He has made everything beautiful in its time. Ecclesiastes 3:11
After the ceremony, we drift under the pavilion, searching for cold drinks and shade. I suspect this day isn’t terribly hot by midwestern standards, but I’ve been quite literally chilling in the mountains of Washington State for the ten days since our return to Germany, so to me this upper-80s, plenty-of-humidity business feels aggressively warm. I’m not alone in my drifting; most of the guests are headed in the same direction, after witnessing the brief and lovely ceremony of my former roommate, Emily and her now-husband, Skyler. Most of the guests, that is, except the smallest ones.
Just behind the gleaming rows of white folding chairs is a magnificent playground. While I’m not close enough to inspect fully, I spy bright colors and climbable things, the sort of place that provides enough risk and interest to keep a wide variety of ages busy for a long time. There are perhaps a dozen young children among the wedding guests, and most of these have now gathered on the impressive playground, well-dressed dads chatting around the edges as their kids burn off energy. Though traveling again with Luci would have been challenging so soon after our nine-time-zone hop to the West Coast, I find myself wishing she and Timmy were here, to enjoy this occasion—and this playground with its merry community of kids-who-just-met—as a family.
The scene recalls another one, almost a month ago now, at Black Forest Academy’s high school awards night. The night before graduation, it’s a sort of warm-up festivity, an hour or so given to honoring our students’ prowess in academics, athletic, artistic and leadership. I’d gone out of a sense of loyalty and obligation as much as anything else, again alone.
Halfway through the event, at which I sat in one of the back rows, I saw two boys, ages perhaps four and one-and-a-half, trotting toward the exit with their mother. Once outside, I could still see (and mostly hear) them through the window, the young mom standing on the patio and the two boys running in giddy circles around her. They were cheerful and loud, happy to be outside and not squirming in silence in the ceremony.
For a moment, it seemed that a chorus of past Kristis watched the scene. There was single teacher Kristi, perplexed, focused on the event and only dimly conscious of the world outside. Then new-mom Kristi, entirely sympathetic, projecting a sense of dividedness on the mom on the patio. Clearly, I would have thought even just two years ago, she wants to be in here and needs to be out there. But that night, at the for-now end of teaching and on the cusp of full-time stay-at-home motherhood, I watched with amusement and even a bit of glee. Outside looked, to be honest, just as good as inside. I might have once felt more drawn to the school event, but for now, the patio with the two children holds equal joy.
This weekend, full of travel and time with old friends, has been full of such reflection, dual visions of what was, what is, what will be my vocation and lifestyle. Yesterday morning, on the eve of our friend’s wedding, we gathered in the breezy porch of a girlfriend’s apartment. It was one of those relaxed mornings, marking time with coffee spoons and slices of bacon, reminiscing about the life we’d shared together in Germany for a brief and beautiful season. Once upon a time, we went camping in castles, hosted impromptu dinner parties and movie nights, traveled to places we’d read about and slept in some of the first AirBnB’s. We also taught school, planning lessons and grading until all hours, spending our free time baking cookies in dorms and planning for mission trips to Eastern Europe and Central Asia. We were busy, single, young. Life was good and beautiful.
And life is different now, for all of us. Ellen is the only one still on staff at BFA, but even her job title—now high school principal—speaks to a more grown-up season of life. The rest of us are gone now, on to new vocations in new places, taking on extra family or work titles as the years go on. Life is different, in almost every way, but it is still good.
The morning on the porch, reveling in past intimacy, and the evening at the wedding, dwelling on the future—both are excellent, appropriate, good. The Preacher of Ecclesiastes said it best: “He has made everything beautiful in its own time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
As I look ahead to a new season, certain only that it will be different from any I’ve known before, I’m heartened by the beauty I see behind and before me, knowing that whether I’m at the front of the classroom or at the eye of a preschooler storm, I’m where I’ve been called for now, and that this other good is still very good indeed.