This week we take a huge step as a family, and we move back into our decluttered, partly redecorated home.
Since April, when we received the terrible MRI result for Scooby, we have been staying at my Auntie's property, in order to be nearer to the hospital and family and friends. After we lost him, we had no idea whether we would be able to move back again and pick up our responsibilities as church leaders. We were broken, burnt out and unable to make major decisions because we knew everything was being driven by our emotions.
Thanks to the amazing generosity of our family members, we didn't have to decide. We were able to stay in this incredible haven in the countryside for as long as we needed to, and the kids have had a blast. Unbelievably, it has been one of the most incredible times of our lives, as we have been blessed with holidays, wide open spaces to play in, babysitters and people who have showered on us just the right amount of love and support that we have needed.
We kept going every week to Morecambe to sort out the house while we were making our decisions, and went through every square inch, sorting and tidying. Since July 2009, when my difficult pregnancy with Baby started, we have lived in chaos, firstly because I was bed-bound for so much of the pregnancy, and then because the appearance of Scooby's illness came just before Baby was born, and our lives became dominated by hospital time and trying to hold ourselves together as a family. As we swapped rooms around as Baby grew and Scooby needed more hospital equipment, stuff just got piled up instead of properly sorted, so it has felt so good to be able to finally tackle mess that has been there for far too long.
It's also been a really important cathartic experience, going through every item in the house and assessing its need and the memories attached to it. Some things have had much less impact on me than I expected them to; others have dragged emotions out that definitely needed to be brought to the surface. I'm so glad that my uncontrollable reaction, that came when I realised I would never again be able to bundle him up in his gloves and hat in his wheelchair again, happened on my own in the house, and not one morning next winter when we pulled out the hats and scarves in front of the other kids for the first time. Memories have been boxed, some close at hand for when we want them, others in the loft so we can assess in the future how much is helpful to hold onto and what isn't. At the moment, he is still so real in our minds that it seems strange even talking about him as just a memory, but we know in the future we may need help to make the memories seem fresh again.
We have rearranged rooms and brought in the new furniture that The Cherish Foundation gave us, and redecorated several rooms to make everything seem new and fresh. There are still rooms to do, but lots of progress has been made, and while we decide whether we sell the house or stay, it makes it easier to carry on with life there for now.
This summer has also given us time to rearrange our approach on life again. The agoraphobic-type feelings that were there in the beginning, at suddenly have choices and not being tied to hospital, have begun to wear off. I've started building things into my life again that seem like luxuries - ironing clothes, clothes shopping and cleaning my own floors. I've gone from being afraid to be in front of people because I couldn't get a grip on my emotions, to speaking at church. I can sometimes talk about loosing our boy without crying. I still feel like there's a long way to go. I can't remember how to plan out things in advance for the week and then make it all happen, instead of just reacting to whatever's under my nose. My short-term memory is still shocking. Thoughts fall out of my brain in less than a second and I find myself wandering from room to room not knowing what I was doing five minutes ago. My vocabulary is all over the place, and I keep getting stuck mid-sentence because I can't remember basic nouns like 'plate' or 'wipes'. The kids have got used to finishing my sentences for me while I gesture wildly at the thing I'm trying to say, but I definitely lose the authoritative edge with conversations like, "Ace! No, not you, I mean Rocky! You left your...thing...out and now it's....(pointing at the sky)" "Do you mean he's left his bike out in the rain, Mum?" "Yes! Thank you! Now sort out the thing that he just said!"
In order to build stability and rhythm back into our lives, we have decided that the boys should go back to school - or go for the first time, in Rocky's case. We will miss homeschooling - it brought the right amount of flexibility and focus for the difficult time we found ourselves in - but now life is so different, and the school is such a great one, we know it's the right thing to do for now.
And really unexpectedly, God started stirring up our hearts about church again too. I haven't written much about our church on this blog, because church is people and obviously it wouldn't be great to write about the details of other people's lives on here, but at the beginning of summer we really didn't think we could carry on leading our small church. We planted it five years ago, but through the ups and downs we've had as a family, it has struggled to flourish. We have an amazing team of core people who have held us up through it all, and picked up the many many things we have thrown at them every time we found ourselves in the midst of another crisis, but we haven't grown much as a result of being in maintenance mode for so long. Our fear was that these committed and talented people were using up all their time and skills in a place that wasn't being effective when they could've been thriving in another church where the leaders were available and able to take them forward. We wondered whether their families and our own would be burnt out trying to fulfil a vision that might not be for the right time and place, and if we moved away from our support network again, whether we would be strong enough to lead other people. But just as we had decided to give up, God began whispering. Through the people we have met, and places we have been this summer, a new passion for church has been rising in us. We really have seen how the Body of Christ can be effective at connecting people to God and strengthening the weak and the vulnerable first hand, and so we are returning to Home Church, re-envisioned and ready to see what God wants to do with His church there. We are completely open-handed about the future, about whether the church grows or we let it go.
So this is where our summer of grieving and healing and weighing up the future has brought us to; to move back into our house (for now), to get the kids back into school (for now), and to continue to lead Home Church (for now). Please pray for this next stage - we know there is more grieving and healing to come, and probably lots of doubts about our decisions - but we are trying to keep our eyes fixed on the One who holds it all in His hands.