Timing

E and I at the Bluegrass Festival in Telluride

Today while spending time in a coffee shop where I used to spend entire days, I ran into a girl I’ve known since high school. I was jealous of her then, and to be honest, some of that jealous flared up again when I saw her this afternoon. It would seem I will often struggle with the same sins even years after they have begun.

But that girl is wonderful, and I’ve learned that in time. She works at the coffee shop so we didn’t talk long but she asked if I’d seen E lately. “He was my favourite person to work with!” she exclaimed and announced her disappointment that upon returning from six or seven months out of the country he had quit and moved to a different job. I smiled a little, the crooked smile that has hesitancy amid the cheer. “Oh, yeah, I’ve seen him, we’re dating.”

“I knew it!” she practically shouted and sat down a chair just a little too hard in her excitement.

“Yeah, that’s what most people say–”

“I always used to ask him–”

“Or people are like, ‘took you long enough!'” And we laughed because it did take a long time for us to move from friends, to best friends, to dating and who knows where that will turn. But then she said something I hadn’t considered.

“Sometimes, it’s better that way. Taking a long time.”

So often we (or I) have looked at the long friendship between myself and E as a period of waiting and turmoil on my part. It’s as though it is my fault. E would never say that. He was patient and didn’t mind the time, though I think there were periods of exasperation when I lamented singleness and he stood by, waiting, hoping, trying to snap off the blinders that I wore. But as my friend pointed out this afternoon, it isn’t a question of “fault” as though I had “problems” that I needed to overcome before we could date. Some of that is true, but that is not the truth.

The truth is, we waited  because both of us felt that God wanted us to. I didn’t know my heart for a long while. He knew his but he knew it wasn’t the right timing–even if I had known my true feelings sooner. We took out time, we were friends and we prayed about what God was doing. When it came time for us to move forward, it was pretty clear.

I don’t know why it took so long, and I don’t think I need to. God has his reasons, some we will discover and others will always be a mystery. What matters is that we are moving, carefully, confidently and always prayerfully. God will reveal himself and his plans in his time–we just get to enjoy the ride.

Tragedy

When I arrived at work this morning, I had no idea that my boss would be waiting at the door for me with news of a tragedy just miles from where I live. In case you  haven’t heard, a gunman entered a midnight showing of the Batman movie and opened fire after throwing in tear gas. So far, everyone I know is safe. The closest thing was a friend who tried getting tickets to the show but they had already sold out. M told me that she woke up to 6 anxious texts, and I’ve been fielding calls, texts and FB messages all morning.

I took the girls to Panera for breakfast. We ate bagels with cream cheese and sat in the air conditioning, filled with bustling customers who hardly took notice that the world had shifted in the early hours before dawn. The girls told me about their fish, about their upcoming trip to the mountains. All I could think was what a hard time it’s been in Colorado. I know other places have tragedies. I have been known to be a news junkie and I stay updated on too many world events. But Colorado, from Columbine when I was a kid, to the fires when I was a teen, then fires this summer, shootings at churches and now this–Colorado has had a rough go.

We took the long way home, through Daniel’s Park, because I thought, what if I never saw the park again? What if this was the last chance to view the mountains? The sky was such a sweet powder blue, so clear and clean, the colour belonged in the nursery for a newborn babe. The clouds were light and round, fluffy as cotton straight from a Mississipi field. It was surreal. Such things could not have happened when the day had dawned so perfect and beautiful.

I overheard a woman today at Panera say that she keeps waiting for life to “just happen,” as though she’s waiting for life to be lived instead of doing the living herself.

There are so many questions: FB and Twitter are exploding with “why God” and “how could He” and just plain old “why”?

But my friend S who attended Columbine would tell you there will never be an answer to the Why questions. We don’t know and we can’t. We can only choose to be love. I don’t know why it wasn’t JB, D or me and E who were at the theatre. It was senseless, it was horrific and tragic. All we can do is pray for those who lost someone, and move forward without forgetting that there are more important things than our houses, our things and our goals. There is only time, and never enough of that. And there are loved ones and people to care for outside our immediate circles.

And that, I think, may be all we can do. Choose to love; and pray that He comes.

pray that He comes quickly.

WHY: summer reading

I love summer for a lot of reasons. One of them is the chance to read books that aren’t for class. So far this summer, I”ve re-read The Hobbit, three of the Harry Potters, Justification by NT Wright, Atheist Delusions, some Francis Schaffer and right now I”m working through That Hideous Strength and Desiring God.

