Groceries

Gathering food is a thing.
Getting food is a different thing.

Gathering food requires planning and rummaging through cupboards and cold storage and trying to find that magazine with the really great pork tenderloin recipe. It requires bags and totes and lists. Gathering food is about filling bellies for days.

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Getting food requires none of these.

Getting food is a drive-through impulse or a sit down luxury at a table next to strangers for the purpose of filling the belly in that moment.

Gathering food for others requires so much more thinking.

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When we gather what we need to eat, we’re not just thinking of our own belly, but the bellies of those that live with us. The bellies of those that might visit.

Our neighbor’s belly.

So he gathered all the food of these seven years which occurred in the land of Egypt and placed the food in the cities; he placed in every city the food from its own surrounding fields.

We gather for ourselves and we gather for others.

Because we’re all hungry. We’re all needing to be filled.

Gathering is a costly thing.  We spend time and energy and money to bring food into the house. If there are children along for the ride, the grocery store becomes a place where we are not only choosing food, but a place where keeping the family in one piece is tested.  The grocery store has witnessed my furrowed brow, my lips thin as I shamefully whispered threats to my children. The grocery store has seen the sag in my shoulders and the fatigue in my step as I wheeled a cart around sharp corners, keeping it and my children corralled to one side of the aisle.There was the time when it took two shopping carts to gather all the food for the seven of us.

There was the time when volunteering at a local food bank came with a box brimmed up with cereal and flour and enough granola bars to fill hungry lunch boxes for a week.

Then there was the time while in elementary school, my sister and I took turns every couple of weeks to ride a taxi to the local armory to pick up a box filled with government stamped cans of chicken and cheese, along with boxes of powdered milk that smelled like human sick. Being grateful sometimes takes everything you’ve got.

Things are different now.

The cart is smaller and there is no canned chicken; but the milk is real. The planning doesn’t take as long and the list is shorter. Still, the food does not rain down from the sky like it did once for God’s desert wanderers. Even then it had to be collected, to be gathered up and, I too, must gather.

The giving is God’s business, but the gathering is ours.

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When Jesus multiplied the bread and fish and told his friends serve it up, he left the gathering of the leftovers to them as well.

He did what only He could do, and his friends did what they needed to do.

The miraculous and the mundane are entwined like a good marriage. They go hand-in-hand in a kingdom rhythm that can be easy to miss. Oh, to have eyes to see it and be glad about it.

To be glad about the gathering of cans in the cupboard and the boxes of pasta and cereal standing tall in the pantry. To smile at the eggs all in a row in the refrigerator door, and the container of juice when it froths with a shake. To be grateful for all the growing and harvesting and packaging and transporting and stacking and displaying. To be thankful for money and food banks and totes that stand up to the rain.

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On the way to Thanksgiving, may our gatherings be a sacred thing because nothing is wasted in the kingdom of God.

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When they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.

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Washing Up

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I’d gone days without a proper washing up.

I had washed my hands before I ate, but that was about it. I got caught up in a home project that required all of my elbow grease, leaving me bone-fatigued, only to have to get up the next day and do it again. I wasn’t going anywhere until the project was finished,so after each day’s work, I folded up my work clothes, splashed some water on my face and collapsed into bed. I went three days without a shower.

I’ve never been bothered by honest-to-goodness dirt. When I garden I don’t bother with gloves. I want to feel the earth.

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Whenever I paint, my clothes, my face and my hair become part of the canvas. The cashier at Lowe’s has seen my pony-tail with a white stripe fresh latex many times. When I bake, my apron tells the story of what is cooking in the oven, my forearms streaked shiny and white after muscling butter and flour into a pastry circle.

There is something about becoming really clean, especially when you’ve gotten really dirty. Most of us know our bodies so well because we spend so much time washing them.  We know the folds and creases and where to put more emphasis on scrubbing. We have memorized the bumps and curves, the scars, the injuries. If we’ve born children, we try to accept what has changed. We spend money on specific cleansing agents, one for the skin, another for the hair.

