Coming Home to You

You’d think that after three years, I would have finally beaten these feelings of homesickness. But I haven’t. Not entirely. Lately, I’ve been missing my family. A lot. More than the normal, “Hey, that thing I just saw reminds me of Josiah.” No, this is more like, if you showed me a hundred different ink blots right now, I’d probably find a way to associate every single one of them with home.

Home. I don’t know that there has ever been a word so warm and inviting.

As a noun it means: the place where one lives permanently. As a verb, it is: (of an animal) return by instinct to its territory after leaving it.

Many people have made speculations beyond those definitions, as well. Penelope Stokes wrote: “Home wasn’t where they had to take you in; home was where they wanted to take you in. Home was where you always knew you were welcome, where their eyes lit up at the sight of you.”

For most of my life, I saw home as that place I lived for most of my life—that place I return to several times a year. I envisioned it as the place where my family is waiting with open arms and brilliant smiles.

Then I got a reply from a friend whom I had written in this serious case of homesickness, and his concluding statement knocked the breath out of me.

But I think that there will always be some people (maybe only a few) who you have known for a long time—who you shared experiences with—that, even after extended periods apart, it still feels like you never left home.

I read those words. I reread those words. I edited them for grammatical clarity. And then I began to wonder, perhaps for the first time… Maybe home is not so much a place where you come and go, but a place you carry with you. Maybe, in a way, I’ve been home all along.

And this may sound ridiculously, frighteningly weird, but I want to be home for someone—a place of permanent refuge. The kind of place where you return by instinct simply because you somehow know it’s safe there. I want my words to shelter another in the storm. I want my life to harbor other lives—fragile, broken lives that just need a place to rest and heal and discover that there is beauty on the other side of the abyss.

So this is me coming home to you—creating home for you—and praying you’ll find that home only a heartbeat away from where you are.

Your Delight is Mine

Mom and I had been planning this occasion for weeks, dreaming of the look on Dad’s face when he discovered the surprise.

To make matters really interesting, we made him drive. I kept the directions carefully tucked out of his sight as I instructed him on where to turn. He commented a few times on how long we’d been driving, and asked when we were going to reach this “cool place.”

I was watching Dad’s face the first time he saw the sign reading “Appomattox.” His smile resembled that of a small child who had just been given a new bicycle (but don’t tell him I used that analogy; it’s kind of a sore subject for him.)

My Civil War buff of a father was finally going to visit Appomattox Courthouse – where my mom had been without him. Twice. This was a day to go down in history. Or at least in the guest book at Appomattox Courthouse.

 

Not much makes me happier than to rejoice in my family’s delight. Sometimes I’m delighted by their delight when they aren’t even around to be delighted. I’ll often find myself smiling and thinking things like, “Lydia would love this.”

That thrill at the thought of their delight is what draws me to the fantasy titles at a bookstore, elicits a smile when Phil Collins comes on the radio, and causes me to stop to look at crazy socks and funky hats. Those aren’t the things that would normally delight me, were it not for the fact that they first delighted another member of my family.

It’s my belief that families should be so intertwined that the victory of one member is the victory of the whole family (and not just because Dad promised we’d get a horse once a certain child was potty-trained). What causes a father to rise to his feet when his son scores the winning shot in a basketball game? It’s because in some inexplicable way, it’s almost as if he himself made that shot.

When Ruth said to Naomi, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay,” she was speaking with the devotion a daughter should have to her mother. Friends come and friends go, but families are forever. So delight with them, and never forget to delight in them.

 

Dad signed his name in the guest book larger than John Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence. And somehow it seemed that Appomattox Courthouse was better the second time around. At least, it was for me…

 

The Family Puzzle

I was browsing through a well-known publisher’s website yesterday when I noticed something that greatly disturbed me. Under the family/parenting section, there was a link that said “Fathers”, but when I clicked the link, it was empty. So I tried the one that said “Mothers” only to find that it was empty too.

It seems to me that there are plenty of opinions on raising children and surviving parenting teenagers, but somewhere along the way, we have forgotten what it is to be a parent. What role does a parent play in a child’s life? What does the ideal parent/child relationship look like?

