Have you ever felt so lost and alone surrounded by people you love and you know love you, and yet you don't even recognize yourself anymore?
That is how I felt last summer.
I was trying to make it to a funeral to support some good friends of ours who had lost their mom, and it felt like God would maybe need to part the Red Sea again in order for me to slip out of the house, in a dress, without kids. The entire time that I showered, dressed, and put on makeup, my baby screamed at me. And I couldn't remember the last time I had been to the bathroom alone. It had been years.
By the time I had fed the kids, set up the babysitter for success, and made it out the door I realized how hungry I was. It had been a blur of a morning taking care of everyone else, and I had forgotten to eat. I met my husband outside where the funeral would be, hungry and irritated. He was doing the music for the service, but we were early, so we took off and grabbed a salad.
This felt like the first date we had been on in a long time.
Scarfing down takeout in styrofoam containers.
In the car.
Before a funeral.
What was my life even?
I felt prickly and annoyed and I didn't know why. But looking forward to a funeral because it would give me a break from the kids and a moment or two alone with my husband was pathetic. And in hindsight, I told him all this rather unkindly.
I swallowed down the lump in my throat, reburied the lost feeling I couldn't put my finger on, and found a seat near the back of the room.
The funeral was a loving farewell. Her kids took care of almost every detail, and the personal touches were evident. One of her daughters spoke on behalf of the family and honored her mom with stories and memories they were all leaning hard into, and would not soon let go of.
What stood out to me, was that their best memories of their mom, weren't in the big events, vacations or birthday parties I tend to put so much stock in. They were in the small every day rhythms, centered around a kitchen table, where there was food, love, a listening ear, and bits of scripture read again and again.
I thought about what I hoped would make deep imprints in my children's memories when they recalled their childhood. I hoped it was the feeling of being tucked in each night. The sound of my husband's voice as he sang and played the guitar on the piano bench outside their bedrooms. And that they remembered our home as a place where they felt seen, listened to, fed, and loved.
They will grow, I reminded myself as I listened from the back row. They will shoot up like poplars before my eyes. It's just now, in the hard middle, where everyday feels a little like groundhog day, and I have my nose pressed close to the earth, watching each seedling grow, that it's hard to feel like my life is moving forward. It's hard to imagine a day beyond diapers, strollers, spills, fits, and needs. It's hard to imagine sitting around a table and not be constantly reminding someone to not talk with their mouth full of food, or coax them to eat just three more bites. This had been my life for over a decade now. And some days I don't have strength enough to believe it will change. I want to crumble in the frustration, instead of rise in strength for the moment set before me.
After the funeral, while the family was away at the graveside, I wandered around the foyer, where the family had taken the time to set out her keepsakes and personal items that created a sort of time capsule to honor this beautiful woman. As I slowly walked through the display and fingered the wedding dress she made, gently leafed through the Bible she studied, underlined and wrote notes in, saw her drawings and love letters tied up neatly with ribbon, I was able to form a clearer picture of who she was. Here was a woman who had had her share of stress, frustration, and sorrow, yet had still chosen joy. The momentous along with the seemingly insignificant decisions she made daily to walk in faithfulness and love her family well, added up to a lifetime. It dawned on me that some people, help point us home. They are North Stars in our sky when we are lost at sea, or on a dark forest road who shine their light as a beacon to guide us.
It's the empty, pep talk spirit of "Girl, you've got this" that I don't want or need. What I was looking for without even realizing it, was a sign post in the dark, a star that never shifts, but always points north. I want to draw near to the essence of someone who has made it through. To be able to observe the loveliness of a life and be affected by it like ripples in a pond. Though this woman no longer breathed here on this earth, her faithfulness and beauty remained like a testament, like wisps of glory one could see and want to follow after.
But her trail she left behind wasn't a formula for me to copy, it was an example. The direction she was pointing me in, would point me to a person, Jesus.
And that is ultimately what North Stars remind us of. They are the people we come in contact with in our lives who remind us to keep going.
It's this way.
You're off course abit.
Or a lot.
Or, you're almost home.
They are the people who keep pointing us to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
My baby is a year older now. This summer, while his siblings are in Aikido, we spend a few mornings a week walking to get our errands done. I haul the jogger out of the back of the van, pop it open, buckle him in with a sucker that buys me a few precious moments of silence, and away we roll on these bright, summer mornings. At one of our stops, the cashier leaned over to get a peek at him. "You have a long legged one there." She said.
"I don't think we'll get many more moons out of this jogger." And as I said it, the realization of it clapped above my head. This may be the last summer I push a jogger around? How can that be? This season of babyhood and toddlers was coming to an end. And in the realization of closure comes another thought. I want to finish well.
I don't want to come to the end of certain season of my life rolling my eyes muttering "It's about time". In this last stretch, as I stumble and feel winded daily, I need God to meet me and help me finish this leg of the journey. I need Him to remind me throughout each day to stay awake and intentional, to not numb out in this last stretch. And when I make the space to listen, I can hear him remind me to hold on tight to certain moments, like these summer walks with my last baby. But to be ready to release into the next season when it comes.
Maybe, with this mindset of presence, over distraction and need for change, as a season closes behind me and a new one opens up, I too, will leave behind a sign post for fellow travelers coming behind. Maybe I will eventually become a North Star.