Some of us are fine with just the washing up part. We wash up and we’re done.

Some of us linger when the washing is done. We become still and let water from the spout over our heads to rain down on our faces, our shoulders and our back. What is hardened on us and in us flows down and away and we are grateful in the letting go.

Some of us are soakers, the ones who lie down in water, who become still, too, but buoyant, waiting until the water has softened what has become calloused in and through us.

Most of us don’t really learn to wash ourselves until we are about five or six. Until then, someone has to take the soap and the cloth and our bodies in hand.

A baby’s first bath is a call for a celebration. We cup the water, careful in our pouring, guiding the liquid where we want it to go.  We swish a cloth through the baby’s folds and chubs, letting it massage and tickle the skin.

Why does this first washing bring such joy? Is it because it is like a baptism, water trickling water over our child’s face for the first time, our laughter mingling together in what we perceive as a sacred thing?

We love our child so much in this moment.

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Later there will be other washings.  Washings we will do for others and washings others will do for us. I have not yet had this privilege, but I have heard tell that the washing of a body whose breath has breathed its last is a holy thing. The folds and creases this time are as thin as paper, but the washing is still slow and deliberate and thankful.

Washing up is a God thing.

He has bowls for washing, he washes feet, then he tells is friends to wash each others feet. He tells the religious to watch out;  it’s not enough to wash the outside of the cup, because it is the inside that can really dirty things up.

There was this man who had a terrible skin disease and he wanted relief.  He was told to wash seven times in the river. Wash up? That’s it?  He didn’t like this remedy. He wanted a show, he wanted the power of the fantastic.

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The man was told it was wash up or nothing.  He was was left with the choice of living with his scraping and burning, or giving in to the humility of simply washing up.

When we step into our tubs or our showers; when we lay down in the lake of repentance and accept the water that is in these places for us, we can begin to accept our bodies for what they are…frail, wrinkled and folded, in need of healing, inside and out.

If we are mindful about washing up, perhaps we will see that washing up is sacred, even a holy.  Perhaps then we will get a glimpse that we truly are fearfully and wonderfully made and it is a joyous thing.

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Ironing

I do not like ironing.

I do not like the monotony of the back and forth, the push and pull of fabric. I do not like the manipulation of cuffs and collars, or the yielding to buttons and zippers.

It is a necessary chore. Here, laundry is hung outside for the better part of the year and some things are just meant to be ironed out.

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Plus it’s time to change the ironing board cover.

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The cover is still brand-new in places, mostly near the outer edges of the ironing board. But in the center, in the middle where the scorching happens, there is a scarring and a fraying to the point of thin-ness.

With all the safety features on irons these days, it’s near impossible to have an accidental burn. Irons shut themselves off now. So this searing in the middle of the cover is a consequence of heat left in one place for too long.

Not enough to be set ablaze, but enough to be torched right through to the edge of things.
Too much heat and over time one’s heart can become frayed and a bit thin, too.

The right amount of heat, the right amount of pressure is all that’s needed for some things to get straightened out.

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The beauty that is inherent within a doily, a party dress or a buttoned down shirt is revealed only when it has gone under the hot metal plate and pressed into a kind of submission.

It takes one hand to do the hard work of pressing and steaming, it takes the other hand to smooth and coax the beauty out.

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In the same way I do not like ironing, I do not like the heat of conviction that comes when something in my life needs to be straightened out. There is a thing hard-wired in me that resists the smoothing out of my own wrinkled nature, that wants to avoid  the push and pull of life’s little lessons.

But like a piece of unruly cotton, I find when I resist, the dial gets turned up a notch and things have a way of getting hotter.

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Nothing catches on fire. There are no huge epiphanies. It’s not that kind of burn.

Instead, it is the slow burn in the daily routine of life’s ups and downs. It is the everyday pressing up against little injustices, the small unfairness-es where I have to choose either straight-up kindness or passive retaliation. Honestly, it can be a hard choice.

