But that small setback won't keep me from reflecting on the wonderful time we had while they were here. The last day of their visit we made the familiar trek to the coast to see the sea lions. The weather was of course, quite temperamental, but it made for some beautiful pictures! I used to always pray for nice weather before heading out to the coast, but I don't anymore. It's not that I've given up hope or faith or anything, but rather, I've come to see the beauty in the broken. The gray and the gloom, wind and torrential downpours often serve to highlight the coasts rugged beauty, and what a blessing we would miss out on if it was sunny all of the time! That's what I like to think anyways.
I am never sure how to write about my parents being here. No amount of words and phrases, no matter how carefully constructed and written, could possibly describe my family in all of their blessed, beautiful idiosyncrasies. And no one, (unless of course you have experienced it yourself) knows what it means to live far away from family, and have them come to visit for these brief, fleeting moments only to leave again, and just exactly how all of that feels.
To know that my children will always know my in-laws a little bit better than my parents. To see my children grow more attached each time, only to have to say goodbye once again. To watch other people around me visit with their parents/siblings daily, or at least weekly, knowing mine are thousands of miles away. To see little milestones in my children slip by without my family here to witness it.
The birthday parties.
The way that they change daily as they grow.
Knowing that weddings, funerals, graduations, birthdays, parties and other events may be missed.
And I could go on and on. But what's the point? I think it's fairly easy to establish the fact that it is not easy being far from family. Of course others have it far worse than I, having no family at all because of death or living far away from BOTH sides. To those people, my heart truly, deeply and sincerely goes out to you, and I can honestly say that I cannot imagine.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE.
And sometimes it feels like I overuse all the poor villagers to within an inch of their lives. Because family is just so important. Not even just for things like babysitting or a free meal now and then, (although we all know how much we love that!!) but for things like wisdom, instruction, guidance, emotional support, friendship, companionship, and Godly influences for our children to look up to. What would we do without family?
On the other hand, the people I CANNOT empathize with are the people that have all of their family so closely-knit around them in tight little circles, that they mourn when one gets married and moves a few miles down the road. I always want to shake something and scream, "You don't know anything about separation! You can hop in a car and see your loved one in 5 minutes! Why are you complaining?!!" But then of course others could say the same thing to me. That I too, know nothing because I can at least hop on a plane to see mine, while theirs are in Heaven. And so on and on it goes.
I guess we just generally get ourselves into trouble with comparison. Looking down the road at the family that is all so close and connected and finishes-each-others-sentences, and wanting that for our own, all the while we are missing out on what IS our own. The unique qualities that make our family what it is, and it is no one else's but our own.
We all know about comparison. It poisons our marriages, friendships, church bodies and workplaces, but did you know it is equally lethal for families? I'll admit, I've spent a lot of time over the past few years feeling jealous of certain families. You know the ones I'm talking about. The ones that seem like they've always come sailing right off of the pages of a Norman Rockwell calendar. Everything is perfectly in place, the children behave properly in neat little rows and the mother is always making pie or something and everyone seems to get along in perfect harmony at all times. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins…..everyone is just best friends. And it all just seems so perfect. So pleasant. The house is clean, the candles are lit, the babies are a blessing and never a burden and they grin and gather and gleefully go about their business.
And then when the weeds of comparison reach out with their roots to strangle and choke, it seems like your family is so far from that ideal. And why is that? Because you don't just see the highlight reels, you see the behind-the-scenes footage. You see the high times and the low times, the good, bad and the ugly. You see one another at their best, and one another at their worst. My family is vocal, opinionated and stubborn at times, but we can also laugh more and play harder and have more fun than most people I know. I used to be bitter about the way that other families always seemed so perfectly put together all of the time, and that ours wasn't.
We were forgetful.
We made mistakes.
We were late.
We made messes.
We were noisy.
We had disagreements.
BUT…..that life-sucking drug of comparison never lets you see past the things that THEY ARE and YOU AREN'T. What it doesn't let you see is the many wonderful things that make you uniquely you.
We are creative.
We make beautiful children.
We can be funny.
We tell colorful stories.
We play hard.
We ask forgiveness.
And all of us are too lazy to carry a grudge for long. So if you're on our bad side, just give it some time. We'll come back around.:) The point is, I am finally, FINALLY at the ripe old age of 28 beginning to realize the damage that comparison can do. The webs it can weave. The life it can drain. The graves it can dig.
And I am, at last, beginning to fully embrace my family just as they are, for who they are. Nothing more, nothing less. They are mine. They are a part of me. They helped make me who I am today, and they are a part of my past, present and future. And I'm so glad they aren't perfect, because then I wouldn't belong anymore, being the imperfect person that I am.
I love my family! And I wouldn't trade them for anyone in the world.