Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sarah's Wedding Joy

As the music swells and the doors at the back of Stone Chapel open, you just know that for some weddings you should have worn water-proof mascara. Yesterday was Sarah’s wedding.
From concerts to football games, our families seem to have navigated the teenage years together. Between our families, we managed to have 7 consecutive years of kids in school. Kris taught them history, and I taught them English. With shared activities and our daughters’ close friendships, we’ve spent a lot of time together—their family and ours. Even beyond high school, our children’s chosen paths are uncannily similar: We have a son in the military; they have a son in the military. They have a son in ministry; we have a son in ministry. Our youngest daughters remain dear friends.
But, our Joy and their Sarah are both firstborns—and both dreamed of marriage and motherhood. Both watched each of their younger siblings marry and become parents as they waited…and they waited. They waited a seemingly very long time. And often they lifted each other up.
Scripture instructs us to share in each other’s sorrow and each other’s joy.
It’s hard to share joy as you watch others experience what you so desperately desire. It isn’t that you want any less for them—but, oh, the ache—the longing. The wondering “Why?” The wondering “What’s wrong with me?”
But yesterday—yesterday, we stood in the same chapel where we stood for Joy only a few short years ago, waiting for the music to swell—waiting for those doors at the back to open.
And this time I could hardly stand it as I watched the little bell ringers (Sarah’s nephews) prance down the aisle, bells in hand, shouting, “The bride is coming! The bride is coming!” And I just knew then that I’d made a mistake when I’d chosen my mascara.
We watched as Sarah became single no longer. We ate dinner, and Joy sat across the table in miserable full-term-pregnancy delight as she shared in Sarah’s joy. And I imbibed as an elixir the pleasure of Sarah’s brothers and sister as they celebrated with Sarah. It reminded me of us.

Sometimes it is so easy to share in someone’s joy. 
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans. 12:15

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Eagles

Dear Christa—

I saw the eagles this morning—first 2, then 3—gliding high above the treetops and the bean fields. I could tell they were eagles because they are so big, even at that distance, and because of how they glide and swirl in circles.

I’m in southern Illinois this week. I saw the eagles on my walk out to the road and back. There are no fancy greenways here to walk, just the lane out to the road, so I walk it—too late in the morning—to the road and back three times. That’s when I saw them, the eagles.

On this piece of land, that’s been in my family for generations, there is mainly natural beauty. The wild orange daylilies line the ditch in profusion. As I approach the bridge, a red-winged blackbird squawks at me from his perch on the power line. The bottom fields are planted in beans instead of last year’s corn. 

At one round I pause on the creek bridge to peer into the water, as my children did years ago when they were young and this old farm held them spellbound with wonders not seen in the city. They would search this creek for small fish, frogs, and snakes. I’m glad that I don’t see a snake this morning.

But, my eyes continually lift to the heavens in search of the eagles. Now, there are four, swirling, swirling so high that they are just specks against the sky.

Eagles have always been special. The Greeks and Romans associated their most powerful god with the eagle. Countries, including ours, use it as a symbol of majesty and power.

The eagles are such a sight. They sweep across the horizon. Jay hears them screech as he’s working up near the house.

I would like to be an eagle, soaring high above the earth—seeing all things. But, I know that I am like the little birds that feverishly flap their wings, low to the earth, fluttering here and then there.

I have never seen the eagles flap their wings. Instead they stretch them out, tilting one way and then another, letting the invisible air hold them. I don’t know what it takes to be an eagle, high above, seeing beyond. Something tells me it’s tied to suffering, but I don’t want to suffer.

I know spiritual eagles, and I know I am not one. They are rare. 

I have walked to the road and back many times over the years, but rarely have I seen the eagles.

…but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Is. 40:31)

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Dear Christa—
We’re waiting. We’re waiting for a baby, Joy’s baby, the number 10 grandchild. He (Samuel Jay) should arrive in about two weeks.

Waiting is hard—waiting for a baby, waiting for that deployment to be over, waiting to see if your house has burnt down in the Black Forest fire, as many of our friends are doing this day.
I didn’t walk yesterday; the smoke hugged the streets and settled between houses throughout our part of the city. The smoke plumes are continuous, and when we see a dark plume rising among the white smoke, our hearts sink and one of us says, “That’s a house.” And we wonder: Is it someone we know? We know so many who live in the Black Forest.
I think the hardest part about waiting is not knowing how things will come out. Sometimes it’s good; sometimes it just isn’t. Waiting is like putting all our theology to the practical, day-to-day living test. It’s one thing to say we believe God is in control and that He is good. It’s hard to live that in the waiting. At least it’s hard for me.
I walked today as the southerly winds carried off the smoke and increased the northern evacuation lines, and I thought about all those people waiting—waiting.  
Once people know the outcome, they usually figure out how to carry on even in the most terrible circumstances. Secular people might call that the human spirit. I think, though, it’s something designed within us—something not totally lost in the great Fall in the Garden of Eden.
In C. S. Lewis’s Narnia book, the Beaver told the children that Aslan was not a tame lion. We know when we wait that the outcome is a mystery. God is so much higher than us and our world; we can’t always see the logic in His movements. It’s hard to be human and faced with being out of control of our life.
The Beaver did not end his statement there; he said, “but.” BUT—He is good.
We can trust an unpredictable God because He is good.
So, we wait this day. We wait for babies, for deployments to come and to end; we wait for so many things. And one day, when the smoke clears, we will march on. We can march on—regardless—because God is good.
Thank you, C. S. Lewis, for such a picture. I look forward to reading the Narnia books all the grandchildren, even number 10.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

