As a child, one of my favorite things to do on a warm summer night was to chase lighnting bugs. I never knew if they would appear, but I'd sit on the porch hopefully watching for the smallest flash of light. Seemingly out of nowhere, they'd appear, sometimes in a multitude, sometimes only a few. At the first blink, I'd bolt across the grass, darting and pivoting as I chased the omni-directional, appearing-disappearing moving targets trying to carefully snag one in mid-air. Then I'd stop and peek into my cupped hands before gently depositing my catch in a vented-glass jar. When I tired of chasing, I'd lay across the porch on my stomach fascinated with the insects' glowing bellies. After a while, I'd release them and watch them disappear into the night.
Perhaps it’s the recent loss of my parents and several family members, combined with my aging season of life, that I find much like chasing lightning bugs, I'm chasing memories. Subtle, random memories appear out of nowhere, at unexpected times, enticing me to chase them, capture them, and visit with them for a while.
Snippet images flash in my mind…
Adults gathered on the front porch on a warm summer night. Light from the lamp in the window spills out casting shadows. The metal glider clanks slowly and rhythmically as it moves back and forth. The conversation volume is respectful of the dark, a low hum peppered with moments of comfortable silence and muffled laughter. Stories of days gone-by are told again and the latest kinfolk happenings discussed. Most of those adults have now passed on, yet I now feel more connected to them than ever before. Not only do I bear their DNA and carry their influence, I am part of their legacy. It wasn't by chance I am part of this family, it was God's perfect plan.
The morning sunlight streaming through my window triggers a memory and transports me back to visits at my paternal grandparents' house. I would wake to sunbeams peeking through the thin curtains. Snuggled beneath soft sheets and old quilts, feeling safe and loved, I'd watch the morning light brighten the room while a chickadee sang from its perch on a nearby branch. Even today, I am delighted when I hear the Chickadee's song. Zephaniah 3:17 says that with His love, the Lord will calm all my fears and He will rejoice over me with joyful songs. I think the Lord uses His little Chickadees to sing over me, because almost 50 years later its serenade always makes me feel safe, secure and loved.
Some of the memories are hard. Times where I endured radical life-changes, extreme disappointment and significant loss. The frequent military moves that required me to leave behind everything familiar. The years of infertility. The loss of loved ones. The loss of my marriage, my identity and my dreams. Over the years, I have carried heavy burdens, experienced unfathomable heartache and cried countless tears. I haven't forgotten those times; neither has God. He has kept count of all my sorrows, collected my tears in a bottle and recorded each one. (Psalm 56:8)
I travel with my memories: my mission trip to Rio de Janeiro. Hunkered down and riding out a hurricane while on vacation in Nova Scotia. Returning to Hawaii for a class reunion, and years later, an all-expense paid business trip. Driving in the snow as it blew across the Colorado plains. Cruising Hollywood Boulevard with my cousin. Skiing in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Exploring the coast of Maine in the fall. Growing up, our family vacations were limited to visiting relatives in Virginia, so for me, traveling to far away places was significant. The Lord has allowed me to discover new horizons and witness His creation. (Psalm 95:4-5)
A social media post from a childhood friend will trigger countless memories. Spending summers at the pool on Redstone Arsenal. Riding bikes with dozens of other kids. Barbie dolls and crushes on boys. The culture shock when we moved from Alabama to Hawaii. My Chinese Spanish teacher. Trying new foods. Taking the bus to Waikiki and roaming around with friends. The close-knit group of friends my senior year. My friendships sustained me. Each friend, each memory, is a gift. Proverbs 27:9 (TPT) says "sweet friendships refresh the soul and awaken our hearts with joy, for good friends are like the anointing oil that yields the fragrant incense of God’s presence."
I find special delight visiting with my writing memories. I wrote for the first time when my second grade teacher gave us a creative writing assignment. Throughout adolescence, I wrote poems and stories, filling reams of notebook paper. After all these years, my heart still beats with excitement when I remember the moment my yearbook advisor asked me to be the copy editor of my senior yearbook. Oh, the soul-satisfaction when words spill out on a blank page! I now realize the Lord has entrusted me with a gift and a great responsibility: to use my passion of words to tell my God-story.
As I have been chasing these memories, and countless others, I realize it is my collective memories, intricately woven together by the Lord, that make me who I am. The tapestry of my life is indeed a beautiful and unique masterpiece.
So I shall chase my memories as they appear, catch them and hold them close for a while, treasuring their value and purpose in my life, before releasing them…until the next time they float by.
Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. - Ecclesiastes 3:11