I decide to welcome fall early this year. It’s still August when I commit.
I know that’s not the official start, but something about knowing, really knowing, that you have months, not years, left with someone, makes every moment count.
We know that, right? That all of the moments count? Turn towards those you love while you can. It’s a great theory, but the practice of it, in blog-friendly language, is oh my.
Because life. And death. And all of that in-between. And not all of us get to know ahead of time.
And what are months, anyway? Twelve of them make up a year. That leads to twenty-four, which is two years, and so on. Not without hope, and yet, there is also reality.
So last Friday, as Mom and Dad visited the oncologist, my sister and I ran afternoon errands together. Something about a perceived sense of normalcy and control made this an adventure filled with hilarity and comic relief.
We are good at comic relief.Also irreverent hilarity.
After all of the musts, I chose a want and decided to get fall plants for mom’s outdoor planter.
Each Mother’s Day I plant one of the large planters in front of my parents’ house for Mom, and on Father’s Day I plant the other for Dad. This year was different on Mother’s Day, due, in part to the pandemic and its limitations.
Instead of selecting individual plants, I chose a hanging basket from the local food coop, planning to empty it into the planter, ready made style. When Mom saw what I was doing, she preferred to keep it as a hanging basket, so up on the porch it went.
Her planter remained sparsely populated with perennial growth from previous years, a rosemary bush, lambs ears, purple salvia, and a lone geranium, added by me to fill an obvious gap. These continued growing all summer but never fully got it together.
I tried looking back in my phone to see if I had a picture of that planter, and just the act of scrolling backwards to May brought a heaviness to my chest and tears to my eyes. We can’t go back to before.
I decided to seize my (and mom’s) favorite season and plant for fall to welcome her home from her long day of medical appointments.
Summer flourishes with overgrown flowerbeds. Weeds crowd corners daring to be pulled.
Black-eyed Susans, Coneflowers, and Lamb’s ears compete for space among the unwanted invaders. Climbing the steps to the porch, I succumb to feelings of hopelessness. Why bother?
Remind me next summer when I think hanging baskets are a good idea, that they are really not. I tell my husband and my youngest daughter. I know one of them will remember. The porch is not my happy place right now. Dry hanging baskets only accentuate that fact.
No longer the flower lady, I am the lady with the overgrown house on the corner. Everything feels a mess, both inside and out, reminding me that when one area flourishes, another often suffers. This year it is the landscaping. The gardens. The unfinished porch.
Still the flowers fight forward. They open and bloom and stand their ground. One day I decide to set a fifteen minute timer in twilight’s glow and pull weeds. A stunning before and after rewards my effort. Never mind the thistles and thorns lurking around the corner.
I choose to celebrate the beauty that is in front of me.
It is Easter Sunday, a time to celebrate the resurrection and all things new. Yet, even on Resurrection Sunday, many sit in Saturday still, the space of death and loss. It is a tough bind to hold, that of rejoicing in the hope of the resurrection, while simultaneously mourning that we remain here in the death.
Yesterday’s news of the untimely loss of a precious child I was blessed to work with this year in the SVCC and this morning’s news of horrific attacks on worshipers and tourists in Sri Lanka, make the words I was so eager to share today seem flat and trite. How does the story I want to tell even begin to matter in light of the bigger picture?
I think it matters. I think it matters that beauty and hope can be found in unlikely places, in personal ways. This week’s resurrection story came at the perfect time, in an unexpected way, and I share it here now.
Wednesday was full of goodness. I worked on an online class in the morning, created in my art journal after that, had a Facetime call with two dear friends, did the after school pick up.
I noticed while driving past my house, that there was a box on the front porch, a package. I did not remember ordering anything, but sometimes Steve or one of the adults does, so I made a mental note to check when I got home.
Then I forgot.
Afternoon routine involved connecting with kids, preparing supper, wrapping up the day, watching a favorite Youtubechannel while working in the kitchen. An unboxing was happening there (go to 15:53 if you click on the link), reminding me that there was a box waiting on the front porch. I stopped what I was was doing to go check it out.
It was labeled as containing 50 hangers. This struck me as interesting and odd at the same time. I use a mishmash of hangers and wondered if maybe Steve wanted to start using nicer hangers or if one of the adults had gifted me with a box of them.
The return address was local, but unfamiliar, and read Shoot for Your Dreams. The closer I looked at the box, the more dented it appeared, and I began to feel an odd sensation relating to opening it. Was it a good idea?
This has happened twice before. I was afraid to open an unexpected package and felt an unreasonable anxiety that maybe there was something dangerous inside. The first one held cherries, the second, a thoughtful gift.
Bracing myself, I opened this box.
I removed this.
Untying the strings at the top, I pulled out a gorgeous spring Gucci bag. I. Was. Stunned.
I took it to show my son who began snapping pictures and researching the pattern and authenticating numbers. Yes, it was a real Gucci bag. The mystery deepened, and remains. I had suspicions that did not pan out, and clues that have not come all the way together.
I decided to receive the beauty and rest in the mystery.
For this particular gift to arrive in the midst of Holy Week, felt significant. I wrote in this post a story of loss. A death, if you will. Out of the dented hanger box came something beautiful, brimming with images of life, flourishing like my word this year. I was overwhelmed.
It felt so personal and kind, this third surprise package. It reminded me of another gift of three.
This is my resurrection story today. It is the resurrection of new beauty in a new season of life. It is the receiving of a generous gift that holds deep meaning from a giver that I cannot see. It is relinquishing the need to know everything and trusting the evidence that I have been given.
I am seen, loved, celebrated, encouraged.
Dear Mystery Giver, Thank you for this generous gift. You have no idea, or maybe you do, how blessed I felt to receive it. In this season of stepping out and showing up and starting something new, your thoughtfulness and generosity reminded me, once again, that my labor is not in vain. God works in the unseen spaces and brings to new life things we thought have died. He provides exceedingly, abundantly above all we could ever imagine or dream. I certainly did not imagine or dream the contents of this package! My husband, the giver of the original bag, told me that this one is amazing and so much more beautiful. And I agree. I loved carrying it to church this morning. Blessings and Love to you!
Dear Reader, Thank you for staying with me to the end of the story. I don’t know where you find yourself this Resurrection Sunday. Maybe you, too, are rejoicing at seeing a glimpse of the goodness of God in the land of the living. Maybe you are grieving a deep death or loss and don’t believe there will ever be goodness. Wherever you are, please know that you are seen and loved by the one who cares about the things of your heart, even the loss of a bag from your teen years. He is in the business of restoring and making things new.
I know it feels like fall. School is back in session. Football games have begun. Life has resumed routine. Morning drives to school find me facing a blinding low-rising sun in the eastern sky. Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back.
But it’s still summer for a little while longer.
Today I celebrated that truth by stepping off into the deep end of my daughter and son-in-law’s pool and swimming to the other side. It was my first time in the water this summer. The sensation was lovely.
My intention was to try to turn around the funk that seems to have settled around my shoulders, pressing into my heart. Surely water and sunshine would wash it away.
It was worth a try.
Several of my kids and my husband joined me. Others sat on the edge. We talked and laughed. We played games.
It was a relaxing space to regain perspective.
I wish I could say I left my troubles at the bottom of the pool with the leaves that have begun dropping, but it is not that easy. I wish I could say that I have leaned from Dewey to just live in the moment.
I am still practicing and being given plenty of opportunities to do so.
This afternoon brought laughter and connection and escape. It brought exercise and fresh air and a son-in-law who grilled hamburgers while we swam in his pool.
It brought goodness and kindness and another reminder that even when life is hard and unpredictable and wearisome, there is beauty and joy and love.