That Hideous Strength is even more magical and soul quenching as an adult. I love the imagery and connections between Lewis’ space trilogies and the ancient mythology of Britain’s Pendragon and mysterious Merlin. I have a friend who doesn’t read moves because he doesn’t feel like they are worth his time. But the truth is, sometimes novels can portray theology and spiritual realities even more accurately than those written by scholars (granted, Lewis was a scholar, but The Space Trilogy doesn’t fit that schema of writing).

It’s been a good summer of sitting on the porch at E’s, listening to the wind in the aspens and reading books that I’ve chosen and that I’m learning from–even without writing papers about them.

589

you know the academic research class you’re taking is offered by a Christian school when the example for researching in a specific database is

“so, for this keyword, I’ll use ‘blood’ and have it match exactly; though I could have told it to just look for things beginning with ‘blood.’ Then, I can click this plus sign button and enter another keyword, we’ll use ‘sacrifice.'” …..

because if it’s not a religious school, you probably need to reconsider your choice of graduate programs…

WHY: we build stuff

On a recent drive back from Colorado Springs (after watching 8 of our favourite children), one of E’s favourite country songs played on the radio. It was somewhere near the crest of Monument Pass, where you could see the smoke puffing up among trees on the slopes of Waldo Canyon and you could imagine the fires raging nearby. Though we were safe, and our friends were too, it was a sobering sight. The song that came on helped to lighten the mood. E turned it up at full blast in that little VW Jetta that he affectionately nicknamed “Gretta” many years ago. I don’t know the artist or even the title but the song always make me think of North Carolina and how I imagine backwoods, country folk operate. I think that’s why E loves it so much–it reminds him of the good times back home. One particular lyric that always catches my attention says something like “If it’s broke ’round here, we fix it.” Well, that’s certainly true of E. Little Gretta has over 300,000 miles on her, because when she looses a part, he replaces it. My bike was bought at a goodwill for $40 and now it’s worth around $200 thanks to some work from E (and his years as a bike mechanic). I’ve heard the song so many times, and on that long drive back home I couldn’t but recount all the things built from scratch rather than being purchased at a store. And let me tell you, there are quite a few….

When M and I first moved into our apartment we didn’t have much counter space–we still don’t have much. So, while she was on a road trip, I set up a collapsable table in the corner of our eating nook and threw a twin sized sheet over it. There’s no point lying: it looked trashy. Eventually, there were stains not he sheet from paint and various foods. When my mum reminded me I had a crockpot and blender in the basement of their house I nearly threw a fit for lack of space. I snapped. I called E to vent and announced: “I’m going to find some wood–like old pallets or something–and I’m going to build myself a fricking shelf!” Well, E knew my shelf would probably collapse so the building process was more like… Sara rips nails out of old pallets and E assembles them into something useful and magnificent. He brought it over two or three weeks later on the top of his VW Jetta and we were rescued by some Burmese men as we struggled to get it up the stairs and into the little home in Denver’s third-world.

A couple of months ago, E built a loft for my bed. I don’t have any pictures of it currently, with the mattress on top and the book shelves beneath, sporting theology, grammar and copious class notes. There’s a shelf that runs over the head of the mattress where I keep a lamp, a few candles, three or four books, the unplugged alarm clock and my mouthguard that prevents morning headaches. The ladder has uneven steps and it’s made from an assortment of wood but it may be the most ingenious thing I’ve ever had built. It makes my room twice as large since I can now have two or three bookcases sitting under my bed just to the left of a laundry basket and still have room to sprawl out with my laptop and school books. It also makes my room the running novelty of our apartment: the kids want to climb onto it every time they come to visit.

In the same day, we went to E’s old house downtown to salvage the last of the 2×6 and 2×8’s that we hadn’t used on my loft. E had been living in a one bedroom just a few blocks from the heart of Denver. Yes, a one bedroom with three other guys. The bedroom is where my loft came from: the had a loft large enough to hold two queen size beds high in the air so that they all fit into that one bedroom. Intentional Community, or something like that.

Anyway, we grabbed the last of the boards, sorted through the few things that roommates (and roommates from previous leases) had left behind and then headed to his new place where we (and by we I mean E) set about building our garden boxes. I’ve talked about this briefly in my description of our garden but I didn’t tell you about why we built the boxes instead of buying planters and I hadn’t put up pictures.

There are a few reasons we build things. One is that we’re both very cheap (or rather–we’re frugal–I’ve been informed that’s a more respectable word for such personality traits). So we use scrap wood from previous building ventures or wood that we can acquire just by driving across town.

