Sunday, December 7, 2014

In Sickness and in Health

We went to a lovely wedding this weekend and witnessed a young couple  who are madly in love commit to each other for a lifetime. When my husband and I made the same promise 31 years ago, we were in perfect health, filled with energy and the promise of a new and exciting future together.

Thankfully my husband didn’t squeeze my hand during the ceremony when they spoke the words, “In sickness, and in health.” I wouldn't have been able to contain the tears already flooding my eyes, tears from the weariness of a long season of physical challenges, most of them mysterious, some of them scary and much of them seemingly endless.
The stress issue for me in our marriage when I entered this season of suffering is knowing my circumstances are changing my husband's circumstances. My dark days envelop his days with that same gloom – and I want to protect him from the discomfort and worry.  I want to go it alone so he can remain at peace. “But when a husband loves a wife, he wants to serve you in this way,” said a dear friend recently. “He wants to join you on that journey.”
And Bill would agree. Despite the fact that this wife who once made excellent meals for a family rarely makes a meal anymore, does the laundry, cleans the house, or allows guests to come unless much help is offered, my husband never complains. I did have a dream last night that I found myself fighting with him because I asked him for a cookie and he screamed at me that he wasn’t bringing me a stinking cookie because all he does these days is wait on me hand and foot – and he was fed up! “But I just asked for a cookie,” I whined in the dream. When I woke and told him the dream, he laughed and promised he would always be willing to bring me cookies.
As if to confirm my friend’s words about his willingness to walk with me through this, Bill gave me a CD by artist Liz Longley for my birthday because he heard the song, “When You've Got Trouble,” and it reminded him of our present journey: 
Oh my heart is tangled all around you
When you've got trouble, I've got trouble too
Oh my life is arm and arm with you
When you've got trouble, I've got trouble too

You and I live like the tree and the vine
Oh my darling we're so delicately intertwined
I'll ease your pain 'cause you've eased mine

We sat at a Christmas festival last night behind a very aged but affectionate couple. The man attempted to stand a couple of times to join in the Carole singing, but needed to rest again in his seat. Maybe from pain. Maybe from weariness. The wife would look down at him, smiling warmly from time to time with a loving rub to his back. A couple times she joined him to sit and held his hand, smiling at him during many of the songs. They must’ve been in their eighties, but I saw how delicately their lives and arms still were carefully intertwined, walking late into their journey, probably more "in sickness" rather than "in health" these days. The darling couple reminded me we will all arrive there someday.
In my own life, I'm so grateful for the longevity  of a tangled up relationship, tangled sometimes with messes and stresses, but mostly tangled with love and affectionate and shared memories of laughter and unimaginable kindness and sacrifice - in sickness and in health.

As my young friends begin their honeymoon and depart on their own journey, I pray their lives will find many days of health and laughter, and that their arms remain linked and tangled together when the struggles do arrive. In sickness and in health, may life and love for them be full and never wanting.


Sunday, October 19, 2014


"Reconciliation should be accompanied by justice, otherwise it will not last. While we all hope for peace, it shouldn't be peace at any cost but peace based on principle, on justice." Corazon Aquino

It’s happened to me twice in the past year. Two times in one year when all the years before have included oh so many breaking relationships, a family strewn apart over words and hate, scattered across states and out of each other’s lives. My experience coming from a troubled family is that things broke apart more often than they came back together.

But this year, in just the past months, two times I’ve experienced the reconciliation of a broken relationship.
This is new to me. And it felt very outside of me. Both began by an internal preparation. In one case, the person was on my mind for days, and I felt such a great sense of missing her, despite not living near each other for years. Then out of nowhere, days later, her name appeared in my Facebook inbox requesting to be friends with me. Friends! Healing followed.  
And the other one was much closer to home – a broken relationship with my sister that had lasted for over a decade. But the reconciliation began with the same prompting. I couldn’t get her out of my mind, couldn’t stop feeling sad – for her and that our lives may continue on with this distance until one of us passed away. No goodbye, no forgiveness expressed, no reconciliation.
So without telling a soul, I decided to write a very simple letter saying that I have always loved her. I had no specific expectations for a return response, and I didn’t want to send the note until I knew it was traveling through the mail without any conditions attached.
My sister is seven years younger than me and basically grew up in a different home. I had a two-parent family where we had dinner together each night, however chaotic those family times turned out to be. My sister grew up with divorced or separated parents with siblings who had flown the nest. In my case, I rarely showed my face around there once I had moved out of state.
After a pretty strong disagreement over my choice to keep my unhealthy mother at a distance, my sister and I were estranged. I believe today there are legitimate reasons for relationships to break, and the break with my family was legitimate, but the estrangement did not come without great grief and a sense of loss. I have now spent over a decade learning how to allow hurt and suffering to be something that transforms us for the good rather than destroying us, learning how to not let betrayal eat at your soul. This is possible. So is forgiveness  - but sometimes from a distance. We do not have the ability to force people to love us or be faithful to us, but we do have control over how we treat them in response.
My sons spent those years with no extended family from my side. My older son married with no one from my family in attendance. He was offered the choice to invite them but declined. Occasionally a son would ask, “Do you think they ever think of me?” I don’t remember my answer at the time, but my sister has recently said, “Yes, I thought of them all the time.”

