I mailed this letter to my brother today. I wonder if the mailman will notice the verses. Or the prison official who will read the letter, checking for violations. Or my brother’s cellmates. I hope they all will.
I used colored pens because I don’t know how many vivid colors he gets to see in a day. I wrote in colors because God’s word should be written in a rainbow, because it’s full of promise and hope. I wrote in colors because black ink is too institutional, and he has enough of that for now.
I had hoped, after last time, that the only things I would mail him again would be Christmas cards and birthday packages, but this is where we are. There is a number after his name again. Letters are now the lifeline to the outside world. They replace hugs and Fourth of July picnics, and beach trips. They remind him that we haven’t forgotten him, but they also remind him that life can’t wait for him and it just keeps going. I imagine he reads letters from home with a mixture of dread and longing, with gratitude and resentment, with hope and regret.
Maybe not yet, though. He hasn’t been there long. It can take a while to open your eyes, to heal from these self inflicted wounds, to shake off the haze of disasters you’ve created. To feel things again… that’s a big part of the battle.
But, when that day comes, maybe these bright words of peace and forgiveness will shine. Maybe they’ll get him through the day. Maybe they’ll grow in him and fill up the empty places he’s tried to satisfy with the poor substitutions of this world. Because His Word can do anything. It made stars and heavens and life and time. It parted seas, raised the dead, closed the lion’s jaws. His Word creates all, conquers all, restores all, saves all, sustains all. There’s nothing it can’t do.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and IN HIS WORD I put my hope.
I’ve seen my brother once in the last two years, at my sister’s wedding. As we stood for photographs in the sunshine and the flowers and the heartbreak, I wondered if that would be the last one of us all together.
He wrote me a letter from a rehab a few days ago, and before I had a chance to even write him back, he had left.
I lay in bed some nights, imagining what it is that will kill him, and what it will do to us.
I pity him.
I’m angry at him.
I’m scared for him.
I miss him.
repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat
He’ll die in a hospital bed, after a lifetime of regrets, like my uncle David.
The image of my parents with silver hair, and gently bent backs, and wrinkled faces, and not a worldly possession left to care for themselves.
That we haven’t seen the darkest days yet.
That saying it aloud hurts him and hurts my family.
That saying it aloud doesn’t make any difference at all.
God help him. Help us.
I’ve been wanting to write about my brother for about a year now, but I couldn’t do it. It’s still not easy, to be honest. As a matter of fact, that’s pretty much why I stopped blogging altogether, because I couldn’t write around it. I couldn’t write about it, and I couldn’t NOT write about it. So, I took a break, and just let the ground lie fallow.
But, this is okay. This feels right.
Sometime in the early summer of 2013, it became obvious that he was on shaky ground again. We tried reaching out to him, but it didn’t stop it. He began the slow and painful journey back into his addiction. It broke my heart, ticked me off, scared me to death. Every emotion was dragged out into the open, whether I wanted it or not. There were days that it weighed so heavily on me that I couldn’t breathe. Some days, I handled it okay. Some days, I handled it all wrong. But all the feeling… it didn’t stop the reality of what was happening. Every day was borrowed time– every phone call had the weight of horrible possibility. We knew it was coming, we just didn’t know what it would be.
He was arrested a few weeks before Christmas of this year.
He was jobless, homeless, still in the process of breaking himself. Being arrested saved his life.
So, now instead of laying in bed, wondering where he is sleeping, wondering where he is, what he looks like or how he’s getting food, or if he misses us and remembers any of his old life… I know where he is. I know what he’s eating. I know what he’s wearing. And I know he’s thinking about his life. With four blank walls around you, there’s no escaping your own thoughts.
I couldn’t write about this while it was happening. I wanted to give him time and space and quiet– but the truth is, this is part of his story. There’s no way to bury this. He’s going through this, we’re going through it. I want the end of this story to be one of triumph and healing. But there’s no getting there if we pretend there’s nothing to overcome. No pain to heal from.
