Ridiculous Helen Keller

On Wednesday nights when I was a kid I used to fall asleep to the sound of bluegrass. Dad sang and played guitar; his voice would float on the sounds of the banjo, mandolin, guitar and upright bass, all playing in perfect harmony. If I could go back to any time in my childhood, it would be then.  Music defined those years in our lives, and one night a few years ago I got a chance to do something most of us never get to do.; for a brief moment, I was a little girl again, listening to my dad play music with the very same men that long ago stood in our living room.

It is a difficult thing to explain, but music is magical; it transcends all time and space. Somehow the notes acted as a time machine. Dad’s voice was as clear as it had been 30 years earlier, the mandolin as sweet a sound as ever, the banjo crisp and alive and the guitars filled in with a soft blanket of sound, all kept together by the steady bass. For a moment, there was nothing else. Only music. Only me and my brother and sister and grandma listening to dad, just like we did so many years ago.

Lately there has been a sense of urgency to slow down and enjoy life. Our breakneck pace has us cornered, depleted and discouraged. Writing is my passion, yet my words have been few until lately. Life chokes us out. That night listening to dad sing reminded me that the best parts of my childhood were not when my parents were taking us somewhere or buying us something. The best parts of our lives were always simply when we were together doing something we loved. 

I feel like I run around and chase my tail to obtain things and provide for my family, but when they grow up, what will they remember about me? That I bought them stuff or that we used to laugh our heads off playing Apples to Apples when Aubrey was in Kindergarten because she couldn’t read and gave the most random cards you could imagine (i.e. “Ridiculous”: Aubrey’s card – “Helen Keller”)? When they are adults and they come home with their families, it is imperative to me that they be able to have a plethora of stories to tell for their kids to roll their eyes at but secretly cherish.

We get off track when we race for the earthly prize. If we aren’t providing a safe place for our kids to make memories then we do them no good. Sitting there listening to dad and his friends play “I’ll Fly Away” I was reminded that there are plenty of children out there needing the stability we so often take for granted. Fast forward a few years and my sister and I sang that very song at my grandma’s funeral, bringing it all full circle. There was a song playing this morning that brought to mind a vivid illustration: One line was about Jesus taking the orphan’s hand and I had a light bulb moment. That child may have nothing else, but if she has Jesus, that’s all she needs. There is nothing even remotely comparable. In fact, all the stuff might very well be a distraction.

That evening we sat around my kitchen table and played Apples to Apples. Then we stayed and told stories and laughed until our sides ached. I sat between my siblings and cackled like a chicken as we told embarrassing stories to our children. They all shared equally hilarious stories and when we finally were able to breathe again, the house felt like a home, and no amount of money could even come close to reproducing that feeling. We are blessed beyond measure. Our cups are full and overflowing. This is what Jesus meant when He promised His children an abundant life. And it just keeps getting better…

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