It hits me like a ton of bricks.
We are driving to where my best friend grew up, in upstate New York. The drive is easy, there's never any traffic as we coast through the mountains. The sky is cloudy, dark and light gray swirls above us. Levi is in the backseat, his eyes closed. I begin to pass a truck on a downhill, and just like that I am back to being in college, 15 years ago.
I was pulled over on this drive, coming home from Megan's house, passing a truck on a downhill. As I speed up this time, memories come flooding in. What it felt like to be young, driving to Megan's house. The possibilities that always stretched out before us. The tears come to me unexpectedly, without warning, in a rush.
When we were young. When the world stretched out before us, a stage for us to dance across. We'd sit at her kitchen table, her brothers loud around us, her mom fretting over tuna fish and chicken soup, and we'd look out at the trees in the background and sigh with glorious relief that we had each other in this world, that from there, at 20 years old, we could do anything. We could choose any path, and God would bless it. We believed this down to our core, it made us giddy and rowdy and fearless. We threw ourselves out into this life, the net wide enough to catch any fall. We'd sit by her pool, the water shining and blinking in the sunlight, and talk about the men we wanted to marry, how they would make us laugh until our stomachs ached, how they'd allow us to still be free, still be best friends. These dreams defined us, propelled us forward, made us unstoppable.
Then I went to Haiti.
And Megan went into ministry.
The thread that connected us never severed, it only grew stronger. But as the years went on that hope that lived within us became jaded, and we'd find ourselves dragging the other one up from whatever pit we had fallen into. Haiti was my dream, and as I lived inside it I also washed away, parts of me disappearing into the mountains there, a clear outline of who I thought I was becoming blurry.
But Megan was constant. She was always the compass.
When I came home, pregnant, alone, my dreams officially disintegrated. They just vanished one day, just like that. Hope became a funny thing, always out in front of me, never within my grasp.
It becomes easy to live without dreams. To work, to make money, to pay bills, and have experiences every now and then that remind us we're alive. To beg God for direction but be comfortable in the silence that follows. It isn't unhappiness, no, it's just, living.
All my dreams had shifted to my son. Wanting him to have it all, to know that hope down to the very core of him. And because of that, it's been good.
But driving to Megan's family home, I felt it again. My youth. That longing. The way possibilities danced in front of me, not just in my dreams, but in the palms of my hands. I wanted it again, so desperately, to believe that the world was really mine for the taking.
Levi, in the backseat, his eyes closed. There is only forward, never back.
When I lived in Haiti I had a friend who wrote me letters. Words that were lifegiving, even if they simply told her story. In her story she loved a boy, and lost a boy. But this boy, I knew him richly. He was ingrained in my mind, the boy my friend loved, with his scruffy beard and quiet nature. I knew the way he thought, the way he loved. As the years passed I forgot about him, as my friend did too. But now, that boy is married to my Megan, and knowing him through life and not words has been one of my greatest joys. He's a part of me now, in a real way. For how he loves my best friend, but also for how he loves my son.
Our vacation together was in a cabin on a lake. Megan's family; her husband Colin and daughter Lucy. And me and Levi. We spent a full week kayaking and tubing and hiking and having smores over the fire. We fished and boated and cooked and laughed until our sunburned bodies slammed into bed at night.
Colin, he poured into my son. He went fishing off paddle boats at 6 in the morning. He taught him how to build a fire and drive a boat. He encouraged him when the hiking was hard. He was fully present to him, and patient with him wanting his constant affection, clinging to him, holding his hand, sitting too close to him. Levi whispered to me one night as we were falling asleep, "I think Colin really is my best friend. I love him so much." Tears stung my eyes then as they do now, reliving it.
On our last day of vacation we went back to a secret lake at the top of a mountain. We brought our tubes and drinks and lunch and all the things we could possibly need for our youngest camper Lucy, just 10 months old. No one was there, just endless water and silence and sunshine. Colin and Levi jumped off a small cliff into the water over and over again, Levi's laughter echoing off the lake, floating into the sky, reaching heavenwards. I don't think I've ever seen my son so happy.
I looked at Megan, holding her daughter, her long curly red hair a lifeline to our past. Megan, my solid ground, the friend that God designed for me, somehow, and I for her. I was floating in a tube, watching it all. Megan looked back at me, and we both knew. My son, her husband, us. Something was transformed, something was put back together. There was a resurrection up there, maybe of hope, maybe of the past, maybe of what's to come. It rose up in all of us, our togetherness, our sanctuary. A family. A chosen family.
God has used these last eight years to remind me over and over again that dreams do not happen to us, but rather live inside of us. That the past can sometimes rest gently within us, a reminder of what was, a bouy bobbing along the deepest parts of us, not a threat, just a thing passing by. We have the capacity to endure it all, hold it all, to let grief and longing be braided with hope and gratitude.
Driving home, just me and Levi, the tears came pouring out again.
He makes things new.
He makes things new.
He makes things new.
There can be new dreams. There can always be new dreams.