Have you ever looked back on a moment in your life and realized that had you made a different decision in that instant, the trajectory of everything would have changed for you? Have you ever abandoned it all simply because it felt like the right thing to do even if at first glance it appeared to make no sense? Have you ever been questioned by others, had your motives doubted, or been called "nuts" simply because you elected to live your life guided by The Voice that others sometimes ignore, or never hear at all?
We each have opportunities every single day to listen, to discern, and to act. Some of us do things others would never imagine doing, and that onlookers will never truly understand. Others select the road more solidly trodden, with ruts worn deep by the feet of all who went before. I think I tend to take the barely discernible path, and that has led to so many who look upon me completely perplexed. In fact, just about any decision of any consequence in my life has had its doubters...so much so that I have learned to recognize that the more puzzled and skeptical others are, the more likely it is that I am taking the God Road, for God's ways are often contrary to the world's ways, and are often sorely misunderstood. It's only taken me 48 years to figure that out, and to cast aside the comments of others as so much flotsam, and let it all be carried away by the ebbing tides.
The past couple of weeks provided an opportunity for just such jettisoning, as the girls and I embarked on a seemingly simple overnight trip to Denver that ended up turning into one of the most sacred times of our lives, though I am sure looking in from the outside it would seem like a period of huge inconvenience. How wrong that perspective would be.
Our family was blessed to have my new friend, Candi, and her daughter, Christi, come visit us over Spring Break. It was a very short visit, cut even shorter by a flight cancellation at the beginning of their trip here. We had both really wanted to have our families meet, and though Candi's was necessarily two short...having left her partner and son behind due to work and school obligations...we felt strongly that there was the potential for something between the girls, in particular, and we wanted to test the waters to see if we were right.
The visit was sweet, but whirlwindish, and after a mere two nights off we went to return our precious cargo to Denver. Because of the brevity of the trip, nothing had really been able to be lived into. Little did we know that the real visit was about to begin. Everyone has heard that saying that "We make plans, and God laughs.", and that was exactly what happened upon our arrival in Denver. Due to the freak winter storms on the East Coast and travel coinciding with the end of Spring Break, two different flight cancellations led to an additional three days, then another two day stay in Denver.
We didn't ask for it, we wouldn't have planned it, we could have made different decisions...and I am so grateful that we listened and just let God go to work on all of us, using weather and airlines to create a spaciousness and connectedness that no effort on our part could have ever crafted. What happened among the five of us was truly a tying of hearts, a cementing of souls unlike anything I have ever experienced. Suddenly, we had hours and hours to spend together with nothing to do, and no real money to do anything with. It was the best thing that ever could have happened.
I could have gone home and left our guests to fend for themselves for several days alone in a large city with no transportation, and no one to be with. It didn't feel right, and more importantly, it felt as if we were supposed to be there, so I listened, called Dominick, and together we decided the girls and I would stay. I have the most fabulous husband ever, who "gets it" that sometimes, things happen for a reason, and we need to remain tuned in to that.
With the luxury of more time, the five of us began to really get to know one another better. We did nothing important at all...we visited IKEA and the Container Store and wandered the aisles dreaming of beautiful kitchens and super organized cupboards, we walked the 16th Street Mall at night as we people watched and listened to the sounds of the Big City. We went to an indoor mall and treated ourselves to ice cream. We found "our place" for lunch and dinner, Sams #3, which we vowed to visit every time they come to Colorado.
We built relationships, we built memories, we built a sense of belonging to one another.
And God showed up all over the place, offering us moments to enter into the sacred with our teen daughters in ways that were profoundly moving and deep for every single one of us. The five of us went deeper, spoke more intimately, and felt things more intensely than I think I have ever done with any other group of women, regardless of age.
If I had not listened to The Voice and felt the need to rush back to "real life", bypassing the opportunity to simply be present to the Spirit and the "spirits" of the women I was with, we all would have missed out on SO MUCH!
We went to the kids' summer camp, La Foret, and showed Candi and Christi the chapel, and walked
around were a necessity, and the smiles were broad and very real as arms were slung over shoulders and words of "You are my sister forever" were exchanged.