After all…

Outrage must be voiced.
Fists and posters must be raised.
Wrongs must be righted.

Retaliation is an adrenaline rush.
Kindness is a slow endorphin seep.

The first feels really good in the initial moment of “Aha…take that!”

Take what?
Take my anger?
Take my violence?
Take my hope and wish for your failure?

Don’t laugh when your enemy falls;
    don’t crow over his collapse.
God might see, and become very provoked,
    and then take pity on his plight.

A wrinkle in the human heart indeed.

My second choice, kindness, seems meek and simple, so unassuming, and yet the power of it can transform the check out line in Walmart.

Retaliation, when it goes under the heat of a turned cheek, a forgiving smile, or a soft word, gets pressed into oblivion.

Vengeance, if only swirling around in my heart, a tornado of the worst kind; even if it never touches down to do external damage, it gets flattened under the burn of kindness.

It can be a chore to be kind sometimes.

Especially in the face of ungratefulness or clueless-ness.

Then I remember.

I was ungrateful once, at times, ungrateful still. Everything about me was and is loved and cherished and died for and I didn’t, and I don’t, always appreciate what was dripped red on the cross for me.

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I was, and I am, clueless about the majesty and brilliance of God who sprinkles stars and roars waterfalls and heals my son when doctors say it can’t happen.

…do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

God’s kindness straightens out what is wrinkled in me and his hand smooths and coaxes out the beauty that only he knows is there.

So I yield to a slow burn.

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Five Everyday Things Until Thanksgiving

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I just returned from a retreat on the most glorious autumn day. My companion and I let out a breath of awe so many times as we wound around the hills and dales of central New Hampshire.

We couldn’t help ourselves.

One of us would be in mid-sentence as we came around a corner in the road and there it would be. A tree so full of fire, the gold of it dripping all over the road.

We literally awed our way home. Although I was interested in the conversation inside the car, a part of me wanted to be outside the car.

I wanted to stand in all that color.

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A leaf.
So ordinary all piled up in the pumpkins and the leftover lavender.

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Dangling by a stem-thread; withered, blistered and ready to give in to what comes next when the ground yields to dormancy.

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My friend and I had gathered with other women this past weekend to open up our awareness to what is ordinary and seeing the extraordinary in it.

Like when God wiggled about in a feed box, straw tickling his toes and where the breath of sheep blanketed the hollowed out space of a cave where he first gulped air and cried for his mama.

The divine in an earthen vessel.
The extraordinary in the ordinary.

Some people won’t believe. A foolish fairy tale,’tis.

True. It is quite unbelievable…love so extravagant, yet all wrapped up in regular clothes.

Some people want to believe, but the reality of the day is what shouts the loudest and there are just some things that can only be known in silence. Some things are only seen in the comma, in the pause.

Be still, and know that I am God.

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I have been on a soul-care journey for most of my life, but it has been in the last few years that my soul has awakened to even more of what has always been there.

It’s like I’m always rubbing sleep from my eyes and I am able to see the day in front of me as more sacred than I’d ever realized.

It is why I love Thanksgiving. It goes far beyond its Pilgrim genesis. It’s not a day, but a bunch of days, like a bunch of leaves that shout glory on an ordinary afternoon. Giving thanks is an ordinary extraordinary thing because the truth is, there are more than a thousand gifts to be had and to be acknowledged, and there will never be enough days to write them all down.

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Yet, for the next five weeks, I will write about five of them. Five ordinary things that speak of the extraordinary. Five things that have revealed their beauty as I was suddenly coming around the bend.

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First up…ironing.

In a few days.

The Threshold of August

A couple of weeks ago, I was driving in a part of Maine that I am not familiar with and it was a typical August day.  Hot, sticky and heavy-laden.

I drove up through the hollers near Black Mountain, the road winding in sharp curves, the lush of summer’s tall field grasses and wildflowers lining the asphalt on both sides of the road.

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Wild country is here, mixed with a picket-fence congeniality on one side, and a rusted unfriendliness and washed out drive-way on the other.

