And yet, in the midst of all that beauty, that manifestation of life flourishing yet again in the natural world, I found myself struggling to pay attention, to enjoy and appreciate the message being shouted all around me, as my heart was filled to overflowing with a sad heaviness which clouded my vision and overburdened my heart. Even as I sat on my lovely screened porch to eat breakfast, on my backdoor deck to have my dinner…even as the birds invited my enjoyment and the flowers near the driveway swayed their dance of just being…even then I found myself weighed down with the cares and concerns which presently fill my mind and heart: my sister dealing with cancer and facing chemotherapy; my dear friend and her family dealing with the dreadful loss of a precious and much-desired grandchild; another friend from church preparing to take her American-born children back to her Sudanese home to meet their extended family, in the midst of the continuing unrest there; and the numerous residents at the Lutheran Home who are attempting to cope with the move to new quarters which they neither understand nor requested.
But isn’t that the way of life? Sorrow in the midst of joy; darkness in the midst of light; brokenness in the midst of beauty...no way around it, only through it. And the challenge is to take it all in, to deal with all of it with equanimity and courage and wisdom and joy- yes, joy, ultimately, which is not the same as happiness but is deeper, dwelling in that place of peace and contentment which cannot be easily shaken. It is that place of peace promised to us by Jesus and spoken of by so many writers of the scriptures, Hebrew and Christian and, yes, Buddhist and Muslim…a place beyond our understanding and striving…a place that is pure gift…total grace. It is a place, I must confess, I all-too-seldom go.
And yet, after two 11-hour-days helping with the major relocation of our facility to the beautiful, brand-new Trinity Glen, I am flat on my back in bed, icing the aching lumbar and sacroiliac areas, trying to appreciate the enforced rest and catching up on much-needed sleep, filled with all sorts of crazy dreams. And, because Summer has come to Carolina with a vengeance, with last week’s balmy temperatures giving way to a heat wave in the 90s, I am being grateful for my dependable air conditioning and attempting to be okay with doing nothing for a couple of days (not really good at this most of the time). It’s a reminder to me that 1) I’m not as young as I used to be nor as I like to think of myself being; 2) that it’s okay to let folks know when I am being stretched beyond my limits; 3) that though I dispense good advice to others about caring for themselves wisely and well, I all-too-often fail to heed that advice; and 4) that the world of which I am but a very small (but significant!) part will go on quite nicely without me for a few days. Here I am, in that place of peace and joy and grace...whether I want to be or not! Out of my hands...
That’s the way of things; that’s LIFE. Messy…confusing…filled with more than we can possibly realize or appreciate or understand or inculcate. But most of all, a gift: every moment, every breath, every encounter, every happening. And how we live it out is our part of the whole endeavor. It is either a daring adventure or nothing at all, Helen Keller once said. And she was both blind and deaf! Would that I, with my senses pretty much intact, would see and hear so clearly, would live out each day in gratitude singing along with the birds, “Thanks be to God!” Let it be so!