Sing for the joy that's found in setting up the pins and knocking them down

Thursday, August 6, 2015


Clearwater Lake is one of my favorite places.  We were first invited here several years ago as the result of two little blonde girls and two hovering mommies.  Anna-Liv and Bea were seated near one another that first day of kindergarten and their friendship has stuck ever since.  Ann and I, being just as outgoing as our girls became quick friends.  When the time was right we introduced our husbands and our other children to one another and, as they say, the rest is history.  They have graciously welcomed us into their clan, as well as cabins and somewhere along the line we started to feel more like family and less like guests.  

For those reasons and so many more Clearwater Lake is rich with memories for the Rynders family.  We all had our friends to play with--Sam and Eric creating canoe paddles that were more like works of art and Ann and I solving the world's problems, or occasionally a jigsaw  puzzle, over coffee or wine, depending on the time of day.  It has always been a place to let our shoulders relax to a more comfortable elevation and for our minds to take a break from lists and unfinished projects at home.   We traveled here each summer at least once and looked forward to welcoming in the new year over the holidays.  When Eric died I wondered if I would be able to bear to be there without him, but I soon realized that the memories we had made during our years of visits remained warm and comforting even after he was unable to make new ones.  

The summer after Eric's death, Sam and Ann offered that I could use the little boathouse (stuga) next to their cabin if I needed a summer retreat for me and the kids.  We happily retreated last July 4th to our sweet Swedish stuga.  That evening, while most of the group enjoyed the fireworks at a nearby town, the unthinkable happened.  Just as I was about to crawl into bed with the girls to watch a movie, the cabin two doors down burst into flames.  It was a moment of panic and lack of control that felt all too familiar to the fresh tragedy of calling an ambulance to help my husband only to have the outcome be a total loss.  The same was true for the cabin.  

I remember the following day watching Ann's brother and family sift through the ashes, hoping to find something that was still intact--a Bible, a journal, a wall hanging, just something that was familiar and unharmed.  There was nothing that satisfied the void that this loss had created.  The foundation was still there along with the memories that were created within that foundation, but that was all.   What they were doing, as they picked through this familiar but forever changed space felt exactly what I had been doing for months.  Emotionally, I spent all kinds of energy sifting through our lives and the lives of my kids to find something that felt normal and untouched by Eric's loss.  But every time we searched we come up empty-handed and with an ache for what used to be.  The foundation was still there, but we knew it would take lots of decisions and hard work to build the walls and create something new that honored what was lost but still moved forward in hope.    

Today, a beautiful home stands where an unexplained fire came through and threatened to destroy the memories of a place that had housed a couple generations of Johnson family.   What I think they've learned is that memories cannot be watered down by fire hoses or changed by fresh paint.  The structure is new, but the old memories of laughter and love that filled the lost cabin still linger.  

The kids and I are building, too.  Each day we pick up a board, a gallon of paint, a window and we create a home where our current family can live  peacefully alongside memories of our original family.  Some days the building goes quickly and the result is better than we expected and some days the work is laborious and feels not nearly as good as the original structure. By God's grace and strength we continue the process.  

I think all of us are building, repairing, figuring out what to do with the pile of rubble in the corner.  Your loss might not be death or fire, but it might be a strained marriage, a broken relationship, a disappointing career, a chronic illness, a wayward child, all of which put you in the position of repairing, rebuilding.  

Why do it?  Why not sit in the debris of our life and throw our hands up in the air--I ask myself that, often.  In our family's construction project we've had our eyes opened to the reality that we build for a bigger purpose and that our blueprints are not of this world.  What we create in this world will always fall a little short--and that's okay.  It was never meant to be perfect.

So we keep building, hoping to honor the memory of our earthly fathers, but more importantly to live within the foundations set by our heavenly father.   He was a carpenter and he's building, too.

"In my father's house are many mansions: if it were not so I would have told you.   I go to prepare a place for you."   John 14:2

No comments:

Post a Comment