The past two years have been a tour of the valley of shadows – so many challenges placed on the way and I’ve really struggled just to feel my head is above the waves. I stopped writing, I stopped gardening, I stopped walking … mostly I’ve just been surviving.
Since 2020 my sweet hubby has had three strokes. The first was mild and he was back to normal fairly quickly. The second stroke was much more severe, leaving him with no functional use of his right arm, difficulty speaking and a slower ability to process conversation around him. The third took a band of vision from his left eye. Through God’s grace and provision, physical therapy, patience, love, prayer, and good supportive friends and family have brought us to a new normal that we’re perfecting. But it’s hard. So very hard.
The most difficult thing we’ve had to learn is that while the strokes themselves only affected him physically, they essentially happened to both of us. Life has changed dramatically for each of us, and we are still struggling through the emotion of all of it. We have good days, and we have horrible days, but we consider all of them blessed days.
Yes, I did say blessed. Beyond measure! We were blessed to be together when each of the strokes occurred, so medical help wasn’t delayed. We were blessed with good medical care, good doctors, good insurance. We were blessed with loving people who helped me make some very quick changes to our home that have made the daily needs of life much easier for hubby. We were, and continue to be, blessed by the prayers of so many very wonderful people. We are blessed to have more time with each other – to laugh, cry, hold hands, pray, and love. We were even blessed by the changes in my work structure since the pandemic that have allowed me to transition to working from home with no loss of income. God has provided every single thing we could possibly have needed to get through this.
And yet it’s still hard. What we lost brings sadness. We both have days when we are deeply depressed, and grief is sometimes overwhelming. Mostly its those little things we all take for granted, like putting on socks or opening the prescription bottle. Some losses, of course, were felt much deeper and we face those things more slowly, if at all. Some days all we can do is wonder why.
We have learned that it is in these times of loss and struggle that we are drawn closer to God, when we feel His presence most deeply, when we hear His voice speaking to us through the Word. It is in these times when our hope in His promise and trust in His Will is strongest.
As I reflect on these past two years I realize that I have ignored so many opportunities to share this journey with you. So many times I’ve felt led to write about what we’ve learned or how God has carried us and told myself I would do it later, when I’m not so tired or when I’m not so sad. For this I apologize. I know that God would have used our struggles to help at least one of you through whatever challenge is taking you through the valley. And I know He would have blessed me with the peace that often follows when I write about something that has deeply affected me.
I think about the lyrics from “Blessings” by Laura Story and I’m reminded that God puts hard things in our lives to further His Glory, and sometimes we just don’t understand how our suffering could possibly be a good thing. “What if greatest disappointments or the aching of this life is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy. And what if trials of this life – The rain, the storms the hardest nights, are your mercies in disguise.”
Whatever is in store for us through this journey, I trust God’s plan. I know that He will carry us, and that one day, we will understand why this path was chosen for us at this time.
Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” My prayer for you is that through whatever valley you walk, you feel God’s presence guiding you and that you trust in Him.