There was a time when we felt that the only word we heard from God was, “no.” It was painful. We learned all the lessons they teach you in Sunday School about being refined by fire. But in real time. There was nothing romantic about it. Not even the promise of gold.

We were disoriented.

We were lost.

We just kept walking doggedly forward.

That was four years ago now. And one of the places we passed through en route to starting over was the home I’m sitting in today. With my brother and sister-in-law. It’s cold now like it was then and I remember how well they loved us without actually using words. Because sometimes words are too difficult to say. Sometimes you’re just not ready to dissect what you’ve been through. Sometimes you need both more and less than the words.

We’d been two years in Ukraine where we’d slept on a mattress little more than two wadded up blankets.

We’d been two years in South Africa where we’d house-hopped.

It’d been over four years since we’d seen any of the furniture we bought when we were first married. Four years since we’d had anything permanent. And most of it was stored in Chris and Jill’s basement. When we arrived out of the dark and cold of the Wisconsin night they were up and waiting for us.

Jackson was barely turned one and battling off a terrible flu from the climate adjustment. I was sick with the loss of home and we were adrift on the grace of others for what would come next. We had been sleeping badly for weeks and were anticipating an inflatable mattress or the couch.

Jill led us downstairs to the basement as I carried the dead weight of Jack and anticipated a long, sleepless night of him throwing up and Pete and I taking it in turns to re-inflate the mattress, wash him down, and try again for a few more hours of rest. But at the bottom of the stairs was home. At the bottom of the stairs was the bed Pete and I had bought as newly weds and only slept on for two years of our nearly six years of marriage.

“I thought you might like to sleep on your own bed,” Jill had said.

She’d set it up for us in all its king-size glory. Wrapped in fresh sheets and layered with comforters and blankets and down pillows it was waiting on us. Something melted inside of me. Something hard and angry. As I put Jackson into the bed and sank down into its depths something crushing my heart shifted and I could breathe.

We all three slept in that bed for nigh on ten hours straight and everyone had more than enough room.

That dark basement welcomed us into a place outside of time zones and failure and the bed accepted us back into its bosom and rocked us through the night. Held in the embrace of family without a word being said.

Pete and I return to that same bed tonight. We fly home from visiting Chris and Jill five years and two kids later and we will sink into that very same mattress. It has seen tears and love and milk spilled from a hundred bottles drunk by baby boys in the dark watches of the night. It has heard rebukes and prayers and desperate dreams for the future. That bed cradles my growing belly and the baby girl that is coming to us. That bed has lost frame and headboard and shape over the years as it has molded into us and we into it.

We may have bought that bed in South Bend, Indiana but it was given to us on a cold winter night in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The best re-gifting ever

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