For I call God as my witness--whom I worship in my spirit and serve in making known the gospel--he alone knows how often I mention you in my prayers. I find myself constantly praying for you and hoping it's in God's will for me to be with you soon. I desperately want to see you so that I can share some gift of the Spirit to strengthen you. Plus I know when we come together something beautiful will happen as we are encouraged by each other's faith.
If, my brothers and sisters, you did not already know, my plans were set to meet you in Rome, but time and circumstances have forced every trip to be canceled . . . (Romans 1:9-13a).
I read these verses this morning sitting in my usual spot in the living room, feet up on the ottoman in front of me and a cup of coffee perched precariously on the arm of my chair. If my children put their drinks in the exact same spot, I would scold them and point out the coasters and table within comfortable reach just a little bit farther to their right, but I am a grown up, damn it, and I can put my coffee wherever I please. (I'm sure I will end up spilling it eventually, but that small rebellion satisfies some deep need to be willful and defiant--I'm not giving it up.) The dog curled up in his spot in the other chair, as he does every morning, and the two of us enjoyed the quiet companionship of being awake together when everyone else is still sleeping. I love that dog for his throaty growls and menacing barks; I love that instead of running away, he stood guard in the doorway when some accident of wind or inattention left the front door wide open for hours while I was at work one afternoon; and I love that no matter how mean or intimidating he sounds or looks, I can still trust him with my children and their friends. But mostly I love that no matter how sound asleep he is when my alarm goes off (as indicated by his snoring), he drags himself out of bed every morning to sit in his chair in the living room while I read and drink my coffee.
When I came to this particular passage today, I started laughing. Slowly, ruefully at first, then with a more hysterical edge. The dog picked up his head and looked at me, and when I didn't stop, he jumped down and came over to my chair, bumping his nose up under my elbow so that I would put my arm around him. I pulled him close and buried my face in the soft fur on his neck, and we sat like that while my laughter faded to deep sighs and then eventually my breathing returned to normal. He licked my forehead, broke free from my embrace, went back to his chair and curled up again, satisfied things were back to normal once I regained my composure.
I laughed when I read those verses because God's timing and sense of humor converged with the events of my life in a way that allowed one of two responses: laughter or tears. The tears will come as surely as I will spill the cup of coffee sitting on the arm of my chair one morning, but for today, I laughed.
Tomorrow morning, I was supposed to board a plane to meet some of my dearest friends in Las Vegas. A couple of us celebrate big birthdays this year, but more than anything it was a chance to be together, away from the demands of families and work, a time to rest, play, and catch up on each other's lives. We planned for months to carve out a few days together and find ways to fill them with shared experiences, only to watch it all fall victim to a blizzard in the Northeast and the travel disruptions attendant upon such a storm. We scrambled to find alternatives and thought through different scenarios, but in the end, no immediate solution could stitch together the crazy patchwork quilt of childcare, travel logistics, time off work, and expense involved when working mothers travel. I got up from my reading this morning and called to cancel my flight, cursing defeat the entire time.
My friendships mean the world to me. Time together with my closest friends--in any setting--breathes fresh air into the best parts of ourselves, parts we can then turn around and offer anew to spouses, children, our jobs, our communities. When we are together, we seek to learn things we didn't know before, to understand more, to listen and hear and speak true things that will bear fruit in our lives and the lives of those we love. We can do that at a certain level over a few hours at a coffee shop, restaurant, or in each other's homes, and I am grateful that a meaningful exchange can happen practically on the fly. But there's no doubt we get into the deeper substance of things when we take time to be together in a separate place away from our normal lives. When you live more than a thousand miles apart, that time becomes even more precious. Having our plans huffed and puffed into the waste bin by a Nor'easter absolutely sucks.
As Forrest Gump puts it so eloquently, "That's all I have to say about that."
At this point in Lent, I have listened to several sermons and read a lot of different things that all boil down to this: separation is the ultimate sin that came into the world through the Fall in the Garden of Eden. Death is the fullest expression of that separation, so we hear and think about it the most. But every separation is a death in itself--a death of understanding and relationship--and those occasions when we can overcome any separation at all are triumphs of grace. Every time two people can work through even one difference that once alienated them from each other, every time we can chip away at one stone in the wall between ourselves and someone else, we reclaim another piece of the paradise of union and community God designed for His children. He does not want us staking claims, defending territory, putting up fences; He wants us inviting and open, actively seeking common ground, curious about what we can learn and teach one another. And there is no better way to move past separation than spending time together, sharing meals, talking and laughing and encouraging each other in the things that matter most to our hearts.
Paul knew that. It's why he traveled so much to spread the life-changing news of Jesus, and it's why he got frustrated when circumstances interrupted his plans. He wanted people to see the transformation in him so that he could fan the flames of transformation in them, too, and that's accomplished so much easier in person--with hands and feet and eye contact across tables. He had to content himself with sending a letter instead, his heart poured out on paper for friends he longed to see in the flesh.
So today I'm sending this post, my heart poured out on a kind of paper for friends I long to see in the flesh, both the few I was supposed to meet in Vegas and the rest who are as deeply loved as they are scattered across the country (or in some cases, the city we all live in). I long to see you and spend time with you; to hug your necks and walk into your rooms; to lift coffee cups and wine glasses and watch your beautiful faces light up when you tell me your stories across tables spread with good things. I pray for you constantly, and I hope it's God's will for us to be together again soon. Storms--literal and figurative--might separate us for now, but they won't last forever. Miss you, love you, every single day.
Mother, photographer, writer. Expert in making things up as she goes and figuring things out along the way.