love, recorded

He met me at the front door of the restaurant with the familiar, lopsided smile. He took his hands out of his Wranglers to wrap me in a hug before walking to the booth he’d picked out. I sat down and slid across the bench and he cut me off mid-sentence (because I’d been talking since I spotted him), “Oh, wait… don’t say anything yet.”

Confused, I watched as he pulled out an old Sony recorder and placed it in the center of the table. He motioned for me to wait as he pushed the record button and watched for the red light to appear. “Okay, now you can talk. But, don’t lean in … just talk normal and it’ll pick you up.”

A smile leaped across my face as I realized, “Oh! This is for Grandma!”

“Not so loud, it’ll record just at a normal volume. Now, let’s check and make sure.” His bronzed, carpenter-ruddy hands fumbled with the buttons as he looked down through bifocals with lips turned down in concentration. He rewinded, played and, sure enough, my voice came over the little speaker.

My sister and brother joined us shortly after and our lunch conversation filled with laughter thrown over shoulders (the Nichols children are famously loud laughers) and silent gestures to quiet the noise from utensils. The taste of joy was almost as delicious as the homegrown, Iowan food (have you ever had beef brisket on top of a bed of fresh lettuce, topped with bacon and cheddar?). Every so very often, I would watch my grandpa’s eyes wander back to that little light to make sure it was recording. (Later, my grandma made sure we knew that she would have much preferred our company to the can of soup and a day of church meetings).

My grandparents have always been the same age in my mind. When my grandma recently offered to clarify, I said I’d rather not know exactly. Sometimes, if I focus hard on their wrinkles, I can see they’ve deepened and grown in number. But most times, I am too focused on their eyes to notice how they wear their age in wrinkles.  Most times, we’re usually too caught up my grandpa’s “school bus stories” or my grandma’s detailed description of delivered baked goods and church meetings. I have never looked forward to “retirement” because my grandparents opted instead for a busy work/volunteer schedule that makes “not working” seem so boring.

Grandpa drives a school bus and his days are packed full of stories. He studies those kids in the mirror above the steering wheel and watches the little ones as they scamper up to the front doors of houses in rural Iowa. Every once in a while, he has to stop the bus to face a bully or, like the other day, to tell the little 4th grade girl, “No, we can’t turn around to rescue the little worm you found by the bus stop. You’ll find another one, I promise.”

One story I’ll never tire of telling is the love my grandparents have for each other. Simple, solid love that refuses to be complicated. Over coffee with my grandpa this past week, he told me about Grandma’s shortness of breath and trouble sleeping. I noticed the worry wrinkles as he talked about fluid in her lungs, the tenderness as he cleared his throat and fidgeted with the coffee cup. The next day my grandma was in the hospital and the diagnosis is official: congestive heart disease.

It means a lot of things – no salt, limited water, and heavy monitoring, but it doesn’t mean less joy. I can’t deny the days as they pass; can’t refuse that my grandparents have bodies that age. I can know that every physical breath is dependent on the Lord’s sovereign, steady hold.

We mustn’t fear the body’s weakness because we know the Maker’s strength.
We mustn’t fear what we see because the know the power in what we don’t.
We mustn’t fear age because we know what is timeless.
We mustn’t fear today because we know the Lord governs tomorrow.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

human eyes; heaven sight

This morning the ice clung to brown, lifeless branches.
And we are all dying.

This past weekend my mom sent an email my aunt wrote about my grandpa’s graceful, shuffling steps into this strange season of life. I’ve re-read these words so many times – grateful for the way they hug my soul. I know my dad and his seven siblings feel the weight of love and the weight of age in this man in a way I cannot, but as I read my aunt’s words my eyes were wet with something new.

She wrote,

Dad’s prayers were so personal and full of thanksgiving to His Savior, especially mentioned was the gift of Eternity and his family.  He didn’t want to walk this road, but it’s here, and he is going to walk it with grace and dignity to the best of his ability, and with his Savior’s and his family’s help.

Our bodies fail. They fall apart.
And we shuffle where we once skipped.
We shake where we once snapped with the energy of youth. We age.
Our eyes grow dim and our ears faint. Mortals.

But the stiffness of his joints has not crept to his heart.

Eternity looks just as glorious on the horizon with shuffled steps as it does with skips.
The promise of salvation is as bright with eyes of age as it is with the eyes of youth.

And with every sunset, one can turn to face the rest of the sky and see a glorious reflection. All the mysterious hues that explode before night falls, chasing after the golden orb, light up the rest of the blue expanse and color the clouds.

I’m witnessing this reflection as I watch my grandpa – human eyes with heaven sight.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.                                                    2 Corinthians 4:18

There is no way around it – we have human eyes confined to human bodies and human limits. But our sight – oh, our sight – is able to see clear through to heaven.

As Grandpa fixes his eyes on the unseen, we are blessed to watch the sky light up with the glory of his heavenly pursuit.

The ice will melt and the trees will bloom.
Let the winter come, for it is the only path to Spring.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy
with human eyes and heaven sight