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I went to the funeral this weekend of a woman I had met only once, but who has changed my life forever: my husband’s Nana.

While I’ve hardly met her, I know so much about her from her family.  I know that she and Papa went to a movie theater on their honeymoon, but neither could remember what movie they saw (“I wasn’t watching the movie, grandson”).  I know that she sewed my mother-in-law’s wedding dress.  I know that she loved flowers and gardening, and that her favorite color was pink.  I know that she painted her dining room mural, read to her grandchildren, and dominated at 42.  In her handwritten notes under pictures dating back to her own childhood, I feel I have come to see some of her personality.

Though I know many things about her, I can feel her love for the Lord.  She was a passionate lover of Jesus, always serving, often rejoicing in song.  I know that my father-in-law learned his steady, faithful love for God from his mother, who enveloped her daughter-in-law in this love, too.  My in-laws then nurtured that love for God in their son, my husband.  (And all of them can sing – oh, can they sing praise!!!)  I know Nana is so proud of the way her grandson serves and talks with his Lord every day.

I have been blessed to have not attended many funerals in my life.  The one I remember most vividly was so sad – a friend’s mother taken much too young.  We did “mourn with hope” because we knew she had gone Home; still, the mourning for her leaving so soon overshadowed other emotions.

This weekend, there was so much joy.  Nana has gone home!  Her long suffering with dementia and short, painful suffering with cancer are gone.  Nana’s family mourned the long “see you later” that her death means for them here, but rejoiced that she is finally in a place of healing and rest, a place where she can look on the face of the God she has loved so long.

My father-in-law gave his mother a wonderful send-off on Sunday morning.  He reminded all present that heaven is real – God’s promise for those of us who believe – and that Nana is where she most wanted to be.

He read this passage from Narnia’s Last Battle:

Then Aslan turned to them and said: “You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.”

Lucy said, “We’re so afraid of being sent away, Aslan.  And you have sent us back into our own world so often.”

“No fear of that,” said Aslan.  “Have you not guessed?”

Their hearts leapt, and a wild hope rose within them.

“There was  a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of you are–as you used to call it in the Shadowlands–dead.  The term is over:  the holidays have begun.  The dream is ended:  this is the morning.”

And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

After the service, tears streaming down my face, I wrapped my mother-in-law in a hug.  She said, “I wish you could have really known her.”

I will.

Thank you, Nana, for having children and for teaching them so much about life, love, and the Lord.  You have changed my life forever through your son and grandson.  I so look forward to meeting you – mind whole – in heaven and dancing for our Lord together.

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In Defense of Tears

“So,” said Peter, “night falls on Narnia. What, Lucy! You’re not crying? With Aslan ahead, and all of us here?”
“Don’t try to stop me, Peter,” said Lucy, “I am sure Aslan would not. I am sure it is not wrong to mourn for Narnia.”
… “It were no virtue, but great discourtesy, if we did not mourn.”
– C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

John writes, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35).

On my last day at my beloved local church, I wept. It started as I walked up the stairs. My tears flowed freely during the music, I sniffled through the sermon, and I bawled uncontrollably the whole way home, finally collapsing in a muddled heap on my couch.

Many people offered words of comfort: “Don’t cry.” “You’ll be back.” “You will find a new church and new community.” “Something better is coming.”
While their words are true, I rebel at the command not to cry.

“Tears are the safety valve of the heart when too much pressure is laid on it.” – Albert Smith

As Tirian said, it is a “great discourtesy” not to mourn the ending of something beautiful, even if something better is coming. Jesus mourned for his friend Lazarus, even though He knew that Lazarus would live again. Each year during Lent we mourn and remember Jesus’s sacrifice, even though we know Easter is on its way. Mourning gives weightiness and value to something’s ending. Skipping the Passion directly for Easter glances over the sacrifice that makes Easter beautiful. Experiencing the emotions of deep sorrow and deep happiness make life real. Without tears, I would just skip like a rock across the surface of life, never allowing it to affect me. Tears show that I have been touched, that I have become attached, that I have loved.

