Friday, September 30, 2011

With the Windows Down

Joel on his fourth birthday

I've always loved October best of all.  As a kid, I would rake up the leaves from the large maple that sat in the corner of our yard and throw them over the bank into the empty canal by our house.  Then a few of us would hike through the neighborhood, rakes in hand, asking neighbors if we could gather up theirs as well.  When we felt that we had enough, lining up one by one, we would jump into the wonderful piles of reds and yellows and oranges just a few feet below us, making twists and turns as we went, much like swimmers jumping into a pool.  The earthy smell of leaves and the sound and feel of them crackling beneath my feet stirs up such wonderful memories for me still.  It was and continues to be my favorite time of the year.

Therefore, when Angela my first daughter was born, it seemed somehow fitting that she should come in October.  She arrived during the second week, just a few days after my birthday.  The Pennsylvania trees were ablaze against the cloudless sky the day we drove home from the hospital with her, so Larry took the back way from Towanda to North Rome through the Endless Mountains with glorious vistas all the way.  Two years later, waiting just long enough for October to roll around again, Joel showed up on the first day of the month.  Fawn made her entrance three years later and Autumn, appropriately named, came four years after that.  And yes, they both made their appearances in October.

What used to be the most harried time of the year for me begins tomorrow.  My only son turns thirty-two.  A few days ago a card with a check enclosed went out,  not terribly personal I know, but he could use the money.  This will be the more personal gift to him, my words, which will come slowly and deliberately, because that's simply how I write.  I hope that he will value and treasure them more than anything monetary I could give.  He likes words, especially when they're written down, and he often expresses his own thoughts that way as well, but mostly in poetry.

Joel at eight years of age

Dear Joel:

A guy who writes poetry has to be pretty sensitive, but with that comes a certain vulnerability as well.  I remember the time you wrote something for a girl you liked in high school.  If I remember right, she returned it and told you she thought it was stupid.  Ouch. That must have hurt.  But that tender spirit has been with you since you were a young boy.   Do you remember packing up most of your toys while we were living in Honduras and carrying them down the street to Victor and his younger brothers and sisters?  After all, you figured they didn't have much, so why not give what you had.  And the year we were living in Pulaski,  you went with the youth group to help out at a soup kitchen in Syracuse.  You were so touched by the need that you dropped all the money you'd saved towards Christmas and put it in the offering bucket.  After our move to Alabama, you reached out to those on the fringe, the misunderstood, the troubled.  You even brought some of them home with you, a few of whom are still in your life.  I saw how you were down in the Bayou after Katrina hit, working in the relief effort.  I think it was then your father and I knew without a doubt that this is what you were made for, to serve.

This has been a hard year for you, one of the worst. I know there have been times when you didn't think you could survive it, didn't know if you wanted to.  But you have.  You've persevered, and with so many encouraging you, loving you and praying for you, you have made it this far.  Now it's your birthday.  All is new,  and there is no better time to reflect on and prepare for what's ahead.  It won't all be easy, but it will be good if you trust your Creator to work out the details. I want to remind you of something you wrote during the darkest of days:

How can I know the difference
In all these things that I've been shown
How do I end back up here
When I hate it ever so
My movement always halted
How will I ever grow
Will this cycle ever end
Or is it up to me to break it
New life always offered
Why do I refuse to take it
I swear this place away
Each and every time I'm here
Just feel, so, destined to fail
Yet each time becoming more clear
So I'll take this step, a tiny one
Not worried if I fall
I'll open my eyes and listen
So as not to miss the call
I'll open this broken heart of mine
Knowing it can fall right back apart
I'll pick myself up at any point
Just not quite sure where to start
I'll live this day, Just this day
And welcome what tomorrow brings
Just never again, these walls, this cage,
This pain, this death, this sting

The italics are mine, but the words are yours.  Open your eyes, listen with your ears and welcome the opportunities that your Heavenly Father brings your way.  Utilize the many gifts that He has given you, and begin to serve the "least of these."  Only you will know what that means.  Live each day in anticipation, and look forward to your tomorrows with expectancy.  And He will begin to show you what it is that you've been created for.

With the Windows Down 
            by Joel Burke

With the windows down
I hold back what I feel
Turn the volume down
No looks for the mood to steal
With the windows down
I can give the empty glance
Wait on the light to change
Then just give it the gas

And then the windows don't matter
No one else is around
Then it really doesn't matter
At my tone or my sound....
                                         With the windows down
                                          With the windows down

In my heart there's a yearning
For all the world's turning
Want to let my light shine
Against all of this burning
I can't even convey
The hurt of the day
Will just all blow away
When you hear my soul churning

And we share this short burst of life
With my heart so open wide
And you feel a piece of what I have
Of the one who lives inside

And in this day
I roll my windows down
This hurting world
Needs to hear the sound
So I will choose to sing
And take the looks I will
But in this hurting world
I will choose to still                
                                             Roll my windows down


 A Happy, Blessed Birthday Joel Keith.  I love you.  Mom

Joel with Larry, me and his sister Fawn in Alabama this past April 
                   
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