The fire curls like a Scarlet Paintbrush, streaking the night with oranges and reds.
Our men are at the picnic table with oldest sons, playing a board game, and we’re huddled in old flannel and old sweaters swapping dreams like recipes in this campground by the river.
The air smells like burnt marshmallows. We hear the rush of the river like the sound of God’s voice and he’s speaking now, through my friend, who lost both her parents relatively recently and spent the past year going through their house, sorting things.
“I held items in my hands and they seemed to turn to ash,” she says to me, the fire lighting up half her face.
I think of the mountain peaks surrounding us, harsh granite stretching to cobalt blue skies here in Jasper, Alberta. The trees poking like toothpicks from the top of Old Fort Point. How grass-like we are. Even as flames lick the night, only ash will remain. “What is man that you are mindful of him, oh God?”
Wildflowers pattern our rocky path to the river, Bluebells and Tiger Lilies and Baby’s Breath, God’s garden, here today, gone tomorrow – fleeting beauty.
Yet it matters. This moment. This fire. Those flowers. Those items. All of them, cherished heirlooms.
They matter because they remind us, in all of their temporality, of eternity.
The threads that bind
My friend and I reflect on our age, even as we sit under a darkening sky, of being in our forties, and how we want to do big things that matter and little things with great thoughtfulness. To make the most of the rest of our days here on earth. My friend is a painter and has a vision to capture portraits of people in their solitude, doing things they love – like quilting, reading, caring for chickens. Capturing their essence and also those fleeting, important moments. Hallowed yet hidden snapshots of time.
And I share of the burden in my soul for all humanity to know their purpose, to know they belong to a Father who wove them together in their mother’s wombs. How I carry an intercession for the world and a weeping soul like Jeremiah.
Our voices together are like water spouts, splashing about with the roar of the river, and I feel my spirit quicken within, even as we spur one another on.
We talk of Elizabeth Elliot, and Brother Lawrence – washing dishes with great prayers and praise – and then we rise to tuck our children into bed, their own souls clamouring to be heard, seen and loved, while the river rushes on and the flames flicker.
It’s the invisible things, the threads that bind, which press us on – towards higher thoughts, but also, lower places, hidden with Christ. From dust to dust, from glory to glory. These treasured friendships, like great clouds of witnesses, cheering us on to the end.