This weekend, my family will gather to celebrate my daughter’s birthday. Earlier this week, I pulled out the little cookbook, the one nearly as old as she is, with that pumpkin cupcake recipe that has come to mark her special day. The book fell open to that page. Stains from other years mark decades of use.
I thought of times I had made these cupcakes for school parties, church events, and these family gatherings.
I tweaked the recipe to include butter instead of margarine and with chocolate chips to make it my own. When they’re done, I coat them in store-bought icing with added red and yellow food coloring to make orange.
The children and some of the grandchildren are convinced that the color somehow adds flavor. “It tastes different,” they say.
Perhaps it is the savor of tradition and memory.
A series of autumns, seasons of life spinning past. Snapshots march through my mind of babies in high chairs, then booster seats. Time waltzed us through their teen years, their weddings, the births of their own young ones. And we wait with one of the young ones waiting for his second child.
Now there are new birthdays with new recipes and new traditions.
I think of my children’s laughter, how it is the most resplendent music to a parent’s ear, and the passage of time does not diminish its beauty. How it doesn’t matter how old your children are, you still feel joy when they laugh.
We get a picture of heaven as we sit around a table with our children, with their children (and their children) nearby. We listen to the laughter, the chatter, even the arguments. There are vignettes that exist in our memories, our conversations, those snapshots of our minds unfolding as we march toward eternity.
It occurs to me that God feels joy when His children laugh. When my friends and I were young mothers, older, wiser ones would warn us that as our children grew, so would their troubles. As we feel joy when they laugh, we also hurt when they hurt. And so does God. When we hurt, He hurts for us.
I cannot make heaven on earth because earth’s purpose is to prepare me for heaven.
The next season coming up is the one when we remember that God came to dwell with us. He was a stranger to earth. So are we.
In his book Heaven, Randy Alcorn quotes C.S. Lewis; “I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same” (456).
We are not there yet, but for His followers, there is joy in laughter and redemption of all our pains.