The last few months our family has been struggling with some trials and when I shared that with my friend she offered to let me use some frequent flyer miles to come out and visit her. It was meant to be a break for me, to give me a chance to pull myself together...and it gave me something to look forward to even on days that were a challenge around here.
I expected that the visit would give me a chance to hang out with my friend and relax, and give me a little bit of breathing room. However, I was surprised by the way that God grew my heart while I was down there.
So, I wouldn't say that I left my heart there...but I did come back with a different heart. I had some time to get some perspective and it changed some of what my struggles were. Here is what I learned in Sacramento:
- I live in Colorado and being in the mountains is one of my favorite places to be. However, I haven't seen the ocean in 10 years and I was reminded of how wondrously our world was created and how magnificent and beautiful it is....which made my heart grateful.
- My friend moved back to Sacramento a couple years ago and in the meantime we have made do with phone conversations (which doesn't always work with small children). On the drive to San Francisco (which is an hour and a half from her house) we were able to really talk. In phone conversations there is no body language for me to gauge if it's okay to ask certain questions, not to mention that I can't give a hug over the phone and sometimes there aren't the right words to say. As a result I feel more connected with my friend, more a part of her life...this made my heart feel less isolated.
- My friend has a 3-year-old son with autism. She also has a 1-year-old. This visit was a chance for me to see into her life. On the phone and through emails she communicates that sometimes her life is stressful, but I got to see firsthand what that means. Now I can see not only how frustrating it can be, but how good of a job she does. This made my heart more understanding.
- Seeing my friend struggle with her son's autism made me realize that God gives us all something. It has been hard to struggle these last few months, and sometimes in my frustration I have felt bitterness at the ease that others seem to have. Seeing my friend's life firsthand made me realize that even though my struggles are different I am not alone in facing things that sometimes seem to be more than I can bear. This made my heart feel peace.
- Getting a chance to be in my friend's house and in nearly every aspect of her life allowed me to see her in a way that I hadn't before. Being with her I realized that sometimes in a way to make her feel better I want to make her feel like her life is normal. I want her to feel that her son with autism behaves like other kids, that he is a normal child. However, after being there and seeing some of his therapy I realize that he isn't normal. I'm not saying that in a bad way, I just realized that he will always be different, and for my friend raising him her parenting will never be the same as mine. My attempt to make her feel normal actually makes me seem dismissive of her concerns. This made my heart compassionate and it has caused me to think of other ways that I might dismiss the pain of others unintentionally.
- My husband and kids did fine without me physically, but upon coming home I realized that having me gone was hard for them. Not that I think I shouldn't have gone, but it made me realize again the effect that I have on my household. The spiritual presence that I bring to this house is different than what my husband brings and I realized how much my family needs that. That made my heart feel renewed.