I suspect that by looking at the picture of our home on Lake Joy, people make assumptions. Most of those assumptions would be true. In response to an Instagram post, one of my dear friends wrote that it’s a magical home. She’s right. It is one of the most magical places I’ve ever lived. Nearly every day, deer, blue heron, geese, gorgeous sunsets, and stunning sunrises grace our property. We swim in the lake during the summer, we paddle board, and we play in the yard almost all year around. Yesterday, we spent most of the morning sledding on the side of the house in near hysterics. Before that, John and I walked around the lake hand in hand, and talked about life, hopes and dreams, and also found a good stride in silence together. It breaks my heart it’s so magical.
There is nothing wrong with assuming that these pictures, these lovely glimpses of life tell a story. They do. But they do not tell the whole story. They tell a sliver of it, a slant of it.
Yesterday, I posted on my Instagram feed about how I dealt with several Family-Stone moments during my Christmas this year. We probably all did. Life is filled with Family-Stone moments. (If you haven’t seen that Christmas movie, I highly recommend it.) Family-Stone moments are those awful moments when everyone is at the dinner table and one person says something so awful no one knows how to respond. Or when one uncle drinks too much and says the wrong thing. Or someone you hardly know says something so insulting you want to leave forever, but that would cause even a bigger scene, so you bear it in silence. Or you find out your mother or grandmother has breast cancer and is not going to make it to next Christmas.
I’m drinking far less than ever before, and am not numbing my way through family gatherings, which means I feel the Family-Stone moments much more poignantly than ever before. But I also feel the glorious moments more than before. Like when Mom and Wayne, and my sister and stepbrother and his beautiful family navigated icy roads to be with us on Christmas day. We laughed, we ate, we unwrapped presents, and enjoyed one another so much.
The night before, on Christmas Eve, John and I spent three hours trying to get home from his mom’s house. The snow took everyone by surprise and cars were strewn across every ditch imaginable. I didn’t capture that on Instagram or Facebook. It was dark and frightening and tense every single minute for three hours. We barely made it home.
What I want my Instagram and Facebook feed to reflect is that my life is a myriad of resurrected dreams. Nothing is the way I ever imagined it would be. In fact, most of the joy in my life comes because I’ve worked hard to accept what is, instead of crying over what isn’t. (I’ve done a fair bit of that, too.)
God takes rubble and devastated families, and gathers up the brokenhearted and somehow, over time builds something new. But even in the new, there’s the sting of what used to be. We feel it more at Christmas than the rest of the year.
I suspect all of us post pictures on Instagram, and capture the scenes of our lives on Facebook, not because we’re trying to be something that we aren’t, not because we want to live a lie, or give off false ideas of the perfect family. It’s not that at all. Everyone I know is trying to live in the midst of remarkable disappointments. Whether it’s divorce and remarriage like my life, or a cancer diagnosis, or alienated children and grandchildren, or financial ruin, or overwhelming debt. All of us are dealing with something.
We post pictures and capture the beautiful moments because we’re alive, and because it’s right to lean into the glorious and the tender, because it’s good to claim those poignant moments as our own. It’s our way of declaring that life isn’t over, that there is something that comes after total and absolute destruction. Something good does come after cancer or even in the middle of cancer.
We do discover joy right in the middle of awful pain.
Healing songs do rise out of ashes in startling ways.
And love blossoms when we least expect it.
May you be blessed this week as you embrace the good and beautiful that rises right from the center of all the awkward moments you couldn’t figure out how to escape. And may you find a few moments to rest from it all.