Not everyone will experience reconciliation in their broken relationships. Parents die without removing a curse of mean-spirited words. Divorces become final – and remain final. Friendships end over small and large disagreements.
And there are some relationships in our lives that should remain broken. If there isn’t going to be mutual trust, respect, and love, along with a lack of abuse, the relationship may be toxic to our health. There are certain words and behaviors which cannot be tolerated, and we can force no one to change.
But it never hurts to reach out, for what might be a final word, with an expression of love.
My childhood friend experienced the trauma of telling her father she hated him (which she did not) after the family found out about his affair. He committed suicide in their garage shortly after, and those became her last words to him. When I’ve gone to her about writing a note or expressing love to someone in a risky situation, she replied once, “Telling someone you love them is never wrong.”  
So I’ll celebrate – for hearing that still small voice that prepared me for healing – and for the willingness for all parties involved to step in and offer an olive branch of reconciliation. May we all express more love with no conditions attached. Peace to each and every one of you.

Every act of love is an act of peace, no matter how small. - Mother Teresa


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Antagonists: You Can’t Live with Them and You Can’t Write a Story without Them

My faculty mentor in my writing program wants me to turn two of my fictional characters into stronger antagonists. She feels they’re not quite causing enough trouble in their current form. The purpose of an antagonist is to prevent your main character from reaching their goal. The consensus is that all stories must have an antagonist, otherwise you have a flat story where your protagonist runs unhindered toward their goal, boring the reader to death.  In a Writer’s Digest article entitled, “Six Ways to Write Better Bad Guys,”  Laura DiSilverio makes the claim that to omit the obstacles provided by a worthy antagonist prevents your main character from having the opportunity to grow or change.

 On most real life days off the page, I have to confess I wouldn’t mind life with fewer antagonists where I easily skipped to my goal. But they often seem to appear uninvited, whether you want them or not. Writing often reflects real life, and the more I think about it, antagonists in our life do play an important role, just not always a pleasant one.   
We’ve all had them – neighbors who let their trees grow to block your vegetable garden, preventing you from growing produce to be canned and donated to the local food pantry (a benign example). There are the people who rear-end you at a stop light, but manage to convince a police officer and a judge that they are the innocent victim. The folks who have lied about you, either at work, or school, or even within your own families. Maybe they haven’t quite lied about you, but they use details out of context to manipulate opinions to their own advantage. Some antagonists try and destroy your goal of having a happy, life-long marriage by intervening with your spouse. They prevent your kids from reaching their goal of attending school without antagonism, or remaining drug free. And on and on this list goes.   I simply call these folks “difficult people,” but they are really antagonists, preventing us from reaching our goals.
Along the way though, they have something very valuable to give us. Without them, we would, indeed, remain flat, as would our lives. Think about having coffee weekly with someone whose life never changed, never had drama, never had movement or conflict or difficulty. Yawn.
Antagonists force us to look at ourselves and examine what we want, how we’re willing to get it, and what we’re prepared to do if that goal is unattainable. Sometimes the results are surprising. Many a person has spent years winding their way to a dream goal, only to look back at the route that resembled the Israelites wandering in the desert for forty years, but the roundabout journey changed them for the good and prepared them best for the work ahead.
  For example, if we look at how we respond to folks who lie about us, most would flunk the exam. We usually respond terribly to mistreatment, only learning with practice not to be threatened by these folks and to keep a proper perspective.  If we can look at these troubles as delightful messengers, sent to grow us and produce positive change within us, eventually our lives are enriched in unexpected ways, and those difficult antagonists lose all their power and momentum because you never followed their model of behavior. Isn’t it interesting to think the difficult people in our lives actually play a meaningful role?  Is there any better way to dull an antagonist’s negative impact on your life than to flip it upside down and let good come of it?
Bring on the antagonists!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Less Words, More Silence

"I have often regretted my speech, never my silence." - Xenocrates (396-314 B.C.)

