by Abigail Alleman
I drove 1100 miles up the eastern central part of the U.S. My husband travelled in front of me as he chatted with our oldest child. I was keeping peace between the younger two as we caravanned on the interstate roads. So much transpired in a little more than three months.
We were first introduced to a new ministry position working with refugees mid-February of 2021. In just a short month, we decided to move from our ministry to students to this new position of helping refugees resettle in the U.S.
Many changes came upon us. We needed to prepare our very lived-in home in Orlando for sale in a month’s time. After the sale process of our home, we had to look for homes virtually in the Chicago suburbs and choose one to buy. It was a flurry of things I do not love at all.
Now we were on our way to our new home. As we rounded the street towards the small yellow ranch we’d purchased, I felt very unsure. Had we done the right thing? Our new house was about half of the size of our former home. The reality of this much less space than we had grown accustomed to felt like an unsure path as to how we would manage the change.
I also thought about the many shocked faces of each one with whom we shared our big move. Each asked the same question: why would we leave the warm winter of Florida for the many cold months of Illinois? I held unease as I processed this question. Oh, truly, how would we make it through the winter in a smaller, seemingly crowded home?
A day later, I looked into the eyes of a father and son, refugees with a horrific story of running for their lives in their home country. As they labored to carry our things to their needed place, I experienced the grace of the privilege to care for them even while we began our relationship with them caring for me. They had sacrificed so much to live righteously and finally arrive in this country I call my own. Their belongings were so much less than mine. For they had left nearly everything behind in their harrowing journey to freedom. Wasn’t all my life grace, no matter its physical space?
Now, as I come to the present day and move about this literal winter, so much colder, I am desperate for more knowledge of this grace—the warmth of God.
My mind wanders yet with purpose to the very cold winters of my childhood when pipes froze, and old farmhouses were drafty. At times, we couldn’t pay for the oil to heat our home, so we cuddled close with blankets and space heaters. The warmth in our hearts, making it together, brought us all through.
Could I believe we could draw close to make it through this winter?
I remember, too, the years of steady winter in the hearts of my parents as they struggled deeply in their marriage. My knees rubbed raw as I knelt to pray for the restoration of their love. Years of winters came and went without change. But my heart’s hope saw winter give birth to spring like a persistent daffodil in their love renewed.
Could I have hope amid this winter, too?
My mind then travels through these past six years and the great, frosty winter which came. Years marked by the terrors of mental illness, including two hospital mental ward stays. Oh, how I wrestled in this journey as the whys came to the surface. Why would God allow me and those I love to suffer so? Yet, more than answers, in my great need, it has been the moment to moment dependence on the manifest heart of the God who heals which has sustained. I have never known a deeper grace than the one who is grace.
Could I see him who is grace in this winter, too?
My memories fade and awareness drifts back to today, now months into this transition. There is more winter here and coming. And while I heave a frigid sigh, I do the only thing I can. I remember.
For, yes, God is real in this winter too.
Abigail Alleman is a lover of life and story. She has learned to see redemption, even in the darkest places. Through her journey with mental illness, she has seen hope arise when least expected. This resiliency as well as deeper understanding of the real trauma of life, have given her a compassion which informs her life as a wife, mother, author and minister to refugees. Her first book, ‘A Million Skies: Secure in God’s Strength When Your Mind Can’t Rest’ will be released March 15, 2022. She also shares her story in her ‘Messy Life Mighty Love’ Podcast. Connect with her at www.abigailalleman.com and Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.