And did you know that the gas station is Sacred Ground? As we pulled up to a pump not long after departing La Foret, Christi asked a question about the nature of God, and I turned off the ignition, and there we all sat, in the fading light, and without need of a look or a nod we moms understood this was A Moment, and there we stayed quietly speaking of how God works in the world, of how others imagine God to be, of the need to speak our own truths and live them out being essential to becoming authentic women. I don't know if I will ever forget that 30 or 40 minutes we all sat there, bathed in a golden glow as we let time stand still and simply sat with God in the middle seat in our minivan. I will also never forget what it felt like to be with another mom who senses those moments as well, who doesn't feel a need to give in to the world's push to rush from one thing to the next and miss out on the very real Presence that is far more important than moving on to the next task at hand. Together, we answered questions and offered our own thoughts, each encouraging the girls to all share their own perceptions. It was as sacred a moment as any I've ever had in church, and if truth be told, it was probably more sacred.
Had I pushed to do what the world would have thought was rational, and left our new "sisters" behind so we could get home, I would have missed out on the evening we were all sprawled on a bed, giggling and laughing as we talked about inane teen girl stuff, then witnessing the conversation turn ever so gently in a new direction when I asked that we each name things we had learned and appreciated about each other. Our PJ Party turned sweetly down a path of beautiful affirmation, and
Had I given in to the urge to return home, I would have missed out on seeing Olesya blossom unexpectedly into a more open, humorous, sharp witted young lady who is usually placing herself as far behind the scenes as possible. Oh man, was she funny!!! And with every witticism, wecomplimented her and saw her blush reveal how pleased she was at being noticed and lifted up. I would have missed seeing her carefully create a friendship bracelet for Candi, then place it on her wrist tying it in place. I would have missed seeing the love develop between those two, as long, firm hugs were offered to someone outside the family, perhaps for the first time.
We all would have missed out on singing Billie Jean together in the car five thousand times, we would have missed out on joking about Rocky Mountain Oysters as we initiated the New Englanders into the lingo of the Wild West, we would have missed out on seeing the joy on the girls' faces (and the jumping up and down) as they learned that yet a second flight had been cancelled, and we would have missed out on the tender moments as we consoled Candi as frustration overtook her at that news and tears fell unbidden. We would have missed out on seeing a sisterhood of three form as they all verbally claimed one another as such, we would have missed out on catching a glimpse of the future with daughters on the verge of adulthood yet still not quite ready for that world yet. We would have missed out on laughing more than I have laughed in years...perhaps ever....we would have missed out on painted toenails, short jokes, and walking arm in arm five abreast.
We would have missed it all.
But you know what it took me a couple days back to realize? We all would have missed what it felt like when love takes you in. In that unexpected seven day interlude, love took us all in, and yes, as the song goes, everything changed. Everything. I gained a new niece/daughter in Christi, and Candi in turn gained two new nieces/daughters in Olesya and Angela. We all fell madly in love with one another, we shared a mini-summer camp (OK, maybe winter camp is more appropriate!) sort of adventure and we bonded in a way I have never bonded with other women before. I was never fortunate enough to go to summer camp and I never lived in a dorm, so this was living into something, even if only for a week, that I never experienced when I was younger.
And maybe...just maybe...I gained a sense of what our children have felt like when they were adopted. I have always done the adopting, and never really been adopted myself. I have adopted other adults into my heart, I have adopted our children one by one, but I have personally never been special enough, or important enough to be adopted by someone else...until now.
I think I now know what it feels like when love takes you in, and everything changes. I know what it feels like to be fully accepted, and loved "because of" not "in spite of". I think all five of us walked away from this past week feeling a little piece of this, and it was beautiful, and it was extraordinary, and it was sacred in every way.
Our love was mirrored back at us, the girls and I, in a way that has never happened before. Reminding me of the stunning reflection on Blue Mesa Lake that we stopped to take photos of as we brought Candi and Christi home from Denver, we were able to offer love and have it returned to us in exact proportions, in equal measure. The love that we offered was reflected back to us unabashedly by others who know how to bring it as deeply, and offer it as openly and completely.
When love takes you in, everything....everything changes.
"When Love Takes You In" - Steven Curtis Chapman