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Broken again. Hands emptied. Silly me. I thought I was entering the days of fullness and abundance. Each morning I met the sun as it rose with anticipation and an open heart. Five days to embrace sea and sand. Five days to write and plan. And here I am with pages and pages of notes and thoughts and knee-deep in sorrow, loss; depression creeping in, splashing around my knees like the cold water of the afternoon storm. Broken again.
This last morning I stare out into the sea and ask God, ask myself, “What did I expect? A cup filled to the top; a confidence unshakable,” I whisper into the quiet.
I grew up in a house full of women. I was just a young girl, so I didn’t quite understand the complexities of the dynamics at the time but looking back on it through the haze of the years, I realize that my mother was a force to be reckoned with. She had grown up under both the torment and joy of four older brothers and somewhere along the way she determined that she would stand her ground and speak her mind.
Momma wanted to give birth to a son named Joe, but all four of us turned out to be girls, so she gave up on the fourth and called her Nancy Jo. We were spread out along 14 years and two husbands, and she loved to say she broke the mold with each of us. We looked nothing alike and our personalities had little in common. We loved each other, resented each other, argued with each other, and insisted on taking our vacations together. We sat up late into the night talking and drove each other crazy on road trips. Family. Females. Sisters.
There he was, running away with little in his arms, but a blessing on his head. His name was Jacob, and he had a bad reputation for being a liar and a thief; a deceiver without integrity, only seeking his own advantage. Willing to destroy any relationship to elevate himself. He could play the perfect dark and disturbed hero on a Netflix series.
My new friend sitting across from me in the coffee shop leans in to admit in a whisper, “I really don’t like Genesis. Those people were supposed to be the heroes – but look at Jacob – I just don’t get it.”
It all started in a grave… and a borrowed one at that. Usually, it was the women who bathed the lifeless body, rubbed the skin with rich perfumes and lovingly, carefully wrapped their loved one in strips of linen.
This grave was different. It held a king. A king from a foreign land. Messengers from that foreign land, angels, watched silently from the shadows. All was quiet. They had no songs to sing, no words to say as they watched the two men at their work.
My sister had a recurring dream in the months before she passed away. She told me about it one day as I sat on the edge of her hospital bed. In her dream, she climbed a long staircase; at the top was a locked door. She tried the door, but it would not open.
I think I shared with her the verse from the Revelation to John; that we are the ones who open the door. Our conversation went no deeper at the time. This recurring dream of hers continued and expanded and there came a time when she opened that door.
I was ill-prepared when I set out on this little journey. The sun was high in the sky, the air crisp and warm with a slight breeze. At the end of the trail there are waterfalls, clearly marked with an orange star. But I will not make it there. My hiking boots are safe and sound on the other side of the continent in the dark of my closet, as I slip and slide in my black Adidas on the hard-packed snow and ice that carpets the trail.
I will make do with a large granite rock and the babble of the brook intermixed with the occasional car on the road that runs parallel.
See all Homemade
There they are- those names typed out in black on the well-worn page; the margins tan from the oil of our fingers. The title reads “Record from the Elias Mitchell Family Bible”. Line one; ‘Married to Pauline Lucinda Wade in Chester County SC. January 4, 1870.’ Twelve children line up below in birth order. But below that, the death order makes us pause.
William Thomas, born October 29, 1870, dies on April 5th, 1874. James Cleveland, born July 5th, 1872 dies August 17th, 1873. Mary Irene, known to us as Aunt Mamie, makes it to adulthood to become like a grandmother to our mothers. Uncle Lumpkin makes it safely through, as well as Nancy Vistula – who my sister Nancy is named after. But little Sallie Beauford, born in 1887 doesn’t make it to see her first birthday.
I have been missing my sister Ann the last couple of weeks. Ann died suddenly four years ago and none of us had the chance for that last conversation about goodbye.
My mother always had a very practical view of death since she had seen it up close and personal when she lost her first husband in her 20’s. And as Christians, we view this life as the one that is temporary… and the next one is the good one to look forward to. If you aren’t familiar with that view, I will give you a few of Jesus’s words about it below. Rumor has it that Jesus defeated death and my family has always leaned hard into that truth.
A cup full and overflowing. Extravagant abundance. These are the words that fill my mind this early morning before the sun has risen. Turn out the porch light and pour a cup a coffee. The house is quiet for the first time in eleven days.
Counting. Numbers have bounced around in my brain all my waking hours these past days. How many nephews and their children can fit into which bedroom? How many to prepare a breakfast feast for? How many to reserve a table at the restaurant for? How many bowls to put out for soup?
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