It’s been awhile.

I came home for a six week trip that turned into eight and now nine weeks.  I’ve gotten to see spring come to the US three different times, dyed my hair twice, and spent a lot of time confused and hurting.  Yet, I’m surrounded by people who love me and know me and speak to the positive changes and growth they see in me.  There is one of those sweet times of encouragement I want to share here.  I want to share it because it came from the last place I thought it might: my nuclear family.

*Ben not pictured because he hates taking pictures…

Family is complicated.  I’m not on bad terms with any one of my family members.  I love my parents and brother.  But, when we are together for an extended period of time old insecurities surface, old patterns of communication take over.   Things can get ugly.  I know many families relate in this way.  Maybe that is why I feel so overwhelmed by what happened to me.

It was a Tuesday.  I was at my parents house in Arkansas.  I had a meeting that left me feeling raw and vulnerable in all the worst ways.  I felt my character was called into question and in turn I started to question how I could take everything God has been talking to me about for two years and not feel sucker-punched every time my heart was misinterpreted.  How do I stay safe without rebuilding walls?  How do I stay defenseless when I feel under attack?  So, I cried, and I moped.

Mom was finishing house work and Ben (my brother) dropped Dad off after completing their daily carpool to and from work.  I don’t remember why Ben came inside, but for the first time in a long time it was just the four of us again.

Dad and I had plans to go to the gym.  He took one look at my melancholic face and asked if the gym appointment was “off”.  I opened my mouth and it all started spilling out. The frustration, the hurt, the anger.  Fat tears rolled down my splotchy cheeks.  I got loud.  Mom and Ben came to investigate.  And they just listened.  They let me get everything out in an unprofessional, unpolished, unstable way.  Just the way family lets you, because they’ve seen your crazy too many times to be surprised.

Dad hugged me for a long time and told me he was “so sorry you’re going through this.”  Ben hugged me and told me to “work it out at the gym.”  Mom hugged me and didn’t say anything.  Although, I’m sure she was plotting four different schemes that would fix everything 🙂

I went to the gym.  I worked it out in sweat.  I sat with the feelings.  I took care of myself in spite of the pain.

It wasn’t until I was sharing this event with friends in IL that I could see how significant it was for me to be surrounded and seen and supported by my entire family in real time.  I left Arkansas right after high school.  My brother has his own beautiful, wonderful family.  The last time we lived together was when I was 16.  Most of our relationships are carried out via facebook or FaceTime.  I have no memory of family solidarity shown in this very specific way.

But I do now.

I have this amazing memory filled with acceptance from my family that some people are never lucky enough to get or recognize, much less experience as an adult.  And in the middle of a rough patch…that feels like the biggest gift in the world.

I don’t have a picture to share of Ben.  But, he sent me an early birthday present before I left the country.  In light of what happened, it means more now that it would have before.  When I opened it I sat on the floor and cried because I was overcome at how blessed I am.

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