When I was in college, I made a trip home to help my parents celebrate their wedding anniversary. To mark the occasion, the whole family had tickets to see “Godspell” at a local dinner theater. As the ten of us gathered around a large table, a stranger who was seated nearby struck up a conversation with my father, and noted the unusually large size of our group. My father explained that all eight of the kids were his children, and that he and my mother were celebrating their twenty-fifth anniversary. The man stood, raised his glass and roared, “Twenty-five years and eight kids! God bless ya!”
It was one of those unforgettable evenings when everything was right in our little world. My parents were beaming, the food was delicious and the performance was magnificent. Even my youngest siblings behaved.
I thought about that evening this morning as I readied myself for the day. I often listen to my IPod while I put on my makeup. The IPod was my mother’s and although it’s been months since she died, I haven’t gotten around to updating the music. Today, I put in the earbuds and scrolled through music library, stopping at “Godspell.” It had been years since I’ve listened to the songs from the musical, but hearing the melody was like running into a familiar old friend.
“We plow the fields and scatter the good seed o’er the land
But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand.
He sends the snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain
The seed time and the harvest, and soft refreshing rain.
All Good gifts around us are sent from Heaven above
So thank the Lord, yes, thank the Lord for all His love…”
“Thank the Lord for all His love.” I guess I hadn’t done that in a while. So often my prayers are full of requests- wisdom, guidance, solutions to problems. I forget sometimes that a large part of prayer is thanking.
It’s been a rough summer, fraught with numberous challenges- physical, financial and emotional. As I’ve done for the past thirty-five years, I’ve prayed my way through the storms, asking God for solutions. And as always, we’ve come through the other side intact, but I feel battered and bruised. Tears lurk just behind my eyes, and although I stay busy and engaged, my heart yearns to run to a place where I can find solace. And summer-my time for regeneration, for laughter in the sun, for dancing in the waves and celebrating life- has let me down.
I spent this week on vacation, and as I often do, spent time on the beach. From my faded canvas chair, I sat alone and watched the waves swell and crash, turning from gray to green to frothy white. The seascape never remains the same. The barren landscape, carved by the relentless sea, never remains the same. I watched as an abandoned sandcastle crumble when hit by the pounding surf, and a lump caught in my throat. My sandcastle. Gone in an instant because of some unexpected wave.
“Why can’t life just stay still? Why do moments of joy so quickly dissolve into faded photographs and hazy memories?” My cries were drowned by the calling of a gull and the crashing of the sea, and I wondered if my questions would forever go unanswered.
But, as always, the answers came. Life must change. I know what would happen if the sea suddenly ceased to rise and fall. Stagnant waters would become diseased. Plants and animals would become sick and die. The movement of the seas, the changing of the landscape, and the tides of our lives must continue.
Slowly, I have come to realize that summer did not let me down. Summer changed me. Those sand castles I had built were not ever meant to stay. And the storms of this summer? Like the movement of the sea, they were to cleanse me, to move me, to keep me alive.
So today, a crisp September morning, I can say again that all gifts from God are good gifts, and the storms of summer are no exception.
“So thank the Lord, yes, thank the Lord…for all His love.”