On my way to get coffee I drove past a house with no yard. Laundry was hung wet on a metal rack by the front door, so close to the road that I nearly touched it as my chariot rattled by. Clothes. Some underwear, a t-shirt, a little pair of ruffled shorts. All of it various shades of salmon or peach. It caught my eye as I went by, all these pink hues, like a gentle sunset.
I cry often, lately. It has been a hard year.
The other day I watched as a group of construction laborers got off work at 5:00, near a busy intersection in Chiang Mai. I’ve seen them many times before; they’re building a skyscraper at one of the longest lights in the city, so I end up stuck, watching them cross the street at the end of the day, still wearing their hard hats. They’re always laughing and talking, sometimes giggling as they run across the intersection. They look Keren to me; they wear beautiful handwoven bags, rubber boots, and many of them wear straw hats under their hard hats. They are short men and women who have labored all day in the sun. They are beautiful, almost too beautiful.
When other things fail, there is always prayer. My voice fails, my ability to reason, my confidence. But there is prayer, whispered prayer in the night, prayer in my heart, prayer over pots of food on the stove. Prayer as I slice vegetables, prayer as the world never stays put.
Christy and the girls are here with us in our home for Christmas. I love them so much. They are beautiful, almost too beautiful. Christy never changes. We are still both addicted to pens and books. She still carries beautiful things around the world with her. She is deep, spiritual, honest, passionate. Grief only seems to have altered her in ways that make her more like Jesus. I’m not sure the same can be said for me. I’ve been angry all year. I’ve felt anger this year beyond anything I’ve ever felt before, and it’s not only around the unfairness of death. Anger in me gets directed toward my friends, my kitchen drawer that is falling apart, my sidecar, the people who practice driving scooters in front of my house. It doesn’t come out, usually. It rages along, like a quiet fire, within.
But these last few days, it has been sadness that has come to the surface, properly, not sideways. I have been crying.
I never saw Ian sick. I was always here, on this side of the world, through all of it. Chinua was there, Christy was always there. But I was here and I saw him well and healthy, and then he was gone. It’s only starting to feel real now that we are three friends at the table instead of four. We are diminished.
Our little families sit together in the evenings, sometimes, reading Bible stories and talking about Advent. The other night, I asked the kids what brings them peace. They all had similar answers: drawing, music, nature. Solo said sucking his thumb (very rare for him these days, but I guess he still does it sometimes) and little Fiona agreed. “When I suck my thumb,” she said, “I feel so cozy, and like Abba is right here.” She’s talking about her daddy, who is on the eternal side.
Tears. Quiet fire of anger. But more tears.
Advent. The approach of Emmanuel, the footsteps that thunder toward us, shouting “Peace! Peace on the world!” Everywhere I turn, there are refugee stories. The world and little grieving girls call out in their need for peace, tangible peace that comes from somewhere else, some Godly, ethereal, dazzling place. Warmth and love and healing beyond measure. Oh how we need the eternal coming of Christ more than ever. We are drowning in our need for Jesus. We need him, we can try to drive him away with our anger, but we need him to come, to touch us, to change us.
I saw a couple arguing on their motorbike in Chiang Mai. We drove on the same road for many miles, stopping at the same intersection. They appeared to be arguing about directions. They were completely silent, because they were speaking in sign language, which made the fact that they were arguing on a motorbike even more interesting, the man swiveling to shoot contemptuous, know-it-all looks at the woman as they argued about what part of Chiang Mai had the worst traffic at this time of day. (I would assume.)
I didn’t see her face, I can only conclude that she was giving him plenty of her own looks. I believe they loved each other, that they were just bickering, that traffic got to them, that a hard day of work had their weariness coming out sideways, silently, at the red lights. I believe there was peace for them when they got home, peace for those construction laborers, some rice and a cozy place. I believe there is peace for all of us, coming toward us on loud feet, approaching with a sound like thunder. You wouldn’t expect it to be so loud, but it needs to shake us out of our anger, bring us back to a cozy place. Like he is right here.