Keeping Company

Keeping Company

“A great sorrow and a great fear had come into all the world, and the world was changing. Our minds were driven out of the old boundaries into thoughts of absolute loss, absolute emptiness, in a world that seemed larger even than the sky that held it.

nearness of God when we think we are alone“Time doesn’t stop. Your life doesn’t stop and wait until you get ready to start living it. Those years of the war were not a blank, and yet during all that time I was waiting. We all were waiting…moving in wide circles around our sadness.

“The pleasures that came then had a way of reminding you that they had been pleasures once upon a time, when it seemed that you had a right to them. Happiness had a way of coming to you and making you sad. How can you be happy, how can you live, when all the things that make you happy grieve you nearly to death?”

* * *

These excerpts from Wendell Berry’s moving novel, Hannah Coulter, beautifully reveal a woman’s deep reflections on life. Here she’s pining for her soldier husband in WWII, but the words touch a chord for any who have suffered loss.

What resonated with me is the “waiting” Berry describes, the suspension from living life, and how happy things sometimes intensify the sadness.Continue reading

Lost Outside

Lost Outside

It was all so perfect. We’d planned it for months! And as we hoped, the surprise brought more unfettered joy than I’d seen in a child for a long time.

She asked, “Is Christmas, um…nexterday?” As a four-year-old, she was searching for the word “tomorrow.”

“Yes,” I said, “Tomorrow, and tonight is Christmas Eve!”

Santa BagWe sat around the dinner table in the soft glow of candlelight. When I finished eating, I took some garbage out to the garage and snuck around to the front door to leave a small Santa bag on the doormat. Then I knocked hard three times, before running back through the garage into the house.

My granddaughter nearly jumped out of her pajamas.

“Someone’s here!” Her mother played along with enthusiasm.

“What! What’s going on?” I said.

“There was a knock!” she said to me, half-scared, half-excited. She wiggled down from her father’s arms, and we tiptoed to the door. I unlocked it and slowly opened the door a crack. No one was there. Only the Santa Bag! She shrieked with delight as Santa had brought an early present the same way last Christmas.

ErnieInside, wrapped in white tissue paper and tied with a red ribbon…Continue reading



Several months after my friend Terry died, I pulled out an Early American songbook to play something familiar on my piano. It was an ordinary afternoon. I started with the marching chords of The Battle Hymn of The Republic. As the opening words streamed through my thoughts, I considered their meaning—as if for the very first time.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord… 

I realize those printed lyrics aren’t going to have the same impact on you as they did on me that day. It’s hard to describe the rush of emotion that came over me. I couldn’t play another note. I folded my arms on the piano and wept with great sighing sobs.

It was so unexpected.

The cross of GolgathaThe Holy Spirit suddenly overwhelmed the grief rising up in my heart—with hope. He melded together His plan for good with my earthly disappointment, surrounding me with a tangible presence of love. I was undone.

In a way, the cross itself was an intersection love, hope, and sorrow…

See from His head, His hands, His feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down!

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

God is known for surprise visits.

Depressed woman on a benchHe moves us beyond the natural to the spiritual, from the temporal to the eternal, from the loneliness of sorrow to the fullness of His love. He doesn’t give up when we do. Author Gregory Boyle calls it the “no-matter-what-ness of God.”Continue reading