August 2013


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If there is such a thing.

I don’t know. Is there “good news” in a goodbye? I’ve said so many of them in fifty years.

Funerals of family or friends or just folks I’ve known a bit, and it’s a hard thing, every time. Even if it’s dressed up and called a celebration of life, and even if we talk about hope and heaven and how they’re better off, its a hard thing, every time.

I’ve said goodbye to people I think I’ll likely never see again. To friends moving or to friends I’m moving away from. To those passing soon.

I’ve said goodbye to an unborn babe, to a child leaving home, to summer, to well-loved homes.

The thing is, I suppose, that every goodbye is really a crossroad. It means an end to traveling together. It means going separate ways, and that means repacking luggage, separating out what’s mine to take with me, and what is best left behind.

Sometimes that is freeing. Sometimes its burdening. Sometimes, honestly, it’s just confusing.

But it’s gonna happen. You can count on it.

And if there is any gospel to it, for me, it’s maybe this.

Goodbyes move me forward. Goodbyes can challenge and inspire me to rethink the well-trod path I am on. A goodbye forces change and takes me to a place I might not have otherwise gone.

Goodbyes, more than anything in my life, have helped me grow.

My husband would have kept going, but the grasshoppers turned me back after we’d been about a mile down the back lane.

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The dog, lunging and leaping through canola on one side and peas on the other, would have kept going forever.

But the grasshoppers right now are crazy. Demented, they fling themselves at you, sticking to clothing or bare arms or hair. A horror show, but real. Hundreds of them squished into the dirt by whatever farm vehicle travelled the road that day.

The chickens chase them around the yard, necks extended and running for all their worth, vacuuming up the plague that is their feast.

It makes me a bit sad, because grasshopper season means summer is almost at its end.

Grasshopper season is quickly followed by Cricket season and by the time we reach Maple Bug season, Fall is well and truly settled in.

I’m never ready.

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It’s slow at the beginning. We sit in cramped pews and gaze at painted walls and ceiling and windows, and wait. Wait for the music and the men and the maids and the bride. Chat among ourselves, quiet, and check phones for google answers to silly boy questions, and remember back twenty years to our own beginning.

It starts, swelling music and in they come, groom and his men, and beautiful girls, and cherished woman on the arm of the man who loved her first, on her way to the man who will love her forever. And it’s words and promises and signatures and beautiful music.

I watch from far back, peeking through the rows of all the people ahead and I snap a picture, thinking it will amount to nothing, but when I look later, scrolling though all the blurry shots of the day, it stops me.

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Because when I crop out the heads and the shoulders and I see what is left, it’s everything. Two together, hands and hearts and lives joining in love and promise under the umbrella of all His holiness.

Sanctus. Holy.

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And then what began slowly, deliberately, practiced … ends in a rush of new beginning as they sweep by, almost running to the future. As they pass, all young and excited and new in this, I pray a few words for the next day and the next. For the two of them and for where their love will take them.

New is only new for a short time, but holy is forever.

We’re taking a little drive, the three of us, and we tour the lake, admiring the new houses being built and watching the seagulls landing and lifting and imagining where we would put our house should we decide to become lake people.

Husband and I in the front, and youngest boy in the back and the other boys away doing their summer things.

Can I get out and ride in front? he asks.

There’s no room, I say.

I mean, can I get out and ride on the hood? Please? It will be fun.

I look back at him and laugh, remembering the time my friends and I rode in the back of the old pickup truck, all the way into town and back. And I say, sure.

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He jumps out and climbs up and we drive slow. He’s swatting mosquitoes and I think its nice to be inside and out of them, the radio on and the world outside. It’s nice and cozy, and cozy is just perfect sometimes.

But in watching him through the dirty, bug-splattered windshield, I think. really, he has the best view.

Twelve years old and the world ahead, and I hope he spends as much time outside in it all as he does inside and cozy.

He’s King of the Lake, riding the hood, and the future looks fine.

I’m smack in the middle of a busy summer when I learn the most important lesson of all. In the midst of teaching classes and sitting in classes and company at home and running kids to camps and service projects, in the midst of all the doing there it is, right in front of me.

The most important sermon of the summer.

