We walked up to the beach. Our two youngest had never before seen the vast grandeur of the ocean. The 8-year-old's mouth dropped open as he ran toward the water. The 3-year-old ran toward the water, ran back to me, ran back to the water, unable to even make sense of what he was seeing. I never tire of it, both the ocean's majesty and seeing my kids see the ocean.
They splashed and frolicked and played and marveled and I joined the fun at times, but I also stood back and watched them. Being with them in that setting, the smallness of little ol' us against the massive backdrop of the ocean, I felt a powerful nudge. Of all the people in all the places in all the years the world has been, I get to be here with them.
As a Christian, I believe that God created the world. I don't believe it as literally as many and I believe it more literally than a different many, but I believe it. So I sat there and I marveled what I saw before me and I marveled the joy and love it brought to my soul and I marveled the God that orchestrated it. The God who chose me to be their mama. The God who created this universe and created our family.
Sometimes we play a what if game. What if I hadn't gone to K College for a year? What if Jim hadn't just broken up with his girlfriend? What if we'd really never had kids like we thought? What if we walked away when marriage got stupidly difficult and the hurts piled up? What if? What if? A million what ifs make up a life and change a life.
Instead of a million alternate scenarios, all of our what ifs brought us to this beach with these people. I am theirs and they are mine, and, boy, am I forever grateful for these breaths I get to breathe with them and these days I get to share with them.
That doesn't mean all of the days are easy. Of course it doesn't mean that. We left our rental house in California to drive home and had a flat tire within 7 minutes and ran into a two hour traffic jam before we left the state. Two grown ups, four kids, and two dogs were in the car from 7:15 am to 11:20 pm and we were still 5 1/2 hours from home. The toddler finally fell asleep at about 12:30 am and woke us up at about 6:15 the next (actually, technically, the same) morning. That day didn't feel easy. We could have been really cranky about the whole thing. Instead we got the dogs out and ran a few laps around the block with the pooches and watched the trash truck collect trash from the alley while Jim and his ragamuffin team of fellows (our boys) changed the tire. Instead we listened to a few great books on CD, prayed for the people in the horrific crash that cause the two hour traffic jam, and felt so thankful that it wasn't us. New Kids on the Block's ultimate Christmas music cheesefest definitely helped the situation. As I belted out every word that I've known by heart since I was 12 years old, Asher looked at me as though he'd never seen me before and Jim looked at me as though he wished he'd never seen me before. It was AWESOME!
Now other days we'll say lots of swear words both loudly and under our breath about a flat tire and a gigantic traffic jam. I'm a busted up, flawed human trying my best. I'm married to a busted up, flawed human and we're raising four busted up, flawed humans. There's a lot of room for trouble in that equation.
But, gosh darnit, there are moments when I look at them and feel my heart could just leap out of my chest at the sight of these kids. There are moments my eyes blur with big, splashy tears at the goodness of it. There are moments I just keep repeating, "I am so thankful that we're here together. I am SO thankful that we're here together." These lovely, idyllic moments combined with those swear word, busted up moments teach me the life lessons I need so many reminders about. Lessons about gratitude and love, grace and patience, family and perseverance.
To get to those beautiful moments, we have to muck through the busted up moments. If we give up during the busted up moments, we never get the payoff of the idyllic moments. They are two sides of the same coin called family and love and life.
It's nearly Christmas and expectations are probably sky high. The perfect gift. The perfect posed picture in front of the perfect Christmas tree. The perfect meal with the perfectly behaved children and families. Please consider joining me in throwing those expectations right out of the front door. Christmas and family vacations are like weddings; something has to go wrong and there has to be at least one small hiccup, and those busted up moments, combined with the idyllic moments are what make up our lives.
Come to think of it, Christmas and family vacations and weddings are life. They are a few pieces in the great big puzzle of our beautiful, busted up life. Stand back. Enjoy the scenery. Throw out a few swear words when the plate of cookies gets dropped on the floor and thoroughly enjoyed by the naughty doggies. Cry when the diagnosis comes back positive or the pregnancy test comes back negative. Huddle in close to the people that are yours and you are theirs. Let them carry your pain when it's too heavy and carry theirs when your burden is lighter. Notice the beauty. Feel the pain. We really are in this together.
And standing next to the ocean with my people, I felt ridiculously fortunate for those that I get to be in it together with.
Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Peace and love for the journey.