Our Double Life

DSCF6607It was our grand finale—a trip to Ludington where a dozen delighted kids frolicked on the beach sculpting castles, playing cards, jumping over waves, lounging on floaties and having splashing contests while four moms in lounge chairs enjoyed easy conversation. We cooked hotdogs for dinner sitting in a circle around the campfire and finished off with s’mores before racing to the beach to watch the sunset and dune jump.DSCF6637DSCF6621DSCF6667 mg_6193The sun waved “goodbye” in a blaze of color, as if acknowledging the magnificence of friendships forged over time and shared experiences and we knew it was our turn to do the same–again. There were so many hugs—the little boys resisted. The mamas squeezed hard and long and so did Lily. Tears erupted from turbulent soul volcanoes. “Goodbyes” called from cracking voices through open windows followed by “See you in 9 months,” and “I love you guys,” called out Christine with a “Back to You” returned.

Then there was just the beach and the dunes for miles as darkness descended. Minutes passed quietly except for an occasional involuntary sob. I wondered how to band aid the gaping wound our children were bleeding tears about. What does a mama do with all these tears, especially when you know it was your choices that caused them. I did the only thing I know to do when I don’t know what else to do—pray.

“Hey guys,” I spoke compassionately. “I know we’re hurting. The tears tell us that we love large and we’re loved back– and that’s a gift. The downside of the gift is that it hurts to say goodbye.”

Sigh….. Pause……

“So, let’s take a few minutes to cry it out and then how about if we try shifting our focus away from ourselves and onto those friends we just spent a beautiful day with.” “How about if we pray for each of our friends individually? They have their own stuff to deal with too and we could talk to God about it for them.”
“OK,” Starla responded agreeably.

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And over the next 25 minutes, all 16 of those dear people who hold our hearts were brought before the throne of the only One who can fix all this brokenness.

And when we said “Amen”, I suggested we play music.
Robyn chimed in, “I don’t want to hear anything sad.”
So we turned on Jason Gray singing:

…..Every step along the way,
I know You’ll never leave my side.
Whatever the season I can say,
These are the best days of my life…..

And we just kept driving away from the beach.
Just like we just kept driving away from Wheaton College on Sunday.
And just like we drove away from our cousins house yesterday.
And just like we’ll drive past the “Pure Michigan” sign on Saturday– all the way to Dallas to our other life.

The music felt like white noise in the background of my internal banter.
“How did we get here?” I asked myself. “And more importantly, how to do we get out?” I wondered….

I reflected 12 years back.

Like all sincere Christian parents we weighed our options prayerfully when we considered relocation, seeking wise council and did what seemed prudent. Nobody intentionally sets out to break their children’s hearts repeatedly. We were utterly ignorant about the long term implications of our decisions.

When we first drove away, we knew we couldn’t sever ourselves from our northern life completely in good conscience, even if we’d wanted to–which we didn’t. The Bible has something to say about respecting parents and reciprocating the care they blessed us with when their health goes South. So, we came back north to take care of family and that is what jump started our double life—school years in Texas and summers in Michigan.

To some people, it seems almost idyllic—winters where it’s warm and summers where it’s cool. While I appreciate upbeat optimism and grasp for it at times, that assessment is highly simplistic. It might be alluringly exciting for sanguines, but God didn’t wire us that way, and our double life makes us feel alive right in the pit of our stomach.

So what do we do when we can’t find a way to change the trajectory? And there’s no place to seemingly to make a U-turn….

That’s the million-dollar question we can’t seem to escape. We all ask it within our own particular messy stories….

And so we lament—groanings that only God understands.
And we try not to project ahead how many more times He might ask us to do a repeat because we don’t think we have even one more in us.
And tonight in the wee hours, the questions swirling feel a lot like jazz music that doesn’t resolve and leaves you aching with its dissonance.

img_5494-1But all of life is not the dead of night. I hear the girls whispering animatedly in the next room recounting to each other their sweet stories of summer–holding on to the memories in the retelling so they don’t slip like beach sand through their fingers.

Soon, they will drift off to sleep as will I.

And tomorrow, we will all wake up to God’s faithful, tender, mercies that are fresh and new for the day.
We’ll open our hand to accept His.
And trust He’ll take it just as He always has.
And we’ll turn the music up loud and on repeat as we pack up all those Rubbermaid plastic bins and sing,

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…..Every step along the way,
I know You’ll never leave my side.
Whatever the season I can say,
These are the best days of my life…..

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