When I was about seven or eight, my favorite toy was a set of Lincoln Logs. I would start with a vision that suited my mood of the moment: something big and grand one day, small and cozy the next. I loved the sturdy, familiar components that slid out of the cool cardboard cyllinder onto the floor: thin green boards for roofing, shiny red roof gables with ridges to hold on the boards, then the logs themselves. They came in different lengths, with flat slots pre-cut out of them to use as joints. (Such a satisfying feeling when they would line up and click into place!)
And while the specific design of each structure was different, in a way they were all the same. They each had a solid, ordered, wholesome appeal. When I was caught up in my building project, all other activity in the room fell away and I could enjoy that sweet, singular focus that children shift into so easily, as I imagined all kinds of scenarios for the families who would “live” there. Stepping back and taking a look at my finished creation always felt so right.
That’s what a lot of my marriage to Steve felt like, carefully built log-by-log over so many years. It felt solid, secure, good. It wasn’t something glitzy or dramatic like a celebrity’s mansion, or run of the mill like an apartment in a huge complex of identical apartments. No, it was loving, well-built and perfectly imperfect. Our shared faith served as our foundation and consistent point of connection. Through seasons of tension and distance or lighthearted ease, it was our meeting place, the central aspect of both of our lives. Everything flowed from there.
Now that Steve is gone, I’m back at the drawing table, trying to design the plans for this new life in my family of two. But this time it doesn’t feel like I have Lincoln Logs to work with. No, more like popsicle sticks. You can build a basic structure with those things, but they sure are a far cry from my beloved Lincoln Logs! They don’t look right. They don’t feel right–so light and flimsy. They don’t even smell right!
I know this will get better. It is getting better. And while we don’t have those familiar materials to work with anymore, I need to remind myself that we do have the very same foundation that Steve and I shared. It provides a beautiful sense of continuity, as it ran beneath the three of us before, so now Ellie and I are building our home upon it.
I do think that, with time and many layers, this popsicle stick structure will–in the way of the Lincoln Logs–result in something that feels solid, good, right. I can’t picture how we’ll get from here to there. But as long as we keep building stick-by-stick on that familiar solid ground, we can find our way to a sense of home and family where we can live in love and rest in the good shelter we have built.