Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Shoved and Elbowed by God

Photo: Raul Lierberwirth, Creative Commons, cc license
Drying my hands on my pants, I stepped around the corner. Sitting outside the church sanctuary on hallway benches, a young couple leaned close. Smiling and bending down to hug them, I talked briefly, already hearing the first song playing.
Photo: Theen Moy, Creative Commons, cc license
My friend's eyes were tired, her answers perfunctory although warm, and I saw her young husband stroke her arm. I touched their shoulders again in love, raved about how cute their round-faced baby was, and strode away.

Seven-year old Daniel skipped beside me, gripping his Sunday School papers, while we shook the ushers' hands and stepped into the dimly-lit worship center. It was crowded but we found three seats, knowing Mark would join us shortly. Pushing my hair back, I stood and joined the singing.

"Go back," I felt God say.

"Now? I just got here. Leave worship?"

"Go back. Go now," God shoved me mentally.

"Daniel, I'll be right back. Stay here, okay?" I could see my friend Daisy just two chairs away and knew Mark would be there any minute.

"Okay, Mom," Daniel said, his forty-nine inches so short in the dark room.

In the hallway, her husband was alone as I approached.

"Is she in the bathroom?" I guessed, heading that way.

"No, she went out to the car."

I spun around and bounced downstairs. He called out the car make and model but Honda-something was unfamiliar to me anyway. I walked the parking aisles, looking for a head in a car.

"Lord, help," I asked.

Three passes later, I found her and knocked on the car window, crawling inside. Her eyes were red and she swiped a sweatshirt hand across her cute freckled cheeks.

"Hi, God loves you so much, do you know that? He told me to come back. He knew," I said softly.

We talked and opened up our lives together. Worship in the parking lot looked like praying, raw talks, and reminding ourselves of God's heart.

Thanks, God, that you are perceptive and tender, and that you are good at nudging me hard some days.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

In between the Doorbell and the Cheetah Print

"Mark, would you mind carrying the heavy basket of laundry to the bedroom, please?"
It seemed counter-productive to lug away the pile of unfolded clean clothes without finishing them, but I knew that people would be arriving shortly and I wanted the crumpled jeans, rumpled shirts, cheetah print underwear out of the living room.

Stacking mismatched mugs and clanking glasses, I put away the clean dishes and started another load. Slippery salmon-smelling plates clattered as I slid the bottom drawer back into the machine and poured in soft detergent soap. I lit a candle, flung wide the windows, and quickly swept the wood plank floor.

Borrowed books and paper piles lined my desk, covered the dining room cut-out windowsill, and stood tall in several corners of the room. I grinned and nodded. Lego warriors, gold ninjas, and minuscule plastic swords lined the wide living room window mantle, and sunshine stroked yellow light onto long green plantain-leafed houseplants.

"I'm not going to have the house perfectly clean," I told Mark. "On purpose. I want people to feel welcomed and safe, at ease in a lived-in home. I know too many people who have been afraid to invite people over because they thought their homes needed to be perfect. I want to break that image."

Shoes still rampaged and queued up in messy rows in the mud room. Curls of dust glowed in the edges of some stairs, but I pulled up sultry jazz saxophone music and ran faucet water up to the silvery tea kettle's brim.

Calling three newer women at our church and three longer-established women from the church, I left quick texts or breezy messages about a casual spontaneous coffee time at my house. And I had no agenda except to create a place for women to connect, to feel safe, and to build relationships.

This spontaneous adventure in open-door living is special to me, because I've seen life unfold over bulging couches, from within green metal patio chairs, and atop flimsy cotton picnic cloths flung across deep green grass. The beauty of relationships and conversations that bud, unfurl, and spread wide delights me, and satisfies holes and hungers deep inside others' lives too. 

While I would still prefer to have the pink panties and the toppling piles of socks put away before you arrive, I am freeing myself to rest on the days when they are not. It's not perfectly clean, but you are perfectly welcome.

The doorbell rang this afternoon, and I threw open the door. Wind whistled and whined, barreling past the house in a flurry of red and yellow leaves. I poured hot coffee while my new friend swirled and stirred cocoa powder.

Welcome. You are loved. You are enough. You are delighted in by our Abba Dad God. Sighing, I sank into the peace and grace as deeply as my guest did.

Monday, October 5, 2015

What the Engagement Books Never Tell You

Our words hung in the air, awkward and heavy. With anger and hurt on both sides, there was no easy fix.
Photo: Ed Yourdon, Creative Commons, cc license
"I have to go. Morgan needs to get to class."

The drive is quiet, somber; a respectful honor in the silence.

Beside a sunny library window, I text words of apology and await his. I journal and rant for several pages before asking God to soften me, to soften my husband, and to bring peace. Help me, God, to choose my words, to use them well, to seek appropriate times for deeper discussions, and to do them honoringly? Erase my anger and his.

We bought a new bed several years ago, my husband and I. Constructed with a layer of memory-foam on top, the bed is designed to conform to your body, offering optimum support. Two years later, we see now that the mattress tells a story of who sleeps where. Here is his side, here is mine, and in between a raised ridge where weight and time don't dwell there as long.

He pulls me near in these cool autumn nights, and in the still-dark mornings, into this middle ground on the bed. And I grin and nestle closer, feeling his chest strong against my back. We move in sleepy familiarity into the spoon-cuddle mode. He moves forward, pulling me next to him, and I wriggle backwards, dipping under his chin. While I pull my long hair high on the pillow, he slides the edge of the pillowcase across my neck, hiding any ticklish hairs, and we sigh. Our breathing slows, matches inhalation lengths, exhaling together.

And perhaps this is how a marriage lasts long? Pushing down any walls that creep between us, asking God's help to soften our hearts, and curling up in syncopated breathing.