The in-between process.

I glanced down at my phone, ducking into my car after a short sprint through the parking lot in the pouring rain. The screen lit up with the words “Right now, it would take you seven minutes to drive home.”

“Home.”

I opened the front door at 5:07pm, greeted by the drifting scent of marijuana masked only partially by a quarter of a cans worth of Febreze and my father yelling profanities at my drunken mother. Well, I’ll give the phone some credit, it calculated the timing from my new office to the front door perfectly, I thought. Although it seemed to have mislabeled the location to which I was arriving. This place is not my home. It never has been.

I drove to work the next day. “How is this season for you?” a friend asked. “It must be nice to have some off time…to have a break from working so hard.” His eyes were warm and inviting. His question was sincere. “It’s good…” I began in the most chipper voice I could muster. But I knew I couldn’t fool him with my normal masked response. “Actually, it’s cruel. This season is a cruel one for me.” To my surprise, his expression didn’t change. He wasn’t confused or uncomfortable by my response. In fact, he seemed to welcome the honesty. “Tell me more.”

I can’t pretend that this season isn’t painful, so I told him everything. How my friends hop in planes or jump in their cars to head home for the holidays where their families and old friends wait in excited anticipation for their arrival. How their moms get into the Christmas spirit by decorating cookies and hosting festive parties and my own mother gets into the Christmas spirit by consuming spirits. How I try my best not to be overcome with envy as I scroll through Instagram pictures featuring families spending quality time with one another with home game nights and decorating gingerbread houses and fun vacations. Meanwhile family time at my house looks like everyone retiring to their own dark bedroom to watch crappy TV in isolation.

Truth be told, home doesn’t feel like home in this season for me. It never has. If this is what home is like, then home is cruel and I don’t want it.

My prayers are etched with honesty these days as I wrestle with this season…the idea of home, the idea of spending time with family. I have come to terms with the fact that the family that I have grown up into will never look like the ones I see in my friends Facebook photos. I have made peace with the fact that I don’t get to press rewind and stitch fun family outings into my childhood or remove the memories of mom and dad fighting over the lack of money to put presents under the tree because mom spent her paycheck at the liquor store. I have also found hope in knowing that holidays won’t always look like this. Someday I will have my own beautiful family that will look much different than the one I have now. I get to choose to be different, and I will be. There is peace in the past and the future. But right here, right now, in the middle of this season, in the “in-between,” it can be hard to find peace. It can be hard to make peace with the past and look in anticipation at the future but know that I’m being called to deal with things in the present for now.

This “in-between” is the muddy place. The “knee-deep in the trenches of dealing with healing” place. It requires a lot of trusting and hoping…in things other than myself, which is hard. Really hard. I have come to find that this muddy place is a place of process. There is refining involved in this learning curve of figuring out how to cultivate faithfulness despite not having a road map in hand that shows where to go next and where I’ll end up.

The process is hard. Refining hurts. It chips away at the callused places of your heart and soul where bitterness and envy have made a home and it digs deeper than you thought anything could dig in you. And then it digs a little further. The process involves finding peace in the chaos and complexity of the present, in the midst of heartbreak and continued hurt. It’s worth repeating. The process is hard.

But the process is beautiful, too. The process is full of redemption.

I went to make what I thought would be a quick stop at a friends today to drop off a Christmas gift. She asked if I could stay for a cup of tea. All it took was a question or two about my holiday for the pain to make its way to the surface. I spent the next hour in her kitchen sobbing as I recounted a Christmas Eve spent alone and revealing my deep desire for winter break to be over so that the sting of my “have-nots” might lessen. She sat with me as tears rolled down my cheeks and I knew, after hearing her own story in the past, that she understood my hurt. She looked at me and said, “I wish I could rip all of this pain away from you right now, but I know I can’t. This is never what God intended for your life, but that doesn’t mean He isn’t working right now. This season may be hard, but He has provided glimmers of hope in this season of my life and I bet He has done the same for you.”

She was right. In the hour I spent with her letting salty tears fall into my peppermint tea, I was home and she was family. She was the glimmer of hope. She was proof that this season, though cruel, and this process, though hard, is worth it. The process is worth it.