Trust, Love & Ice Missiles

 

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Race Point Beach

I spent last weekend on Cape Cod enjoying my annual pilgrimage to solitude and sanity. I had hoped to leave everything behind but alas, life conspired against me and I ended up bringing homework with me. As it turned out, that was precisely the way it was meant to be. Uninterrupted, I read voraciously, finishing one novel, reading another cover to cover, re-reading half of Eve and dabbling in some rather basic Lutheran theology. New England weather was at its finest with everything from 50-degree temperatures and blue skies to wicked snow and 50 mph winds. In short, this was heaven!

Two rainy mornings left me with some time to reflect on what I learned about trust during Holy Week. Being a student is an escape for me. It’s so easy for me to examine trust as an abstract thing. I look for proof or evidence to make an argument for the existence of trust. I can see it in others but what I miss is that I’m also already in the midst of a trusting relationship. How else would I be where I am right now?  On top of being physically able to be in school, through every assignment, every 5 a.m. paper, every registration decision, I have been led and guided all along the way. Deep down, if I let myself feel, I know that. But there’s always that lingering fear of being abandoned. Maybe that goes away. Maybe it never does. Maybe trust is hanging on in spite of that fear. One thing I’ve come to understand: trust isn’t an abstract. It’s a gut feeling and it comes only with experience. God hasn’t left me yet so I’ll take the next step and see what happens.

Those same two rainy mornings left me the time I needed to finish a paper on relationships and love. Ah yes, love, another gut feeling that  I prefer to hold at a safe distance. ‘Love bites’ was clearly not going to be a great starting point so I had allow myself a less jaded approach. What is love?  Digging past all sappy romantic notions, love is seeking the good of the other and a willingness to hold open space for the other to grow, to be and to become who they are. After all, isn’t that very simply what God does for me? God works for my good and allows me the open space that I need to be who I am, even when who I am is deeply flawed. I have been given the open space I need to grow, to fail, to explore, to be and to become. That same space has allowed me to accept love or to hide from it, to trust or to go it alone. No matter what I choose, that space is always open for me.

Typically, I spend my Sundays at the Cape on Race Point Beach but this time I had planned to spend Sunday morning at church. A little church dating sounded like a good idea. I combed through Google and social media and found a little Lutheran church about fifteen minutes from me. Instead, my last full day dawned to rain which quickly turned to sleet then to snow. 50 mph winds whipped snow into blinding curtains and kicked up whitecaps in the inlet outside my window. Driving would have been a very bad idea. By noon, there were a few inches on fresh and melting snow on the ground and the skies cleared to deep, clear blue. Church hadn’t happened but Race Point still called my name.

I found the driver’s side of my car completely clean. The passenger side was encased in ice and snow. That should have been a clue. But I was so thrilled to be headed to my happy place, knowing the storm would have whipped up the surf and the winds would be wild that I cleared the car without even thinking. I queued up an hour of good music and started driving. I drove the first few miles admiring the snow on the trees and the blue skies. I made it about three miles before the ice missile hit my windshield and scared me half to death. That wasn’t snow on the trees. It was ice. Big, heavy chunks of ice. For the rest of the hour drive I dodged raining ice missiles of death. The closer I got to Provincetown, the more deserted the road became. It left me to wonder if perhaps other people knew something I didn’t. The wind started to really shake my car and I considered turning back but my gut feeling was to keep going.

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Snow Squall, Race Point Beach

The parking lot was empty. It took both hands to push the car door open enough to get out. The roar of the wind matched the roar of the ocean. It was worth every second of the hair-raising drive. I walked up to the edge of the surf feeling so completely alive. The blues in the sky and in the water were beyond description. Then I turned around saw the curtain of black cloud coming straight at me. I got caught in a snow squall walking back to the car. I was truly in my glory.

But on the drive back, I noticed something. The shady, leeward sides of the trees were still covered in ice. Unless the sun and the wind could reach, they would stay that way. About eight years ago in the confessional I was told that my penance was to stand outside with my face tipped up to the sun and to let that warmth soak in until it melted all that was still frozen inside me. Most of that thaw been a long, slow process. But during my time on the Cape, something worked loose. Some ice missile of death was blown harmlessly to the ground and shattered. What I keep hidden in the shadows will never thaw. Pulling those pieces into the light and then letting go takes trust and the open space that only love can give. I have both.

Hush

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Sandy Hook. A year later. Is that really all it’s been? One year? It feels like so much longer and yet… somehow it still feels like yesterday. My heart still skips a beat to see a police car outside either of my sons’ schools. Used to be a police car at a school meant a rather vague safety talk about not taking candy from strangers and maybe a chance to sit in the officer’s car. Now they’re there watching, on guard against nameless, faceless potential threats. Both boys have had real lockdown situations at their schools and while I find it unnerving, they take it in stride. That makes me want to scream, ‘No! No! No! This is NOT normal!’

A year has passed and I still have nightmares now and then. I skip past the month of December when I flip back through last year’s journal. It will be a very long time before I can look at some of those entries. Last year’s Christmas letter, which I was writing when the news broke, still sits unfinished, the half-formed thoughts that had been coming into focus remain scattered. The blog post I wrote in January still holds true. I find myself still very much out of answers. There is no undoing the horrible evil that was done that day. So the best I can do is to hug my kids tighter, to be quicker to tell them I love them, to do more of the silly little things that we love to do and to laugh as much as we can at the craziness life throws at us. Very simply, to bring as much good to the ones around me as I can and teach my kids to do the same.

The boys are at their father’s house for the weekend, leaving me time and quiet to reflect on this past year. There’s a new playground within sight of my backyard now, bright flamingo pink and dedicated to teacher Vicki Soto. I heard the chorus singing ‘Feliz Navidad’ when it was dedicated back in June. I could only stand and cry while over all of it a plane circled overhead pulling a banner that read: Live. Love. Laugh.

What else can we do?

I went there this morning at 9:30. It’s the first time I’ve gone to the park since the new playground was built. It’s cold today and the snow is falling. Three little pine trees have been decorated with pink and purple Christmas ornaments. I took photos but I found I couldn’t set foot beyond the paths that marked the edge of the playground. It was so perfect, so still, and somehow, I knew, it was not to be disturbed. Even the birds and squirrels, who are usually quite busy in that park, had chosen to be still. The few inches of snow covered the playground in a blanket of white and with more snow falling, there was an absolute hush in this place with the sign that reads: Where Angels Play.

As I walked back up the hill to my car, I saw a painted star nailed to one of the trees. It read simply: HOPE.

What further answer could I need?

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