Did you like me recently watch the news in horror seeing in real time the flames engulf the Notre Dame Cathedral? I couldn’t believe my eyes, my heart sank as I thought “Is this real? Of all times, Holy Week? Could this really be true? Surely this isn’t true. This is a sacred and holy structure to those in the Catholic Faith. People come from all over the world to witness its grandeur and history. This building has withstood wars, revolutions, thousands of years of mother nature, and now an accidental fire? I felt sick not only for my Catholic friends who I knew would be devastated but also for the whole world who was losing one of the finest examples of French architecture that has stood for centuries and was now much turned into ashes. The fire burned for 15 long painful hours.
It brought my mind back to almost exactly one year ago- I was riding in the backseat with a group of friends on my way to the re-opening of the Houston Texas Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It was the first day the Temple would be open after it was devastated by a hurricane named Harvey the previous fall. I remember my friends talking to one another, I found myself that day deep in thought and not saying much. I was wondering why would the Lord let the Temple flood? I know He could have stopped it. It had escaped extreme flooding before completely surrounded by flood waters for miles and remained completely dry. This is a beautiful building that is sacred to its attendees. It is also a pillar of beauty and peace to the entire community where it stands. The cost to repair was significant and would take an extensive amount of time and resources. There had been miracles before, I have personally witnessed where this place of worship was spared the wrath of Mother Nature, with no other explanation but intervention from above. Why didn’t Heaven intervene this time? Why wasn’t this majestic, pristine Holy structure spared this time?
On that car ride, I thought about my own life, and how sometimes it had been obvious that the Lord intervened and made everything better, took away the pain- physical and emotional. There were times that people I knew and loved seemed to be magically healed from serious disease or injury. I had experienced all of these. I have known friends and strangers who have experienced similar miracles. Then there were the times that He didn’t. I thought about the storms and fires that had come into my life that seemed to leave a similar mess of foul-smelling mud and ashes. I thought about standing beside the grave that had been recently dug for my younger brother that had been killed in a drunk driving accident. I remembered standing beside my eleven-year-old son’s hospital bed with wires, tubes and metal bolts covering his head and body while a machine took his breaths for him. He was still sun-kissed from the baseball practice he was recently on the field for, but now sleeping silently in a coma, his chest gently rising and falling in a mechanical rhythm. I thought about the weeks, months and years that followed of hospitals, wheelchairs, rehabs, surgeries, that silently was draining not only our bank account but also our marriage. Why? Why didn’t the Lord take any of this away? He could have stopped all of it, Why not this time? Did I deserve it? Did my son? My brother? My Husband?
That day with all my questions stirring in my mind I was brought back to the present as we drove into the parking lot. As I looked around I noticed it was larger than the last time I had seen it. The landscape had some changes. The flowers were all in bloom with their scents rising up almost to say, welcome, we are glad you’re here. The sun pierced through the crisp air, and I wondered again silently to myself- Is it just me? Or does the Temple seem to be shinier than before? It seemed to be glowing. I walked in feeling the peace that always wraps itself around me as I enter, but noticed a beautiful new piece of artwork that I had never seen before. There were new and beautiful paintings throughout the temple. It seemed better and more grand than my mind could recall. As I spent a few hours there with my friends I realized that the Temple being flooded with unwelcome muddy water to destroy everything it touched, and some things it didn’t touch, perhaps was instructive. I began to think maybe it was a lesson for me, from above, and maybe for all who would have eyes to see or ears to hear. I realized like the temple my life had taken some heavy hits, and it had been rebuilt into a better, bigger, grander, stronger version than it was before. I realized HE was there all along during the storm. HE was there all along through my personal storms.
It took years, lots of tears and hard work before I noticed some of the rainbows and beauty that have emerged from the mud and ashes in my life
Some of my rainbows are: All 5 of my biological children are drawn to people with special needs, and they are drawn to them. They will find each other in any setting and instantly click. They notice people around them who are left out, or unable to speak for themselves, will help them and stand up for them because they grew up with a brother with has lived most of his life with disabilities and has not had the ability to speak. They feel comfortable and accepting with people that are different, I did not teach them any of this, it has all come naturally because of their life with Travis.
I have learned to forgive, and have had to do so many times in my life. My brother was killed by an intoxicated young man close to his young age in a car accident who would consequently be charged with vehicular manslaughter. Because of the circumstances surrounding my brother’s tragic death, it was a challenge for all of us to not be angry with the driver who chose to get behind the wheel inebriated and drive. My parent’s anger eventually turned into compassion. They led the way in forgiveness and mercy. They became an advocate and friend to the young driver who was charged. It was because of my parent’s pleadings with the Judge that he did not spend most of his life behind bars, and was able to turn his life around. He and my parents stayed in touch until the end of their lives. This example has been a gift to me and has served me throughout my life when I have had the need to also forgive.
Years later, I would get a call from Child Protective Services asking if I would be willing to care temporarily for a 23-month-old special needs little girl who they were having a hard time finding a placement for. Because I had spent the past 15 years raising and caring for my own son with disabilities I had the courage and the confidence to say yes to that call. I brought her into our home that day. Our sweet Olivia has been with us a little over four years and has brought more joy than can be measured.
To say that having a child go through a catastrophic life-changing accident is hard on your marriage, is well, the understatement of the century. I could write a thousand blog posts on how and why, but I won’t. You can take my word for it, it is. I will say that I lost myself a lot during this time. I didn’t laugh much, I completely stopped being, and lost my ability and desire to be creative. I didn’t take care of myself very well physically or emotionally. I could go on and on with all of this, but again, I won’t. I became a very different version of myself. I won’t speak for my husband, but I can speak for both of us and say that we came to a crossroads and had to decide if we should stay married or move on. We both had a lot of good reasons to take either path. We decided that we would once again choose each-other and begin to rebuild and invest in our marriage. It was put back on the list of priorities and has remained since. We begin to spend time, money and effort on US, we have never stopped or looked back. This is by far the brightest rainbow ever to shine in my life. We aren’t perfect, but we are in love. We are best friends. We laugh often, we talk for hours (ok- I talk for hours and Jed listens or at least pretends to). I believe that together we are shinier and better than we were before the storm hit. I can now say I’m thankful for all of it, good and bad, and especially for my hunky husband.
These are just a few of my own rainbows. I know you too have yours. Maybe you haven’t noticed them yet. Perhaps the storm is still raging or the smoke hasn’t cleared enough for you to see clearly yet. It will eventually, it always does. I promise if you keep moving forward with faith, or just trying to have faith, eventually you will see. They will be there. They always are.
I’m looking forward to the once spectacular Notre Dame Cathedral being rebuilt. I wish I would have been there before the fire to see it with my own eyes. I plan on standing in front of it someday and taking a selfie when it is bright and shiny again. I know it will have added beauty because of its scars and will be a testament of faith and resilience to us all. As it’s being rebuilt, I plan on working on what needs to be remodeled in my life now. I hope when I take that selfie, I will be a little better version of me than I am today. It will remind me once again that beauty truly can, and does come from ashes. We can be assured that HE is and was always there.