Bittersweet release

Here I am at the coffee shop, thinking that there’s just something melancholy about today.

Dark clouds sprinkle the sky, peppering brick storefronts with moving shadows. Somehow watching the sun and rain play tag makes me not want to go.

I got my ticket today; I’m excited! ecstatic! but also nostalgic. Am I ready to introduce another home to my heart? Can I really say goodbye to life as it is?

These aren’t doubts exactly because I already know the answer to these questions is “yes.” But must feeling fulfilled in a calling always be preceded by a bittersweet release? Perhaps I just want to have my cake and eat it too…

Listen

Sometimes, I imagine I’m a well-known writer. The truth is, however, that I have a hard time expressing myself. Emotions often don’t translate well into prose.

But tonight I’m thinking that maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Expressing myself doesn’t have to be my notable character attribute. What if I were a good listener instead?

My time of training in New York brought out reflective questions: Do I listen with my heart? Do I hear the longings behind the words people are saying? Or am I too preoccupied with finding an avenue of expressing myself?

God used New York for my “ah-ha!” moment. The real training has started since I’ve been home. So many people need listening to. What have I been missing out on all these years?

Today I had lunch with a lady from church who shared some of the struggles of being a mom. In class tonight, a student told me about the discrimination she sometimes faces as an immigrant. Just when I thought I’d used up my daily quota of compassion, another acquaintance expressed concern over potentially losing her job over a moral issue.

So, I listened. Now what? What exactly does “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15) look like from day to day?

I guess I’m still learning.

How far is heaven?

Was it even open?

The handle turned beneath my eager fingertips. It was!

I hadn’t been to the library in months. I wasn’t even sure why I’d come today except that I wasn’t ready to leave town and go home. I wanted to be alone. It was one of those days: interruptions at every turn; repeating everything I said at least once; everyone expecting me to be a team player when I just wanted to grab my journal and disappear until next week.

That’s why the library was such a good place to vanish for an hour. Here, the shelves were lined with stories of people who had lived and breathed life’s struggle. They had faced the same problems I faced today. I felt a camaraderie with these characters beyond the lettered spines on floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

“Are you looking for something in particular?” A librarian approached me, even as I was still inhaling the tawny scent of explored pages.

She seemed satisfied when I said, “No, just looking.”

I fought the urge to just stand and soak in the stories. I was in the fiction section anyway, so I slipped over to the next aisle. Art. Music. History. Sewing. Biography. Religion. I pulled books off the shelf to page through them before adding them to the growing stack tucked in the crook of my elbow.

There were books for sale- 5 cents each- that town citizens had donated to the library. I browsed that section and found a book about heaven.

Heaven.

I wove through the displays of cheap romance novels and heaved my stack onto the check-out counter.

“Do you need a sack?”

“No. Thanks. I have one in the car.”

“Can I get the door for you?”

“Thanks. I got it.”

I loaded my car and was on the way home–beside the elementary school and the reduced speed limit signs–when I remembered the book about heaven.

I had only forked over the nickel to give the book away. I didn’t read books about heaven. The incessant chatter of an afternoon radio show interrupted my emerging thoughts. I hit the power button.

“Why?” I said aloud. “Why don’t I think about heaven?”

Was it that I was comfortable on earth? Hardly! I was always yearning for something.

“But what is it?” Was I yearning for heaven or the “next big thing” in my life wherein lie coveted fulfillment? Couldn’t I pretend that it was all just a subconscious longing to be with God?

Or was it more like a choice of where I based my citizenship?

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seem them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.”

(Heb. 11:13-14)

On the drive home, the dusty wind and thick, angry raindrops reminded me of life’s trials. But somehow, with the hope of heaven, trials didn’t look so scary.