, of beauty constructed from the ashes of last summer. I stood there in awe of what He can do with the messes of this life, humbled by the depth of His love for this simple, unqualified girl. Born from the rubble of heartbreak, here was a new year of birth, another year to revel in His glory and goodness.
This summer marks a jubilee of a different kind. My birthday will come and go, just as it does every year that I am given the gift of more Life. We’ll probably celebrate with dinner and adorable, handmade cards. Maybe a movie. Oh, how I love a reclining lounger and buttered popcorn. I’ll love every minute of it. But more than that, I will celebrate what God has done. I will rejoice in His deliverance. I will praise Him for another July 8th, another chance to look back and see His faithful, steadfast hand of favor. And I will celebrate what He restored, through the bitter troubles He allowed, brought full circle to joy- a joy only realized in the aftermath of victory.