My husband has always told me that I live in the clouds, less and less often as our years together have passed. I want my dreams,  I want exotic and exciting and grand and picturesque and amazing and fairy tale and beautiful and romantic. I want it all the time and I want it right now without ever counting the cost….but, here’s what I now know…there’s no life in the clouds. Life is here, where I am, in the messy, ugly, extreme, unfair, disappointing, relentless, exhausting, overwhelming, heartbreaking, dark, dark places.

  “Isn’t it here? The wonder?”  ~Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

The ideal has fallen away. You know, that perfect picture. That this-is-how-it-should be picture. That right picture. And so I pray. I beg for answers. I put one foot in front of the other, again and again, day after day. It’s hard. It’s exhausting, it’s frustrating, I get angry. It’s a drain some days and a strain on others. But oddly, as I press through, chug slowly and carefully along, fail and pick myself up over and over, I am filled. I am all of these things but I am filled to the brim with love. With purpose. And I am thankful. For health, for life, for love. For six little faces. For so many things that the ugly struggles attempt to mar and fade. But deep, deep down there is a fire burning. Thanksgiving its fuel.  The fluff, the extras, they are falling away. The core, the important, it alone remains.

Haywood after Matthew

I don’t know the path, I don’t know the right direction, but I’m praying for clarity on the road ahead, for truth to reveal itself. I think of that trail I ran one day in the spring, the Weetock Trail. A portion of it was so heavily overgrown with the fresh green undergrowth of the Croatan forest that the trail was incredibly narrow, just wide enough for me to fit on, just wide enough for me to see the way and the danger ahead. If I hadn’t been so diligently watching the path ahead, preparing myself for what I could come upon, I never would have seen the rattlesnake slowing moving across my path. Its rattle inching, creeping its way from under the lush green into view, my eyes growing wide. Wonder intermingled with fear. My destination, on the other side of that rattle. I had to put one foot in front of the other.

Life feels a bit like that trail right now. Dangers, count on them. Hardship, a certainty. Sometimes we don’t get to say goodbye. Sometimes a child is taken home sooner than our heart could ever be ready. Sometimes our broken earthly home hurts us so badly that we are shuffled from dwelling to dwelling, family to family, all with the shaky hope of mending that shattered picture. He promises to be with us through the struggle but He never promises its absence on earth. He knows, removing it would cripple potential growth. We may forget to give thanks for all that is. And so, He leaves it right where it is. And us, right on the path with it. Just enough is clear to tell me to keep going, but my watch must be constant. Should this path end, change or become a less than ideal one, I’m going to want to know about it. Life is a lot longer than the 11-mile Weetock, and there’s much more at stake.

White Oak 6

And there’s this…All around me, as I’m staring down the rattlesnake, the blue of sky peeking through the abundance of carefully preserved pines, the red-cockaded woodpecker and the eastern grey squirrel crafting their tiny homes, a low-lying still and marshy pocosin giving way to the mayapple nearly blanketing the forest floor with its new growth, the deep valleys left behind by ancient streams in a coastal woodland, the rattlesnake itself a strangely beautiful sight I’ve never before witnessed in this wild, brave creatures taking a peek at their world after a quiet winter, springtime and all its beautiful beginnings. All around me, as I’m staring down the rattlesnake, so much beauty to behold.

“Isn’t it here? The wonder?”  ~Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts