While vacationing in Florida, my wife and I were invited to breakfast by a close friend of my parents, Hans.
Both my mom and dad were there visiting him as well so we readily agreed.
I must say it may have been one of the best mornings I've had in years. After, back on the beach, I thought through what made it so memorable...and what I could learn from it:
It was a perfect morning. Sunny, warm (but not hot), a bit of a breeze, just the morning that makes you want to move here permanently. It seems Hans thought the same thing years ago...and acted on it.
We arrived at Hans's home, and it was just amazing. Walking into the front door brought us right into the lanai (screened-in pool, hot tub, open air living room, no bugs, and makes it feel like you're outside in the shade). The grill was in the corner heating up, and walking through the rooms showed an airy, inviting, and comforting home.
Later we learn that Hans custom designed the layout...So that from every room the lanai could be seen and walked into. Fantastic. It showed us without words that Hans cared about details so that everyone he invited would feel included.
Hans grilled breakfast for us. That's right...Grilled! It was like I was at a "Barbique University" show. Everything was so tasty, and it was fascinating to watch the process itself. Watching how he grilled the eggs, multi-grain pancakes, sausage was a delight. He showed us without words that he wanted us there; that we were important enough to spend the time grilling (which obviously includes a lot of preparation).
We saw good taste wherever we looked...not only in food, but in cars and music technology! We open his garage and see two convertibles: a modern and a vintage Volvo. Beautiful! Then next to the cars is a junction box where he routes music from any source to any room. Loved it. Back in the kitchen he pushes a button and the music in the kitchen changes from radio to cd to something else...
...it showed without words his forethought and ability to anticipate future needs and varied tastes of his guests.
Oh, and his choice of music...modern worship music...showed he has a passion for Jesus that needs to be shared.
Hans is interesting. He is a retired pilot, emigrated from Finland, and is a great story-teller. But most impressive was his interest in his guests. He showed through his questions that he was truly interested in what we thought, experienced, and our lives in general. We learned that my wife's family and his family lived close to each other, and had a similar heritage.
He made us feel that he was honored to have us visit and that he cared about us.
I felt that his primary hope was that we would leave better people than when we arrived. Wouldn't we all be better if that was our daily goal.
One possible ingredient that added such a deep texture to the morning is that Hans is a widower, and since my wife and I were in the middle of an unknown diagnosis that had our minds constantly thinking of our future...every conversation, observation, joke, and comment was bathed with the undertones of loss, love, and what is most important and pure in life.
In the corner was a beautiful blooming orchid.
We learned that his wife grew orchids and filled the lanai with flowers. He has kept a few around since she passed, and it seemed to me this single orchid was a statement saying that she will aways be remembered, be honored for the beauty she brought to his life, but also that his life is moving forward onto new adventures...
...but at any time, fond memories are just a glance away.
I wonder if part of the reason for the visit was that God wanted to show us how to gracefully live through traumatic episodes of life.
He showed us without words that it is possible to lose the love of your life and still live a purposed life for Jesus.
It was obvious his faith is strong; not just in how he conducted himself through his loss, but through the whole morning. Yes, he was successful in his career, he was successful in raising a family, in investing, and in his choice of cars. But it was all tempered in the foundation of a faith that didn't seem to waver.
I don't see my parents that often. When I do, it's usually with the whole family filled with kids and chaos. I love those times, but this time it was just Hans, my parents, my wife, and me.
I'm sure the kids would have loved the pool, but on this morning there was no interruption of conversation, no need to break up squabbles, just a constant stream of conversation that flowed from fruit to food to faith to work to investing to grilling to living in Florida to life as a retired widower to being excited about what the future holds. I was able to take 148 long gazes at my wife. She is so beautiful but that morning she was simply stunning...complete with a Gardenia in her hair that were lining Han's driveway.
What a gift. Maybe God whispered to Hans to invite us over because me and the wife needed this....
...a morning of peace, reflection, inspiration, conversation, laughter...
...and really great food.