Now, I’m not claiming to have a perfect family (far from it actually), but one thing I can say is that we relate well to one another. We’re not just family, but friends as well. Best friends.

What caused my family to be this way? A lot of love, a couple decades of prayer, and a whole heap of God’s grace.

Though I’m no expert, I’m going to spend the rest of January writing about the “Family Puzzle.” The way I see it, families are like one big jigsaw puzzle. At first, nothing seems to make sense, but as you begin to connect the pieces – to mesh as a family – you start to get a glimpse of the bigger picture. And like the most complex puzzles, family unity can take weeks, months, even years to form. But in the end, your efforts will have created a masterpiece, and everyone will know where they “fit” in this unique puzzle that we call “family”.

So check back in for new insights throughout the next couple of weeks as we take a look at relationships within families.

The Best Christmas “Tradition”

My coworkers keep asking me what my Christmas traditions are. I don’t want to say that we don’t have any traditions because I guess that we do. We’ve celebrated Christmas with my dad’s side of the family as long as I’ve lived. My mom’s side of the family always has their celebration on a different day so they don’t have to compete with the other sides of the family. That’s the one constant that has never changed, but other “traditions” are affected by different circumstances in life.

The earliest tradition I can remember is coming home after our Christmas Eve service and opening one gift in my grandparents’ presence. But that tradition ended the year my grandma died. Three years after that, we left the church in which I was raised, changing the Christmas Eve service tradition as well. I know some people have managed to hold onto their traditions, but I wonder how the same things that entertained them when they were five can still capture their attention when they are twenty-five.

There’s only one “tradition” that will hold my heart for as long as it continues to last. I love the moment on Christmas Day when everyone is called into my grandma’s living room in order to open presents. It’s not the gifts that matter to me anymore, but the joyous anticipation that lights the eyes of my younger cousins when their gifts are set in front of them. It’s the way that all 30+ Snyders fill into one small area in representation of the tight-knit family we truly are. When I’m packed shoulder to shoulder like a sardine with the people who were born to be my best friends, I’m reminded of how blessed I am to be a Snyder. Though presents are nice, I don’t need anything but the smiling faces surrounding me and the baby on my lap. That’s what I find myself counting down for every Christmas.

Three more days. Only three more days…

Sacrifices and Dreams

Wouldn't you like to marry this guy?

I used to think that I’d like to marry a man who sings and dances. Now I know it’s a requirement. What happened, you wonder? I moved away from home and realized that not everyone in the world believes that life is a musical. Most families don’t break into spontaneous song and dance routines in the kitchen. (I know, you’re shocked, right?)

The day I walked into my parents’ house over Thanksgiving, I was already singing. It’s a musical house. Something about the atmosphere makes me burst into song, and something about those laminate floors sets a girl’s feet to dancing. I can’t imagine the home I one day make for myself as being any different. There’s just something magical about the way five voices can join into a chorus of “Whiskey in the Jar” as my parents laugh along.

My future husband must sing and dance. This is a non-negotiable. You may be laughing and thinking I’m crazy, but I’m perfectly serious. Although I already wrote a post about trashing my list of things I’m looking for in a husband, there are still a few things that are permanently ingrained in my mind. I simply choose not to dwell on all of them at the same time, or even one of them for very long. Just because I want to marry a man who sings and dances doesn’t mean I’m taking auditions.

I hope you don’t feel like I’m sending conflicting messages by saying, “Trash the list, but know what you want.” If the list works for you, keep it. As long as the things you’ve set in your mind aren’t distracting you from life here and now, keep thinking about them. Just don’t ever compromise. Know the things that are non-negotiable, but don’t think about it all the time. Here’s my encouragement of the day:

Don’t sacrifice the big dreams, because you may have to sacrifice the small; and one day when you look back, you will have sacrificed them all.

The man doesn’t have to have dark hair and the perfect smile, but if singing and dancing is a requirement, don’t even look at that guy who’s barely squeaking through Amazing Grace. It won’t end well.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my feet are itching to dance…