Over the last 18 years, my body’s structural system has systematically broken down.
It’s been just real fun.
I could write a long story telling you all about the pain and the surgeries and the isolation and the depression… and about the community that has surrounded my family and me over the years – making meals for us, sitting in hospital rooms with us, driving my children to all the places and taking me to an endless number of doctor’s appointments…but that’s not really what this post is about.
About five years ago or so, I began to really grieve the loss of all the outdoor activities that had always been so life-giving for me. We led an outdoor life as a family – camping with friends, active in Scouts, biking, hiking, long afternoons at the park (or mornings…it’s Oklahoma, ya’ll, and the heat can beat you down hard by 11am), and simple evening walks in the neighborhood. These replaced the crazy stunts I had pulled outside as a kid trying to regulate myself in the midst of the chaos in my home. And they were WAY more healthy.
But over the last ten years the limitations that have come from intense and constant chronic pain, loss of strength to my right leg from the nerve damage in my back, loss of mobility, and the trickle-down effect of physical challenges that now seem to pop up on a regular basis, have left me with few easy options outside to feed my soul.
The word “easy” is key
So I began dreaming of creating a space in our backyard where I could go to soothe my soul. A place where we could gather with family and friends to just…be.
One day, about five years ago, I asked Mark for a fire pit for my birthday. He loved the idea, but we had multiple medical bills (I can’t even), monthly therapy expenses for our youngest son who is autistic, a company to manage, and three teenagers.
Teenagers are expensive, ya’ll.
Over time, the fire pit became a pipe dream to me. I just knew it wasn’t going to happen. There were always a million other things requiring our financial focus. In fact, our whole backyard fell into disrepair. We stopped using it at all and, except for the dog’s bathroom needs and David’s still occasional use of the trampoline, we kind of pretended it wasn’t there.
I let it go.
One day in August, as Mark and I were driving around town together, he told me he had begun making plans for a fire pit as a 50th birthday present to me. You guys, I was so surprised I started crying. We hadn’t talked about this dream of mine for a long time, so when he told me his plans, I just felt so…seen. Over the next few weeks we spent time scrolling through Pinterest, collecting ideas and ordering what we needed. We went to Lowe’s and picked out the rock and the border, and we recruited our college boys for the hard labor.
Last weekend, Mark and the big boys (plus a bonus boy who has now cemented his place in my heart) spent hours and hours digging out the space, loading in the rock, filling in the space with it and transforming our backyard – which in a sense had been lost to us – into a little bit of heaven here on Earth.
I’ve tried to make a practice of looking for redemption in the midst of whatever pain or loss I’m experiencing, but in the last couple of years – with my own continual physical decline, our special needs parenting challenges, immense financial stress, and the loss of my mom to breast cancer, I’ve floundered. I’ve found myself struggling to see purpose in all the pain and suffering in my life and in the lives of the people that I love.
I try to emulate Pollyanna by playing her glad game when I need a lift. Gratitude really does shift my thinking and my mood, so I do believe Pollyanna was on to something.
Finding the good in what is tragic or crushingly hard isn’t always possible.
And quite often what’s been lost to us isn’t going to come back.
And the weight of that reality can be overwhelming.
And, actually, it becomes quite the beast to bear when guilt over the inability to find good is piled on top of what is already crushing you.
But occasionally – and maybe more than occasionally, something new comes in and surprises us with goodness.
And it’s like a release valve to the soul, allowing you to catch your breath and find a bit of rest in this life we live here on our broken planet.
That’s what this fire pit has done for me.
I sit here by the fire and remember that Jesus said, “Come to me, you who are weary…and I will give you rest,” and this promise becomes very tangible to me.
Then finding the “glad” is possible once again.