It was supposed to mark the end of something, ‘100 days’ and the congratulations came from everywhere. Well wishing words like we had won a prize or accomplished a great feat and we boarded the plane for the holiday with such expectation. We were flying to the north of Queensland where the young girls are tanned, athletic and strong (the way Sam was last year) and the sun is hot, the sea water warm, the shops of Hastings St buzzing with activity in preparation for the festive season.
We travelled armed with the news that the thyroid results were the best in 3 months, the blood tests confirmed it but the fevers, the shaking, the vomiting and the tension in her voice confused me. To be honest, I was suddenly afraid. Maybe the fever was a warning to stay in Sydney, or the fact that the flight was grounded for over an hour due to technical difficulties. Maybe this was my chance to change my plans, drive back home, stay in my place of refuge but I didn’t read the signs.
I needed to rest, Sam needed to recover and we needed to be together as a family again without the interruptions of hospital. So I continued according to our plan, I changed planes helping her steady herself as we walked across the tarmac joining the throng of people clattering their way up the metal staircase and back into the transit lounge to wait again for a new plane and the luggage to be reloaded. Emma and I exchanged hopeful glances that silently said ‘it will be okay’ though neither of us knew if it would be.
It was as though the wind from the north and the wind from the south hit my house with me at the centre. It picked me up and hurled me into the cyclone before I even knew what was happening. Before I followed Aunt Em down the trap door, before I recovered Toto from under the bed. It came from out of nowhere this wind that displaced me and left me unhinged, unanchored and dislocated.
When we finally arrived at the ‘resort’, unloaded the car, entered our apartment, my heart took a downward spiral. It was Reid who spoke first and assured me we wouldn’t be staying there. I heard his voice echo off the walls of the hollow that was swallowing me up. Yet somehow it was too late and even though we moved and upgraded, the momentum of the fall had taken over. I was spinning like Alice down the rabbit hole, further and faster and heavier. Then with centrifugal force I landed, pinned to the ground in great despair. Something shifted. My faith, my hope, my courage was gone.
We all venture off the path occasionally, finding ourselves in unfamiliar, yet seemingly familiar spaces. This was not the Noosa I remembered. Last year it was Sam’s athletic body I watched on the sand at Sunshine Beach catching the ball with her dad and Grant and Jack. I remember sitting propped up in my fold up chair, under my fold up umbrella swelling with pride over Emma’s incredible UAI and the promise of the place of her dreams at Sydney’s UTS; a double degree in Communication and Media with International Studies. How could so much happen in 12 months? How could I be here now reeling in pain and uncertainty?
What do you do when the storms come? When you trip and fall down a hole? When your dreams are scrunched up and torn at the bottom of the wastebasket, all the hopes you had seemingly ruined? When the holiday you anticipated all year seems to drain the very life from you?
I wrote a little. I drank coffee. I read. I walked. I sobbed. I let the tears fall.
I felt like Alice in the pool of tears. I felt like Dorothy staring at my upside down house. Then after a while I did the only thing I knew to do and that is to look for the path again. I dug out my walking shoes and started by placing one foot in front of the other.
God only requires fairy steps. I’ve discovered that this year and with that thought I gulp down gratitude. I am thankful that he is holding my hand. I picture the kindergarten children that I have taught. I see their chubby faces, their soft baby skin. Some are toothless, some wear ridiculous ponytails on top of their heads. There are boys with bowl cuts and too high shorts. None of them care what they look like. They are just children delighting in life and when I tell them we are going to walk to the library with fairy steps (because I have time on my hands for finishing a lesson early) they think it is marvelous and we wobble along the lines of the basketball court as if it is the most natural thing in the world to do.
It’s not easy to walk in fairy steps, heel touching toe. It’s slow; it’s hard to keep your balance. Sometimes it helps to reach out for someone’s hand. Someone who is bigger. I lift my hand again to the one who carries my life. He isn’t in a hurry though I desperately wish He were. He isn’t fussed when we get to our destination He just wants us to delight in the journey. He doesn’t mind if we didn’t grasp everything He set in the last lesson. He knows it’s a journey. That there will be time. He wants us to keep walking and breathing. He surrounds us in others. They step on our toes sometimes, they make us mad, they overtake us in the line, they cheat by taking bigger steps than they are meant to, leaving gaps on the pavement. “It isn’t fair, she pushed in. I was in front.” We call from our place in the line. Some of the others encourage us “those are very good fairy steps,” they say and “you are very brave and doing so well to not wobble too much.” Its these friends who remind you that you can make it all the way to the Library. They help you to giggle. They remind you to not take life too seriously even though its tricky. They show you how to be silly when you have forgotten how to laugh and before you know it you are showing off and mucking up with all the others in the line. This year, God has surrounded me with friends like that. They have propped me up and stopped me from falling.
Its New Years Eve and I’m a wreck. I’ve been crying all day because they want to take out Sam’s thyroid. I am sad because I think she has been through enough. I don’t want her to endure anything else, to have another scar, to be hospitalized again. I want it to be easier than this. I look down at my walking shoes imagining them to be all worn out from the many miles we have done down the path (or the yellow brick road as it were) and God reminds me that I’m not wearing ordinary shoes.
Like Dorothy he has put me in ruby slippers. I am clothed in royalty. I am taking back what the devil has stolen (with the visual of the Wicked Witch of the West). My house has been thrown, my life has been through the whirlwind but it landed smack on the enemies territory. It has taken him out. I am defeating giants though there are many more on the journey. I am dusting myself off and I am wiping my tears. My shoes are red because Jesus shed His blood. He paid for my salvation so that I could keep walking. He allowed me to endure because there are others on the path. Some are looking for courage, some feel like they have lost their mind, some have lost their nerve and some are looking for a home. As for me I feel like I’ve lost it all in 2009.
Yet feelings are not truth. The truth is we are nearly there. God watches over His word to perform it. He is renewing my strength. Its not far now. Back from Noosa I certainly agree with Dorothy, “there’s no place like home.”