Monday, January 27, 2014
A block party. In northern Illinois January. With wind chills registering in the forty below zero range for a few weeks in a row, we hadn’t seen the sweet face of a neighbor in a number of days. Layered up in insulated underwear, flannels, lined jeans, and wooly socks we remained holed up indoors awaiting a break in the unrelenting polar vortex or something of the sort. We were most assuredly safe and warm, which in and of itself was indeed a blessing, although quite completely disconnected, insulated, isolated really, from the world out there even next door; kind of lonely. Then came the phone call which was an invitation to a neighborhood block party; a lifeline. With snow to our knees and scarves around our faces, we excitedly trudged through the elements carrying our dish-to-pass to the home of the block party planners. The glowing warmth inside pulled each and every neighbor right into the happily boisterous block party. Glorious interactions from serious to hilarious and everything in between, catching up on life, and watching the fireplace fire sparkling in everyone’s eyes, it was a critical and delightful evening of re-connecting. We need each other. We do better and feel better and everything better when we exist in community. A smile shared is a double blessing. Laughter shared makes the heart joyful. Tears shared makes the burden a bit lighter. A meal shared builds community, builds connection, builds a bridge. A block party in January? Absolutely yes!
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
It is winter in the Midwest. Temperatures during the past week have hovered in the sub-zero range with wind chills dipping near thirty below. The snow is deep and has been swept into impassable drifts along both highways and country roads. The whistling wind sneaks into homes through unseen cracks supremely taxing even the heartiest of furnaces and demanding multiple layers of woolen sweaters and fleecy blankets for all inhabitants. It is winter in the Midwest. Rosy cheeks, piping hot homemade soup, and fireplaces a’blaze are the order of the day, and we smile for each delicate, unique snowflake that lands gently on a tongue. Although the wintry conditions are certainly extreme and undeniably dangerous, there is a stillness and a peace and a wonder-filled beauty about the snow. It’s a sparkling, chilly blanket that frosts the landscape like a fluffy dollop of butter cream frosting atop a scrumptious cupcake. To stand outside in the snow, to walk in it, to traverse it in snowshoes or skis is to understand the stillness of it, which without the experience of it is completely indescribable. The chaos and cacophony of life at its outrageously presto pace, in its constant stereophonic dissonance, with its hyper-stimulation of lights, colors, and images can indeed numb the senses with all of its uber-overdoneness. How can we be still? How can our children understand peace? How can we learn to quiet our hearts and rest our souls? Beneath a blanket of snow, the earth sleeps for an entire season, animals hibernate, and farmers move indoors and rest their fields. In the stillness of the winter, the stars in the night sky seem to twinkle with greater intensity, the creaking and humming sounds of the forest are seemingly amplified, and if far enough north, the glory of the northern lights dancing across the heavens in surreal technicolor splendor is beyond breath-taking. In stillness there is infinite room for creativity and imaginative pensivity because those things that crowd and clutter our lives and bring much noise are delightfully absent. When there is stillness or peace around, it feels somehow easier to find a quiet place within. As we warm our hands during the coldness of this winter, may we be reminded to also quiet our hearts, for in the quietness, in the stillness, in the peace there is a longed for and much needed joy, comfort, rest, and restoration.