how lovely it is to be your guest

So this is a picture of our current dwelling, although I am always afraid to call it our home, because while we do live here, we're not the owners, we're merely caretakers, biding our time in an uncertain market as we wait to see what happens next. The house has everything we could have hoped for and more. Everything, that is, except for a two-year-lease. Instead, we are on a month-to-month, trying to to be grateful for each day and to not fret about the uncertain future.

One of the most beautiful things about this home is that it has separate guest quarters, or an Ohana. We dream of one day building a church with guest quarters so that folks from the mainland can come here and be refreshed. God is so kind, letting us live here for a time and sending a steady stream of guests so that we can begin to experience some of the realities of our dream before we take the plunge.

But the tenuousness of this home forces me to think about home in a whole new way. This is the place where we lay our heads and read stories to our kids, where we fight and make up, where we sweep and sit quietly before the icons, where I sit now with my laptop and try to make sense of things while a lentil-squash stew simmers in the crock pot. It is the place we have been given for a season, but it is not ours with a period. It is ours, with a comma, for now, as we wait and watch and hope.

Tomorrow, folks from the Mission will gather here for the Akathist of Thanksgiving, a beautiful hymn written by a Russian priest just before he died in a prison camp. One of my favorite lines is:

O Lord, how lovely it is to be Thy guest. Breeze full of scents; mountains reaching to the skies; waters like boundless mirrors, reflecting the sun's golden rays and the scudding clouds. All nature murmurs mysteriously, breathing the depth of tenderness. Birds and beasts of the forest bear the imprint of Thy love. Blessed art thou, mother earth, in thy fleeting loveliness, which wakens our yearning for happiness that will last for ever, in the land where, amid beauty that grows not old, the cry rings out: Alleluia!

We have been in Hawaii for almost a year now, and we're yet to lose the sense of being mysteriously hosted. We have been cared for in all sorts of ways that I could not have anticipated. But the deal with the house is not unlike the deal we've had to make with Hawaii and life generally. We are guests, for a time, and we do not know how long that time will be.

In the mornings, I love to open the front door and watch the sun rise over Hualalai, Hawaii's third most active volcano. There is no lava flowing now, but it is expected to erupt sometime within the next hundred years. I have heard that Hawaii is also the tsunami capital of the world, and we do have hundreds of earthquakes a week, although most are undetectable. We live on the newest land in the world, and it is, in fact, still being formed.

The lack of stability here, the fearful possibilities, and the otherworldly beauty, force a continual awakening in me. One of the newest members of our mission is also one of the oldest, pushing ninety. After his wife died this summer, he packed up and moved out here on his own. When people questioned why he would move to Hawaii so near the end of of his life, he told them that Hawaii is a wonderful place "to practice for paradise."

So as we approach Thanksgiving, I am grateful for this home that isn't really ours, but has been entrusted to us for a time, and for this island where it is so lovely to be a guest, and such a natural place to practice for life in the next.

Glory to Thee, bringing from the depth of the earth an endless variety of colours, tastes and scents
Glory to Thee for the warmth and tenderness of the world of nature
Glory to Thee for the numberless creatures around us
Glory to Thee for the depths of Thy wisdom, the whole world a living sign of it
Glory to Thee; on my knees, I kiss the traces of Thine unseen hand
Glory to Thee, enlightening us with the clearness of eternal life
Glory to Thee for the hope of the unutterable, imperishable beauty of immortality
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age.


Molly Sabourin said...

For some reason, Jenny, this excellent post made me teary today. Maybe because it is Thanksgiving and I am so thankful for the poignant reflections of others, which have the capacity to inspire and encourage me. Maybe it was the idea of "practicing for paradise" and that elderly man's drive to do so despite the little time he has left upon this earth. What an amazing way to sum up our desperation for beauty in a sometimes not so pretty world. Blessings to you and thank you for sharing.

marji said...

Your post is my balm today when it is cold and snowy and dark at 4 p.m. What a welcome respite to take a minute, read your blog and be calmed. If only for a short while.

Julian said...

Hi Jenny,

The Akathist of Thanksgiving that year at your house has been one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories. I think of it every year. Thank you for having shared it with me!

Jenny said...

Molly, Marji and Julian,

Thank you so much for your kind words! It's a joy to hear from you.

TJ Wendel said...

Thank you for the gentle reminder, Jenny, that we are only at home here for a while. I worry so often about what will happen next, with Jud out of work and a baby just beginning to form, and yet we are held in His arms through it all and He reminds us that this is not our home. He is. You have captured that essence.

Beth said...

Jenyy- Just seeing this for the first time ( a few months late) but how beautiful. This Akathist is one of my favorites, so profoundly lovely and makes me near teary every time I pray through it. Helps to cultivate a spirit of gratitude, especially as I remember the context in which it was written. Hope you are doing well. Christ is Risen!