We also build things because it means using our hands. As a student, a nanny, personal assistant and church staff member, I sit inside a lot. Holding up a 2×6 as E drills holes into it or screws it into something else has a certain pleasure that you cannot experience elsewhere. I feel like a strong woman when I yank nails from old pallets that once transported food, building supplies, furniture, etc. There’s the moment when you know the nail is about to come free but it fights you for every last moment, screaming as you wrench it from the wood it has long called home. And with a grunt it comes apart and the board springs upward, no longer bound to the shape it was forced to. I think I looked at each nail as I took it from the back of the hammer and giggled slightly when I tossed it to the ground. It’s the same feeling I have when chopping wood for fires: the ax goes above my head and there’s a moment just before the descent where you fix your eye on the middle of the log, marking where you’ll strike to snap it in half. It feels like determination has flooded your veins as you decide that log is mine. And then, the ax whistles through the air and slices into the wood. The ax might stick the first few times or send chips flying to the air. But eventually, it cuts straight through the wood and you have two halves, ready for burning.

E says he feels so much joy when he is building. It’s the chance to create something new, to be creative when you’re using limited supplies and the chance to do something. So much of our lives are spent indoors, seated at desks or running copies, chilling in meetings with stale air running through the A/C.

But to build is to create which is to share in the divine initiative, to act on the image and likeness of God in us as creator and artist. I think that’s why we, and others, experience such pleasure in building things, in planting, sculpting and designing. Because, in the most cliche (but also true) way: it’s the way God made us.

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salvaged pallets, shelf on the car (built from pallets), assembling the loft, building the garden boxes

Friends

I should have blogged on the Fourth of July. I tried. I thought and thought about what I could write. I considered writing about fireworks, the perfect blooms of light that are one of my favourite events each summer. But, thanks to the fires, there were no fireworks this summer and felt bizarre to write about them. I considered patriotism, but that is something I have long struggled to understand. I feel a surge of pride when I see my brother in uniform, watch him tip his wings as he comes in for a landing in his jet. But there is an unease in my spirit regarding our politics, our culture, our “american dream.”

So, in the end, I didn’t write on Wednesday though it is my usual day for a post and it was a national holiday. Instead, I spent the day packing my boss’s kitchen as he and his wife are currently out of town and are moving this weekend.

I did, however, have a few friends over on the Fourth and that is worth talking about.

E and I had a BBQ, which we hosted at my boss’s house in the big backyard full of dead grass because it’s been a brutal summer and the sprinkler system on the rental has ceased functioning (if it ever did). We were slobbered on by their Newfoundland–Sydney–who is one of the happiest but laid back dogs I’ve ever known. She’ll be great when the new baby comes home to their new house, they’ll just have to be even more vigilent about wiping her face and loose jowels that leak a thick dribble when she pants in the summer heat.

We had our friends J and K over, they’re married and both at seminary with me. I went to high school with J and had a huge crush on one of his best friends. It’s funny now, to laugh about all that, to know his wife K and realize that we often don’t marry the people we planned and that life never turns out as we imagined (K told him no three times before she consented to a first date).  They brought their dog Abby who explored the backyard with ceaseless sniffing and hope for great adventure. Sydney watched the process from her perch on the patio at our feet, her chin resting between spread out paws.

We ate, we drank, we laughed and over three hours passed before we realized the time. We had to catch up on a good deal of life that we’ve missed in the past two months and then we talked about current plans, some hopes and dreams, confusions and concerns in the church…etc. It was a grand evening of absolutely no plans, no contrived conversations or ice breaker games.

It was just good.

It’s been a long time since either E or I had friends like that. We talked about it the next day, how thankful we are that God has provided us with good friends to share life with, to pray with and for, to simply enjoy. It’s been a long week. I’ve packed my boss’s house (mostly) and I helped E pack and move his own apartment last night. The girls I nanny bickered off and on all day yesterday, and if it wasn’t for a neighbour girl to break the tension, I think they’d do the same today. My digestive system is on the fritz again and I seem to be forgetting almost everything on my to-do list.

But Wednesday was a good night because I was allowed the chance to remember that life isn’t to-do lists, it isn’t assignments at school or long days at work. Life is friends and beauty and joy (just as much as it is sorrow and pain in the darker days). Life is about enjoying each other and enjoying what God has blessed us with, even when those blessings are the smallest things.

Like a week of housesitting.
A dog to walk.
A cool evening rain, observed from the covered patio.
A national holiday to enjoy a day off.
Money to buy meat for burgers.
And good friends to share a meal with.

Because friends remind me of God and how he loves us, how he stands by us no matter what and how he just wants to be with us–not because he is lonely but because he delights in us, in his creation.

Wednesday night was a great evening to celebrate shared life, a shared journey and a shared quest for the glory of God and the hope of the coming promise.