Monday, May 23, 2016

When Prayer Looks Like Soup

Sitting beside my squirrelly seven year old, I helped him sound out long-vowel words and watched the clock, the seconds flying past. At eight-thirty in the morning, I was at the kitchen sink, swirling yesterday's coffee grounds out of the French press and into my compost bucket. Time spun and circled down the garbage disposal with the last of the fine coffee crumbs afterwards.
Photo Credit: Flikr User Frinthy, Creative Commons cc license
At nine, I called, leaving a message for her, stammering and saying in soft words that I was thinking about her and praying. The line rang long before the machine picked up. Ominous words had hung in the air all weekend, and this morning's appointment would bring answers.

Prayer looked like silent vigil at the sink, poured and slurped freshly-made coffee at the table, and wrangling in a first grader's attention again and again.

"Okay, with the long vowel o, what comes at the end of this word?" I'm waiting for him to draw a silent e, this quiet letter at the end of all his words today. The silent vowel sits quietly at the termination of each noun, directing, changing the sounds, and creating new words from the shy short vowel words who hem and haw and twist toes bare-naked in words surrounded by consonants.

Daniel draws graphite pencil down and around, and I sip more coffee, trying to trace out patience across my life too.

I check email throughout the morning and afternoon, awaiting word and praying for her and her family. Medical diagnoses can change so much, huh?

My parents due in an hour, I slip outside, down the deck steps, to a raised garden bed in the backyard. Surrounded by gaunt bony tomato plants from last year, shriveled and awaiting tomorrow's garden clean-out, I kneel next to the three surprises this spring. Three kale plants survived a Midwestern winter and curl purple leaves to the sky. I slice scissors across emerald and violet stems and then retrieve the fallen leaves from sandy soil.

Upstairs I submerge the vivid kale leaves in a chipped blue porcelain pot and run cold water high. Brown russet potatoes feel dense, earthy in my hands. I wash, rub them, and slide my green-handled knife deep into them. Drawing long the blade, lifting, slicing, repeating, I trace lines across them and into the white plastic cutting board.

Resting in God's presence and speaking out my love for him looks like this today, I've decided.  Trusting in his ability to bring beauty from crumbling soil, from gouged purple life, and from gashed earthy spheres, I rip apart raw Italian sausage, and pour in newly-chopped onions.

The aroma of browning sausage and onions seeps fragrant into me. Shaking out dried oregano, I watch the green flecks speckle into the jumbled meat and onions. Red pepper flakes tumble crimson. Stirring with my brown wooden spoon, I swirl silent praise and prayer, inhaling deep into this Pneuma Holy Spirit who describes himself like Breath.

I pour out the water that had immersed the kale. Droplets radiate light and life off purple-green stems and curling leaves.

I still don't know what news my friend has received, and I whisper her name to our God. Silent prayer and praising rises like steam from my simmering soup, an incense of sausage, kale and potato soup rising up before our Artist God, who is Enough. 

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Monday, May 9, 2016

What Your Beloved Wants to Tell You

"O M W," he texts me. It would have been cryptic and uncrackable if he hadn't just warned us. "I'll text you when I'm on my way," he had said, his eyes flashing excitement, hair freshly-cut, the ring safely tucked away.

"They're on their way," I called out to Mark, Daniel, and Morgan. Grabbing my camera, I dashed outside, bare feet trampling warm spring grass.

"Isn't it like a twenty minute bike ride, Mom?" Morgan asked.

"I don't mind." I wandered in my front yard, soaking in the seventy degree sunshine, stroking red tulip heads and brushing fingers through velvety hedge growth.
And then they were in view. John and Kate, cycling on the borrowed tandem bike, faces giddy and flushed with excitement, turned into our driveway. Kate's face was still red and tears slipped down. She grinned, shyly wiping them, and her diamond ring caught the light.

"Congratulations! Let's see the ring!" They giggled and stepped off the bike, standing arm in arm.
Mark, Morgan, Daniel and I took turns hugging our eldest son, John, and his new fiancee, Kate. I snapped photographs like a madwoman.

That night after the dozens of phone calls to the relatives, after our two new families merged for an impromptu family grill-out of hot dogs and watermelon, and after praying aloud on the back deck for the new couple, everyone went home, and an emotional happy silence fell on the house.

"Mom, do you know about Jewish weddings?" John asked, towering over me at the sink as I washed hands.

With neither family Jewish, his question surprised me. "Well, my grandpa performed a Jewish wedding for my cousin years ago..." I trailed off.

"Well, I've been learning about this somewhere. Did you know in some Jewish customs the bridegroom had to go to his father's house and prepare a home for his wife before he could marry her?"

Sudden word pictures sank in deep to me.

"We're like the bride," he said, and the beauty of it surged clearer to me.

Jesus's words in the biblical book of John chapter fourteen rang in sharper meaning for me suddenly. Jesus talked about the rooms in his Father's house, and about going there to prepare a place for us. "And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you" with me so that we can be together there, he said.

It strikes me that we're all the pretty, shiny red-cheeked fiancees, and our Beloved is coming soon.

(If you are near the Farmington area, you are welcome to check ticket-availability to join me at the Mother-Daughter luncheon at Bible Baptist Church this Saturday, May 14th. I'm looking forward to that time and sharing there with them.)