When we moved to Ohio many years ago, we landed on a beautifully tree-laden piece of property out in the rural countryside. North of the city of Hamilton and east of the college town of Oxford, we were content to be situated pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Before the kids arrived we spent our time and our money in both of the nearby cities. But once our boys were born and I was no longer working, our activities seemed to be centered around the latter location. From their births in the local hospital, to visits to doctor offices there, and then to the library, and eventually attending swimming lessons, soccer games and martial arts classes...we were in town as much as the students who lived and studied there, it seemed. But when our sons became school-age themselves they attended a small school with no bus service in Hamilton, and the daily ferrying them back and forth to class gradually pulled us away from the little town we once spent so much time in. By the time they were grown and gone I had been working for some time at a grocery store on the west end of Hamilton, and Oxford offered nothing more to me than a convenient Starbucks stop on the way to the state park on the outskirts of town.
All that changed when I broke my elbow. At first, I confess, it was a matter of pride. Unable to fix my hair or put on my make-up, I simply didn't want to be seen by people who were familiar with my more put-together self. Then the convenience factor entered in; I simply knew too many people in Hamilton after scanning their groceries for ten years, and visits to my old store with all the necessary greetings and explanations for my absence, while enjoyable, simply took up too much of the day. I took to visiting the Kroger in Oxford where I could shop incognito and quickly. My doctor's office was in Oxford, and soon I started going to physical therapy multiple times per week there as well. I started stopping in at the local McDonald's for free coffee on Mondays, returned my library books to the building itself instead of dropping them in a bin outside my workplace, got my car washed in the local drive-thru, and even found the Oxford branch of my credit union that I knew existed but had never taken the time to find. I discovered a wonderful new breakfast spot to kill time in between appointments. With time on my hands I haven't had to hurry through town but have looked around me with new appreciation at the beautiful college buildings, the lovely landscaping and the abundance of trees. I have simply enjoyed driving the brick-paved streets again and rediscovering the lovely place I spent so much time in during another phase of my life.
Breaking my elbow has afforded me a chance to do the same with other areas of my life, as well. I've reacquainted myself with joys that were put aside when a forty-hour work week replaced my unscheduled duties as a stay-at-home mom. Once again home-bound for a time, it's been wonderful to spend time with pleasures put aside when time pressures were constantly calling my name. Perhaps the most significant of these has simply been to let my mind dwell in the presence of God. While there really has been no change in my personal devotional times, which have simply gone on as before, my mind has been freed up from attention to other duties, and I've delighted in the increased awareness of God's nearness in all aspects of my life and simply spending time in thought and prayer and conversation with Him, a joy that an increasingly busy lifestyle gradually pulled me away from.
While checking out at the grocery store in Oxford the other day, I was suddenly mugged with a hug from behind by a dear friend whom I hadn't seen in ages. When our kids were little and we attended church together we had once been very close, but life situations and distance had reduced our chances to get together on a regular basis. Now she works in Oxford and dashes to the store on her lunch break, where we happened to run into each other. As we laughed and talked at lightning speed, the illustration was not lost on me; my elbow “break” has caused me to rediscover the joy of several old “friends”. I'm determined not to lose the joy of their companionship ever again.
“ A friend loves at all times...”
(Proverbs 17:17 NIV)