We're a Team

We’re a team—Jay and I. It’s kind of like dancing. Sometimes we’re a good team; sometimes we aren’t. Today was an example of the latter. It happened when we were dropping a very heavy saw.
On Saturday our “goddaughter” is getting married. Brianna and Austin will have to learn how it is to be a team. Being a team takes a long time. I doubt when any couple is standing before the pastor in the white dress and tuxedo they think about the days they’ll be a bad team, but they come.
Sometimes being a bad team happens because of some outside source. For us today, it was a Colorado summer thunderstorm. That’s why we were moving the saw; we were trying to get it out of the rain. (Did I mention it was a very heavy saw?)
Colorado thundershowers are not long. So, when it was over, Jay went back to cutting stones with the saw, and I got a ladder and wiped down the outside of the windows that I’d just finished cleaning before the shower.
After a while, I went out to see how the stone laying was going. Jay said, “How’s your leg?” “Oh, it’s fine,” I replied. “The ice took the swelling down.” “I’m sorry,” he said. “That’s okay; a smarter person might have gotten out of the way.”
(Remember, I said it was a heavy saw.)
And yet, sometimes the very thing that makes for a bad team can cause some really good things. It had whisked away the heat of the day, making the evening lovely and cool, just the way we like it. I also peeked into Jay’s new rain barrel, and it’s half full. It makes one feel rather powerful to have a half a barrel of rainwater to use any way he likes in 72 hours. (72 hours, that’s the rule in Colorado).
I don’t know if there’ll be dancing or not at Brianna and Austin’s wedding, but I’ll toss our dancing shoes in just in case. (I think I’ll be wearing black leggings to cover that mishap on my leg.)
We never know what kind of dancers we’ll be. Sometimes we’re good, and sometimes we aren’t. Either way we try to make things work because we’re a team. We usually have fun when we’re dancing whether it's good or bad.
On Saturday Brianna and Austin will start their team journey. Some days will be good, and some days…not so much. But, I wouldn’t advise them to go moving any saws out of the rain for a while.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Thoughts on a Cold Day in June

Dear Christa—
This morning I saw God in the low hanging gray clouds. As I walk, I see planes heading up into those clouds, and I wonder—I wonder where are they going—people in planes? I love to travel and sit in airports because they’re taking me to places I want to go.
On this coldish June day, I knew those in the air couldn’t see beyond the clouds any more than I could see the foothills, much less Pikes Peak. Yet, they are going somewhere out there.
Where am I going this day, this year, this life? Maybe those are old woman thoughts. But, I think I thought them just the same in a house full of children and everything totally undone.
Sometimes, where we’re headed is shrouded, like gray clouds hugging the ground. And that’s okay. It’s okay because we’ll get there whether or not we have a visual of the distance.
Today—a cold day in June—is a good day. It’s a day to help Jay place paver stones in the front yard. It’s a day to drink hot tea. It’s a day to remember that we travel together, even in the low clouds.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Summer's Perspective

My perspective is always so much better in summer. As I walk along the greenway, the Colorado fresh air is—refreshing. The mountains on the west side grow and diminish, depending on the angle from which I’m looking. The gazillion or so songbirds in their morning joy serenade the ear, and I wonder why anyone would ever walk with headphones on. Really!

I’m not an artist, but I have learned enough to know that in visual art, one must consider perspective. But, I understand perspective best in story. We call it point of view, and it’s far more significant than the typical student label: “It’s first person observer narrator, I think?”

Maybe the reason I like story is because we’re all characters in one—THE one.

God is writing a story that is beyond the movie screen or a hologram; it’s real and what happens in this plot and to these centuries of characters really matter. It’s an interesting structure in which God is the all-knowing omniscient narrator, and we’re each a participating first person narrator. We mainly only see this story, this history, through our own eyes.

Point of view is significant in story because it helps to reveal the author’s tone—or attitude. And I guess that is the point of the point of view—my attitude, and God’s.

My attitude can be as rolling as the Tennessee hills. In summer I listen to songbirds, have a decently clean house, and joy is often in my grasp. I love the cool nights, the sun on my face, and time to think, to love, to do. The dark, wintry season of grading research papers? —not so much.

Yet, God’s perspective never changes. He’s the same as He’s always been and always will be—the ever-present omniscient narrator and author of life. His perspective is written in the Bible. The more I see His perspective, the more it’ll affect mine and stable my attitude.

This summer I want to spend more time there. Let’s spend more time there. Let’s imbibe the spiritual summer because the dark, cold winter is sure to wrap itself back around—bringing those research papers with it, I’m afraid.