Last week in Wisconsin, Marnell and I went to the farmhouse where I grew up, the school where I used to teach, the church where I was baptized, the town where I played tennis, the coffee shop where Rosie and I met at 6am before going to our work places. Of course we visited my four brothers and sisters who live close by. We laughed and talked, played tennis, and delivered cookies and read stories to identical children.
We also visited my mom’s grave, and met with my friend Rosie and her husband, who recently experienced the loss of a daughter they had been anticipating many months.
Wouldn’t it be nice if no one would be sad during the Mother’s Day season?
I don’t know the answer to that question for sure. But I do know that I learned something when, just after visiting my mom’s grave, we visited my great uncle’s shop.
First, I got distracted by the wooden curls. I just love the curls that pile up around lathes. When Marnell took me on a tour of the machine shop where he works, I would have begged for a bucket of the steel curls if I could have thought of a good use for them.
I exclaimed over the wooden curls as well, and my Aunt Pauline offered to bag some up for me, like the generous woman she is. But of course I could think of no practical use for the wooden ones either.
Once he had my attention again, Uncle Reuben explained that when he sees old trees or logs lying in a pile, he pictures what he could make out of them. With special cuts, and the use of his lathe, he turns the wood into bowls.
“See this dark line?” he asked, pointing to a pattern on one of the finished bowls. “It’s rot, or decomposition in the wood. But it makes a beautiful pattern.”
And then, my favorite… Uncle Reuben said that he always tries to cut the bowl from the edge of the log, rather than from the tough heart wood in the middle. Keeping the heart in the wood often makes it difficult to cut and messes up the bowl.
“See,” he said, picking one off his shelf. “I left the heart in that one, and it’s not quite even.”
“I’ve made some bowls just out of good oak wood without flaws,” he said. “But they aren’t as beautiful.”
Indeed, beside the others, they were quite drab.
Madame Jeanne Guyon, who wrote the song, “I would love thee, God and Father,” lost several of her children, and apparently her great beauty, to small pox. She spoke of God’s love as a love that carries faithful people to places of suffering, a place that offers many blessings if it is not rejected.
I would love thee! Every blessing flows to me from out thy throne.
I would love thee, he who loves thee never feels himself alone.
I bought two of my uncle’s bowls, one for my friend Rosie, and one for myself, the one that was slightly crooked because the heart was still in it.
“I’m not surprised,” Marnell said to me with a smile when I explained that I wanted that one. He must be figuring me out.
The next morning, I introduced Marnell to an old friend who used to torment Rosie and I in our youth group days in Wisconsin, who is now a husband, father and pastor. We were standing out in the breeze on the church porch which my students used to use for home base, just a few hundred feet from my mom’s grave.
“So you’re the stabilizing force in Katrina’s life now?” he said matter-of-factly to Marnell. I’m not even sure why I put a question mark on the end of his words; it was a statement.
Great. Everyone seems to have me figured out! Even though times change, people have a remarkable gift at staying the same.
I’m not sure that it will ever be possible to figure out the total purpose for the dark lines, the flaws, or the crookedness come into our lives. It’s a little hard to know why Mother’s Day is a day of laughter for some people and a day of sadness for others.
But perhaps in the end, when we look back over our lives from eternity, we will be surprised when we see where the beauty comes from.