This Thanksgiving we traveled to Mom-and-Dad’s. For a few years we have been having Thanksgiving here in Vermont, and her home makes mine feel like a rustic log cabin (which it basically is). We watched How to Train a Dragon on their new flat screen TV, with those sub-sonic rumblings coming from movie-theater speakers. We felt very welcome there, and everyone outdid the next guy trying to get Grandpa Green to laugh. Hands down, he is the quirkiest, funniest one of the bunch.
On Friday morning I took some kids with me to visit their Aunt Cindy, my sister, who has come to the Lord in the past seven or so years. We have been estranged for most of our life, but now we share the love of the Lord. I have been to her house no more than three times, I think, in 25 years. The kids hardly know her, but they connected this summer at a surprise party for our Aunt Mary. Cindy was obviously surprised and interested by them then, and has kept up emails since. I am tickled; I wonder if she remembers telling me (13 years ago) not to bring them back till they were teens?
She never had kids, but boy, does she know how to entertain them! She dazzled mine. She was clever, perky, zany, delightful, frank, fascinating. I was pretty quiet; we didn’t get to visit, just the two of us, because she was focused on them, but I felt a sinking in my heart as we played table games and watched her engage my kids. I used to be funny, perky, nimble-minded; now I am slow and heavy. I coveted her clean, tidy house, and the companionship with her husband, evidenced by their daily cribbage games. My house is dusty and cluttered, and Robbo and I don’t seem to have time for fun right now. She prays big things from God and bubbles over in confident zeal.
Later, when I got a chance to process it all, I began to realize a) I carry a heavy burden that she does not. By God’s training I have become sober and careful, as I need to be. I lay down my life in order to train these children. b) I think she has the gift of faith, expecting large answers, and visionaries like this tend not to have much understanding for the place of suffering in the Christian’s life. c) My house won’t always be crowded with homeschool stuff and things I don’t have time to sort. d) Robbo and I will eventually have a new relationship in retirement. All in His time.
One thing I realized when I was with my family is I really have always been an abstract thinker among concrete do-ers. A pretty funny moment: Mom pulled out a box of cards after conversations lagged one afternoon. I think I had two kids with me at the table where I was copying recipes. She directed her first question to me: “Which is more important, to develop beliefs, or to gain knowledge?” I paused for thought, and then began. First I defined ‘beliefs’ and ‘knowledge’ and then gave my thesis, “I believe beliefs are more important.” Then I took it further, suggesting a pursuit of knowledge is best founded on knowing God. I gave support for my argument, quoting Proverbs “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge”. I took a breath to go on, but she pulled another card and turned to ask Abe something. I smiled. There I go again, talking more than anyone wants to hear. I never did fit in, in some sense, and that is all right. I love these people; they are my own. But I praise my Father for placing in my life friends and fellow-tutors who get jazzed by exploring ideas in conversation or blog.
After supper my kids stood to recite. They gave a speech by Winston Churchill, one by Calvin Coolidge, Jabberwocky, The Charge of the Light Brigade, and The Common Cormorant or Shag, and I recited Pied Beauty by Gerard Manley Hopkins. It says, in part, “…All things counter, original, spare, strange…He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change. Praise Him.”
How entirely, serendipititiously appropriate.