Here, friends, is the reason(s) I have not been blogging. Well, at least some of the reasons…..
Of all the years to write a letter, this one seemed the one to pass over. In all truth, I thought about it, but the old stubborn side of me simply stood up and belted out a beastly, ‘NO’. Because, in all the years I have spent fighting for life, mine and the lives of my children, and the unbelievable blooming of miracles left and right during those fights, led me to see that this, this thing we named Coronavirus, this thing that persistently pressed us down into solidarity, was going to press out the joy in Christmas if I didn’t do some fighting back. So here it is. Words tapped out to send to you. To connect us through sight and touch in a way not yet stolen from us during a global pandemic. Who knew we’d still be waving through glass, walking in distanced columns, and whispering behind gloved lips about who was going under, who was gambling for rights to our guilty consciences, and who would give a leg up during this awkward mess?
But then I remembered something else. I remembered how winds of disaster can tear something apart piece by piece. I remembered the story of how a generational storm of pandemic proportions tried to destroy another certain family tree. A holy family tree. But I also remembered that God is not unaware of these disasters. He is not surprised by disease. He is not stumped by gross politics, nor is He unnerved by my anxious mind. God is a God of order, of plans, and of redeeming love. And so, when we weren’t sure how to get out of bed on the morning of March 10, when we saw our state shut down, when we called and cancelled ALL of the kids’ activities. When we stared at a blank calendar and felt our nerves frail for a few days while it tried to grow accustomed to being still, we also prayed for a miracle. A miracle we, as a family, knew was out there. But like most miracles we’ve witnessed, would happen in its own time.
And while COVID is still passing out its poison, let me share a few of the small miracles that our family saw this year. Maybe it will give you a chance to see the Light of the world lighting up yours too?
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that while January & February were congested with work and school, it also swarmed with drama group, art class, cello & piano lessons, ski days, and play dates. We heard rumors of the virus, but didn’t slow long enough to understand how it could shut us down without a single symptom. It was a surreal feeling to go to work on Monday, March 9 with our entire team, and then, at midnight that night, have the state mandate a shutdown. Tuesday morning Ben sat on the edge of the bed in the dark and I saw his shoulders round into despair. He tried hard to keep his routine, moving forward into the fear. I also knew he was going in alone. And that night we lay awake side-by-side and wondered ‘how’ and ‘if’ and ‘what if’?. I saw it then, how that first miracle showed up. It was the miracle of a marriage not threatened by financial loss. A marriage locked into honesty and loyalty. A marriage rooted in raw truth and we were able to surrender to a plan not of our own. It was a walk of faith to believe that God was not a destroyer of our dreams, but a builder. He is still in control, and we are still walking by faith, and Stillwater Custom Cabinetry is still in business.
The kids and I bore the weight of the stay-at-home order with a resolved determination to spend our ‘extra time’ completing our school year. We knew how to do this. No surprises to an already relentless homeschool routine. Which is why we soften the schedule a bit. I let the kids sleep in and take the subjects at their own speed. But with nothing else to run off too, this still left us with plenty of time at the end of the day to play. And what I saw in those seemingly odd off-school hours was miracle number two. No bickering. No battles over books. No balled fists pounding out their frustrations. Instead, I watched my already creative daughter dust off an old embroidery hoop, thread a needle, pull up Pinterest, and carefully pierce cotton. She made beautiful pictures with no patterns and I marveled at her mind. By the way, she turned 15 soon after the lock-down, and while I blinked back sadness over what she might miss out on, she quietly handed me a recipe for Brookies (a brownie/cookie baked delight), and graciously smiled with content. She wrapped up 8th grade with elegance and trembled with silent glee when she unwrapped the phone that Ben and I gave her at the end of her elementary school life. A gift she wasn’t expecting, but was mature enough to understand the new responsibility. She is now tackling 9th grade online here at home, and we feel extremely proud of our first micropremie. She was our 1lb 8oz dark haired girl with the will to silently fight through some pretty fierce realities at the beginning of her life, and we see her do it again 15 years later. It’s hard not to burst a little.
