Nothing beats giving

It’s late and I am silly tired, I should be in bed instead of sitting here drinking a glass of red wine and eating warm fresh-from-the-oven Nestle Toll House recipe chocolate chip cookies.  Classy, I know.

We picked berries today.  Since my kids don’t know any better, they think berry picking is enormously fun.  I heard Audrey say in the fields to someone “We’re picking and storing berries for winter!”.  She may be freshly four but she knows how it works.  They worked so hard in the warm sun it was delightful.

I dare say I felt a little greedy out there.  So many beautiful berries.  It was impossible to stop picking.  Even when I knew we’d surpassed what we were aiming for.  We all kept going back for “just one more!”.   Before we knew it we had picked 58 pounds of strawberries.

I must admit I felt a little sheepish heading the counter with SIX full boxes of fruit.  A little proud too of my sweet kiddos, but still really, who needs 58 pounds of berries?  I would loosely liken it to how I feel when (hypothetically friends, really) I am expecting another baby and have my trail of kids behind me.  Crazy thankful and so blessed to have a handful of them already….and then I get to have another?

I digress.  Anyways, we played a bit, then I realized we had no diapers and Finn was in desperate need, a sweet lady saved the day by sharing hers and then I had a quick little freak out about something and then we were on our way.  But not before snapping this photo:

Most days I forget, but today I wanted to remember.  This is what I look like on a normal day.  Straw hat from the Goodwill, stains all over my tank top, a generous serving of extra love around my middle, pearl earrings, no makeup (if I’m honest, no shower today) and a baby on my back (today a baby with a hand wrapped in duct tape!).  Pretty much the staples of my life.

I couldn’t shake the feeling that we had more than we were meant to.  Even though I knew well and good we have two freezers and we could freeze every tasty red morsel.  We got onto the freeway and I hollered back “Who wants to take berries to Daddy’s office to share with everyone?”  An emphatic chorus of yes’ confirmed the plan.

On the way there we drove by a food bank.  We’ve been by it many times but never when it’s open.  Today it was.  The line was long and my heart tugged.  We took berries to the office and I asked them for all their disposable cups and bowls.  We walked back out to the van and I asked them to fill up all the cups.  I told them about the food bank I’d seen and that I knew we were meant to share.

Rylee said this, in her matter of fact nine year old voice “We’re a sharing family mom, we like to share don’t we?”.  “Yes, we delight in it.” was my response.

We parked in the lot next to the food bank lines and instead of analyzing and wondering how we should do it or what to say or worrying about what the rules were, the oldest four and I hopped out of the van and gave.  I thought they’d be shy, handing their bright red gems to strangers, but they smiled and smiled.  My introvert self just walked around asking if anyone liked strawberries and every time someone said yes the kids handed them a bowl of strawberries and love.

When you don’t know where your next meal is coming from and you are accustomed to canned goods, shelf stable everything and day old bread I can only imagine how amazing a just picked lovely red strawberry tastes.  One old woman oohed as she bit into her first berry.  Every single one of them smiled back.

As we walked back I heard my son mutter “that felt good”.  It does.  It did.  We were created to share, to give at every opportunity.  And that doesn’t mean just money.  It actually means so much more.  Time, attention, compassion, patience, love,

…and sometimes strawberries.

 

A girl called Tina

There are many ways my life has been shaped and changed by loss.  One of the most

tangible is my constant awareness that things around me can change at any moment.  Because one time they did and I’ll never be the same.  Hence my passion for writing letters (on real paper with a pen) to people to tell them how special they are to me and for doing crazy things like using my birthday money to take my friends out for dinner just because I want nothing more than time with their precious faces and my tendency to remember mundane little details about people because I don’t want to forget.  It could also explain why I like to step back sometimes and marvel at the big picture.

The beginning of the (very) big picture of my friendship with Tina began when we were 16.  She blew onto the youth group scene out of no where and seemed to have priorities that matched mine in many ways.  Boys and Jesus and adventure.  We were fast friends.  Her blond haired, blue eyed sparkle brought with it intoxicating energy.  I briefly entertained the notion that there really wasn’t room for the both of us in the group but quickly decided there must be.

