Man (remember how you used to use that word for emphasis?) well, man, could it be that I have finally come to the place you knew so well? The place where things intersect? The great place where faith, life and art intersect?
I believe I have.
Art is about having freedom to create from the best place within us. Those big volumes of artists and painters we were exposed to growing up still live on our bookshelves. I used to love to walk through those pages as a kid.
Art and music, theatre and dance left their impressions.
Remember how Mom would play that record “Major Classics for Minors”? The kids on the cover even looked like us sitting there in front of the piano being a good audience in that wide open room. Dad made shelves for books and Mom’s music and metronomes and things. I don’t remember any furniture. His trumpet, that you eventually learned to play, sat underneath her piano, the harpsichord, and maybe a violin. The instruments multiplied. Soon John’s trombone joined them, Joanie’s flute, a guitar, maybe two of them.
I learned to play that piano.
It was a space to create, a place to spread out, or stand up, to dance around, or just gaze out the tall window facing west with the view of the field where we’d ride horses and later snowmobiled. You guys would mostly.
Mostly, I preferred to wander.
The snow would pile up so high Dad had to put up a snow fence so our long driveway could still be shoveled. I don’t know, maybe it was plowed. Probably so. But I could watch the snow fall from the girls’ bedroom, landing like great white fluffy quilts spreading out all over the great wide open expanse of the fields. The boys bedroom faced the Maples. Sorry about that.
The trees blocked the light and the good view we girls had.
Those were magical days, weren’t they? But I’m getting off point. Or maybe that is the point. We had such a good childhood with parents who loved us and provided food, clothing and a warm place to live. Parents who exposed us to faith and life and art.
That has had its lasting impact on each of our lives.
I’m afraid to share about all that these days because our world is hurting so horribly, Ed. These wars are horrific. Last night making dinner, I stood frozen in the kitchen as Todd and I listened to a man’s heart-wrenching story, separated from his family, not knowing where they were.
Not knowing if they were dead or alive.
When you were taken from us, our world was turned upside down. It has never been the same. But that’s different. I was able to hold your warm hand and know that you had gone to a better place ahead of us. I knew then, we would see you again.
That made all the difference.
So I hesitate writing about music and meadows covered with snow, while there is such great suffering all over the world, but since this is a letter to you, I have given myself permission. And that’s what comes to me when I think of you—meadows and music. That and the realization of how you came to a point in your life when your faith, life and work became one. Your goal became to one day hear the words, “Job well done, good and faithful servant.” How did that feel when you heard it? Because I’m certain you did.
There aren’t many things I’m certain of, but that I am.
I so admired that in you. As you may remember, I didn’t live with that same focus for quite some time. It’s been a long journey for me, Ed. I sure wish we could meet at Starbucks today so I could tell you about it. You were always a good listener.
I know you wanted more for me than where I was for many years.
You’d be pleased to hear me tell you it’s finally become one for me too!— faith, life and work. It’s been in progress for some time now, but I hadn’t grasped it as deeply as I did just this past week—the ease that’s possible. Who told us to work so hard? Was it Dad who we saw always working so hard, not to mention Mom? They were real work horses—not like our horses, Suby, Sam, Lady and Fleta.
The horses were much more like us, stubborn and unruly, until God got ahold of us.
My interpretation of working hard meant that work had to be really hard to be valuable. If it wasn’t, I wasn’t working hard enough. So that’s what I did until it made me sick. Even then I didn’t stop, but that’s another story. And the truth is, it’s a lie. Jesus says so clearly to us, “Come all you who are weary and I will give you rest. My yoke is easy, my burden is light…” or something like that.
Can you believe how bad I am at quoting scripture?
I don’t know what it’s like where you are, if when you’re in heaven you can watch us along with the angels, scrambling around down here. Or if you’re down here with the angels, just in a different dimension. Well, just in case you didn’t know, your sister has become a writer! I’ve written two more books over the past three years. And you know what the hardest part has been? I know you know.
The hardest part is getting beyond my self-doubt.
You always seemed so confident to me. Is that something about being born first? Us middle kids can get a sense sometimes that we’re invisible. Then we spend our adult lives trying to convince ourselves and everyone else that we’re not. It’s exhausting.
And that’s the point of writing this letter to you.
I think I know now what it means to “Yoke up”. My writing is finally flowing from a place where I can sense God’s right hand leading my right hand. “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (Psalm 139:9-10)
And that’s a beautiful thing.
However, isn’t it interesting that I’ve been stuck this past year, doubting God, worried my work was selfish and self-focused when what I wanted was for it to be selfless and Christ-focused?
Wanting and actually being what you want are two different things.
It is about the law of progress, I think, to pass through stages of great instability—you would know that, being an architect and all—and that it may take a very long time. Why are we so impatient to get to the end of something? Wouldn’t we mostly love to skip right through the intermediate stages?
The unknown intermediate is where I get stuck and my doubt takes hold.
I doubt myself, and God’s goodness and faithfulness, and deep, deep love for all of us. You revealed that to me in your life, Ed—God’s love. You had that crazy love for people and crazy love for Jesus. It was remarkable to see. You can’t fake that, yours was so real it changed people.
I know what you’d say if you were here.
You created space for Jesus to take hold of your heart. That’s the greatest “art” we can create. He had a home in you. That’s what I saw and that’s what I’ve been working hardest on to create. It’s been hard because the world has one way to follow and God has another—the “upside-down” Way.
I’ve struggled with that as a writer as I’ve been working on my novel.
The truth about the law of progress is that it takes a long time to get there—to let Jesus have full reign so you can fly across green pastures at a full gallop. You did that so well as a boy—actually—and as a man— metaphorically. I’m so proud to have been your sister in this world, to be a part of God’s family, and to be your new sister in the next!
At your service, I Danced for Jesus beneath that huge cross you created. I think of you every Sunday when I see it. Only God could say back then, what all He would do with my love of dance. You can’t force dance. What would Dad say? Form must follow function.
We can’t be today what perseverance and discipline and time will create in us for tomorrow.
We certainly always have a choice as to whether we create our own grace and circumstances or whether we accept the gift of God’s grace and allow God’s Will to take root within us and create new unimaginable circumstances.
To make manifest the Image of Christ in and through our lives.
His Right Hand leads my pen, Ed. What once seemed so hard has become so freeing. Just like riding a bike. That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of up hill climbs, or storms to pass through, or that we won’t have to ride against the wind. It’s all different though when you know.
His right hand is holding us.
It’s a joy to ride a bike, a joy to dance with Jesus, just as it’s become a joy to write with Jesus. Although the work is slow, it’s steady, Eddie. Above all, we learn to trust. Right? To accept the anxiety of suspense for the joy of release, the feeling of being incomplete for the hope of completion, the fear of the unknown for the truth of being known.
I miss you every day.
But I’m sure you’re doing good work and that God continues to do a good work in you, wherever you are. Does it ever end? I think probably not. But! In heaven there is no fear or confusion or anxiety. Right? Just the deep assurance that we are loved and called according to God’s good purpose and given what we need when we need it.
What’s that you say…?
Oh right, we can have all of that right here. Aka, eternity begins here on earth, heaven is found in being with God. And although the work may be hard, we have all that we need to continue to be good servants, and to live with trust and joy on this Eternal journey.
In memory of Ed Wenzler
February 17, 1954 – November 6, 2008