 You learned later in life to utter that prayer for yourself and others, the one that pops up regularly in your mind: “Lord, give me the words - and the silences.” Where did that prayer come from? You know where it came from – all those misspoken words still regretted today. Too many times uttering the first thought to pop in your head despite not asking for God’s assistance. Too many times opening your mouth when you should’ve been listening, like the time she came to you to confide about serious marriage troubles but you turned the conversation back to yourself, your troubles. Too many times sharing your opinion, your recommendations, your suggestions, your criticisms, your ‘this is confidential’ statements, ‘this is just between us’ prefaces. Too many times uttering statements that sound to your own ears as tough love, good advice, wise counsel, needed direction when in actuality they will enter into someone else’s heart as wounds that pierce and wrap around psyches, contributing to self-doubt, returning as unwelcome accusers for days, months, or maybe even years, causing deflated sons to feel doubly bad about the poor grade, rocky relationship, inappropriate choice when they were just trying on adulthood. How about the letters written in haste that can never be retracted? Or emails? Now there’s an instant way to damage someone’s self-image – or a relationship - when silent prayer would’ve been best of all.
But in recent years, you’re learning to zip your lip. Like when someone falsely accused you, lied about you, offered betrayal in response to your friendship. You offered silence rather than defending yourself. And although you never saw healing results, you know God speaks into silence.
Other times you practiced silence and the payoff was way big. “Kenzie ran your van into a school bus” the neighbor said, coming to your house to carry you to the scene early on a September school morning. You arrived and walked past all the caring neighbors looped in a half circle around your sobbing son where they stood in silent respect. You passed the police officer writing a ticket, and the mangled bus where thankfully no one was hurt, and your totaled mini-van, the one you really, really liked. You looped your arm through your son’s arm just as the police officer came over to hand him the ticket. You said a couple of words: “It’ll be okay. No one was hurt. Nothing that can’t be fixed.” And then you joined the neighbors in respectful silence.
Or the fire? Seventeen acres they managed to burn thanks to their novice filmmaking attempts to include World War II special effects in their student film but forgetting to calculate the danger of fireworks in a drought. “We couldn’t believe how fast the trees went up in flames,” your son told you later when he still reeked of ash and smoke, after the policeman spoke gracious words to him in your driveway behind the replacement mini-van: “Don’t let this get in the way of your dreams.” After reassuring your sons they were loved and forgiven. After watching the news feeds of helicopters dumping water on the fire while residents in adjacent homes fled with pictures and important paperwork. After waking up early in the morning to a sudden downpour of rain and learning that all was still well with no loss of property, no loss of life, and smothered flames. You withheld words throughout it all. And without your assistance, God stepped in and spoke in the silence, teaching your sons a valuable lesson about grace and kindness in the face of mistakes.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Remembering Broken Fathers on Father's Day

It’s Father’s Day, and I’m watching as all the tributes to wonderful Dads fill the Facebook world. I expected them, and celebrate with my friends whose dads passed down remarkable legacies. But some of us had very broken dads, and we inherited a different kind of legacy. Part of my legacy is that, thanks to broken parents, I have learned to love broken people very well.

When we were young, my father was stable and left for work each day meticulously dressed in a business suit. At night, he would forego children’s books and instead made up vivid stories with recurring characters that he dramatically presented to us before bed. He coached Little League and joined us at the beach. He came home each night for family dinners around the kitchen table for the first seventeen years of my life – until everything fell apart. He lost one too many jobs, his marriage fell apart, and he no longer could afford a mortgage or rent. In the last years of his life, he lived out of his car.

But I will always remember who he wanted to be, and the relationship he wanted with his children. In honor of my dad who never found healing for those fractured places in his soul, I’m posting an excerpt from a longer piece I wrote and published a few years back called “Dooms of Love.” This is an actual dream I had shortly after my father’s death, filled with imagery and details from some deep, subconscious place:

I dream that night, eerily and vividly about my father.  The view outside the window is rolling hills.  He has a business that he works out of our home.  In our yard, three dogs are tied up with chain leashes and two of their leashes get caught together. One is being pulled down the hill by the other dog with the chain around his foot. There is no way to escape.  They are tied together permanently.  When one runs, the other runs.  When one falls the other falls.  They stay connected.

