Coming Up For Air

Tiny Flowers, Lichen, Oak Leaves, Stone. Along the Shore of the Frio River, Laity Lodge, Texas.

A Ride Into Grace
Last spring–before I knew my grandson would be in California for his sixth birthday, before I knew my son-in-law’s submarine would be in port in San Diego the last weekend of September, before I knew that depression would suck out my strength, leaving my spirit as fragile as the hollow stems of these tiny flowers, my resolve as riddled as the lichen spreading lacy on rock beneath an oak tree–before all those things came to pass, I enrolled in a retreat for writers at Laity Lodge in the hill country of Texas.
And then, as the departure day loomed, I tried to talk myself out of the trip. I should stay and attend Cadence’s birthday party. I should stay and go to San Diego to visit Rob. I should stay and not inflict myself on these colleagues, these women (mostly) and men with whom I’ve built real relationships over the past three years, but never yet seen in their skin. 
I gagged that naysaying Sheila with duct tape and wrestled her into the basement. And then Rich drove me to the airport, and I flew off to retreat. 
I was still walking the jetway in San Antonio when my friend Diana texted me. Look for two women with white hair in the baggage claim. I read laughter, right there on the screen of my phone. We would share a ride back to the lodge, six of us piling into the Laity Lodge Suburban for the ride away from the city, into peace. 
Into grace.

That first day I exhausted myself, sticking with a sprinting wit and a too-bright voice. Who wants to sit around with a Sad Sack? Not Diana. Not Nancy, who took a story I told her and wrought something beautiful from it. Not Deidra. Not Sandra. Not Megan. Not Michelle. Not Carolyn. Not Dena. Not Shelly. Not Marilyn. Not Amanda. Not Cindee.

Me, Among Friends. 

Surely I would drive my friends away, wouldn’t I, if I moped? I caught an occasional questioning look as I cracked wise or laughed louder than the others at a mild joke. Later, one would come alongside me (I’ve never understood that phrase the way I learned it last weekend) and murmur, How are you? 

Finally I said, “I’m tired.” I dropped the leaden disguise of faithless cheer and phony banter that crushed me even as I chirped with false glee. I sagged. I drooped. I stepped from the shadows I’d sought when I couldn’t conjure a smiling face. I cried during worship and grew pensive over coffee.

My friends did not vanish. No. A few said, Me too. I have dragged that weight along my path. Someone called me brave. Another proffered wordless, fervent hugs. One made me a beautiful collage. Another had packed a book from home, just for me.

It is likely, that somewhere along the way, someone else muttered What a whiner. So be it.

The Lodge. Friends Sit on Rockers on the Deck. 

I would love to tell you that I came home cured of my depression, that my heart is once again light and my step, merry. That would be a lie, as surely as my too-strong bond to humor, one week ago in Texas, was a lie.

But this is truth: My friends loved me. They cared for me. They accepted me, sadness and all. They blessed me.

I went to Texas to meet my friends with skin on. Instead I met Jesus with skin on. 

5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.
Romans 15:5-7 (NASB)