Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Advent - Hope - Family

Advent continued: another day, another story:

One of my fond memories of growing up in England is of decorating our house in December. It's not the way we'd do it today (I think my sense of feng shui has evolved over the years!) but it was exactly right at the time!

My brother and I loved to string stuff, from point to point. We used endless rolls of crinkled crepe paper, twisted just so and running from corner to corner and along the walls, then all meeting in the middle at the light fixture. Red, green, white, yellow; it looked more like a birthday party than Christmas but it was our signature style. Then, just to make the display as over-the-top as possible, we'd dangle hundreds of icicles.

Finally, and for me this was the best of all, we'd run lines of string along the walls for the Christmas cards; they'd go up immediately they came in, the display expanding from day to day. We'd measure a good year for Christmas cards in terms of how many strands lined the walls.

One Christmas - I must have been younger than ten - the greetings card from my uncle Norman and auntie Olive came with a package containing an audio tape. They were missionaries, serving in Hong Kong, and it was the only time we heard their voices (and those of my cousins) in three years. We gathered around the massive reel-to-reel tape and, after it was done, recorded a message of our own to send back.

Communications have certainly come a long way since then.

Yesterday I spent 45 minutes talking via SKYPE with my cousin Linda. Linda and her husband, Dave, live in Newbury, about 50 miles West of London in the U.K. (there they are, enjoying a special driving experience Dave lined up for her a few months ago).

Linda had just received some additional bad news regarding her ongoing and progressive cancer. I wanted to talk. So we set up the SKYPE, me on my back porch and she in Newbury, and we shared what was on our hearts.

It was so cool to be able to see one another; to actually look into Linda's eyes while talking about deep issues. Body language and facial expression are such a vital part of communication, and it makes all the difference. Her husband, Dave, joined the conversation after a few minutes and I could see his face shift - eyebrow raised, smile lingering in his eyes, or hand to the brow - in response to what was being said.

But you still can't touch. I wanted to hug Linda when she talked about January airplane tickets she really doesn't expect to use. I wanted to put my hand on Dave's shoulder when he said he was alright now - "Because I'm with Linda in all of this.... but I'm not so sure about after...."

We prayed together at the end of the conversation, and I wish we all could have taken one-another's hands. But it was interesting how prayer itself linked us inexplicably, and I could barely speak through the tears. It was as if a different kind of conduit had opened up the moment we began to pray...

So there is communication and then there is communication. The content was necessarily deep, but something else happened when faith entered the equation. "Perfect love," Jesus said, "takes care of all fear." and "Have courage - take heart; I have overcome the world."

I've said before that my cousin Linda is a cool lady, full of grace and strength. Well, she'd say it isn't her, that the grace is all God - and even more the strength part. But that is what happens when you don't really know anymore where you come to an end and where God begins.

I' m thankful that, as who Linda is becomes more and more defined by eternity than it is by time, my cousin's faith is something that we all can embrace, and that God's powerful presence is all about the fullness of life.

Love and blessings - DEREK

Picture - Linda and Dave Andrews this summer, with my mum and dad


Susan said...

I love that you could pray with your cousin via Skype. wow. I love the realness in struggling with her illness but also seeing the hope and joy and healing that is to come. What a blessing to have a cousin you can share your faith and prayers with! There are so many things that I've come to realize we will never understand--why is it that such terrible things like cancer happen to such good people? Seriously. Especially at this season, I am reminded of the Hope that we can all have in a Savior who will be with us every step of the way.

Ali Hoad said...

Bless you cousin for your sentiments, as Christians we can look forward to the future when we will join all the members of the family that have gone on ahead and join in the great party in heaven when again we will all be together.
The party in heaven is what I'm looking forward to when God says that my time is up