I don’t think I’ve ever heard a story that involved a spider and ended well. It’s always “And then I noticed that there was a GIANT spider” or “I woke up with a bunch of spider bites,” or worst of all, “I still don’t really know what happened to the spider.” I’m sure God had His reasons for creating spiders, but those reasons are about as clear to me as these goggles were to a ‘90s kid in a physical science class.  

All that to say, two weeks ago, I found a spider on my bed, which was obviously horrifying. After a mild – and by mild, I mean severe – freak out moment, I frantically started removing the sheets from my bed while launching off into a well-rehearsed diatribe about how useless and disgusting bugs are.  Mid-rant, I regained clarity long enough to remember that there are two vacant rooms just across the hallway from mine. All at once my problem was solved; my actual bedroom has now become the now-vacant room across the hallway.

As much as I appreciate the fact that these empty rooms in my house accommodate my irrational fear of insects – for the record, I’m not actually convinced that it’s irrational – I do miss the days of having my brothers living right across the hallway from me. When we were all living under the same roof – which, insanely enough, hasn’t been the case for almost eight years – I didn’t really think much of it. The three of us got along well enough on most days, and I’ll speak for myself in saying that we became progressively more fond of each other as we grew older.

My middle brother and I had a rocky start. With a mere fourteen-month age gap and polar opposite temperaments at the onset, we were genetically programed to drive each other crazy. He once pushed my baby bouncer under the piano in the living room just to watch me repeatedly hit my head on its base. After we got past the head bashing, Barbie doll vandalizing, tattletaling years of our relationship, he started to grow on me. In high school, we bonded over a trip to Italy with our uncle, and the rest is history. These days, I guess I’d say he’s alright.

Many years later, with all of us living at least a 6 hour car ride away from each other, I am starting to understand what a luxury it was to have my entire family in one place for all those years.

I began realizing this about five years ago when I moved away for college. My oldest brother and I attended the same university for one year, giving us a chance to see that we could be friends and not just siblings. We took good care of each other that year – he took me to the grocery store and I took him to the gym.  After he graduated, I had three full years of school left, which gave me plenty of time to continue growing in my understanding of how precious my family is.

Within the past two years, the three of us have found ourselves living in different areas, and adjusting to living far from my siblings has been more challenging than I expected it to be. When my middle brother moved up north to start a new chapter with his now wife, I remember it feeling bitter-sweet; I was happy to see him so happy, but I was bummed that he would be so far away. By the end of that same year, my oldest brother and his wife were packing their bags for a big move across the country; they had been given a ministry opportunity in another state that they felt called to pursue. And just like that, a spider-dodging fortress was born. 

Surprised by the bitter-sweetness of this season, I’ve tried to make a special effort to keep in touch with my siblings. We don’t talk every day, or even every week, but I know that when I need them, they’ll be there and I hope they know it goes both ways. As somebody who really values quality time, having family in different cities has given me more excuses to travel and visit. I worried that being far away would weaken our family bond, but that simply has not been the case; for that, I am extremely grateful. 

We’ve heard it said often enough – “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” I wouldn’t necessarily say that I “didn’t know what I had” with my family until I left for college or my brothers moved away, but I would certainly say that the distance has helped me appreciate what I have much more. It has helped me realize that having a supportive, loving, and healthy family is by no means a given and that maintaining closeness with family requires intentionality.

Take a moment today to think about the family that God has blessed you with and how you can show love to them. Whether you are annoyed that your parents won’t let you go to the mall this afternoon or hurt by the unkind words of a family member, think on how you can selflessly serve your family by meeting needs and creating community among its members. The deep love of our Heavenly Father implores us to value, love, and serve our families. Let’s be intentional in seeking out ways to do this.

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