Spilled Coffee and the Mercy of God

I love my post liturgical coffee. Some love their post liturgical naps (PLNs) but I love my coffee. It’s always the same. We stop at the coffee shop on the way home and I order a hazelnut latte, sipping it contentedly. It’s the same routine in the cold of winter where my breath fogs up the windshield, or in the heat of summer, where the steering wheel burns my hands and the car interior feels suffocating, where text messages from the City of Boston interrupt my thoughts to tell me just how hot it is going to be.

There is something deeply comforting about this coffee routine. It’s the treat of not making it myself combined with the peace of my post liturgical thoughts. Somehow it feels like one of God’s good gifts to me.

I arrived back home today, coffee in hand, and placed it on the kitchen counter. I’m not sure what happened but at one point I was multitasking and the next thing I knew, that beautiful hazelnut latte was all over my kitchen floor. It splattered everywhere, from the front of the cabinets clear over to the garbage can and everywhere in between. It even got on my sandals. Something inside of me broke and I began to sob. All of the pain in the world was in that cup of coffee. All the stress, sadness, and hurt that I have experienced in the last five months combined with creamy, frothy coffee to create a sticky mess. I was undone.

God’s good gift spread across the floor, no longer a comfort but a representation of all that hurts and brings pain.

A week ago I read a beautiful essay by a 30 year old woman who has had cancer three times. Her words were sharp and true and challenging. I am schooled well by younger people who know pain. In this essay she talked about being God’s downstairs neighbor, the one that bangs on his ceiling, trying to get attention, the one that shows up at his door everyday. The words resonated powerfully with me. I am the same. I may shout, I may scream. I may whisper. But I show up. It’s the only thing I know to do. She writes this, and in the reading I weep:

Tears have become the only prayer I know, Prayers roll over my nostrils and drip down my forearms. They fall to the ground as I reach for Him. These are the prayers I repeat night and day; sunrise, sunset.

Jane Marczewski

I remember this today as I soak up spilled coffee with paper towels, get rid of the whole sticky mess. And as unlikely as it is, I feel the mercy of God. The mercy of God in spilled coffee and spilled tears. The mercy of God in taking my exhausted spirit, and giving me an outlet to cry. The mercy of God in the post tears exhaustion where I have no fight left. Just the words “not my will, but thine be done.” Coffee will come and go, the mercy of God is never ending. Tears will be my prayers some days and laughter my prayers on others, but the God who made me and loves me takes all of it, wrapping me in the folds of an invisible embrace, whispering “You are loved” and I know the mercy in those whispered words.

So I’ll keep on choosing to believe in the mercy of God. I’ll continue to whisper a barely audible ‘thank you’ through tears that blind my eyes, and as I whisper, I may begin to mean it.

[Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash]

Muted Colors – Lenten Journey

There is nothing ambiguous about Lent in the Orthodox tradition. No one contemplates what to give up, or how to spend more time in prayer and repentance. Everyone pretty much knows that you’re going vegan for the next seven plus weeks. Orthodox countries pull out their “Fasting” menus and we, sometimes reluctantly, get rid of all the cheese in the house.

Church services are more frequent and we don’t need thigh masters because our thighs get such a good workout from prostrations.

Coming from a background where Lent was mentioned, but it was more about giving up chocolate or, god forbid, coffee, and sometimes signing up for a daily meditation that would arrive in my inbox reminding me of the importance of this season, it has taken me some time to fully appreciate the intentionality of this faith tradition. I have come into it slowly, but I am embracing it fully.

This year, grief is the background of Lent. It colors everything with muted shades. The sky is not as blue, the brick houses are not as brown, our house is not as red, instead all of life feels muted. I know this will not be forever – instead it is a season. I remember hearing a speaker once talk about grief. “Our churches are full of hurting people,” she said “that don’t take a season to heal.” When we don’t take a season to heal, our grief comes out in other ways. When grief is frozen in time, it can take years to thaw.

Somehow, since it is Lent, and a season of repentance and preparation, I’m feeling the relief that comes with the freedom to cry, to mourn a broken world even as I experience the incredible grace that falls down on the broken and wounded. Lent gives me that time. It invites me into self-reflection in the midst of community, lest I become too inward focused.

And even as I repent and grieve, I’m also invited into a time of preparation that ultimately leads to the Resurrection and glory of Pascha. It is a time of repentance to be sure, but it’s also a time to experience fully the joy of forgiveness and delight in the mercy of God, given so freely to all. It is a time to remember that what I see is only part of the picture.

The muted shades of my life at this moment will one day be replaced with the glorious colors of a world beyond grief, where Lent will be no more, and every color will be richer and more glorious than we’ve ever seen.

A View and a Door

I never realized how empty and quiet a coffee table could look.

I’ve written before about our love for books and how dull women have immaculate coffee tables. Our coffee table always has a minimum of 20 books (usually more like 40) on it. It’s square and sturdy, a well-lived and loved table. What I didn’t realize is how many books would be going out the door with my son, leaving a quiet coffee table.

My husband dropped our youngest off at college yesterday morning – I was to join them later in the day for parent orientation. When I asked my husband what Jonathan’s room was like he said enthusiastically “It’s great! It has a view and a door!”

For almost six years Jonathan has had a basement room with no view and no door, only a black curtain for privacy. This fifth child of ours is now living in 8 by 13 feet luxury!

By the time I arrived in the afternoon he was completely unpacked. Every book put on a shelf, every shirt hung up, and a bed made with crisp new sheets and comforter.

Who is this child and where have they taken my son? His room at home did not look this way.

I’ve been thinking about those two things: A view and a door. For they are a great picture of what college and life beyond mom and dad should be for a kid. A view of what can be and a door to get there.

Jonathan has chosen to attend an Orthodox school, Hellenic college, located on a beautiful campus in Brookline just outside of Boston. In distance he’s not far from home, in every other way he’s a million miles away. Hellenic sits apart on a hill, the gold dome of the chapel rising up to the sky. The view of Boston from the hill is stunning, one of the best views in the city.

The college does not just sit apart geographically. It’s entire ethos could not be more different from your average college, for this college experience is not about finding yourself. Rather, it’s about finding a way to serve Christ, the church, and society as the unique person God has created you to be, whether this be through business, science, medicine, art and more. The maroon and gold t-shirts worn by orientation staff bear the college logo and name on the front, and on the back “Through the cross, Joy”, a remarkable statement for college-age young adults, indeed a remarkable statement for any of us.

We sat through orientation and heard from a number of people from the dean to director of housing. The thread that tied all these together was finding your calling in Christ through vocation.

A view and a door. I have no doubt our son is already enjoying his view and his door, basking in sunlight coming through a large window and in the privacy that a door affords.

Far more important, he’s begun a journey that offers him a view and a door to so much more. Maybe it’s what we all long for in our souls – a view of something larger than us and a door to get there.

Readers – thanks for coming along on this journey with me by reading. There are many thoughts that aren’t making it to the page, but those that are have been met with tremendous support from you.

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