When I was 18 I followed a boy from my home in Napa, California to go to school in Joplin, Missouri. That last sentence might confirm in you what you have been suspecting all along; Heather is nuts. I looked it up this morning and that is a distance of exactly 1,865 miles. Not only is that a 3 day drive, but then there is the “followed a boy” thing. We have been married 25 years and have three great kids so I guess that part worked out ok. This was an era without cell phones so I would call my mommy every morning…during class….from a pay phone…collect (because I spent their college money wisely 😉). So, I followed said boy across the country, but it was a Bible college, so, in their attempt to prevent any hanky-panky on their watch, we were only allowed to enter the room or floor of the opposite sex once a year at an open house. This was problematic. So we did what any young love-birds would do, we hung out at his grandparent’s.
Enter Dale and Arlene Storms: my husband’s grandparents. Dale could best be described as a godly Winnie the Pooh. Wise. Soft spoken. Gentle. Arlene….well….she too was godly and wise, but in every other way, quite the opposite. She had lots of ideas and opinions and was not afraid or shy about sharing them with anyone. You never had to wonder where she stood on any issue. She was bold and honest and passionate. From her I learned how to be the “hostess with the mostest”. I bet she has had hundreds of guests sit at her table, and that table put Martha Stewart to shame. And lest you think you had a choice about getting to the table promptly when she called you, filling your plate to the max from each of the 15 bowls on the table, or skipping dessert, you would be mistaken. In fact, dessert was not really dessert, it was part of the meal. Even though you had just finished gorging yourself on green been casserole, creamed corn casserole and Meunster chicken (breaded and drenched in cream of mushroom soup and smothered in Meunster cheese), you were expected to eat at least one slice of her famous Pies (made with actual lard) or other homemade sweet immediately following “supper”. Her house was cozy and inviting and a place where I could experience generosity, love and spoiling, even though I was so far from my own home. I have such fond memories of lazy Sundays at her house; watching sports, doing puzzles, taking naps, and eating. Eating, eating, eating. She may very well have been the main reason I didn’t run home to mom and dad. She gave me a home away from home.
Last week, Arlene got to go to the home she as been longing for all her life. Those in Heaven won’t know what to do with themselves. I figure that now she can get people to eat her creamed- casserole dishes and pies without question since the risks of it all are finally over! Hallelujah! Amen!
Aside from honoring Arlene-I actually have another reason for giving you all this seemingly unrelatable, personal information. I haven’t seen Arlene for a couple of years. Tomorrow we are traveling to Kokomo, Indiana to do a small service in her home town. I need to go. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because I need to face the reality that she is gone. Since she has been living in Arizona, I could easily pretend that she is still out there. Alive. And I really like pretending. It’s ever so much easier than dealing with real life.
One if the best truths I have learned from attending a Recovery Program, is how to face “life on life’s terms.” I don’t always do it well or happily, but I am learning that in order to experience true serenity and joy, I have to learn to live in the contentment that comes from accepting life as it is, not as I wish it to be. I have to acknowledge what’s real, feel the emotions connected with that reality (which I tend to resist) and choose to be OK anyway. The past 6 years have brought one life-trauma after another. I have finally realized that this is just how life goes. It’s not bad. It just is. And the sooner I can stop trying to distract myself from or avoid the hard parts of this life, the sooner I can learn to embrace, learn from and live in peace with the life I have been given. I can learn to live above my circumstances if I also learn to live in them. It reminds me of that guy from the Bible, Paul, who says “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
I can’t live content in my circumstances if I don’t face reality; if I don’t accept my situation as it is and deal with the emotions it evokes, even though they may be painful and hard to swallow. “Acceptance does not mean submission to a degrading situation. It means accepting the fact of a situation and deciding what to do about it.” I, we, have choices about if and how we live with the hand we have been dealt. Our serenity and appreciation of our one and only life depend on accepting what’s real and feeling the emotions that go with that reality. Only then can we move forward in wholeness and with spirit of contentment and strength from a God who is longing to lavish it upon us.
Today, I can accept the new reality that Arlene is no longer here and that I will not see her again in this life. I feel sad, but I am at peace with that. Somehow, I am pretty sure she’s not complaining about it…