Friday, May 19, 2017

Picnics & Cemeteries

I've been promising the kids for  months now that when the weather finally gets nice we could take a little trip up the road to the hidden cemetery.  It's less than a mile away and it's tucked back behind old, overgrown trees.  It's quaint. It's cute and we explored it with compassionate eyes this afternoon. We packed a picnic and put on running shoes, because Emmitt's request was that we "take a run together". We drove to a closer pull out since our road is deadly and packed the stroller for Asher. He caught us off guard with his snores in less than 10 minutes and we spent several minutes strolling the old stones reading them together. 

"Mom, what's this one say?" 

"How old is this one?"

"When was he born?"

Most of the headstones were old. We brushed off some thick moss and did our best to read them. Tiny little headstones with just initials from the 1800's had been replaced with communal family headstones listing all their loved ones with birth dates and death dates. Babies. So many babies that just read, "infant of..." in fancy cursive writing. Reading each made me wonder what that day looked like for each family. One family we found had buried four, FOUR children all under the age of five, all in a different year, and the mother lived to be 95. I read it three times cause I kind of couldn't fathom it. Another family buried a six month old, a five year old, and then the wife died 17 years before her husband. I read them all to Madi and she looked at me with pained eyes, "Mom, that's a LOT of suffering for that man!" Yeah, baby, I whispered. That's a lot of suffering. 

We kept wandering and we talked about whether these people were with Jesus in eternity right now. I looked at each one and I hoped they were. Some of these people had lived a couple years, some had lived decades, a few had rounded off a century, but they all had one thing in common. They certainly weren't here anymore. I thought about my restlessness with this world and I wondered if they were ready to meet their maker. 

Cemeteries give a weird aura. You either enter their presence and feel the urge to turn and run or the desire to wander and wrestle, almost like you're acknowledging that it will eventually be you on the other side of the dirt. I can't say I've ever minded them. Strange, maybe, but the longing to know each story has always drawn me in. I think that's how Madi felt today too as we read through the names and talked about the years. 

Finally, we found an old oak, threw down the blanket and pulled out the goods. We chatted and ate and the kids pulled down maple leaves to make brooms and fans and we wandered again before we left.  "This place sure is sad, Mom," Madi commented, but she never wanted to leave.

I agreed. There was certainly an element of sadness to it. But we talked about how that's real life. Finding joy, but always acknowledging the hard. The sad. The brokenhearted... because they are all around us.

That's what really keeps us hoping, right? Hoping that all the pain and sadness and heartache around us will someday be gone, truly gone? Hoping that there must be something better? 

"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world." C. S. Lewis

Indeed, C.S. Lewis, indeed.

Oh, also, there were BEES! :)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

"Home, Lord, home, Lord - ALL THE WAY!"

My dad turned 65 last week.  Ten years ago that sounded old, and twenty years ago it sounded really old.  Neither of my grandpas made it to their 66th birthday, so as a kid my perspective was slightly skewed (not to mention anyone over 18 just IS old when you're little). So I suppose what I'm saying is that as I ease closer to the halfway mark of 65, I've realized it's actually not that old. (You're welcome, Dad ;)

Several months ago we had this one super sunny day in the middle of February. You probably know it if you live around here, because there are literally no other days to get it confused with. Anyway, in the excitement of the moment I sent a text to a few friends and low and behold we all spent our afternoon at the park soaking in the rays. It was glorious. The kids played and we chatted about all the things. Somehow dying came up and I announced that I couldn't wait to die and that my goal was 65 - I felt that was a fair age for me to aspire to as it still feels like forever but at the same time I really don't want to be 90! I think one of my friends may have choked on her water and they basically all assured me that was probably too young. I kind of agreed to disagree and we moved on with the conversation.

A few nights later it was my birthday (remember that almost halfway to 65 part?!?) and I had the opportunity to steal away for a couple hours and listen to whatever I wanted to all by my lonesome in the car. I turned on a podcast that I'd been wanting to get to and soaked in every breath of this sweet lady's words. Jill Briscoe is almost 82, grew up with bombs being dropped all around her during World War II, and has spent countless days in countries all over the world sharing Jesus with strangers.  She read this poem she wrote at the very end of one of her recent trips to India:

One day in India after a traumatic and wrenching ministry visit, Jesus asked me a hard question. It happened like this:
Shaken, drained, discouraged, sickly
Tired and troubled and depressed, 
Glad the time of serving over,
Now I’ll go home and rest.
Hot and humid was the weather
Sad and needy was the crowd, 
Feeling I had done my duty,
Earned the time of rest allowed. 
Soon I could return to family
"Yes," tomorrow I’d be gone, 
Sitting in the last hot meeting,
I tuned in to what went on.
Listened to my husband preaching,
My, it was a great last talk, 
All about the call of Jesus,
All about our life’s “faith walk.” 
Stuart opened up the Scriptures
Talked of Jesus’ pain and loss, 
How He who was our great sin bearer,
Bore our guilt upon His cross.
What a great word for the students!
Hoped “they’d” listened, yield their hearts, 
They were young, their lives before them,
Now their turn to do their part.
Time for prayers of dedication,
I was tired, so late at night,
Shut my eyes and wished it over,
When a picture sprang to sight!
Saw a cross alone, discarded
Lain at rest against a wall, 
Who’d lain down such holy symbol?
Who’d abandoned life’s “faith call”? 
Then a voice so dear – familiar,
Asked a question – pierced me through, 
Who is it that you’re expecting
Carrying it home for you?
How could I lay down that crossbeam?
How to think that no one saw? 
Who did I expect to lift it,
Carry it to heaven’s door? 
"Jesus, Jesus, please forgive me,
Carried Thou your cross for me, 
All the way to hell to save us,
Help me carry mine for Thee!"
"I’m no hero – special woman
Just a lady, old and gray, 
But my cross, Lord, I will carry,
Home, Lord, home, Lord – ALL THE WAY!" 
Spoke His voice so quiet – but clearly then:
"All the way home, Jill; all the way, all the way home!"
I sat there and wept in the car. "Home, Lord, home, Lord, all the way!" I whispered. The conversation fresh on my mind of dying at 65 creating a much needed conviction about whose life this really is.

Here's the truth. For the last two and a half years I haven't really felt like this is home, and I am so thankful for that perspective. We moved shortly after Zekey died and people were often asking how much we loved our  new home and if it really felt like "home" yet. I often smiled and said it was getting there, but deep down I've longed and prayed for nothing to ever feel like my "forever home". I know it's not here. I might be here for ten more years, or twenty or even forty more years, but I won't be here forever. I long for the day I'll be home, really, truly home, and if that means I'll have wrinkles and gray hair, then BRING IT ON old age!!! I know it's healthy to want to be with Jesus. I know deep down that to die would be such a gain {for me} but what I hadn't been focusing on is all that can be gained, for Him, while I'm still here. I want to be whole. I want to be free from sin and pain and all the evil in this world, and I want to spend my days in the presence of the Lord, but I want it to be in His perfect timing, and I want to carry my cross to the end. "Home, Lord, home Lord, all the way!"

So this is my cross - to dig deep into his word, to point my kids toward Jesus, to love my husband, to beg Him to show Himself to me more and more and ask Him to reach deep into the lives of my friends and family, to take big deep breaths and say, "You are good", even on the days that hurt, and to long to be made whole.

Jesus, help me carry this cross. I can not do it alone!