Family Ties

I miss my family.

The fact that I can say those words and mean them is really a testament to how far I have come. Two years ago I don’t think I would have been able to honestly say that. When I first began my out of state college experience I was ready to be out of the house. I was ready to be away from the relationships that I had struggled in for a good portion of my life. I wanted to be away from the dysfunction, from the reminders of past hurts, and from the town I grew up in.

I was ready for a change and I do not regret taking the leap to get in my car and drive to Southern California to attend some little barely-heard-of Christian school.

Nearly two years after this journey, though, I’ve come to realize that I miss my family.

Relationships have been repaired and are at the best point they have been in recent memory. I enjoy my family. I enjoy late night conversations with my dad and going places with my mom. I enjoy eating dinner at my sister’s, having a beer with my brother, and playing with my unbelievably adorable niece.

Had you told me, as a recently graduated high school student, that there would be a time that I would miss my family I probably would have laughed at the thought. I was not in a place mentally, emotionally, or spiritually to understand the concept of missing my family. At the time I wanted to get as far away from them as possible, so why would I miss them if I had been able to get away?

Healing happened, though. God happened. People in my life happened. Suddenly I was dreading getting in my car and heading back to California for the fall. The moment I crossed over the Oregon/California border I felt tears in my eyes as I realized I really was leaving them again. After a summer of healing and rebuilding relationships I realized as I pulled up to the fruit check point in tears, trying to compose myself so that the fruit Nazis wouldn’t get suspicious, that I was going to miss my family.

The thought of not going home for Thanksgiving was unbearable, so I bought a plane ticket and left. It happened again over spring break when I realized that I wanted to surprise my parents and be with them, so I bought another plane ticket. I had changed from an angry, damaged, hurt young woman who wanted to get away from her family into someone who grew up and realized that repairing family relationships and getting over old hurt is worth the work.

As my 22nd birthday steadily approaches I’m once again realizing just how much I miss my family. I want to wake up to flowers on the table from my parents. I want to get to see my sister and get a hug from my niece. I want to share a beer with my brother and rejoice in another year of life completed. I want to be with my family because for so many years I took spending my birthday with them for granted and now that I can’t have it I realize just how much I have loved it.

That’s healing, and it is beautiful. 

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Of Trains and Togetherness

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I’ve always liked the sound of a train horn echoing through the night.

There is something about it that is comforting to me, especially as I’m lying in bed in the middle of the night, feeling alone and disturbed after a strange or frightening dream. It is interesting because I have always lived somewhere where I could hear trains. It doesn’t matter how far away I am from the tracks. Somehow that long, haunting train call makes its way through the still night and greets me where ever I’m at.

It reminds me of when I was little, lying awake in my bed scared out of my mind of the things in the dark. Silence has always been scarier to me than the loudest of noises. There is something about dead air that leaves me feeling more alone and vulnerable than the onslaught of sound. So in the middle of the night, wrapped up in the terror of childhood nightmares, I would hear a train call in the distance and know that I wasn’t alone in the world. The sounds would break the illusion of silence and isolation.

Even now, at 21, I feel that same sense of comfort whenever I hear a train. I’m not scared of the dark anymore and it is never silent here in Southern California, but something about the sound of trains still soothes me.

I feel like there is a bigger metaphor there but I can’t see it. As it is, the sound of the late night train horn also brings me comfort because it reminds me of God. Not so much that God resembles a train horn or that he is calling out to me, or anything of the sort. Rather, it reminds me of God because it reminds me there are other people out there in the world. There are weary travelers on an Amtrak heading to their next destination. Tired freight train drivers making their way to their next delivery. Even when I’m alone in my room, bundled beneath my blankets, feeling completely isolated from the world I feel connected when I hear the sound of a train.

There are people out there in this big world that I’m a part of and through the lonely call of a train in the dead of night I’m connected to them and therefore connected to God. You see, I think that the best way to connect to God is through realizing we’re connected to other people. How are we supposed to acknowledge a higher power is with us when we cannot even acknowledge that real, tangible human beings are with us? We can’t. I can’t. I think in order to know God I have to know other people because we were created to be in relationship. We see God through being in relationship with each other.

So when I hear the old familiar sound drifting through the night air, meeting me where I’m at, all curled up in my bed alone, I remember that I’m not actually alone. It helps me sleep a little easier.