The Necessity of Luxury

Rarely in my life do I have moments when events with significantly diverse elements happen simultaneously. The anticipation of one event filled me with anxiety while the anticipation of the other filled me with hope and excitement. The result? A realization of how I am so often caught in my fears, along with how vital beauty and wonder, and what might even be considered luxury, is to this walk of faith in a broken world.

 

The eldest boy’s hockey team had a tournament in St Louis this weekend, the same weekend a conference was happening which I eagerly had been awaiting since April. My very gracious husband planned to take all the children to the tournament, leaving me free to completely enjoy my conference. This was the plan and it was great.

 

Until the harsh reality of our brokenness shouted for attention in St. Louis. The weekend was dubbed The Weekend of Resistance in protest of police violence after the shooting death of Michael Brown. Another young man was shot on Wednesday leading up to the weekend. Tempers were flaring and the violence of our world was on display.

 

Police Shooting Missouri-1

 

The call for protests led to anxiety for this mama. I began to make alternative plans for my weekend, trying to find ways to keep the younger three children home. Trying to pull in close those I hold dear and protect them from what I anticipated would be a violent and unpredictable weekend. The riots surrounding Rodney King happened during my college graduation weekend; memories fueled my fear. The first game was 10 pm on a Friday night, only 10 miles from Ferguson. Ugh.

 

The first game was 10 pm on a Friday night, only 10 miles from Ferguson. Ugh. 

My much calmer husband was not worried. He was aware and planning alternate routes to keep out of the fray, but he was not worried as the ice rinks were not in St Louis proper. The final decision was to stick to the original plan. And ultimately I trust his wisdom and I prayed and sent them off.

 

My conference, called Hutchmoot, is a conglomeration of artists and musicians and creative souls alongside those of us who appreciate the art and music and beauty. An intentionally small gathering,  desiring to lean in toward God and His stirring. Leaning in toward those things that are beautiful we hope to be changed, being ignited and refreshed with the incommunicable grace of community.

 

In the midst of what has been a rather chaotic life lately, this weekend brought refreshment. There was music and storytelling, art in the decorations and all around, and amazing food which brought it all together with feasting.

hutchmoot

 

Steve’s weekend was filled with avoiding violence born of our brokenness. People desiring to be heard and understood and spilling over into anger and frustration, clashing with those who are trying to reign in the violence and keep order to our lawlessness. Plus, Steve had to contend with a sick 3 year old and Zach had some food poisoning thrown in on Saturday evening. Still…they survived despite all my fears. They encountered none of the violence I anticipated. Zachary was able to do what he loves, and do it well. They were weary and ready to be home by Sunday afternoon, but happy and content.

zachpic

 

I almost missed something significant, however, because I focused on what-ifs. I almost missed a weekend of new friendships, of challenges to open my eyes and see more (more than just what frightens me? ). I almost missed seeing Luci Shaw who had encouraged my soul 13 years ago at Regent; almost missed conversations with her that again encouraged my soul.

hutchmoot1

 

 

I almost missed the call of Welcome Home which stirred in me desires for our home. Stirred in me desires for my children. Stirred wonder and excitement. Stirred hope.

Dinner

 

 

Honestly, this weekend was close to luxury. When I registered I was one of the lucky few able to get a ticket, and I wondered at the time why I needed this. The fact is, I have been more weary than I thought and I needed this more than I knew.

WelcomeHome

The fear drawn out by the hockey tournament’s location and timing showed me how much I am caught by fear. How often I miss good things because I am so focused on the brokenness and the unknown. The brokenness and the unknown are always there; the wonder and richness of home help us walk in the midst without fear.

The luxury of the weekend was not luxury…it was necessity. Necessary in this moment to refocus and refresh.  Necessary to remind me of how wonder and beauty and love push out the fear and the anxiety, leaving room for life to happen. Grace to happen. I almost walked away from a weekend that was a gift.

 

At the coffee shop on Sunday morning Over The Rhine’s song Called Home came up in my playlist. Fitting, isn’t it?

 

Just shy of Breakin’ Down
There’s a bend in the road that I have found
Called home

Take a left at loneliness
There’s a place to find forgiveness
Called home

With clouds adrift across the sky
Like heaven’s laundry hung to dry
You slowly feel it all will be revealed

Where evening shadows come to fall
On the awful and the beautiful
Every wound you feel that needs to heal

And silence yearns to hear herself
Some long lost memory rings a bell
Called home

Old pre-Civil War brick house
Standin’ tall and straight somehow
Called home

Mailbox full of weariness
And a word of hard won happiness
Called home

Leave behind your Sunday best
You know we couldn’t care a less
Out here we’ve learned to leave the edges wild

And stories they get passed around
And laughter – it gets handed down
Read it in the lines around a smile

Our bodies’ motion comes to rest
When we are at last
Called home

Glimpses of Home

It finally happened.

