Friday, June 17, 2016

{Cherish the Ordinary}

The birds chirped outside his window this morning, the chickadee starting off the day with his merry, chicka-dee-dee-dee! My son, of course, was asleep. He'd been out late, celebrating with friends. For last night was graduation night.

I'm sure he wasn't thinking about chickadees at the time (his obsession as a 7-year-old seems to have waned a tad), but he just might have been thinking about penguins. The Clark College Penguins, that is.

He and his closest friends lined up side by side in their caps, gowns, and honor cords, preparing to receive both their high school diplomas and their AA degrees, this first collegiate journey further deepening their bonds as they proudly realized the completion of hours spent studying, comparing art projects, rating professors, looking for the bouncy ball, congregating in the student center, and conquering finals.

It's been much more than a two -- or even a 12 -- year journey. Really it began 18 years ago. I remember the delight of coming home from Drew's baby shower, arms laden with beautiful gifts. Our church family had blessed us with dozens of darling outfits, and I couldn't wait to show Jamie the little overalls, the miniature baseball cap, the snuggly blankets, the cozy sleepers.

With pride, joy, and anticipation over the baby to come, I removed the clothing tags, sorted a load of laundry (in which everything was small and soft -- no adult clothing allowed in this load!), and pulled out the pink box filled with brand new, baby scented Dreft detergent.

That load of laundry was a joy to fold. The tiny shirts, the handsome little jeans, the wee socks that would probably never really stay on his feet, the receiving blankets that were oh-so-ready to receive.

This baby -- now a man -- does his own laundry these days, but last night was a flurry of activity as he looked at the care instructions on his graduation gown. "Um, Mom? Could you iron this for me? And maybe my shirt, too?" That long gown hung in my bedroom doorway, that handsome man-shirt, so much bigger than the little suit he wore once upon a time . . . and I said yes. I joyfully said, yes.

I glided that iron with mingled joy, awe, and something nameless that ached deep down, over the folds of that royal blue gown. Every pleat, every tuck. The steam rose and hissed, the heavy metal plate pressing and perfecting. It was such an ordinary task . . . but the significance of it caused me to linger and give myself fully to the work.

For 18 years I've completed similar ordinary tasks. Each day building one upon the other. Washing a load, folding a load, ironing for this occasion or that. The washing machine runs and swirls, the dryer turns and tumbles, and the days slip by, one by one. All ordinary in their own way, yet here they were, stacked up to this moment, preparing me -- preparing us -- to delight in both the ordinary and the extraordinary.

Last night the Clark commencement speaker, former POW Jessica Lynch, said something that made me grab my pencil and notebook: "Cherish what you are given." Even when that which you've been given is unexpected, not of your choosing, not the ideal, cherish it. Cherish the days of ordinary laundry when the socks don't pair up and the jeans reveal growing holes in the boyish knees and you end up wearing a dirty shirt after all.

Cherish the days of the extraordinary, when the laundry responsibilities are indicative of change and growth and a future that gleams hopeful and bright. When it's time to iron the shirt for the dance, the slacks for the recital, the gown for the graduation. Cherish what you are given.

Among the thousands, there were at least 50 of us clumped together in that stadium last night, cheering for "our row" of kids. We created a streaming din of celebration for the eight graduates who were our very own. The names were called, we craned our necks, and we really couldn't believe it. . . . David . . . Kendall . . . Drew . . . Jon . . . Cori . . . Aly . . . Alyssa . . . Averie. Our kids. The kids for whom we've washed and ironed, wept and cheered.

And we cherished what we'd been given.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

{Next to Him}

We looked at each other last night, just a bit in awe. Our four children were creating their usual noises and messes, hammering away at the piano, shooting hoops, strumming the ukulele, dumping legos. Three had just performed in their year-end piano recital, and our oldest had just finished his very last, last day of school. He would graduate not only from high school, but also from the local community college.

Tucked in the midst of our everyday kid hubbub, we let our glances linger longer, our kiss hold just a bit more sweetly. For we knew it was no small thing: we were celebrating 20 years together.

Yesterday morning, as I sipped my tea over Nehemiah, my eyes landed on the repeating phrase,

Next to him, the repairs were made . . .

The Israelites were stationed around the wall of Jerusalem, each one working to repair sections that had been broken and burned during their time in exile. Their names are listed, each man (and some daughters, too!), side by side, shoulder to shoulder.

The poignancy of that phrase touched me as I thought of the last twenty years I've spent with the man I love: Next to him.

I've written about those years. The early years when I was a blushing 11-year-old, stealing sly glances toward a tall boy in the youth group.

I've also written about the difficult years. The years of growing children and growing older . . . . 

And about the early months of our marriage when we were down with mono . . . .

And I realized we couldn't have done any of this without holding onto that very phrase: Next to him. Side by side, shoulder to shoulder, we've faced brokenness and burns in this wall that is the Lawson family -- even seasons that felt slightly akin to exile and bondage. Yet by the grace of God "the repairs were made" and we've been able to meet each season next to Him, next to our Master builder.

Last night we grinned wryly over the eternal busyness of this month and as we tried to determine when we'd celebrate our anniversary Jamie said, "Why did we get married in June???" I reminded him that we were in college, so it really made the most sense at the time. I also reminded him of my more sentimental reason, straight out of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: "Oh, they say when you marry in June, you will always be a bride!"

After 20 years, I can tell you that there's another way to "always be a bride," and it doesn't matter when your anniversary lands. Ladies, stand next to him. Stand next to your husband, stand next to your Savior. Men, stand next to her. Stand next to your bride, stand next to your Savior. Face that wall together, making the repairs as they come. Don't let breaches and burns turn into bitterness and bondage. Rather, face them as the Israelites did and proclaim, "Let us start rebuilding."

As we drifted off to sleep last night, me next to him, Jamie said, "You know, we really could be only a third of the way through our marriage." My mind looked ahead to our eighty-year-old selves and I knew that our age would never matter. I'd always want to be right there, right next to him.    

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