As I was sorting the stack of ongoing clutter in the corner of our kitchen counter, I came across a year-in-review letter I’d yet to read from a family I knew and loved when we lived in California. I can’t stop crying. The letter was a simple detailing of the ins and outs of bits and pieces of their lives; a few highlights fitted into the standard one page Christmas letter that I know just scratches the surface of all that is really going on for them. It is a letter I look forward to every year, partly because I love them and partly because the love they share for each other that is evident in the letter is such an encouragement to me. They are a family I look up to and have sought to emulate in the ways they care for each other, their kids, in how they celebrate life, and live out their faith.
Jim and Angela were a couple with young kids when I was a newlywed-grad-student-young-life-staffer in California. I was too busy, and not quite ready, for my own kids, but hopeful. Their kids were the ages mine are now and though I have seen them growing up in this yearly letter and our facebook friendship, my mind holds onto them as little boys. But the thing is, they are not little boys, they tower over me. And the thing that is cutting me to the core is that their oldest son is in his senior year and will be graduating, and leaving to go to college, and really, I just can’t bear it.
He will be starting out on his own life adventures that I could so easily encourage in the teenagers I worked with when I was a Young Life leader there. Oh how naive I was that it was all so very wonderful. I was closer in age to them than their parents and having a wonderful time living out my newly adult adventures. So yes, go do wonderful things with your life! Hooray!
But now I am the parent. And so now, I can’t stop crying, and I know the reason is partly because I know what the future might bring all-to-soon for my little ones, but also because we are in our own season of transition.
I am returning to work after a much extended maternity leave. I have spent months preparing in my heart and mind and in our home and gathering the support people we need and making a good schedule so that I am still with my kids for a majority of their hours.
Change though, as prepared for, prayed over, and good as it might be, brings up feelings of loss and worries of future regret, and I am one to fret and weigh, and consider and reconsider big decisions. In the end, there are many reasons it makes sense for me to return, but the thought of missing one single moment with my kids, knowing that someday I would give anything to have these moments back is almost unbearable.
The reality for me though, is that I enjoy my work. I feel called to it, created for it and find immense meaning and purpose in doing it. The other reality for me is that I get restless in my role as mom and wife and homemaker; roles I also feel very much called to and created for, but my mind takes me other places and I long to do other things too. As much as I seek to capture the moments of these sweet days and live content, aware of how precious and fleeting they are, I find when I take time for intellectual and creative pursuits I am rejuvenated. I return to my family energized in a unique way that seems to actually make me more aware and intentional about the sacred time we spend with one another. Not always, of course, because work can be hard and taxing in it’s own right, but often enough to matter.
And so this morning, with our 4 year old son snuggled between us in bed, our baby girl waking to nurse at an hour I’d rather be sleeping and our first grade girl bounding with excitement for what her school day brings, I am weepy and sentimental about it all. I can’t seem to capture them enough in my heart to make them stay this way forever. Because in a moment, my infant will be taking her first steps, my pre-school son will not have leisurely mornings with me building blanket forts, and my oldest will be off to college too. My heart will be full and broken because I love them so so so very much.
My hope is that we will have created a family so saturated in love that we are free spring forth into the world to be who God has created us to be knowing we are able to return safe to welcoming arms flung wide open, emulating our Savior who delights in relationship with us.
There is a wall in Jim and Angela’s house that is lined with frames, floor to ceiling. They are the kind of frames with many openings and are full of photos from their family activities and vacations. When I last visited I pored over those frames, a privileged witness to all that love. I put it into my mental to-do’s to surround our house with visual memories of our family memories too. It is New Year’s time two years later, maybe this will be the year. But is is not because the memories haven’t been created that the pictures have not been hung yet, I just haven’t had or made the time for the visual aids. I do have to give myself credit for the intentional time that has been spent, both in the everyday moments and in the special experiences. We don’t live this existence everyday, not at all, we have our very normal, chore-filled, carpool toting, budget conscious, every-day lives, but we are constantly processing and pondering how to be intentional about capturing these days, aware of how quickly they will pass.
Still, I am choosing to work, for a snippet of time. I will leave for my first day, and possibly my 30th day, back to work and I will be excited and I will cry. But my kids will be in good hands and we will spend special time together when I get home, and when we go to the park or on a vacation or cuddle in bed after stories and talk about who they want to be when they grow up as they try to comprehend what their mama and papa do outside of their most important lives.
There is no perfect formula to all this. Sometimes I will wonder if I made the right choice, in the right time, and things will go wrong, hopefully little solvable things, because that is just the way life is. I am thankful to worship a God who has given me the free will to pursue Him in this life with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind and with all my strength. May I honor you Lord as I walk the path before me and cleave to You above all, Amen