Candles flicker, casting shadows. The lights are dimmed and I sit near the back, watching the flames. It's quiet - so quiet I hear the ringing in my ears over the distant sounds of cars passing the church.
I almost talked myself into just staying home. I feel so tired ... what if I fall asleep? It's been such a long week - Monday felt like it should be Friday! Not a good way to start...
But this is Holy Week, the end of Lent, the build-up to Easter. I craved this moment of quiet and calm. A chance to be still and listen. To keep watch. And if I fall asleep ... well, even though Peter was chastised for falling asleep, he was no doubt forgiven.
Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.
A woman a few rows up is reading - I can't see what, I can only hear the pages turning. A family - mom and dad anchoring their teenage son - sit on the front row. A married couple I bumped into in Walmart earlier tonight are just in front of me. Two couples head up the aisle beside me and sit together ... a double date.
I hear Father Joe whisper a thank-you and good-bye to Deacon Terry behind me. People rise and leave; others enter and kneel.
Over it all hangs silence. Through it all I pray ... I think ... my mind wanders ... I pull it back.
I've been carrying this gray, tangled mess of thoughts around with me lately; the weight of it is dragging me down. I'm ready to get rid of it.
In the stillness, it's easier to set the mess down and take a closer look at it, see what it is that's pulling at my heart.
There's this issue of pets and money ... when Max was a puppy he was diagnosed with a type of canine elbow dysplasia. To keep him from going lame, we spend beaucoups of money every month on special food and supplements, but his poor elbow has taken a toll lately with Belle around. I contacted our vet to get an anti-inflammatory for him ... $50 for 14 one-a-day tablets! Word (on the Internet) is it's likely he'll need to be on these more and more as he ages, but there's no way we can afford another $100 per month on his care. What were we thinking, getting a puppy? Why didn't we anticipate this?
But the joy on his face having Belle around is plain to see. Most of the time, anyway. He ignores the pain to pounce and play with her. And, oh my gosh, what a precious little thing she is - watching her just makes me smile! I don't begrudge the time I've had to take from writing to care for her one bit. Puppy-hood doesn't last that long.
Friends and friendship have been on my mind a lot lately, too. What does it mean to be a friend ... to have a friend ... ?
Friendships are tricky ... slippery ... taking shape and disappearing again, like mirages, making you wonder if what you're seeing (feeling) is real or just your imagination.
"Friends are like a beautiful garden. They require regular care."
I try to give my friendships regular care. I know I fail at times. But friendship is a two-way thing. You have a garden and you are simultaneously in someone else's garden. You hope, that is. What happens if you're taking care of your garden, but the other person is forgetting to water you? (It's funny how you can always sense when that's happening when you're the "flower", but not always when you're the gardener.) How long do you make excuses for them before you accept the fact that some friendships finally fade? Before you just let go?
"A friendship can weather most things and thrive in thin soil; but it needs a little mulch of letters and phone calls and small, silly presents every so often just to keep it from drying out completely." ~ Pam Brown
I see some other heavy items tangled up in this mess - worries about my Mama's health, emotional and physical pains of my friends and other family members, political issues tearing our country apart - again, things I can do nothing much about except pray. And when I pray, I need to believe, need to have faith, need to let them go.
It's getting late. I haven't finished sorting, but the mess is a little looser, a little lighter. Some bright spots shine through now - I get to celebrate Easter with my kids and friends ... little Belle (nothing but brightness there) ... and yesterday the Jobs4Autism website I've spent the last year working on, promoting, writing for, finally took off after it was mentioned in an article on CNN.com. There was such a huge response that the site temporarily crashed! It was awesome!
I slip quietly out of the church into the night, relishing the frisky spring wind. I didn't fall asleep, after all. I'm glad I came. When things are troubling you, there's nothing like spending time with a Friend to clarify things, ease your mind, lighten your load.