I'm not really sure what to title this blog. I currently have "Friends & Family," but that doesn't do it justice for what I want to talk about.
You see, my amazing super hero hubs and I have never lived near family. In the nearly 20 years that we've been married, the closest we came was when we were about eight hours away from home.
Wow. That seems really close now, considering it takes about 13 hours on a good trip to get home. Unfortunately, we've not been able to get "home" in many years. Between the kids summer time activities, Christmas breaks being incredibly short, and winter causing us to stay grounded, it's been tough to get home in the last 3 1/2 years.
That's a long time to go without seeing your family. Some have visited. Some have called, and we are blessed for that.
But when you have a job like my super hero hubs, you get kind of used to "being on your own." It's certainly not an easy task. I can remember many times in the beginning of our marriage, moments that I wanted to run home and have my own family take care of things.
But as time has passed, we've learned to adapt.
It's been a difficult journey. For many, many years, we tried everything we could to get back home. Short of my super hero hubs using a "hardship" excuse, (meaning, his nutty wife needs to be closer to caregivers) we've been very unsuccessful in obtaining our goal.
Home is East Tennessee. If anyone has ever been there, it's actually one of the most beautiful spots in the country. I know that's not saying much, considering I've never lived or been, west of Arkansas, (minus the Tulsa Zoo in Oklahoma, Dallas, and the Houston Airport), but it's saying a lot to me. There is something there that isn't found anywhere else.
The Great Smoky Mountains.
Enough said. If you don't know anything about those beautiful, breathtaking 'smokey,' mountains, well, I've just helped you plan your next summer vacation.
But the older we get, the more we realize that perhaps God has a different plan for us. The whole idea of moving north to snow country was two fold. One, his former supervisor was the catalyst at helping my super hero hubs realize he wanted more. His job was draining him and he needed a change in scenery and a new title. Second, it would make him more marketable and perhaps, open the door for a move closer to the Smoky Mountains.
Well, that was over six years ago. Matter of fact, six years ago this week, we were driving the big 24 hour trip to snow country. Stopping at family and friends houses along the way as we made our way to our new "home."
Six years ago.
I can't believe it's been six years.
I also can't believe, we're still not any closer to "home."
I'm wondering if God isn't trying to show us that "family" means many things. Also, maybe, just maybe, "home" means many things as well.
I am deeply reminded of this as we endure a rather horrific past week with a couple that have become "family" to us. This couple, who are the godparents to our #7 peanut, are the embodiment of not only Christ and His message of love to all who meet them, but are like siblings to my super hero hubs and I. We don't take lightly the task of choosing godparents. It's something we begin praying about the MINUTE we become pregnant. There are so many amazing people in our community, that the task of deciding which couple to choose becomes extremely difficult. (matter of fact, can we adopt some as godparents for my other children??? Just kidding, my kids have awesome godparents). When we had our surprise pregnancy, this couple really stood out the most. The husband, John, was my oldest daughter's religion teacher and she just would go on and on at how "smart he is and he knows the Catholic faith so well!" (her words!) The wife, Tracy, literally took one of her daughters, who loves babies, out of school one day for a few hours to come babysit the little Taz #6, while I went to one of my daughter's parties at school! That is the kind of giving people they are!
I can actually go on and on and on about how awesome and giving they are, but suffice it to say, the day they took all my laundry home with them, and returned them in brand new laundry baskets (she never commented on the condition of my own laundry baskets (or for the lack of) and for that, she will remain my sister in Christ until my death....), I felt a bond that only comes from being deeply in love with Christ. And that, my friends, is what makes family.
A bond, so deep with our Lord, that love just emanates from their very being. Two people, who have given their hearts and souls to one another, their beautiful children, and their church. That kind of authentic love, is rare.
These two represent family, the way I always dreamed living by family would be. Always there for you. Wanting to be a part of your life. Happy for the littlest thing. (like being pregnant with #7...)
Now my family, our two very dear friends, are going through a very difficult time in their lives. He has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. And as brain tumors go, it's a good one to get, I guess. A low grade one. Hopefully benign. But also, as brain tumors go, he's struggling with seizures and is in the hospital for an indefinite amount of time. He had a biopsy, but that set off a round of seizures that medication has helped, but finding a balance between feeling woozy and gaining strength back, is an ongoing battle. They wait. The neurosurgeon will watch and wait for pathology to determine a course of action for this tumor. But until then, he's struggling.
