Have you ever been out in a full-on snow storm when the sun comes out? Just a little, just enough to peak through the fat flakes as they hit the windshield. Snow storms can be dark and mesmerizing, can make you feel lost and vulnerable… until the sun finds its way through.
Driving to Madoc a couple of weeks ago for the UCW executive meeting, I was counting blessings for a new car (totalled mine in an accident before Christmas), blessings for church family who make space for me to travel like this, blessings for my own family who look out for each other… blessings for a good cup of coffee to keep me awake… when suddenly the sun came out.
The whole world became whitish-yellow. Monet has a painting that in English, is called Vanilla Sky. If only Monet could have seen this world!
Sometimes unexpected beauty can draw you out of a melancholy frame of mind. Spending the morning with the Bay of Quinte UCW executive was even more therapeutic. As president I am expected to visit presbyteries and other groups whenever possible, but like many things in life, when you think it is about one thing, the truth usually blind-sides you. Like the sun coming out in a snow storm, the laughter, welcome, and worship of these women lifted my soul to a beautiful place.
As I travel around I am asking people questions, taking note of their answers, and along with Wendy Maclean and other poets/song-writers in our conference, we are creating songs to capture the life of these groups in this moment. In listening to the answers of the executive of our women’s group, I was astounded to hear the confidence, the absolute knowledge of their importance in the church. It’s all true. In so many of our churches the United Church Women groups are the glue holding it all together. They are the prayer-centre, the spiritual hub, the pastoral care-givers… yes they are also the caterers and hosts and many other things. They are strong. And it’s all done with a sense of humour.
I am so grateful. So then I leave Madoc and head to Oshawa that same day for Lakeridge Presbytery. There, I also felt God’s presence in lively worship, meeting old friends in a new place, and yes, hearing their stories about the faithful United Church folk in that part of the world. Also strong, also welcoming (perhaps even embracing?), also full of laughter and God’s love.
The next night was my home presbytery, Kawartha Highlands. Again the laughter, again the welcome, again the faith that as God’s children, we are called by Christ to care for each other, for the communities around us, for the world.
My final drive home was in pitch darkness – the heaviness of everyday life crowds in again, reality of broken hearts and difficult decisions, life lost, new life pushing its way in…
Life is a balance. This much we know. Church is the very place where we take our heaviness and let the body of Christ hold us. It is also the place we can find new life, new laughter and purpose. May God continue to bless the church in all our challenges, and may we continue to rise to new challenges, always seeking the way of love and beauty, always recognizing the snow storms, but looking for the vanilla promise of God’s presence.