Last week was a real life, heaven on earth, dream come true week.
Soul-saturating, joy-bubbling, heart-healing perfection.
My family - usually separated by not-knowing, time zones, hemispheres, culture gaps and a million other details - was together.
Smiles for days.
A little boy and a big sister feeling overwhelmed by the love of a newlywed that would leave her beautiful life to come and join ours – filled with frogs, dirty water and stinky-toots.
Silly songs and moments that would never happen on Skype leave a forever mark and sacred memory, long after those windshield fingerprints wash off. I’M SO THANKFUL!
Saturday, that sweet boy had to leave our happy dreamworld to go back to his father’s house and back to school. We had an extra special breakfast pizza, remembered through pictures, and sent him off with our best version of goodbye smiles.
And we wept.
I had my sister to cry with. She felt that family loss with me like no one else in the world can.
And I felt the love of my sister and the loss of that perfect little boy’s presence in our home equally.
SO MANY TEARS. We couldn’t stop.
Swollen faces that actually physically hurt.
By the time our eyes had stopped pouring and that post-cry exhaustion was setting in, my phone rang. It was a young mother from Dwaleni, one of my sweet sisters that comes to Sunday Lunch. And she was frantic.
She screamed with fear over the sound of another mother crying hysterically in the background that there were dangerous things happening in their community. Violence and vandalism were happening in a home that I’ve prayed and played at a million times, in a hope we built. With a family that I consider my very own.
The background sounds were horrible.
I had swollen face, empty eyes and fragile heart… and I sat on my bed listening to the same conditions happening in another community in a much more dangerous setting. And I just didn’t know if I could handle it.
I instructed the women on first aid, helped them make a plan for the night, gave them the information they needed to call the police, spoke Truth until the frantic screaming stopped, and started praying with the unsuspecting couch-full of people who had just come over to my house to grate some cheese for Sunday Lunch and enjoy the chocolate-covered pretzels my sister packed.
How could it go from extreme bliss to… this?
How could it go from my cheeks hurting from smiling to my face hurting from heartsick blubbering in a day?
What was I supposed to do?
It was supposed to be a happy Sunday Lunch.
My sister is here.
AND it was a triple birthday party.
I had made ginormous amounts of their favorite pizza, bought a whole watermelon, and made a double layer change-your-life cake with strawberry whip cream frosting.
What were we supposed to do?
I had no idea.
The next morning, I had enough food to feed an army waiting on standby, bloodshot eyes, and a sister with a hurting stomach and a Benadryl hangover.
We grabbed the peanut butter, and we loaded up to go see what this new day would hold.
We found a mother broken and hurting, wanting only to crawl into a dark hole and disappear. And five kids + neighbors who still just wanted attention, needed diapers changed, and needed a family.
My sister plopped down on that porch with peanut butter in hand.
I slipped inside to pray, and to speak Truth over that mama until she could hear it.
That peanut butter and those prayers did something.
That mom needed a sister to cry with and feel her family loss too.
Those children needed an aunty to dote over them and to create happy moments with them too.
When I asked my hurting friend what we could do to help her, although she’d been at the police station until 3:40am and her head was pounding, she recognized there was something good about what was happening right now – about peanut butter fingers and sister tears – and she said, “You can take me to church.”
While she cleaned herself up and bathed her children one by one, with strength and energy that had to come from the One we’d been appealing to, my little sister and I sat outside in a peanut butter dream world.
There was no way to undo the tears. There was nothing to make the bad stuff better.
But family was together. And we had peanut butter.
It wasn’t the moments I tried to create for Lifa and my sister.
It wasn’t the carefully planned and prepared Sunday meal.
It wasn’t anything I knew how to do.
It’s that supernatural love that sticks sweeter and stronger than peanut butter when sister tears are shared and when you come even when you don’t know what to do.
We never figured out what to do. But we realized we are family.
And family blows out birthday cakes and proclaims birthday blessings even when smiles are sleepy and dreams feel far.
And family exchanges birthday speeches and dancing for birthday spa time when faces are swollen.
Possibly my most favorite Sunday Lunch moment of all times. Swollen eyes exchanged for serene, cucumber-covered smiles. It was bliss for me to cover theses sisters with a rejuvenating, mini-fridge kind of face mask, to pamper them and give those eyes that’ve seen too much some much-needed rest.
And then my sister did the same for me. I laid right there with them and soaked up that serenity.
We are family wherever we are.
We have peanut butter. We have prayers.
And we have sisters.