Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What a Day That Will Be

What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
When I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

-Jim Hill

Two weeks ago, my grandfather Wilbur passed away. As a family, we were given the opportunity to share at his memorial service. The following are the notes I wrote to share from, since usually the act of holding a microphone has this nasty effect of making me forget everything except two words: "ah" and "um."

Many people shared about his life; children, grandchildren, and friends. But mostly what we did is sing the beautiful old songs that he relied on all his life. The stanza above is from one of the songs everyone who knew him probably heard at one point. Grandpa was a restless man, but whenever he was singing, he seemed at peace, so it was a very special time with family to sing the same words that always comforted and sustained him.

Some of us got the flaky fingernails, or the double-jointed pinkies, or those blue eyes, and some got his wickedly playful sense of humor. Some inherited his passion and zeal for the gospel and missions. Some got the sweet tooth, the love of coffee or seafood, or the green thumb for gardening. But all of us at one time or another, got one of Grandpa's sloppy kisses.

Looking back, I realize that we grandchildren received a lot of strength from knowing that we were loved by Grandpa, and Grandma, and Great-Aunt Mona.

Any time I looked at scripture over this past week, it seemed like I could hear Grandpa's voice reading it, because if I hadn't heard him read through every scripture myself, I knew that he had read it at some time in his life. Micah 6:8 stood out to me especially

"He has shown you O man,
what is good and what the Lord requires of you:
 But to do justly
and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God."

I heard a few months ago, and the idea stuck with me, that Justice is really love in action, love at work in the world. We can never love perfectly here, but love covers over a multitude of sins. I'll remember as a granddaughter how Grandpa showed his love for us by being playful, spending time with us, going to every wedding and graduation and celebration in our lives, and by sharing his love for God's word.

To love mercy seems to have a lot to do with being thankful for what we've been given. Grandpa was good at playing with the grandkids because he never lost his sense of wonder at the world. He could always pick up a piece of driftwood or a bird's feather, or any little thing he collected on his many long walks, and be impressed by it.

Grandpa only spoke with pride of his own accomplishments a few times that I remember. One was being a part of his division in WWII, another was finally getting a date with the cutest redhead in town after a lot of hard work asking her out, and the last was giving up smoking when he found out he was going to be a father. He always repeated that more than once when he was telling me about it "and I did...I did stop. That day." as if he couldn't believe he had really done it.

Grandpa showed us what is good and what the Lord requires of us:

Do justly--love those around us as well as we can, trusting to God for help.
Love mercy--live with a thankful and wondering heart
Walk humbly with our God, taking pride, not in our own abilities, but in the work that God has done in transforming our lives.

Grandpa always longed to be part of a great work of the Spirit. Maybe he was, not in exactly the  ways he expected, but in these gifts, small and large, that he has left with us.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Note Card Shuffle

In my constant quest to update this blog once per week (at least), I have not always been successful. However, I have one surefire way of capturing the thoughts and wayward wonderings that come and go throughout a task-driven workday.

On the table right now are a stack of small note cards that have collected over the last few months in my wallet. Any thought, metaphor, phrase, idea or anything at all, really, gets caught in these, as long as I'm faithful to write them down. I'm going to grab five at random and write down what they say. Here goes:

1. "One of the signs of great art are the questions it asks"

2. Trees, roots, reading with water.

3. "I run when you tell me where to go"

4. Rich lands--the land is so rich, but the farmers aren't prosperous anymore.

5. HI--my name is I-N-T-R-O-V-E-R-T.

#1 is a quotation that struck me while listening to the Steelehouse podcast. I can't remember which episode.

The second is something I was thinking about while on a day trip to Bridal Falls in Chilliwack, B.C.

The third is I think a song lyric, but a quick google search didn't bring it up. I'd like to believe it was original, but I don't think it is.

The fourth is an insight after reading a portion of one of the Anne of Green Gables stories one night. I found a little contrast there where agriculture on small farms used to denote a fairly wealthy status at the turn of the last century, small family farms seem now more likely to struggle financially, at least in my corner of the world. The irony is, that the rich, river-bottom soil in the north of the county where my parents live and I grew up is so rich and fertile. Acres of soil that used to be strawberry fields and farms are being turned into housing developments. It sometimes seems a waste.

And that last looks like a sort of thing that was funny in my head and not so much on paper. Well, I think we all have those moments now and then. Maybe there was a context I'm forgetting now.

These little cards capture the thoughts, and now and then, there's a nugget of gold in there for an essay or story. Anne LaMott advised using notecards in Bird by Bird, and I first got into the habit in my Creative Writing class in college where we read the book as coursework.

It's not a perfect technique, but it's one small thing to help me remember and be aware of the flow of ideas and pictures that come up during my day and capture them.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Absence and Seasons

I get somewhat annoyed by apologetic prefaces for blog absences because, with the exception of a few, I don’t miss them specifically when they are gone. I’m always glad when bloggers do post again after an absence, but prefacing the return post with a long apology lessens the enjoyment. Everybody goes through phases of writing productivity, times where personal expression is less needed (or perhaps, half-formed, unfinalized), and seasons where to be present in life is more important than to be present on the internets.

I only intended to take a week’s break, during an 80+ hour work-week due to a huge annual fundraiser I help with. Then, I seemed to need a week’s recovery. Then, life happened. Several friends had babies; the world welcomed Evony, Danica, Owen, and Isaiah. Several got married, and one of my best friends (and current roommate) became engaged, and suddenly wedding magazines, plans, ideas, dresses, shoes, favors and flowers became regular topics of conversation around the house. Other friends are weathering painful breakups. I seesaw between rejoicing and mourning, listening and advising, sprinting and sleeping.

Several days ago, my Grandfather passed away. We have known for some time that he was terminally ill, but it is still a sad walk this week with my many cousins and aunts and uncles as we say goodbye to Grandpa Wilbur, who sang himself home with the hymns and folk songs, the words of which stuck with him longer even than the names of his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Passionate and unpredictable at times in life, what remained at the end of his life were the beautiful words of hymns about Home. Long after he was past the point of conversation, he would sing to his daughters and his caretakers as they helped him, and when he couldn’t sing anymore, his wife of 62 years sat at his side and sang by the hour because “I want him to know that I’m here.”

“Am I in heaven?” he asked my mom once.

“No Dad, not yet. Soon.” She said.

“Are you all coming with me?”

“Not yet, Dad. We’ll come later.”

“Is Wilma coming with me?”

“Not yet, Dad. You’ll have to go first this time.”

“But you’ll all be there? You’re coming?”

That night my uncle read from the Bible to him and told him “You don’t have to wait for us anymore.” The next night, he passed away quietly, as two of my cousins sat with him.

What comes from your life when pain stops you from going on, momentarily or for an extended time period? When you are held in a time of mourning or a period of thankless monotony, what words flow from your lips? What words and songs live in your heart and rise to your mouth when the rest of your words are stolen, your mind blank? What will you be reminded of as you forget more than you ever knew?

8 You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9 And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt." (Ex 13:8–9)