Looking Back

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Sometimes, when I think of our family, I have a hard time remembering some things. There are sort of blank spots in my memory. However, other moments are forever etched in my mind. Running to the emergency room during Sunday morning worship rehearsal to get stitches for our two-year-old (he decided the church aisle was a running track, only he wasn't wearing running shoes, hence the stitches) to return just in time to sit down at the piano and resume the worship service. With a child in my arms. I must admit to playing piano in worship more than once wearing a child like an apron. Anyway, memories. A fight between our two middle children shortly after we became a family, resulting in a walk through the neighborhood with dad, that actually ended in a run from the snake that crossed their path. I love it when God sends something so unexpected to turn our anger into laughter. I remember summer days in the pool, washing an endless pile of beach towels, and mopping up wet footprints daily. I never thought those would be fond memories, but they sure are now. I remember night after night, processing from room to room, each child tucked safely in their bed, and praying with them, kissing them and turning out the light. I remember assigning a laundry day for each child. This became a necessity after trying to sort the socks from four kids within a ten-year-age-span. I learned quickly that separating laundry by child instead of by color was the easiest way to go.

I remember soccer games, t-ball games, dance recitals, football games, band concerts, church programs, school programs, visits to the principal's office. I remember broken hearts and bad grades. I remember graduations and homecomings and proms. I remember college orientations. Lots of them. I remember first days of school, and last first days of elementary. I vividly remember the first days of senior year. I cried buckets every time. Honestly, it was worse than the first day of kindergarten. But I didn't know any better, so I cried bucketfuls then, too.

I remember Mother's Days with more cards and gifts crafted by precious little hands than I can count.

I remember children who came to know Jesus as their Savior. On the pew at church. In the car at a gas station. In bed after saying prayers. Sitting on the living room sofa. Outside, laying in the hammock. All Holy Ground to this mom.

I guess I'm a little nostalgic lately because I've been going through old photographs. You see, the one that took us to the ball games and band concerts and church programs and graduation and orientation and prom and homecoming, and yes, the principal's office ... the one whose Holy Ground is the car at the gas station, is getting married in two weeks. The kids wanted a few photographs of their growing up and families to display at the reception. I must admit to shedding more than a few tears as I've wandered down the lane of memories. I remember vividly when some of the photos were taken. There is one of my boys with their cousins playing together at the church. They are wearing suits and Sunday dresses. It was the lunch provided after their dad's funeral. There is a photo of the boys eating snow cones at the zoo. Our new family was a month old and it was the first time that just my boys and I had an outing together. Then there is the picture of the kids at the top of reunion tower. It was Christmas Eve (our first one together) and we had to postpone a ski trip because of the chicken pox. Our daughter brought them home from school the week before Christmas break, so our youngest was a textbook case and broke out exactly 14 days later. We found her first "pox" on Christmas Eve, at Reunion Tower.

While there is such a mixture of sweet memories and bittersweet memories, one thing is certain. God's love has bound us together. And the past is there as a reminder that God is always at work, always doing His work in our lives. While some of the past is painful and filled with regret, most of the photos remind me of the joy and laughter we shared. I'm reminded of fusses that ended in hugs and forgiveness. I'm reminded of how the people I've shared the past with have loved and shown compassion and care for others.

One of my favorite envelope of photographs had nothing to do with the event or even the skill of the photographer. They were simply pictures we took one Easter. No one was happy about having to dress up in "Easter clothes." That I remember. And the photo was taken at a time when our blending family was not easy. But what I saw in those pictures, the posed and the candid, were kids who had walked through deep pain and loss. But I saw kids who were resilient. They were thriving and growing and experiencing life in its fullness. The joy and difficulty. But mostly, I could see how they cared for each other. Even when they didn't like each other. They had learned to love each other.

In those photos, I saw a family. Not a broken family. Not a blending family. Not a step-family. I just saw a family. People who shared the good, bad, and ugly of life, together.

I am really bad about focusing on the "what we did wrongs" of our blending family. My selective memory tends to leave me filled with hallow regrets. But, my journey through the photos helped me remember the good things. The moments of fun and laughter we shared as a family. Vacations and events. Times spent together around the holiday table. Afternoon carpool and getting kids to and from activities. "Wearing" our new baby in the Snugli to two football games every week. Dinners at the table and dinners in the car. Swimming and playing and New Year's Eve events with our own little "youth group." The times we actually did things right.

I know it's easy to get discouraged looking back. The "what if's" and "if only's" can paralyze our today. But let God sift your memories. Remember the hard times only as a way to ponder what you've learned. Remember the hard times so you can be ever so grateful for the good times. And remember the good times. They are a blessing from the Lord. So is your family.

So, wherever you are today in the midst of your blending family, stop and express gratitude for the people who are sharing your life. Thank God that He has put you together as a family. And let today be a day of rejoicing WITH your family. I know its not perfect. It will likely never be perfect. But rejoice in it anyway. I have a picture by my back door. It says, "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass ... it's about learning to dance in the rain." Maybe today you need to pretend to be Gene Kelly and just do a little dancing and singing in the rain.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again. Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7

About the author:

Teri is passionate about teaching, writing, and ministering to fellow sojourners. She spends her days working in ministry and her evenings and weekends being wife and mom.