Monday, February 20, 2012

What if?

I enjoy conjuring up what if's, especially with my children, still untainted and awe-inspiring in their what if scenarios.

"What if I invented the first robot to respond to human voice commands?"  Israel pauses and I can practically see the metallic image in her eyes.  "That would be something that could help so many people."  The conversation continues around the table, each in turn coming up with extraordinary ideas, the others asking questions, urging on, creating nothing-is-impossible vision.

I am captivated by the what if's in our family's stories these past four and a half years.  Like the time we traveled home from visiting the Keukenhof Gardens during the Tulip Festival near Amsterdam.  The last minute decision to forgo putting more fuel in the car as we crossed the border from the Netherlands into Belgium.

How we made it to within an hour of our house before the fuel light illuminated that tiny section of dashboard casting a shadow of worry across LeRoy's countenance.  It's one o'clock in the morning and the only town between us and home is St. Vith, barely bustling enough to be a town, more like a village, famous for it's handmade Belgium furniture.  I glance over, noticing his protective, providing instincts straining for a solution.

He takes the exit, his barely audible breath-words pull tight, "I hope we find a gas station that's open."  What if we don't?  But I keep that thought to myself.  Instead, I whisper into the darkness, "Lord, please help us."

We drive past the two fuel stations on the edge of town, both closed and completely dark, and then on through the town on the main streets, but there is nothing.  Tension mounts and I whisper my apologetic regret for suggesting 94 kilometers ago that I was sure we'd have enough.

And there it is, the certainty that there will always be enough and the cry for help when it's discovered that my faith has fallen on fallow heart-soil.  And how it doesn't matter whatsoever because He always, always meets us right where we are, His enough-grace planting seeds of faith in exchange for my barrenness.

LeRoy pulls into the darkened lot of one of the fuel stations, the faint green glow of the pumps the only light as he steps out to try to decipher instructions.  We figure it out together, him standing there enunciating foreign syllables, me leaning over into the driver's seat, offering half-hearted translation.  We try our credit card several times but each time the machine only offers its rejection.  It's a mess.  We're at the end of ourselves.  And what if...

It's in that moment when faith duels with unbelief when the yellow car pulls up on the other side of the pumps.  A young man gets out and says in perfect English, albeit each word flourished with accent, "Can I help you?  Is everything working okay?"  And we tell him our card won't work.  He smiles, pulls out his own card, the European version of Visa or Mastercard, and asks how much fuel we'd like.  He explains why our card won't work and how it's not a big deal, really, because he has the right card, and we can just pay him in euro for the amount we pump.  There's a young lady in the car and I smile my gratitude to her as she leans over the driver's seat, this posture of watching our men take the lead, figuring out the hard places, and making it work.

The men shake hands, thank you's and danke's and your welcome's exchanged, and we drive toward the autobahn, headlights splitting the inky night, LeRoy's exclamation about how cool and how weird the whole situation played out.  The children have rustled from their sleep and we hear Eli from the back, "Mom?  Dad?  What if that man was an angel?"

What if?  And I am drawn into the awe of what if, remembering countless scenarios that play out with God's obvious intervention, His leading, His love, His faithfulness always being the bedrock of every what if.

My children donned camouflage and boots this morning.  They trudged out to the woods to check the rabbit snares they set two days ago.  Their what if's resounded as they pulled on hats, slipped pocket knives in pockets, "What if we caught a rabbit?  What if we caught a fox?"

Another one chimes in, "What if we caught a rabbit but then a fox came along and ate it?"  They ponder that for a moment.

I throw in my two bits, "What if I have the opportunity to learn how to make rabbit stew?"  

We revel in possibilities.


140.  For the gurgle of coffee maker and puff of steam as my kitchen takes on the aroma of a quaint cafe.

141.  For the discipline of solitude.

142.  How that going on a Kingdom Journey some days means layering clothing and doing the hard thing of leaving my comfortable recliner and cozy book reading to trek out to the forest with children bent on snaring a rabbit for dinner.

143.  And how all that trekking into the fresh air and woods and exploring possibilities revives my spirit.

144.  For children who constantly invite me into their worlds even as they grow more independent each day.

145.  For beginnings.

146.  A Saturday spent in seclusion during the wee hours of the morning while I washed "front loader machine only" washables at the laundromat on Base.  And how the gift of time and space gave me opportunity to put in writing my thoughts for rewriting stories.  

147.  A whole Saturday afternoon working as a family emptying out the attic in preparation for the transition into the next season of our lives.

148.  Invitation from friends, "please come for dinner at 5:37."  And a whole evening unfurling with sandwiches and potato soup, their six children and our four, plus the couple who stopped by to pick up their son and then ended up staying to visit, filling their home with the cacophony of people connecting.  The echoes of relationships roll headlong into eternity.

149.  The perfect romance of all of us gathered in their living room to listen to the husband-wife duet on the piano -- a classical piece that I forgot to ask the name of, but that still has me smiling days later.  How their sharing a keyboard to make music gave me the exact metaphor I need for our marriage in this season.

150.  Three loaves of banana bread baking in the oven first thing on Sunday morning -- because "I thought it'd be lovely to wake up to a house that smelled like fresh-baked banana bread." 

151.  The intoxicating joy of learning to trust -- amidst the discomfort of abandoning my own agenda to embrace what blesses the loves of my life.

152.  My daughter coming to me, earnestness etching her countenance, "Mama, I think us four children should go into the woods for 3 or 4 or 6 days to survive on our own."  And how when I smiled and said, "You do?," she said, "What if we could do that?"  What if, indeed.


  1. "the cacophony of people connecting. The echoes of relationships roll headlong into eternity."

    I loved the whole post, and especially the phrase above! What a gifted writer you are!

  2. Beautiful!!! What if..... endless possibilities. Thanks for sharing!!

  3. Solitude is what I crave, as a busy, working mom of three. Thank you for the reminder that it is a discipline as well.