Train up

May is for mother’s and graduations, seedlings and birds frantically feeding and nesting, all things pointing to life.

Train up a child…
Proverbs 22:6

And yet for many, in the midst of emerging, emerald green foliage is the heavy weight of ambivalence. For many the life changes and celebrations just plain hurt.

As an empty nester, the sting of mama-release was worst when our oldest graduated high school. The transition from having him home to not home felt awkward at best. The happy orbit I’d been traveling around him for 18 years was suddenly off track, and I felt it bone deep in the echo of his empty bedroom, in the Saturdays void of his athletic events, in the favorite snacks I reached for at the grocery, then set back on the shelf realizing they’d go uneaten. 

Back then, a mother of one of his friends scolded me for my grief. “He’s doing what he’s supposed to do. Sheesh.” 

Sheesh, indeed. 

I wish I would’ve known then what I know now–and told her so–that grieving a massive life shift is quite all right to do. 

The Lord is near to the broken-hearted…
Psalm 34:18

We’ve been studying the parable of the seeds and the sower in depth at church the last few weeks, and the garden-lover that I am has been reveling in the new, living-word perspectives. 

One thing I’ve been thinking about as I have been starting  seedlings and edging garden beds and cutting back weeds is that seeds only break open in darkness.

This past weekend I pressed papery seeds into peat-filled starters, and I envisioned the zinnias I will some day be able to snip and enjoy in a Ball jar vase. But as I folded the soil over the seeds, I thought about how impossible that day seemed. Could sunshine, water, and soil really grow up to be the same vivid plant in the photo on the seed packet? 

Did I give my boy enough sunshine?

Should I have given my girl more fertilizer?

What if he was a shade plant I forced to be in the sun?

What if she was a succulent I watered too much?

Will the sun ever lift my tender heart-leaves above the black soil of my past?

More than that, how many times have I felt like a seed, tiny and lifeless, buried in a cold, dark, lonely place? 

How many times has the watering word of God, the light of Jesus, and the soil of the Spirit worked together to bring beautiful things to the surface, things that bloom into blessings? 

He who has begun a good work in you will complete it…
Phil 1:6

May is for celebrating, even if the seeds we planted in our children don’t seem to be stirring, even if the chaff of our own painful childhoods feel wasted, even if the prospect of soon-empty bedrooms causes an ache in your heart-roots, even if your family tree looks more like a weeping willow that’s lost too many branches.

Whatever season you find yourself in, whether you have a graduate, are a mama, are facing another broken holiday, or are basking in the full sun of celebration, know this: May is for celebrating, because we follow a farmer-God who plants with purpose, who waits to harvest so not one will be lost, who wept blood-tears in a garden to save us all.

*****

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.”
John 12:24-25 TMV

A tale of two cities: a nurse in the midst of COVID

It was the best of times…

…buds on trees and people walking their dogs and riding their bikes and setting groceries on the stoops of shut ins and dads playing with their kids on front lawns on sunny spring days and seamstresses sewing masks and the camaraderie of nurses and doctors and RTs and PTs and OTs and techs and social workers, best of friends bracing for all we trained and live for. 

It was the worst of times…

…numbers tripling, front lines failing, ventilator rationing, health care workers dying, jobs disappearing, shelves emptying, spirits falling, and ice rinks converting to morgues.

It was the age of wisdom…

…people listening to experts, families staying at home and washing hands and honoring others and nodding at each other from across the street in the name of humaneness and humanity as scientists hunch over lab tables and doctors trial hope and administrators shuffle beds and recycle masks and try to do no harm to their very own.

It was the age of foolishness…

…sacrificing loved ones in the name of beaches and bikinis and sex and selfishness and helplessness and saying efforts are exaggerated and overblown and it’s all a farce and all partisan and parties like 1999 with utter disregard for life.

It was the epoch of belief…

…that a Sovereign is bigger than a disease, that a Savior is in the midst of our feverish terror, that waters recede and oceans part and stones eventually roll away.

It was the epoch of incredulity…

…that our invincible selves and invincible lives and invincible stocks and bank accounts and high falutin’ stuff means absolutely nothing after all in the face of an invisible monster.

It was the season of Light…

…candles still burning on birthday cakes, stars all the brighter in still, cool nights, porch lights beacons testifying to resilience surviving behind closed doors.

It was the season of Darkness…

…masks unable to hide the wide-eyed dread health care workers feel facing patient after patient gasping for air, lungs filling with fluid, kidneys failing, hearts clinging to life, praying for miracles, all the while praying they aren’t the next ones to get the virus and end up being the ones who are turned and cleaned and suctioned and assessed and treated in vain.

It was the spring of hope…

…daffodils blooming and hyacinths cheering on the arrival of green and growing life, nature blissful in ignorance and all the while eager in its pursuit of tomorrow. 

It was the winter of despair…

…nurses wearing trash bags and patients draped and dying and families watching from screens, only watching, via (face)time as their mothers and brothers and fathers and daughters lives slip away, alone, behind impermeable (im)personal protective equipment, no one to touch them, no one to hold them, no one to tell them it’s okay to go, the rest of us will carry on. Alone. But for the nurses. Who help them leave. 

We had everything before us…

…weddings and tournaments, graduations and bar mitzvahs, play dates and class projects and concerts, baptisms and golden anniversaries and last trips to the beach, and new jobs and new homes and all the reasons to live as though the world would never end.

We had nothing before us…

…no end in sight, no cures, no answers, no end to the rising numbers of patients, no slowing of fibrillating Wall Street and rising unemployment, no toilet paper, no rice, no bread, no break.

We were all going direct to Heaven…

…at least we hoped so, the ones who lay in ICUs with unwanted tubes breathing for them, and unwanted machines replacing their kidneys, and nurses and doctors and aides and hospital workers not quitting because we don’t quit and won’t quit and we never, ever quit.

We were all going direct the other way…

…the ones who blame and shame and hoard and elbow through restrictions because they deserve to and don’t care and don’t try to understand this is not a hoax even though it feels like a great big huge one, and even though we want more than anything, in the middle of the night, to wake up and be able to laugh at what a ridiculous nightmare, what a strange and ludicrous joke the brain is playing on us because this can’t possibly be real. 

Can it?

 

*Lines in bold from the first paragraph of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities

blessed

let it not be

thought that from the damage done

in youth rises the irreversible melancholy of despair

for the Lord is my rock

and my salvation

blessed is he who comes

and many are the angels who encamp

around the innocent who live

on and beyond the hard,

always toward the goal

of

peace