                Dad is working on some equipment—like farm equipment—in the living room but it’s broken.  Finally I hear him say with patient defeat, “Well, I guess it’s over. This equipment is dead and there’s nothing left I can do to keep the business going.”  He is preparing to close up shop.  Something has happened and his business will never run in the black again.  I hear him wondering what else he’ll do for a livelihood.  I look out the window at the green, lush landscape, wondering too how you make a living in this rural area.  In the dream I feel hopeful that something always can be bought or sold, a service performed, or a repair made.  He’s creative enough to find something to do.
                I go to the living room where he is packing up his equipment, defeated.  I stand before him, looking up into his face, noticing how much taller he is than me. He’s wearing a green plaid shirt buttoned all the way to the top and I like the pattern on him.      
             “Dad, it’s OK the business didn’t work.  It takes courage to start a business to begin with, and it especially takes courage to start another one after one has failed.  You’ve done well.”  His expression is familiar to me.  He wants to turn away and dismiss my encouragement as “nonsense,” but his face stops between dismissal and a hope of finding truth in my words. Was that a hint of comfort in his face?
                I wake at 4:30 in the morning going over the dream.  Some rare dreams have that feeling that you’ve really spoken to the person—like it was more than a dream. I know there was truth in those thoughts and images.  We were tied together, too, like those dogs on their chains; and when he fell, I fell. When he hurt, I hurt, too.  I’m the true product of a broken home and hurting parents, always dreaming in my most longing of dreams that I could’ve made all of his hurts go away.
             As the memory lingers, I wonder if it is ever too late to offer words of comfort to a person who has left his tormented life.  If a person is dead, where do words of encouragement go? 

Like everyone else honoring their father on Father’s Day, I loved my dad, too, despite his issues. I pray  today he knows the truth of that love and that he’s found peace. Happy Father's Day, Dad.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Book Review: Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers

I recently had the chance to sit in on a workshop called “Loving Our Neighbors and Enemies: Writing toward Reconciliation,” led by the dynamic author and speaker Leslie Leyland Fields.  Her balanced approach to addressing forgiveness within the context of broken relationships gave me an enthusiasm to read her book.

Leslie is the author of the recently released Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers from Thomas Nelson Publishers, a wonderful and inspirational book for us all, presenting stories of broken relationships between parents and their children, including her own estranged relationship from her father. Each example tells the story of someone who made the arduous journey back to a difficult parent and found relief.

Leslie is one of the fortunate ones. She has escaped the generational hold of broken parents and gone on to have a successful marriage, family and career. By all appearances, she and her siblings care deeply for each other and remain bonded together. Her whole and productive life appears to be the result of her choice to forego bitterness, anger and hatred over her father and to choose the way of peace and forgiveness. She details these learned lessons and this journey throughout the book. Co-author and clinical psychologist Dr. Jill Hubbard asks: “Have you ever wondered why certain people who have horrendous life stories appear to rise above their pain, while others with comparatively milder sorrows endlessly struggle and anguish?” Leslie is the example of someone rising above her pains.

As a Christian, she introduces the idea found in the Ten Commandments that torments anyone who, both has a broken relationship with a parent, and wants to honor God: “Honor your father and mother” Exodus 20:12. How difficult it is for many sons and daughters to honor a parent who is without honor, yet her book highlights people who achieved the task.
Leslie gives an accurate and gritty picture of what it means to forgive parents who remain broken until the end of their lives. In her own case, her father never managed to say the words she longed to hear, or become the engaged parent she and her siblings hoped for all their lives. He remained broken and their relationship remained one-sided. But Leslie walked away free, knowing she had been obedient to God in this area, that she had offered forgiveness.
Dr. Hubbard offers her own perspective at the end of each chapter. Discussion questions follow, making this an excellent book for a small group study. Dr. Hubbard’s sections are helpful – and necessary – for anyone whose estranged relationship remained estranged because she introduces the idea that not all relationships end in two-sided reconciliation. When I read stories like the ones found in Leslie’s book, I always look for the nugget that resembles my story, a story with no reconciliation, but one with the peace and the fruit of forgiveness, despite my mother’s desire to never heal what broke between us. Dr. Hubbard reminds us that reconciliation is not always possible despite achieving forgiveness to a person because reconciliation involves two people – and often, boundaries remain necessary in unhealthy relationships.  
One of the strongest challenges in the book involves Leslie’s call for us all to move beyond a selfish and individual forgiveness to forgiveness that will heal the brokenness of our world. She encourages us all to practice forgiveness beyond our families, but beginning with our families: “Clearly as a nation, within our families there is much to be forgiven. If we are to thrive as human beings, if our countries and our communities are to prosper, if our families are to flourish, we will need to learn and practice ways of forgiving those who have had the greatest impact upon us: our mothers and fathers.” 
Many people reading this book will be in tough and messy situations, but forgiveness is still a possibility - and making the attempt to reconcile is worth the effort, despite the end results.  Her challenge is a hard one, her standard high. But Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers provides a much-needed message for a culture so desperately in need of healing in our relationships.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Grateful for Youth

