Living A Messy Love Story: Holding Hands

“What forms of discipline do you administer?” the application form queried. That was the  question ricocheting around in the grey matter when I sat down to dinner.

We always hold hands in a circle to thank God before we feast on the food He’s provided and I’ve prepared. Two of my loves chronically have conflict. We’ve heard every excuse in the book.

“My hands are wet.”
“It’s too far to reach.”
“I don’t want to get any of her germs.”

I breathe.
Ask nicely.
Hands scooch forward a millimeter.

My final appeal includes a mini-lecture, the one about the oldest sib shouldering the most responsibility when there’s conflict. It’s her privilege to set the example—to model for the younger one what she can aspire to grow into.

That’s a gift the older girl prefers to return. “It’s not fair!” she complains. To which I respond, “Take that up with God. He’s the one who gave you your birth order, not me.”

The other kid reminds us that the food is starting to get cold.

Daddy talks to God.

My attention is drawn to hands not words. I’m staring wide eyed at fingers barely touching each other. Not only is our circle missing one–a girl is gone, eating her dinner a thousand miles away, another’s withdrawn and feels a million miles away. And the conflict about holding hands is the selfie of a heart disconnect and I’m grieving it…

As soon as “Amen” forms in Daddy’s throat, the hand bolts.

And my words spill out.
“You appear to need some practice with proper hand holding technique, my dear. So after dinner, you can choose any one of the people at this table, all of whom love you, to practice holding hands with.”
“That will be 10 minutes of hand holding.” I add.
She shoots me a glare and I reply, “You’ll thank me some day for this valuable training when you fall in love with your guy.”
Everyone else giggles.

dscf3269As dinner plates empty and tummies fill, I ask, “Who do you pick to hold hands with?”
Daddy quickly interjects, “If you choose me, I’ll talk about superheroes with you the whole time.”
I entice with, “If you pick me, I won’t make you talk about anything.”
The snubbed girl was quiet and the other girl said she thought she might have germs.
My girl picked me.
She said she didn’t want to talk.
We chose the sofa and both hunkered down under a cozy quilt. I reached out my hand to take hers and limply it rested on top of mine. I nestled my other hand around the top of hers surrounding it with my touch.

So much of life is like that–extending the hand, or even both hands repeatedly.
Whether or not there’s an invitation.
Regardless of if it’s taken reservedly or begrudgingly.
Even when it’s withdrawn.

And I remind myself that I am the oldest girl. And it is my privilege to set the example—to model for the younger ones what they can aspire to grow into.
And I lean into the hard of it… but its messy. And if I am honest with myself, I admit that I want to self protect too. I am tempted to withdraw and disconnect when I feel rejected.
And I wonder where the days of love notes under my pillow and “Best Mommy” awards went. I said, “You’ll never get too big to sit on my lap.” And, they aren’t. They just don’t want to anymore.

And I think of the story from the Word that tells about the father who’s been dissed by his child and how he waits on his porch day after day for an opportunity to lavish love on him anyway.

My brow creases…..
Growing up is a beautifully necessary metamorphosis.
And every butterfly eventually takes wing.
I get that.
I was the butterfly once too.
That’s not what my brow is furrowing about.
It’s the messy love we give each other–beautiful and terrible.

And I wonder at God’s sense of humor. Who but the Father would have designed the construct of family to introduce every human being to themselves and their world. It is here that the best and worst of human love is laid bare between husband and wife, parent and child, siblings.

Every family shares a unique story all their own.
Ours includes countless hours of laps and books, cuddles and songs intermingled with prayers at twilight. We even customized our own ditty for crossing a parking lot hand in hand.
And then there were those “mommy moments” when I blew a gasket because the kid practiced writing her ABC’s on the walls with a Sharpie. Husband and I did the math for 70 times 7 and withheld forgiveness plus 1. After that it got colder inside our four walls than the north pole. Siblings punched each other in the gut–literally and figuratively. And, withdrew their hand and their heart to another around the kitchen table.
That’s our story too.

20151218_094849We’re amateurs at love.
Our family masterpiece looks like a 4 year old finger paint job.
We’re all disappointed.
Except that the world renown art critic chooses to set us in His gallery—on His feature wall and calls us a magnum opus.
And what looks ugly at first glance is actually beautiful because the Expert says so. And our picture delights Him.

And so, I take my girl’s hand and squeeze tightly.
Not too tightly.
Morse code love squeezes.
I don’t know if she’ll squeeze back.
But I can feel that He is.
And that’s enough.


(It was true 2 years ago when I wrote it and it’s true today.)

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