And so I weep for the ending of beautiful things here at Baylor and at Highland. The faces, the places, the laughter, the difficulties, the music, the sounds, the smells, the hugs, even those darn college coffee pots: I will miss it all.

In the midst of tears, I cry with hope (1 Thessalonians 4), for I know God has great things planned. Ahead of me is a new city, a new school, a new church, a new life with which I can glorify God.

You need not mourn over Narnia, Lucy. All of the old Narnia that mattered, all the dear creatures, have been drawn into the real Narnia through the Door. And of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream.
– Lord Digory, C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

Kyle’s last sermon, on 1 Thessalonians 5, was a beautiful reminder of this truth: Jesus is coming, and He’s going to bring His own to their one true, final Home! In that Home, there will be no tears!
But until that time, I will have to face the passing of beautiful things, things that faintly echo the melody of that Home. And I will shed tears.

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Tater tots, Snails, and a Lion

I nearly ordered tater tots in a British accent.

This was at a Sonic halfway (4 hours) between my boyfriend’s home and my own, as I wrapped up my whirlwind tour of Texas that included moving home, driving back to Waco, two dear (one little) friends’ wedding, and a spontaneous road trip east. When I pulled in to that particular Sonic, I’d been listening to the Chronicles of Narnia for four straight hours. (Well, not entirely straight. I had to turn off Aslan’s beautiful speech to Shasta so I could go back and find the highway I missed. Woops.) It just seemed natural that I should be ordering tater tots in a British accent.

The combination of much traveling, deep and wonderful conversations, and being once again steeped in the language of Narnia got me to thinking about the concept of Home again.
Every where I went this last week felt like a little bit of home. Moving home and having Greg there was perfectly natural. Going back to Waco so soon of course felt like returning home, even though I slept on an alien couch. Spontaneously ending up in Greg’s family guest room felt like home, too.

They say home is where the heart is.
I have entrusted my heart to God, and God is everywhere, therefore (by syllogism), I can find a bit of my true Home everywhere.

Maybe that is what I really need to learn about home. Moving from place to place across the state and the planet isn’t like completely uprooting myself and being replanted each time. Rather, I am like a nomad or a gypsy, or even a snail. I take my tent with me and set up a temporary home wherever I go. This ability gives me great attachment to each wonderful place I stay (have you ever tried to pull a snail from the wall to which it has attached its shell?), but lets me be just as attached to the next place I go. Though each site is wonderful, it is only an echo of my true, permanent Home.
When we get There, the change will be like the one you feel when you return from a camping trip, a delightful one nonetheless, to a house with four walls, and a bathroom, and a couch. You sigh as you plop into the couch and say, “Ah, it’s wonderful to be Home.” Though sleeping among the trees and the critters was great fun, you feel as if all’s right when you’re in your big bed under a sturdy roof. Getting to Heaven will be like finally reaching the Home we’ve been trying to return to all along.

Thank you for these wonderful beaver dams to stay in and lampposts to mark the way. I’m on my long way Home, Aslan.

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On Home and Moving

I’ve had some deep discussions with my mom lately about rooting myself up again and heading off to graduate school. On Wednesday she told me, “It’s so easy for you to pick up and start over.”
(I gave a wrinkled face to this over the phone. My cousin said something similar to me at Christmas, and it surprised me because I have never seen myself as the independent one of the cousins.)
My mom paused for a second and continued, “I know it’s not easy for you, but you do it. It’s your faith that allows you to.”

Her statement has been running through my head. Yes, I suppose it is my faith.

I know that this world, no where on it, is truly my Home. I am always looking forward to the place I truly belong.
While I am here, I have made many attachments. I miss the city in which I grew up, and I know I will miss Baylor when I leave. Yet neither one is truly Home, and neither will be the place I end up for graduate school and beyond. I am simply passing through, serving my King wherever He leads me.

