I cannot stop staring at my backyard.
A month ago, even a week ago, I could not look out the back window without wanting to weep. Our yard was a snarl of weeds and dead grass. Dirt patches where no vegetation dared to grow, holes where my husband’s (now former) police dog had a hey day. Broken sprinklers. It was frustrating and depressing.
It was also a symbol to me of a much more serious issue.
I’m going to be honest: 2014 has not been our year. It has been wrought with pain, confusion, frustration…our lives have been turned upside down and inside out and just when things even out, something else happens.
But it hasn’t been all bad. The year started out pretty amazing. Sort of.
Simultaneously, two very amazing things happened that began the whirlwind of hits that keep on coming:
1.) I finally finished a book that was very difficult to write, and turned in the final copy to my publisher
2.) My husband surrendered his life to the Lord. He proclaimed Jesus as his Lord and Savior. I will never forget the day he texted me and said: “I just publically proclaimed that I am a new creature in Christ!” My husband does not talk like this. At least he didn’t before February of 2014. I hardly recognize him. He has always been amazing, but the transformation from his heart right on out to his very countenance is astounding. His surrender to the Lord is a direct result of God’s relentless pursuit of him for many, many years.
It is also the direct result of a very broken marriage.
I’m keeping the details to myself, but let me say…we shouldn’t still be here. Together. Under the same roof. Making plans for our future. But we are. And have a lot of healing to do.
While we do our best to heal, the world keeps turning– our children keep growing (having no idea of what their parents are up against), and we are fighting to have a marriage like we’ve never known.
Perhaps that’s why this year has been so hard: the healing continues to be interrupted by life. Job changes, the death of my grandpa (who was very close to both of us) worry over difficulties in the lives of people around us.
Mounting pressure from various areas of life.
A few weeks ago, I went into the backyard to rake or…something. I’m not sure what I thought I would accomplish, but I thought I could tidy up our barren land. But the project was too big, the sun sapped me of my strength, and my anger boiled over. I raged and screamed in my head…and then I raged and screamed at my husband.
“I hate that this happened to us!” I screamed.
We’ve been talking and planning how to fix the yard after the distracted and difficult summer we endured, but hadn’t made any definite plans.
That day I lost it, and tried very hard to understand why some dead grass affected me so deeply.
“I feel like that yard is a symbol of our marriage. That life just got in the way and very important things were left to shrivel up ad blow away. The longer I look at that dead yard, the more hopeless I feel about us.”
Silly. But so true.
So we made some calls, got some quotes and, poetically enough, we could only afford to fix the yard if we did it ourselves.
On Monday, 12 yards of topsoil was dumped in our driveway. Mr. Riehl and I dug and scooped and carted and dumped and raked all day. And through the sweat and pain, I felt overcome with hope and happiness as I watched us work together to fix what was broken.
Our girls worked right alongside us. I snapped picture after picture during water breaks. They have no idea how much they were helping us work for our family’s security. For our everything.
I wish I could say that Mr. and I flirted all day and snuck romantic kisses and smacked each other’s buns as we passed. But let’s be real: hauling 12 yards of dirt is hard work. No one was feeling flirty. But we definitely shared tender looks of, “We’re going to make it. We can do hard things. God is on our side and He is for our marriage. We can do this.”
We slept hard that night and the next morning –when 1600 square feet of sod landed in our driveway–we started again.
And when it was all over we took pictures like proud parents. We’ve wrapped our arms around each other over and over and just clung on.
This yard is symbolic. And this time it is symbolic of what hard work can do. That death can come to life. That we can be restored.
I’ve taken my morning coffee and Bible outside the last couple of days. To stare and pray and cry and worship.
We tried to move this summer. We tried to walk away from our icky yard and just start over.
In February we very well could have just bagged it. Called it good and moved on. Plenty of people do that, don’t they?
I am so happy that we are not another statistic.
This post is so personal to me that I can’t even share it as well as I want to. The words are not flowing gracefully. But that’s life sometimes: raw and messy and not as together as we’d like.
But it’s beautiful. And simply a shadow of incredible things to come.
In February, I thought my marriage was over.
When Mr. Riehl came home one day and told me that he surrendered his life to Jesus Christ, I was skeptical. But he couldn’t fake the change in his heart. When God claims us and we receive His gift, He has promised us a new heart. A new life. The change in saved people is unmistakable. And one thing Mr. wanted more than anything was for us to work out. For our marriage to be the most important thing. To heal the damage we had done to each other through complacency; to press on toward wonderful things together.
The Lord helped me in those first few weeks to set aside my fear and pain and just watch in awe at the work He was doing in Mr. Riehl’s life. It’s like He kept me in a little pocket of mercy and grace where I could soak in all that I had been praying over for many years. And when I lost my hold on my emotions, Mr. was ready to step in and catch me.
Like I said, it’s been a delicate balance. We had to scrape out the dead, rotted over parts of our marriage. We had to churn up some painful stuff. We’re laying new groundwork, rolling out God’s purpose and feeding it to make it grow and take root.
We might be crazy fools for taking so many pictures of our yard…but it’s tangible proof of a great and mighty work that has been done in this barren house. God has promised to make things new. To carry us through if we endure.
His mercies are new every morning…and whispered in every sunset.
B.D. Riehl is the author of The Earth is Full, available here.
The Heavens Are Telling is available for pre-order here and will be officially for sale October 3, 2014.