The Party

Updated: Mar 20, 2021

I didn’t expect joy like this.

Not this kind, the joy you don’t have to think about. When it just bubbles up from somewhere deep inside you, runs the course of your veins, tingles your fingertips and your toes. Not this easy kind of joy, with laughter that rises high, floats above us, a protection, a gift. This is what dreams are made of, and I hadn’t dared to dream of this.

But there it was, settling in around me. Comfortable, easy, smooth. The day was soaked in grace, like we were moving through honey, sweet and sticky and glorious, held together.

Levi turned 7 last week. Since we couldn’t throw a party, we decided we’d do outdoor games at my house, with his dad’s family, my family, and two family friends we’ve kept contact with during this virus. I planned water balloon galore, ring tosses, pinata, egg walks, cookie challenges, pizza and cake. There was no stress around it, just plain fun.

It’s been peaceful between me and Levi’s dad for a while now. But as the morning started to unfold, I remembered just three years ago, when Levi’s party was at my house and I hadn’t known his girlfriend, now wife, would be attending. I can still see her walking down our front hill alone, a gift in her hand, and Levi’s confused and pained face as he saw her.

I tried to summon this memory, almost as a reminder to what we’ve been through, but I couldn’t grasp it. It refused to travel into focus in my mind, wouldn’t take shape the way I wanted it to. It was blurry, and I couldn’t connect any emotion to it. So I moved on, prepping for the day.

The day flew by. By the time they arrived I was already dripping sweat. It was the thickest, most humid day we’ve had yet. The moment Levi’s dad arrived, he entered into play mode, that kind of dad energy that I simply don’t possess. He remained that way for 5 solid hours, rallying everyone for the games, bombing them with water balloons, singing the loudest. We all drank white claws and were soaking wet by the time the water balloons ran out. Their newest baby napped in Levi’s room the entire party, and their little dude stayed close to his big brother Levi or his mama. When the rain started to pour in the late afternoon, we all sat in chairs in the garage, his dad putting together the toys that would take me days to figure out, everyone else quiet, sucking on lollipops or running barefoot in the rain.

I kept waiting for the ache. For it to crawl out of the depths of me and begin clawing at my heart. The what ifs, the what could have beens. I was anticipating the turning of my stomach at seeing their affection, their growing family, their love. I was wondering when jealousy would spike in me, rear its nasty head and remind me to put up walls, to feel small beside them, for all they’ve gained and how I’ve simply stayed the same.

But it never came.

There was no trace of it. Not before they came, not during their time here, and not after they left. There was only peace. And that joy, which sank down so deep in all of us it left me feeling drunk, dizzy.

I had not believed, in the core of me, that it would ever be like this. That I would feel an emptiness as they walked away, long for their presence again, that communion I felt when we all sat side by side as the rain fell. I never imagined that his father would do something funny and his wife and I would lock eyes and shake our heads in laughter, acknowledging and accepting that he is hers, and this is good. That my own son would not listen to me, but when she kindly reminded him that I was calling his name, he’d turn and see me then, respecting her direction.

And that it’d feel like a team. That the person I once believed was supposed to be my teammate would bring new players, and we’d all work in harmony, together. We are not perfect. There are hard co parenting days. There are injustices. There is pain, especially, of course, for Levi. But where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. And God took me, a messy, broken child, and remolded my heart. Forced me to let go of anger, simply because it was too heavy.

God took something broken and made it beautiful.

Someone had told me, back when Levi was only a few weeks old, when my heart was so tangled and bleeding and sorrowful, that if we let Him, God can make this better than what it would have been otherwise. That He could take this shattered life, and make it into something even better than my wildest dreams.

I hadn’t believed him.

And here we are. In this unspeakable joy.

Everything will be ok. If you can trust that, it will transform you.


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