I'm a bit of a heat freak, which basically means I want to be in the sunshine always. I wear sunburns and tan lines with the amount of pride normal people would reserve for Gucci, Prada, and Louis Vuitton. This (of course) makes summer in Texas and South Carolina basically the best thing ever. But my favorite thing IN THE WORLD to do is walk outside into the sunlight after I've been freezing inside an extremely air conditioned building all day. The door opens and you hit a wall of heat; within seconds you can feel yourself thawing from the inside out. After a couple of minutes, you almost forget what being cold feels like in the first place because warmth, heat, and sunlight are the only things you can feel....and when you're finally warm and you walk back inside, for a couple of seconds you carry that warmth and light with you as a glow on your skin. That is the experience that makes me smile without fail every time it happens, and it's the same reason I get mad at autumn every time it rolls around.
This is all coming to mind because right now my family and our best friends are on vacation in Arkansas. The first couple of days we were here it was HOT, and getting out of the lake was wonderful because you dried off in five seconds flat....until a few mornings in when I walked outside and it was just as cold out there as it was in the apartment. The day was still beautiful, the trees were still gorgeous, and our time at the lake was just as fun as ever. But it was lacking that special something that made it "my" day.
And the reason for this analogy / long, boring story IS....
Being home this summer has been wonderful and has reminded me of the grace of God a million times over. I've been given so many wonderful people to help me work through the loss of Daniel, only a few of which are actually in the same state as me. I've made friends with people I probably wouldn't have talked to otherwise, and have never stopped being thankful for the incredible grace and patience my friends, family, and Savior have shown me. But I always feel a tiny bit awkward because there's a little list of questions I don't really know how to answer truthfully: "how are you", "are you excited to go back to school", "do you think it will be too different", and "what's been the hardest thing for you to deal with?" I never quite know what to say, and this analogy is the closest thing I can come up with.
Like shifting from summer to autumn, shifting from the season of my life with Daniel in it to one without him is going to be incredibly hard, and I'm going to be upset about it for a very, very long time. Just like autumn holds a beauty all its own, I know the Lord is going to do just as much with Daniel gone and home as He did with him here. In its own unique way, watching the grace and providence of the Lord unfold will be beautiful, as He gives friends, family, and everyone hurting the ability to get up in the morning and face the world without Daniel in it. But much like walking outside into a world without the summer sunshine, there's something about going back to school without him that means it's not longer quite "my" place. Regardless of where I am, home in Texas or back at CIU, both places lack the degree of warmth, comfort, light, and homeness that I seem to keep looking for. There's a hole in our sweet family that no one else can fill, and no matter how bright the days get they'll never be quite as special as they were when he strutted across campus. They're just missing something extra....something that felt like summer. Something that for us was so uniquely Daniel.
So for anyone whose ever asked me those questions and has watched me awkward bumble my way through "I'm...I'm fine?" there's your answer :) I can't wait to be back with the friends I've been given (old AND new)....though at this point these beautiful people really do feel more like family. They are so very precious to me. And all I can really think as summer winds to a close and August looms ahead is "well Junior year....you sure are going to be an adventure."