It was the last Saturday in May — the sun was setting on Regent Drive , and people were beginning to trickle into our home. Kelsey and I had spent the afternoon trying to wrap lights around the trunk of the the oak in our backyard “like Pinterest.” It didn’t turn out the same as the picture (because it never does), but it was perfect. I had been envisioning this night, where I would host the people that I love most in the world to celebrate both the ending of this season and beginning of a new one in my life. I had even sketched it out in my journal.
I’d setup a long table under the oak, a drink station next to the garden, and a firepit with Adirondack chairs around it. I’d even designated a space for singing and dancing in an open area of grass on the other side of the garden. I dreamed it into being. Although, the details and moments I couldn’t sketch are what I will always remember most.
I looked out the kitchen window when I was washing the last dish in the sink, and two guests who’d arrived early were slow dancing under the lit up tree.
I was watching a couple that had been married for many years fall in love all over again for a few minutes. Knowing a bit more of their story, I knew that this dance, this love, had come through a struggle of finding beauty in the darkest of days for them both. I watched and experienced this holy moment from the inside.
The sun was hiding behind the horizon, giving its final goodbye glow as we gathered around the table and enjoyed the presence of one another. I looked over and my two young nieces were playing tag with the dog beyond the big oak tree. My parents were sitting around the fire.
They had each given me courage, given me hope — they had believed in me. I knew I would not be standing where I was without the love of the people that gathered in this backyard. Their presence on this day filled up my home to a fullness I had never experienced there before.
I had asked two people close to me to sing a couple songs that night. Neither of them sang in front of people often, but they had sung in front of me and I knew their voices were straight from heaven. They both said to me separately they would have never done this if I hadn’t been the one to ask, so I should feel really special.
They got up to sing a duet together. They harmonized — a masculine and a feminine voice — characteristic of our equally tender and strong God. They glowed in the joy of releasing a gift upon the world, it was sacred. They sang about light, the long road, and heartache — thus singing out the story of every human, and the story of me.
My 6 year old niece took my hand and said “Kay-Kay, dance with me!” and we danced. I twirled her in her pink and green paisley dress, and she was pure and beautiful.
My niece clung to my leg the whole way. I looked out and made a toast thanking my family, my friends, and all those present and absent. I thanked them for how they had each touched me and left me with their unique fragrance of hope. I looked around the table into their eyes of love and delight, and I honored myself for arriving to where I was that night — full of gratitude that I could stand up and love who I am almost as much as the little girl wrapped around my leg, and the little girl I once was.
I didn’t know the mission that would be ahead and I knew that was ok for this moment in time. I was celebrating tonight.
The sun had left us for the evening, and the demonic mosquitos had arrived. People slowly began to trickle out with hugs and kisses and goodbyes. A few brave, Deet-covered friends remained and gathered around the fire. We laid on our backs and looked at the stars, until eventually a friend brought out his guitar and began to sing.
We made up songs and we laughed and worshipped and talked about how we didn’t want the night to end. The moon was high in the sky, and longer silences began to fill the backyard. I looked at the empty table and the string of lights, and the fire that was slowly dying down.
Yet I was full in belief that goodness can be hoped for and received this side of heaven. I received a gift that night—the faith that I could actually dream up something and it could happen better than I imagine, that I could create a space for old lovers to fall in love again, for children to run free and dance, and for people to have courage to share their riches with one another.
In this narrative describing the space between the dreaming and the coming true, I found, in a fresh way, that relationship and life is in so much more than what meets the eye. If you were to walk the contours of your own heart and explore the stories there, I believe you would find the same to be true for you.
Kate Hughes is a therapist at Sage Hill Counseling in Nashville, TN. She was led to Sage Hill through her own personal story of recovery and interned for a year and a half while earning her Masters in Counseling at Trevecca Nazarene University.