I come from a large family. And, I can tell you from personal experience: The more people you have, the more crazy you have. It has to do with probabilities and ratios and various laws of physics, and stuff.
Feel free to tweet that.
I’ve lived away from my Crazy, Messy family for the last 18 years. And while I love them and miss them and everything, I sometimes dread the effort it takes to pack up and drive several hours to visit them. It’s a lot of work, physically and emotionally. To be honest, the distance between us sometimes causes me to lose perspective on who they are. I’m often tempted to dwell on the details of my family’s crazy mess, or how the crazy mess hurts me, or how the crazy mess helped shape me into the crazy mess that I am today, or how I don’t really want to have to deal with any more crazy mess than I currently have within my own brain and four walls.
It just feels easier to stay home.
And then sometimes, I make the effort to drive across two states to see the Crazy, Messy family, and God gives me new eyes to see the Beauty within the Messy.
The weekend began as I took my daughter to our 4th annual Beth Moore Living Proof Live event. We’ve been doing this together since she was 11 years old. Except for last year. We didn’t go last year because our relationship was too strained, too fragile. The last 3 years have been incredibly challenging for us, and it all piqued last year about this time.
But, this weekend, God gave me new eyes to see Rebekah.
I saw a young lady who loves the Lord. Who will drive with her goofy mother for 5 hours and dance to Enriqe Eglasias on the highway and make up stupid country lyrics and get excited about eating Qdoba. Who is quick-witted and sarcastic. Who will sit in a 6-hour women’s conference and actually take notes. Who will eat crappy hamburgers on the floor of a coliseum food court in a skirt.
I saw that God brought us through a dark, difficult place. And, praise the Lord, we aren’t there any more.
I saw a relationship continue to flourish between Rebekah and her cousin, Kathryn. They are only 3 weeks apart in age. Kathryn’s mom and I have been forcing them together their entire lives. I can pick up any photo album from Rebekah’s life, and I guarantee you, half the pictures in there have Kathryn in them.
This is no small feat, considering Kathryn and Rebekah have never lived in the same state. Yet, year after year, we help facilitate this relationship. For the first time this weekend, I saw that they were choosing to be together. Not because their moms arranged it or because they were the only girls their age at the family thing, but because they truly liked each other.
I saw into the future, too. To a time when they will be planning their own road trips and conferences and beach vacations and family outings, together with their husbands and children. I saw them as friends for the rest of their lives.
This is my brother James and his wife Carol. Also known as, Kathryn’s dad and mom. Carol is the real reason our girls love each other. Carol is the one who suggests and arranges nearly every mother/daughter gathering we have. She’s the one who first suggested Beth Moore when our girls were still in elementary school. She was the one who would fly down to visit us when we lived in Florida and Kathryn was only a baby. Or invite us to intrude on their family vacations in Hilton Head. Or insist on starting a tradition where our girls spend a week together every single summer, no exceptions.
As I sat at the conference with Carol, I saw a friend, sister and mentor. I saw a woman of God who is committed to evangelism, who has a passion for God’s word. I saw someone who truly gets me and who promises to pray for me–and then actually prays. Who gets excited with me about everything from a new recipe to my new house. And who will help me decide if I should get the 30″ double oven or the 36″ single oven, and will talk through the pros and cons of each, on the edge of a hotel bed in Ft. Wayne.
After the conference, we drove to my hometown to throw a surprise party for my Dad’s 90th birthday.
Other than the obvious fact that, HELLO, MY DAD IS 90!!!!, I saw a father who is so incredibly proud of the Crazy Messy Family he and my mother created. A selfless man who has always been determined to give us everything he did not have growing up. Someone who has lived to see 90 because he spent his entire life dancing. A grandpa who can’t ever believe how much the kids have grown. A daddy who always tells me how pretty I look. And who likes to remind me how old I am.
I saw a lovely woman who came into Dad’s life after Mom died. A woman who cooks him dinner and keeps him company and doesn’t complain when the TV is too loud, all day long. Someone who loves my kids like her own grandchildren. Who is always eager to share a picture or a thought with me. Who has embraced all our Crazy Messy Family, by choice, and seems to like us a lot.
I saw my oldest sister and her precious husband. Though they are two of the busiest people I know, they stop everything to accommodate me when I show up. They sit for hours at their kitchen table, often late into the night, and want to hear every detail of my life. They always have coffee for me, even though neither of them drink it. They act sad when I leave.
I saw my beautiful sister, Kathy, who is one of the most passionate and devoted mothers I have ever met. Who will grab me on my way out to share with me what she’s learning about essential oils and how they can help my son’s ADHD. I saw how sharing a bedroom with one person for 18 years causes you to be bonded deeply, indescribably, eternally.
I saw my brother and his wife tear up when they recalled again the miracle surrounding the survival of their premature son and the countless ways God provided for them along the way. I remembered how much I enjoy the ways they make me laugh every time I’m with them.
I saw my brother Gary, who is one of the wisest, funniest, and godliest men I know. He has been influencing me spiritually since I was a little girl and he, a newly born-again college student. I saw both of us hunkered into a corner of a restaurant discussing everything from expensive driveways to legalistic pharisees, from mission trips to inner-city outreach efforts. I saw this man of 3 adult children well up with tears as he described a pivotal time in his life when the Lord spoke to him about the angry way he approached his then-young boys. And I saw him well up again when he described how God is challenging him to serve others selflessly, daily. I saw for the very first time, perhaps, the rich spiritual legacy that will exist in future generations of my Crazy Family because Gary paved the way.
I saw all my 20-something handsome nephews usher their 20-something gorgeous girlfriends into the room, unashamed of our Crazy Messy Family. Proud, even.
And though I won’t name names or post pictures, I saw family members who endured drug rehab and jail time after a series of horrible decisions. But instead of existing there, they clung to God and asked for forgiveness and did the hard work of recovery. And I saw my Crazy Messy Family forgive and restore. I saw other family members who used hurtful, decisive words to estrange themselves from us. But this weekend, they did the hard work of showing up. And then I saw my Crazy Messy Family embrace them and welcome them and overwhelm them with unconditional love.
Yes, we are Crazy and Messy. We own that. But we are also dedicated, and wise, and godly, and forgiving…and incredibly funny. I see that clearly, now.
Thank you, Lord. Thank you for new eyes.
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