At least I can say that I survived.
I survived the brief period of respite in the busy lives of my family as they all gathered at the homestead for the observance of Christmas. They were all here . . . all ten of us, plus three dogs . . . crowded around the kitchen table, telling stories, laughing, arguing, stuffing their faces, and having a grand ol’ time reconnecting and being family. And, I survived.
The youngest son, our daughter-in-law, and granddog made the long trek north from Salt Lake City the Friday before Christmas to spend some time with their Montana family . . . brothers and sister, brother-in-law, nieces, and of course the wife and I. They made their base camp at the homestead where we all gathered multiple times throughout the week to break bread, have a few brews, a few bottles of wine, and make a lot of noise. It was a blast having them and the rest of the family gathered . . . and, I survived.
This morning the youngest and his spouse packed up and headed south to beat the incoming storm . . . headed south to return where they work and play . . . to where they call “home”. The weather forecast was predicting a storm coming from the northwest . . . pretty much over the route that they were going to be driving to get home. Out the door they went as the sun was rising to beat the storm on roads still recovering from the previous winter’s blast of two days ago . . . one that left their route less than desirable for travel. The kids and granddog said their goodbyes, loaded up, and headed down the road.
As they drove down the street . . . the quietness returned . . . the stillness returned . . . and, it was over. The Christmas celebration and reunion was over. Everyone had begun their journey back to reality . . . back to so-called normalness . . . and, I had survived much to the chagrin of the rest of the family.
In the quietness of the day I have caught myself wandering around the stillness of the house. The Christmas music is still playing . . . the lights are still shining brightly from the free . . . the snow has provided a blanket of beauty across the yard where Morris the Moose shines on in the approaching darkness . . . and, yet, there is a restlessness that stirs me to wander in the quiet stillness of the house . . . I am thinking of my family—near and far. Isn’t that what happens when the noise of the celebration ceases and the quietness descends . . . we contemplate, we think, we wonder, and we offer a prayer.
The informal belief in our family is that “family is all that we have”, and because it is all that we have we have to love and support one another in the journey of life . . . for better or worse. As a family we succeed fairly well for the most part even though there are some parts that we still need to work on . . . a few relationships that need to be mended and re-established . . . a little more grace and a little less animosity . . . and, I imagine that in time it will come or I will die—whichever comes first. But, for the most part we do a good job of being a family . . . about as good as anyone. Yet it is in this belief that we cling tightly to one another . . . in the good times and in the bad times . . . to love and support one another despite the fact that each of us is on our own journeys to be who God created us to be . . . to be ourselves in a world that would rather we all be carbon copies of one another. Thus we cling and hold on tightly to one another because we care . . . because we love one another.
With the crunching of the car’s tires going down the street, the children left. Quietness descended . . . and the immensity of the whole thing overwhelmed me . . . what an awesome responsibility any of us has when we are a part of a family. Despite enjoying the quiet stillness of the homestead after the Christmas tsunami, I miss them all. Our Christmas gathering was a wonderful respite in the journeys that each of us are on . . . a wonderful break from all the noise of the world around us . . . a joyful occasion to break bread, drink a little wine, tells stories, to laugh, and to bask in the warmth of a family’s love.
But, life must go on. We all must pack up our belongings from the respite of family gathering and head back into the reality of our own journeys. There are jobs to be done. Children to be raised. Relationships to be worked on. Dreams to dream. Doctor’s appointments. Bills to be paid. Choices to make. Each of our journeys takes us down the paths of life--some well-traveled, some not even blazed—in different directions. Some will draw us closer, but others will draw us further apart. Some will be easy, some quite difficult. There will be victories and defeats. These are journeys that we have to make in order to discover who we are . . . what our purpose is . . . and, to dream the big dreams. Often we must make them alone. We all have to go back to the journey.
I am amazed at the journeys of the members of my family . . . amazed at the resilience of each and every one of them. Amazed that they have rejoiced in the good times and ridden the waves of the difficult times. I stand in awe of them each carving out their own paths through life. Amazed at their dreams . . . and, honored that they allow the wife and I to be a part of the stories that are being lived and written.
And, so, it makes me contemplate in this quiet stillness . . . I think of how much I love them . . . I think about how much I want to succeed in their pursuits . . . I think about their happiness . . . I think about their safety. Above all things I want them to be safe . . . safe, because the journey of life is not for the faint-hearted. It can be hard and dangerous. As the youngest and his wife pulled away . . . in the quietness of the house . . . I uttered a simple prayer: “Traveling mercies.”
I uttered it for all my family . . . wherever they might be . . . “traveling mercies.” Yeah, I survived the family onslaught . . . the family celebration and gathering; but, thanks to the words of “traveling mercies” said for me throughout my life, I have also survived the journey thus far. That is my desire and wishes for all my family . . . that God may surround them all in their journeys and keep them safe.