Throughout this month I have pondered Bethlehem. We’ve looked at poems and listened to music. Suggestions have been made about how to silence the noise and focus on the reality of Incarnation. The Word made Flesh. And…walls have been hit. Sickness has completely thrown schedules askew. Unexpected expenses have added stress.

Oh, and of course, there was hiding out in the bathroom for the tornado warning. In December.

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In the midst, though, the groundwork was laid. Reminders in twinkling lights and candles. Reminders in choruses sung in the assembly of friends and strangers…in an old, old building that seems to hold the echoes of other choruses raised.

The old, old, story. It was laced in between the sickness and the walls, the unexpected expenses and the noise. The old story is strong and does not demand, but when the moment is right it resonates with our hearts.

Then it looked a little more like this:

candlelight

Sodas at dinner, which is a rare treat. Candlelight and twinkling lights. Delight. We didn’t do the Advent readings I had hoped for, although we’ll try to finish  the one book we have been working through. We did not do all the things I envisioned, but we had a moment in the midst of the clamor where we all sat around the table and laughed and talked and were present. For a lengthy, healthy time.

We were home. That is what we long for, and that, my friends is what Advent whispers to us. We have a home, and it is not what we expected. God became homeless to bring us home…

“For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning – not home but the place through which we must pass if ever we are to reach home at last.” -Frederick Buechner

 

The House of Christmas

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost – how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.

This world is wild as an old wives’ tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

-G. K. Chesterton

And that….is privilege.

I have to confess that I grew up with a fair amount of privilege.

We had some pretty great toys as kids, and we grew up able to to hang out on this great space in Colorado in the summers especially…riding horses and motorcycles and exploring.

Most all of that was due to having a Dad and a grand father who were diligent in their work and who were wise and who blessed us. We didn’t always know how blessed we were, and we didn’t always appreciate it…and we didn’t always know the sacrifices that were made so we could enjoy these adventures and this life.

Now, when I’m a little older and hopefully a little wiser, and more importantly now that I am a parent as well, I am aware of how special my life has been. I am also aware of the privilege we are in the midst of now. This privilege is different, and yet it is also the fruit of my Dad’s diligence and his sacrifices.

grandmagrandpa

This is the privilege of watching my mother age in the care of those who love her, and I am aware that it is a privilege. There are so many who are simply not able to keep their loved ones at home because of the need for constant supervision…but we have been able to do so because my Dad has made that sacrifice and my brothers have as well, along with my nephews. These men take great care of this lady.

CadeGrandma

That is pretty remarkable.  

MomDadFamily

So on this trip I was able to chip in some of the time and watch Mom, to take my part in caring for her. To be part of the privilege of seeing her in the moments of confusion and know that even though that look of lostness comes over her…to know that she in a place filled with laughter and with children. A place filled with memories and filled with thought and care…a place which she designed to be welcoming and hospitable to those who would come. A place made to be home. Sometimes that makes things all the more difficult because if she was in her “right” mind she would be rejoicing in these moments and she would delight in this laughter and the place would be alive with her touches of hospitality. There are times the awareness of her dementia makes that sting…and it should. Brokenness hurts and reminds us that this is not as it should be.   Still…in this imperfection, she is in a place where she is known.

grandma1

She may not know it, but she is in a place which embraces her, and in the moments when she is silent and does not have words, or when she is flooded with words that simply repeat and express confusion…she is still surrounded by laughter and life.  She is not left on her own or isolated, and when she has those moments where she is alert…there are those there to laugh with her and embrace her.

SammyGrandmaLaugh

And that is privilege.

GrandmaWatch

And the richness of that privilege is not lost.

I spent much time this trip with just Maddie and Mom. It always amazes me how children just accept things and Maddie never was troubled that there was something amiss with Grandma. She would light up and embrace her, kiss her, or scold her…whatever the situation called for…with great enthusiasm. And she drew Mom out.

GrandmaMaddie

That was privilege that could not happen in a “home”.

I think often of Madeleine L’Engle’s book, The Summer of The Great Grandmother where she talks of the last summer with her mother, and I think she would smile at our gatherings in Colorado. Our generations mix and aging happens in the midst of development.

The children learn that we are frail, and they learn that we have to not be afraid of that and sometimes life is hard…but it is a lot easier when we handle it as a family in the midst of a place filled with laughter and life and memories.

MomDad

And that is privilege.