After a day of work, the drive over the mountains is long, hard, nearly unbearable.
I'm 100 miles from home when I wonder if I'll make it all the way. Wonder if I should turn back. Wonder if the chance to spend 40 hours with people who share the same blood will be enough to make the journey worth it.
I don't have the answers.
But I press on and hope I'll find what I need when I get there.
And I do get there. Frayed and worn through, I crawl into bed that night still wondering if I've made the right decision.
But it's the end of the next day when I stop wondering.
It isn't just the sun and all the warmth. It isn't just the sounds of wind in the poplar trees and children playing with abandon. It isn't just the hours spent playing games, joking with cousins, and eating corn on the cob straight from the fire.
Mostly it's this: I've found something I wasn't looking for.
I've found pieces of my history.
I've found pieces of me.
And I would've gladly traveled many more days just to find them.
When it comes time to leave, I gather those pieces in my hands and head for home. I don't know what I'll do with all this, these broken shards of our history, our family, me. I only know they're too important to leave behind.
I'm 100 miles from home when I feel the weight of all the breaking and the tears start falling and I can't make them stop.
For our past. For our present. And maybe even for our future.
It's the story of my great-grandfather's death that I grieve most of all. The great-grandfather I remember only with a feeling and a photograph. Illness stole his breath, stole his strength. And when the fear of being a burden loomed too large for him to bear, he said goodbye and held a gun to his chest. Even in the dying, he thought of the ones who'd have to shoulder the burden of laying him to rest, spared them the nightmare they'd already lived through once.
And it's not hard to see his blood in my veins and his story in mine. That life-stealing fear of being a burden is mine, too. Maybe I wasn't born with it, but then again, maybe I was. And I've carried it long years and I carry it still. With the illness that ebbs and flows, stripping me of strength, I hear it in my head on any given day. I don't want to be a burden. And I wonder now if my great-grandfather's ending is the only one that this kind of fear can lead to.
All of us, we're just these broken pieces from the past, and we carry them with us and try to build a life. And suddenly I want to know if we can leave behind the things that hurt too much, the things that can't be fixed, the things that spill the blood and burn the beauty and leave us wounded and wondering. I want to know if we can leave all this behind and still be who we are, who we're meant to be.
The tears keep slipping and I keep driving, waiting for Hope to find me in the middle of nowhere.
And He does.
I remember another piece I've found, the one that matters most, and I recount it to myself. It's the story of my grandfather almost dying when he was 9 years old. He steps onto a roadway without looking and the car bears down and this voice in his head says clear as day, Don't move or the wheels will get you. And he stands still, waits for it to come. And it comes and he falls and he breaks hard. But he lives.
And it's 20 years later before my grandfather even hears the name of Jesus. But he's found redemption and my father, too, and now me. And we can all look back and see that it was God's voice in the head of a boy who didn't know Him, God's hand changing the course of our history.
And this is how I know we can't leave behind the things we don't want to remember. Because God's taking every piece and turning us all into these life-sized mosaics of Glory. And it looks broken and jagged from where we stand, but He sees us the way we're meant to be. He takes the ashes and turns them into beauty. He takes all the brokenness of a life, a family, a whole world--and He turns it into beauty.
So I hold out the pieces in my hand, the blood red and the death black, and I let His Light shimmer on the surface until all I can see is Him.
And I promise Him I'll live out all the days He gives and I'll do everything I can to lay down this fear of being a burden. Because maybe I'm exactly the woman I'm meant to be and maybe the weight of who I am isn't too much for the world to bear.
Maybe I'm just heavy enough to leave His mark on a life.
930. Safe travels on a hard journey
931. Clouds disappearing as I crest the mountain range
932. Singing loud because no one's listening
933. Finding my way on unfamiliar roads
934. Finally arriving in one piece
935. Rolling down the windows and driving slow through the campground
936. Smelling hot dogs on the grill when I find my family
937. Drinking root beer at a picnic table
938. Little girl who doesn't know me, calling out from the playground just to say hi
939. Resting on a makeshift bed while listening to the sounds of camp
940. Watching a sliver of sunset from my screened-in vantage point
941. Sitting around the fire with a mug of chai in hand--always the mug of chai!
942. Grandparent hugs
943. Cousin hugs
944. Bedtime after a long, hard day
945. Sun rising at 5 am
946. Waking up to the sounds of birds and barges on the river and people nearby
947. Eggs and bacon on the grill
948. Putting on sunscreen before 9 am
949. Badminton with Mom
950. Croquet with Dad
951. Learning to throw and catch
952. Shoulder sore from all the teaching
953. Sun beating down, reminding us what it feels like to be hot
954. Grandparents sitting in lawn chairs, taking it all in
955. Kids having water fights
956. Best. burger. ever.
957. Corn on the cob cooked over the fire
958. Unexpected conversations about the past
959. Marshmallow roasting
960. S'more eating--with white chocolate, of course
961. Teasing from cousins and grandpas and uncles
962. Feeling like the day's been long enough and full enough
963. Sleeping sound because the day's been full
964. Walking across camp at dawn, everyone else still sleeping
965. Silver dollar pancakes for breakfast
966. Packing up camp, everyone pitching in
967. Heading home with new pieces of my history in hand
968. Passing through a friend's new town and wishing her well as I drive by
969. Weight of my history finally breaking through
970. Tears for the past and the present
971. Finally understanding the damage done by the fear of being a burden
972. God stepping in to save a boy's life decades before he'd find redemption
973. God changing our story, redeeming our family.
974. God taking all the pieces of my past and turning them into beauty