I grab a pen and sheet of wrinkled notebook paper with a red smear on the side where it bled from the water on the counter. “All together now, after being apart. . . a family . . Does God feel disjointed when the church, His children, are divided? Does He sadden when daughters and sons turn away?”
I spaghetti-scrawl it, and it stays on the counter a few days the beginning of August, when our daughter has returned from a week away, and then our sons, the next week, rejoin the family, too. They had gone away to be with my parents–Abby to learn how to sew and Jackson and Oliver to help with almond harvest. Running on the dirt roads where I grew up; sewing in the room with brown paneled walls where I used to sleep.
There was a new rhythm when Abby was gone, the girl who laughs and yells, who tears around the kitchen leaping and cartwheeling on the family room’s blue and green wool stripes when she thinks I’m not looking. It was quieter, for sure, and strange, unfamiliar. And then when the boys left the following week–we picked up Abby and then dropped the boys off at the long white house plunked in the middle of orchards, with branches bending low from almonds clustered and heavy to drop–the house was quieter, stranger still. No running together round the track or reading Dystopia books under the covers or playing pick-up basketball games over at the school.
Each quiets when the members of family are missing. We adjust–reshape, maybe–when the people who surround us each day suddenly go away.
I know you know this, for you have told me. You have told me about your husband who died and the daughter who is sick. You have told me about the marriage strained and the finances stressed. You have told me of the God who feels far away and the doubt about being loved like you are, right now. Yes, together now, sisters. Can we, family, lift each other up, and pray?
These days of summer were long and good and yet the season, as a whole, was, by far, the shortest, I think, I’ve experienced. I laid down my writing for weeks. I laid down expectations for what work would be accomplished. I laid down insecurity and worry about deadlines, productivity, success, achievement. And it was hard, for as those of you read in Wide-Open Space know, there is a book releasing to you this fall–and, of course, I want to have the edits made and the details just perfectly so. But yet it is family, these lives that hold fast this heart, that causes me to reorder my days.
Stay focused on what lies in front of us to do, not on the fear of what isn’t getting done. Love. Live awake. Be present. These are not just trite saying from a cute pin from Pinterest, but truth.
So instead of writing blog posts this summer, I read your emails and responded back and I prayed. Instead of crafting updates on social media, I read your beautiful words at Loop’s Facebook page, and I listened for the Holy Spirit’s breath in my ear. You are so beautiful here, you know?
I know you can relate–when I tell you I lived for years beating myself up, wishing I were someone different than I am, someone who can juggle a million things at once, be able to be an awesome wife and mom while being creative and achievement-focused, too. And for many years I tried to do it all, all at the same time. And I wasn’t happy, and people weren’t loved the way I am made to love them. And the work wasn’t getting done the way I am capable, with God’s hand in mine, of doing. Let’s be family. Let’s slow it down.
And I wonder if this is a bit of what it means to be a family–to be able to leave a fold and feel strange and lost and crave the companionship of the ones who love us, friends who pray for us when we are away. Let us stay; let us be family: even if we feel disjointed and separate, lost and lonely and alone, we know we are gathered up, safe under wings who shield us, no matter what we face this day, no matter how we stumble and fear, no matter if we don’t know how to keep on making it through.
Let’s be family. Shall we remind each other, “You’re not alone”? Shall we say to one another, “I love you, come on home”?