Psalm 85:5-6

Blessed are those whose strength is in You,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
asTea they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Travels

I've been in the car a lot in the last three days. From Bellingham to Portland, Oregon back to Bellingham over the weekend for a very quick, but very special event. E and I drove down to Portland to be part of the throng celebrating the engagement of E's very first friend. They actually met before memory, when Chels was 3 months and E was merely 3 weeks old. Chels's mom and Beve both became hall directors in dorms at Pacific Lutheran University that fall and they came complete with spouse and brand new baby. We learned all about parenting smack dab in the middle of a college campus with students running in and out of our apartment at all hours, and hall director meetings that STARTED at midnight! It was a strange time, with some obvious perks for both parents and child. Part of our 'salary,' which included tuition and a very small stipend, was room and board. Board meaning that no matter how poor we really were, we were assured of meals in the dining hall across campus. When the girls got old enough, we kept baby chairs that attached to the tables in a storage closet, and the cooks, who knew them by name, had special treats ready when they saw them coming. A whole host of students knew them by name as well. In the spring of our second year, when our son was being born, Beve's mom came to stay with E, and took her turn at pushing the red and gray stoller across the green and leafy campus. Grammie was astonished at how many students stopped to say hello to "Bethie!", and how E responded in delight when she saw her favorites coming.

And Chels lived this life with E, In the dorm just across the quad. They shared baths and toys and even clothes. There were four married couples among the hall directors who became friends beyond the job. Because of the job but beyond it. We had a fancy 'homemade' meal once a month. Went camping together, sat almost every day in the back corner of the dining room--being grown-ups among the students.  We were all together, clapping, the day E took her first steps.

These little girls were in and out of each other's lives on almost a daily basis for the first five years. Since then, though a state and interests have parted them, they fit together naturally enough whenever they have the chance. Just as I've always fit with Chels's mom, a woman very, very different from me, but someone with whom I can have deep and honest conversations, who listens and wants to grow and longs for more than what she is.

So there E and I were, among a hundred of our their closest friends Saturday night, witness to the happy couple who will join their lives in August. Chels's mom, my friend, throws the best parties in the Pacific Northwest, I think...at least that's what I was told more than a dozen times that night. It was a little out of my comfort zone, however. Too many people, too much small talk, too much libation and ...I ended up in the TV room watching football with a few older men, a couple of lesbians and E. It felt like the safest place in the house.

But we were there; sometimes showing up is what counts. Sometimes, even when people are very different than us, it's our presence that speaks volumes. These friends know who we are. They always have. They censor their language, hesitate to say certain things (though I encourage honesty, even about 'religion'), and they seem to find both E and me refreshing in our responses.  I heard M, my friend, tell one young man who was buzzing like a bee around my daughter, "She's way out of your league. She's intelligent, strong, has morals and values and faith. She's not a one night stand, or even out for the kind of relationship you could offer. So get over yourself and leave her alone." It warmed my heart to hear her so protective of my grown daughter (who can surely take care of herself), because it tells me our friends know and value who we are, what we stand for. I think they even understand WHY we stand as we do. And that, I hope, is the germinating of the seed of faith in their lives. I pray so.

Now Beve and I have driven east to be quiet for a couple of days. He's never taken time off in the middle of a school year before. But this hasn't been a normal year, and the stress is weighing too heavy on his shoulders. So we have burrowed in a quiet place for a few days, to talk and rest and debrief and find our bearings with the help of some people whom we trust very much to be something like our counselors or spiritual friends in our conversations. To listen and wade through the muddle and try to make sense of how to do better with all we have to do.

So I'm turning off this computer for the rest of the week. At least turning off this blog. I'll write again when I get home.

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