Our pastor told a story this past Sunday about a funeral procession that is totally unrelated to this blog. However, I thought his story made a perfect title so I’m stealing it. Do you think I could get in trouble for plagiarizing part of a sermon? Seems dangerous. At any rate, I’m taking my chances. Aren’t you curious how I’m going to work the title into this blog?
My birthday was over the weekend. I’m thirty-six. I had a one of those birthday celebrations that lasted all week, lunches and dinners and even a birthday breakfast. My spouse spoiled me. My friends and family wrapped gifts and wrote cards. My daughter got me flowers. My sister bought me an outfit that I would not have picked. I loved it. I got a ton of compliments. I may make her pick all my clothing from now on. I ate banana cream cake with white chocolate frosting. I ate cherry chip cake with lemon frosting. I ate chocolate caramel cake with toffee frosting. I really must run more.
Last year on my birthday my mother informed me that I was halfway to seventy. This year she told me I was closer to seventy than to zero. I’m not sure if she just likes math games or if she enjoys seeing me stricken. It did cause me to pause and take stock. I made a mental list of things to be grateful for in my thirty-sixth year. Friends and family, health and home, Grace and generosity. I ran down a painful list of things I’d rather not be a part of next year; arguments and misunderstandings, imbalanced priorities.
So this whole birthday week I couldn’t shake the sermon story or the image of a big ol’ bike following a big’ ol Hearse. It struck me that frequently in life I do this very thing; put a whole lot of effort and money and time into chasing things that only lead to dead places. I’m going to focus this year on where I’m headed. How about you?
Last week I was surprised by the joy of August. I was standing by the sink eating a peach. The peach had been picked the day before ripe from the tree. The juice was running down my chin and arm. It tasted fabulous. All of a sudden it felt like August was embodied in that peach; summer so packed full of simple pleasures that it was running over.
This August I’ve loved going for a run and grabbing blackberries off the bushes outside our house while I stretch. The kettle corn at the fair tasted sweeter this year. I thoroughly enjoyed that darkness doesn’t come until its time for bed. I loved Portland to Coast; bonding with girlfriends in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere. I loved swimming with my family. My husband made an incredible saffron shrimp and rice dinner. We had lettuce wraps again. A friend made fried green tomatoes. My daughter went to the dentist and didn’t have any cavities. Little pleasures. Running over.
My daughter and I read Black Beauty together. It took us most of the month to finish. We both cried at the end. She said “poor little guy. I’m so glad he ended up happy”. I feel a little bit like the horse. I think partly it’s been such a great month because all the depressant effects of INH medicine have worn off. I feel like I shook off some lead weights and ended up happy. Woo Hoo. Yea for August.
It’s been a year. My husband commented that I am still feeling the effects of my trip to Rwanda. I think he was referring to the fact that I’ve got a month to go on my INH treatment for dormant tuberculosis. I have a countdown going to a big forbidden feast involving lots of chocolate and cheese. Avocados too. My family is counting down too. One of the side effects of the meds is irritability. I’m so sorry. Fun times.
When you drive into the compound in Gisenyi, Rwanda that houses the clinic and school, children smile and run. They follow the truck down the dirt road yelling and waving. I’ve never felt so welcomed and humbled and inadequate and loved and overwhelmed all at the same time.
Thoughts of Rwanda still hit me randomly and with full force. Travel anywhere does that. The memories pop up at the oddest times. My life is intertwined with visions of Rwanda. Last night I was scraping leftovers off plates into the garbage. My inner dialogue kicked in and was reminding me to breathe deep, pray for a good harvest in Rwanda and not yell at anyone who didn’t eat their full portion. I know it’s not completely rational. I recognize that you can’t mail leftovers overseas. It still hurts to think of hungry kids and food in garbage.
When I held a child who had no parents and who could not speak my language, my heart grew. I hold my own daughter tighter now.
When I sat in a field surrounded by banana trees baking in the sun and sewed buttons on rags it put a perspective on my own clothing budget that didn’t shift quickly when I came home.
When I ate mangos and avocados ripened on the tree it makes me grin at the inferior fruit here. I miss the tree tomatoes too.
When I hear Amazing Grace/My Chains are Gone, I’m instantly transported to a church with a tin roof and loud rain pouring down. Choir practice in the dark swatting mosquitoes. My single most embarrassing moment and a personal triumph over pride. The term fools for Christ takes on new meaning.
When I see someone who traveled with me, I am grateful. Their eyes have seen what I saw. When someone agrees to help with a fundraiser I am grateful. When I get an email from Rwanda and see progress on our projects, I am grateful. When I take a shower and the water is warm and clean, I am grateful.
My spouse is right. I’m still feeling the effects. Some good. Some painful. All worth it.