Accompaniment

I am constantly amazed at how dis-attached I feel from myself, others, and the earth when I do not live in rhythm with the seasons. The seasons are good teachers for us. They show us that change does come, that beauty –and hardship– is to be found in change. The winter is beautiful, but in a dormant kind of way. The spring is full of life it seems, but still brings a lethal frost. The summer draws us into long, enduring warmth but can overheat us in our epidermal exchange. The fall brings us more vivid colors than we could ever dream up by ourselves, but with the color comes death. The seasons remind us that death is a part of life, for it is as natural a cycle as any; without death, we would not have life. The seasons are reminders of the good gifts that the earth gives: the harvest, the sunsets, the rain, the protective layer of Ozone.

It is good to live into the change of seasons, to tarry with them in their ebb and flow.

All of life is dynamic. It must be dynamic to stay in equilibrium. For if it becomes static, it is dead.

Though there is little about life that is immune to change, relationships of all kinds can ground us to weather the change.

That friend who is ceaselessly present especially when you do not quite know how to go on. That lover who fills you with more joy than you thought possible. That parent, whether kin or by choice, who believes that you can do anything. That sibling whose relationship with you has evolved from rivalry to friendship. That grandparent who tells you stories of your heritage, stories they have lived with courage, joy, pain, and even regret. That neighbor who works to live in community with you. Those colleagues who you spend more time with than some of your family members….slowly, they become family.

It takes courage and commitment to sustain a table conversation with someone that lasts a lifetime. The novelty of the person, however you know them, wears off and so does yours for them. What is left is a deep, sustaining aura that draws you in. Somehow, they sing a song that is similar to your own, if you listen closely enough. “I believe in you”, “I love spending time with you”, “you can trust me”, they sing. They forgive you when your flaws and insecurities fester like gaping, infected wounds and you respond out of the pain. You forgive the same way. You share tables with them on the holidays or at least send loving well wishes.

These folks do not make change any easier or harder; they just commit, whether implicitly or explicitly, to do the change with you. You and they become seasoned travelers together on the journey of life.

I think this is the way that the Creator God designed it to be.

Accompaniment.

May it ever be so.

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Something Unpredictable

Inevitably life comes in seasons. Much like the four seasons that greet us at the door each year, we journey through a sectioned life. Seasons in our lives change. Change perpetuates more change. It’s not all bad… because we need that change to grow. People enter and leave our lives for seasons. And sometimes that’s ok… and sometimes it hurts terribly.

So how do you endure… how do you persist?

First, knowing who you are is key. You have to understand your passions, your personality, your body and then sanction all of the above. Learning to be kind to yourself is a necessity. You have to know that when you are on your knees praying, your voice matters. You matter.

Next, it helps to understand the following helpful (rather painful) lesson. Some people who you have given your heart to and love deeply just can’t give that back to you. Maybe it’s because they don’t have it to give. Maybe they still don’t know who they are. Maybe they are just stretched too thin. Maybe they are fighting a bigger battle than you can compete with. Or maybe you just aren’t their person (Grey’s Anatomy reference). Here’s the thing: you can’t force that relationship… as much as you want it to happen, you have to let them go. As painful as it is, you have to release them.

You have to let them go so they can be. Let them be. And be kind to yourself, knowing you’ve just created more room for the right person for you. Or just room for you to breathe again and keep growing.

Often when you let something go, something that matters greatly, you get it back again. Maybe it’s time to let someone go.

And last, you focus on those people in your life who do not change with the seasons. The ones who will hold you in bed when you are exhausted and the ones who will sit down at the kitchen table after their busy day to hear about yours. The ones who let you double dip. The ones who plop down next to you while you cry or confess your deepest insecurities. The ones who you can call 24/7. The ones who look into your eyes, and without speaking, tell you they’ll love you forever.

The ones who would be crushed if you weren’t in their lives tomorrow.

So thank those people in your life today because it takes a lot of bravery to love you like that.

For an INFP like me, this lesson may be one of the hardest I ever have to learn. But the learning of it, is also the path to freedom and hopefully, on the other side of the cloud, the sun’s just waiting to shine.

Have you had to let people go? How do you show those who love you that you appreciate them?

A Tale of Three Women

Recently, I had the distinct privilege of being called upon to drive for the Saturday morning yard-saleing festivities of my Nana, Aunt Fannie, and Aunt Mary. Three sisters. The matriarchs of our family.

These sisters span very similar heights… all slightly teetering between the 4’11 and 5’0 foot mark. Born in Macdony, IL (Macedonia to those of us who are not lucky enough to have been born there) in the late 1920’s into the mid-1930’s, they have seen much that most of us haven’t seen. Their family farmed as The Great Depression swept across America in what has become known as the worst economic crisis this country has ever experienced. When most everyone was lacking something, this family cultivated as much love as they did corn, tomatoes, and beans. Each going into differing sectors of the medical community, the three sisters moved multiple times throughout their careers though each ending up living within 15 minutes of each other upon retirement. For several years now, they have made the Saturday morning yard-saleing ritual a reality. This is a very important process. One sister will scan the newspaper and stake out the sales ahead of time; they will congregate at one house to drink coffee, trade vegetables from the garden, and dictate a plan. You see, strategy is very important with this kind of thing. One must hit the correct sale in such a time that the good stuff has not been bought and the sale not been deemed “picked over.” Once the plan is made and the routes established, the car must be cleaned out of excess junk to make room for more. The supplies must be gathered. With the money bag of quarters, dimes, and pennies in tow and any close-to-expiration grocery store coupons, they set out to sale.

