It’s the first day of school here…and I know also in Boston where Joel is attending as well as in Maryland and Indiana where friends are involved in campus ministries. Are you going back to school this year? Any of your friends? Kids? Grand kids? Just a week ago, Alan and I had two of our longest-standing friends and their spouses over for dinner. I’ll never forget the excitement I felt when Brenda joined my junior high class! I’d just become a believer, and she was the first person I met who shared a similar understanding of salvation by faith alone apart from working one’s way to heaven by good deeds. Alan can’t ever remember not knowing Larry, who attended Alan’s first birthday party! Both couples were so weary that it didn’t occur to me to take pictures, though, so I’m sharing a few pictures of their growing families through the years. Larry is retiring from a long career as the developer and director of MSU’s Office for Survey Research at the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research. He’s also been serving as the president of a national organization, the Association of Academic Survey Research Organizations, which leads the “support and promotion of excellence in the survey research conducted in colleges and universities.” So, you can imagine the emotional challenges ahead for him related to his retiring! His wife, Kari, is an OB/GYN who’s just recovered from extensive treatment for an aggressive uterine cancer. Last week they put their home on the market (where they reared their family) and are relocating to GR in order to be closer to their daughter’s family. Coincidentally (and simultaneously), Brenda and Tom just sold their cottage…a cottage with roots older than Brenda, because it had originally been her grandparents’ home. I remember as a girl (newly saved) spending the night at “Ma” and “Pa’s” cabin along the St. Mary’s River. My favorite memory is waking up in the morning to see Pa bent over his Bible in the kitchen, reading. He’d been a part of Al Capone’s gang back in the day but came to Christ, and by the time I knew him, he was as kind and peaceful a lamb of God as one could ever imagine. At a time when my own father was still a fire-breathing atheist who thought only idiots and simple-minded men ever believed in God, it was a huge encouragement to have “Pa” in my life! As you might imagine, Brenda is in deep mourning over the loss of their cottage, but it had just become too much work to care for two places 300 miles apart. It was great fun sharing the joys of marriage and expanding families. That’s so much more exciting than sharing the traumas of aging, contraction and illness. But, what a comfort to be able to commiserate with one another and know that we are truly loved and understood! Also, one of my nearest and dearest friends here just married off her daughter last week, so last Saturday night, Cindi and Rex had us (and our GR kids) over for a celebratory dinner and a song fest afterward.
What a joy and comfort to share the ups and downs of life with loved ones! As our children begin school this fall and our nests empty out, it occurred to me that those of us who remain behind and are growing older also need to be “going back to school!” This isn’t just a time of endings; it’s a time of new beginnings. Until we graduate to glory, we need to continue being “tutored” and “governed” by the Holy Spirit…if we’ll meditate on his Word and listen to his voice. So, as my son took off for school this morning, it occurred to me that I need to go back to school today too! No reason to be a drop out just because I’m getting old. There will doubtless be a lot of big challenges ahead for Alan and me,
and I need to be prepared! Old dogs do need to learn new tricks!“Study to shew yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (1 Timothy 2:15).