The Gift of The Present

I almost wasn't present for the gift of today. Last night the ghost of an idea percolated into my imagination: To retreat. Run away, really, to hide from today. My late night lucid plan was to wake up, call the St. Bernard Abbey  in Cullman, Alabama. Pray they had some visitor vacancies. Pack a small bag. Hope my husband and kids were ok with my unanticipated 3 day absence. And make the 5 hour and 18 minute pilgrimage while spending 4 of those hours explaining and re-explaining to my sister that I really am ok.

I was hoping for relief. My thought was maybe getting away, clearing my head, being surrounded by prayer, and quiet, and the monkish life could lift this black fog that had gathered all around, in and through me. Why St. Bernard? Swiped the idea from @RachelHeldEvans' book, Searching for Sunday.  St. Bernard is where RHE ventured when she was searching for something. (side note) RHE's latest masterpiece provided much fodder for a recent sermon on the Kingdom of God. And RiffRaff. And God's great big table.  Big enough for even the riffy-est of the riffraff (me).  Listen here---> "Do This. Remember Me."  And so, maybe, a similar trip could provide me with something...Or at least get the heavy blackness off my chest.

As the sun broke through my blackened sky, reality set in. I had family and friends that had made plans to celebrate with me. My children needed their taxi service to usher them from one extra curricular to the next. 9 weeks tests are tomorrow and there is a Science test Duke really needs to ace. Beyond all the "shoulds"  and the "needs" the truth of the matter: I really desired to face today, but was just too afraid. Didn't feel like wrestling with the heartache. Weary from the struggle and constant ache in my soul.

 I was facing the brutal knowledge that I wouldn't receive the very first call I have gotten for as far back as I can remember. The one where Mom retells me the story of my birth. I always laughed her off and said, "Mom, I know this story. I've heard it a billion times." And, yet, with cruel irony the details are now foggy. I wish I could have heard her tell it this day. How intently I would have listened. I would not have missed one word of the tale. Insisted on all the details she could muster up. And even taken notes. What I do remember went something like...Lots of pain. Crazy pain. Something about a false alarm trip to Memorial. A trip to Burger King (I food for sure). Back home. Throwing up. But not my Mom. My Dad and his "weak stomach" I inherited. More pain. Back to the hospital. And before she knew it a bright eyed, first born child with lots of black hair burst into the world an old soul. "You were born grown," she would say.

The fear of enduring today and the deep pain of her absence almost drove me searching for a St. Bernard escape. Not that there would have been anything wrong with that--we all need Retreat. Rewiring. Reframing. But...I would have missed out on so many, many gifts. Gifts only received if you are willing to live into The Present in all its glorious splendor mixed with, yes, heartache and pain. A life cocktail!

 I would have missed out on:

My darling husband heading to the store for (gross alert) tampons and hairspray and returning with other thoughtful birthday treats. (You know your guy must love you if he's willing to cash in his man card like that).

My sweet Mosie being the first person to wish me, "Happy Birthday" with a lovely text (and a few alien faces due to a lack of updating on my part. Wonder what those are?)

And then hours later...BAM! A follow up text:

Another text from not so "Little" Eddie with a BIG 101 on a test. The highest grade in the class! Sweet! Congrats to him! Happy Birthday to ME!
Hugs and kisses from my darling babies: Chloe and Duke.

A trip to a brand new (to me) salon I didn't know existed compliments of "Sherry" Graves the winner of a basketful of goodies including a gift certificate to Cutting Edge and a trip to Belize! UnBelizable, Brat!

A sweet card in the mail from my precious Aunt Cherry & Aunt Tommie that provided the juice for a a rare treat trip to Lee Tracy. (Turns out the birthday shirt I picked out was identical to the one fashionista, Amy C. , chose for Marty's birthday.)

A beautiful birthday lunch with precious friends and my darling sis. Complete with a toast to "Sunshine" and "Hope" and an amazing made from scratch cake, by the Cake Bos, Kim "the intern." What a gift! She preaches like a pro AND can bake? SAY WHAT? What can't Kim Bos do?

More Cards. Calls. Texts. Facebook LOVE than a girl can stand. Of course my favorite...
He sure is a charmer. I'm one lucky girl.

And now I'm sitting here. Soaking in the gift of today. Turning away the Jehovah Witness "Elder" that won't stop knocking on my door. Peering through my blinds. Watching me type this very second...And I'm not answering the door.  I just don't feel like getting into it. I don't feel like explaining: Yes, I do believe. In fact, I know you can't believe this, but I'm a pastor.  And it also happens to be my birthday. And I don't want to get into a huge Christological debate with you over the divinity of Christ. I know what you believe. And what I believe is Jesus wasn't just a role model, but Christ is actually God in skin. And Jesus humbled himself, taking on our infirmities, and steps down into our world. Laughing with us. Crying with us. And is the High Priest that knows my heartache, because he experienced heartache first hand. And it is THIS God that made a way for me today when I just didn't see a way.

 And instead of fruitlessly arguing with you, Elder Such and So, I'm going to make myself a cup of coffee and flip through the magazine that was in my early morning birthday bundle compliments of my hubby. I'm going to soak in this fleeting quiet moment while waiting to run the after school pickup circuit, grab dinner for the Kirby kids, head to a can't miss church meeting, and finally make it over the bay for a late night, first time, reservation at Felix's with My Love.

Thanking God I'm here. And drinking in deeply all the marvelous gifts of The Present. I pray, even if you are facing a dark night of the soul, you can muster up the courage to raise your glass to life, too! #cheers


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