One side says “welcome”, the other, “keep out.”

I drive around one corner and come upon a perfectly preserved New Englander with forest green trim set against stark white clapboards. Geraniums fill pots on the porch and down past an old well, a 40 by 40 garden spills, corn already up over a man’s head. I drive around the next corner and the trees have closed in over the road like a big a leaf tunnel, my view dark as twilight even in mid-day. Tucked inside the overgrowth on the left sits a small building, tin-roofed and tar-papered in places. A pick up truck is parked next to piles of trash, broken toys and parts of an old refrigerator.

The first house stands up tall, smiling for everyone to see.
Look how pretty I am. Come! Come in! The second house sulks, backing up into the darkness, almost wanting to stay hidden. It whispers, it’s all gone now.

All on a day’s drive, light and dark,  life and death, side by side

This is August.

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I was born in this month and I’ve always carried with me its sense of something fading, almost bleeding into something new.

August is a month when the sun brims hot and the landscape swelters, but on some days it lets autumn come close and linger at its doorstep. August, especially near the end, is a threshold between what is withering and what is about to come to life in living color.

What was growing since spring has become fat, bursting, sagging and succulent.
August is a juice running down your chin kind of month.

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It is also a fraying at the edges season. The tips of the lily leaves are burnt. The weeds have taken the walkway hostage.

When I was little, I spent hours lying in fields looking up at the sky, wondering about everything. I became familiar with the changes summer brought and when August came and I lay in the field, the grass would be stiff and dry, not pliable and wet like they were in June and July.

Indian paintbrushes circled around my body and I saw how the blooms were black then red then orange, like the embers on the end of a burning log. My legs itched from the flower’s stems scratching the backs of my thighs. I hated to lay on them. I hated to see them bent. Even as a child I could see the beginning of the end.

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August is a time to celebrate all that life can be in its fullness, taking in every minute we can because we know that she is also pointing to a time when all of it will retreat back into the earth where it came from in the first place.

The good news is, this future that August points to will not happen before one glorious, color-splashed, fresh air breathing thing.

Autumn.

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There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

           a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot…

It’s Not Worth Breaking A Bone

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I broke my baby toe trying to avoid a Lego.

I was barefoot, nine months pregnant and in the grip of perfectionism.

It happened one night while my four children were sleeping in their beds and I was attempting to set up a quasi- nursery area in the only spare corner left in my bedroom. In my arms were two dozen, brand-new, puffy, pristine and precisely stacked cloth diapers.

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FYI: When you’re nine months pregnant, carrying anything larger than a bread box compromises your perception. Look at the front of any pregnant woman’s shirt. There will be multiple food stains. When a woman gets a baby bump she is suddenly looking at life through a new set of lenses with the words “objects are closer than they appear” written at the bottom. A pregnant woman is either dribbling food onto herself or missing the mark altogether resulting in half of her meal shlumped into what used to be her lap.

Back to the Lego incident, but first a little backstory.

Our house in those days was very small. It was super cute, but we found out years later that parts of it used to be a chicken coop. This was before the trendy re-claim-all-things-wood-and-metal scene, so it was somewhat embarrassing to learn this little fact, however it explained a lot of weirdness we discovered about the house after we moved in. I grew up on a farm and I know chicken coops. You don’t want to live in one. Remember, I was in the throes of perfectionism.

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By the way, you don’t need to have a lot of money to struggle with perfectionism. It is not a disease reserved for the upper middle class. It is a disease of any soul that is compelled to compare itself to everyone else. Some of us are born with it, a sort of learned genetics. Maybe our mothers or fathers were perfectionists…our grandmothers or grandfathers. You know. What will the neighbors think?

Maybe we latched onto perfectionism because someone didn’t like our teeth or our legs or our voice or our coloring paper or our science project. Maybe they didn’t like where we lived. Or, maybe they DID like our teeth and our legs and our voice and our science project and where we lived. So we learned how to keep it all propped up.