I’m grateful for all the youth in our lives these days. Not my youth, of course (which packed up and headed for warmer territory many years ago), but the youth of our many young friends, my sons, and their friends who all color our lives and bring a vibrancy that an aging couple can’t help but joyfully appreciate.

We just spent the long Easter weekend in Chattanooga with three of our sons, one of their roommates, our daughter-in-law, and her former college roommate. The conversations and laughter and all that energy and creative thinking inspired us and made us forget that one of us needs a set of hearing aids and the other one….well, never mind.
Our weekend began with seven hours in the car with one of our  25-year old twins, seven hours heading away from Chicago to watch the leaves slowly unfold before our eyes, ushering in springtime in the course of our travel time while we processed life and felt privileged to be invited into our son’s thoughts, questions, and celebrations. As the leaves budded on the trees and the road rose and fell until finally rising once and for all into the mountains of Tennessee, we listened to a young person’s perspective and private thoughts.
 “I have a few books on tape. Wanna put one in?” I asked several hours into our drive.
“I’d rather just talk, if that’s all right,” he answered. Of course it’s all right.  
In Tennessee, we met up with the rest of the crowd and then all of my son Kyle’s friends. Over the course of the weekend, we were welcomed into homes for delicious dinners prepared by hospitable young women, offered to us with generous plates of engaging conversations.  In Chattanooga, we enjoyed several restaurant meals with the gang, laughing uproariously over jokes and silliness, like the moment my husband mistakenly took a stranger in a coffee shop to be our son. While we all waited for our coffee orders, Bill sidled up to this young man leaning against the wall who wore the same white t-shirt and dark hair as our twins. Shoulder up against shoulder, Bill began to sing “Resurrection Fern” by Iron and Wine way too close to the young man:

And we'll undress beside the ashes of the fire
Our tender bellies are wound around in baling wire
All the more a pair of underwater pearls
Than the oak tree and its resurrection fern

Could there be a more awkward set of lyrics to whisper into the ears of a stranger?  One by one, the members of our group realized Bill’s error. Taylor’s roommate watched it unfold from his place at the counter. I stood on the stranger’s other side and thought Bill had his arm around the young man. We both noticed about the same time that this young man didn’t belong in our family and Bill scooted away, apologizing profusely. Jamison suggested our entire family gather round and put all of our arms around the stranger who by now wore a panicky little stricken smile on his face. Sometime during our hysterical laughter, he slipped away with his coffee.  
 We laugh a lot with the young people in our lives. And laughing makes me feel so rich…and so young.
The laughter also visits when we are with youthful friends in the Chicago area who join us for nights by our fireplace or nights at our favorite Thai restaurant, or for brunch, or a chat by my desk at work, or in the living room of friends where our small group meets. They remind us that aging doesn’t need to mean segregation from different generations. We still learn from all these young people – and maybe at times they even learn a little from us.

Our weekend ended much too quickly. Exhausted but contented, we headed back to the Chicago area, watching the leaves fold back into  their buds, allowing a sense of winter to return for a moment as we arrived back home to our leaf-less trees, but thankful for the chance to watch spring unfold before us once again.    

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Changing the Endings

At lunch recently a co-worker shared that growing up, her father owned a funeral home in a small Tennessee town; she and her siblings were all part of the business. They had a dark comedic side that they brought to the work, like getting a chuckle when their favorite flower arrangement arrived complete with a phone and the caption “Jesus called and so and so answered.”

