Sunday, October 26, 2008

Beauty

Walking and bouncing, shhh'ing and rocking.
Crying and praying, mourning ... hoping.
Pacing and cuddling, pacing and cuddling.
Crying.

That was me this afternoon as I tried to quiet Genevieve, keep track of Arden, and deal with the news that Jeanine has leukemia. Pacing helps. Going in circles and circles around the coffee table, always seeing from the corner of my eye the beautiful roses Lizzie sent for Genevieve's birth. Holding the goochy baby and pacing.

They're stunning, these roses. (Pro Flowers has them sent straight from Ecuador, still closed, so that they actually bloom in the vase.) I never used to like roses. It was all the hype that surrounds them. So much commercialism. Being told by an outside source that something is beautiful, and knowing that outside source has selfish and ulterior motives, sours things for me. Like diamonds. But at one point I realized that I hadn't given roses a fair chance.

They're a fist full of soft beauty, with the potential of being actually perfect. When they open as they should, it's layer upon layer of gentle enticement. And yet, usually, the secret middle is still protected. Their petals are as soft as butterfly wings. You can feel them best with your lips, which are more sensitive even than fingertips.

I once said that I would know a man understood me if he brought me tulips in winter. (Remember, I'm from snowy, freezing Chicago.) In college, Lizzie and her transfer friends gave me a pot of tulips. It made me laugh and berate her, "A man, Elizabeth! You are not a man!" She agreed happily that she was not. I still enjoyed them greatly. But I've come to discover there is an unending sort of beauty about a healthy rose that tulips lose pretty quickly. All that is good and gentle and strong and sad lingers with them. They make me want to be a flower. This, in fact, is the eternal "almost", the constant frustration, the thing that pulls you back for third and fourth inhales when you should have already walked away from the bouquet. To watch and observe a deep beauty is actually not enough for our souls, for we were created to embody beauty. I think this is why the scripture gives voice to our longing...

1Jo 3:2 "Beloved, we are God's children now,
and what we will be has not yet appeared;
but we know that when he appears we shall be like him,
because we shall see him as he is."

We must be like Him, we just must. Such beauty must become part of us, it cannot remain a thing we simply observe.

Jeanine is a beautiful soul. She is the woman I wanted to be when I grew up. She was married out of my parents' home; Elizabeth and I carried her train down the aisle. She taught me kindness - she is kind. She taught me inclusion - she was devoted to all my siblings, to all her classrooms of children. She taught me adventure - she read a chapter of Swiss Family Robinson to us each night on her bed, little Sammy-boy included. She taught me patience - she waited 10 years to say "yes" to the man who had asked for her hand at the age of 18. She taught me purity - her "little sin" was the occasional pack of licorice gum. She was love embodied (or so it seemed to me as a child). I still remember her gentle rebuke as I sat doing my homework at the laminate kitchen table... "Oh, Amy, you can do better than that." I knew she was right. I never tried hard with penmanship, and it shows to this day.

She hasn't seen me married or a mother. I know how proud she was when I published Perpetua. It thrills me to know I gave her that pleasure, that she was able to say to the woman behind the counter at the bookstore, "The author was my student!" Oh, I pray I get to feel her joy when I do marry, when I do mother my children with some of the love she taught me. I've seen that joy in her eyes over my sisters and my friends, other young students of hers.

And so I pray and mourn at the same time. That she should go through such pain! That she should be in such danger! The Lord will keep her, and keep her heart safe.

Elizabeth bought roses for Suzy after little Samuel Eisenhower was born. Three dozen, from the toothless lady on the corner of Blue Ridge and Holmes. Her hand painted sign is permanently nailed to a rusty telephone pole, proclaiming in loud stick letters:

"Bokay. 5$"

Her husband is there sometimes, helping her. Her mind is slowly going. That's all I know about her. Her roses don't last long either. Well, you can imagine, by the time they get through all the channels to her-on the corner of Blue Ridge and Holmes, across from the pet store and just beyond the underpass-they haven't much life left in them. But I am glad for her, that as her mind goes, her work is to handle these reminders of God. As her husband helps her, watches her, keeps her active...she only knows she is selling bouquets that embody someone's joy, someone's baby, someone's anniversary. Or, as she would put it, "bokays".

Pray for Arden, as she cries through the transition to being one of two children.
Pray for Dora, as she waits for Sam to return and meet his daughter.
Pray for Jeanine, as she spends the month in the hospital.
Pray for the toothless lady, that she would know the Creator of her bokays.
And pray for me, that the constant tension I feel in desiring all that is beautiful but not yet having and being it, would not tear me apart nor open me to too great a grief.

As Genevieve's middle name so soundly proclaims, JOY is our inheritance because it is His inheritance. (She's been lying on my chest the whole time I've been blogging here. It's hard to feel too much grief when there's a tiny little snuggle-bug cuddling herself into your curves and breathing high and quick like a feather weight.)

Joy, please, dear Jesus. Joy.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Beauty" is a good title for this piece because it is beautifully written. I think it was the baby on you...she breathed life into your words.

I will pray for that last request, friend. No regrets.