Saturday, January 17, 2009

Buechner, Godric, and Friendship

This Christmas I received some books as gifts - some of my favorite gifts to receive!  One of the books was a short novel by Frederick Buechner, Godric.  Previously I had read another novel of his, On the Road with the Archangel, and had recommended it to others.  Hence the gift of another Buechner novel.
Buechner is great fun to read and I highly recommend him, but the opening line of Godric is a grabber:  "Five friends I had, and two of them were snakes."  He goes on to colorfully and fondly - but not always - describe his friends in the first chapter.  Which is only as far as I've gotten.  (This is going to be a good book!)   Just as Buechner is closing the first chapter, he writes:  "That's five friends, one for each of Jesu's wounds, and Godric bears their mark still on what's left of him as in their time they all bore his on them.  What's friendship, when all's done, but the giving and taking of wounds?"
Indeed, what's friendship but the giving and taking of wounds?  In our day, we are awash in sentimentalism and have handily and readily avoided bedrock realizations of relationship.  We can wax sweetly about friendship and all it's joys.  But, what about all it's pains?  

I believe that friends are one of the greatest gifts that God gives us - a balm and refreshment on our weary road.  Sometimes He gives us friends for seasons and times, sometimes He gives us friends for a lifetime.  Those are the rare and most precious kind, and it's usually in those types of friendships that we do indeed give and are given wounds.  Proverbs 17:9 says, "Whoever covers a offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends."  This speaks directly about gossip, I believe, but I also think it speaks more deeply about forgiveness.  Scripture is plain throughout about not ignoring sin - it should be lovingly and honestly confronted and worked through,  (Justice and mercy kiss.)  and that can't be accomplished without  forgiveness.  'Friendship is a terrible thing to waste', to paraphrase an old advertisement.  As we live and love one another, forgiving one another, the foundations of friendship and relationship can grow deeper and stronger.  Gold purified by fire is precious indeed.  

But, there is more to it than just the advantage of friendship, for in fact, Jesus requires us to forgive.  We don't have to read much of the New Testament to realize that forgiveness is pretty high on the list.  Even the short prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray included "... and forgive us debts as we forgive our debtors."  I - who was in sin from my conception - was forgiven ALL by the blood payment of Christ, so who am I to withhold my forgiveness no matter what the offense?   For as many wounds as I have received from friends, I have surely given.  

Thanks, Frederick Buechner, for bringing this to my attention.  I can't wait to see what's in Chapter 2!

We're Havin' a Heat Wave

It's warming up!  This morning we awoke to a balmy 20 degrees.  Balmy you say?  Absolutely when compared with yesterday's morning temperature of 2 degrees!  As you know from math classes, zeros are significant.  We've been working hard to keep horses, cats, and rabbits with liquid water (vs. frozen water) and plenty of food.  Liquid water has been the most challenging of the two, but this year I found a new tool - hallelujah!
Here are the remains of emptied water buckets from stalls.  We have to stand on top of the inverted buckets and jump on them to get the ice to come out, always followed by a whooosh of what unfrozen water remains.  This is one way to make your own little ice rink.Here's the latest and greatest for keeping horses (and other creatures) watered in sub-freezing temps:  a heated muck bucket!!  Hooray!  No more chopping ice every two hours down at the water trough!  I just love this blue bucket.  Note the protected extension cord so it can be plugged in.  This picture of nice liquid water was taken at the same time as all the ice pictures - at about 20 degrees.Here's the water trough with it's frozen chunks of ice.  Hooray for heated muck buckets!!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Time Capsule

Today was one of those photograph points in ever-moving time:  It was the birthday of my baby - her 21st birthday.  As I marveled at that, it occurred to me that my first baby will turn 30 in about 6 weeks time.  When did that happen?  Wasn't I only 30 myself just yesterday?!  

Age and time are funny things.  Not ha-ha funny; but 'odd', 'curious', 'strange', 'incomprehensible'.  Some years ago, I was having a conversation with Grandmother about getting older, and she was probably in her late 70's about the time.  Her observation on aging has always stuck with me, and this is what she said, "I'm always surprised when I look in the mirror and an old woman looks back at me!"  It just has a way of sneaking up on us, and I felt very snuck up on today.  

As these things were running constantly through my mind today, a funny thing happened.  This kind of funny was  'unexpected', 'surprising', 'poignant'.  While John and I were rearranging and cleaning the kids' old bedrooms so we can make them into useful guest rooms, I decided to open the old wicker trunk that had sat in Katie's room for years.  I had bought that trunk as a newlywed and it had served many purposes, but for the last many years it had been the "Dress-up Trunk" where the kids had kept dress-up clothes - and had apparently tossed in a few other things.

Among the first things I saw was the musical base for the crib mobile.  Did it still work?  I wound it up and it began playing Brahm's Lullaby just as if 30 years had never happened.  My heart began to melt and I continued searching through the trunk.  Some of the things I found were:
Eric's old flannel shirt that he literally lived in while a teen.
One of Kristin's ballet slippers, and some 80's era dresses.
Justin's pirate costume, and the little police vest that got us out of a ticket one time!
Katie's tiny ballet costume.
One of Mama's square-dancing petticoats that she gave the girls for dancing in.
Tiny little aprons and chef's hats that Aunt Anna made for Justin and Katie when they made cookies with her.
A vest that Aunt Anna had made for Kristin.
Kristin's YMCA Indian Princess vest.
Eric's knitted cowboy sweater that he had as a little boy.
A onesy sunsuit that Grandmother had made for Katie.
Justin's Boxwell t-shirt.
The remains of an electronic science experiment.
A sheriff's badge.
A Cub Scout belt.
A toy horse.
A rock.

