When you think of the best of times, your very most wonderful moments, what comes to mind? Roller coasters soaring? Vacations at the beach?
Christmas family gatherings?
Being lost in a hobby?
The birth of a child or grandchild?
For me, it’s just sittin’ and talkin’. (Leaving off the g’s gives it that necessary southern twist.) I’m a simple gal. Add a frosty glass of freshly squeezed lemonade and it’s my cherry on top. Memories waterfall in my mind, spanning childhood to grandmotherhood.
It jump started as I read an excerpt my younger brother, Ricky, gave me. It was from a book by Rev. Thomas DeWitt Talmage, titled What Are They Doing in Heaven? This sermon from the late 1800's speculates that we’ll be doing enlargements of our passions, hobbies and jobs on earth. He mentions musicians, artisans, explorers and scientists all pursuing what God planted in them to do, love and discover. Only amplified in glory. I love that because it's what I teach at church--discovering who you are in Christ!
One particular quote sparked thoughts of me leisurely chatting with Bible characters about their old, old stories. Talmage also dreams, “O! What a place to visit in. If eternity were one minute shorter it would not be long enough for such sociality.”
Such sociality? Isn’t that what I saw on my report cards as Area Needing Improvement? “Kathy’s social skills may be over developed, interfering with study.” Over developed? Interfering? Maybe. . .here. But oh, one day–one very long, eternal day–it won’t be a criticism but the core of me having the time of my life, my eternal life!
My misty, water-colored memories are sittin’ on Papa’s side porch, ice cream churns turning (not electric ones) as the Tippett clan talks all at once. We actually can do that and hear at the same time. It’s a skill. We’re genetically predisposed. Or sitting on my other grandparents’ back porch, fly swatters in hand, Stricklands chatting and laughing uproariously at funny, family stories. No one ever chided, “Oh, I’ve heard that one before.” The joy was in the repetition. They sensed it etch deep lines of belonging into our hearts and knit us together.
I remember lazing in porch swings, holding babies, speaking a cooing language only they understood. Best of times!
Being rocked by Mama in a red, vinyl rocker. Not all talkin’ is in words. I still hear it in rhythmic, squeaky springs. I feel it in the steady motion and strokes of love, wordlessly soothing, healing. You’ll feel better soon as your fever breaks.
Rocker talkin’ time with Mama might be soaking up Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems.
A birdie with a yellow bill
hopped upon my window sill,
Cocked his shining eye and said,
“Ain’t you shamed, you sleepy head?” Translation: Time to wake up, Kathy.
How do you like to go up in a swing? Oh Mama, I still love swings!
We all grew up. But the sittin’ and talkin’ came with us. Front porch conversations flowed as seamlessly as ocean tides at Emerald Isle. A few family members at a time chatted, porch-sittin’ on pale yellow rockers. Our extended family cords shortened for that one, glorious week a year. Best of times.
Sometimes my social skills were set free on car trips with my husband, Doug, as we held hands and talked for hours without interruption. No phones, no doorbells. Just us. Then all talked out, the hand holding alone became our conversation. His love language is touch.
Now with children and grands scattered between 2 countries, I might say, “Honey, it’s been a good day. I talked to all 3 kids and several of the grandchildren on the phone today.” Granted, it’s not as good as porch swings, rockers or face to face, but OK for now. . .until then.
At this point in life I’m learning to slow down as a human being. God never made human doings. As a typical type A personality, for many years I lived by a To Do list. Sometimes after checking off items at the end of a busy day, I’d even add one thing I did, just to check it off! Pride measured success by accomplishments. Do, do! Go, go! Rush, rush! Frenzied life and ministry. It was neither some days. The great I AM is teaching me to just BE. Still. Know Him. In a relationship of love.
Hasn’t this always been buried my heart? My love language is quality time, togetherness, conversation. My Creator planted hospitality and teaching within me. Sittin’ and talkin’.
Eternity involves Him on a throne. Sittin’. Music, worship, praise. Talkin’.
Both are part of my favorite days.
Spiritually for me, the sittin’ means ceasing from the To Do list, resting, taking time to look and listen without noise or motion. Sometimes that’s harder than working. The ticking clock lures me away. Harnessing a busy mind into silence takes submission, letting go of my agenda. Just being. Being content. Being at rest. Being at peace. Being His. Being loved.
Talkin’ is the other best part and that stream flows 2 ways. With humans we mannerly take turns but with God, well…it can be different. It’s not always rude to talk at the same time. I play keyboard with a Christian, jazz band. When jazz musicians play, it’s like everyone talks at the same time, weaving in and out, deferring to the lead but enhancing, improvising, complimenting it. You listen but play simultaneously. The tune evolves, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and the song is never quite the same again. It’s not totally scripted, written as other music.
Draw me nearer, nearer. . .till my will be lost in Thine. . .I commune as friend with Friend!
Last spring on an idyllic cruise with my 2 brothers and their wives, we had several best of times together. One especially curled around my heart, even in the moment. We found a little cubby of sofas and chairs that we claimed and made into our own living room. Squatters’ rights! Sittin’ and talkin’ freely brought laughter, tears, eventually culminating in prayer. I confess. I peeked and saw Bert’s hand resting on Ricky’s hand over his knee. Two brothers, two cancer victims. Even now it makes me tear up. Big brother hovering over little brother. I nudged Doug and pointed for him to take a picture. Can you capture a small view of eternity through a glass darkly? Probably not,
but we tried.
Another sittin’, talkin’ time around the lunch table, Ricky acknowledged that Bert’s cancer may well take him to heaven before us. In hushed tones, he leaned toward his big brother and asked him to tell Mama something for him. Holy moment. Two kingdoms overlapped.
Then almost apologetically he added, “Is that morbid?”
I like what Bert shared with us from Dr. Joseph Stowell’s book, Eternity. We assume we’re in the land of the living, heading for the land of the dying. In actuality, it’s just the opposite.
My best day is yet to come. An eternal day. Over developed social skills? No, I think maybe my social skills are under developed on earth. So much to learn about just sittin’. So much to learn about conversation, listening, talking without words…from the heart, soul talk, spirit communing. Eternity will finally stop the ticking clocks that rush and demand us.
Mama once told me, “Kathy, you have 2 gears–wide open and neutral. You better be sure you spend enough neutral time to balance out the wide open pace.”
I’m learnin’, Mama. But you better get the red rocker started up there in heaven. Have Daddy pull it near the throne. It’s going to take eternity, not one minute less, for such sociality!