Dirty Dishes

“This is one of those things,” he said. I wasn’t sure what he meant but I cocked my head to the side, inclining an ear, offering him to explain why the piles and piles of dishes in the kitchen were one “one of those things”. “Whenever I see this,” he continued, “I think, man that was a good night.”

I shared his enthusiasm, in a way. Because of his remark though, I didn’t hesitate to pass over the sponge and soap. “If you’re so jazzed about it, you do it,” I laughed. But truly, I do know what you meant, darling. These stacked plants and balancing cups were filled with food, with coffee, with wine — food that we made here in this kitchen with our own hands. There was probably jazz music floating through the house. I’m sure I pushed the cat off the counter a dozen times while I attempted to make hummus *hopefully she didn’t get a taste … no one wants cat tongue to have been in their snack*. And these things, this coffee, this food, sat in the bellies, on the laps, and in the hands of people, people who we love. It’s possible that before they arrived I was a bit in a frenzy, wondering what they’d think of the paw prints on the walls, the stain on the couch, or the dust in the corner. I may have distracted myself at first with stirring, pouring, or wiping something. I usually give myself just barely enough time to pull myself together as they walk through the door. To pray a silent plea that I would be able to put aside my self-centeredness. Sometimes God answers and by the time the early-comer (whoever they are) pops into the kitchen for a “hi,hello,howareyou?” I’m unaware of the mess I’m making or the things I haven’t done yet. Unaware enough to be completely present, utterly at ease.

We’re introverts, it’s true. The test … it said so. I do know that we never regret the days when we draw the curtains, put on a faux fire, and seldom move from the couch or utter a word. But I also know I LOVE people. Everyone, really … even the ones I don’t. I love that they’re all so different. I love that some connect while others don’t. I love that some like brussel sprouts and others are repulsed at the thought — how very intricate a God would create such intricate beings. I love what we all say about the God who created us. I even love awkward silences … you know the ones: that person has never been to your house before and neither of you particularly enjoys small talk. So you wait a while with a silly smirk and hope some topic interesting enough to last the night comes through the initial fret of disconnect. By the end of the night, you’ll probably be belly laughing and perhaps you won’t even remember what you were afraid of.

So thank you enneagram, Meyers Briggs, and all you other aptitude tests for the information … but don’t put me in your box.

And sometimes the fact that we deeply enjoy people gets in the way of our introvertedness, our desire for solitude and quietness. But who cares? There’s just no better feeling than being around people who make you feel at home and who feel at home around you. The tiredness afterward is even some sort of bliss. And I guess the dirty dishes aren’t so bad either. When we lock the doors after the lingering conversationist has put their shoes back on and wandered on to the rest of their evening, I grunt and grumble at the mess we’ve made. Leave it to my husband, the pessimism to my optimism and the liveliness to my tiredness, to show me it’s just another lens with which we can look at the beautiful life we live.

Eating With My Hands

Last night, eating daal and bhat on the ground and with my hands, because really it’s better that way, I noticed the subtlety of God. His presence sometimes slips in without being noticed and sets around your shoulders like a shawl. I was lucky enough to catch it’s glimmer, to pause in that moment and notice. Moments, where you find you’re completely at ease without having to try, are hard to come by.

I think so much. Especially in contexts like these: unplanned events, people I don’t know very well, expectations looming. I picture my brain as pacing around in my skull, not ever landing on certainty but always dancing with possibility. I’ve fallen victim to a fickle soul too many times. How sweet are the moments when I’m alert enough to realize that though I would normally be, I’m not at all worried or anxious? There, in a kitchen in Boudha, I tapped into a sense of belonging that I wasn’t trying to earn.

I poked into the kitchen, shyly and with my arms crossed. I’m always afraid I’ll try too hard, to be seen and to be liked. It can be especially hard to tell when you’re unable to take part in the casual banter that takes place. That’s ok … I was never good at banter or chit chat in my own language, let alone one I’ve barely begun learning. I offered my help, like a good American. And like a good Nepali, she looked at me at giggled — I assumed that meant no. But it smelled perfect, the concoction of ginger and garlic she was pressing into the mortar and pestle. “Seasoning for the chicken,” she responded to my inquiring stare. We were having chicken and saag and, of course, as no Nepali meal would be complete without it, daal and bhat (or as we Americans like to call it, lentils and rice). A little red stool invited me to take a seat and I listened to the chatter, picking out a few words here and there, resisting the urge to chime in. Because I knew it would be less so I could participate and more so I could feel I had something to say. But I really didn’t, so I settled into the contentment of listening — smiling when they smiled, laughing when they laughed.

