I was recently out walking, but not for exercise. I was traveling. My steps were carrying me down the Costa del Sol, beneath the bright sun for which it’s named, toward a place that’s home, but not home.
Maybe I can explain. The place where I was headed used to be our home, and it still feels like home, but it’s someone else’s home now. I was just going back for a visit. So I was walking home, but not home—a place of sweet hospitality, both then and now.
That matters because I know the path well. It was a path we had walked many, many times during our years there: right up the coast, looking out over the Mediterranean Sea in her ever-changing moods. Today she was calm and bright, glinting the bright sun back up into my eyes and making me regret that I forgot my sunglasses (again).
The path was full of memories.
Here’s where we heard the drums and saw the procession of an image that started Ian’s nightmares.
There’s where I paced, at nine months pregnant, praying once again that baby Gabe would flip from his stubbornly breech position. (He didn’t.)
Here’s where we watched fireworks from beneath the palm trees in summer, and a burning effigy on the beach in winter.
There’s where I found myself walking barefoot among thousands of jellyfish that washed up on the sand overnight.
Here’s the pirate ship playground where we’d meet friends for play dates.
There’s the culvert where we saw flood waters carrying raw sewage out to sea (and discovered that our children had been splashing in the waves of it).
Here’s where I’d rent a bike to ride to driving classes, and where I finally (finally) drove our manual van with a Spanish license in hand.
There’s where we pushed strollers at an agonizingly slow pace, trying to give space for Mick to breathe when the darkness settled in, talking through spirals of anxiety, revisiting every possible scenario until only one option remained: to leave.
This bright, sunny place was the setting of our deepest suffering, our hardest questions, our rawest wounds.
But wonder and joy and beauty were mingled there, too.
And do you know what I found myself doing, this day as I walked?
Thanking God. For all of it. Especially the hard parts.
What miracle is this? That my heart could rejoice over such things?
Those deepest pains, griefs, and sorrows have shaped us. I could finally see it, walking there on that path again, years after the fact. I love who we are—who we’re becoming—and all the best parts of us are the direct result of the things we’ve suffered. The only way to become this was to pass through that. And I found myself thanking God for every bitter tear.
Yes, including the time I nearly died.
The long sleepless nights with a colicky baby.
The undiagnosed needs of our children.
The betrayal of someone we trusted.
The questions that still have no answers.
The bewildering change of course.
The pain of leaving things unfinished.
Walking that path beneath the sun was like seeing God suddenly flip over the tapestry, so that instead of all the ugly knots and tangled mess on the back, I could finally see the bit of design He’d been weaving all along. And it was trimmed in gold.
Beautiful enough to inspire praise.
Woven so deftly that my heart welled up with deep gratitude for every painful part.
Because here’s the thing: He didn’t leave us to weather any of it alone. He was there, with us, for every single second. Loving us in the mess. Actively working everything for our good. I could see it all at once.
He’s still here with us, you know. And He’ll continue to be with us, just as He promised. To the end.
He’ll be with us until we are with Him.
His work goes on.
We go on.
And nothing—nothing—is wasted.
On the morning of my 40th birthday, this is my Eben-Ezer.
His grace has brought us safe this far. His grace will lead us Home.