Wednesday, August 27, 2014

It had been twenty years or more since we had seen one another; we've known each other since ages 13 and 16. She sent a text message saying she was in the area and asked if I had time to get together. My thoughts frantically ran over the years wondering where would we begin to catch up as I made the twenty minute drive. Walking the busy street, phones to our ears, attempting to locate one another, we wave. We embrace there standing on the sidewalk outside of her hotel. After gushing over how long it had been and delighting in how well each of us wore our ages, we walked around the corner to dine at a Mexican restaurant. We quickly ducked down into the gaping hole of the past, spending a couple of hours steeped in the details and drama of each others' lives. The server brought the bill and slowly we drifted back into the present moment. Ah! It was as if something had been missing and was now found. Nothing compares to the heart's recognition of a truly good, old friendship; it is a friendship where both hold one another in high regard no matter how many years have stuffed themselves between visits.

Do you recall singing an old Scout song, by Sue Lynch, that begins like this: “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold”? I find myself singing this song as I am reminded how significant old friendships can ease the passage into new ones. Four years ago in October I left a mid-western town I called home for fourteen years. Not only had I lived there many years, but I had lived in the same area previously from 1979 to 1985. I have lots of friends there, some I have known since college. I have worked hard to stay in touch with as many of them as possible, but still I feel the connections grow weak while memories and longings stay strong.

New friendships form when we open up and share burdens and stories, as well as make time to create and play together. These friendships enrich the experience of living in a new place. But nothing has surprised me more than how often I am getting to see old friends, friends I have not seen in years. It feels as if I came to southern California, not only to marry my dear husband, but to create a collage of new memories with old friends in a new chapter of life. The joy of renewing acquaintances and catching up has been rich beyond anything I could have imagined. New friends are being made, but the pockets of time given to fellowship are lined with gold.

A friend in her grandmother years still meets with her best friends from school days at the beach every year. Some of you may keep in touch with your best friend from childhood. Technology has made it easier to keep in touch even without flying somewhere. I would love to hear your stories of getting reacquainted with an old friend. How do you and your friends stay connected in the busy days of raising kids, going back to college, working, or helping with grandchildren?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Though we find ourselves still steeped in the heat of summer, school days roll up in bright yellow buses and plaid backpacks with thoughts of autumn pinned to them. A longing seeps quietly into my being compelling me to add spiral notebooks, folders, and crayons to a shopping list. The very smell of crayons confirms the incredible power the sense of smell has for transporting us to another time. I am reminded of days spent coloring with my brother, home together recovering from the chicken pox or housebound by a snowstorm, and of course the first day of school. I loved going to school. My early years in school included Dick and Jane readers, phonics, workbooks, and cursive writing. The sing-song voices of girls echo in my mind repeating silly jump rope rhymes.

I can still remember the names of most of my teachers, some with more fondness than others. Teachers are often undervalued for the hard work they do in helping children prepare for the pressures of the grownup world. I admire the teachers I know and I am particularly proud to call some of them family. These are people with hearts for children growing up in a world more complex than I could have imagined. My world seemed quite small before 24 hour news broadcasts and high speed internet.

Caring teachers, in a world where we spend more time looking at screens than into the faces of the people around us, can be a positive influence as well as helping students feel less alone. There was one teacher too close to my own age for me to have been her student, never the less she impacted my life; she was my cousin. Two years ago in the spring, just before she turned 51, Barbie died. This vibrant, healthy woman with a heart big enough to pray for everyone who crossed her path was suddenly gone. It was unbelievable. A few days after hearing the news I stood looking into a casket at a body resembling Barbie void her joyous, loving personality. It seemed so unreal.

The following day I stood by family as we were led down the long isle of a sanctuary filled to capacity and overflowing, many had been students of hers: teenagers, young adults, and older. Over 1000 people attended the funeral of a high school teacher because she listened to them, cared about the details of their lives and gave up sleep to pray for them. Her children, her husband and a co-worker all testified to the great love and enthusiasm this one woman shared with those around her. Barbie was a gifted teacher, but her greatest gift was the love she had for the people she taught. I believe when all is said and done it does not matter if we were the best or most talented; it matters most what we do with the moments given to us and the people we share them with. Barbie lived in the moments and people knew they were loved.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It was “Hammock Day” according to someone, so my husband set the hammock up under the tangerine tree for me. I celebrated by lying under the shady branches with a book to read and a breeze to keep me from wilting. A few feet above my head a hummingbird sat on a branch guarding his feeder and squeaking loudly. The sparrows, who often find shelter in the branches of the tangerine tree, lined up on the neighbors shrub rising above the wall separating our properties. I wondered if they were perplexed by my presence and hoping to outlast me, but they moved on before I could gather my writing utensils.

The breeze was balmy and the shadows of the leaves danced across my skin. I looked up through the branches into the sky and I was transported to my childhood. As a young girl, I would spend hours lying in the grass looking up through oak and walnut trees, sending my hopes and prayers out beyond the blue sky. I often read in or under a tree where I felt safe.

It occurred to me I had not been in the hammock for at least a year. I am not opposed to making time to relax, but just as I let go of the breath I'd been holding in, guilt began to nip at my joy. I tried to shoo it away like swatting at a persistent fly landing on my leg, but it hung around the fringes of my mind waiting on its next opportunity to rob me of rest.

The hour spent in the hammock left me relaxed and renewed. It was pleasant. Often unscheduled leisure produces guilt. You too? Why do we women struggle so to make a place in the week's schedule for renewal? Why do we think we need to pour ourselves out without taking time to refill our emptiness? My common sense says everyone benefits when I retreat and return full; others get a better version of me. But the false guilt in me says it is best to choose the way of the martyr. Oh but I believe true martyrdom must be nobler than my grandiose idea of running on fumes.

What are you doing for rest and renewal?

Here I sit thinking of you and wondering how we might encourage one another. My motive for blogging is wrapped up in a love for writing and a desire to scatter about metaphors bursting with joy, hope, light, truth, beauty and encouragement. Most of us are aware these sweet elixirs are extracted from the rugged, thorny paths we trudge. I hope to find, in the writing, a sifter for separating the dust clinging to the moments of our well worn days from the gold glitter to be treasured. May you find in my attempts to weave together the common denominators of our stories that you are not alone. May you be inspired to look for God's love and His wonderful beauty where you least expect it.