We spent the Thanksgiving week in Nebraska. I’m not entirely sure if I’m supposed to call it “Dads House” or if I can still call it my parent’s house. Neither one feels quite right. We didn’t spend the week sad as much as we were thoughtfully pensive. It was a week devoted to going through my moms things, organizing, and cleaning those forgotten parts of the house where my mom hadn’t been in for a long time. (she wasn’t able to climb the stairs for years)
My mom was somewhat of a pack rat. To be completely honest she was more like a colony of pack rats. She didn’t necessarily achieve the medical definition of hoarding, but was certainly perched precariously right on the edge of it. She saved pretty much everything. It was almost like she had this primal urge to take the most mundane of daily things and scurry off to bury them somewhere in the house.
The downside of this was that she had newspapers from 1973 and TV guides from the 80s. The upside is that we still had her original passport from when she was 13 and report cards from my grade school years. We would find bottles of medicine from 1985 and wonder why, and we would find the baptism certificate from when she was 3 and wonder why not.
This all took place in an attic like upstairs of an almost 140 year old house with the kind of dust and disrepair that you might imagine in a structure that in 1870 housed an Evangelical congregation. (we know this because my dad found the title deed and paperwork for the house that started in 1870 containing the presidential seal of Ulysses Simpson Grant)
I held in my hands letters and cards that my parents traded when he was in the army in Germany and she was in Superior, NE wondering if they would actually have a relationship when he got back. Cards that were written against the backdrop of a nation embroiled in the Cuban Missile Crisis and Civil Rights marches, but you’d never know it from the tone of the letters. This was a young couple in love and as usual, young love seems to drown out the background noise. They were the kind of letters that convey the “haven’t heard from you in a while” and “can’t wait till you’re in my arms again” sentiments. Maybe love doesn’t drown out the background noise as much as serve as a filter that allows us to focus on what really matters.
There were pictures; lots of pictures. Pictures of people that I had no idea who were, but clearly fit a piece of my moms life at some point but had since faded into memories. I wondered if somewhere in some other attic in America there were pictures of my mom. Surely there were.
There were pictures of folks who still played a large part of her life but whose faces had changed in the way that only time can do. Fascinatingly, my grand mother who is in her mid eighties and in the final stages of Alzheimer’s remembered many of their names even though she couldn’t remember mine and thought I still lived in California. I have never lived in CA.
There were pictures of my mom as well. She was young, thin, and I feel kind of weird saying this but kind of hot in that 1960’s short hair short skirt Austin Powers kind of way. Like most sons I had never seen my mom in this light mostly because, well that’s gross.
But standing there looking at the pictures though, I found myself wanting to know everything about her. I wanted to ask her so many questions about the people in the pictures, what she was thinking at the time, did her Dad want her to wear a longer skirt, etc. Those are all questions that will have to wait for now.
I found myself looking at her chair that she sat in that was empty, her seat in my dads car that I now rode in, and mostly the empty spot beside my dad where ever he went that was filled by her for the past 43 years. Seeing him without her beside him was definitely the most difficult part of the trip. I guess I never really saw them as individuals as much as a pair. Perhaps that’s what Paul calls the “mystery” of marriage. The two shall become one.
When we went to the cemetery to visit her grave I was really not sure what to expect. We went at night (which wasn’t nearly as creepy as I thought it would be) because my dad had installed lights. They were solar powered and he was quite proud of them. This of course begged the question of why you need to have lights in a cemetery since no one in their right mind goes there at night, but as we crested the hill coming down to Bostwick, NE I saw the purpose. It was almost beautiful.
SIDEBAR: Among my moms collections were her collection of all things cow. Cow potholders, cow banks, cow statues, cow butter plate, and heck even a cow CD case. Imagine my surprise when we pulled up in the darkness, and found a cow that had gotten loose grazing right beside her grave. The cow was just as surprised as we were and scurried off into the night.
It got me thinking about how a life is measured. When I’m gone is what I have left just a box of pictures and documentation that proved I was here? She’s not in her chair, not beside my dad, she’s not here anymore. What proof is there that she ever existed? I don’t think that in Gods eyes the proof of her existence was in the pictures I was holding as much as it was the person that was holding them.
It’s not in the pictures but in the stories behind them, the impacted lives represented in them. She had poured herself into her family and all of the investments that she had made were now living on in those of us who came in contact with her. There wasn’t a single thing that I was holding that she could have taken with her. Me on the other hand, I am definitely going where she is.
And not only does she take me with her, but in a sort of God like multi level marketing strategy, all of the lives that I impact will be counted unto her as well. It’s fun to imagine some sort of party where those in her spiritual lineage will all meet up in heaven; most of whom she has never met this side of heaven.
We use the word “spending” when referring to how we use our time. I believe this is an appropriate word because time is a commodity that we have a limited amount of in much the same way money is. My only real currency in this life is time. How I spend each minute investing not only in the world I exist but investing in my ultimate “retirement” in the Kingdom of God.
We have the chance to not only spend our time, but invest it. I have a finite amount of time here on this earth. Ephesians 5:16 says that I should “redeem” time. Redeem is an accounting term. It’s financial in nature. When I redeem a coupon or gift card I hand it in and get something in exchange for it. That’s the picture that Paul is painting with redeeming the time.
Following that logic…
Well I’ll follow it in the next blog.
Until then, I look forward to seeing you at Conduit Monday night. I missed you all last week, and look forward to diving back into our journey through Exodus. Last time we talked about the idea of “what’s in your hand”. This week we’ll dive into Chapter 5 and see what the Lord would say to us there.
Monday night. 7:30pm at Journey Church in Building 8 at the Factory.
http://www.darrentyler.podomatic.com (join the podcast)
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