when longing to choose joy
The ring Sara sent me in June, it didn’t fit on my middle finger.
Sara had wore it on her middle finger — until the ring’s sterling silver weight had made her enflamed knuckles burn.
That’s when she wound it off slow, slipped in an envelope and had her grocery lady drop it off at the post office.
Sara knew. The fire in my bones had been about extinguished.
If I wore it — would I feel the heat — ignite?
This is what the letter said:
I am sending you my favorite silver ring I used to wear on my middle finger every day. I can’t wear it anymore as it’s too heavy on my sore fingers… It is purposefully hammered and bent, the way I often felt — the way you are feeling — but it is beautiful and perfect in its imperfections.
I don’t know how Sara knew how this season had battered hard. I don’t know when I told her that fear sometimes made my teeth chatter, a blast of cold wind right down the nape of my neck. Or when I told her I had grown too scared-paralyzed to pluck out words – that somehow, somewhere, someone would misunderstand, and I couldn’t bear the risk of befouling the cause of Christ and how to keep breathing when you’re where you don’t want to be. That my bones felt a bit deadened and felt ash-grey.
I do remember writing this to her one night in March, knowing she was housebound and maybe words might free her. It was my first real letter to her:
I wish you were here tonight, Sara. The sun is setting over the snow all melting. The world is pink and glowing, warm and resting. The dishwasher is twirling, swirling, humming. Shalom is here in the rocking chair reading aloud to herself from her reader…. little whispers…. sounding words out.
Hope is playing at the piano — “Cherry Blossoms in the Rain” — the notes send me across to Asia, the blossoms falling all around us, and a haunting cry too somewhere underneath the lilting high notes, an ache for all that is lost and falling away — the snow melting… the blossoms falling… seasons changing.
I wanted to share the beauty of this moment with you, Sara. Just to sit with you … and share eucharisteo with you.
The bread of His grace in this moment.
And when I see things that make me sing and ache and give thanks for the wonder of this amazing grace, just this moment. –
I think of how you live what I long to.
Sara had turned all the pages in that book I had stumbled to scratch awkwardly down.
Her first letter to me said that her vocabulary had a new word: eucharisteo.
She wasn’t simply reading it. She was living it.
She wrote it on her wall. Eucharisteo. Offered the word to us, even in her own handwriting.
Though her spine was fusing and her lungs ached… though she smiled a bit weakly to think she might live decades with pain that was at least an 8 on the painscale… though she hadn’t been out of her house in 3 years because the air of this world would kill her – Sara was taking every moment as grace, charis, giving thanks for it, eucharisteo, and finding joy, chara. Grace, gratitude, joy – eucharisteo.
Sara chose joy.
Wherever I went, I twisted the silver ring that she had worn on her middle finger of her left hand, that I now wore on the far finger of my left hand.
I walked through the forest. Stood on the water’s shore. Tried to find the words again so I could see how The Word’s writing Himself into my story. I told Sara that I carried her with me, right to the edge. Me the woman terrified to leave her house, wearing the ring of the woman who couldn’t leave her house.
When I didn’t know how to go, didn’t think I could walk out the door, didn’t know how to keep breathing, I’d feel the weight of that ring. Sara would dance if she could go. Sara would laugh at the grace of going. Sara wouldn’t contort this blessing into a burden.
Why in the world make blessings into burdens? Why choose fear instead of joy?
When I surrender to stress; don’t I advertise the unreliability of God?
Sara told me: “I had to choose fear–or completely trust Him. One cannot exist if the other is true.”
Her, so wise. I turned the doorknob, silver ring on finger.
God is the air of this world.
And fear is always the flee ahead and stepping into fears can be the first step into real faith and focusing the eyes on all the grace here is what keeps the focus on His all sufficient grace.
There is never fear here in this moment— because the Presence of I AM always fills the present moment.
We could do that: Practice the discipline of the Present.
Sara told me:
The pain is present and I know I’m getting slower, but this is it: to live for this moment and this moment only… I’m just thankful He’s with me. That I’m never lonely for Him.
And my gift today?
There is a tree in front of another building that I can see from my window. There was a slow breeze today and the branches drifted back and forth so slowly, like they were dancing and waving to me.
I had to resist the urge to wave back.
Sara chose joy and she waved back to grace.
I sent her photos from the front porch and of standing on these floors here, practicing the Praise of the Present, and of friends who choose joy with her.
And a few weeks ago, Sara smiles back from the screen and tells me this in this gravelly voice, coughing it out, that she is saying it too: Yes to God. I have to turn from the screen, everything running liquid. She says it too? She knows it too: when we need peace – we only need to say yes To God’s purposes.
How can she say that? Because what she believes, she lives — and she scrawls it everywhere and all over my heart: eucharisteo. Yes, God, yes! Grace, gratitude, joy — eucharisteo.
And a night in late September, after hospice is called in and she knows she finally, thankfully, turned homeward, Sara writes me:
I don’t think I’ll be able to write again as I’m getting too weak, but you need to know — when you feel weak, take a deep breath.
I closed my eyes tight, blink it all back… Sara knew: That biblical scholars realize that the name of God, the letters YHWH, sounds like the sound of our breathing – aspirated consonants. God Himself names himself — -and He names himself that which is the sound of our own breathing.
When you are weak – take a deep breath. That’s what Sara said at the end: Breathe. Say His name. Say Yes to God. Eucharisteo.
Her last words to me: You will never be alone or need to be afraid.
I reach out to touch the screen, touch her one last time, ring touching her last pixels and she is still breathing.
As long as she breathes, she says yes to God.
I keep my hands there on the screen, on Sara’s words, on Sara – her encircling me in silver, my bones all burning love and Him and joy.
And Hope, she’s playing it in the night shadows again, playing it again tonight, Cherry Blossoms in Rain on the piano, the song she now calls Sara’s Song — her fingers, all her fingers, playing the notes.
And again there’s an ache, a haunting echo, and the notes feel like the far oriental east, like a winging, like a long leaving, like standing at the edge of what once was and witnessing the losing of something pure and prayed for.
After the last high note, Hope whispers it into the stilled dark: “Mama? That whole song?
It’s played on the black notes.“
The black notes can make music too. The black notes can choose joy too.
Somewhere in the house, in the dark, I can hear it — how a door opens, how Sara now walks straight through into light…
When she turns and waves back to grace, I’ll take a deep breath and wave to the extraordinary joy of her too, her silver ring shimmering on my hand here –
the weight of all His sheer glory …
Related post: 3 Things to Hold on to When Life Hurts
the One Thousand Gifts that never end… thanks for the grace and the gifts — a way to choose joy…
#2732 – #2741
this post of Sara’s — an absolute must read today
the trees waving in the wind here still
the beauty of women and friendships and Jesus-sisters and why we need each other in real life
the possibility for beauty in the black notes
this beautiful gathering celebrating Sara’s life and how she helped them choose joy
her encircling prayers worn in silver on this hand
#11 and week #19 and the laying low wonder of more of His people choosing joy and eucharisteo
the sound of doors opening
Free Printables to Choose Joy
(folding instructions for booklet here)
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