Yesterday a child went out to wonder
caught a dragonfly inside a jar.
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
and tearful at the falling of a star…
And the seasons, they go round and round
and the painted ponies, they go up and down.
We're captive on the carousel of time.
We can't return we can only look
behind from where we came
and go round and round and round
in the circle game.
Now the child who dreamed of tomorrow is twenty
Though her dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There'll be new dreams maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through…
We learned "The Circle Game" during our summers at Girl Scout camp in Indiana. We’d sing Joni Mitchell’s song singing around a campfire into the night. I remember loving it from the first time I heard the words. The melody came to stay right away in my heart – and stays with me still. I remember when I learned the words for the first time, I could not imagine being 20, as the last verse says. I was excited then about being 16, but 20…wow that was old.
And as my good friends Susie, Kimberly and Ellen and I sat around the table for yet another Saturday breakfast at Evans yesterday morning, I found myself looking at our hair. I’ve known these good, wise women for many years – and when we started meeting for our weekly breakfasts together, we were dark-headed.
And time has come. And time has past. We’ve ridden through some pretty tough storms – together. We’ve shared deep sorrow and deep joy- together. We show up with and for one another.
And time continues to pass. But it is certainly not passing us by. We are leaning in and doing our best, day-by-day and week-by-week. We keep showing up with and for each other.
Many of the folks I encounter or interact with now have more grey hairs than not. Wrinkles are on faces – and I see and understand well now, laugh lines.
Time goes round, seasons fold one into the next – and I was reminded again yesterday morning just how blessed I am. I still can cry at the falling of a star, my dreams have lost some grandeur in coming true, but ahhh, there is such a deep, rich gift of growing up and growing older with such good folks … and the circle goes on.
Come Thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy praise…
Sometimes I make my world awfully small. Rarely do I ask the next question and I’m bad to hold a grudge. My friend Gay Baby would tell me that there's value in asking that next question. Sometimes that next question can break open a conversation and allow us to get a bit closer to the heart of the matter. It takes time to do that; it’s a bit risky. But too often time is spent talking about the weather, when there’s precious matters to share. Sometimes my world is just kept awfully small. And I’m bad to hold a grudge. For instance, I continue to be mad at our hometown Braves for trading away Craig Kimbrel. I can hear you from here, “Move on already.”
Tune my heart to sing Thy praise.
I love that President Obama sang in Charleston at the end of his eulogy for Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney. His words spoke of grace and hope. His words spoke of being better, doing better. And for his words, I am grateful. But I love that he sang.
His singing didn’t feel orchestrated or pre-planned. It was as though the words he wanted to convey to us needed to take flight. They felt and sounded like a continuation of his message. I heard in his singing of Amazing Grace a tune of faith that leads to something greater than what immediately feels possible. Streams of mercy never ceasing, calls for songs of loudest praise….
I’ve been reminded of his singing in these past days. The echo in my heart has felt both inspiring and comforting. With all respect, I’ve heard many, many better renditions of Amazing Grace. But honestly, I can’t remember ever feeling as moved when I heard him sing at the memorial service. The melody and words came from deep roots of faith, hope and love. They came from inside him, and he sang (I believe) because the song could not be stopped. Those streams of mercy holding those in the service, and those of us who were watching around the country - those streams brought light to the darkness, love greater than hate or fear.
I love that he sang in that service and because he did, I have been reminded of the significance of acting on faith.
In my work as a hospice chaplain, it’s tough sometimes to continue to show up. It’s tough sometimes to sit with patients or family members who are angry or afraid. And several times this week, I have been encouraged by one man’s singing of a very familiar song. Remembering the image of his digging deeply within himself and finding his voice, his song – has encouraged me to do the next thing. To not be stuck. To ask the next question.
I love that he sang. I love that he led us in that way, in that space, in that moment.
My world can be awfully small sometimes. And moments like President Obama’s singing after the tragedy at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston…those moments keep me moving toward something bigger than my small world.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come
`Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.
(thanks to Susie Gentry for the picture above)
This wasn't the "Returning home after being JUST MARRIED" as I imagined it to be when I was a little girl. All my life I'd seen the back windows painted in capital letters JUST MARRIED, cans tied with string pulling behind. This wasn't that kind of journey home. Instead it was "you've got my pillow," "move over," "how long till we stop?"
And in so many ways, it was just right.
It's funny to even think about what Linda and I just got through doing...we got married. It's just that for so long we never thought getting married would be something we would do. She and I have been together almost half of my life - literally half of hers. It's just for all of those years, it didn't seem like it would happen for us. Commitment service. Yes- we did that in 1991. But with a public, acknowledged, honored, legal ceremony - we didn't think it would happen.
But/and it did and we are – .JUST MARRIED
Our service was wonderful. Three generations gathered around, celebrating. We asked a Presbyterian minister to officiate, and there was a great bonus – the lady could sing. We used the same scripture we had chosen in 1991, and in so many ways those words still felt true and right – Romans 12. Sisters, Claudia and Bets held the circle together bridging this ceremony to the one in 1991. We were deeply missing folks who couldn't be with us physically, but we felt them very close.
Both boys participated in the service. Sam carried our rings and John Brogan sang. When were passing around our rings, for everyone to bless, John Brogan sang a Harry Chapin song: (one of the verses)
"I've found you a thousand times, I guess you've done the same. And then we lose each other, it's just like a children's game. And as I find you here again, a thought runs through my mind - our love is like a circle, let's go around one more time."
When Linda said her vows, I started laughing because the words I heard her saying to me, I had planned to say much of the same to her. I guess we know when another very well.
Somebody asked me how this wedding night compared to the one of our commitment service. Here's the truth-in 1991 our friend, Jan's cousin had known a guy, who knew somebody who had gotten us a room the top of the Marriott here in Atlanta, and there on the bed were roses and chocolates. The night Linda and I were married we were deciding whether to take the kids to see the movie The Terminator or play the game Head's Up. (We all played Heads Up.) JUST MARRIED.
It all just feels so weird, so surreal. "JUST MARRIED." With the Supreme Court's decision, I have felt my shoulders relax and my breathing become a bit more steady. All this time there has been an un-named feeling of being less-than or invisible. When other states starting welcoming Gay Marriages, Linda and I chose not to go. We live here in Georgia and we both knew that although it would be great to get married somewhere else, we would not be able to claim it here at home. June 26, 2015 changed all that for us and for so many.
And so after a wonderful week up in Illinois, we came home to the farm, played with our dog, and started a load or two or three of laundry. We yelled at the boys to not stay up too late, brushed our teeth, and crawled into bed. And for the first time in all our years together we crawled into our own bed – just married.
(Thanks Claud, for this first batch of pictures)
Working in Family Experience at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. A Candler School of Theology graduate, Lesley has just published her second book, Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon for 29 Days (available on this website). She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan and Sam in Decatur, GA.