Back to my small house. Trust me, there is a point.

In this house, I could take three steps in any direction and be in three different rooms. I could stand in the kitchen and my girls’ bedroom at the same time. This meant I became Master Of Storing All Things. Anything left out in the open was an invitation to disaster. If you were running around the house for any reason you were likely to knock over a chair in the dining room, which would then domino-fall into the living room tipping over the one good lamp that didn’t have a crooked lampshade. Jumping off the side of the short set of stairs leading to the loft could result in pulling the Christmas tree down, taking the framed Jesus collage with it.

To avoid massive injuries in a middle-of-the-night walkabout to the bathroom, it was imperative that the floor be a toy-free zone at the end of the day. The kids usually did a good job picking up their toys before bed. I made sure of that. I was a maniac.

However, toys cannot be trusted. We have seen Toy Story.

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I saw the Lego lying on the rug, all red and innocent as I walked Tim Conway old man style through the dining room, the diapers making me smile because they were so…neat.

I won’t go into detail describing what it feels like to step on a Lego while barefoot.

Let’s just say the pain is attached to some very specific language. Language that would make the characters in a Martin Scorsese film turn fifty shades of pink. Even if you manage to keep this sort of language from escaping your mouth because you love Jesus and your children, there will be screams, which again, if you have ever stepped on a Lego barefoot, these are the screams of one who has been suddenly shot through with a blow dart and no one just says “Ouch” when this happens.

So… the Lego.

Thinking I could just step over it, I shifted my weight and lifted my foot. The white pillars wobbled. NO! NO! NO! My twenty four beautifully bleached, baby bottom covers!  I had to protect this architecture of perfection from falling into a pile of un-folded chaos at all costs!

My belly surged forward, I raised my arms high still holding the swaying diapers, and to avoid the Lego, I shifted wrong and brought my foot down backwards on itself.

A word AND a scream came out of my mouth. My baby toe was broken.

In agony I hopped three times to my bed and lay the still-perfectly stacked diapers on the comforter. Injured, but triumphant. I turned to grab my foot in an attempt to massage away the pain. I couldn’t reach past my shin.  So I cried.

It’s what perfectionist pregnant women do.

Especially near the end when they want everything to go perfectly; instead they have to figure out how to construct a make-shift trundle bed that will go under the crib they shoved under a window, so three girls can fit in a bedroom made for one. The house worked perfectly fine with two children, but now there is going to be five. Does anyone know how many Legos this means?

Perfectionists cry because they think people are laughing at their outdated wagon wheel light over the dining room table that hangs so low all the tall guys at bible study keep bumping their heads on it just to reach the onion dip.

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They cry when their husband runs a garden hose through their bedroom because it’s the only way to siphon the water out of the basement after it flooded. Again. What will friends think back home?

They cry when they discover the new puppy has torn from the kitchen wall an entire sheet of new wallpaper that took months to save up for and it wasn’t even top of the line paper.

And they cry when they cook and clean and decorate and exercise, the whisper: “It must look like this…You must look like this,” in their ear.

When you’re pregnant, things look closer than they appear. The imperfections of life,  like the stretched skin of a pregnant belly, seem more pronounced. What isn’t working, what can’t be done, what is always lacking. They have a way of zooming into the broken places when you’re in a season of waiting, or when life has you off balance.

Perfectionism hides the good thing that is right in front of you.

Like the husband who has a way of figuring things out and making you laugh out loud  when he comes up from the basement covered in what he hopes is just mud.

Or when the guys who bump their heads on the wagon wheel pray for you and your family when things get hard. Or when you hear the giggles of three little girls in a bedroom made for one.

Then there is the time you watched your wallpaper eating puppy who had grown too big for your house lick the face of a little boy who lost his dog in a blizzard and has come to adopt yours.

When you try to avoid pain by covering it up with perfectionism, this is when you really fall.

Perfectionism tells you to get it all right for everyone else’s sake. Perfectionism says that life has to be lived under certain expectations that no one can ever possibly meet. It tells you that you are standing up straight when you are really falling down.

