inspired by our dear friends nina and sarah, genny and i set out to collect all of our tea tags this semester - partially to see how much tea we drink, and partially to save the earth. (by re-using them to make cards and fun things like that. :) ) we put them in this little box and each time i open it i am a little bit astonished at just how much tea we have consumed in this short half of a semester. this little box is filled with remnants from all kinds of tea bags - black tea, mint tea, green tea, herbal tea, chai tea, earl grey tea, ginger tea, you name it - we probably have it. some of these teas are strong and dark, bringing energy to my soul and a glisten to my eyes. others are dreamy and smooth, preparing my weary self to sleep through the night. some go well with with scones and breakfast, and others are best alone. this motley medley of tea tags reminds me of life so much, and more specifically - the break i just returned from over the past half week or so.
driving home last wednesday night i laid eyes upon a week not yet crowded with plans, just the way i like it - open and willing to be filled. the week beckoned to spontaneity and gave a warm welcome to last minute adventures. my father also got a glimpse of my week waiting to be filled and he soon threw out a plan; he recommended that i spend some time landscaping, earning money so that i can pay him the necessary amount for school, for car insurance, for car inspection...all of those fun things.
my first reaction was complete refusal, but recalling all of the times in the past where the wisdom of my dad trumps my little ideas - i knew better than to say no. fathers are wise; this i continue to learn. so i agreed; i decided to go and do some landscaping with Fred, one of the sweetest 79 year old men i know.
so each morning save one, i awoke and set out to do some basic landscaping with Fred for about 4 hours. i quickly remembered how much i love being outside doing "manual labor" - doing work that shows immediate improvement, doing work that beautifies and improves the state of something so quickly. i spent the mornings raking and trimming, picking up leaf after leaf after leaf - piling the debris into the little trailer, unloading it in the woods, and then repeating. it was so satisfying. the air smelled like spring, the sun gently pulled back the clouds and nudged me to take off my jacket. i loved it.
more than that however, something unexpected happened. as each morning passed, fred began to tell me more and more about his life. it began with conversation of japan. the news continues to break my heart and the days surrounding the actual event left me stunned. . .
"isn't that something about Japan," he said.
"it's terrible, i can't imagine..." my voice trailed off.
i had no words to say. words only seemed to diminish the weight of sorrow that hung in the air. i did not want to belittle it, i did not want to mar or make light of the issue by feebly tacking words like "sad, bad, unbelievable" onto the event. those did no justice.
i stood and twirled the large rake in my hands. (i'm always fidgeting.) he continued...
"i was in Japan once, when i was in the korean war... it looked like something out of a movie - destruction. where once there was a city, only a few chimneys remained. when we arrived on shore, there were caskets everywhere, caskets with the names and places of where people belonged but would never again return to..." this was only the beginning.
morning after morning the stories continued --- he told me of women and children up to their knees in the slop that soldiers discarded, looking for food -how he tried to feed them but was warned not to, for they might over-take the truck. he spoke of a typhoon with waves like mountains that stretched on for a day - he described to me a young boy they found in the mountains, "his ears looked like 2 pieces of fried bacon, shriveled in the cold." he spoke of a baby crawling in the street, she came out of nowhere. his friend's face was run over by a truck - "if i had a shotgun i think i could have killed him, he looked so miserable." he spoke of regrets. . .
these stories hit hard. my hands stopped sanding, my rake stopped moving - my ears hung on every word that came out of his mouth. my thoughts turned to God, and his deep love for all of these people. how can this be? and what do i do? my heart marveled at this man, so strong, so kind, so friendly and welcoming and courageous - so brave and loving, in spite of all that he has seen.
my heart weighed heavy with pain for the world. with the pain of the world that i have never seen, and perhaps never will. my heart ached. ached for a world i'll never know. for people lost.
...as i would drive away from each morning and into the rest of the day, i drove into sunshine - into blue skies and life. i drove away from the silent mornings and into afternoons spent playing tennis, playing soccer and ultimate frisbee and whiffle ball. i drove away from those mornings and into afternoons spent lost in books, afternoons spent baking and dancing and biking and listening to good music. it was bliss. it was everything i longed for - sunshine and warm weather and grass. sunroofs and singing and bare feet...
it didn't seem right. it seemed unfair in some sense.
like the box of tea tags, break was an odd collision of opposite spectrums of life. it was painful and raw and heart wrenching, it was beautiful and joyful and good. it was dark and black and strong, it was herbal and sweet and soothing. it was colorful and glorious, it was terribly grey and too hot to drink all at once.
i'm still processing it all. (so i apologize for the unfinished thoughts and lack of good sentence structure.) i'm still trying to figure out what it all means. how do we live well in the midst of this clash? what do i do with this ache in my heart? how do i live well here, in this society and culture so contradictory to what my heart tells me is honest and true and worthwhile? what does love look like? how do i go about praying about this and for this and through this?
last semester i saw so much of the goodness of God, the beauty and joy that comes from knowing him and seeking him wholeheartedly. this semester i am seeing a lot of pain, some pain is close to home on this floor - some pain crosses continents; it all hurts just the same.
but i know, i know that God is good, and i know that i am called to live in the midst of this tension. i am called to love in the midst of adversity. to seek wholeheartedly when throwing in the towel seems to be the easiest option. so i will not ignore the news, i won't belittle the realities of war. i won't stop reading the news, nor will i pretend that hell is not breaking loose in the middle east. i will face it all. i will learn to walk alongside, to walk into, to immerse myself in the grime knowing that God is good and beautiful and faithful. because he is.
grilled cheese and tomato soup 3x over break :)
also. look what i picked up last night...
(the little speckled bowl was a "surprise glaze" - maybe someday it will be used for birthday cereal or something; it looks like a party.)
one more mug will be coming in a few weeks, it's not quite finished...
want to come over for tea? please?