Life is delicious these days. The air in these piney woods feels like magic, the relationships and interactions with both my old and newly developing tribe are particularly sweet, each sunrise feels like a kiss from a lover, and my heart beats a grateful rhythm in my chest. After everything that has transpired in the last three years, this part of the journey has brought a particular joy I thought I would never know again.

A large portion of this season has been tinged with restoration: the restoring of dead dreams and left behind hopes and bitter ends and painful longings for unanswered prayers.

After a serious relationship ended (by my choice) three years ago, I found myself afraid to be outside my house in the dark, I stopped attending my church so as not to be under his leadership, and I was sad. So very very sad. I didn’t know how deeply the abuse and narcissism had affected my soul just then. I didn’t have words for the fear that had seeped into all the areas of my life.

Then my grandmother died. I listened to her death rattle for a week while she fought the end of her life; I didn’t sleep for weeks afterward while those horrid sounds replayed over and over in my head at night. I left the lights on all the time and cried and cried. That was the year of lonely, sleepless nights. I won’t soon forget it.

It was some time after that when I knew it was time to leave my job. But things failed. Or rather, didn’t go as I planned. Then my mum got sick. With a heavy heart and a handful of broken dreams and a broken heart, I moved back north.

I’ll skip over the next 18 months in the story. It was a lonely, sometimes sweet, oftentimes hard, part of the journey. I will always be thankful for those days, though. They taught me a lot, brought some good folks in my path, and helped me understand better the need for healthy boundaries.

And then wild things happened. The goodness has taken my breath away. I have asked the Lord nearly every day, “Is this real? Is this real?” He has assured me, through His word, through His spirit, through the actions and words of others, that this is, indeed, very very real.

My dreams of working in higher education, particularly at a state institution, have been restored. My job is so great that it doesn’t feel like work. It wears me out, it challenges what I know, it pushes my introvert limits to the max, but it doesn’t feel like work. It feels like magic made every day in the confines of an unassuming group of offices filled with ordinary people doing extraordinary things. The people with whom I serve these kids absolutely amaze me. They are incredibly talented, passionate, and raw. I love their honesty, their compassion, and their hearts.  I love their good morning greetings and their willingness to work and their acts of service. I love them for who they are and how they suss out quiet lives with dedication and grace and integrity. Every one of them will go far and I am so excited to have joined them in this part of their journey.

My inner longing to live and work in East Texas has been restored. I had given it up, laid it down, and let it go sometime last year. But here I am. Right where I have wanted to be for so long. It has been more lovely and more comforting than I dared hope.

And the friendships I have rekindled in recent months. The sweetness has been almost too much to bear.  M and I walked away from our friendship four years ago in a bitter meet  over forgotten coffee cups. It was terrible. I haven’t been angry for a long long time, yet I also wasn’t willing to reach out anymore. But…I laid down my pride and stomped over my walls some weeks ago. That’s how I found myself curled up in a sweet little coffee shop near downtown Dallas, looking into brown eyes I know. Apologies were made, catching up on four years of life was done, and now we can rest again in the sweetness of a friendship defined by raw conversation and calling one another to the carpet when necessary. I have some mad respect for this guy. Glad he’s here.

In that same day, I also experienced the joy of a meal and a sunset with my A and her husband. It had been a few years, but it might as well have been yesterday since we last spoke. What grace.

J and I didn’t talk for almost two years. We weren’t even mad. We were just plain busy and consumed by personal events. But to hear her voice and hear her life and hear her laughter made a rainy evening lovely. She doesn’t feel so far away anymore. I’m so thankful.

The best restoration of relationship story is not even a rekindling, but a letting go. That abuse and narcissism that crippled my tender heart? Well, I’m not afraid of him anymore. I haven’t been for a long time, but I didn’t know if it was real until I found myself living only 90 miles away. But I’m not afraid. I’m just free. I can honestly say I’m happy for him and his new, growing family. I will never see him again, never have to watch my back, never have to fear an angry outburst or another threat. I am free. Free to live without fear. Free to love. Free to be honest and real with another human being. It feels awfully nice.

The past few months have seen answers to every prayer but one. And that last one, it’s kinda big. I’m okay with waiting a while longer. When I think about the restoration of the past few months, I am awash in joy. I can’t believe it. It is all so wonderful. It’s real, but I just can’t quite believe it. Life cannot possibly get any sweeter.

What delicious days. My heart, my life, my career, my dreams…all has been redeemed and restored. All is gift. All of it. The wild past, the achingly sweet present, the hopeful future. All is gift.