I don’t know what happens from here. I don’t know if this will be the last time, but I sincerely pray that it is. But I ask God for more than that, more than just my brother’s sobriety. There are hurts in our family that run deep, hurts we don’t want to acknowledge. Wounds that have healed over poorly, scars that have left us numb, pieces that don’t fit together as well as they should. We have not been okay. We have not been okay. I’m not sure why that’s important to admit, but it is. At least for me. If that’s all I said, though, it wouldn’t be worth much. We haven’t been okay, but God hasn’t left us. He suffered with us. He shared our pain, bore our burdens. He listened when we cried, He dried our tears. He was patient as we stumbled through anger and resentment and bitterness. He upheld us when we were our weakest. We weren’t okay, but we weren’t alone. Not for a moment of this hard and terrible thing. We were never alone. This didn’t kill us. The sorrow of our earthly troubles didn’t overcome Him. He didn’t take the pain away, but it did not extinguish His goodness and mercy and His work within us. What have we to fear, when He holds us so firmly in His Hand? He is truly master over all.
So there you have it. We’re in a quiet place now. A place to catch our breath. A place to assess our condition, check that we are still intact, still breathing. And we are. He has brought us from 2014, into a whole new year full of possibilities. May we live in 2015, blessing His name in its highs and lows.
Happy New Year, all.
A million drafts I write. Trying to craft the most perfect, exact, and useful words to share with the world. But I can’t. Because when I want to tell you how happy I am, I cannot find a way to acknowledge my sadness. And when I want to tell you how sad I am, I am equally motivated to express my happiness.
What a mess!
So, here’s the thing. I’m gonna try to make sense of this, and you tell me if I’m way off.
I am HAPPY. and I am SAD. I’m both. And I figure, I can’t be the only one, right?
I have so much to be happy about, thankful for. And I am! Boy, am I. Do you believe me? I fervently hope that this is evident in the way I live and the way I talk, and if it’s not, you need to pull me to the side and tell me to get my stuff together. I truly believe these are hallmarks of the Christian faith, and I’m aiming for it. I miss that mark a lot, because I’m one of those fixer-uppers that Jesus got a hold of. But I’m trying, and I’m looking for things to thank Him for daily.
Happiness does not undo sadness. Did y’all know that already? Somewhere I missed this memo, because it sure seemed to me like happiness was supposed to be the “cure all” for sadness. Happiness in my mind, was the anti-sadness. Wrong. I don’t know how long it has taken me to realize that it’s not an antidote. It doesn’t cancel out sadness. We have to quit trying to make it do that. Because when we do, we aren’t really dealing with the things that make us sad. We’re hiding the sadness, tucking it away, out of the bright light of our happy lives. We aren’t living truthfully if we do that, and in the end it leaves us dissatisfied, because it just doesn’t work! If we don’t live genuinely, what is the point?
Instead of trying to force happiness to dissolve our sorrow… instead let it do what it’s supposed to. Let it make you stronger. Happiness makes you able to handle the sad. Happiness doesn’t restore lost things. It doesn’t heal sickness. It won’t bring back the dead, turn back the clock, give you any do-overs, or stop a ticking bomb. But it lifts you, it lightens you. It is absolutely vital to find, hold, and nurture the happiness in your life. Without it, sadness can and will overwhelm you.
We’ll have both things in life, guaranteed. That’s just the way it goes. So be happy. Enjoy the happiness, every ounce of it. Expand it, embrace it, seek it out in every imaginable place you can. Fill your heart and soul and body up with all the things there are to be happy about in your human existence. Never pass up an opportunity to soak. it. in.
When you find the sadness, (and you WILL, because all men do, though sorry I am to say it), you will be ready. You can bear it, you can survive it. When you meet grief and fear and disappointment, you will be buoyed by the strength of the joys you have known. Your soul is shielded by a thousand moments of happiness. Though sorrow may cut you to to the bone, it will not kill you.
