Wild patches of wintered grass were tamed and trimmed, a banner, chalk lettered. Grilled Mexican Street Corn was foiled, picnic-style. Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies were baked, drinks iced, and meat marinated. The fancy lights were strung. Even the picnic table was dressed to impress.
And it all went utterly ignored.
I had a plan. Famous last words.
The plan was to have a spontaneous sendoff for our daughter who is moving to start a new job. A little dinner in our country-fied city backyard oasis, but rain drove the party indoors. In the end, what should have been a sweet night of memories, fell flat. Co-eds huddled in our cozy gambrel, in a soggy family room full of orphaned chairs and mismatched couches.
Worst of all, it seems my girl hates surprises much more than I knew.
Much, much more.
Sometimes the thing you do for the right reasons has the wrong results — but you never know, when you love big and hard, exactly how the narrative will uncurl. Better than you could ever imagine is always a possibility.
Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. – John Maxwell
Today I got a letter back from our Compassion International sponsor child, Claudine in response to some pictures I sent her from Easter. Seventeen and stoic, her rippled paper face stays the same on my fridge, while lengthening limbs change with biennial photographs. Her letters back to me for 8 years now have always been very similar, one to the next. Until today.
I always ask her questions, but in her responses, Claudine likes to talk about the season, the grades she’s making (this is very important to her), and her love and prayers for our family. I expect it is partly because she’s been taught how to write to her sponsor Mom, but I also know that it’s her personality to stick to her boundaries. We met in 2013 and spent a morning together playing soccer, singing, reading, and painting fingernails, and I remember I went to kiss her goodbye on the cheek and she pulled away, asserting her personal space. She showed me her strength and I loved that about her.
All these years of letters and she’s never answered any of my questions, and although I stopped expecting, I never stopped prodding — and then this.
I appreciate the letter you wrote to me, it pleased me because I got your photo and I thank you very much for the way you love me. I am very fine and I love you so much! – Claudine
I’ve read it four times since this morning. This snail-mail from Africa that arrived right on time like paper airplanes from God, divinely designed to keep my heart afloat.
As love would have it, I also witnessed the perfect union of two people I love this past weekend, set against my favorite bit of universe to spend time next to, the sea. A friend of theirs spoke a benediction about the love we all manifest together, saying that on the occasion of this wedding, here in this moment of gathered family and community, because we love, God is here. Not a happy face superimposed over a blunder – actually, GOD. He says so in 1 John.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 1 John 4:11-12
So, love is being perfected as we love by God — love, the unseen thing motivating me to try, is literally God shaping my love into better love on it’s way out of me. We catch glimpses of perfect love, don’t we? Like hummingbirds hovering, and then, in an instant, so gone it’s hard to believe our very eyes. But that’s not what we love for. We love to keep believing in love until we see it outside of ourselves, all grown up and full of glory.
Love is a decadent disaster. Love is the trying that ends in hits and misses, and is yet worth the risk. Love is the child we dream will grow up and be blissfully happy, who also has dreams of her own.