Monthly Archives: August 2010
I slip the covers gently off and swing my feet to the floor. I move slowly and carefully to make sure I won’t step on the dog. And then, I remember: he’s not there. We haven’t picked him up from the kennel since returning from our trip last night–taking our oldest to the East coast for college. I think, oh good, no dog to walk today. A little break.
I make my morning tea in the dark and nestle into my cozy chair with my bible. But I’m first distracted by my cell phone. I need to check for text messages. See if I’ve heard from either of the kids. I check. Nothing from either. I sit in my cozy chair, no dog curled up by my feet, no word from the kids. Husband still asleep.
I relish the time alone and feel lonely at the same time. I’ve always needed time alone. Time with God. Quiet time. Or, as a teen, time running–usually along a wooded path near our home. Time to reflect, to pray, to sing praises. But today, the loneliness sinks me deep into the chair. Tears flow slowly yet steadily down my cheeks.
I miss the kids. It has been so good to have them home for the summer. Seeing how they matured over the school year. Getting to know them again. Seeing their hearts. Their spirits. Seeing what makes them passionate. And, yes, picking up after them. Trying to figure out meals that everyone will eat, and whether everyone will even be there if I do. Juggling schedules and cars and moods and who gets to use the washing machine next.
I miss it all–the messiness of living as a family–a hopelessly imperfect family–in this broken world. And, I thank God for it all. For His hand in it. For His grace and forgiveness. For the fullness of relationships. For the pain that comes along with it sometimes.
And, I thank Him for the loneliness because it reminds me that He is present in it all. In the fullness and in the loneliness. In the joy and in the sadness. And, that as I sit here none of us are alone–even if we are lonely. He is present some 2,500 miles away with our son and some 25 miles away with our daughter. And, He is here. Now. With me.
And so, I sip my morning tea with Christ. And find comfort in it all.
We arrived at the small, suburban home nestled in the southwest hills. As we approach the walkway, I notice the slightly overgrown yard and the open garage door. Two white Toyota sedans. The same, but different years. Both older but well cared for.
Rick and his family warmly greet us. We needed to catch up on life and kids and work. It had been too long. As the afternoon drifted into early evening, I felt relaxed and I gazed at this unusual group. A group of people all chatting as though old friends. A farmer, a secretary, a few lawyers, a professor, a judge, a homemaker, a few business owners. Most of us would not know each other, except for these annual gatherings. Strange how Rick had managed to bring all his friends together and made us friends, too.
We catch up on each others’ lives and talk current events. The occasional, “I’m sorry, I don’t remember your husband’s name” or “now how many kids do you have” doesn’t stifle the genuine warmth of the conversation. We all know there are just too many of us to keep track of all the details.
But I notice more here. Not just the relationships that Rick has planted and grown from nothing. But, I notice–as I do every year–how simply Rick and his family live. Sparsely furnished rooms. Furniture that hasn’t been replaced in years–perhaps ever. But a home that is clean. Simple. Comfortable.
This man, who could have much more, chooses to live simply. I realize that as long as I have known him, he has never valued things. I can’t recall ever hearing him talk of cars or homes or things he’d like to have. Rather, his conversations focus around friends and relationships, family, education, great books, history, politics, baseball, and the economy.
I think of Matthew, chapter 6:
Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. . .
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food . . .
–Matthew 6:19-21; 6:25
I think to myself, This man is wise–wiser than I ever realized.
As the sun gets ready to set, we begin our goodbyes and “see you next years.” I leave with the reminder of what it means to live in a way that reflects God. A relational God.
The day reminds me that it is okay–in fact, good–to live counter-culturally. That is what God wants for us.
I am blessed and my spirit is renewed.
Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
As we approached the front steps to the small Episcopal church in rural Washington, we saw a line of people patiently waiting to enter. I wondered: why a line? The memorial didn’t start for 20 minutes. So, we joined the line and waited quietly.
The rain gently sprinkled down on our shoulders and the shoulders of those around us. God’s tears of joy and sorrow. Just like the tears of peace, joy, and sorrow of those who loved this woman. Tears of peace that she would no longer suffer the pain. Tears of joy that she had gone home to dance with the Lord. But, tears of sorrow for the loss of such a joyful, loving, and compassionate woman. A woman who had left God’s thumbprint on so many.
When we made it to the door of the tiny church, we saw the reason for the wait: standing room only. I thought, this was a full life. A life that touched others in her community. The life of a woman who left God’s thumbprint on others.
The priest, dressed in his white and gold trimmed vestment led the service. White. The liturgical color for celebration in the Episcopal church. The celebration of life, but also the death and resurrection that we share with Christ.
But, in the eyes of the man who led us in the celebration–through scripture readings, hymns, prayer and the Eucharist,–I saw sorrow and grief. Tears and deep sadness. The same sadness I saw in her family and friends.
He spoke of hope–the hope and promise of Christ. And, as I saw his eyes momentarily well up with tears, I wondered: in times like these, does a priest, who grieves just like me, also cling desperately to hope? Rely on hope–the hope of life everlasting, the hope of God’s mercy and grace, the hope that God will walk through the valley of the shadow of death with those who grieve.
I think he must cling to hope, and the promise of Christ. And, as I see his eyes well up again, I hear God’s voice:
“sorrowful, yet always rejoicing”
We need to grieve. We need tears of sorrow, whether we are family, friends, or the priest who must stand before us all, in his own grief, and lead us in the celebration of life and death. But, we must rejoice always in the hope and promise of Christ’s death and resurrection.
As I walk out of the church, the raindrops again gently fall on our shoulders. God’s tears of peace, joy, and sorrow. I hug my sister and ask how everyone is doing. I don’t recall her exact answer, but I think, “sorrowful, but still rejoicing. Amen.”