For the first time in my life, I feel like I belong in my family.
This unexpected thought came to my mind because of a tragedy in our family: the loss of my young cousin, Ashley, in Oregon. That day the temperature was 116 degrees, and it appears she succumbed to the intense heat.
Sorrow flowed through our hearts. As we wrestled with the reality of Ashley’s absence, God began to bring about changes in our family.
We craved to know how each of us was coping. More frequent communication and deeper expressions of love flowed between us. Since I live in Orlando, lengthy phone calls ensued and texts flew back and forth. I also expressed love for them through my cards and letters.
When I flew to Oregon to see them, we all gathered at Cary’s home. The sun was bright. Salmon and fresh-picked corn sizzled on Cary’s grill while we sat together in his beautiful backyard, surrounded by towering fir trees and summer dahlias. A beautifully-crafted waterfall produced a soothing sound as we engaged in easy conversation sprinkled with laughter. My heart soared.
The following week, I sat under the patio umbrella in Blair and Peggy’s backyard. We enjoyed a free-flowing conversation for several hours like three friends who were used to being together. A few days later, Justin and I met for lunch to share personal things that mattered to us. Justin’s text warmed my heart. “I had a great time catching up at lunch. I’m glad we were able to have that time together.”
The day before my flight back to Orlando, the unusual thought popped into my mind: I feel like I belong in this family now. When I shared my feelings with Cary and Blair, they were puzzled. Both responded, “You’ve always been part of the family!”
That’s when I realized a deep change had taken place inside of me. When the others pulled me into their daily lives, I felt closer to them and more willing to express my feelings and emotions. In return, they became more open and honest with me.
Cary calls me once a week. Before I left town, Blair said, “Please keep calling me. I’m not good at initiating, but I enjoy talking to you.” Justin and I want to find a mutual time to talk together on Zoom.
This kind of closeness may already be a part of your family life; for us it’s a new era. God planned to bring new life out of our tragedy. Because of my personal experience, I understand in a deeper way why God gave us this instruction:
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)
“Family togetherness” is at the top of my thanksgiving list. What will you thank God for this month? Post your comment below.