Bending

I open wire gate, walk through tiny garden and white azaeleas toward the kitchen. Her soft, croaky voice, with it’s high notes, weathered with time, wafts out the screen door as she instructs the children that have already flown inside to her, ahead of me.

This is not the home of my childhood that I remember, but she cooks for us here and makes her days here, and so it will do.

Dumplings and chicken piled high in the pot, the steam rising, she’s slightly bent over the counter in the tightly spaced kitchen, beautiful white hair slightly coifed from church that morning, rolling dough out in flour, the dough that my grandfather said she rolled way too thin. Less meat, more dumplins, he tells her. This would become the center of discussion and debate at the table.

“Ah! You are making chicken and dumplings!” She nods–I see the twinkle of pride in her eyes. She knows it’s my favorite and I had asked for it weeks ago when I was sick but she couldn’t come because she was too.

I set about the hard task of putting myself right into the work, a hard thing to do when you are used to your Granny always waiting on you, for all those years, and she never asked, really always discouraged help.

But I can’t bear sitting while she bends and breaks, so I plant myself right in her way and throw the soft unbaked bread on white powder and roll it out with 50 year old wood, careful of the sink water two inches away from floured paper.

The old wood, full of family history–it feels perfect in my hands and I watch the way the thick stuff flattens and smooths. We work side-by-side, Sunday afternoon sun streaming in through screen door, hitting our backs, and she willingly waits for the dough, throws it into boiling broth while I do the bending and smoothing.

She and I strain pears, that good juice running down the drain making no sense to me, and I call the girls in for them to pile the grainy sweetness on plate with mayo and cheese. The pears, they shine in the Sabbath sun. We do the most important and holiest of work and teach them a poor man’s {or hurried woman’s} Southern dessert.

I go to the hall closet in search of some stain remover for baby’s dress, and I see a woman’s tireless work, how she chooses to walk out her days, always working, serving, never giving up and there they are, staring out at me–clean, plush towels lined up neatly row after row, her bottles of cleaning supplies tucked in here and there. She has touched deep places of influence in me she will never know anything of.

In the kitchen, we cluck and cackle and over sweet tea–has the sugar been added?–where the children will eat, girls, set the table, ice for glasses, and I take Granddaddy’s tea to his chair. The kids will have the little table in the kitchen.

Granny steps to the living room, and addresses Granddaddy: “What do you want now?!” We laugh at their old-couple squabble and we all gather around with trays and talk important matters, including whether the dumplings should have been thicker, and our stomachs are nourished with flavors of the South, that soul food warm all the way down.

Granny gets enough of Granddaddy’s complaining and in her feisty way, tells him she was aimin for healthier.

After the plates are cleaned, Husband needs a t-shirt for football with the church men, and Granddaddy says look in the second drawer. Underneath several bottles of cologne for a man who enjoys smelling good, I open drawer and pick up soft, worn t-shirts one by one, reminded of when I was a little girl, needing a t-shirt for staying over-night. They all say XL, and I know that will not fit my man.

I search and in the back, in shadows, a card with cute purses on the front sticks out between folds–I know immediately it was the card I gave him years ago. My heart hammers a little harder as I hold it up, open it, and I am so touched that he has kept it safely tucked away in his drawerthe place all men keep things close to their hearts.

The greatness of these two people stands above me, looming, but I try to tell them in scrawled words–loops and crosses a little unsure and timid but knowing what is in the heart to say–how I sit and think sometimes of the beauty of how they live out the gospel in their livesthat they may never have been missionaries, or involved in some limelight ministry, but their family has been their mission field–how they never stop giving even after they’ve given all–they have fleshed out Matt 5:38-42–how they have brought glory to God, our very realest purpose, and I tell them this is the greatest compliment you could ever be paid.

“You have heard it said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” –Matthew 5:38-42

Husband finds me standing at the drawer, asks if I found anything. He sees the tears brimming, wants to know what this is about. I show him the card and he says, “Who is this from?” He watches my eyes, looks into me. Nothing gets his attention like the wet pouring down his wife’s cheeks.

A little shyly–“Me.” I pick up a bottle of cologne and inhale, and try to remember.

He reads the first few lines and skims it over, smiling. He reads the date, “2007…” his voice a little unsteady. I wonder if he is remembering the year that we had Isabella, when we were still at our old church with our beloved Pastor and his wife, when we were married to a church body, before spiritual devastation happened, when life was very, very good and God’s graces flowed abundantly. Like babes, we ignorantly lapped it up, not fully knowing what we had.

I reach up into the closet shelf where a soft blue t-shirt, something close to cadet blue, peeks out and I look at the tag, oh, a Large, this will have to do.

I walk into the living room, right up to the man and hand him the card, tell him it made me cry to find it there, to read it, bend down and take his face in my hands and tell him he is a wonderful Granddaddy, my body bent over and my heart bent over in all this weeping reality, all this gospel light, all this love.

Instead of looking at me and acknowledging, he makes some remark about how not everybody thinks he’s so great. But I know it’s hit it’s mark–right there in the softness of his heart the arrow pierced–I can see that little bit of twinkle in his eye, the smile dancing in the corner, that he won’t let have center-stage.

He avoids my eyes, but I know he hears me. These are the only words he ever wanted to hear in the whole of his life.

I lay down in the dark coolness of their room with baby girl next to me, and she fidgits some, but like me, her body soon gives way to Granny’s high thread-count sheets, shadow’s cool of blankets piled high atop us.

