Coffee time once again. A gospel video of the song “Shifting The Atmosphere” is playing on YouTube as I sip, and think about the biggest test to my faith over the past week. Love, and Family: gets to me every time.
On the heel of another Christmas spent alone, I couldn’t help… I can’t help, but to think about love. I can’t help but to think of family. I think about them laughing. I think about them with their children, and grandchildren, sitting around a comfortable living room, laughing, singing, and reminiscing, as the pots on the stove give off scents of cinnamon, and rosemary. I imagine the smoke on the stove rising, and turning into hands of steam, like on the Bugs Bunny cartoons, and bringing everybody close together, crowded around a not-big-enough-table, and they can’t do a thing, except maybe smile, and look at each other with loving eyes. But, I’m not there. I’m never there.
I freshen my cup. My feet greet the coldness of the floor, and for a moment, it takes me away from it all. But then, the song “Praise Is What I do” starts to play over the computer, and I sing out.
“Because praise it what I do. And, I owe it all to you!”
Before I know it, I’m sipping my coffee, bouncing to the subtle beat of the music, my head bobbing up and down in the ‘yes’ motion.
“Lord, praise is what I do. Praise is what my family does” I find myself saying out loud.
It all goes back to family. It always comes back to family for me. I start to remember us as kids, the first five of us, holding hands, every morning before school, Daddy leading us in prayer. Back then, in the early ’70’s, there was an old saying: “The family that prays together, stays together”. And, I believed it, wholeheartedly. A foundation built on prayer should be unbreakable.
“What happened there?” I ask myself aloud. But, no answer comes.
I put my hand to my forehead, and lean on the table in front of which I am sitting, and try to bring the bigger picture into focus. That’s the hard part.
The heart, when it shatters, it does so in much the same way as a champagne glass does when accidentally dropped against a linoleum floor; pieces everywhere. Broken relationships are the same way. It’s all so messy! The clean up has to be careful, or you’re gonna cut yourself; you’re gonna get hurt. Even if you wanted to, you couldn’t put it back together. That would take a master craftsman. And, trying to get a clear picture through a shard of glass seems ultimately useless. But, you can see just enough; just enough to let you know that what’s in front of you is real, no matter what it looks like.
We praise together. We never look each other in the eye, but we praise together. I’ve got two brothers and a sister, older than me, a sister, and two brothers, younger. I was born in the middle of it all. I have always been the oddball out, standing back watching; not really a big sister, and ways away from being the baby. I never fit in on either end of the sibling spectrum. The baby boys, they are friends, through thick and thin. They’ve always had each other’s back. The two oldest boys, their lives started years before mine, so I never got to forge a friendship with either of them. And we girls, well, we see each other at church, if I go. But, I’m not supposed to talk about it. Noooo, talking about it is somehow a betrayal of loyalties. We don’t even know each other, not really, but I’m supposed to be concerned first about loyalty. And, there in lies the test. I don’t know how to not feel it all.
A cup of coffee. I look at the one I’ve set before me, steam rising from the red and white cup in which it’s poured, and I imagine myself trying to explain how I feel to my family over a nice, hot cup. I can see the “here you go, starting stuff again” stares coming from them as if they are sitting right here in my tiny apartment, judging me, no “maybe she’s on to something” in sight. I imagine myself telling them that I truly believe that I could burst out, in the middle of church service, and start singing “I’m a yankee doodle dandy. Yankee doodle, do or die”, and nobody would even acknowledge the stupidity of it all; ignore it, and it’ll go away. I can hear them, like always, telling me “Janet, you know we love you“, without even a thought to the fact that they are not looking at me directly when the words come out of their mouths. Life has taught me not to trust that type of behavior. So, I’m always left just a little confused.
We praise together, but we don’t talk. We speak.
“Hey, Janet. How you doin’?”
“Hey. I’m fine. And, you?”
We say the words to each other in passing. I cringe, every time.
“Do I start a conversation with ’em? I should tell ’em how nice they look” I think to myself.
But, before I can turn back around to make the attempt, they’re gone, much like all the time I spend thinking about it. And then, church service starts and I’m supposed to release it all, and just praise. To me, it feels like dysfunction at it’s best. The whole time I’m beating the tambourine, and joining in song with the rest of the congregation, the rest of the family, I’m also wondering if they feel it, too.
We praise together, and I don’t even know you that well. I love you, and I want to know you. Like, what are you most afraid of? What’s your biggest regret? If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be? When you look into your children’s eyes, do you feel all gooey like I used to feel when mine were just babes? Are you happy? Do you think about love, and family, and togetherness all the time like I do? What did you get for Christmas? But, I fear you don’t want to know me. I think you are content with the idea of the Janet you think I am. I think, with me, you are always waiting for the other shoe to drop, just like I am with you. But we never say it. We leave it unsaid.
We praise God together, not a probable God, but one who can do the impossible. We serve a God that can take a million shards of broken glass and turn them into something amazing. And, after He fixes a thing, there are no cracks in it; no sign that it was ever broken. We praise God together; a foundation built on solid rock. That’s the best possible commonality; one on which a beautiful relationship can be built. I’ve got to give it to God, the Master Craftsman, because He can fix anything. He can turn dysfunction into fully functional with just one Word. I just have to have faith; exercise my faith. And, writing it down helps me to release it. It makes it a real thing that I can set at the feet of the Father, and walk away knowing it’s gonna work out for the good. Knowing I can do that reinforces my faith. And, for that, I have no choice but to remain grateful.
Until our next cup;