When my kids were little, their father and I seemed to spend hours with them under a sheet in our own homemade tent on the bed. Usually Saturday mornings, usually far too hot and usually hilarious. Everything seemed secret under there, and precious. The world couldn't reach us. Whispered secrets, feet in your face, the occasional dog landing on top and smothering us. Brilliant.
But there have also often been times in my life when I would want just to hide under a sheet anyway. Possibly even a shroud. I don't want the world to reach me, I don't want to get up, I don't want to face anything. It's cosy, it's womblike. However it is also, fortunately, difficult to breathe so eventually I am forced to get out and get on with it.
What I notice when I'm lying under there is that God always - and I mean always - brings me pinpoints of light. Something radically other to what's going on around me, that catches my attention. A glint piercing the shroud and my head darts to catch it.
I was walking my dogs earlier this week and came round the corner to see this young doe. Miraculously the dogs didn't notice, and she and I stood and stared at each other for a good couple of minutes. It was spectacular. Absolute quiet and this beautiful creature, completely unfazed, watching me watching her watching me.
Suddenly I was taken out of my school day morning, out of the problems at home, out of my life situation, out of my problems and plans, and my breath caught in my throat. I couldn't believe how blessed I was to happen upon her. To witness her morning, witness her life. She chose to show me.
She gave me the opportunity to Google Earth my existence. To "zoom out" of the immediate and into the extraordinary reality that we're here in the first place. That I've already won the lottery just by being alive.
A pinpoint of light.
Then, last night, I went out to belatedly celebrate my birthday with a group of three friends. I am not finding my life easy on many levels at the moment and I was in a foul mood when I arrived. I had just lost my temper with my teenager and then - repeatedly! - fallen asleep at a parents' evening I'd nobly attended even though it had made me miss the first thirty minutes of longed-for festivity.
I love the women I was meeting. They are funny and profound and Godly and off-colour and noble and true. Treasured members of my tribe, I adore them. We began to share our news (I got my boiling pot of YUK off my chest immediately ) and then we began to laugh. And laugh. And then really really really laugh.
Pinpoints of light started shooting through my shroud, and the more we laughed the more we found things funny. And the more we found things funny, the more hilarious it all seemed. How ridiculous. And hilarious. And infuriating. And fragile. And ineffable life in all its gory glory became.
As the pinpoints of light grew, it was as if we began to catch on to what God was giving us. With every gale of laughter it was as if, by being willing to surrender to the laughter, I reached up to each pinpoint of light and ripped great tears open in my shroud. Huge splits started to appear from one side of my universe to the other as light flooded in.
And it felt so good to LAUGH. Laugh til our sides ached and tears were wiped away with messy napkins and glasses of wine.
It's what we get so wrong sometimes, I think, with grief. We think that those grieving won't want to laugh, when really that may be the best thing at some point that they want to do. To rip open the shroud. There are no rules, only the willingness to receive and embrace and step into and maximise whatever light is available.
And light is always available. Because Light Himself has promised never to leave us and never to forsake us. The Light shines even in the darkest darkness, pierces even under the densest of shrouds. Because even the tiniest point of light has more power than the greatest abyss of black. That's just the way it is.
It doesn't miraculously solve everything. But that isn't its purpose.
So I must remind myself of this. When I see a point of light, I must GRAB IT. Spot it and reach for it and rip it open and step out through it into the warmth and glory of the noonday sun. Lift my face, ZOOM OUT.
Because we are just so blessed to be ALIVE. Aren't we? We mustn't miss that!
It is such a blessing.
It just is.
It really is.
I'm still laughing.