Besser is my baby sister (twelve years younger). Her name is Elizabeth, called Beth, and many years ago my “sister name” for her became Besser.
We grew up not having much of a relationship due to age difference. I headed off to college and she started first grade. I married, completed my first round of education, returned to my hometown to discover a thirteen-year-old struggling to maneuver through her teen years. I hit my early thirties broken and lonely through an unwelcome divorce, and Besser was starting her young married life full of hopes and dreams. It was not until she slammed into the wall of an unsolicited divorce about fourteen years later that we discovered each other. What a surprise it was that we not only needed a sister relationship, but we wanted one. For the past twenty-four years we have fought hard to cultivate and nurture our relationship.
We live about 45 minutes away from each other, so “dropping by” is not convenient. Yesterday we made a scheduled “visitation” to eat lunch, cook old fashioned stew, and make time for processing our current life transitions over jasmine tea, and we talked for hours.
Our time was infused with memories of our childhood, and the many wonderful things our mother deposited in our lives. One thing mother loved was working jigsaw puzzles in January. You could always go to her house in January and find a 1000-piece puzzle on her dining room table.
I started a puzzle a few days earlier, a fun snow scene given as a “dirty Santa” Christmas gift, and had made little progress. Besser and I sat down to tackle the border of the 500-piece puzzle (not complex and difficult) at a small table in total disarray with hundreds of puzzle pieces all over the table. In the middle of organizing the puzzle pieces into colors, border, and categories, the most beautiful snow we had ever seen started falling. Mesmerizing heavy swirling snow looked as if it was caught up in small whirlwinds. The snow, the memory of mom, the puzzle and smell of beef stew simmering on the stove, and spending time with Besser was a sensory overload. Simple little joys of life can be so powerful they transport us into what feels like make-believe.
We divided up the stew and cornbread, and she headed home in heavy snow. After dinner I returned to the puzzle table, and marveled as I stepped back in time to glean the essence of what happened that afternoon. The sweet memories of mom working big complex puzzles is etched in my mind. Life is like a big box of disarrayed puzzle pieces. As we try to make sense of life, our job is to sort out the categories and colors and make sense of hundreds of random pieces of reality. Working a complex puzzle is never easy and requires dedication and commitment mixed in with motivation. The puzzle and our lives need borders and boundaries, and we need to bring beauty out of chaos. God takes the pieces of our lives and makes a beautiful picture if we are yielded to Him.
The richness of family relationships must be nurtured and cultivated over the long haul. It takes two people making full-on effort to have a meaningful heartfelt relationship. They grow out of effort, genuineness, and honesty, during the good times and bad.