September 9: “Sweetheart. You know that North Carolina is south of Virginia. Just write it down. Please??” But no, my fourth grader would much rather research the size of Virginia in 1783. And I was kind of interested in that too.
Swift fingers on his school laptop told us that states we now know as Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and parts of Minnesota (in addition to Kentucky and West Virginia) had once flown Virginia’s flag. Swelling with Old Dominion pride, my fourth grader protested Virginia’s geographical drop-off. But I think, after we discussed the complexity in 1783 of governing (or even cohering) such a large frontier without roads or regular mail service, he relented — and, eventually, completed that darn worksheet.
Bonus: My iPhone reminded me that four years ago this week, I visited Hanoi, Vietnam (one of my new favorite cities). I will sprinkle a few photos here in celebration.
September 10: Kevin joined me tonight to watch the English-language version of Swept Away. (And Jeremiah delayed his evening plans until he could hear brave, insistent Chihiro chirping Jeremiah’s favorite line, “Please, I want to work, please.”) I could watch this film again and again, and see something new.
My new favorite moment: Addressing the bewitched harpy and spoiled baby, Zeniba says,“But my spell wore off hours ago; don’t you want to return to the way you were?” The mouse (= baby) and the tiny bird (= harpy) shake their heads in horror and resume spinning thread.
September 11: (It’s hard to type those words.)
Freshly commissioned Spiritual Growth Leaders. A nearly full sanctuary. Platters of egg casserole and fruit salad. Noisy table talk. These indeed proclaimed “Welcome Home” at church today.
During our celebratory brunch, my friend Katharine nudged me to rise during the blessing of teachers and students. (Fourth-grade teacher Shelly later said she would have shouted my name had I not claimed my place.) Nine-year old Avery happily joined me to discuss 18th century transportation and communication — and offered to dye my hair blue. Martin stopped by to say hello — and delightedly accepted Avery’s slice of cake when she heard him wonder aloud how to get one. And I’ve found a new chance for community service and a bit more spiritual growth.
Among all these blessings, I think, the best part was being in the same room — at the same table — in the same embrace — of church family. Maybe deciding where to be on Sunday morning has just gotten much easier.
September 12: I floated on my back in about three feet of water, admiring my Sangria-colored toenails. (Shade: “I’m Not Really a Waitress.” Actually I was, once, but that’s another story.) Waves tripped on the distant sandbar and, at 20-second intervals, dispatched low burbles of whitewater toward my head. My choices: drop down and let the foam rumble over me? or do a half-pike twist and dive? Or just let it hit me? All of the above, over and over again, because I think that’s what a mermaid would do.
September 13: Looking back, the joys of my old job fan out like a peacock’s tail, and today I held one of its feathers.
I spent more than an hour this morning talking with a law professor who wanted to chat about his new research project. I gave him a few insights and suggestions. In return, he prompted memories of some of the best parts of my old job. Please, I said, call back anytime. And I meant it.
September 14: I pulled my headphones out of my ears: my book was good, but the sunrise was better. I stood on the beach just in time to catch the sun’s gaudy cloud-shimmering pre-glow. Here in Bethany Beach, on the first morning of a 55+ Adult Retreat, I watched quiet people, camera people, walking people and laughing people.
Nine Mennonite girls, their caps fastened against the breeze and their skirts teasing the surf, posed joyfully for a sunrise photo. Behind them, a man knelt on his paddle board and pushed through the waves, followed by a large dog. The man crossed a shimmer of sunrise while the dog, cresting a small wave, veered first toward a sleeping pelican, then toward the man. Standing now, the man shifted his position on the paddle board and the dog scrambled up. Off they went on this lake-smooth surface, a dot on the sea, a friend of the pelicans.
September 15: I’ve started paying attention to what scares me: bicycles, third-graders, disappointed expectations. And I’m coaching myself to notice the times I meet my fears and shake hands. I got on that bike. I taught that class. I agreed to lead that 55+ Adult Retreat.
As you know, an angel sprinkled my bike ride (and knee) with stardust. Third graders are hilarious. And that retreat?
Five weeks ago, I agreed to direct a church retreat for older adults who knew each other but not me. Tomorrow, at Bethany Beach, I will say goodbye to these strangers with hugs and maybe tears.
I guess I say yes to these new things because I’ve discovered over the years that people (even third graders) are extraordinarily kind to me if I give them the chance. New retreat leader? No problem; we’ll coach you. Shared leadership? We’re glad you invited us in. You forgot to lead worship three days in a row? Hey, we’re at the beach and besides it’s all worship if you look at it the right way.
If I could share a beer with my younger self, I’d encourage her to take more chances. Grace abounds; fling your arms wide and welcome it in.
Bonus: Gazing at that sunrise photo, I realized that all those clouds amplify the glory of the sunrise. Maybe I need that preliminary fear (or at least nervousness) in order to shine.
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