Perfectionism lies to you and everyone around you.

It says that your house, your face, your voice, your writing, your music, your art, your whole life is under the scrutiny of a hard taskmaster, when the truth is your whole life through Jesus Christ is actually under the smile of God who calls you his poema, his masterpiece, created for good things.

Perfectionism is a religion; it’s just another way of way of pretending.

God pried my fingers one by one from perfectionism many years ago. Much to the relief of my family and much to the relief of me.  It was an exhausting, soul-killing way to live. Thankfully, God took my perfectionist heart and re-shaped it into what He intended it to be. Real.

Last week I heard someone say how they would describe Jesus in one word.

“Jesus is relaxed.”

Such a simple thing,  but it turns out these were holy words for me. And they’re true. Once Jesus began the un-hurried, non-stressful and merciful work of releasing perfectionism from my grip, I became a more relaxed person who is learning to see God in all things.

I still clean my house. I still wash my face. I still write and I still create art somewhere. I still keep an eye out for the rogue Lego. And I have not relinquished my title of Master Of Storing All Things. I call it Container Art.

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But now, instead of wondering what someone else might be thinking how I should be doing these things, I do them because they bring me joy. I am learning that when I am more whole-ly myself, I am more present to God. Like this geranium, I am good with the fading parts and the budding parts.

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I am thankful for all that God has done and is doing with me in this place.
And I am so #grateful it all happened before Instagram.

It’s a good thing, because these pictures are blurry.

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“We need to review frequently the truth that our performance and our acceptance by other people has nothing to do with our dignity and value, since this is determined by God and not by the world. When we suffer rejection and indifference, the pain will be real, but it need not destroy us, since we have made the radical decision to look to God and his resources alone for our true and unchanging identity and worth.” –Kenneth Boa

Photos of diapers, chicken coop and wagon wheel light fixture courtesy of Google Images
Photos of Legos and flowers are mine.

When What’s On Netflix Becomes A Prayer

With a pained expression mixed with a tinge of hope, Louisa asks Martin what he wants.

She is angry and frustrated at the dancing around they’ve been doing in their relationship…are we supposed to be together, are we not…

Louisa loves Martin.

She loves his intelligence and intensity. She loves him for his commitment to do his job as a doctor thoroughly, ethically, and yes, punctually.

She loves him despite his rudeness, despite his seeming indifference to the feelings of others, and despite the fact that he is a grumpy, anti-social curmudgeon.

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Martin is a pain.

His social awkwardness hinders his relationships and his lack of community keeps him from dealing with his own emotional brokenness stemming from a lonely and neglected childhood. He has difficulty communicating much of anything besides anger and irritation, which hampers his ability to profess his love for Louisa. You see, Martin has a hard time with love. He doesn’t have a clue how to break out of the carefully contrived patterns and systems he’s lived with his whole life.

It’s not on his radar that breaking out is even an option.

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Life is work. And more work. Everything is the same. Nothing ever changes. Why would it?

Get up. Get dressed. Turn on the espresso machine. See to the patients. Bark orders to a secretary, tell a child to shut up, kick the dog. At the end of the day, one must put paperwork in order, rinse out the coffee cup, tinker with an antique clock for a bit and finally go to bed only to lay there unable to sleep.

When Martin meets Louisa, all the walls he had precisely built around his heart begin to shift. The once mortared places start to crack like little hairline fissures spreading in a thousand different directions. Sometimes Martin has a moment where he is about to give in to love, but he usually ruins it by saying something stupid thereby promptly walling his heart back up and putting on the British stiff upper lip.

After all, one must get on with things.

We all do it; this getting on with things when life becomes too full of unanswered questions. Sometimes it’s easier to build a wall then deal with the stuff of heartbreak and failed community.

It’s easier to stop asking questions when we think there won’t be any answers.

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Then one day, out of the blue, someone asks us question.

Martin! What do you want?