We shared stories and laughter and trouble and boys (sometimes at the same time, that never went well).  We woke early before heading to our high schools to ‘pray’ together.  Oh what I wouldn’t give to hear one of those early morning talks!  I’m not sure but its likely there was more talk than prayer, maybe occasional gossip but two hearts who wanted so badly to follow Jesus in a way that meant something.

We raised some hell while we were trying to find our way to heaven on church retreats and camp-outs….spied on boys at night in the dark, listened to them outside their showers at the campground and did our best to rock climb, beach hike and backpack for days without a complaint.  We may or may not have attempted to join the local Search and Rescue team.  In the middle of our training weekend in the pouring cold Seattle rain, I may have feigned a terrible knee injury just so we could call it quits without looking like idiots.

After high school we went different paths and then promptly got engaged and married the same year AND started into our very young married lives in ministry at the church we’d attended for years together.  When she and her new husband were lacking proper housing we “graciously” opened our tiny condo to them for “as long as they wanted to stay”.

Good heavens, I still shudder when I think of what a miserable hostess I was for those weeks, maybe months, I’ve blocked the whole season out of my memory – honest.  I made a fuss about EXACTLY what corner shelf she could put her dishes on.  I’m pretty sure I made fusses about just about everything.  It is amazing to me she ever talked to me again after they moved out.

Ministry life seasoned us both, in different ways but we both shouldered a generous share of disappointment and disillusionment.  Motherhood seasoned us even more.  I don’t know what I expected her to be like as a mom but I do know something, the sort of mom she turned out to be was more amazing and more beautiful than I’d imagined.  The privilege of watching someone go through not one but many metamorphic changes is, I believe, one of the great things of life.

Raising babies and serving God in the ministries we’d given our all to brought deeper connections and much more genuine, grown up relationship.  We knew each others’ garbage and still stuck around.  We were so very different but so very drawn to one another in friendship.

Then in one day, everything we’d known for the past ten years came to a screeching halt.  We came to an impasse.  There were words and there was silence and there was the deepest kind of heartache.

It would be a true impossibility to explain the nuances of it all or to do any justice to how broken both of our hearts were.  Never in my life before or since have I felt exactly like that.  And I didn’t talk with her then or for the almost two years after, but I think she probably felt something similar. We walked opposite directions but in the same circles, to say it was awkward is an understatement.

I yelled (quite literally) at God.  I told Him I could not see how His gracious hand who had never been anything but faithful to me could allow such a thing.  And I told Him that He would never, could never heal this wound or restore that relationship – no matter how hard He might try.

This might be getting long and its okay if no one is still reading…I have to tell the rest because, well, it’s the best part.

Tina became more “Tina” and I became more “me “and I hope we both became more Jesus.  We lived and loved and learned how to walk out our unique and distinct calling.

Months, then years went by.  Slowly, in whisper quiet ways that only God is great at, pieces of the wall we’d both helped build were taken down.  Some didn’t hurt and some hurt a lot.  There was grace, beautiful and broken, given on both sides.  There were wise and tender husbands who had wiped so many tears whose ears had listened so faithfully to our bleeding hearts.

I don’t know why it surprised me so.  But it did.  He did just what I said He could not and in the most incredible way.  And I think He delighted in every moment of it.

Now, when we’ve just come into the lovely new space of friendship again, she is leaving. Not just any leaving but moving-to-Chile-leaving.  Which is why I did what I do and spent a great amount of time over the past couple weeks thinking about all our shared history and memories and being insanely grateful that God fixed what was broken before thousands of miles stood between us.

At that last possible moment to say goodbye yesterday before she got on a plane headed south, I whispered these words as we hugged one last time:

I’m so glad this hurts this much.  It would have been so sad if it didn’t.”

That is one of the most mystifying and complicated aspects of love.  Real, genuine, sacrificial kind of love opens up the heart to unspeakable pain and joy beyond measure.  I cried all the way home just replaying the impossible things God had done to bring my heart and hers to this sort of goodbye instead of hearing she’d left in an email from my mom or something like that.

Deeply grateful to serve a God who is all about the impossible and all about redemption.