If you’re sad, it’s okay. It happens. It’s not a failure to be sad. Did you need to hear that? Yeah. Me, too.
And then, when the tears stop, even if just briefly, find a little piece of happy. Laugh when something’s funny. Smile at the sweet things. Hug more. Eat good food. Doodle. Listen to music that gives you goosebumps. Ride with your windows down. Sing with the radio. Talk to your dog. Chat with the old guy at the gas station who reminds you of your Papaw. Slow down. Tickle somebody. Talk in a weird voice to your little nephew. Race to the mailbox. Just be happy, in whatever increments you find. So when you must be sad, (and sometimes you must), you will be wearing layers of joy for the battle. You will be happy, even when you must be sad.
That’s it. It’s not all that profound, and I certainly didn’t come up with anything that hasn’t been said before (and better, I”m sure!). But I am tuckered out from the telling, and I’m ready for bed. Sweet dreams, my friends. May many moments of happiness find you tomorrow.
Oh, blog, sweet blog. You are ever faithful and sure. Always here, waiting, no matter how infrequent my visits! What a friend you are.
I realized that I HAD to sit down and blog when I was struggling to construct the perfect status update at Facebook that summed up three weeks of activities. It was impossible. So here I am, ready to give you a run down of how amazing the weeks have been.
First off, King Pen passed his test. HE PASSED. The goal we set eleven years ago has been accomplished, and he is now a licensed landscape architect. I am so proud of him, so relieved– so SHOCKED. We spent the first couple days walking around in a daze, just processing the fact that is was over. Eventually, the shock gave way to sheer happiness. 🙂 How blessed we are to have been allowed to reach this goal. It’s a great feeling.
Another point of happiness in the last few weeks was the Warrior Dash with my brother and sisters, and my brother-in-law, Eric. (In case you can’t identify us through the mud, this picture goes: Brittany, Ashley, Eric, Trey, and moi)
It was SO worth those extra runs on Saturdays and pull-ups on the chin bar. I felt great. The obstacles were fun and challenging, but not too daunting. The mud was RIDICULOUS. I’ve never been so filthy and sloppy and globby in my life. I was running on adrenalin, pumped up with all the excitement of the crowd, and the giddiness of doing it with my siblings. I think we all felt it, how this was more than just a fun thing to do– it was a celebration for us. We’ve had our share of twists and turns as a family, some tough years. This marks the beginning of a whole new era. I felt so light and happy, looking at all these little sisters and brother of mine, and knowing, they’re all gonna be fine. We can just enjoy each other, revel in the unique, special, quirky individuals that God placed in our lives. We’re complete now. It’s not just me and my sisters, holding on, hoping and praying that my brother will get it all figured out. It’s all of us now, the way it should be, assembled by a knowing and loving God. It feels right, and lovely, and it made this experience all the more amazing. I will never, ever forget it, or how I felt– mud and all.
Besides doing these things, we’ve had a lot on our plates in general. King Pen is working a LOT these days since they are short at the office. I’ve been refinishing furniture like a mad man. I’m a little bit obsessed, probably. But, things are looking sharp around here, I tell ya! The kids have been taking standardized tests all week, some of them have had a stomach virus, and I’ve been busy as a bee with lots of other projects and tasks that keep me from blogging or writing or talking or cooking. 🙂 That doesn’t seem likely to change over the next few months, but that’s okay. You guys know I’ve not really gone anywhere, I’m just taking care of business in the real world. I’ll try to update more often, and not rely on FACEBOOK (dang you) to keep in touch. I still have loads of pictures to go through from Easter and a fun 50’s birthday party we had for my aunt, so those will be next on the list. If I can just stop painting dressers for ten minutes. Heh.
Have a good weekend, everybody. I lervs ya.
Dear Old Me,
Finally. The day you dared to hoped for, the day you were afraid at times would never come…
The day the seasons changed.
