Yesterday someone asked how my summer had gone.

“Hard,” I said.

Other than four lovely days relaxing at a friend’s cottage on Chebeague Island, I spent most of each day writing in my shed. Usually my personal writing schedule consists of a few hours each morning and as much time as I can squeeze in on Saturdays. But this summer, I had a deadline to finish the memoir about my daughter Ruth’s life.

I didn’t really think it was possible. I wasn’t sure I remembered enough of the years after her adoption. The years of doctor’s appointments. The surgery she underwent to be able to hear. The weekly therapy sessions to teach her the meaning of sound. I’d been too busy to write much down. The pages of my journal were mostly filled with notes about me–my frustrations, my hopes, my concerns, and my prayers.

“Sustain me, Lord,” became my daily plea.

As I looked back, I realized He had. Not in the BIG ways I’d been hoping–a contract for my children’s book, a grant, an unexpected windfall. He did it one by one, day by day through friends who helped Ruth get ready for school, drove our oldest sons to Boy Scouts, brought by a chicken dinner, wrote an encouraging note, took the kids for a day, donated much needed furniture, sent a check at Christmas, or even gave a gift certificate for Dana and me to go out to a restaurant.

God didn’t pay off the mortgage. He didn’t replace our rusting van. But through the love of friends, He kept us going. Those same friends were there soon after the bitter February night we lost Ruth. Still giving their small gifts of love. Still sustaining us. One came by yesterday to give me a one hour massage and listen to my hurting heart. I couldn’t have paid her for the gift of knowing how much she cared.

Rather than following my normal writing schedule, I wrote all I could this summer–six to ten hours a day. Sometimes more. Our esteemed child care provider–the one who helped get Ruth ready for school–made it possible by watching our younger children. Just before the final week of summer, I finished Ruth’s book: 315 pages. Now I’ll spend the next month or so editing before sending it off to an interested agent.

I’m not looking forward to it.

“It’s like sucking on a snake bite, drawing all that poison to the surface,” I said to Dana of writing about Ruth’s loss. “But if I didn’t do it, the toxins would kill me.”

Last week, I took a break from writing to clean the house. Today, Labor Day, my husband and I will spend with the kids. Then, tomorrow, I will be back in my writing shed turning all that venom into a medicine that I hope will help heal others.

“My heart overflows with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer,” (Psalm 45:1).

How was your summer? Got any special plans for the fall? How have friends helped sustain you in the hard times?