They stand up, two friends, now mothers of college students, ones who played together as children.   Share with the women seated around the room, about how they can participate in this outreach, to send goody boxes of encouragement to college students living away from home.

And this simple announcement, it brings back the pain.  How I unload the heavy boxes from the car, to the elevator, into my new dorm room every year  . . . by myself.  Fill out the paperwork for enrollment, work two jobs to pay tuition, sign on the dotted line for loans, the new car. Wonder why I do this alone.

Feel the absence even more when those goody boxes arrive from miles away for friends while my hometown mailbox remains empty.  And while I revel in their happiness, I observe what it means to love beyond obligation.  Watch them tear open, pull out the love that lies inside.  Borrow their joy in a shared cookie. Want to be this kind of goody box parent someday.

We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too. ~I Thessalonians 2:8

And on Sunday, the kids and I linger awhile after church, among the crowd in the dappled sunlight that cast its geometric shadows across the lawn in front of the sanctuary.  I talk with other moms while their wispy locked young ones swirl around legs, chasing one another in their pink smocked dresses and white ankle socks.

This light in Fall, it illuminates what lies hidden in summer’s folly.

The conversation, after the small talk, shifts to the sacred in what just happened inside those hallowed walls, around the kneelers.  When the robed bishop drips prayers on the heads of each teenager bowed low at the altar.  The ones that come of age, take Christ as their own, declare it in confirmation.

And these mothers talk about how hard it is for their children to give testimony the night before.  How difficult it is to share about this mystery of finding Christ when the story isn’t shrouded in overcoming hardship.  When all you have known your whole life is love.

How the stories that come from living in sin and then awakening to Christ are much more interesting to tell.  Capture the audience.

Jesus said, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” ~Matthew 22:37

This finding the mystery when there is no puzzle to figure out, no labyrinth to walk through, no mess to overcome – it is miraculous to some.

But then, what one takes for granted in the goody box, is miracle for another.

I continue to count the gifts with Ann today, finding gratitude in the everyday:

  • For my Aunt who loves without end.
  • The way the sun shifts in Fall, making leaves translucent.
  • Movies by candlelight.
  • Ice cream and car conversation with the boy who makes me smile.
  • A husband who flies home, wheels suitcase into kitchen and stops to help his daughter make a science project before taking the coat off.
  • Lavender soap.
  • For Him, who was and is with me through it all.
  • Naps on the couch outside.
  • All the worms in the soil I find while planting new flowers.  A sign of health.

and linking with Michelle and Laura