That nothing matters unless someone matters.

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I stand behind him, this tiny preacher, and watch him hold her hand and touch her face and look into her eyes and smile into her face. I watch her light up, lighten up, as loving attention does its work. I watch as scripture grows skin and takes breath and I wipe tears off my chin at the sight of the word come to life in all the beauty and grace of a five-year-old.

I’m thinking of the verses in the Bible, the ones from Matthew and Luke that talk about children, and that being like them is a good thing, and I’m wondering why? Because they are often unkind or undisciplined or … wait for it … immature. They haven’t spent a lot of time studying scripture, and they certainly haven’t spent much time defining their faith. I’ve never heard a child say she is a complementarian or an egalitarian, and I’ve never heard a debate in the sandbox over penal substitution atonement theory or universalism or evolutionary christianity.

Unsophisticated as they are, what I believe about children and the whole why we should be like them thing, is simply this.

They get it.

They offer forgiveness, freely and immediately and adorned with hugs and sloppy kisses.

They pray for lost kitties and big illnesses and children starving in places where they’ve never been, all with the same intensity and faith and trust.

They accept grace with joy. They say I love you. They giggle at silly things. They hold hands. They clap when they are happy.

They sing Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so … and they mean it.

They expect to be caught when they jump from high places.

They hug strangers.

They just get it, these little people.

Honestly, there are only a few things I remember from all that I’ve read or heard about God and faith and christianity these past summer weeks. But I’ll never forget the picture in my heart of a small sweet boy and the sermon he showed me.

The best sermon of the summer, by a long shot.

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I’m outside early this morning, photographing the foggy day (if you can call it photography when all I’m doing is snapping pics with my iPhone) and I see the rock, moved.

It makes me happy.

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It’s a rock that is meant to be part of my flowerbed border. I hauled these rocks here from the back pasture years ago, wagon-full after wagon-full, and trimmed the beds to tidy and contain these flower spaces.

But what I really did was create bug homes, and for years I’ve been putting tipped rocks back where they belong.

Grumble, grumble. Why can’t these boys leave my rocks alone? … as I brush tumbled dirt off the sidewalk.

Because under these rocks are the best hiding places for ants and crickets and centipedes, and mine are the sorts of boys who could spend hours tipping rocks to watch the scurrying.

I haven’t seen many out-of-place rocks this year. The odd one here and there, and I was never sure whether the credit should go to mine or the visiting friends’ younger children.

But this morning, in the fog of early day, I know it’s his.

He still rocks.

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I remember the commitment I made so many years ago, the long walk up to the front of the church building on a Sunday evening to give him my life and my love always and to make him my King and the walk into the water and the words spoken over me by my dad and the going under and the coming up and the newness of the new life I’d heard about my whole life.

And how it wasn’t long before the new wasn’t new and I’d messed up and made mistakes and said sorry more times than I could count.

I remember standing at the front of the church, at the beginning of it all, you know, before God and everyone, and wanting to do it right. To love and honour and cherish, till death did us part, and feeling the sting of failure before the week next was barely spent.

I remember finally getting pregnant, after the long wait and the wondering if ever, and thinking this gift, this precious life,  would be treasured, every minute of every day. And then one day I lost my mind a little in the chaotic mess of real life and I spoke harsh words and the mommy promise was broken then and over and over through the three boys and the many years.

I wish I could remember better.

I wish the promises made at the beginnings were better remembered in the middles of it all.

I am thinking of a man today. A man I didn’t really know – had only just met, actually. His name was Trent and a few days ago we were singing together around a campfire on the shore of a beautiful northern Saskatchewan lake. He was leading songs for the kids, silly songs with silly, made-up verses, and then, in a blink, he was down.

This week Trent’s wife and two boys will attend his funeral. They will put their new lives into practice as best they can, and their friends and families will help them as best they can, and life will go on … as best it can.

And I will try to remember better.

I will try, after the cold water shock of seeing how quickly it can all change, to celebrate and cherish and love those to whom I’ve made these promises.

This is the gift I’ve been given by a man I barely knew. The reminder of what really matters and what really doesn’t.

Wishing peace and love and the hope of Jesus on the family of Trent Konecnik, today and in the days to come.

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