We worried quite a bit more over our middle boy, simply because his love cup gets filled up with socialization. But we were gifted the opportunity for some frank conversations about who we are and for what purpose we are made and how do we move about in this fallen phase without feeling deleted? We saw his shoulders broaden a bit and Ben taught him how to use the tractor and soon there were bike jumps down through the south side of our property. A whole lot of bottled up energy was released in midair sailing over those dirt jumps. He even went halves with us and he and his sister bought themselves new bikes this spring, bringing out a new Sabbath past time for all of us, exploring bike trails across northern Michigan. He wrapped up 6th grade well and went into the summer free of academics. He found ways to “see” friends through FaceTime, and bike-time, and safely-distanced beach time. And he started 7th grade strong in a new online school with a real teacher and classmates. He gets to chat with new friends, share clever witticisms with his teacher, and learn technical skills while still being close to us. It’s been the perfect mix for our genuine extrovert.
And our littlest beast, our final figure in the family photo, showed us the miracle of naïveté, because he really didn’t know that when we went into the shop on Sunday’s to move product and sweep floors, he didn’t see it as ‘work’, he just loved the long stretch of concrete to run down at near top speeds. And when we couldn’t go camping, he simply showed joy when the next cool night rolled in and we roasted marshmallows in our own yard. He never knew how his parents worried over a dwindling budget, he was just content to snuggle in and read the next book in the Little House on the Prairie series. And when school began and the start of 1st grade was delayed because his Mama was recovering from surgery, he quietly slipped out into the early morning air to run across the driveway to visit with his best friend, Willa, whose family had moved into our driveway in a 5th wheel for a time. Judah is our final miracle child. Our 1 lb 5 oz micro-premie who has loved waking up to this one life every.single.day. He has taught us all to embrace this space and feel the ways the Lord leads and stop worrying about what tomorrow will bring.
It hasn’t been an easy year. We’ve worried over work, waffled over decisions, and worn out all the ways one can doubt a Holy Deity. Ben has lined up plans far past A, B, and C because he feels the burden of providing for his family deeply. I have worked to keep the kids on a peaceful path, while battling for peace in my own soul. I laid down the writing, drew the kids close, and prayed to hold my tongue when my patience plumb wore out. This wasn’t a year of self-care but a time for soul-care if we were or are ever going to see our way out. One thing I didn’t want to lose was the idea of purpose, and knew our faithfulness to God was something to fight for over everything else.
God reminds me that He made me for a purpose. So when we fight for our marriage, when we fought for the lives of our kids, when we fought for my health, we fought with bowed heads. Nothing has changed. God does not wait for us to stand tall, He asks us to kneel quietly. And while we find some blind but temporary satisfaction in waving a clenched fist at what we cannot control, He shines the light from His Christmas star to remind us that He is King over everything in the sky and everything down below. I don’t know about you, but I trust more in His plan for eternity than my plan for today. God came down. He ushered Joseph and Mary into an inconvenient marriage, which sent them on an inconvenient journey that ended in an inconvenient place for Jesus to be born. Quite the opposite of us sent to stay home, but no different. You may feel the inconvenience, but have you seen the miracle?
Join our family and push back the fears. Look for the light in the dark and be reminded that all of the best gifts come when we least expect them. We hope to hear from some of you how God has worked miracles in your own hard places this year. Write us a letter or find Kathy online and share a story. We want to stay awake to see another Christmas miracle. He’s there, in your life. Don’t miss it.
Blessings to each of you. I am prayerfully planning to be back blogging at least once a month in 2021. I would love for you to join me. I only want to speak into all the ways the Lord is faithful to me. It’s worth turning my nightlight on for.
Ben, Kathy, Maddy, Brett, & Judah Brower
PC: August Afternoon Photography