Faith, life, Spiritual Encouragement
Comments 3

A New Normal, A Better View

We slurped angel hair pasta with meat sauce for dinner at about 8:30. The TV joined us because we’ve been watching old episodes of Chuck. It was Wednesday night, which meant that the boys needed to put out the garbage for early morning pick-up. The laundry is a bit stacked up, the floors need mopping and I started a grocery list.

All is normal at the Santos house.

And I couldn’t be happier about that.

All this normal. Well, it’s a dream come true for me.

photo, Gemmina Olmstead

Anyone who knows me, who’s read much of this blog, knows that three years ago, our normal was shocked, interrupted by a drunk driver. The accident was near-fatal and although our kids miraculously walked away from the wreckage, the impact left Angelo trapped behind the steering wheel with a broken fibula and me, well, broken, in a lot of ways. Somehow my leg lay flung and awkward on the dashboard. I was immobile as I sat oddly in the passenger seat, wondering why breathing was becoming so difficult and knowing that everything in my body screamed with pain, yet I was numb.

The story of those first few hours–and the following days–still brings chills to my arms, makes the hairs stand on end. The divine appointments, the prayers and heaven’s response are the light and sparkle, the constellation of miracles, upon my memory of the darkest night of our lives.

And if you’ve walked alongside us, or read through the pages of my therapy writing here on my blog, you know that about four days later, I began to breathe on my own without the aid of life support and journey toward full recovery.

As weeks crawled into months of painful night after night, as I faced another surgery to remove the titanium rod from my leg and have a bigger one rammed through my bone, as physical therapy became a part-time job and I progressed from hopping with a walker to taking steps with a cane, I would collapse onto the couch, tears streaming from the corners of my eyes and cry, “Will I ever be normal again? Will this really ever pass? Will my days ever cease to begin and end with pain?”

Oh, I needed some flickering light of hope on these weeknights that I fell on the couch spent from constant pain and the effort of just trying to be my kids’ mom.

Somehow “normal” had become an elusive dream, a gift floating just beyond my reach.

I will always be affected by the injuries. I trace my fingertips along the track-like scars running above my belly-button and down my leg. I am physically repaired but never what I once was. And my life has fallen into a rhythm that to the ear sounds normal, adagio. We have work and school and seasons and bills to pay and a lawn to mow. We were a happy, average family before August 14, 2011 and we are again.

But something syncopated and unexpected, beats below the surface.

Every day, thoughts of life, of the gift of my being here, even my daily murmurings about sweeping dog-hair (a problem with our gratuitously shedding corgis) and messy kiddos remind me that we almost didn’t have this normal life. And for all it’s average-ness on the surface, all this normal is a miracle.

Each and every day I have a mental conversation with God about the night I lay bare and broken and vulnerable in the back of an emergency vehicle preparing to exit this world even as the EMT worked furiously to save my life.

I had said my goodbyes in my mind, released my family, relinquished control, accepted that I was no longer able to breathe. Even dependent for help to breathe; how little control I actually possess.

In my mind, in my spirit, I moved toward heaven, And Jesus. No other name formed in my thoughts or upon my lips. Just Jesus, and me, and the hands of the trained medic injecting needles into my veins and insterting a tube down my throat, so he could breathe for me.

Oh, that you would breathe for me, God, I whisper now. That you would know I am, was, will be ready for eternity, but do you know, dear Jesus, how very hard it is to walk with both feet here, committed to life here when I was so close to seeing that beautiful shore. It is a “sweet by and by”, I know, because I was crossing and my soul longed to be in its rightful place with you.

Of course you do, Jesus. This tension, this longing to be engaged in life yet fully trusting God’s will and purpose for you, led you to the cross. You were carrying that cross in your spirit during all your years here. It’s silly of me to doubt that you understand.

And friends, I know this is not normal. I am not normal.

I am just an average girl, not a big world-changer, just me. But my scars only tell the beginning of the story.

My scars lead me, in ragged lines, to the reality that I was saved to live an ordinary life in the light of extraordinary grace.


I glimpsed the concept of eternity, just barely glimpsed it, and even now I can’t get through a day without longing for home.

But I have this rare and beautiful grace to be here: to cook meals and discipline my kids; to clean toilets and somehow sing broken praises to God in a room filled with normal folks; to study the Word and watch the news; to pray with and for others; to eat cookie dough and fresh peaches; to go through the workweek with Angelo and awaken on Saturday mornings to coffee and easy conversation; to work hard and have sore muscles; to receive and give and breathe in the scent of lavender in the garden.

And it all is tinged with the blood of my Savior, the giver of this normal life at the cost of extreme sacrifice.

When he broke bread, every single time, Jesus offered thanks to his Father.

Jesus was thankful for the most common, the most mundane of daily nourishment. I’m sure it stuck in his throat, tight from emotion, when he took mouthfuls of mundane because he understood the incredible gift of this life here on earth. Because he knew, and dying has taught me in ways living could not: that it is all gift. The here and now, the insurmountable suffering and indescribable joy and everything in between, the entire human experience is all gift, redeemed and pulsing with the life of God because he does the breathing for this planet. He does the breathing for me, for you.

It’s hard truth, this knowing that we have so much and so little control, that our every movement is an act of faith, that our only real hope is Jesus and our future is made certain only by his name.

And its this tension that pulls and twangs and pops below the hum of status quo and in syncopated beats and flashes leads us beyond normal to the beautiful shore.

I hear the waters lapping on the golden sand. I am ready to set sail.

There’s a land that is fairer than day,

And by faith we can see it afar;

For the Father waits over the way

To prepare us a dwelling place there.

In the sweet by and by, 
We shall meet on that beautiful shore;

In the sweet by and by,
 We shall meet on that beautiful shore.

We shall sing on that beautiful shore

The melodious songs of the blessed;

And our spirits shall sorrow no more,

Not a sigh for the blessing of rest.

In the sweet by and by,
 We shall meet on that beautiful shore;

In the sweet by and by, 
We shall meet on that beautiful shore.

To our bountiful Father above,

We will offer our tribute of praise

For the glorious gift of His love

And the blessings that hallow our days.

In the sweet by and by,

We shall meet on that beautiful shore;

In the sweet by and by,
 We shall meet on that beautiful shore. {Sanford F. Bennet}

 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ,

after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 

To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. {1 Peter 5:10-11}



  1. Alyssa,
    I am thankful with you that Jesus was with you then and now. I think our stories as held within God and His plan are blessings that touch countless people… If only we’d share them. Thank you for sharing.

    I know how you feel in your thankfullness. I can never say no to God asking me to share, for it would have been lived in vain. I can never let that happen.

    May The Lord bless you and others through you as you share Him.

  2. Niki Anderson says

    Ahhhhh…peace to my soul are your well chosen words, your truthful reality. Thank you, dear one.

  3. Pingback: Michelle DeRusha | I’m an Itchy Christian {I am a Spiritual Misfit Series}

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