I was doing the dinner dishes that evening; the lemony dish soap bubbling around the plates, forks and spoons as I scrubbed away the grease. I heard happy noises coming from outside and I knew the sun was setting in the west, shining golden on the end of another carefree summer day. But in my dark kitchen with its black cabinets I was weighed down with some serious problems that seemed to have no solution. I was really discouraged. I tried brushing off feelings of misery as I tackled the crusty cast iron fry pan. “If I can just get these dishes done, I‘ll leave this dark room and get outside myself,” I thought.
Dishes done, I grabbed my guitar, and headed to the front porch. Usually singing on the front porch is a sure cure for the blues. But that night even my fingers seemed depressed. I strummed a few bars of several songs, but my heart wasn’t in it. So I just sat there.
It was one of those exquisite summer nights in the Rockies when the mountain air was cooling down a hot August day. The concrete steps were comfortably warm from the summer sun. Warm concrete and cool air was just the right combination. Crickets were singing softly from the ponderosa pines, and basketballs were bouncing in the backyard.
I could hear the happy sounds of my four sons playing in that summer evening, their contentment echoing up into the twilight. Rossie always had a group of boys around him. As was typical, he and his friends were putting up the family tent, and there were sleeping bags and flashlights in a pile on the grass. I heard Travis in the kitchen and the popcorn he was making starting to pop.
And then from around the corner of the house came Forrest, chasing the youngest brother Chrissie, just two years old. Chrissie’s plump little legs were moving as fast as they could go, and he was giggling in delight as Forrest pretended he couldn’t keep up with him. Every few minutes they made another lap around the house.
It was that time of night when whites seem florescent, and Chrissie’s white diaper and Forrie’s white t-shirt lit up the opalesque darkness falling softly over us. They finished the game in front of the aspens running in tighter and tighter circles on the grass, Christopher laughing and shrieking as his big brother caught him and hugged him tight.
On the sidewalk our neighbors, Morris and Donna strolled past. I thought of all the love they’ve shown us over the years, suddenly appearing to help tear off old shingles, bringing over a chain saw when they saw me approach an overgrown cedar with a hand saw. I’ll never forget how their son Steve, then only 15, insisted on taking over one night when I was wading knee deep in freezing water and snow trying to find the source of a leaking pipe. Tonight they threw out a smile and wave for me to catch.
Across the street at Don and Deanna’s the lights went on and windows opened wide to the night air. The first stars appeared above the big mountains on the east.
Oh! It was all so peaceful, so full of love! Gradually I heard the music of it all; gradually I saw it all with new eyes! I must have run inside and grabbed paper and pencil, because those memories are forever captured in a song written that night, sitting there, experiencing those precious moments.
Today Travis is husband and father of his own five children; Forrest works in surgery and has two daughters. Ross lives in the basement apartment while he finishes his degree at the local university. He and his wife are the proud new parents of a baby girl. Chris is twenty-one years old, a lanky six foot three and serving far away in northern Russia as a missionary.
But when I sing that song I see them as they were all those years ago, and gratitude for the gifts of that evening and so many others swells in my heart and brings peace to my soul. Thank you, Lord, for helping me find the way outside myself; for giving me new eyes and ears to see and hear the beauty of my abundant life. And thank you, Lord, for giving me my front porch songs.