December 31, 2010

Dear 2010

Dear 2010,

You and I had some good moments, but I have a confession to make.  I'm glad we're almost through.  It's time we move on.

Yes, I at least owe you an explanation.  So here goes a long one.

You and I started off on the wrong foot.  In January, I was sleep-deprived and exhausted with an 18-month and 3-month-old and didn't know how I was going to survive.   Thankfully, my maternity leave ended, and in February, I returned back to work full-time with my firm in Manhattan (while my children were in the care of my in-laws).  But ever increasingly, I felt a naggingly strong conviction that I needed to be home more often but wrestled with the thought because (1) it would mean a huge financial sacrifice and (2) I wasn't cut out to be a stay-home mom.

Well, you know God wasn't going to let me use those as legit excuses.  As if (although they seem pretty legit to me!).

So ever the negotiator with the Almighty (foolishness, I know), I thought a compromise was in order.  Perhaps I could just work part-time.  Mustering up some courage, I approached my manager in April and we worked out a 10-hour/week consulting agreement (I was hoping for 20 hours but took whatever I could).  It was extra income and would give me an excuse to get out of the house one day a week.  I stayed on full-time until the end of August.

And in September, I thought I was going to lose my mind.  Do you remember that?  I'm sure you do.

Staying home was surely the biggest mistake I had ever made.  My oldest son was now two and terrible.  My youngest turned one and became mobile on two legs.  Combine the two and it meant me running in all different directions yelling at the top of my lungs.  Although my in-laws still continued to come for a few hours in the morning to lend a hand, I was struggling to find a routine, balance, and meaning to this new life at home.  Surely, I could get my job back if I wanted.  But for whatever reason, I stuck it out.  Perhaps I'm a glutton for punishment.

And with my husband's permission, I share the following knowing others might find encouragement from it.

It also didn't help that my marriage was going through a rough patch at the time.   Not many would have guessed it, but it didn't slip by you.  Our friends have often commented on viewing us as an ideal couple and how our marriage seemed so perfect.  NEWS FLASH!  No marriage is perfect.  Marriage is not a happily-ever-after fairy tale and if anyone buys into that, they're in for a rude awakening.   One of the books James and I read during our premarital counseling was key in preparing us for this:  Sacred Marriage:  What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More than Happy?  I highly recommend it.  Though marriage is a wonderful gift with many blessings, it has a way of revealing the ugliest parts of one self.   It's good to be prepared for that but also to keep in mind this is how God uses marriage and our spouse to shape and refine us to become more like Christ.

Well, it seemed my husband and I were no longer hand-in-hand partners.  Rather, we had become the Divvy It Up tag-team duo.  "Tag.  You're it.  Your turn to take this one out while I stay home during the other one's naptime."  "You're it, your turn to do the shopping while I get some laundry done."  "You're it.  You put this one to sleep while I give the other one a bath."   With overlaps in the boys' schedules, it seemed we rarely spent much time together as a family.  And forget couple time.  By the end of the evening, James and I were so pooped we'd literally pass out in bed.

The transition with me being home also brought about underlying issues that were never quite resolved between my husband and I.  Past hurts and wounds were resurrected, and there was a period we wondered if it was possible to ever reconcile these issues.  We knew we needed help, but asking for it would not be easy.  We shared our struggles with our church small group, and we eventually ended up meeting with our pastor as well.  God is so good.  Through sharing, praying, reading scripture and also reading The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict as a church body, God worked to reveal the sins and flaws in our hearts.  Upon admitting them to one another, it opened up the path to understanding, forgiveness, and wholeness in our relationship again.  This doesn't mean we still don't fight or have misunderstandings, but we're better equipped to address them in a more loving, godly manner.  This will be a lifelong process though (I still prefer the good ol' silent treatment because I'm so darn good at it).     

Then 2010, you threw us for a loop in the latter half of the year as my family came to grips with my grandmother's ailing condition.  On the morning of July 31, my grandmother complained of a stomach ache, went to the hospital, and then was admitted to the ICU once it was determined her intestine had ruptured and infection had spread to her major organs.  She survived that ordeal only then to be diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer so far advanced it was beyond seeking surgery or chemo therapy.  At the beginning of September, she was released from the hospital to spend the remainder of her days at home with family.  On October 16, she went home to be with the Lord.

Death was gain for her (Philippians 1:21).  Despite knowing this, however, the loss for us was difficult to bear.  Namely for my mother.  They were literally the best of friends.   I take that back.   My grandmother's best friend here on earth was her husband of 62 years.  My grandfather, a devout man of God and a retired pastor, misses her ever so dearly.  My heart aches mostly for him.

So do you understand why I'm glad we're moving on?

You and I did share some good moments though, and I will never forget those.

James and I attended IJM's (International Justice Mission) Annual Prayer Gathering in D.C. in April.  We didn't have great expectations.  But of course, God did and He worked in our hearts to demonstrate the importance and power of prayer.  It fueled our hearts to pray for all things at all times without ceasing.   God is working and He gives us the privilege to take part in what He's doing through prayer and action.  My greatest desire is to become a woman of prayer much like my grandmother.  I have a long way to go and will admit my prayer life has been lacking recently.  But He who began a good work will bring it to completion.

This year, I have also seen my husband, the ever-loving father and servant, grow more and more into a godly and wise leader.  On a daily basis, I get to see how God is using my husband's heart of compassion and generosity in big and small ways.  And I am learning how to be more patient and forgiving because my husband is much better at it than I.  And we continue to be each other's biggest supporters and fans.

And as for the saga of being home, I can now see glimpses of the impact it has on my children.   I see transformations taking place in them - not only physical but mental and spiritual as well.  I get to experience the moments when my two-year-old will kiss his brother's boo-boo or say a sweet prayer of thanks or when my boys sing with great excitement, "Happy Birthday, Jesus", on Christmas morning.  I am witness to their joy and wonder in such simple things and am learning to do likewise.   Don't get me wrong.  There are still days (very many) I just want to rip my hair out, but God is teaching me to be more patient - with my boys and with myself.

I also started writing regularly again and I have this medium to thank for it.  This creative outlet, which served as a source of sanity in the beginning, ended up being a way for me to connect with and be encouraged by others.  I am so thankful for that and for the folks I have met.

We also celebrated CJ's 2-year-birthday with a cause, threw an elaborate homemade 1-year bash for Nathan, and got to brag about having our son featured topless in a calendar (every parents' dream, I'm sure).

All in all, 2010, we had our ups and downs.  But I can see God's hand in it in every instance and I am eternally grateful for that.

But I'm eager to say hello to 2011 and see what it has in store for us.

Bidding adieu,
Rachel

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