Dipping the Toe

Thoughts on life and faith and faith in life

Author: Tamara Belanger (page 3 of 71)

Falling Into Fresh Bread

We sat near the front of the New Hope Presbyterian Church on that warm Friday night, still fresh off the road from home the day before. CrossCountry Cowboy Church, where we had attended a few times in the past when visiting this area of Tennessee, was borrowing the building for the ladies worship night and had invited us to join in.

The girl and I were still two deer just a little startled by the direction the Light of our lives was pointing us toward. It all began March 11th.

We sat across the room from one another at home, a book in my hand, the computer in the girls’ lap. “What I REALLY want to do is work for the Rabbit Room someday.” It interrupted the silence like a distant slow drum beat. I looked up from my book and listened to my own voice. “My daddy always said….’reach for the opportunity in front of you. Don’t shut a door on yourself before you’ve tried. Write to them. See what they say.” She sewed the words together that night and I watched as she folded her heart into an envelope and sent it on it’s way to Tennessee. “When you let go the envelope tomorrow, keep your hand and your heart wide open so He can give and take as it pleases Him. Let Him write your story.”

On April 3rd, her computer “dinged” a message. As it turns out, they were going to be looking for a summer intern. An online interview was conducted and the internship was offered. “Mama, I’m not even there and I already feel ‘home’.” She wanted me to come along and we looked together to the Maker of Dreams and asked Him to draw the map. The way for us both began to take the shape of our Father’s hand pointing forward. We were going to Tennessee.

Meanwhile, another drum began to start a cadence in my own chest. We’d lived in our house for 12 years now. It was the fruit of my father’s love for others that caused it to be gifted to him and then to me. It was a constant reminder of grace gone wild and free. But I had heard a gentle whisper a few years back in my spirit. “This is for now. I have a place for you.” From time to time I would remember those words and look upward, inward with a question mark. “Not yet.” But here lately, I sensed a turn. “Soon.” I held it in my heart and told no one. Two weeks ago, the girl is sitting and looking off into space with an intentional expression. “I’m thinking it might be time to sell our house, Mama.” I turned surprised and not surprised all at once. Me too, girl. Me too. So I stood at my praying window where I have a verse tucked onto the ledge that reminds me He is right in the middle of wherever I am and He is God. I asked Him to tell me what to do. I don’t “hear” him like I hear the sound of my phone alert when my best friend, Julie, texts me. But the real sense of getting a message is just the same. A wonderful family bought a small patch of my land last fall to plant a garden. It was provision for me, provision for them. When I came back from visiting family in Pennsylvania, I told God, if they were out at the garden when I got home from the airport, I will know to ask them. Often times we go several days and never see one another. That evening? There they were. We would be leaving again for Tennessee in 24 hours and I felt a sense of God’s desire to put things in motion before we left. I unloaded my suitcase and walked outside. “Let me know when you’re ready to buy a house.” They laughed the “are you kidding me right now?” kind of laugh and told me to follow them to the storage shed by the garden. They had just purchased several antiques at an auction. Someone asked them what their plan for the pieces was. “Buy a house to put them in.” I left a key to the door in their hand and invited them to try the house on while we were gone. And the drumbeat continued as we headed south the next day.

We took two cars, the girl and I, so that we could go different directions if needed. Up until the night before we had no idea where we would be staying the first two weeks. And neither one of us much cared. We were in the palm of His hand and were ready and waiting for His direction. The way we looked at it, with two cars that gave us a two room apartment if we needed to stay in our car. At 5:30 p.m. I had a message from the pastor’s wife at CrossCountry Church. We have a motor home for you! 12 hours later our alarm woke us up and we threw the last bits of toothbrushes and toiletries in bags, shut the door behind us, tuned in our walkie talkies to keep in touch easier and headed off, good buddy!

