On Being Left Behind

It has been quiet here. I haven’t written a lot because I needed to rest in the stillness for a while. I needed to recover from some family deaths and some personal struggles.

And in the middle of all of it, I have had to reconcile myself to the fact that Sunshine will not be with us this Christmas. In ten days, the kids being hosted through New Horizons for Children will be arriving. Our dear Sprite is returning and I cannot wait. Part of our family will be home, and I am already planning special activities for the days when I get that dear boy all to myself.

But Sunshine’s bed will still be empty.

This is so much harder than I ever thought it would be.

My dearest one is not coming, and it hurts more with every passing day.

Oh, we are silly girls, that sassy one and I. We are such planners. So wise. So logical. Yes, yes, it is better for you to not come, my dear. It is your senior year in high school, and you cannot afford to miss the days. Summer is close. You have driving school and grandmother and sisters, and it will be fine. Yes, yes, it will be fine. We are strong and opinionated and it will all be perfectly fine.

Except. Except it’s not true.

We are not fine.

She messages me.  I want sleep in my bed, she says. I miss my brother. I miss my family. Especial you. You the most. Why did I stay? I want for America.

Oh my love, I want for you more than words can ever say.

Summer is not close. Summer teases from so far away, and each snowflake whispers a taunt.

She messages me and asks for the name of the song we sang in church. Amazing Grace. Yes, this is the song, she says. This song I very like. This song I listen to every day and think of many things.

I love you, she says. I miss you.

And once again I see it. The grace. The love. The trust that is built in doing the hard things. I have been tempted in the past few months to force this issue, to beg her to change her mind. But I knew that having her stay there was the right choice. I knew that it would be hard.

I didn’t expect it to take my breath and my voice like it has.

And I never for once thought it would do the same to her.

Sunshine is all toughness and strength. Confidence and bravery. She needs for no one and nothing. Yes, yes, she loves us. Yes, yes, this is good to have family. Yes, yes, she very likes America. But her country is better. Her answer is superior. Her wisdom has taken all the angles into consideration. She is ready. She is on the cusp of adulthood and she is prepared. She cannot wait. And now, just days away from turning eighteen, she sends me a simple message:

Time please stop.

And there it is. The soul that I see. The heart that is open to mine. The sweet child who knows she needs me. The dear one who was somehow born with a piece of me in the very fabric of her. The reflection of my own teenage self, speaking across the miles: I’m not as strong as I pretended to be.

And, funnily enough, it is this very distance that has broken down walls once more, that has knit us together even deeper.

I will be here for you, I tell her. Always.

Yes, she says. Always, always. You for always.

And so we sit, us two left behind, staring as our screens flicker the words that we wish we could be said into eyes and heard with ears and held with arms.

And I think of all the chafing I have done over the past few months, wiggling under this imposed wait. I hated it because it seemed so pointless and sad. But now I think maybe something was happening.  As I messaged with Sunshine, I began to see the way we have both been gently cared for by the One who does work in hearts. I saw that this is care, and this is growth, and this is sometimes what it is like to become more like Him.

Even in the stillness, work is being done. Patience increases trust. Silence allows for reflection. Love grows quietly. It is lonely in the stillness, but the grace is often all the more amazing because of it.

I am so thankful to have had those moments of real with my girl. It was a bittersweet nibbling of what I’m sure is going to be a feast when I hold her in my arms again.

And I know that it’s going to get harder before it gets easier. I know that there will bIMG_0266 2e more waiting and delays. I know that next time we talk I might see walls of bravado. I know that my heart will be breaking into a million pieces as I smile and welcome home our dear Sprite without his sassy sidekick. I know that I will have to hold a crying Little Man who is longing for his sister. I know that her empty bed will cause me to weep myself.

But I know other things too. I know that this love carves itself deeper into my soul with each passing day. I know that after the shadows comes the light. I know that I will see more of the One who loves me deeper than I could ever imagine. I know that distance does not define relationships. I know that family is built in even these moments.

And I know she is mine. Always.

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