Louisa, frustrated that Martin is so pig-headed and despite her fear that his answer won’t be any good, confronts him anyway in the middle of the road. She has come to the point where she must know. It’s now or never.

Martin!

Suddenly, emerging out of some fog that seemed to have held him captive, Martin’s normal ghastly look of irritation softens, the wrinkles around his eyes relax and he looks at Louisa with this longing…this love that he has kept protected in the box that is his heart, but now…now it’s out and spilling all over his face.

His heart has been pulverized.

Instead of averting his gaze, which is what Martin usually does, he looks Louisa right in the eyes. He pauses as if he’s waiting for the answer to arrive from the deepest place of himself and when it does, his answer to the question, what do you want, is:

“Something… New.”

Martin doesn’t give Louisa the classic answer she may have been hoping for. He doesn’t declare his undying love for her or ask her to marry him. (He does that later)

Martin does the unexpected. He bypasses the conventional and gives an answer that reveals the layers of all that is in his heart.

He is tired of his old life.
He is tired of building walls.
He is tired of himself.

Martin tells the truth. And it comes in the form of a simple, all-encompassing answer.

When he says he wants something new, Martin is actually declaring what Louisa has become to him: She is his something new.

He realizes that if he is with her everything from here on out will be new, too. If it means he becomes new as well, then so be it. Martin is ready to give up his old patterns and systems.

Knowing her has broken through everything he has ever known up until this point in his life. His defenses are gone. His truest self is beginning to emerge. Dare he hope that he could be transformed just by loving her and being loved by her?

As I watched this climactic scene from the British TV show, Doc Martin, I had just come from a time of intense weeping while standing on a ladder, paint splotched in my hair and streaked across my chin. As I swished my brush back and forth I had been thinking about some recent challenges of loss and heartbreak, along with some disappointments and questions I have regarding a few things that need a remedy. The remedy seems so far away it is more like a fairy tale than anything real, never mind possible.

A lament without words came over me on the ladder and I couldn’t continue painting, so I decided to eat lunch instead. At least I could breathe for a few minutes.

I settled in with a salad, some tea and a little Netflix, glad for a break in the emotion.  The show Doc Martin makes me laugh, plus the scenery is as beautiful as Cornwall England can possibly be. Fields of wildflowers and ancient architecture makes me ache with joy.

But when the character Doc Martin said the words….Something New, I began weeping all over again.

And then a strange thing happened.

All at once it was like God was speaking to me, for me and through me. And I was speaking to him, although I uttered not one word. It became a strange and glorious dance.

Like Martin, I was jarred by the question.

What do you want?
God’s question. My question.

Something new.
His answer. My answer.

A sacred kaleidoscope of communion.

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This is what you were asking for in your lament; Something new.

This is what I am giving you in this moment; Something new. 

This is your heart’s cry for others…Something new. 

Weeping on the ladder and again in the flowered chair next to my tea and salad, I realized I really do want something new. I want all the old stuff to be gone, the old self, the old thought patterns, the old fears, the old lusts, the old illusions, the old complacency’s…the old cracked walls that are nothing but ruins anyway, I want it all to be pulverized.

In that moment with Netflix, God named what I really want.

Jesus is my something new.

This mixture, this communion of thought and emotion, questions and answers, all stirred up together somehow felt as if He was listening and speaking and answering and I was lamenting and questioning and understanding and being understood; knowing and being known; exposed and vulnerable, yet clothed and strengthened.

God is always clothing us, isn’t He?

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This dance was the way the trees dance and sway with the wind, back and forth and around and around; not resisting, but bending in sync to it. Or maybe it’s the dance of the ocean as the waves tumble forward while at the same time drawing back in its own endless rhythm of beauty and power.

Sitting in my chair watching Doc Martin and feeling a bit awed that a scene from a TV show took on the glint of the sacred, it dawned on me what this dance of questions and answers and knowing and being known is called. It is called prayer.

And for me this kind of prayer was something new.

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Photo of Martin Clunes in Doc Martin from Google images.