Yesterday, Kim, one of my oldest and dearest friends,
dropped by my parents house and we sat in their den—the
same den we had sat in almost 40 years earlier as little girls. I put on a CD as we reminisced and caught up on lives of our
children, our siblings, our parents. I asked Kim to listen to one song in particular from Josh Groban’s new Christmas CD. Soft
strands began to fill the room with the beauty of Panis Angeliscu Angelicus.
“Do you remember this?” I asked. “I know every single one of the words of this Latin hymn to God’s glory.” “Yeah, I remember you singing it while we cleaned out our horses’ stalls.” “But think further back. Don’t you remember? We played this song—our first flute duet—in 5th or 6th grade. We weren’t good at all, but for some reason, there we were standing on stage in the assembly hall, terrified and playing a very simplified version of Panis Angelicus.” And Kim nodded. She remembered. Thirty-five years of memories we share, and I am so thankful for that today on Thanksgiving. I am thankful that I can share a meal with my extended family for the first time in 9 years, back on American soil for Thanksgiving. I am thankful that my college-age son can share this moment with me. I am thankful that by email and internet and phone lines I can be connected to my other family—the men in my life who are far across the ocean in a land that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. I am thankful that I can sit beside my 94-year-old
grandmother and help her sip Coke from a straw in a plastic
cup, her eyes a glassy blur, her body slumped forward in the
wheelchair, oblivious to all that is around her until, once in a
while, a flash of recognition lights her eyes and she is once
again here with us.
I am thankful that I can ask the blessing and speak of Jesus
and have no fear of being arrested, or perhaps killed.
I am thankful that my parents are here with me, having
stuck together through 50 years of ups and downs.
I am thankful, so thankful, for my husband who awaits me in France, who loves me deeply and purely and that we are indeed one. I am thankful that we have more than enough to eat this Thanksgiving Day, but how I wish we could eat it more slowly, savor each dish that has been prepared, take our time and eat leisurely and sip good wine and leave the table satisfied but not stuffed and groggy. I wish the dessert would wait for an hour or two to be served and that tea and coffee would come after and people would stay a little longer. And in saying this, I realize that a part of me is indeed French. I am thankful for the plenty I have always known, but I am also thankful for lean years, and suffering, and times of great doubt and darkness and things that didn’t go my way. I am thankful for the little ways I can relate to others’ lives, not through fame and glory but through stark humanness. And I wish, how I wish that America did not seek so much the big and beautiful and rich and powerful. I wish that we Americans could step outside of ourselves and our country and our culture and see how very, very fat we are. Fat on food, on opportunity, on consumerism, on selfish waste, on superficial striving. There is so much that is great about America, but sometimes as I sit in France and look across the ocean, I am saddened to see the enormous mountain of success sinking into the ocean, far, far away. Sinking from our success and greed and naiveté. Sinking from overspending and credit and fads and stress and hurry, always hurrying to accomplish much. I walk around the block on the street where I grew up and I feel a wonder at the beauty of this neighborhood and a sickness at the same time. Huge, massive monstrous houses are replacing the ones I knew. A ten bathroom, seven bedroom mansion across the street rises in a testimony to gluttony. The disparity continues—those who have way too much and those who will never have enough. Oh, Lord, let me always be thankful and let me not be proud and let me remember that I have had so much, so much, and not judge others for their greed, but somehow, somehow, let me communicate a message of love and simplicity to others. If we would but simplify, get rid of junk, reach out again, how much better America could be. We can learn again, and I pray we will. Before it is too late.
The Silent Flight
The flight attendant announced while we were waiting at the gate that the electrical system on the plane seemed to have malfunctioned and that there would be no music, no movies, nothing on the long flight over the ocean. She told us to get to know our seatmate and buy something to read.
I have loved this silent flight. No announcements from the captain, no TV screens flickering, no bells making noise. I don’t know why. It has been so nice and simple, I guess. Not that I slept. I have been too high on adrenalin these past weeks to sleep. I suppose when I finally get to my bed and collapse, I will sink into a wonderful slumber. This is what I hope and pray.
But a silent flight is just a glimpse at what could be if we could turn off technology and progress for a little while. Oh, it must move forward and for many things, this is good. But still I long for simplicity and appreciation and recognition that what we have is enough, much more than enough. It is hard to live in America and not consume. Very hard.
In Lyon, I can be at home and be satisfied. In America, everything reaches out and tempts me to buy it—the junk food , the clothes, the music, everything and none of it is needed.
I am so happy to be going home.
As always, I am thankful too for the time in the States. Almost seven weeks and once again, even as I preach simplicity to myself, I have crammed every waking hour with activity. I have once again been squeezed out in every possible way.
I hope and pray it was for worthwhile things, Lord. You know that. You have taken me on a trip back into myself. I have visited so many, many places and people that were part of my past.
Yesterday was the culmination—the first time I went to the ring and watched Mom riding Greta. Then I too climbed aboard this mare and I was transported back to the days of my youth with the deep blue sky and the rustling leaves, red and yellow and orange, dancing around the ring and the smell of horse and leather as my legs gripped the saddle. Riding.
Westminster and Vanderbilt and Lookout Mountain and Columbia and friends in training at International Teams headquarters in Chicago and teammates from France and much more—it has all been here to mix with family in Kentucky and Atlanta. Mix and stir around and around, my head is swimming. It is how I like it, I suppose, the intermingling with so many friends and family.
I take it with a huge gulp of thankfulness and ask You to remind me again and again of Your provision, in every situation. And when I am cramming and controlling on my own, without You, will You please take away the technology, the things of life, and let me soar with You again on one more silent flight?