Monday, December 5, 2016

memory bottles... of grass and sunshine

On a bookshelf in our home in China is a story, the well-loved pages gifted to us when a dear family moved away.  With words and watercolor, an old man tells his life to kids who've climb into his house and found all his bottles: memory bottles, each a fragrance that spices the air when he uncaps them, a story of some time worth keeping, remembering, cherishing from his life.

I wish I could bottle up these days.  This sunshine and grass, these moments together here.  The perfect blend of introvert (private yard) and open,  still warmly accessible (extroverting with dear neighbors.)

Today we read Cameron Townsend on a huge white blanket stretched out to cover the lush carpet of lawn.  Isaiah widdled a stick til the scent inside unfurled, Marian did handstands and cartwheels til we were all dizzy watching her, John watched the birds and we all listened together, and Vivi twisted her toes toward the sky and rubbed those freshly stripped twigs to her nose.   I read aloud how he dreamed of reaching the tribes of the Amazonian jungle- the ones with no gospel witness, weeks of trekking beyond the last preached-to towns.  How his finger once landed on a verse when he had prayed for God to speak, on the words "Does not the Shepherd leave the 99 if he has lost just one sheep?  And does he not go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it and brings it home?"

Last week I read how Cam's daddy closed every one of the family devotions he led in Cam's childhood with the same words each time:  "May the knowledge of the glory of the Lord fill the earth as the waters cover the seas."  Capture us God with holy, burning affection, with yearning ambition for you.  

My womb was full for the first time when I shared this dream with my love.  Almost eleven years ago, right here in this town...  a picnic blanket laid out on the lawn, sweet baby face up to the sky, and somehow... a kite.

I realized at the end of this summer that I could get into fishing too.  Watching a kite in the clouds or waiting for a fish to bite on the line has the same sort of relax about it, I guess.  Oh the rest of being present to a job that is such a balm to the soul for the doing of it.  I can imagine the calm respite an afternoon or a quiet morning on the water must be to a fisher.

There's no kite for us these days.  But this one blanket is perfection:  woven cream and huge enough for the half dozen of us to bake on, all spread evenly in the soothing sun.  And the hole somewhere near the center where the grass pokes through, makes me glad, frayed and unraveling just like me, though my mess is bigger.  And the paint drops and the tucked away stains, all holding us together, the base of the place that's holding all these dreams and stories and sights and sounds for my memory bottle.

We've developed a high level of swing pushing skill and bravery for the heights and this tree and these chains have held up and blossomed our joy.

And it downright scares me.  And I do not know how to handle it in my heart.   Seasons change.  But come summer or winter, city or mountains, year in and year out, there's nothing like this for us in China and I don't know how to hold it in my heart.  (There are glimmers of beauty and there are refreshing spots... but there's nothing at all this whole-soul refreshing.)

Can I breathe this in and say "I need this"... just an afternoon a month of family time outside?  In ten years in China, we've never had a day outside in untrashed creation that refreshed me like just one afternoon of this.  Oh to bottle this and take it with me.  Lord, let this memory scent flood my sweet room and heart there again.

It scares me and I really don't know how to ponder all this ache and longing and pleasure-blissed contentment.  Just to receive this as a gift?  Not a need, apparently (or the Father would provide it).  Not as wages that are due me: the attitude that  Jerry Bridges wrote of "the world owes me because I'm me."  The Lord opposes such pride.  Help me not go there,  Lord.

This is grace.  Pure, undeserved gift.  Receive it joyfully, gratefully.  Bottle it up and take it with you and uncap it when you need it, these memories, this living, never-stale grace.  oh help me Father.  

So yea, I can answer my own questions with my head, but my heart's still feeling it.  Feeling all the fear of future things and the ache of leaving again (even three months before we do!), of returning, relanding in a land that's so hard for me, in a land that's so needy, the we feel so compelled to and still so little able to reach.  Feeling all the yearning for a life thats full of fruit and sweetness and songs of eternity...

And this must be what is meant of walking by faith, not seeing but trusting His word, His promise.  Lord, help me.

Do what you want with us, Lord.  Make us who you want us to be.  Use us for your glory.  

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