As January turned pages to February, we were thrust into a comfortable familiarity we had not known for some time. The shattered mosaic of our lives seemed to fall into place with an ease that almost frightened. We finally had a normalcy to our lives that I had tried in vain to engender through eighteen months of absolute strangeness. Try as I could once James had lost his job, I could not imbue our lives with any sense of true rhythm- one might think that the regularity of homeschooling would help- but if anything, it only accentuated the sense of strange detachment from reality, because school went on and on but our adult lives had just stopped, dead air, with no seeming end to the ridiculousness.
Friends had fallen away quickly at the signs of our despair- when our mortgage hung in the balance and it seemed we would lose everything- Job’s friends, as James would say in an ironic, deriding tone. The ‘normal’ things that filled our days for years, the grocery runs, the barbecues with friends, the church functions- what have you- disappeared rapidly from our lives within months of the layoff. It all cost money we no longer had- no babysitter would ever watch four kids for free, at that. It became almost a stupid foray into pain to go to church functions where people would talk about what they were doing, what job projects Mr. So and So was working on- trying to draw James out of his depression for sure, talking of something they both understood, a common language- but it only served to scrape against the scar of the layoff, fresh and burdened.
I don’t think anyone thought nearly two years ago when the economy tanked that it would be as bad as it was. The same with James’ job prospects. He was young, well-educated, and a hard worker who held tight to integrity in an industry where such a thing is prized- it wouldn’t take long to find another job, surely. But one month turned to three and our savings disappeared, three turned to six, then ten, then a year. Endless job searches. Interview after hopeful interview, only to be told that ‘they couldn’t afford him’ or he had ‘too much education for the job’ or any number of strange excuses. As the media has since documented, everything we thought James had going for him was actually working against him in an economy turned upside down.
When we discovered we were pregnant with Josiah mere months after losing our baby in August, it was a turning point. It was a point where, after four or so months of questioning, it was almost as if we had to put all our eggs in the basket of faith. There was no other solution and no other answer at that point- we had hit rock bottom and found that the only way out was by faith. We were destitute, in an odd only-in-America-middle-class sort of way. We still had the nice house and the nice car and the nice things, but at any point the house of cards could come fluttering down. Neither of us could find a job, and now I was pregnant- in a very sort of high risk way after nearly losing my entire reproductive system mere months earlier. The plumbing wasn’t all re-routed, to borrow a term. Even our OB/GYN expressed disbelief that Josiah was happy and healthy, fluttering around in the womb on the ultrasound screen- there was an audible letting out of breath held from the nurse and Dr. H and myself as we peered in on him for the first time.
But Josiah was another mouth to feed, as people would be quick to remind us, had they known. We told no one for nearly six months- until the pregnancy became undeniable, my waist grown too large to have ‘just put on a few pounds’ on my already chunky frame. It was one of the sweetest times for James and myself, and yet, one of the most terrifying. I was on the state insurance, so my health and Josiah’s was covered, but there were no other fail-safes. My health, as Dr. H warned, could turn at any moment, my blood-pressure sky rocket, and it suddenly become a high risk pregnancy fraught with complications. We were haunted by the possibilities, and yet were just content to enjoy time as it was. It was a blessed gift.
I thought for sure that by the time Josiah was to be born that James would have a job. Surely. But the birth came and went, and still, nothing. I said to a friend about a month after Josiah was born that I was in an odd night of the soul, where I knew that God had provided, would provide, was there and present and my faith unshaken, but yet, there was this debilitating sense of despair that absolutely nothing would change and we would be stuck in this limbo, this purgatory of strangeness, forever.
The new strange for me, it seemed, was when February dawned and he suddenly had a real job. We had a nine-to-five, Daddy will be home for dinner, go get the groceries, fill up the gas tank, get school done before dinner kind of life. “Normal”. It was a giddy, sparkling morning of time for us. We knew it would change into oddness all too soon when he began second shift. There was a feeling of borrowed time, and we were drinking it to the dregs. We knew the insanity of moving was coming soon- the house sold, and I posted to my blog that morning with a glass of orange juice sitting in a shaft of morning sunlight because it seemed to encapsulate so perfectly the inner expression of my heart.
Somehow, though, I understood that it was but a flash of time. There was more to be had yet, and I needed to gird myself. I remember glancing out at the somber drearyness of a very wet, very cold, and very snowy February and reminding myself that the weather outside was the truer reality than the house filled with sunshine. The storm was still there. I look back at that thought process now and it makes perfect sense in light of all that had occurred. At the time, it made me feel a bit crazy.
Somehow the narrative of the told story seems to distill down to this smooth progression of time. I think we tend to read blogs and literature and what have you and forget this dynamic, bash ourselves for not having it, regret our brokenness. But this whole cycle of pain for me was anything but smooth. The telling of this story may make it seem so this and that, perfect and plain, but it was anything but. Our lives are never normal, in the sense of the term. We are always lost and striving, found and faithful, longing for Home, for God, for a fullness we will never feel on this earth.
March would come to tell me in full of the storms it often brings on its back- my inner storm had yet to find the calming voice of my Lord on the waves.