Some blessings from this year are:
The birth of our son, Jeremiah
The birth of our nephew, James
Angelina turning 8
Buying a minivan to accommodate our growing family
Helping my aunt say goodbye to the farm in Reading
Renovating an area of our house
A much-needed and free! weekend get-away before the baby came
There have been many more blessings and challenges this past year. There have been many times I've felt like we were barely hanging on, our entire world dangling and fragile on the frayed threads of life. I try to look at every challenge as a blessing; keeping the faith that God will keep us from letting go, from falling, from those spindly lines releasing us. And He always does....mostly at the last minute (something I'd really like to take up with Him when I get to heaven!). But He does it in His perfect timing and our faith is strengthened and so is our resolve.
Through all the challenges and blessings, a topic that has been ruminating in my mind and heart this entire year is Family. Attempts to draw closer to ours have been haphazard at times but I feel like this year a bigger effort was made more than ever. Sometimes the effort was reciprocated, sometimes not. I am not sure why but we felt really called to try to do as much as possible on our end and many moments were spent in despair, prayer and thanksgiving for all our efforts, meager, fulfilled or otherwise. It took me this entire year to realize that we can't do more than that. We can't do more than make an effort and pray that God will bless it. In my times of despair I have forgotten this. And I have forgotten that sometimes, though family will always be family, it's okay to let go a little and accept that things are the way they are. "It is what it is" has got to be one of the most irritating mantras ever, but at the same time, it is so fitting for this topic, and something I've prayerfully come to as an answer many times.
Just this past week, I was blessed with a beautiful gift which gave me much hope for the future: eyes open to a part of our family I never really saw before. Something I wasn't really aware of, something that was shown to me so that I could understand and have more compassion for family members I am often perplexed by. Joe's mom and two of her three siblings came to our home to celebrate Christmas. From what I understood, the desire to celebrate as a family was lacking on their end because of various difficulties they've had over the last year, including a distancing of their other sibling from them. But Joe offered to host a gathering here so that we could all be together, despite the difficulties of the past year. We hoped it would work out.
One thing I hadn't expected was the ease of the evening, the relaxed atmosphere, and the genuine care shared by all. Emotions for some over certain topics were quite raw, but the love that was expressed was boundless. The gift of seeing these people in their broken states, grasping at a better connection and understanding, sharing laughter and some tears and frustration, was probably the best gift I could've gotten this season. It helped me to realize that sometimes, I cannot expect things to always be perfect. Sometimes it is what it is. Sometimes, things are just left to Hope.
I have to admit that I had some reservations about doing anything major this year, including going anywhere but especially hosting anything, because I have been high in anxiety and low in depression for the past 6 months. But the importance of family trumped my anxiety and reservations and I was pleasantly surprised when our get together turned out the way it did. Joe's aunt and uncle came with food abounding, saving me from having to run around and cook and bake and do a ton of things- a welcome gift through the gravity of my anxiety. 'No worries' was their motto and as they slipped into action so easily to help as much as possible in that area, I smoothed myself into the folds of a more relaxed and calm aura about me. It was so nice to be told that they would bring whatever I needed when we told them how difficult things had been for me emotionally and we weren't sure we were up to having anything after all. (Wine was definitely a high priority!) They delivered as they promised, and showed their love in so many ways- from bringing tons of food to shepherding children, helping clean up and spending time just being here; not in a rush to leave, not aware of the hour.
It really spoke to me, as I was observing the dynamics of this family, their relationships and worries which they spoke of, the emotion behind their brokenness, etc, that they could still come together as much as possible and do for each other, for me, for us, despite all they felt and faced. It's a theme I try to practice in my own life but often fail; it's a theme that speaks of Family. For this is what families do. They pick each other up, they give unconditionally, if they fight, they 'fight til it's done,' they move on. The fierceness of their giving of love is as deep and hungry as their wanting of it. Sometimes things aren't perfect. For a long time, I wondered why I just didn't get it, why I felt at odds, why my husband felt neglected. But seeing them this Christmas, sharing thoughts and feelings - just BEING - changed that for me. It gave me an understanding I hadn't had before; something I grasped at often, almost there but not quite. This Christmas, I finally got it.
I was told more than once how warm our home was, how beautiful, how full of love. Yet I think much of the warmth and love that night was because of the company. There was joy amidst the occasional sorrow; there was laughter among the tears. Whatever we do to create a warm, loving atmosphere in our home was illuminated by all of that, by the willingness to try. And try we did. It was just so easy. We were all so relaxed; no expectations, no demands. Even the "chaos" of the kids seemed easily navigated, and as the hours passed and the night got very late, their boisterous motoring about just became part of the symphony of the ever-closer dynamic.
Joe and I both felt it, felt the connection and love, the relaxing atmosphere, the warmth and closeness. I am so grateful for this gift as it was the perfect ending to such a trying year. We have often been in despair from living as far as we do from all of our family, from not having the types of relationships we want with everyone, from being left out of things, from not being able to do enough for others. Yet there was always a desire to try, to obtain understanding, to forgive, to accept and to just LOVE.
I don't know if everyone felt what I felt the other night when they were here. I don't know if they could ever understand how much I have loved them and do love them, how completely grateful I am that they are in my life. Though things are not always perfect, though there are bumps we often hit, misunderstandings to be sorted out, though we all will face hardships within our separate lives, there is always time for Family, there is always room for Love and Hope.
As we begin another year, Joe and I wish to continue on in this state of mind: to let things be as they are, to accept more and worry less, to always have time for family no matter what. And as the Christmas season comes to a close and we approach the feast of the Epiphany, we will carry through with us the theme of the Advent and Christmas seasons both: Hope. It was given to us the first Christmas so long ago and it is given to us every year as we commemorate that first coming of Christ. We need to keep it alive not just for this season, but every day, the whole year through.
|Aunt Tonia, Lina Belle (My M.I.L.), me and the kids|
|The ladies. :-)|
Happy New Year, everyone, and may your days be filled with Hope!