Walls: Inside and Out

storm waves

There are popovers in the oven right now. Because somehow the smell of rolls baking is comforting and, to be honest, a hot popover drowned in butter and a hot cup of tea are probably as close as I’ll get to communion today. Yesterday was a tough day. Last night was a long series of disjointed dreams and I woke up just as exhausted as I was when I went to bed. My prayer on opening my eyes this morning was, “You know what God, I am not in the mood the deal with you today.”

Despite that, I drove to the beach as I do every morning to spend an hour or more with God, although it was more out of habit than desire this morning. The remnants of Harvey had waves crashing over the seawall and the air was full of salt spray and misty rain. My boots happened to be in the car and a walk in the storm seemed more fitting than the idea of going to church because being surrounded by love and joy and music and people was way more than I could handle.

It has been something of a theme of 2017 that life is too short, too precious, and too fragile to be wasted on fakery of any sort. We always think we have time and the fact is, we never have as much as we think. Part of my foul mood this morning was that I resented feeling like I needed to get up, be presentable enough and pleasant enough to show up in church to be around people who don’t even really know me. That they don’t know me because I intentionally haven’t put down roots anywhere is a post for another day, but suffice it to say, I wasn’t up to the shallow pleasantries this morning and God knew that.

God knows this black mood of mine quite well. It happens that sometimes that life gets to be more than I can handle and I pretend like I’m completely fine when I’m really not. And that goes really well until I suddenly find myself feeling about as social and lovable as a pissed off hedgehog with a bad attitude. But every time I sink into this toxic sludge of a space, God meets me there. Today was no different. I walked until I ran out of beach, which given the tides and the storm waves, wasn’t much of a walk. But standing with my face in the wind and the waves crashing at my feet, I felt the power and grace of the Creator who is so much bigger than the storm that was raging inside. That was enough to drive the darkness back to tolerable levels of gray.

So as it turns out, it’s not that I don’t feel up to dealing with God today. I didn’t feel up to dealing with church this morning. And that distinction is one I need to get better at making. God was the only one who was going to understand the tangled mess of emotions I was feeling today because even I don’t know what I’m feeling. God knew that too. Maybe what I needed today was outside the church walls because what I needed, more than anything else, was to meet God inside my own walls, in the spaces where no one else is allowed.

The Inkwell and The Author


My younger son is commonly referred to as an old soul. Wise beyond his years and insightful, he often leaves me at a loss for words. A classic introvert, he can be exceptionally quiet when he’s around ‘outsiders’ but at home or with people he’s very comfortable with, he rarely stops talking. His mind moves so fast and in so many directions at once, making the most obscure references and tenuous connections. The other day, I questioned how he could possibly be working on his writing homework whilst he was talking nonstop. Without so much as a pause to to gather his thoughts, he replied, ‘You know how an old-fashioned quill pen needed to be dipped in an inkwell before it could write anything? Well, talking about stuff is the inkwell that I need to dip my mind in before I can write.’

I have to remind myself sometimes that he’s only eleven. But age aside, he makes an interesting point.

I have a standing breakfast date with God, or as my friend often refers to Him, the Author of Life. I’ve so fallen in love with that term. I guess it’s the writer in me. I can relate to the Author and Creator. Every morning I go to the beach near my house, even if it’s only for a few minutes between dropping the kids off at school and heading into work. I need that time away from the house, outside and away from the household racket of the phone ringing, the dog barking, and the erratic noises of the boys’ video games. I need time away from the Wi-Fi and the draw of multiple conversations on social media. But in the past ten days, our standing date has scrapped seven mornings. Snow and ice made it too dangerous to drive the five miles to the beach. Extreme cold made it too miserable and even dangerous to be there.

See it’s so much more than just the quiet time that I need. I, being a pen in His hand, have an inkwell that I need to be dipped into before I can be used to write anything. It’s the presence of the Author Himself that I need to be dipped in, soaked in and saturated by. But there are times, like these past ten days, when I get dulled from too much time away. I don’t stop to take the breaks that I need to allow Him to sharpen me and dip me again.

I was beyond thrilled this morning that it was neither brutally cold nor dangerous to drive. The beach that was crystal clear but frozen solid on Wednesday was now draped in thick fog with a stiff breeze and stormy waters. This is my perfect New England beach trifecta. I lost all track of time and despite my hands going numb, I stayed. I fed my usual band of seagulls. I stood ankle-deep in the surf, salt spray in my face and breathed in the power and grace that surrounded me. There are no words for the sense of wonder and awe that fills me in those moments. It’s then that I find myself so rapt that I let my defenses slip. For a few moments, I see a reflection of that the same power and grace within me.

And then I cringe. Why do I cringe?

Because I fear that if I let myself recognize that grace clearly within myself then He may write more into my story than I feel I’m ready or willing to accept. But today, just as that fear rose up, my entire band of seagulls took off en masse, gliding into the wind like so many little kites and I felt my defenses slip again. And in that moment I realized something else.

This story of me is still being written and what I’m afraid of today I may laugh at someday.