For my "sister?" This has been a tough pill to swallow. Seeing the man she loves, who has always been a man of great strength, both physically and spiritually, crumble under the power of this seemingly invisible poison, has been painful to say the least. Her strength can't be missed as well. Sitting with her at Mass the other day, I was literally blown away by her courage.
Dictionary.com defines courage as 'the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear: bravery. My friend, my sister in Christ, would be quick to point out she is not courageous. She would be quick to point out that her husband, John, is the one with courage.
But I disagree. Of course, her husband has courage. He's facing the fact that he has a brain tumor. Not too many people in this world have to face such a frightening fact.
But my friend. My sister. She has courage too. And yes, it may be helped by the grace of God. It certainly can be caused by the hundreds (I'll suffice it to say several hundred)of people praying all day constantly for the entire family. But she has courage nonetheless. Prayers can lift us up. Prayers can keep us going. Getting us out of bed. Pulling us through the day. But courage, does as well. Sometimes, we take for granted how easy it is to get up every single morning. We complain about the baby that doesn't sleep through the night. We moan at the clock that buzzes way too early at 6 am. We whine about our job that is this, that, or the other, you insert the appropriate complaint. We tend to go through the motions throughout the day. Taking for granted a phone call from a loved one. Avoiding the call of a friend. We tend to let ourselves get drawn into pity parties and act as though the sky is falling and no one loves me, I'm gonna go eat worms....
Ok, once again, having small children has resorted me to blend in children's stories into my blog. It happens.
But real courage is knowing that people are lifting you in prayer, not necessarily "feeling" that Presence we long for, and getting out of bed anyway.
My friend, my sister, has real courage.
All of this has made my super hero hubs and I really sit back and take a look at all that is important in our life.
What is God's definition of family? What does God say about family? If we look at the New Testament, Jesus Himself says family will turn away from us because of our beliefs in Him. The disciples spent three years of their life following Him, only to discover, all this "preaching and teaching" wasn't to bring about a new earthly King, but a Heavenly King! Were some a bit disappointed? sure. Even when Christ Himself said to eat His flesh and drink His blood, those who had spent nearly three years with Him turned away. Family! Turned away! Friends! Turned away!
Real family. Whether we define them as spiritual, physical, emotional, or what have you, real family sticks with you through it all. They define the word, love. They define the word sacrifice. They don't care if your house is a train wreck or if your laundry baskets are all broken and pathetic. Being apart from our blood family, has introduced us to the beauty of friends becoming our family. Every place we've lived, we managed to find some pretty incredible people who have become our family. And here in snow country, it's no different.
They love unconditionally.
My husband and I have started praying together every single morning. I'm lying. We try to pray every single morning. We read the readings for the day, the saints of the day (who KNEW there were so many saints in our faith and all of their stories are pretty incredible), we read the reflection of the readings, the daily prayer and then he and I pray a spontaneous prayer to Jesus. Asking Him to bless and protect and watch over our families and friends. Asking Him to guide us in our decision making, our marriage, our lives. And lately, asking Him to watch over John and Tracy and their family. It's rather emotional as we pray because just like them, we strive to be that example to the world of what God wants in a marriage and a family. Nothing makes one stop in their tracks and really count their blessings like seeing first hand a close family member suffering.
Things like that bring us to our knees. We are helpless in the world of mortality. We know neither the day or the hour when God will call us home. A reminder that we aren't made for this world. We are made for something better. Even though, the world wants us to believe this is as good as it gets.
It's a very spiritual reminder of our own wedding vows. We will love each other, through sickness, and health, til death do us part. Sickness. That word we think just means, you know, when you get a cold. It's ALL sickness. Mental, physical, emotional, spiritual. ALL of it.
So many things this event with our family has reminded us of. What is most important? Well, that is up to you. For me, and my house? We shall continue to serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15). We will trust that He is in control. We will continue to love one another as He has loved us and we will pray. And we will serve one another- including our dear friends who grow more like family to us each and every single day.
May today, we all wake up, praising God for another day blessed on this earth, even with all it's yuckiness. May today, we smile a bit more, even when that child spills their milk on the freshly mopped floor, because let's face it, it's mopped and clean and craving a little spill. May today, we not take one moment for granted with our spouse, or significant other, and perhaps, give an extra squeeze and linger a moment longer, just breathing in their sweet love.
May today, we realize how blessed we are and in turn, share that blessing with all we encounter.
And may we never lose sight of the greatest gift God gave us in His son, dying for us. Giving us His body and blood, and loving us so unconditionally that it crosses beyond the friendship realm and into the spiritual family realm.
May the amazing God of the Universe shower you with abundant love today and always.