this is the last time, I promise.

How many times can you talk about a bad year?
Twice so far on our fundraising trip/transition time, I've lost my junk in a public place crying to a family member or friend about my bad year. Both times I was certain that they'd be so tired of hearing about it or they'd tell me to pull myself together. But they didn't. I have good friends and family.

Both times, in not so many words, someone just said - "hey, it was a bad year. i'm starting to understand that. will you tell me more about it? tell me about this ______ or this ________. how was that? how are you now?"

Both times, it meant more than I'll ever be able to describe that they asked.
Because here's why. It just wasn't that bad. On the scale of suffering, I've seen much worse. Nick and I repeatedly say, we made it through that year without a scratch. Lots of tears, hard days, knees sore from prayer, and quite a few new wrinkles, despite the fact that it feels like I'm way too young to be getting wrinkles if I'm still struggling with the occasional acne. Amen, other twenty-something mamas? Wrinkles and zits? Seriously?

Anyhow. Back to the point. I always think I've talked about it too much and I'm always met with a gracious and listening ear when I need to talk to a friend, so maybe we'll substitute the friend with the entire internet and I'll talk about it one last time. I wish I could describe "it" in one sentence, but I just can't. It was one really bad, really hard, really wonderful year. We struggled financially (like way too many other people), we struggled relationally. Nick struggled through his call as a pastor and I struggled with my call as a mother. On our best days, we felt like deflated balloons being punched by life and circumstances and our own wills and emotions and desires. I had many conversations with a best friend, trying to decipher what was depression and what was just real grown up pain and responsibility. I'm not sure I ever figured out the answer.

But it was a wonderful year, because when it was all stripped away, we were left with this marriage and this family that felt strong - not because of anything we had to offer one another, but because we had Christ alone. The Lord knit us closer together and so much closer to Him and truly - we don't have a scratch on us. Like Isaiah says, we walked through the fire and we weren't burned.

So the other day, one gracious family member asked me if this felt like the turning of the page or an end of a chapter or a closing of a book. Did the end of the bad year feel over and if it did, just how over did it feel? My lip started quivering before he finished his question, because I knew the answer before he was done asking.

It's not over.
Maybe the circumstances have shifted and some of the burdens have lifted. The scenery has changed and will change again and new excitement will come and new joys will be born. But I think the Lord is holding me in the ash of the fire for awhile, on purpose, to remind me of my worth and my purpose and my only true comfort - which is Him. I'm pretty confident, that after this year, I could make an idol out of comfort or joyful seasons or happiness, even. But instead, I think He wants me to wake up daily reminded of my bad year, reminded that I have nothing to offer but Christ alone and this world has literally nothing to offer me but millions of opportunities of brokenness needing to see the light that only Christ has to offer. And maybe I'm wrong and in a few months, I'll feel back to "normal" and the weight will be gone and the carelessness and lightness will reappear and I'll feel like my old self, with my old ambitions.

But I gotta tell you.
I don't really want it to. I want the soot on my hands to remind me of those who are having a bad year. To pray for them, share the only real comfort I found.
I want to praise Him for the days when it's not so hot, but I can remember the feeling of flames licking at my heels, threatening to take me down in a fireball of pain and selfishness.
Most of all, I want to be standing, ready, when the fires start again.
This time - my prayer is that I won't spend a year looking around for rescue or crying over the heat, but I'll jump immediately into the arms of the Savior waiting to save.
So maybe, just maybe, the bad year - the fire never even ended.
Maybe He's just carrying me now.