On this particular Saturday morning, I was awakened from blissful slumber to drive the three sisters on their weekly enterprise. After the pre-sale rituals were performed, we congregated in my car… we were off! At the first sale we came to, a Johnny Cash CD was purchased for the wallet-breaking price of 10¢. So now we were set, four women hustling down the highway through the Burning Ring of Fire to the next sale, chattering away about what store has the best deals that week or who won the award for the most achy back that day. Our plan was somewhat delayed when each sister would see something that her grandchildren absolutely needed and an early- morning call had to be made. More often than not, the grandchildren didn’t actually have to have that very specific thing that day, believe it or not. So on we went to more sales, finding more bargains, making more new friends. We grew hungry after such an eventful morning—but not to worry—McDonalds had their sausage Mcmuffins on sale. This is a particularly wonderful sale item because the top can be removed and eaten with jelly while the bottom half with the sausage can be eaten as a sandwich. I was honored to have been included in the senior coffee deal– .55 cents off always helps.

As we sat eating and laughing, I took a second to reflect… I was in the presence of 80 years of love and faithfulness. They were steadfast. These sisters had been through it all together… the very happy moments and the very painful ones. They had learned lessons that I hadn’t yet. They had seen beauty that I can only yet imagine. They had fought and cried together. They had shared each others daily woes, responsibilities, and joys. They had cooked casseroles for each other through funerals and hospital stays. They had been honest with each other. They had hurt each other. And yet, they had held each others hands through life and leaned on each other when it was just a little too hard to stand alone.

I realized that not many people understand that kind of commitment. We live in a day and age that it is very easy to give up on people who make us angry, who don’t share our views, who we are afraid of, or who we think just don’t make us happy. We hastily commit to them when the times are good and happy and easy, and we quickly abandon them when the harder times roll in. This sentiment is reflective of our society which generally discards something that isn’t pleasant, or fruitful, or immediately appealing. It’s the easier way to go, but I think it’s pretty detrimental. Detrimental to our work ethic… detrimental to our spirits… detrimental to our hearts. See, there’s something deep about sticking out that friendship, that relationship, that hard time… there’s something spiritual about not giving up on someone. There’s this connection that binds you together and helps you sleep in peace at night. It’s hard and it’s heavenly at the same time.

As we were leaving McDonalds with full bellies, a gentleman in a suburban who was backing out, almost hit me. Aunt Mary, who was in the co-pilot’s seat, addressed the man from the inside of my car, saying: “Well, mister, are you going to stop, or not?” I chuckled to myself because I knew that she had my back as she always had and always would.

Hurt

So I was listening to one of Johnny Cash’s last songs this week. I have a great amount of respect for Cash though I’m not necessarily a country music connoisseur. The song is entitled “Hurt” and here are the lyrics to the chorus.

“What have I become,
My sweetest friend,
Everyone I know,
Goes away in the end,

And you could have it all,
My empire of dirt,
I will let you down,
I will make you hurt.”

I have never listened to the song before (if you haven’t I’d recommend it with all due haste…listen to it while you are reading this) and naturally, I loved it. It seemed so heartfelt and raw. Raw was something I had been feeling… in the advent of my maternal grandfather’s sudden brain aneurysm and death in January. After the funeral, I had to immediately jump back into the whirlwind of all things graduate school and really didn’t have much time to process the “hurt” I felt… so upon hearing Cash’s song, it sank in. At the same time, I had learned of a friend who was going through a very difficult time and was bearing consequences that were not of her doing. I hurt for her… I hurt for me.

I began reflecting on relationships… people that I know now… that I have known… that I will know. It’s powerful stuff. The fact of the matter is that we will lose each other eventually. Think about people you’ve known and loved… people who are no longer a part of your life for one reason or another. That hurts. Even aches. To have loved and lost that which you loved. For me, it drives home the fact that life comes in seasons… people come into our lives for a season to teach us, to love us, to walk beside us, to change us… but part of living is that we eventually have to give them up… they “go away in the end”… eventually…they’ll make us hurt, like Johnny so eloquently conveys. And then what do you do?

You keep going. You keep loving. You let yourself be changed. They knew you, they loved you and hurt you, they are in your memory, they are in your soul. But you are in a new season now… you can’t become immobilized because of the pain of the past. You can’t shut down. You keep going, keeping your heart open to meet and love new people. This is the blessing of life… a gift of God. So as hard as it can be, you have to be grateful to have known that person and grateful for the memory that you carry.

Then, with all grace and strength… you rise.