On Christmas Eve, the unthinkable happened. Dad had just left on a last minute trip, while Mom and I began a quick tidy of the house before my grandma and great-aunt arrived for a holiday meal. All was well. We had the soup in the roaster, desserts in the fridge and the kids were playing quietly in their room with Legos. It was a snapshot of Christmas cheer fit for Currier and Ives, modern edition. Until…disaster struck.
One of the greatest things about traveling regularly to the same places is seeing the familiar faces.
I recently stopped to watch my 17-year-old and 15-year-old sons strip apart some bikes to fix brake and sprocket issues.
Ball bearings were rolling across the floor as one leaned down to grab them. And later, inside, the other told me how some of the work had to be redone because, well, when they had finished, there were a few extra parts that shouldn’t have been extra. Continue reading
I know we’re different.
Just like you, I’ve seen the reactions, heard the mutters and gasps and whispers. I’ve watched you carefully steer conversation from risqué topics in groups, and I know that you’ve demurred, more than once, on a movie night with friends that ran afoul of our standards. I’ve seen you avert your eyes in public spaces, pass on offers of trendy free reads, and admit to your peers that no, you’ve never played that video game… or any video game without Mario involved, actually.
The email was a welcome bit of encouragement: you are not forgotten, I pray for you and your family, your work. There was a simple ask at the end. Just a request to partner in ministry.
And yet… the tears.
Here I am, sitting in a hotel room more than 9,000 miles from my home in Tennessee, and I should be spending the evening reviewing and refreshing the material I plan to teach about 50 pastors tomorrow morning.
I recently received word that a friend and supporter of our ministry had died following a brief respite in hospice for brain cancer.
Slightly older than me, he had already lived years longer than the weeks, maybe months, doctors had given him. And while clean brain scans for much of that time gave him an appreciation for life that few of us will ever have, he used that period to tell people about the peace God had given him no matter what the outcome.
This isn’t a milk and honey season for us. Everything– time, money, the ability to stop and simply be present for a few hours each day– seems to be in short supply.
The temptation, then, is to mourn the loss. To look backwards at those years when the bank account was fatter and we could routinely bless others, to regret that days are no longer spent curled on the couch reading book after book to the children splayed all over the floor. To recall all of the moments that are not now and wish them here, to be lived again and again, forever.
So much of this holiday is focused on the many, many gifts and blessings with which we have been showered. And while yes, technically we ought to be hitting our knees in praise for these things every day, I’m not going to suggest that setting aside one, specific day is bad. Not at all.
We’ve had a bug slowly meandering through our family, afflicting members one by one, bringing this one some sniffles and nothing more, leaving that one in bed with a fever for a day and a half. It’s the “no fun” part of the start to cooler weather, but all in all, it’s just a niggling little First World side note. Even Jude, whose version has resisted my elderberry/oil/tea protocol for two weeks now, is nowhere near the line that divides sick from sick. And if he were, well… doctors. See? First World problems.