In Need of Some Hope
In what seems to be an ongoing season of trauma and tragedy (for example, I had FIVE funerals in the past eight days), signs of hope may seem hard to come by. What could be more hopeful than deciding to start a life of commitment together?
One of my dearest friends—I was her bridesmaid, she was my matron-of-honor—is getting ready to celebrate her oldest daughter’s wedding next weekend. I have been really looking forward to making the drive to western Maine to join in the festivities, because 1) I love her daughter very much, and 2) I am a sucker for a wedding.
A few weeks ago, I called my sisterfriend to squeal “Two more weeks! Two more weeks!” By the end of the conversation, I had invited myself up to her end of the universe for the weekend to help with some of the final plans.
Then this week happened.
It seemed that every time I answered the phone, there was another person I care about gone. That wasn’t all, though. When I wasn’t out buying sympathy cards or standing on line at funeral homes, I had doctor’s appointments (three of them this week alone) for a battery of tests and procedures to root out why I am struggling in a number of areas. I keep failing tests, which is a good thing, but the not knowing what is wrong with me is getting old.
So, Friday night, when I got out of work, I was just too defeated and exhausted to make the trip. I called my friend to let her know that I would come up by lunch the next day instead. I ran some errands (like picking up “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a dog treat or two” for the bride’s German Shepherd who is serving as a bridesmaid), and went to bed early. Really early. Before 9:00 PM early.
Saturday morning, I got up later than I wanted. I was having a hard time getting out of my own way, but finally, I got out the door and started the four-hour drive north. As soon as I got into New Hampshire, I hopped off of the interstate in favor of a route that took me through winding country roads dotted by lakes and forests and quaint New England villages. That far north, the swamp maples, birches, and beeches are already starting to turn their fall colors. By the time mountains finally appeared on the horizon, I was starting to feel better.
A Spark of Light
When I pulled off the dirt road into my friend’s driveway and caught sight of her puttering in her wonderful garden, my heart fluttered in gratitude. Where I had been feeling dark and low, I was suddenly filled with light and joy.
Thanks to Covid-19, we have not seen each other in two years, but it was like we had just been together last weekend. We hugged, and giggled, and talked fast to catch up, while her husband looked on and laughed at us.
Flames of Hope Ignite
We got in her little car to get mums from the garden center. We had lunch at her local favorite (mine, too)—an old farmhouse converted into a barbecue joint/pub by a couple of hippies. The atmosphere is great and the food is wonderful. That it was “Hog Weekend” in nearby North Conway, NH meant that there was also a great show—bikers and bikes everywhere. The foursome at the table next to us were absolutely hilarious.
After lunch, we drove through potato fields and corn fields to get to a farm stand for cornstalks. You should have seen us trying to get these giant bundles into the car. It was like watching the Marx Brothers. We could not stop laughing.
The wedding is going to be at my friend’s parents’ place, a few minutes away from the farm stand. About twenty years ago, they took their rustic cabin by the lake, winterized it, and made it into their forever home. It’s all wood and quilts and books and comfortable places to sit and sunny windows and gorgeous views of forest, lake, and mountains. All of my memories of visiting there over the past thirty-five + years are good ones.
Saturday was no exception.
Healing and Anointing
We drove from the farm to the cabin to bring the cornstalks that will stand guard at the entrance to the tent opposite the arbor my friend’s husband made for his “little girl.” A simple wooden frame covered in birch boughs, that arbor will be the perfect backdrop for next week’s ceremony.
Getting the stalks out of the car was just as funny as getting them in. We were so busy looking ridiculous, that I didn’t even notice my friend’s beautiful mama until she was standing right next to me. When she realized who I was, she gave me the longest, warmest hug I have had in memory. It was like receiving a sacrament of healing.
As soon as we were done hugging, I was accosted by the cutest, friendliest, bounciest German Shepherd puppy (not to be confused with the bridesmaid German Shepherd) I’d ever met. We’re friends now.
At the sound of all the commotion, my friend’s Dad popped out of his workshop. He gave me a terse, but warm hello, before heading back to his project. He is as constant as the rising and setting of the sun. It is very reassuring. I love him dearly.
After a short visit, we headed back for the IMPORTANT business—there was a wedding gown (two of them, actually) to see, a mother-of-the-bride dress to delight in, and a garden to walk through, because, of course my dear friend grew the flowers for the centerpieces and her daughter’s bouquet.
When the thunderstorm rolled in at the end of that day, it seemed obvious that it was an anointing to seal the blessings on us.
Peace that Passes Understanding
I’ve been home a few days now, and my life is still full of sorrows, grief, and challenges. It is not as heavy a burden as it was last week, though. I still feel light. I still am joyful.
Jesus promised to give us peace, just as he promised to send us the Holy Spirit as a comforter. I guess I expected it to look like doves and tongues of fire or something astonishing. I could not be more delighted to be wrong about that. I am oh so grateful that the Holy Spirit showed up along country roads in the familiar faces of people I have long loved, as they shared with me their joy and hope in the future.
I cannot wait until NEXT Saturday!
How is the Holy Spirit showing up for you this week?