Now you know I’m terrified of spiders.
And if you don’t know, please take some minutes to check out my last post, so this one has some context.
We left off where I’m standing outside my spider-infested car on the side of the highway at 10:00 at night in the middle of nowhere with no cell service. The last thing I want to do is get back in the car.
And yet? The only way to get home is to face down those spiders (however many and whatever kinds they are) and get back in the car.
My armpits are on fire. My toes are curled up in my flip flops. I’m scared of what may be in the darkness around me. And terrified of what is waiting for me in the car.
But there’s only one way out of this… so I get back in the car.
It’s a story that happened ten years ago, but I’ve realized more and more that it’s a story that has begun to define me as I find myself facing down spiders in my own life:
We never wanted to get pregnant. We always, always only ever wanted our family formed through adoption. But… it happened. And we never wanted to lose a child. But in a way, we lost two. And what began as a season of highlights morphed into one spider moment after the next, month after unfolding month, year after unfolding year in this season of hard and highs:
2012: We are matched with a little boy in Korea, after waiting a year. We hold that little boy’s picture in our hands and his face in our hearts for a week, when we find out I’m pregnant. We lose the match of the little boy (due to our agency’s policy on pregnancy) and pray that little boy finds a family as we grieve. I miscarry. We grieve. I have to have a surgical D&C. We grieve. Each in our own way.
Then? They’ve held our place in the adoption process, so we get right back in and are matched with our sweet little Tobin. We begin our wait to bring him home.
2013: We spend this entire year in waiting. Waiting to bring Tobin home. Watching him grow up through pictures. Celebrating birthdays and milestones from afar. Preparing our son Knox for the arrival of his little brother. Reading books about attachment and toddler adoption. And more waiting.
2014: After 32 months of waiting, our precious Tobin comes home in April. He’s 27 months old, full of smiles and belly chuckles. Hearts are full and our family is complete.
But it’s also hard. Very hard.
I’m reading books and posts in our online community and realize our situation and the things we are dealing with are atypical. Our days are filled with cycles of hours-long meltdowns. Words he had when he first came home begin to go away. Little to no interaction with others. It’s a cloudy time of happiness and confusion and heartbreak as we try to find our bearings and figure out what is going on with our sweet boy.
2015: Tobin receives a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. While this helps explain our past year, we now dive into the struggle of finding the therapy he needs… therapy that isn’t available in our small town or surrounding towns. We find an amazing school a couple of hours away and make the commitment to drive him every day so he can receive the help he needs.
It’s a lot to take in. And absorb. And plan.
We are new at this and all it involves. There are milestones and celebrations. And failing and crying. And we process what this reality looks like and what it should look like. We think about plans we had and try to envision new plans, while trying to make things function in the present. Stumble stepping our way through. Reenvisioning. Redirecting our hearts.
And we process and grieve and reimagine. We share our struggles with only our closest confidantes. But we do this on our own, while trying to hold everything together, together.
2016: The investment is paying off as Tobin shows great improvement. Our boys are thriving. Our family is thriving. I’m experiencing my own spiritual awakening. Our new reality is coming together.
…and then we are hit with the impact this journey has had on our marriage.
2017: A new journey begins. Together.
The timeline reads like a data sheet, with short sentences describing huge events in my life. I read through them and know the stories beneath them and I feel it in my stomach: the fear, the uncertainty, the hurt, the confusion.
But then I stop and breathe. I read through that timeline again. I relive the stories beneath those sentences and I feel it in my heart: the growth, the grounding, the sifting, the grace, the love, the Good.
The holy and sacred Good. The messy, imperfect, ever-changing Good. With a capital “G.”
I see where we’ve been and I see where we are. I see the people who have come alongside to shoulder the journey with us. I relive moments I would never want to go back to. Moments that left me raw on the inside. And I see the strength that comes after. I relive outcomes I never wanted or never expected. And I relive outcomes so amazing I couldn’t have dreamed them up.
Because it all goes together.
Staying in the car means you don’t know if the spider will sneak up and bite you, or if one will come dangling in front of your face and you slide off the road, or if all the spiders will just sneak out the back door. You don’t know.
Because everybody has a spider to deal with.
Sometimes it’s the death of someone close to you. Or the betrayal of someone you trusted. Or losing a job you love. Or hating a job you have. Sometimes it’s holding the hand of someone during a mess they made themselves. Or owning up to a mistake you’ve made all on your own. Sometimes it’s taking the risk to pursue a dream. Or picking yourself up after failing at something new. Sometimes that spider is the wait of a diagnosis. And sometimes it’s looking right into the eight beady eyes of it.
And still you get in the car.
Brian always tells me that spiders don’t like the cold. I also know that spiders don’t like light. So picture this: I’m driving. Gripping the steering wheel, air conditioner set on frigid, BLASTING through the vents with all the lights on. I’ve got my music turned up as a distraction, and I’m crying, singing, and praying simultaneously, while shaking because I’m so cold. The vents are blowing so furiously that occasionally the hair on top of my head blows, so I then slap the top of my head, afraid it’s a spider. All. The. Way. Home.
The end of the story? I make it home. And I have my car exterminated.
Obviously, I don’t know what the future holds. And I don’t know what spiders await in the dark. And the next leg and leg and leg of the journey may be even more difficult than the first.
Because those spiders? You never can tell… Yes, sometimes spiders are waiting in the dark to pounce while you sleep. And yes, sometimes those small ones have a deadly bite. But sometimes the big, scary ones you were the most afraid of are actually harmless.
And it’s all okay. It’s more than okay.
It’s Good. The holy and sacred kind.
Because you never know how brave you are until you get back in your car.
POST SCRIPT: A Note on Bravery
I’ve found that the more I deal with the real spiders of life, the less afraid I am of the arachnid kind…
Our friend Garrett brought over his friend Telam so I could face my fear. Because bravery doesn’t always look pretty… It’s often a hand-shaking, heart-pounding, eyes-closed experience.
But often? Your bravery inspires others to take the risk:
You have been special since the day you were born! God loves you , and so do I!!!!!
Thank you so much, Mrs. Hartwig! Love you and your heart and the way you have always encouraged all your kiddos to reach for the stars!
You are special and I love you but this is nuts.
‘You never know how brave you are until you get back in the car.’ Beautiful! Thank you for sharing your stories. You inspire!
Thanks so much, Jen. I’m so thankful for our mutual friend… she introduces me to the very best people. 🙂
All the words in my heart right now…all of them. You know them.
And you know the ones in mine.
So thankful for you. For all the ways you forever teach me… and so much more.
I am proud of you and your family! You are all such an inspiration on not a perfect life but a Good life! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks so much. So thankful for all those important early lessons you taught me about determination and the courage to take risks.