Last night at a recruitment dinner, one of the graduate students – trying to make conversation – asked us all what we did outside of class. I told him it was pretty much church. Trying to be accommodating, he said, “Yeah, you can do that here,” and proceeded to list off a few Christian groups on campus.
Later on, I laughed. I should have responded with a smile and, “Yes, that’s the beauty of worshiping the Creator God. You can do it anywhere.”

Everywhere I go has reminders that the best is yet to come. Lampposts scream to me, “Aslan is on the move!”

Possible graduate school lamppost.

And so I roam, taking pictures of lampposts, only slightly afraid of uprooting again, moving ever closer to my true Home.

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Today I made another step into the world of adulthood: I bought a set of dishes.

Though I’ve been in my own apartment for nigh six months now, I’ve been using my roommate’s dishes. Now that she’s trotting off to Hungary, I decided it was time. So I shopped. I started online, but was quickly overwhelmed by all the colors. I wondered back and forth and back and forth through the Target aisles. I looked and looked through World Market, sad at the small number of options. Despairing of ever eating on anything nicer than a paper plate again, I asked my mom.
She told me to choose wisely, since dishes could follow a person around for many years. Consider the blue fruit plates from my early years that still sit in our cabinet today. (Thanks for the added pressure.) She then told me to go to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and handed me a coupon.

Then I found them.
The dishes.

I know that I am now well on my way to growing up because of the giddiness I felt as the cashier wrapped up my plates. (I used to feel this way about plastic ponies… What happened?!) I drove them carefully home, avoiding bumps and going quite slow.

My mother’s words and my girlish giddiness combined to form a (somewhat silly) sentimental ode. An ode to my new dishes. (I’ve got to get out more.)

An Ode to Thee, Dishes

You sit in tissue paper, so polished and new
I can’t help but wonder, What fate awaits you?

You will be there, for sure, for my senior spring:
Quick dinners and sleepy breakfasts
A great soapy monsoon, cleaned by Myrtle’s moaning, rumbly tune
At parties, charades nouns will rest in your bright green bowl

Will you go with me to Austin, Houston, or Dallas?
We’ll take the hospitality of RMR into graduate school
And then, someday, will my children be enthralled by your delicate patterns?
Or will they laugh that your beauty is “so the two-thousands”?

Oh, dishes, to the food you will serve:
Salad and steak and potatoes and pie
Chicken and soup and broccoli and cake
To the underdone and burnt food you will certainly hold:
I’m sorry, I must try to learn!
And then I’ll revert to hot pockets-
I hope you look good in slightly burnt cheese.

The Lord uses mysterious tools.
I thus ask, Lord, with a smile, that you bless these dishes:
To the conversations held over hot apple cider
To the burnt tongues and laughter
To the comfort of mashed potatoes
To families of friends around a table
To a summer watermelon and a winter turkey
To the nourishment of bodies and souls
Use them to teach me hospitality
And to welcome a Stranger, amen.

Oh dishes, it must, but how will it end?
After many years of faithful service,
or moving into your first home?
Will it be the terrors of many moves
or arms laden with too much
or left in a scorching oven
or at the hands of a careless child
or subject to some experiment…

Smashed into two
or two thousand pieces
To become just a memory
(And a blog entry)
Forever in my heart.

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“I have always — at least, ever since I can remember — had a kind of longing for death.”
“Ah, Psyche,” I said, “have I made you so little happy as that?”
“No, no no,” she said. “You don’t understand. Not that kind of longing. It was when I was happiest that I longed most. It was on happy days when we were up there on the hills, the three of us, with the wind and the sunshine … where you couldn’t see Glome or the palace. Do you remember? The colour and the smell, and looking at the Grey Mountain in the distance? And because it was so beautiful, it set me longing, always longing. Somewhere else there must be more of it. Everything seemed to be saying, Psyche come! But I couldn’t (not yet) come and I didn’t know where I was to come to. It almost hurt me. I felt like a bird in a cage when the other birds of its kind are flying home.”
“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.”

– Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis

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The first letter of the Bible is not aleph, but bet.
Bet means Home.

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