This post is difficult. It is difficult to think about as it has tormented me for the last few days. It is difficult to put into words—something I usually have no trouble with when I sit in front of my keyboard. It is also emotionally painful. It is something I feel I need to write about, yet I fear that those who may read it will not fully understand the big picture. The greater fear is those who read it will be quick to offer platitudes that I know are true (to a point at least), yet they really do not reach the heart of the issue. I also know those words will come from others who love Jesus. I am already in the process of figuring out a way to protect myself from those words as well as working on a response that says I understand what you are saying but this is just really different…
I get this feeling several times throughout the year. Sometimes it lasts only a short while; other times it persists for weeks or even months. This time of year is of the latter duration. Always. It doesn’t necessarily have to be triggered by anything, but this time its trigger was one that seems to trigger many of my downward emotional spirals—Facebook. I have such a love/hate relationship with Facebook. It has so much power in my life. At times I log in and read something or see something that brings a smile to my face and warms my heart. Other times, I log in and read or see something that causes sadness, heartache, jealousy, and other negative emotions. (That was a very difficult sentence to type, by the way. I want to be authentic so I admit the power a social media website has over me, but I am ashamed of it still) I know that most people only post the good things about their lives. Their posts often contain smiley emoticons, exclamation points, little hearts and a happiness that flows out of the computer screen. A glance at their timeline reveals what seems to be the perfect life—perfect marriage, perfect kids, perfect days, perfect peace. I am very much a realist so not only do I know that no one has all those things, I make it a point to not be one of those people. Perhaps I go too far the other way too often—only posting negative things, but I would hate someone to look at my Facebook page and think that I live in a Mayberry world where problems are only as big as Opie telling a white lie to hi pa. Of course there are moments like that—moments when I am proud of my kids or happy about something. The other side of that, though, is life is messy and often difficult.
Where is this all going?
If you know me well, you know I am not a fan of spring or summer. The heat and humidity of summer cause my illness to flare and make my daily life quite difficult. I don’t really like sunshine all that much either. Spring is just muddy and the pretty white snow is all black and gross. The salt and mud get tracked into the house so our entryway always looks horrible. I’m sure a man chose the flooring for this house; a woman would never have put white linoleum in the entryway. Fall and winter, on the other hand, find me enjoying the weather. I love clouds and rain and snow and falling leaves and colder weather. I know—I’m strange. (It’s why I seldom fit in with people but that is for another post) Fall brings a great candy selection as Halloween approaches, roasted pumpkin seeds, Thanksgiving, and, of course, Christmas. The months of September to December are without a doubt my favorite months of the year. There is one thing, though, that these months bring that is like a dagger to my heart. It is in these months, the last two especially, that families get together for celebrations. My Facebook newsfeed is filled with pictures of holiday gatherings of parents and offspring, brothers and sisters, kids and cousins. Smiling faces look at the camera as extended family gather around a beautiful Thanksgiving table. That scene doesn’t show up in any of my photo albums. My Facebook photos do not show me with my siblings or cousins or even parents. Dave’s family, with the exception of one brother who lives in the metro area, is absent from the pictures as well. It is not even common now for us to have all of our own kids in the pictures. They have grown and have lives of their own. Getting home for Thanksgiving just doesn’t happen due to job responsibilities or weather issues. Don’t misunderstand—I am very thankful for the times I do get to see them and I cherish those moments. There is something about a day like Thanksgiving, though, that their absence rubs raw emotions even more.
I cling to the hope that someday our home will be filled with our own kids with their spouses and children around our Thanksgiving table. I want to be the one in my family to break the generational pattern of hatred. We are off to a good start so far…our four kids all love each other and, I think at least, want to be around each other. One is married and expecting our first grandbaby. One is getting married next spring. Last Christmas all four plus our son-in-law were here for Christmas Day. My heart was overwhelmed with happiness. The seven of us, plus Dave’s oldest brother, all sat down to a wonderful Christmas meal. I don’t know what this season will hold. I am hoping for a repeat of last year with an added presence of our future daughter-in-law. It would do this heart good—that’s for sure. But I also know that things don’t always work out like I want them to.
I’ve heard it said that the church is a family. We are all part of God’s family, therefore we are brothers and sisters in Christ. That is a wonderful thought—someday we will all gather around God’s table as one big family with our Father, God. On earth, though, most of these Christian brothers and sisters have real family to spend their special days with. Can I ashamedly but honestly say I envy them? Can I admit that even though it is wrong, jealousy creeps in as I see the pictures of extended family gathered around your Thanksgiving table? And even though I don’t deserve it, can you show mercy when I don’t always click the “like” button on those photos? It isn’t that I don’t like them; it is more that they cause me to really see that for the here and now, family gatherings of moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, aunts, uncles and cousins will not be a part of my life. The church may be a family but it is a different kind of family. I’m not sure it can take the place of real family. I know, at least in my life, it has been unable to soothe the deep wounds left by that real family. The Bible says that God puts the lonely in families…what is one supposed to do when the family is the thing that made you lonely in the first place?