Oh, joy in my heart. Do you remember this? Do you remember the pain, the fear, the anger? Do you remember wondering if your heart would ever be in one piece again? Do you remember wondering if you’d ever hear your parents laugh again? Do you remember wondering if he would EVER GET IT?
Well, that day has come.
As I read these words, it really hit me, these are the words of a new man- words that I will never take for granted. Words that are a gift from God. Words that mean a new life is beginning for my brother, for my family. A life of possibility, of joy.
Oh, world. Do you know how happy I am? For a year, I’ve watched him. Skeptically at first, full of doubts and fears and disbelief. Then, with a small thread of hope– maybe? Is it real– is he changing? Slowly, I’ve watched him taking steps, trying- even though he didn’t know exactly what he was moving towards. I’ve been surprised, with each new revelation he has, with each moment of growth that I just couldn’t have imagined back then. I’ve cheered his successes, and still been spooked at the bumps, wondering if he’d hold steady. He has. He’s jumping hurdles. He’s doing it. What I hoped for, prayed for in those darkest times, is happening. He’s letting God save his life.
And while it’s happening in big, obvious ways in his life, it’s happening in small, quiet ways in ours. Hurts being healed, ties being reknit, trust slowly rebuilt, forgiveness finding it’s way into hearts.
The season for mourning has passed.
It is time to rejoice- to sing- to dance, because one of the lost sheep has been found. Welcome home, my brother, my friend. I’ve missed you.
Let the old season fade away, and the new begin.
Sorry if my last post left anybody worried about me and my bad news. At the time, I wasn’t at liberty to share the details, but I can now.
You guys know that the last year has been a good one for my brother. He’s been sober since last October. (Yay! Such a little word for such a big happiness!) He’s been going to AA and church in this last year, and has had a lot of personal growth. He’s honestly in a place I’ve never seen him before. It’s wonderful to me, to my family. We’re excited for him.
Sadly, though, we knew that there were still going to be consequences for his actions before he got sober. There were legal ramifications that hadn’t gone away, but it took this whole year for them to finally become a reality. His lawyer called last week with the news that Trey is going to have to do some time. At first, he was saying 3-5 years, and that was the bad news I was writing about. Mercifully, the next day, the prosecutor accepted a deal of a year and a day. This makes him eligible for an earlier release, so it’s possible now that he’ll only spend six months incarcerated. That is our prayer.
Through all this, I am amazed at how God has preserved Trey, provided for him. He gave him a year to focus on getting better, on pulling his life together, on building a relationship with God. A year to reconnect, to rehabilitate, to begin a journey that would give him the strength to face this trial. A year of faith.
I’m not only amazed at what God is doing, but at the change in Trey, also. (Although, God did that, too!) For those of you who know what it’s like to have someone in the throes of addiction, then you will know what I mean when I tell you that who he is now just blows me away. The things he is saying, the way he is facing this moment, it is a dream come true. A wish granted. A prayer answered. He has turned from sin, and addiction, and has given himself over to God. I knew it, I’ve been sensing it these last months— but to actually see him standing on that faith is such a blessing to me.
So, yes, I am sad and scared for him, but I am praising God. My tears are all mixed up.
This thing I know, that he’s going to be okay. It goes so far beyond his physical well-being, beyond a temporary loss of liberty… I mean, he’s going to be okay. No matter what, I know Who holds him. I know Who Trey relies on. Trey has come home, no matter where he is.
So, that’s it. He leaves tomorrow. Though he is uncertain of much, he is fully and wholly certain that he doesn’t go alone. Be praying for him, and for my family, that we continue to trust God completely. Pray also that God protects him, leads him to those who need Christ, and to fellow believers who can share encouragement with him.
He’ll be sending me blogs to post regularly for him, so be looking for those. I am eager to see what God has planned.
Thanks for the concern and love that you guys never fail to show! I am so lucky to have each and every one of you.