This morning I dropped the kids to school in my pyjamas. Now, wait. Before you start picturing me with hair rollers, dressing gown and fluffy slippers, let me pull it back a notch. When I say ‘pyjamas’, I mean the track pants and jumper I have been wearing to bed this week because all my winter clothes are stored in a crate somewhere. I know, it’s not much better. But hey, the fact that the kids got to school was a win. The fact that the kids got to school on time was a double win. The fact that I could inconspicuously drop and run without getting out of the car was also a win.
In truth, the past month and a half has been tricky. So counting the wins helps keep my head above water. Because sometimes, life throws you a curveball. Or two. Or three. Over the years I’ve encountered many curveballs - some short-lived, some long-lasting, some that have changed my life forever. No matter the size, a curveball usually begs the question… ‘Can I do this?!’ The short answer is, yes! You can! But how? How do we navigate life when it isn’t going as planned? How do we keep our head above water when the waves seem to be looming large and the cloud cover is thick? Let’s be honest. It isn’t easy. It can be overwhelming, exhausting and terrifying. There are times when I’ve felt paralysed by the fear and enormity of the circumstances of my life. BUT - Guess what? I’m still standing. And so are you!
I’m confident that we are all capable of making it through to the other side, but I’m also very aware that there are ways of getting through quicker and with less collateral damage! A truth that I have been all too aware of over the past 6 weeks.
Saturday 23rd Feb was to be like most summer Saturdays in the life of a Lalor. Inclusive of a 5 hour game of cricket that Pete and his beloved team would revel in. This Saturday I was hanging with all four of our kids when I received a phone call saying that Pete had been hit in the neck with a cricket ball and the ambulance was on its way. As information came in, it turned out all was looking ok, they were checking him out at the hosptial but his breathing was all fine.
“Sure,” I thought (as I rolled my eyes at yet another sporting injury incurred by my husband). With the kids checked in with friends, I took off to the hospital, expecting to collect my voiceless husband, bring him home and arrange to cover his preaching responsibilities for the following day. Upon arrival, however, I was disappointed to find he was not ready to come home. After some trouble locating his whereabouts, I was shown in to the ‘Family Waiting Room’ (known to me now as ‘The Room of Impending Doom’). Waiting with a young friend of Pete’s, I assured him everything was fine. As the social worker came in, asking if we’d informed family, I assured him everything was fine. As I discovered Pete was in the ‘resus room’, I repeated that everything would be fine. As the doctor came in and told me to prepare for bad news, I sat, assuring myself and others that it would be fine.
At my measured response, the doctor clearly thought I must not have understood her meaning. As such she proceeded to lay it out real clear for me. This was not a drill. Suspected artery damage & vascular surgery, amongst other things were on her list of things she needed to prepare me for. Talk of a stroke, artery damage and brain damage were words that washed over me in the most surreal way.
“We’re not looking to find out if there’s a problem,” she said. “There is a problem. We’re looking to find out how bad it is.”
Needless to say, she succeeded. She successfully brought me to my knees. Thoughts of our future were now running through my mind. What if? What if i’m wrong? What if it isn’t going to be ok? What if my husband is permanently brain damaged? What will I tell the kids? How will we manage financially? What would my relationship with my husband look like? Will I have my best friend? What if he never comes home at all? What if my kids grow up without their Dad? What if he dies?
As I called family members, my Pastors arrived, ready to hold me up whatever the outcome. Pete’s mates sat shocked, unsure how to handle all that was in front of them. After a few minutes of panic, and as I thought through the possibilities, somehow I knew God’s presence and word in my heart. While I was pushing through fear to find faith, you might have expected a feeling of assurance that everything would be ok. A peace and knowing that all would be well. I felt this. And I did not. The peace in my heart was not that everything would be well. It was a knowing that I would be well. My kids would be well, no matter what. In that moment God gently reminded me that even if the worst should happen, even if Pete entered Glory and I walked out of that hospital a widow that day, He, my heavenly Father, would be with me. We would be ok.
See, curveballs will happen. Waves will crash in. The answer isn’t in the absence of chaos. As much as I would like a chaos free life!! The answer is in how we respond to chaos. The answer is in my decision to choose faith over fear. The answer is that I decide that HE is the answer. And I must make this decision over and over again.
Don’t get me wrong, making that decision hasn’t eliminated the circumstance of that day or the days of recovery to follow. It doesn’t mean that I won’t face trials in the future. But as I keep coming back to it, it reminds me that there is a Father who loves deeply. It reminds me that because of that great love, He will always be alongside me, giving me the tools I need to cross this bridge. The trick is leaning in to that. Leaning in to His great love, and the tools He has given us to make it through the tough times. Things like consistent time in His word, worship, friends and mentors He has placed in my life, creating rhythm and asking for help. I’m not great at all of these. And sometimes the effort required to discipline myself in these areas feels so painful! But I know that my pre-planned decision to lean in will reap rewards.
So, some days are better than others. Some days we will nail it, standing strong in faith in the face of fear or despair. And some days we will crumble. Have grace for yourself, friend. But then get yourself up again and find your way back to the truth that He will never leave you. He will not forsake you. He is your strength, your provider, your refuge and your greatest ambassador. He’s given you tools to walk this road, and no matter what’s before you, He’s got you.
So as not to leave you hanging, Pete’s prognosis was and still is unclear. After some time in an induced coma and the ICU, he stayed in hospital for 9 days until he was able to pass a series of memory tests. The best guess is that Pete suffered a ‘TIA’ (or mini stroke). He is working through the slow path to healing associated with a brain injury and is a little while off making what we expect to be a full recovery.
When the frustration begins to set in we are both able to remind each other that we’ve been part of something miraculous. What could have been, wasn’t. And for that we are so grateful! We also remind ourselves how amazing it is to be part of an incredible church family. I cannot imagine walking through life without this tribe. It’s actually part of God’s gift to us. It’s one of the tools He has given us. Each other. Lean in to that too. You’ll be glad you did.