It's always a little like pulling a card out of a deck to discover who will cross my path while I'm in this part of the country (the above photo of Pullman set among the golden wheat was taken by my older brother during harvest two years ago). Besides my family, I'm always bound to run into (or have purposeful meals with) people with whom I have strong ties, deep love and long history. This trip has been no different.
Yesterday I had lunch with a couple who shared Christmases and summer vacations with Beve's family. LMc was Beve's mother's closest friend from the time the whole giant family first moved to Pullman and they were both in the "New Faculty Wives Club". I always think of her as LMc because that's how she signs the bottom of the beautiful ceramic pots which grace many shelves not only in her home, but our home as well. Because she first met our children when they were in their Grammie's arms, she still calls them by the names Grammie (Beve's mom) called them: Bethie, Jonson, and Steffie. When I hear her say their names it takes me back to the voice of her best friend speaking to them as she held them in her large hands.
We had a lovely lunch together at the table on plates she'd 'thrown' and fired in her own kiln, ate bread made from whole wheat she was instrumental in seeing made from the ground up, and talked of where life has brought us recently. She and her husband are just inches away from family to Beve and his siblings, related in every way but blood. They leaned forward in their chairs and listened intently when I told them how Grampie's doing, how we're doing with Grampie--with all that we have to do--and by the time I finished answering their questions, we were all wiping tears from our eyes, even K, the steely-eyed Chemistry professor, who sat across the table from me and never seems to deal in anything but facts.
The Mc-s (as I'll call them here) have long thought that Beve and I have something of a charmed life. They told me that yesterday. L spoke of how easy things have gone for us, how well we do with whatever comes our way. "Well," I said. "Easy probably isn't the word for how life is anymore." It made me laugh to think how far from 'easy' we're living now. I can't even remember what 'easy' looked like.
But then, I'm not sure I want to. That's the truth. I don't know that I want the 'easy' life, anymore than I want a merely 'happy' life. I want a deep and interesting and content one, of course. And a life that draws me to Christ. I told these old friends of Beve's family that. I told them the words I said many times before--that being 'happy' should never be the goal, because what if (and this is, of course, the unfortunate reality for some) it's excess drinking that makes a person 'happy' (or a facsimile there of)? Or what if it's excess wealth or power or...or whatever the world thinks matters? Happiness, I think, is a worldly virtue, not a heavenly one. No, I don't want it. Not for me and not for my beloveds. They nodded, as if they understood. I hope they did.
What I want was made clear as the face I stared at today at a little cafe, when I ran into an old friend. I surprised her more than she did me, since I'd heard her name spoken just before our encounter so went looking for her. Within just a few moments, our conversation turned deep and gritty to where we both live right now. It isn't always pretty--in fact, it's so far from pretty it's a wonder we're still able to just sit quietly in a cafe and talk about it. But that we could sit there, that we can stand and put one foot in front of the other, day after day after day, is because we believe--no, we KNOW--that Christ will be revealed in our present lives and in our lives to come. What that means doesn't always come in such a transitory thing as 'happiness' but it comes. Sometimes it comes beside the closed door of a child we're praying for, sometimes it comes beside other kinds of closed doors. But still we pray. Still we stand in hope and trust, and firm belief that CHRIST IS and HE will be glorified. We don't know how He will work, and, as I told her, we will probably be surprised when His answer--'beyond all that we ask or imagine'--also comes in a form we do not expect. But He will answer. He will work on our behalves. In the rocky places in each of our lives--hers, mine, YOURS as well, no matter what the circumstances in which you live this day.
Along with the wonderful conversations I have with my sister, nieces, and other family members, it's for these less expected encounters that I most relish returning to my hometown. I discover Christ here. Working in ways that bless and challenge me. Press me to prayer and move me to praise.