Expanding

swing set

When I was much younger I dated the most whimsical boy I’ve ever met. Once he borrowed my car and returned it with daisy chains woven around the steering wheel, gear shift, and rear view mirror. He looked a little like I imagine Huck Finn did a few years after Twain finishes telling us his story. Ours was a long distance relationship for the better part of the first year, and during my few visits home he would wake me up before dawn with coffee and a plan to chase a sunrise, or search out a swing set under the stars. We had a plan to find every swing set in our town, but were deterred from that goal by our eventual break-up.

Over the past year I’ve become friends with a woman more full of life and energy and speed and motivation than anyone. Ever. She believes life is short, and wants to experience all of it. Time with her is always an adventure, and somehow her blend of boldness and innocence makes me trust that however new the territory might be when we are together everything’s going to be alright. She sees something in me worth encouraging, which means the world when I can’t find a grain of good inside. She makes me brave, and I am never brave. I told her the swing set story, and now she’s determined that I take the adventure back up.

A few nights ago I was having a conversation with a new friend about families. He’s from another part of the world, and innocently spoke about how jarring and sad (my words, not his) American family relationships are. He spoke with such calm conviction, such a tone of truth regarding how one should be in a family, that it stirred deep recesses of longing and guilt. My family is the most broken part of my life, one about which I’ve had to make really hard decisions for the sake of my own mental and emotional well-being. But this disconnection, and my friend’s quiet insistence, makes me feel like I am somehow outside the human experience. I’ve never understood the idea, “But he/she is family.” I’ve never understood how biology makes up for toxicity. That night, though, sitting in the stillness of late night under a full moon, I wished like I never have that I knew how to fix all that’s broken there. I felt the isolation, the desire for family, and the shame of being voluntarily orphaned.

Yesterday this part of my life I normally keep relegated to the back of my mind took center stage, more so than on a typical holiday. Father’s Day is a particularly difficult one, for reasons maybe I’ll share here someday. But today’s not that day. Today I just know that by mid-afternoon I started to feel the crushing of unnamed emotional clouds heavy with regret and hopelessness fill me to capacity. All the dark emotions from my conversation with my friend mingled with a lifetime of scary and sad memories and it all threatened to suffocate me. I wandered aimlessly through my day, trying to fill my mind with anything that might squeeze out some rain from the clouds and offer a bit of relief. After hours of flitting from one thing to another to no avail I went for a drive, and started chasing a sunset. Apollo led me to the twisty road sneaking through tunnels of trees in a local state park, and eventually I was completely lost. Which felt so appropriate I just settled into the drive. I came to a little clearing with some picnic tables, parked, and started moseying through the trails. I happened upon a little archway of tree branches with a small pathway underneath.

I’ve always loved archways, doorways, bridges and paths of which you can’t see the other side. These scenes make my imagination spin with possibility like only a child’s should (really, there will never be a fairy on the other side but I keep hoping). So I headed straight for this little bridge and on the other side was a two-swing swing set. Suddenly all the hope and love and acceptance and health of the people who surround me split the darkness like sunlight through a cloud. I remembered that I’ve been given the most amazing family of friends and co-conspirators and thinkers and passionates, that my life is overflowing with love free from abuse and selfishness and ravaging. I closed my eyes, and swung. I opened my eyes and drank in the open sky. I felt my soul expanding, making room for all the grief and loss and longing with space left over for wonder and worship and shalom. At the end of the day, Jesus holds me close. And at the end of this day, I trust He won’t ever let me go.

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6 Comments

  1. Jo said,

    June 16, 2014 at 10:31 am

    This was beautiful. This morning I woke up so thankful for an Abba who holds me close. Even when I am beating against his chest.

    • MandyK said,

      June 16, 2014 at 10:42 am

      Thanks so much, and I’m glad you are living in that reality!

  2. Gabrielle said,

    June 17, 2014 at 9:58 am

    Just beautiful, Mandy. I pray that same shalom stays near to your heart this whole week.

  3. Adiel said,

    June 17, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    Keep swinging, dear friend. And may each swing raise you up a little closer to Heaven and our Father’s rivers of peace.


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