Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The most beautiful dent

A few weeks ago, a woman backed her car into the side of my minivan and left a huge dent.

For the first time in 20 years, I filed a claim with my insurance company. A couple of days later, an adjuster came out to the house, assessed the damage, determined that I was not at fault and wrote me a check.

I fully intended to get the car repaired.

I love my car. It is the closest I have ever come to owning a 'new' car. It only had 30,000 miles on it when I bought it 7 years ago. So, I checked out repair facilities and determined that I could get a rental while it was in the shop. I made plans to fix the dent.

Nguyen thought I should take the money and donate it to charity. 'People are hungry. Things are bad. That money could really help someone." he said. I hate it when he gets all charitable. Especially when it is at my expense. Especially when it sheds light on my own lack of generosity.

Yeah, I said, that's all well and good, but what about my car? Am I really going to drive around in a minivan with a big dent in the side? I plan on driving this car into the ground. I want it to look nice while I do.

"Suit yourself." he said. "It's your car."

I made up my mind. I was going to fix the car.

But for some reason, I didn't pick up the phone to make an appointment. I just kept driving with the dent.

And then, on Monday, I was running errands when God suddenly clocked me upside the head.

The money I got for the dent was something like a year's wages in Vietnam or Mali. This money could really do some good for someone. I decided right then and there that I would send some of the money to my father in law in Nha Trang, some of it to my new family in Mali and the rest of it, well, Nguyen and I have a 10 year old mattress that could use replacing....

God shows us the way to live a generous and compassionate life. Apparently I am a slow learner.

From now on, when I see the dent, I won't see ugly, twisted metal and flaked paint. I will see a steaming bowl of rice with peanut sauce. And it will be lovely in my eyes.

Sigh. I just hate it when my husband is right.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Within the liturgy

Today, during his homily, our Rector announced that he is retiring and will be leaving at the end of June.

He said it so matter of factly I almost didn't react at first. His homily was a prelude to our annual meeting, which took place following the service. By the time I really registered what he said, we were on to the Nicene Creed.

As we said the creed, it occurred to me that it was totally appropriate for him to sandwich his announcement in the middle of a service. It put the whole thing in context. Everything of importance in our lives finds context in our life of worship. Our births are celebrated, our baptisms, our funerals and weddings. We participate in a mass for all of it. In times of health crisis, we can be anointed, we bring communion to the housebound and the sick. We cycle through the church year, experiencing ups, downs and in-betweens. The church, the body of Christ, give us a vehicle for experiencing the rhythms of life, a context for understanding the natural ebbs and flows of our lives.

When I first was baptised, it was an experience, in my mind at least, that was wholly centered on me. My husband and mom were on the shore. The minister and I were in the water. We said our bit and then I was submerged. When I participated in my first Episcopal baptism, later that year, I remember feeling a little sorry for the man who was baptised because immediately afterwards, we moved on to the communion and he didn't really seem to have time to process any of what happened.

How foolish I was.

More and more, lately, I am coming to love the way the liturgy invites us to step out of the spotlight and allow ourselves to merge with something bigger, finer, more beautiful than we can imagine.

I think Bob understands this. I think that is one of the reasons he is such a remarkable priest.

I am going to miss him terribly.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Je pleure

Yesterday was the first day I was out and about. I went to the Vietnamese New Year party at my sister in laws.

A couple of people asked about my trip and I couldn't talk about it without crying. I am not sure why. At one point, I was actually suppressing sobs. I was talking to my brother's girlfriend and I could barely hold it together.

Today I had lunch with my drumming teacher. I called him yesterday and asked if we could meet because I wanted to talk to him about the trip. We sat in an Asian restaurant on Angel street, slurping noodles and going over our two weeks in Mali. I cried big silent tears the whole time. I realized that even though we were there together, our experiences were not the same.

I am not sure what the crying is about. It sort of feels like joy sometimes. Other times it is just a sense of being emotionally overwhelmed. I feel raw when I talk about Mali. Open and very very vulnerable.