Time To Catch You Up....Part 1

So...its time to catch you, my precious and faithful blog readers, up on life here at The Smith Homestead. Many of you have emailed, Facebook messaged and commented asking how things are~ so lets get caught up, shall we? Go pour a cup of hot tea. I've got mine right here. Oh...and don't forget a quilt. Its rather chilly out today.

If you've followed this blog for any real length of time (years, not months), you know that two years ago we were given the news that Mike had been laid off from his job right at the holidays. Pretty big blow for this family of 5. We literally returned the gifts from under the tree and immediately buckled down. There was no severance, no warning, no job waiting in the wings and only limited savings to count on. Since Mike was in the top 5% in his company, we optimistically anticipated he'd find another job in his field quickly. Not so.

Days turned into weeks, turned into months...turned into years. There were some really amazing things that happened during those two years. We opened a bakery on $2000...we'd always wanted to do that. We sold that bakery for profit 5 months later...which was a miracle and a blessing. Our son's marshmallow company was featured on The Suze Orman Show TWICE....amazing. We were incredibly humbled and amazed at the outpouring of love on our family during that time. Really....it was staggering to realize how much people love and care for and take care of others in time of struggle or need (even if not vocalized). It was the first time we truly needed to be the recipients of such generosity which was a big life lesson in and of itself.

With the amazing stuff ~ there was plenty of heartbreak, disappointment and frustration. I don't want to get too caught up on this part...but also sitting here, enjoying a cup of tea with you, I want to be candid. Because undoubtedly there are others of you facing some very stressful and hard times. Maybe physically, financially, emotionally, spiritually....whatever the case~ these times can't merely be brushed away with a smile and a cheery motivational quote from Pinterest. Nope. These times of long, deep valleys are downright horrible. Stinky. Crappy. Wretched. _____ (insert your own word here).

I can't speak for Mike, I can only share my own journey through the past two years.

The journey of watching my husband lose faith in himself as a provider for his family, lose confidence as a businessman, lose heart, lose hope, lose courage, lose energy, motivation and stamina to keep fighting the good fight. The journey of feeling utterly hopeless and helpless to do anything about that knowing he was on his own journey~ and needed to dig deep to find his way through that dark tunnel. 

The journey of feeling the deepest level of disappointment in unanswered prayers and not knowing what to do with those feelings.

The journey of recognizing on the deepest level my shortcomings (there are many) but also my strengths.
The strength of determination, drive, resolve and grit I have to make SOMETHING...ANYTHING work in our favor each day kind of surprised me. Yet I had periods of near paralyzing fear, anger, frustration and discouragement that would creep up often and I would beat myself up for not being "further along" emotionally. 

I am a big picture kind of gal. Always have been. I have a healthy dose of perspective, try not to get too caught up in the details and keep a pretty level head. It has served me well through some really hard times in life but even with all the doses of perspective one can muster~ at some point, two years of stress and anxiety worrying about where the money will come to pay the water bill will Wear.You.Out.

Hence the silence about this topic on the blog until now. Mike has landed a job. A great job, actually. Maybe even close to a perfect job for this season of life. He started a couple of months ago and you would think our first instinct would be to shout it from the rooftops! Post it on Facebook! Blog about it! Call everyone we know!
But that's not what we did.
We were actually surprised by our own reaction...or rather, lack of reaction. The job had come. Finally! But we just stared blankly at each other and quietly proceeded with life. I mentioned this odd response to a friend a few days later. I told her that it just felt weird sharing the news with everyone because we felt guilty that we weren't more excited. We didn't want to appear ungrateful (because we weren't)...we just weren't acting the way we imagined...and figured everyone else would imagine...we should act. Her response?
"Isn't it odd how these times go on for so long that there is just no energy left for joy at the end of them?" 
That was it.
We had just been in a two year boxing match. The bell had rung. It was over. Our hand had been raised. We fought the good fight and came out on the other side.
But instead of celebrating, all we really wanted was an ice pack and a quiet corner to go recover and nurse our wounds. Because that fight was a doozy.

It seems the wounds are healing quickly. Stamina is returning....our hope is rising once again. But its a long road ahead back to "normal". Actually, I'm not sure what normal is anymore. There must be a new normal on the horizon. Both Mike and I are forever changed~ good and bad. I think my idyllic notions of life are a bit more realistic now (darn...I loved that idyllic life) but I also think I am so much more sensitive, empathetic, less judgmental and more aware of the struggles of man than I ever could have been without this journey. As a big picture kind of girl, I know that a two year layoff pales in comparison to what many journey through each day. We have friends and family truly struggling with life altering issues. We have traveled to some of the most destitute areas of the world and seen REAL poverty and financial struggle. I don't want for one minute you to think I pity myself in what we've just gone through. Not in the least. I am blessed. I know this. And I am grateful for each day~ whether the water bill gets paid or not.

(Not sure how many parts this will be. Lots to still share~ maybe next time we'll pour the coffee.)

*Thanks to my sweet friend Tina, owner of the amazing Vrai Photography, for taking that pic~