On the way there that day, we found out there were a few more improvements that needed to be taken care of to make the RV liveable and would we mind staying with people we’d never met before for the night. Adventure wins again! We drove into Fran and Jeff’s driveway like Mary and Joseph at the inn and left friends. When someone wants to give you a place to rest without ever meeting you, you’ve met a trustworthy soul. So with all this joy and assurance and adventure and confidence in the God who loves us, I was mystified with the cramping in my stomach that first night as I lay in bed. I’d felt this before. It was fear.

Which puts us at New Hope church that Friday night, still shaking our heads at whatever God was doing that we could barely catch up to. Fran played the piano and introduced us to Pam and Nellie and Dena and Mary Ann and Sharon and others who welcomed us into the middle of their own stories that night like butter on grits, all warm, sunny yellow and inviting. The speaker for the night walked right up to us. “Bless you on your journey,” she said looking us smack dab in the eyes. It landed on us like the voice of our Father. “I sense He wants to give us fresh bread tonight as we each move forward.” The girl and I looked at each other at the same time. Something in that phrase grabbed us both.

We got in our car that night and started the car. “FRESH BREAD!” we both said out loud. That’s what we’re sitting down to. We headed back to our night’s lodging, our car lights making the way along the quiet country backroads. I knew now what my stomach was feeling. When we left town we’d stepped off the faith cliff, for our summer, for our house, for our sense of change coming. That feeling when you dip down suddenly on a carnival ride? I’m free falling into fresh bread. And it is terrifyingly exhilarating. I’m comforted by the warm bowls of buttered grits grace that remind me I can never run dry.

So here we sit, the night before the girl’s internship begins officially, in our RV out in the country, learning how to not blow a fuse and how to move a cow when you need to get in the driveway.

We are nervous excited and gob smacked at the good in the hearts of those who love Him to care for us, his raggedy team from Kentucky, here to come alongside where He puts us. Pass the bread. I’m hungry for the future!

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The Man Across the Street

This moment? This right here, right now? It grabs my eyeballs and makes me stop reading my book and look up. The girl is sitting beside me on the brown exactly-the-right-amount-of-squish couch in our half painted “wooden room”; half painted because I started it a year and a half ago on my christmas break and got knocked down by the flu and somehow ….. well, somehow a year and a half later happened. Still, if you look at the room a certain angle and don’t look up near the ceiling, it’s a perfect rustic oatmeal white just like I wanted it. Halfway done reminds me not to take every last thing too seriously. If it gets done this summer it will be glorious and I will feel very grown up in my oatmeal white room. If it doesn’t, because maybe I took too many walks and had too many talks? Then halfway done will be an altar to what matters most to me. For right now, the window across the room glows early evening sunset, the breeze is the perfect ever so slight humid spring rain- in- the- air and I accept the gift.

Today was a page in the mental diary I keep of small things deserving big thanks. The girl picked me up from my first day back at work from spring break. My feet hurt from getting over the shock of using them again all day but my heart felt light and smiley. I love that I don’t hate being back at work. My job is a place I know I belong and I like that knowing. We headed off to the courthouse to pick up a packet of information I will need for the next several weeks on how to juror. I do not want to know how to do this but somehow I was not able to get out of it so……I take my packet and find myself thankful I am not myself in need of a jury. If I have to be involved, I’ll take this side of the law.

We get to our front door hungry and begin our coming home routine like a Fred Astaire dance number. We each know our plan, our part, without even having to discuss it and we deftly change clothes, start the washer, grab ingredients and knives and cutting boards, dipping and dodging around one another. Within minutes we are sitting at the speckled kitchen table eating our homemade pizza of roasted asparagus, huge curls of fresh parmesean and roma tomatoes all melty and crunchy at the same time. “Mmmmm!” we say quietly and look out the window as we eat content.

We read out loud together most every evening. I did that with all my kids as they grew up and it still wraps up the day in comfort; the lull of our voices as we find a thing to talk about and roll over in our minds. We explore the world and it’s ideas and what we think of it. We finish it off with our current bible study and snap the book shut. “That was good lesson, Mama,” says the girl and I look at her and smile. The dryer buzzes it is finished with our days’ clothes and I get up to go sort them out, grateful that it is just a room away and not a walk to a river somewhere.

