I’m sitting at my computer watching the rain begin to fall as Tropical Storm Bill rolls in. Which is good because if there’s one thing Houston needs right now, it’s more rain. (Oh, wait! My sarcasm font wasn’t turned on.)
That’s the thing about rain – it rarely comes at a convenient time. I have the app “Timehop” on my phone. It’s a free app that scans your social media posts from previous years and then sends you a report each morning with the pictures and posts you made on this day in history. For the past few weeks I’ve been laughing at all the posts I made a few years back about drought. It was really dry in Texas for a long time. Dry enough that our governor declared official days of prayer for rain. Crops dried up and roads melted. It was so hot and so dry for so long. We were on water rationing and many chose to simply let their yards burn up.
Fast forward to 2015 and we are praying for the rain to stop. We had almost an entire month of rain in May and a quick break the first week of June (I’m going to lay credit on all the VBS prayers for no rain) and now Bill is blowing in with a vengeance. Crops are flooding and roads are washing away. Yards are covered in fungus from too much wetness.
Feast or famine. Drought or flood. Joy or sorrow. Why does it seem life is filled with all or nothing moments?
Last week was full of joy beyond measure. Vacation Bible School was smoother that smooth. I can not even begin to explain my gratitude for all the prayers, all the help, all the all that went toward that week. My passion for family was over-flowing and my heart was exploding as I watched moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, and lots and lots of kids eating, singing, dancing, and learning together. It was a great week.
We had over 300 people with us each night (between helpers and families) and every single person heard the good news of God’s love and salvation through Jesus Christ. Parents received hope and encouragement and kids had a blast experiencing Hometown Nazareth. We had a closing celebration on Sunday morning and the kids ran and played and sang and danced. It was so good. I felt like my heart had a grasp on the Kingdom of God and I was standing right in the middle of his goodness.
And then my phone chimed. The chime of a Facebook message. It was a cousin letting me know my grandmother had passed away. Rain and drought. Joy and sorrow. Understanding and confusion.
Patsy Birdwell was my mom’s step-mother. My mom’s mom died of cancer when my mom was only eleven years old. My grandfather married many more times in the next few years and, from the stories my mom and her siblings told, it was a time of hardship and pain for them. Grandpa settled down and married Patsy around the time my mom turned 14 or 15. She brought her own children into the mix and the already large Birdwell clan grew overnight by leaps and bounds. I do not know all the details; my only knowledge of that time comes from whispered stories and comments made under breath when I was a child. What I do know is that my grandpa and his wife were missing from most of my childhood. My mom’s relationship with them was broken, at best, and so my relationship was basically non-existent.
I remember visiting them once at their house when I was very small. I have a vague memory of swinging on a tree swing while my grandpa pushed me and Patsy stood by. I have fleeting memories of them at one or two family functions throughout childhood. They came to my high school graduation. They came to Mom’s funeral. They came to my wedding. They came to Shelby’s baptism. That’s it. That’s all I’ve got.
So with that, with those handful of memories, I was caught off-guard at the gut punch I felt at reading the message that Patsy had died. I am confused by the surge of emotion I have wrestled with these two days as I hear plans for her funeral. I do not understand the tears that dropped this morning when I watched the news report of Bill rolling in and dampening plans of me travelling to the funeral tomorrow.
All I can figure is that this is one of those full circle life moments. It was my grieving for the state of the family that allowed my heart to be open to God calling me to family ministry. It was my desire to never see a broken family again that drew me to this place. It was my own experience of broken family, both extended and family or origin, that made me so passionate about helping families receive the tools they need to work towards health and unity. Here I am, wrestling with the high of a joyful family style VBS and the sorrow of the brokenness of my own family.
I’m praying that God works through all of this and that his glory is revealed. I am praying for peace and understanding and healing. And as I suspect that this life will continue to bounce between feast and famine, drought and rain, joy and sorrow, I pray I stay grounded in the knowledge of my Savior who loves me in the good and the bad, the easy and the hard, and holds me close offering grace and mercy along the way.