Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hearing the Call

A few months ago I was listening to a mixed tape my friend Emily made me back in college (yes, I still have them and yes, my car has a cassette player!) and the Indigo Girls song "Closer to Fine" came on.

I know this song by heart.  I have known this song by heart since I was a teenager. I used to play and sing this song on my guitar...I know it intimately. 

But somehow I had never heard one part of it.  Somehow on this one sunny day driving along in my car on my way to somewhere, the lyrics reached up an slapped me in the face. 

Well the darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
And lightness has a call that's hard to hear

STOP. Rewind.  Play again. STOP.  Rewind, Play again.  Because it is true.  And I had never internalized it. 

I can't remember what darkness was hovering around me at that time; it's always something or other.  It is, as they say, insatiable.  There is so much truth packed into those two little lines.  The darkness will not leave.  It's here.  It's here when church members are massacred because they are black and it's here when a black man murders white people on live television and invokes a race war and it's here  when students are shot in their classrooms or moviegoers are shot in theaters.  It's here in the sexual trafficking, persecutors beheading Christians, consumerism that worships the thing above all else. The darkness is here. 

In the heaviness of this, the lightness does have a call that has to fight for attention.  But it's there just as legitimately as the darkness.  Today I told Finn that there are more good people in the world than bad people.  "Are you sure?" he asked me.   Yes, I am sure.  I am positive.  We're all good somehow--or so I believe--but the darkness can take root and grow into something monstrous. 

So we shine a light in the dark.

Jesus told us this life was going to be painfully difficult but I can find peace in Him.  He has overcome the world.  The lightness does have a call that's hard to hear.  Can we hear it, and mirror it, and shine it into a dark world?  

Start with the person in front of you and go from there.  A child, spouse, parent, sibling, student, colleague, cashier, email recipient...or perhaps the person in front of you right now is the person in the mirror. Starting there can be best of all.

Just take this day and shine some light into the darkness. Hear the call.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Clean and White

This summer Annie's room/our guest room has been sorely neglected, but not anymore! It's neat as a pin at long last.  The light is so pretty in here that I don't want it to have to compete with quantities of toys, papers, books, Legos, dress-up clothes, et cetera....

I spent a few hours in organizing-purging-vacuuming-arranging mode last week and felt so happy with the end result. 

More views of this pretty little room here (before it officially became Annie's room, too!).

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Wedding Cake for Annie

Annie has inherited my desperate love of wedding cake.  At the wedding we attended in July, we sat right next to the cake table and she spent a lot of time looking longingly in its direction.

When it was finally (she was so patient!) time to cut the cake, she was awarded her own slice, topped with an icing flower. 

And she ate every bite!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Keeping My Eyes Open

After my grandmother's visitation service I had to go to a can't-miss meeting at my church.  After the meeting I climbed the hill and sat at my mother's grave for a while.  
This was my view. 

I was thinking of the hymn "Blessed Assurance," which includes oh what a foretaste of glory divine! If this is just a foretaste, Glory itself is going to be exquisite. Both my mother and grandmother are in that place now.  

Thursday evening after sunset we got home from Vacation Bible School and I looked up the hill to my grandmother's house and saw two low, beautiful, back-lit clouds.  They seemed remarkable to me for no reason at all--they really were not remarkable.  But they seemed to be. I didn't know it then, but that was her last night alive.

A week ago on Sunday we were driving home from church when I saw this surprising thing in the sky.  It had not rained and did not rain later, but there was this cloud striped with a rainbow.  It was much brighter in person.  Apparently it is a relatively uncommon phenomenon--either cloud iridescence or a circumhorizontal arc.  

Two years ago I had a difficult miscarriage early in the second trimester. (Here is one comfort I received.)  I prayed desperately to God that He would let me know that the baby was with my mother--an odd request, perhaps, but my desperate plea nonetheless.  I had a lucid, vivid, joyful dream soon after: I was looking out my bathroom window at my grandmother's house on the hill, and it was after sunset, and I was admiring the beautiful, delicate nighttime clouds, when one turned into an angel, and another into a little baby that unraveled from an umbilical cord and then landed in the angel's arms. I felt immeasurable, all-surpassing, unearthly joy, a happiness with no earthly heaviness.  I was euphoric.  In my dream I knew my child was well and that I was being given a gift to see this. 

All these clouds!  And last night I stumbled upon a reference to the "cloud of witnesses" in Hebrew 12--the saints who have gone before us to pave the way and to inspire. It was like God decided to wink at me one more time.

 Annie Dillard wrote, "It's all a matter of keeping my eyes open." Yes, indeed.

Friday, August 7, 2015

What Joy Shall Fill My Heart

My larger-than-life grandmother died this morning between five and six. I was with her until around 3:30, and around 5:00 she fell asleep and went peacefully sometime after that. As my uncle said "she was always dignified, and she didn't want an audience." Indeed. She always did things her way, and even to the end she had more endurance than I did.

We had a sweet last night together.  Earlier in the evening I decided I wanted to sing to her.  Her pastor and I sang "How Great Thou Art", which is a song my grandmother played and sang on the organ in her sunroom a lot. She knew it by heart, and she liked to show off on the high notes.

When Christ shall come 
with shout of acclamation
and take me home what joy shall fill my heart
then I shall bow in humble adoration
and there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

He is great and I am so grateful.

{my grandmother holding baby Annie in summer 2011}

Thursday, August 6, 2015

We Must Risk Delight

Here is where you can find Jack Gilbert's poem, "A Brief for the Defense."

"We must risk delight.  We can do without pleasure,
but not delight.  Not enjoyment.  We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world."

Oh yes.  We must.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Water Under the Bridge

After church and a nap on the sofa today I visited my grandparents. They were sleeping when I got there.  Granddaddy in his chair, Grandma in the hospital bed.  I sat quietly for close to half an hour before Granddad woke up.  He looked over at me and smiled sleepily, "how long have YOU been there?"

My grandmother is so tiny, so frail.  I held her hand.  She cannot speak properly anymore, but she woke at one point and I gave her some liquid on a sponge-stick.  That's all she seems to be taking.

"I'm dying," she said to me in her barely-there voice.  I nodded. "Yes," I said.  We just held hands and looked at each other.  I can't not cry. I try every time and I fail. This is a hard truth.  

Later Granddad was holding her hand and I slipped into the adjacent sunroom.  "I love you honey," he said. And then....he brushed her hair.  He just gently brushed her hair on her pillow. My heart breaks at his devotion. 

 While standing in the sunroom I absentmindedly picked up an old-fashioned photo album. It was my mother's baby album, with sweet and poignant photos of my grandmother holding my mother.  It took my breath away to look at them. My grandmother was so beautiful; my mother was so happy. 

My grandfather held onto me before I left.  "I remember the first time I saw you," he said.  "Your parents were living in that little apartment.  Grandma and I went to visit you there...." He was quiet for a while.  "So much water under the bridge since then."  Yes, I whispered.  He just held me longer.  And I held onto him.

Each time I come and go I check on her shoes.  They are neatly placed under the hospital bed.  They don't move.  But they are there, like someone placed them there just in case.  And that breaks my heart a little bit, too.  

My sweet grandfather. Please pray for him.