My own father died a few years ago and one of the greatest griefs came in the form of an empty parking lot. The funeral home hired parking lot attendants to squeeze in all the cars as if we were showing up at a mega-church with a parking lot ministry on a Sunday morning. But at my father’s funeral, there were no more than a half dozen cars outside the funeral home. He had alienated everyone in his life, including his family.
When I look at my writing, I realize I’m a bit obsessed with funerals. They seem to appear regularly in my work. In my novel Try Again Farm, the main characters have an odd and darkly humorous hobby: they enjoy boosting the funeral attendance at the funerals of all the lonelies out there. “And there are more than you realize,” says Mabel in the story. They look up obituaries in the newspaper and recall those people who had little to no one in their life and they attend that person’s funeral. I wonder where that idea came from?
Over Christmas we went to see the movie Saving Mr. Banks, the story of Disney trying to adapt Mary Poppins to the screen, all to the dismay of PL Travers, the author of the book. Spoiler alert here:  Mrs. Travers (a pseudonym) recreated the character of Mr. Banks to represent her drunk father, but the screenplay adapters were struggling to see her vision for the story and for this important character. Ultimately, Mrs. Travers admits to wanting to redeem her father, the man she knew to be so much more than just the compilation of all his failures. I know how Mrs. Travers felt. Unconsciously, I see myself doing the same thing in my writing.
Such is the beauty of writing. Like in Saving Mr. Banks, writers can adjust reality to erase and revise what is ugly and painful. We can make the dad help fix the kite as in the movie, or we can send kind old ladies to boost the crowd in the funeral home, to honor people who often lived without honor in their lives. Such power to change the outcome of painful stories of reality and ease the world’s pain with imagination and words.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Comfort Food

 I read the blogs of friends who are in the midst of raising families and one friend who blogs (beautifully and deliciously!) about food. I recall my domestic days that seem in the distant past, those moments of making a family feel safe and loved. But now my sons have sprung, flown the coop, left the nest, hit the road, moved out on their own, and I’m left behind in the empty place.

At this vantage point, I’m asking myself the meaning of those comforting times we indulged in that were only a flash in time.  Did I help my four sons by making them feel so safe if they’re just going to move out into a world that’s unsafe? Does that make our home life seem like a mirage? What did our comfort give them? Obviously I think we gave them lots more than just comfort and food. We gave them a springboard to jump into life and the tools to do so, but what did the comfort provide? Was it too much? Did it make them soft? Did it cushion or prepare them for the blows of the world?
We’re in the midst of record cold here in the Chicago area. Hard to contemplate an area as frigid cold as Chicago having record cold, but here we are. My husband and I are stuck in the house today (not a bad thing) and I’m being domestic for once. Me who loves to cook and provide warmth and comfort to others but rarely has a chance to do so these days with work and school. But last night I put on some music and started pulling out pans. We smashed some chicken fillets until they were thin and sautéed them with mushrooms and a marsala wine sauce to be served over linguine with steamed cauliflower. We decided to forego eating off our laps in front of the news and instead I set the table and lit candles. We listened to music and discussed lyrics while eating our delicious dinner with a glass of nice red wine. How comforting.
But what is the long term value? I sound like someone who feels guilty having down time and maybe I am, but what point does comfort serve in our lives? I’m reading The Book Thief and watched Saving Private Ryan for the first time this weekend, thinking of the horrors and sacrifice of war, of other mothers' sons being sacrificed to war. In one particular scene, a wounded dying soldier calls for his mother and his last thoughts turn toward home. In a world that breeds mindsets that destroy and hate, my comfort seems besides the point.
In Eric Metaxas' wonderful biography on pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was arrested and eventually executed for an attempted plot on the life of Adolf Hitler, Metaxas tells how Bonhoeffer's comfortable upbringing often returned to him as a solace during his imprisonment. Bonhoeffer grew up in the midst of a warm, loving, musical and educated family and those moments fashioned him into a man with great strength, courage and morality. In one letter home to his parents Bonhoeffer wrote: "Spring is really coming now. You will have plenty to do in the garden. I hope that Renate's wedding preparations are going well. Here in the prison yard there is a thrush which sings beautifully in the morning and now in the evening too. One is grateful for little things, and that is surely a gain." His mind turned to beauty and thankfulness despite his surroundings. Probably his comfortable upbringings served as a resting point in his life. And is it bad to have a resting place, a stopping point, on a road to making the world more comforting for others? I can accept that idea of comfort.
We gave our sons a long resting place to grow and acclimate slowly to the climate of this world. They learned the hard lessons through school bullying, cliques, accidents, and sport defeats. But we spared them lots of messes at home. All we have to do is look around at those kids who have grown up without comfort and know that comfortable moments count for much.  And hopefully our sons learned to offer comfort to others in a broken down world.
For now, with below zero temps outside, once again I have the urge to cook – maybe some quiche, maybe some cookies. We’ll pull in, make ourselves warm with homemade ingredients fresh from the oven and the let the warmth prepare and gird us before we step outside once again to return to it all.