So perhaps today, on the birthday of my youngest, the Lord gave me a gift: a living photograph of my children's lives.  But they themselves have been the best gift of all.

Snug As a Bug...

While much of the country is withstanding severe cold, sub-zero temperatures and record snowfalls, we in middle Tennessee are comparatively toasty at 12 degrees and sunshine.  Even with those advantages, it's going to be a work-intensive few days keeping the horses and other animals warm and watered.  So, while I'm out working and trying not to get frostbite, what are my faithful companions doing?  Braving the elements alongside me?  I don't think so!  Take a look at what a dog's life looks like at High Meadow Farm!Yes, I actually bought Ladybug a pink sweater.  She had lent her outdoor coat to Barnabus for awhile, so I succumbed to her pitiful looks when she had to run outdoors even for the briefest of trips.I wish we had soundtrack on this - Chloe is contentedly sawing logs.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Havin' Some Fun

Lest you think that we are dragging around all the time with clouds of gloom and doom over our heads, I'd like to share some photos of our Christmas fun.  It's just part of the paradox that we can grieve and celebrate all at the same time.  We had a hard Christmas, but we had a good Christmas, too, with holiday traditions soundly enjoyed.  We made gingerbread men, trash (yes, trash, but not what you think), sweet'n'salty peanuts, and cookies; and ate it all!  We had Christmas Eve breakfast at Cracker Barrel, guessed the Thing (Eric won it - it was a rubber band ball.), went to services, spent hours slowly opening gifts on Christmas Day, and watched a Christmas movie.  Oh, and ate a huge dinner and lots and lots of dessert!  We've also had to make New Year's resolutions after all that eating.
                           Santa Patrick with Papa.Gilbert LOVES vacuums, so that's just what Nana and Papa gave him.  The carpet at home is cleaner than ever!!Patrick loves rocking, and he loves climbing in and out, in and out, in and out!  Katie, Eric, and Kelly:  three islands in a sea of gifts!Gilbert and Justin are red-shirted bookends with Kristin and Alan in the middle.             Guess what John's favorite TV show is!Christmas dinner with English Christmas Crackers, complete with paper crowns, little toys, and silly riddles.

Deep Wounds

Our human lives are full of daily challenges, difficulties, and problems, but there are a few wounds that strike so deeply that our lives are forever changed.  They become little monuments that mark the "before" and "after" in our lives.  

In the spring of 2002, I was happily and successfully rolling right along in my occupation of training and competing my horse.  The years of training were paying off, and I was having a great time.  Then a tumor was discovered on the lower part of my spinal cord and that was the end of that.  After an extensive surgery (after which it was determined that the tumor was benign, thank the Lord) I had a long period of recovery in which I literally had to learn to walk again.  But, at least I could walk; and even today I am back in the saddle if only for a nice trail ride.  Not a day passes, however, that I am not in some degree of pain.  Your body doesn't simply forget that kind of invasion of the surgeon's knife.  The muscles in my back will never be the same, they have been forever altered.  But, I am grateful.

In late autumn of this past year, after months of happy expectations, Cameron Beau was born and lived among us for 8 days.  The experience of loving him and losing him didn't kill us, but we are having to learn to walk again.  The wound in our hearts and minds is extensive and not simply forgotten.  I'm guessing that even as we heal, each day will bring its degree of sorrow; but we will never be the same, we are forever altered.  And, I am grateful.  

At the end of an age, God's people were anticipating their Messiah - the King who would restore the throne of David and rescue them from the oppression of Rome.  The Messiah did indeed come, but not as anticipated. Instead, He suffered deep wounds.  Wounds for our transgressions.  Those wounds did kill Him, but not for long, for after three days He rose again - and we are forever altered.  History, nor we, will ever be the same.  And, I am forever grateful.  

"I find crosses Christ's carved work that he marketh out for us, and that with crosses he figureth and portrayeth us to his own image, cutting away pieces of our ill and corruption.  Lord cut, Lord carve, Lord wound, Lord do anything that may perfect thy Father's image in us, and make us meet for glory."

"Scar not at suffering for Christ:  For Christ hath a chair, and a cushion, and sweet peace for a sufferer."
~ Samuel Rutherford

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Stars Were Brilliant

On the night of November 25th, we left the Butterfly Room at the hospital and walked outside through the little garden there and out into the parking lot.  It was night and the sky was clear.  A baby had died that evening.  We went to Chili's to eat something - who knows if we were hungry - and the back to Ronald MacDonald House for the rest of the night.  

The next night, after spending the day making plans and arangements, we made the trip back to New Bern.  Eric and Kelly drove their car, and John and I flew in the Columbia.  It was the same time of evening the night that Beau was born that John had flown there to Greenville.  Beau had been born in New Bern, but was life-flighted to Greenville.  As John was making his approach to the Greenville airport that night, Beau's helicopter was making its approach at the hospital.  I had these things in mind as we took off into the night and headed for New Bern.  It was beautifully clear and quiet, and the stars were brilliant that night.  They seemed to me to be the distant diamond portals of heaven, and Beau seemed so very far away.  I cried all the way.
Later, on the night of December 6th - three days after the burial - we visited the cemetery for their annual Christmas Luminaria event.  The Harpeth Hills folks place a luminaria at each grave, and we wanted to see Beau's grave and its candle.  But what a sight greeted our eyes as the cemetery came into view!  There laid out before us, up and down the rolling hillsides, were hundreds and thousands of little twinkling lights.  It was if the stars themselves had fallen from the sky and lay scattered in the valley.  I felt as though the heavens had placed a benediction on those who sorrowed.So this Christmas, amidst the ornaments on our tree, we placed a star - Beau's Star - that reminds us of the beauty and brilliance of heaven and earth, and of a baby born to walk amongst the stars.