Gifts for Halloween?

The news, if you are still watching it, is enough to take you under. I’m finding I have to limit myself. Only at the end of the day, while I’m doing something I love, like stirring a pot of meat sauce in the kitchen which is soon to be for dinner with my husband, can I process it.  A therapist would probably say I’m grounding myself in the quotidian, earthly task of cooking, or expressing my creativity in a sensory way in order to handle the vitriol the pours forth from the pundits.  Whatever the subconscious has going on, I’m at least conscious of limiting how much I let myself read and listen.  

That’s hard to see myself type, as I believe in being an informed citizen. For the last few years I’ve taught a course in rhetoric and preached to my high-schoolers about the need to read, listen, and discern what is going on in the world around them.  I treasure living in a democracy.  Both of my grandmothers were sixteen years old when women in the United States were granted the right to vote. 

Sometimes not reading and not listening and not thinking feels like not caring, like I’m giving up. 

But other times not reading and not listening feels like salvation, like peace, like sacred space.  

Last Friday I was overcome by it all - from the presidential candidates to the disagreement between LifeWay Books and Jen Hatmaker. I tried to read Scripture and even got mad at St. Paul.  I just cried and cried. 

In the midst of anger and sadness, though, I continued a practice a began a few months ago, which is praying through a book of blessings that a friend sent to me.  Friday’s blessing (written by Burk & Gunter) was “eyes to see the gifts God gives to you through different means and different people at different times.”

I went about my day in slow motion it seemed, feeling fragile, and maybe only half-heartedly remembering to look for the gifts.  But there they were.  I walked into a morning yoga class I regularly attend but this day there with several candles lit all over the studio, even one on the way to the restroom.  I love a burning candle. It reminds me of the light of God’s presence. I am never alone. A still small voice said, “This is your gift.” 

Friends we met for dinner handed me a belated birthday present. Literally, a gift!  Saturday morning I drank coffee sitting on my porch at the lake (my favorite place in the world)  and that afternoon, I took a ride on the back of my husband’s Harley. 

That may not seem like an obvious gift. After all, my parents raised me to be scared to death of motorcycles and suspect of the kind of people who rode them. (It was the 60’s and 70’s).  But here’s the thing, on the back of a Harley, you can’t read, you can’t sleep, you can’t text, talk, check social media. Nothing. 

It’s blank space. You sit still. You hold on.  That’s it. 

And if you’re scared, you pray. I do. It’s good for my soul. Every time. I’m always secretly hoping it will rain when he suggests going for a ride and I’m always a better woman when I pull off my helmet back in the driveway at home. I rode in the wind, let my thoughts wander, held onto his belt loops, and took in the smells and sights of an 85 degree fall day in Alabama. 

Gifts, through different means and different people at different times.


 We are 53 and 54 years old. We’re beginning our fourth year as empty nesters.  For several years we’ve just ‘opted out’ on Halloween, turned out the porch lights and gone out to dinner.  That was my plan again this year. 

Then my man came home early from work.  He recycled a pumpkin into which my daughter had carved an outline of the state of Alabama while home from her college in North Carolina two weeks ago. Alabama Jack suddenly had a snaggletooth grin on his backside.  I went to the corner drugstore for candy.  When I got home, my husband had dug into his flight bag and was wearing his helmet, mask, jacket and gloves.  

The kids began to knock on the door. He knocked back. Loudly. I watched out the window as they giggled nervously and looked puzzled at each other.  He opened the door slowly but hid behind it. Then the masked man popped around the corner to hand out the candy. Most of them jumped backwards wide-eyed at the old man in the mask! 

He made me laugh!  So hard.  I smiled all night at what he was doing.  A gift. To me. “Different means…different times.”

The last group of children, after recovering from shock and fright, stood receiving Reese’s Cups and Peanut M&M’s.  One child said, “Are you in the Air Force?”  Of course, being 54, and inside the helmet, my husband can’t hear a word these children are saying.  “Navy,” I said to the child. “Were you a jet pilot?” another small boy asked him.  “Yes.” I said. 

“I want to be just like you,” the little guy said looking up at my husband. 

I got a lump in my throat. I hope you are, I thought.

May it be so.