Do you remember those days as a child, when for months you’d look forward to a trip to the beach or the annual Thanksgiving reunion in the Piney Woods? And you’d dream and dream and imagine in your head what it would look like and what you would say and where people would sit and what it would feel, smell and sound like? You’d imagine being there, falling asleep knowing there were all these other people you love falling asleep under the same roof as you.
And you’d build it up in your mind, and then just before the date arrived, you’d start to wonder if it could actually be as wonderful as you imagined. Maybe it wouldn’t be so great, you’d doubt. Maybe it would rain, or you’d be left out, or get the stomach bug.
But then, it came.
And it was so good that it snapped by like a flash and was over almost before it began.
And soon, you’re sitting on your couch alone, wondering how the days skipped by so fast and where your loved ones are and why it’s so quiet. And how much you loved all those bodies crowding around this too-small house and the grass trodden hard into the carpet and tumbling piles of dishes and very late nights and telling stories till your words slur with sleepiness. The cascarone egg confetti that you didn’t want to sweep up on the back porch because it reminded you of them? Now it has made brightly colored happy stains all over the concrete since the rain. But, it’s okay.
This great big beautiful mess. A reminder of a week well-lived.
That happened to me last week. I’m mid-thirties. But it feels just the same.
You see, for Holy Week and Easter, we had visitors from Colorado. Our friends, Steve and Katja, and their four beautiful children.
Steve and I met when I was 17, on my first day at Texas A&M – at a dorm mixer. He, the lone long-haired Coloradan on campus and me, the only one of my high school friends to even consider such a conservative, un-cool university as Texas A&M. My crowd thought I was certifiably insane to come here for college. Steve and I soon bonded over our love of weird bands no one else on campus had ever heard of, his over-use of the word ‘dude’ and my odd-ball jewelry and love of black clothing. He asked my roommate out on a date. I had a brief crush on his friend. And one night, we stayed up all night long, talking in someone else’s empty dorm room. First floor, by the walk-through to the street.
college pics – top: freshman year, bottom: senior year.
And I soon realized that a little secret longing in my heart for a brother, from way back as far as I could remember, was being soothed, in some odd way.
Like God did it.
The following spring, Steve was my confirmation sponsor as I entered my beloved Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil at St. Mary’s in 1994. This was after many long walks, consisting of me asking strange questions, and him repeating answers again and again. Too many good things to recount. It was as it should have been, and I am ever thankful.
Long story long (as my step dad likes to day), time passed. He studied abroad in England where he met his lovely Katja, who was studying there from Finland. I stayed in Aggieland (where I still am to this day) and met my Curt. Our weddings were two weeks apart, several years later in June of 1999. They moved to Ireland, we stayed right here (didn’t I already say that? Yes, we’re boring.). And we had four kids each and kept in touch via email and long distance phone calls and a baptism.
I’ve found great joy in all of this… in all of this getting older and seeing God’s hand in what was seemingly such randomness. In seeing my husband and my friend sit on the back porch sipping beer and talking. Talking while staring out at the trees. Of my many talks with Katja, first in college when she could hardly speak any English – sign-language with lots of smiles and laughing, really. And now, like sisters. This girl Steve brought all the way from Finland. I can’t imagine not knowing her. Or him without her.
And we all watched our children play. Fall asleep on the floor. Run through the woods. Hold hands and swing them with ferocious little girl adoration, laugh huge belly laughs and whisper secrets like they’ve spent every minute of their lives together. My son asked, “Could I just say the boys are my brothers? ‘Cause I don’t have any.”
Another Easter Vigil Mass, but now a whole pew full of spouses and children. Little ones sprawled out in sleepiness, older ones leaning forward, their chin in their hands, in eager anticipation. I held my godson’s hand during the Mass, whispered into his ear, explained all the interesting and different rituals.
There was a moment, probably around 11:30 PM during the Easter Vigil, where God gave me a little peak into His great and surprising and sneaky love. That, despite my unsteadiness, despite my wanderings and doubtfulness and years of bad decisions and wayward walks, that he has taken this very haphazard mess of mine and still, STILL made something so beautiful that I can hardly believe it.
He has placed these people in my life, on purpose, in order, with great deliberation, one after the other, with great beautiful symmetry. That is no accident. He has made my mess beautiful, indeed!
It is undeniable proof that He loves me.
Here are a few photos of our Holy Week: