Jan, 2015: Happy New Year 2015! I know I cannot believe a full year has passed again (was just getting used to writing 2014), but it has whether I’d like it to be or not. Like most folks, the end of the year feels to me like the closing of a chapter and moving on to something better, whether that something better includes your career, health, relationships, and more. I definitely had at least one hope for the New Year, that I may now be immune to every childhood illness my young children bring home. I thought it wasn’t a very big or glamorous thought, not over-reaching in any way. But, wow, I guess I was wrong.
New Year’s Eve in the Murphy house with small children revolves around funky dinner choices, a balloon drop off the balcony at “simulated” midnight, and spumante and noise makers before it’s off to bed. This year turned out just a little bit different. Yes, we made the pigs in a blanket, bruschetta, and Chinese stir fry (what a mix, huh?!), and then I decided to sit down as I was feeling a bit tired. By the time midnight came around, I was all by myself in a trauma room in the ER, with my kids outside in the waiting room with my husband, by this time excited they had all stayed up until midnight and got to watch the fireworks just outside the ER waiting room window. Yes, at ages 1, 4 and 6, all three of my kids stayed up until on midnight on New Year’s Eve. Not quite the night I had planned.
I was lying in bed waiting for imaging results to determine whether or not I was having a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a small stroke. As I could tell that my sensation and strength were gradually returning by this time, I wasn’t in utter meltdown mode. But as a 37-year old mom of 3 little kids, there are quite a few concerns that run through your head, ranging from the typical why, when I have no cardiac risk factors, and how soon and fully I would recover. Then what about treatment to make sure it doesn’t happen again? Would they find the reason for this event? Before I knew it, the clock started over in military time at 0:00. What would this New Year hold?
While it would have been quite easy to feel sorry for myself, I really couldn’t. I have a wonderful life and family, and a hope of life after this life in heaven, which is really all that matters. At the time, I felt very fortunate my sensation, strength, and vitals were improving; for many people, they don’t. And as I thought about possible recovery from this event, I recalled in my mind a story my dad told me about my great grandmother, who suffered a stroke at a relatively young age as well. Her strength and sensation did not return on one side, but she kept working the rest of her life as if it didn’t matter. Confined to a wheel chair with zero use of the affected arm and leg (I can still picture from when I was little), she did not allow her disability to confine her to a life of uselessness. On the contrary, my dad told me she would stay for several months at a time at each family members’ house doing cooking, cleaning, laundry, and helping raise the children. My dad recalled with an odd sense of fondness the day she fell out of her chair down the ½ flight of back patio cement stairs. He still laughs when he said she was pretty upset that it happened as she asked the kids to help her back into her chair and strictly warned my dad and his siblings to never breathe a word of this to their parents! My dad said, “From Grandma Miller I learned very early in life that there is never an excuse not to do any work.”
This story kept going through my mind New Year’s Eve. This is the cloth I am cut from. Farmer’s cloth. We don’t stop, we don’t complain, we’ve got work to do. When my dad suffered a near career threatening injury that is still quite limiting today, he didn’t complain. He was back milking the cows in five days. Farmer’s cloth. Stubborn, determined, and never letting anything get in your way, you find a way, not an excuse, to get the job done.
What’s the critical fiber woven through farmer’s cloth? Faith. Faith that endures, overcomes, and leads us to places we never could attain on our own. This is what we learn when bad things happen as C.S. Lewis puts it in A Grief Observed:
“But they say these things are meant to try us ... But of course we must take ‘sent to try us’ the right way. God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn't. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down."
While I may be a bit “knocked down” at the moment, I am so thankful and heartened to know that from on my knees I can still can simply look up to God and rest in the knowledge that my ability to show Christ to others by serving them has not been substantially altered by one comparatively small trial in life. While it may momentarily make life more difficult and inconvenient at times, it cannot alter my main ambition; “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ,” Philippians 1:6. No doubt with God’s strength, I will.
Whew! Kind of heavy stuff to lead off the New Year. But a good lesson to be reminded of. While we may envision increased ease of life, emboldened purpose, or achieving a better version of yourself- watch out- you may just get it, but not in the form of easy street to high levels of accomplishment you may picture. Either way, keep looking up from whatever position you happen to find yourself in 2015, and no doubt you will be pushed to fulfill your purpose in life in the ways you may least expect. Wishing you and yours a year of personal growth and the joy and confidence that comes of it!