The circle grew and shrank as people came and went. We drank 18 gallons of coffee and caught up with dozens of cousins on that wide airy porch. It was fun to connect with relatives from all over and catch up on all the latest family news.
It was a typical yoder gathering in that the main activities were food and conversation.
But they were splendid samples of both.
The big rocking chairs creaked and the two cousins beside me shot sarcastic comments back and forth.
“You’d better be careful,” I warned, “pretty soon y’all won’t even like each other any more”.
“Oh, she’s my cousin. She has to like me” one of them shot back.
And I keep thinking about that.
Although that statement is obviously false judging by the many feuding families across the land, I love that it was her flippant response. I’m glad she experiences family as people who love her unconditionally.
And I though of a quote I’d read recently that said “To love someone long term is to attend a thousand funerals of who they used to be.
I don’t know who said that, but it must have been a very wise person.
The best friends, the ones who last a life time, are the ones who encourage the funerals of our former selves.
The ones who change with us.
Who celebrate and value the person who is today and not some past or idealized self that you can never be again.
Let’s learn to love well.
To hold tightly to love and loosely to what it looks like.
I wrote this on Easter Morning, and then, for some reason, didn’t publish it. So I guess we have some late Easter thoughts this year.
We sang beneath the rising sun this morning in celebration of a risen Savior. The sunlight crept between the tree branches, the birds joined in our singing, and Canada geese flew overhead.
I noticed the geese especially. We almost never see geese here. They don’t fly across these mountains. But this morning while we stood together in worship, they flew directly overhead.
The feminist part of me loves the prominence of the women in the Easter story. I love that it was the women who came to the grave first. That Mary Magdalene was the first to see the risen Lord. I even find an odd satisfaction in the way the women came to the disciples and told them the tomb was empty and “it seemed to them as idle tales and they believed them not.” I bet they regretted that.
I was thinking about that. I think the women believed he had risen. I think that’s why the disciples made fun of them. Apparently they believed something had happened or they wouldn’t have gone to check the tomb for themselves. If the women had only said the tomb was empty they probably would have believed that. It was believing he had risen than was going too far.
I think the women saw the empty tomb and intuitively knew that he had risen. I think they came back excited and full of faith only to have it crushed by “being realistic”. I think they saw the miracle.
I’m blessed to be surrounded by men who value and affirm my spiritual experiences. Men who hear the things I have to say.
But I’ve seen the other side. I’ve seen women go through life never being given the opportunity to share their story. Never having their experience valued.
And I just want to point out that Jesus recognized the women in his world. He appeared to them first.
I also want to point out that the women recognized him more quickly.
That’s a gift we’ve been given.
And I just want to say that if your spiritual journey isn’t being recognized by those around you, it doesn’t make it any less real. While it’s nice to be validated by the people around us, it isn’t vital.
We don’t get to choose the ways or the times that God shows himself to us. Often he comes in ways I don’t expect, in places I thought he would be absent, at times I wasn’t watching.
One afternoon I drove mountain roads only 30 minutes from home. They were new roads to me. I’d never traveled them before and I realized again how easy it is to miss the beauty that is right in front of us.
It’s easier in springtime. The daffodils light up dark corners, green creeps out of the branches of the forest and birds and frogs find a voice that had been silenced for the long winter.
Perhaps I too, can find a voice to say the things that stirred inside my heart but struggle to find words to say.
I’d like to hold the moments closer, to see the value in everyday things, to recognize the fingerprints of God all around me and to believe that spiritual connections can be found in all the mundane parts of life.
And I’m learning.
I’m learning that my work can be God’s work.
That laughter can be worship
Tears can be a prayer
I’m learning that a hug can be sacred,
A cup of water filled with grace,
A cup of coffee a sacrament,
And any place with a child of God is Holy Ground.
When I remember that all I have is given. That earth is intricately connected to heaven. That what is created by God, is inherently part of God, than everything becomes sacred. We do not bring God down to humanity, we raise humanity to become one with God.
I was first introduced to lent when I read The story of the Trapp Family Singers. (Yeah that’s right, I read that book before I watched The Sound of Music. Probably the only person who has done that since the movie came out.) I thought it was a funny catholic thing to do and wondered what not eating dessert has to do with being a Christian.
I didn’t think any more about it until I read Lauren Winner’s Girl Meets God. For some reason this book fascinates me and for the first time I began to appreciate the significance of lent as well as many other orthadox practices. I understand the power of ritual. I was quite young when we left the Amish and yet those customs from my early childhood have a strange draw for me. I understand her longing for the ritual and tradition of her Jewish childhood.
And I was fascinated by how she found Christian ritual to take its place.
I chose the one I found the easiest to understand.
I would practice Lent.
That first year I followed Lauren’s example. No reading. Nothing except scripture. I found myself with an odd amount of time on my hands. I found myself sitting doing nothing. I fidgeted. I don’t like to be still. But I found myself thinking and praying and meditating.
And the next year I did it again.
Last year, I decided that instead of no reading, it would be no watching anything. No movies, no YouTube, no anything.
It was harder than I thought it would be.
But I love it. I love the ritual of choosing something to sacrifice. The opening of time usually spent unthinkingly. I love the emphasis it puts on Easter. I love the anticipation, the awareness, that we sacrifice now to better rejoice later. I love the connection to God. I love reaching for my book or my phone and remembering that this is lent and instead of reading, I’m going to pray or I’m just going to be still.
And here we are again. It’s Ash Wednesday. My sister and I dug ashes out of the wood stove and drew crosses on our foreheads.
I delete apps from my phone and stack books into my closet.
The story of a tree alone against prevailing winds. A strong tree with deep roots.
When we see a tree like that we step back to admire it’s strength. The thickness of its trunk and the way its leaves stay fresh and green on the hottest summer days.
But there are things that no one ever tells about the lonesome tree. They don’t tell you that one tree alone will never grow as tall as the one in the middle of the forest. They don’t tell you about the scars and the twisted places on its branches. They don’t bother to say that if you cut this tree down, its lumber would be used for solid practical things.
The fine and dainty things are made from forest wood.
They don’t tell about the times of horrific drought the tree endured to grow those massive roots. They don’t tell about the dead parts, killed by lightning strikes. They don’t bother to tell you that the earth around the strong tree is hard and dry and dusty.
Not cool and moss-covered like the forest tree is surrounded by.
The strong tree is admired for its courage, its strength, and endurance.
The forest tree is admired for its beauty and its height.
I feel like the lone tree sometimes.
I’m thankful for the life that God has given me and the gifts it holds.
But sometimes I mourn the cost.
And being at faith builders for the last five weeks felt a little like being transplanted into the forest for just a tiny bit.
A bit uncomfortable. Not quite what I was used to. But lovely.