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While the lentils softened in their pot, and the conversation dimmed, I wandered into the other room and sat on the floor. I fanned out the pages of familiar chords and lyrics above my crossed knees. Unsure of what to do, and ignoring the yearning noises the smell from the kitchen was inspiring in my stomach, I closed my eyes and started to sing. I’d sung these songs a million times, at church back home, on a stage with lights, following the direction of the band leader. Here, in such a new context, cross-legged on the ground, in a room instead of a building, daal bhat cooking in the room next door, the song was the same. I went there that night to prepare worship for the next morning. I had no idea what to do. I was only a vocalist, not a musician. “Who cares,” a powerful and quiet voice reminded me all evening, “I’m the one you’re singing to.” And here, thousands and thousands of miles away from home, He is still the one I sing to. One friend came and sat down next to me. She picked up a guitar and hummed a harmony along with my melody. Two people, worlds away and yet so near, singing to the sweet Savior of all.

We took to the kitchen, the three new friends and I. A little more at ease and a little less awkward, I tested my Nepali and made simple conversation. More giggles. When they offered me a spoon with my plate of food I declined, to their surprise. “It’s just better with your hands,” we all agreed. So we sat and kind of talked and mostly giggled. Offering to eat with my hands, taking away that difference, was like breaking down a barrier between us. They were even more thrilled when I asked for a pepper, I wanted spicier. With my right hand, I formed small handfuls of perfect ratios of lentils, rice, and chicken. And with my left, I held a pepper to nibble between bites (call me American one more time, I dare you). Suddenly I found myself sitting, eating, and laughing without worry of what I had to say or do to belong. I just did. 

For months I’d been asking God for this, to feel exactly this way. Our community from home was rich and full, warm and normal. I wanted that here, in this new place. I never intended it to happen that night, I didn’t even mean to be there. It was only by chance and odd circumstances that I ended up in this room with these women. To my sweet surprise, I found myself in the midst of an answer to a very earnestly prayed prayer. Comfort settled about the room and right into my weary, longing bones. We need this, these moments where ease and belonging materialize without force, where we rest limp and heavy expecting nothing and utterly at ease.

A Normal Morning

Mom has always been a morning person. I’ll remember forever that big white robe she wore in the mornings when I was a kid. It showed her smallness, the bulky baggy thing that it was. I always knew the time to wake up was coming when I heard her shower shut off. The light from her room across the hall would drift into my bed and bring my sleepy eyes to open. It was a warm light, deep and orange with traces of steam coming from the open bathroom door. She’d slip on her robe. She wore it when she’d get me out of bed. She wore it while she read the Bible under a lamp on the couch. She wore it while she put on her makeup and blew her hair dry. She wore it while I stood next to her, borrowing her hairbrush and doing it like she did. She wore it while she made us breakfast.

There is something so pure, so preciously normal about the start of a new day. These days I like to wake up slowly, next to my husband and steal up all the time I possibly can close to his warmth. After a few tosses and a few turns, I know the time to wake up is coming when I start to think about the coffee.

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I’m thankful for the coffee, for the rhythm of setting the kettle on the stove and grinding beans while it comes to a boil. Sleepy fog slips away while the water settles into and the grounds and drip into the mug. I watch while I pour, smell it while its steam invades the morning crisp.

When coffee brews the day begins. After coffee–well during rather–there’s a conversation, a chat with God. Sometimes I tell him about the day I left behind, other times about the dreams I woke up from. If I’m feeling particularly bold, maybe I’ll ask something of him…like for him to show me his realness, his bigness, his trueness in the day that waits for me. He usually answers and tells me to enjoy him now, in the morning, in the normal, in the pureness. Cooper saunters into the living room usually around the time he’s hungry, which is usually when I realize I am too.

When breakfast ensues his day begins. I’m usually caught off guard and realize I’m hungry only when I’m starving. Deciding what to cook is usually a scramble. Scramble. Oh yes, eggs. There’s usually bacon, too. There should always be bacon. And then I find myself quiet again while beaten eggs bubble in their place and bursts of bacon grease threaten me when I get too close. I’m thankful for breakfast, for the rhythm of whipping eggs while the bacon cooks. I’m peculiar about my eggs and my timing’s been perfected with practice. I chew on cooling bacon while the rest of it cooks.23659793_1965735213436945_1727589657_o

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In moments like these, I’ve noticed, when I’m going about my breaking the fast of sleeping, do the thoughts bouncing around in my mind take a rest. For just a moment, I nestle into the present promise of a new day, and the simpleness of making food and coffee for it.

I join him on the couch, what’s cooked in my hands. And we eat. We talk about our talks with God, or about our dreams, or about the day that waits. We smile because we know it can always wait a little longer. And I think it doesn’t mind a bit if we stay here a moment longer to enjoy the cozy predictability before we venture into the inevitable unpredictableness of the rest of the day.