Stories write themselves. So when it was my turn to write a short article for this summer months edition, I wasn’t worried. Yet here I am. Staring at a blank page on an empty screen with even less inspiration. Waiting. Hoping. Praying. Maybe God is busy.
Good stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. Where to begin when I don’t know the ending. Where to end, if this white page remains unwritten? Watching my kids learning to read and write is like watching one of those unwritten pages, seeing them unfold, the rapid progress and the disappointing mistakes. I suppose all stories are personal journeys, undertaken by the writer and the reader alike. We all travel in the same direction, but at different speeds. I have to be your traffic light though and temper your expectations. There is very little to see after the year we have had. And what little there was burned up in the heat wave. I will be winging this as they say, just as I was while helping my kids with their school work.
Some journeys -and some stories- have a clearly defined goal. They are trips to the grocery store to get milk. In the past year we wanted to be in the store surrounded by other people. At the same time we wanted to get back to the relative safety of our homes. Enduring other peoples glare from behind a mask while being afraid of and yet yearning for what little interaction there was to be had is too much emotional ambiguity for my taste. But still better than none at all despite being such a poor substitute. Oh, and I still returned without a big jug of milk. But typically, with cold ice cream and red wine strangely enough. I have three kids after all. At church we made similar steps by streaming our service and calling parishioners. Better than nothing and maybe not as good as before. So that was last years journey, when mid-day Zooming into church or school provided a life line, even if only in digital form.
Other journeys simply just help us grow. These road trips are like little vacations for the mind as we drive around and around in ever larger circles only to end up back home. Pointless at some level, since I won’t end up with ice cream, but useful in the longer term. It’s cathartic. Just as listening to the Sunday sermon is, regardless of whether it is in person or remotely. It helps us to focus on what is truly important. The pandemic certainly helped me figure out what is central in my life. My kids are, for instance. To help them on their own road trip, with all the ups and downs on the way and the time randomly consumed, is rewarding in its own way. Repetition, going in circles, is how we learn and grow after all. This year is more like a road trip. At least, that is how it feels.
Sometimes journeys and road trips mix up to make a surprisingly tasty cocktail. I am still trying to convert a van into something we can use on family camping vacations. Last year it was nowhere near being done. Luckily, we didn’t have much of an urge to go anywhere during the pandemic anyways. This year? Well, it is still not done. But a lot more done than before. Building it out has been and is a journey with a defined goal (we want to take it on a long trip across a small part of this beautiful continent) and a road trip growing my skill set (and severely testing my limited patience and my poor tools) at the same time. We have taken it out on several trips despite its unfinished state. That is how I discovered that my kids now can read signs here and there. It’s fun to watch their minds understand the world around them more and more. That is their journey at present. Nowhere near done. And yet, nowhere near the beginning either. Much like our journeys, and road trip at the same time, to Saint Andrews. Never done, ever evolving.
Let’s be honest. It is certainly nice seeing our wandering world abruptly awaken from the slow slumber party that was last year. Instead of imagining people in their PJ’s on yet another Zoom call, we suddenly are all dressed and recreating it seems. Yet, isn’t a road trip without a small hickup uneventful? And easily forgotten? On one of the trips we undertook this year, my daughter wandered off from our campsite. It was a State park wedged between a deep lake and a busy freeway. She was lost for about a very long hour or so. When the drowning alarm started to go off time stopped for me. Everything came to a halt while we frantically looked for her. Long story short, she was found about a mile or two away, safe and sound. Her own little road trip came to a happy end. The park ranger even gave her a badge. I didn’t get one, now that I think back. I expect we will have some hiccups on our journey to church as well. But we will frantically manage.
Last year in church, we invested in equipment to stream the Sunday service, when Covid broke out. We will continue to do so, even as we are returning one by one to the sanctuary. At school they invested in new methods to help my kids and yours learn remotely. I suspect snow days are a thing of the past. As for me, I invested in two way radios, that my three children now carry around the camp grounds. I now have to listen to them chatting all the time. Three ways where we frantically found alternate routes on our collective travels. I am confident we will find more routes if we need to again.
All journeys are stories. The pages on how church services in particular and society in general will unfold as they react to the aftermath of Covid are still unwritten of course. The paragraphs and chapters about my kids growing up are coming along nicely and are really fun to experience, even though they are bound to shorten my life span. The third act with our camper van is about to start. We will drive across America. Yes, I know. Unfinished. I’ll keep you posted. If we make it back that is. These are all journeys. And trips. And stories. We will arrive, we will grow and we will share. Just like Saint An- drews.
And sometimes there is no journey, no story. Just banter. Like my kids at the camp site using their radios to inquire after dinner. Did I mention the van also has a long antenna and powerful receiver to pick up my kids from far away? And you know what I suddenly realized? Apparently, stories do write themselves, with hiccups and all. Even though I was lost at first. It runs in the family, apparently. Maybe you were lost as well. But God was and is listening.
See you soon in church.