The past couple years we’ve taken family photographs during the fall, but last fall, our life fell to pieces. Every time I considered booking a photo session with our photographer I considered the forced smiles and hollow eyes that would forever stare back at me and quickly shipped the idea to my mind’s Area 51.
I didn’t want to remember what we were sorting through, that our best-laid plans had exploded in our faces in the form of our six-year-old son. I didn’t want to run the risk of a hypocritical photo that would lead others to believe we were that family that had it all together but I also didn’t want to share our brokenness with the world. The annual fall portrait died, but death is where beauty rests and opportunity begins.
The fall winds of life stripped our family bare, everything expendable for the sake of survival. Winter provided a mixture of battering storms followed by tranquil moments produced only in the wake of destruction. Often what we want as a family isn’t complicated but attempts to live it out are disastrous.
Case in point, in a beautiful setting with people you love the most, attempting to corral a family for a photo can turn ugly….
Frustration and anger began to skyrocket like a hot new stock. If you know anything of these two fiends, you know they spread like a summer grass fire jumping every control line intended to contain them. The thing about fires is that sometimes the origins are uncertain. Though it was our six-year-old swinging his arms at school and shouting through the neighbors walls, though he looked like the spark that ignited a horrendous explosion, we looked, bewildered to find our hands smudged, the soot and grit of these beasts bottled in our hearts keeping company with others like selfishness and greed. Family cannot survive feasting on these beasts for long.
Realizing our son was an outward expression of our family health, we retreated from the head-twirling rush and schedule of what most others call life. We huddled, the field of life spread before us as we courageously and dramatically repositioned our family for health and happiness.
Everything was on the chopping block pleading to remain on our family’s priority list, but most lost their case. The most dramatic changes were returning to a home school platform for education, cutting back on excellent activities that required our already depleted time and energy and committing to family counseling. I could write at length about each of these shifts, and will tackle them as my heart allows in the future, but the takeaway is that a new pace began for our life.
No longer are we waking already buried by the urgency to do this and finish that so we can hustle out the door away from each other and race around while the sun headed west. In fact, our mornings are generally peaceful and more orderly. The list of tasks to tackle is short, manageable and our kids have time, precious time for their imaginations to explore the wonder of childhood. Someday they may realize how extraordinary it is that we unshackled their schedules during an era saturated with over-scheduling. Through God’s loving-kindness we have more than survived a rough winter, we have been shaped and formed.
As green shoots fight through a crusty topsoil the arrival of spring mirrors the growth and struggle of our family. We’re sprouting, sometimes slowly, sometimes all at once, by much and little we grow. God knew what He was preparing us for, He knew our hearts needed to be prepared so we could absorb more of Him. The savage winter stripped our hearts but this spring we are a bare field for God to grow His goodness.
With a bit of healing, our son’s toothless smile and our daughter marking another year of life, photos were in order. The process has been painful, it isn’t complete, but when I look at this family picture I see a family recently laid bare being transformed in the best way possible and I’m grateful.
If you’re in a storm and your life is disheveled, retreat!
God is your refuge and strength, your help in the time of struggle.