Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Good Grief

I'm not normally one to observe the anniversary of the death of a loved one. My mom died before I was old enough to remember her and yet I never liked the weird attention I would get on Mother's Day as a little girl with no mother, so I didn't especially like to bring up the random day of the year that marked her passing, either. I have friends who have lost loved ones who mark the day every year and wear it on their sleeve, and I always felt like that was a hard-to-navigate thing as a friend. What do I do? What do I say? What do they need? Even though I've lost more lovely, safe people than a young person should, I never really got it.

This year the anniversary of my dad's death came and went and though I still didn't want the weird attention and I didn't want to mark it, it still haunted me and I still couldn't help but sob into my cereal that morning. Because it turns out that even though this kind of anniversary is not the same thing as a birthday or wedding anniversary or anything else to be celebrated and shared, it is something that cannot be forgotten. It's like the way we paradoxically remember the death of our Savior with Good Friday; this is my Good Grief.

Since my dad died I am different. At least I feel feel different, and long after I've stopped accidentally crying in public. I don't know if it's that I cannot imagine a world without him in it, or that I can't imagine how I'll make it without him quietly lifting me up in the shadows or if it's just because of how his dying wounded me. I also don't know why I am saying all of this now. I definitely don't want all of the weird attention, but maybe it's not so much in what my friends say or do but rather in the knowledge that they understand. And the hope that they'll get to know the new, changed me and still love me, even though I coincidentally get cranky on the days I feel sad.

My friends have mostly known me as someone "with an eternal perspective," they would say. And they were right. I really could see the forest through the trees in most situations and it was my lifeline on many days. However, when Dad died I seemed to have misplaced that. It was so hard for me to really grasp the "better place" idea and the only time I would sense it was when I was painfully standing on Jordan's Stormy Banks. Or on my knees, rather, face in the sand.
When shall I reach that happy place, 
And be forever blessed? 
When shall I see my Father's face, 
And in his bosom rest?
A couple nights ago I had a dream that Dad was alive again but it was not like I though it would be. Because although I could see the life in his face and ask him things and tell him things, he was only alive to die again. There is no hope in wishing him back here because here is where there is ugly-crying, dying and death. He has made the painful journey to the Better Place, that I know for sure. And though it is a slow, arduous process, it is for me to stop wishing him back here and to persevere in wishing myself there.
"All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country-- a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." -Hebrews 11:13-16
My heart is a refugee. Amen.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

the ski and boat man

It is officially summer and Father's Day is upon us. If you think you need to provide your kids with some amazing, Grizwold-quality vacation experience they will never forget, then you should read this:

When I was a kid we didn't do the fancy, destination vacation. We never flew in a plane and I didn't see the ocean until I was 21. When our family went on vacation we packed up the station wagon and went into the country.

We went on "float trips," as we call them in Missouri, where you camp outside of tiny towns and avoid encounters with snakes and spiders as you canoe down the river with your feet propped up on a cooler. And about three weekends a year we went to Pomme De Terre Lake, where my grandparents owned a trailer home and boat dock and where my dad stored his boat: a 1967 Mark Twain, which he bought new from a boat show that year.

What made summer and vacation amazing to me as a kid wasn't ticking off the boxes of the wonders of the world, it was getting away with the ones I loved and spending those long, slow, hot days outside on the water. The truth is that my dad didn't spend one day teaching me how to ski. He spent countless days over the course of a summer or two, throwing me into the lake and circling around me in the boat, with rope in tow, until long after I had broken down into a sobbing mess of failure. The reason I thought so highly of the "Ski and Boat Man" wasn't because of this rosy experience of learning to ski, it was because of his patient, persistent devotion; the price he paid to invest in me, a little girl. His little girl.

The reason my dad was like a super hero to me wasn't because he provided for his family or served his country, though he did... wasn't even because he loved me, though he did.

The reason my dad is my hero is because I knew he loved me. It wasn't about how he felt about me, it was about how he showed me that I was his priority. It's because he took me outside and spent time with me. Time through excitement and past amazing to the point of boredom. Because, let's be honest, love doesn't usually happen as much in the grand gestures as it does in the mundane.

"My dad chose to share that time because he loves me."

Last year when Dad gave me his boat he told me to be careful. "A boat is a hole in the earth, surrounded by water, into which you put all of your money," he said with a smile. That's what he said but I know that's not what he believed.

Dad believed that a boat is a hole in the earth, surrounded by water, into which you put your loved ones...

your memories...

your heart.

Happy Father's Day, Ski and Boat Man.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

my offering

It has been a long time since I have posted and I don't know if that is because this has been one of the hardest years of my life, or what. I believe in the beauty of vulnerability and yet I am cautious to become too indulgent when I am feeling very deeply. Especially in internet musings.

I heard something very wise in passing on a radio interview once:

The internet doesn't really do secrets.

That phrase follows me around like a guardian angel (most of the time) and for that I am thankful. 

Still, this tiny corner of the internet I call Church House Hymns is a sanctuary for me and it is where I go to become my truest self. I've been away for what feels like too long. Part of me has felt that because we pushed the pause button on the progress of our actual Church House, there was nothing to see here. But that is a lie. Maybe it is only in looking back that I can see that but the truth is this Church House is like every authentic church: it is not the building but the believers within that makes it what it is.

So let me tell you something about this believer and this blog: try as I might I cannot just talk about my house and how it's going. I'm talking about my heart here. Most days I struggle to write because of the dark voices whispering subtly into my ear like the boys I used to date who didn't want to know too much. But every now and then I get brave enough to share. I wonder sometimes if I do it for you or for me or what and, quite frankly, I still don't know. But it is at least a little bit for me and because I am more afraid of betraying myself and my maker than I am of the voices. 

I was talking with a friend the other day and these words came out of my mouth and until that instant I didn't realize how I felt:

 I feel like I have something more unique to offer the world than to just be a bookkeeper for our tiny business.*

So let's call this my offering. For whatever it's worth. Which, as it turns out, is not so much for you to decide as it is for me to discover. 

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Matthew 7:7-8

*Not that there is anything wrong with being a bookkeeper! If that is your God-given offering then you inspire me and I want to learn from you!