My dad always used to tell this story about a man who had both good and bad things happen to him. He had a good harvest of crops and the people of his village told him he had such good luck. He would reply, “Good luck, bad luck – who knows?” The surplus of crops meant that his son had to help him with the harvest. In the process of helping his father, the young man was badly injured. The people of the village told they were sorry he was having such bad luck and he replied, “Good luck, bad luck – who knows?” A short time passed and a war broke out in the man’s country. Every young man able to fight was required to do so, but the man’s son who was still injured was spared because he could not fight… and the story goes on like that.
Dad would tell me that the moral of the story is that things happen in life. It’s not for us to say whether they’re “good” or “bad” because that’s not for us to know. Only God knows how the events in our lives are woven together into a full tapestry.
When he first started telling me the story, I’d be annoyed at him a tiny bit (ok, more than a tiny bit) because, of course, he usually waited until something was going on in my life that I thought was bad to tell it. As I got older and had experienced the good that can come out of hardship, I grew to love the story. Instead of just a story, it became a reminder that no matter what happens in life, we trust in God, we thank him, and we never lose hope.
This story seems more appropriate than ever for me because of the last two years of my life. Between Toby and my separation, Dad’s passing, and a myriad of other hardships, there’s been plenty of “bad luck” if I choose to see it that way. But I can’t see it that way. So much good has come out of unbelievable sorrow.
If Toby and I had never separated, I never would have seen the other side of the medical field.
I never would have learned that along side the right-brained writer and artist that I’ve always known I am, there’s a fiercely curious scientist who loves breaking open the world and studying it. I never would have known that I am strong enough to work through my squeamish side and that seeing gaping wounds go through the stages of healing would not only interest me, but would also make me feel the awesomeness of the way our bodies are designed. I never would have learned the beauty of caregiving and how powerful it is to literally be Christ’s hands and feet to his children. My patients were such a blessing to me and I’m a better person for knowing each one of them.
I also never would have met the amazing people of 3C, which is a thought that brings me to tears. I came to 3C willing, eager, a little scared, and completely clueless. What I found on 3C was a family of people who embraced me, loved me for who I am, supported me, taught me, listened to me, helped me, valued me, and became friends that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. There aren’t even words to express the gratitude I have for all of them. To every single one of you, thank you with all of my heart.
If Toby and I had never separated, we wouldn’t have the marriage we do now.
That’s a hard statement to write. I wish that we’d have been able to get to where we are now without all of the hardship – I especially wish that we could have done it without hurting the kids. Even so, our marriage is stronger than it ever was and although I wish that separation hadn’t been the exact route, I know looking back that something major had to change in order to shake us up, change both of us, and make our hearts ready to really love each other the way we should. We appreciate our relationship in a new way and are more dedicated than ever to making it work… while also having a better picture of what life would be like without each other. We both love each other better and our marriage is something that we’ll never take for granted again.
If Toby and I had never separated, I wouldn’t be as open to change.
I’ve always liked to think that I’m a fairly go-with-the-flow sort of girl, but I had no clue what I was capable of until my life fell apart. Now I can recognize that even though years ago Toby and I talked about how much we’d love to live in Fort Thomas, I was never going to take the leap of faith and move there. As much as I knew there are outstanding public schools, I was too worried to step outside my own experience and send my kids to them. As much as I knew in my heart that family is so much more important than a house and the things in it, I never would have been able to say – “I don’t care where we live; it’s just a house.” When I uttered that phrase back in December of last year, I couldn’t believe it. I totally meant it and I knew that I was a changed woman. It’s not that I was crazy attached to my possessions, it’s that I was so attached to this picture of who our family was that I couldn’t be opened to what God’s picture of our family is.
I look at our life now and I can’t imagine being anywhere else. I love the community we live in. I love the kids’ schools. I love our home. So much of where we are is what we dreamed but never took the leap of faith to find. Through all the pain and difficulty of being separated, God made us jump and led us to his plan for our family. That’s a powerful thing.
If Toby and I had never separated, I wouldn’t have moved back home.
Now that I know what God had in store for my family, I can never be grateful enough for those 6 precious months of living in my parents’ basement. They were my rocks. I talked to them frequently about all of the changes in my life. I soaked up my time with them. And most of all, I got to watch as my kids enjoyed getting to know their grandparents in a way that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. What I believed would be such a trial turned out to be such an amazing gift.
I’ll be honest and tell you that I’m not in a place where I can focus on any good things that came as a result Dad’s passing. It’s still too painful and raw. But you won’t ever hear me say that it was “bad luck”. He taught me better than that.
So instead I’m concentrating on how thankful I am to have had the Papa that I did. I’m thankful that we got to share the experience of being Hodgkins survivors. I’m thankful that the radiation helped save his life all those years ago, even though it damaged his body. I’m thankful that he was by my side through one of the most horrible times of my whole life. I’m thankful that he got to see me blossom in adversity and learn to love my left-brained side. I’m thankful for all of the talks that we had. I’m thankful for all of the hugs and for all of the times that I told him what a blessing he was.
Right now I can’t imagine pain worse than losing Dad or separating from Toby. I can’t imagine a more wonderful feeling than drinking in the looks on our kids’ faces when we told them that our family would be whole again. But in the infinite wisdom of my Papa, I know that more highs and lows will come. And when they do, I will do my best to face them with gratitude, hope, and trust. Because only God knows how the “good luck” and “bad luck” come together to work for his glory.