Picture this: a mom, dad, son, daughter and a Golden Lab named Waldo; a picture perfect family with a white picket fence surrounding their house. The fence symbolizes togetherness and joy.
When I was in high school I longed for this “white picket fence” – I was longing for something I thought I was missing out on. My parents separated when I was in grade six and divorced when I was in grade nine. It wasn’t messy, which made the transition smoother for my sister and I. However, deep down inside I felt like an outcast since I was the only one in my core group of friends whose parents weren’t together. I thought that because of my family situation I didn’t measure up to all my friends — they didn’t come from broken families.
I began to think there was a standard foundation for this so called “picket fence”; a foundation I was suddenly lacking with divorced parents. (The one positive was that I loved having two bedrooms to decorate the way I wanted)
I’m still not sure when it was, but I gradually began to experience a major shift in how I viewed my family’s situation. I realized that the term “broken family” is only true if you let it be, if you believe it to be true. In reality, there is no perfect family situation.
As time went on I started building my own white picket fence of togetherness and joy – one that involved dinner dates with my mom, movie nights with my dad, and sleepovers with my big sister. When life got messy we handled it and I kept building the fence that I had desired for so long. I was learning how to truly embrace and enjoy moments with my family even though it didn’t involve sit down dinners at the end of each day with both parents present as I tell them how my day was. I was learning how to be happy with my new family dynamic; one that I never imagined having when I was a little girl. I had more one-on-one time with both my mom and dad, getting to know them as if they were my new friends.
A big part of this story is how I chose joy. But this was something I couldn’t grasp alone; I found my strength in God’s continuous love and grace. I found rest in Him, knowing that He was in control. Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” This promise gave me newfound hope — a glimmer of light when it felt so dark.
It took me a while to figure it all out, and as I get older I keep learning more. The most important lesson I’ve learned that there is no set definition for what makes the “white picket fence”. If we get too wrapped up in how we think things should be, we will miss out on the good things that are right in front of us. For me, it was about finding joy in the midst of the trials. I couldn’t control or change the circumstances, but I was able to change the way I looked at it and how I responded.
I stopped focusing on what I thought I was missing and began to see that my happiness and fulfillment came from the relationships I was building with my family. It didn’t matter that there was two homes instead of one; my family was still my family. There was something so freeing about these realizations. I was no longer an outcast; I was just me — building my fence one post at a time.
Photo by (Flickr CC) June Marie