God is glorified in our love for one another

She wandered in to the kitchen, shrugged her shoulders and said, “What can I do?”

Twenty years of provision fell heavy on my heart and I brimmed with thanksgiving. My grandma, who had hosted countless Easter gatherings at her home and provided the homemade bread and deviled eggs for too many Easter gatherings at my parents’ to count. Her knobby fingers have kneaded more dough and cleared more dining room tables than mine can dream about.

And she wandered into my little kitchen after our ragamuffin Easter dinner to offer her help. But, not just to wash the dishes and de-bone the chicken… because as we scrubbed the carmelized onions out of the bottom of the stew pot, she asked how she could pray for me. We chatted about how to make the best beef stew from roast leftovers and about how to make creative meals out of de-boned lemon sage chicken. And she said she was praying about my job constantly. She put her hand on my arm and looked at me with a steady gaze and assured me she was praying.

This was the first Easter my sister and I hosted at our humble rental home in our little Des Moines neighborhood. We invited our neighbors, our grandparents, and a few friends. We conquered Lemon Sage Chicken and Chuck Roast Dinner with (surprisingly) very few catastrophes or disastrous substitutions. The sunshine started early and was still proclaiming resurrection joy when we arrived at our house after church.

I’ll admit, no amount of Febreze in any scent can compare to a house with a roast in the oven. The smell was coming out the windows when I invited my grandparents inside, where they spread out the deviled eggs and fresh baked french loaf. Just before our celebration began, our neighbor Louie came over to bring a jello salad and his regrets that he wouldn’t be able to make it with his wife. We made plans to have them over for dinner soon (and vice versa) and I introduced Louie to my Grandpa.

Our guests around the table ranged in age from 15 to 80, but the laughter was all the same level after my Grandpa said grace. We enjoyed elderberry jelly and lemon-buttery potatoes and conversation and laughter. We enjoyed it all and we enjoyed each other and our laughter lingered long after enjoying my Gram’s puff pastry dessert with coffee.

But, it was that moment when my Grandma wandered into the kitchen to offer her help (and more than just her help), that I breathed a sigh of gratitude for the way we are designed for relationship.

Our front doors are meant to swing open to family and friends and strangers – to break bread with one another, delight in the gathering and the eating and the laughing and the conversing. We are made to live together in relationship and our hearts are glad when we live as we were made to live.

My heart was full today as we broke bread together, as we laughed together, as we prayed together, as we washed dishes together, and as my Grandma looked me in the eyes and told me she prays for me constantly.

Because I know she does.

God has woven our hearts together intentionally to reveal His glory. He is glorified as we benefit by loving one another, sharing with one another, bearing each others’ burdens, and wandering into the kitchen to say, “How can I help?”

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

slow moments on Sabbath days

Today was not a silent Sabbath. It felt packed to the gills with morning and church and company and projects and movement. It almost felt like all of today was in motion, almost.

Gram and Gramps came up to tour our place and to lend a handyman hand for some of the little projects we’ve got going on. Of course, they came bearing boxes and gifts, odds and ends they’d assembled from their basement that we might have use for. Grandpa almost had the drill running before he took his coat off, madly determined to finish all the projects.

It felt weird to host them in our house – to welcome them into a space I desperately want to be as comfortable as their little house on the corner.

What is it about my grandparents’ home that makes it so wonderful? Those two steps up the landing before I swing open the wooden door in the entryway are always filled with anticipation. It doesn’t matter if I’m stopping by to pick up jam or sitting down to share some of Gram’s amazing beef stew.

I love it.

And so, I wondered today what it would take. What is that thing that makes a home feel so good and safe and welcoming? Like it’s a good time to tell stories and drink coffee slowly and spread a board game across the table for the afternoon. It’s that thing that quickly convinces that you are not in a hurry.

I want to have a home like that – where even the most packed of Sabbath Sundays have slow moments.

Hm.

Maybe that’s it – inviting people in to share slow moments with you. When all the rest of life is rushing, it’s about being still and knowing who is sovereign.

Maybe that’s the it thing.

 

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