I brew a cup of half-caff to cradle as I reach for my current all-by-myself read The Yellow Envelope by Kim Dinan and the girl goes to her college book. The coffee and cream ratio in my mug is perfect. I try and drink as I read but my reading glasses fog up with each sip and the words become ghostly versions of themselves. I shift the mug to the side of my mouth and try again and then spit laughing at my awkward little self who just wants her coffee and her book. The girl looks up from her studies. “Oh Mama….”, she shakes her head at me with the bemusement that comes from having gotten used to a quirky parent. We don’t have to explain ourselves. We just are and that’s ok.

I’ve been a sad little worried about my across the street neighbor. He’s lived there several years and you can set your calendar to spring weather because on the very first day of tolerable warm he will be in his lawn chair on his little side porch watching over the world on Main Street from dawn to dusk. This year, though, the warm days came several days in a row and the chair across the street remained empty. Come to think of it, when was the last time I’d seen him; last fall?? My friend around the corner and I swapped concern and I kept vigil for movement. Finally, today he emerged. “Where were you??” I scolded with a smile. “We were worried! Don’t do that again! We need you on your porch!” He laughed. I don’t think he realizes that we had counted on seeing him season in, season out. Come to think of it, I don’t think we realized it either…..until he wasn’t there. The Mayor of Main Street. That’s what we named him.

My phone rings. It’s my friend, Sarah. She rarely “needs” or “wants” anything specific. She usually doesn’t talk long. She just wants to remind me that she is there and I am here and we are friends. She checks on her people. I like that about her. She is an example of making the effort to “see” and I am so fortunate to be seen by her. I hang up warmed by the embers she lights and passes on to others. Sarah is a grounding point that helps me keep my hearts’ home in focus.

The chill of the evening is settling in and the sky has a deep blue layer forming, laying softly The birds outside over my shoulder talk lyrically back and forth across the yard. I get up to push the window down, just enough to let in the nighttime sounds, keep in the warm. I find the sentence in the book that started all this wandering chatter and re-read it :

“Then I whispered the most important prayer of all, that blessing of the blessed: “thank you”.

I go to look out at the Mayor across the street. He’s still there. The phone dings a message from my boy in Montana. It looks like the plans to go see him this summer are set. The girl turns off her computer, ready to watch a favorite program. I will pour a bowl of cashew and cacao granola and almond milk and pull on a hoodie for sleep.

And I will whisper the most important prayer of the blessed: “thank you.”

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What the Ear Has Seen

I sit early in the morning, too early to need to be awake. I think to turn on the Rainy Mood app on my tablet and adjust the thunder, birds and rain intensity and smile to myself as it plays out in the darkness of my room. Weather preferences at a click, no umbrella required. Comfort wraps me up in dry raindrops that fall in my ears.

I grab my current read and turn on a soft lamp. Everybody Always by Bob Goff. He talks about a neighbor across the street from his home, Carol; a neighbor who had become family. She was widowed and older. She had just been given the news that cancer had come to take up space in her body and quietly entrusted him with two small words….”I’m afraid.” He drove to the store and bought two walkie talkies; one for her, one for his family. He set it up beside Carol’s bedside and ran home to try it out. “Hi Carol!”, said Bob. He listened to the crackly static. “Bob! Is that you?!”, said Carol. Comfort was born in the sound of that static.

I put down the book and looked at the clock. It’s past going to sleep again and I walk to the Keurig and press start. The gurgling waterfalls over the coffee pod and the sound smells like peace. Comfort falls into my cup and I carry it back and sit on the couch.

Thank you, Father God, for sounds that move me to see and smell and touch and respond; for the comfort that spreads over my life because I can hear. Static on the other end promises a response to words heard by a friend who was listening. Gurgles from a coffee maker form the steam curls of provision for things I don’t need but yet still decorate my life with small moments. Birds and thunder and raindrops, real or recorded, remind me to look for the hand of my Creator.

Thank you that hearing causes me to see. I love you too, God.

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