One of the best gifts this season came in the form of a Christmas card from a friend. On one side was this photo of Ammie and George, my chosen grandparents, and on the other was a photo of their grandson together with his own wife, similarly posed. Words cannot express all that floods through me in looking at the sweet, if grainy, photo. It is as if whole worlds open up, an ocean of love welling up from my past and carrying me faithfully into the future.
While we didn’t have a biological connection, Ammie and George embraced me as their own, providing a place of comfort, creativity, joy and love. I can picture George with his pipe, and wearing his favorite plaid driving cap, tooling along the dirt roads of the plant nursery he ran for many years until his son took over the family business. When I went off to school ‘up north,’ George wrote me long letters in his spidery handwriting, for he had gone away to boarding school in his youth and knew what it was like to be far away from home.
Ammie, whom I’ve written about before, always had wonderful things brewing in her kitchen, endless crafting opportunities to learn and explore, and a sense of adventure that permeated life at Holy Acres, the name of their home in the woods. They bought a simple beach house that was filled to overflowing with family and friends, canasta and long walks, outdoor showers and simple pleasures. Their love was indeed an ocean, and a powerful icon of God’s love not only in my life but in the lives of all whom they touched.
Their lives weren’t perfect. They had their challenges as we all do. But they remained steadfast in the bedrock of God’s love, abiding in that love and giving it away to others with reckless abandon. The result was evident. Flowing from their generosity of heart, their joy was tangible, infectious and inspiring. We can see the beginning of God’s love, when we look with the eyes of our hearts, but not its end. We are called to move ever deeper into love, knowing that doing so means we lose sight of all that we know until only Love is left.
Life is challenging. We get tossed about by the waves and pulled by currents and winds. But we are created by the God of love. Most of us have a hard time allowing God’s love to permeate our being as thoroughly as Ammie and George did. I know I do. But I delight in and share Curtis Almquist’s words from a sermon in 2014:
You been created by God with love, for love, to love, with love. It’s of your essence. It is the way to be fully alive. If you get in touch with some resistance within your own soul, why God doesn’t love you, couldn’t love you, can only partly love you, but not completely love you, you are thinking only about yourself. Think of God, of God’s longing, needing to love you, because love only exists in relationship. And God’s relationship with you is one-of-a-kind, beloved that you are. There’s no one like you. You make God’s day. This is God’s love on God’s terms. You need only say yes to that. You need not change to be loved by God; but the love of God will change you into who you really are: who you are intended to be, and what, and why you are so beloved. St. Gregory of Nyssa, writing in the fourth century, said “When I face my Beloved with my entire surface, all the beauty of his form is reflected in me.” (11) God adores you.
As we journey through Advent and await the Christ’s inbreaking once more, may we open ourselves to the God who loves us and love others with reckless abandon.