I lie there thinking as I drift off, how many graces God has given, how He has bent low and heard me, listened to my heart’s cry, that mighty God himself would bend over, heart exploding for me, this is extravagant grace that I can hardly imagine or fully allow.

But in spite of me, His arrow has hit it’s mark and I gush over and out and I can do nothing but fling arms open wide to all this love.

Gratitude:

#630 picnic and badmitton in backyard orchestrated by oldest daughter–cold fried chicken, carrots and turkey sandwiches

#631 planting flowers with my girls

#632 a teaching moment–explaining a bit of horticulture to the girls–how you always know the best soil to plant anything in–dark and full of earthworms

#633 Ivy’s reaction: “What are earthworms?” and the lesson continues…

#634 Ivy’s attempt at repeating what she’s learned–“There are neutrons in the ground? What if the earthworms eat it all up nad there’s none left for the flowers?”

#635 washing down porch and thinking of my Mama–how she loved everything clean and enjoyed working, how I’m like her, dirty and wet in my flip-flops

#636 a weekend trip–just the six of us–to the science center, and enjoying precious, peaceful moments, how I was able to handle keeping the children calm, digging into serving, that I’m better and Husband had a helper

#637 powerful flare-up of chronic illness while on our trip–not being able to fully enjoy this glimpse of a time away–coming home with a cloud hanging over us–hard eucharisteo–thanking Him for healing anyway because all things are in His time and Sovereign God knows…

#638 seeing God’s healing in ways I wouldn’t have expected or wanted: in withdrawing, in slowing down, in saying no to more demands and yes to more of what He’s already put right in front of me–my family

#639 little Lilly’s hands exploring and fingering my skin as she lies next to me, how her silky hands soothe me and how my baby’s touch is so therapeutic

#640 me and Ivy going shopping for flowers, a girl’s day just for the two of us, and how much fun it was to be together

#641 me and the girls making a grace garden together…

#642 Husband coming outside after sending the girls for me twice, mildly frustrated, waving the spatula and asking for help with children gone wild while he’s trying to cook…oh, the joys of a large family…may as well give thanks and bask in the beautiful–not the grueling and ugly–work of it…

#643 Lorna wanting to stay outside and clean up, washing soil off of brick steps while I go into the house to help Husband with children

#644 new slate tiles on kitchen counters after several years of no countertops

#645 blogging friend, Michele, that helps me with homeschooling, helps guide me, who even considers hopping a flight to give me a hug and sit with me while we sort through curriculum choices, how she is a complete God-send

#646 Ro, her special friendship to me, how God dropped this special friend and mentor into my lap~~extravagant grace!

#647 this blogging community, grace-filled people, for Ann, who brought us all together…how this community has been the body of Christ to me and I love them passionately, how God has poured into me through them and lavished His love upon me…

#648 An exhausting Sunday morning service, exhausting because I cried out desperately to God at the altar…at the end of all the pouring out, greeting people, treading deep waters, going where it is uncomfortable for me to go, and encouraging others, there is nothing of me left and all of Him…this I desperately seek You for Lord, more of You, more love to You, and less of me…

#649 a beautiful Sabbath, full of warm weather and bright sun upon skin

#650 ckicken and dumplings and pear salad

#651 the way the children run into Granny and Granddaddy, excited to be there with them…

#652 how little Lilly throws herself into Granddaddy’s lap and loves to rock with him

#653 A Granny and Granddaddy that love me so wild

#654 watching Husband quick on his feet, running and playing hard football on vacant field with our church men

#655 us all coming home bone tired, dumping children in beds, and time alone with Husband

#656 a beautiful woman’s words as she prayed for me at the altar, “Father, your Word is marrow to our bones and nourishment to our navel. Like a little baby being formed in the womb, we don’t know what’s happening to us, Lord, but we know You are doing something.”

A glorious song, maybe one of the most beautiful ever written…take a look, I promise it won’t be a waste of time…soak in His glory, friend…I cannot get enough of this song…

Shared with sweet Ann and others at…

L.L….

On In Around button

Laura…

Jen…

and Michelle…

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14 thoughts on “Bending”

  1. oh…those words…those hands. breath taking. For the labors of love, all around. In rolled out dough, in cards wrote by hand, by hugs around stiff necks. love lived out in little moments. remembered for all time.

  2. Nacole, wow, just beautiful. Absolutely beautiful– all the texture and love and intimacy of it all. And this line just does me in: “the beauty of how they live out the gospel in their lives–that they may never have been missionaries, or involved in some limelight ministry, but their family has been their mission field–how they never stop giving even after they've given all”. Thank you.

  3. Hey there…nice to see you…I love hearing about your grandparents…sounds like a gift to you…love seeing the pictures of your darling girls…blessings and ((hugs)) Nacole.

  4. Oh, I feel like I just visited your grandparents, too. Such a gift for you and your children! Your words ache with beauty today. Love those “learning moments in the dirt”.. hooray for spring!

  5. Oh Nacole, I love you so much!!!! I have cried, cried and cried some more. This was so special of how you have showed the love of my mama and your granny and grandaddy. I have always said that I strive to be half the woman that she is. It brings me to a stark reality of how little time I have left with them. I love you so much. I'm thankful to God for what he has done for you. Yeah Nacole I always told you that you should be a writer and here you are. Great beautiful and wonderful words of love. You def are gifted and received an inheritnace from your daddy that's for sure. Never forget that your Mama loves you!!!

    Mama

  6. I love the picture of your grandmother's hands. My grandmother's hands signify so much to me and I can still feel them against my own skin even though she's been with Jesus for almost 2 years.

  7. It's bad enough that I want to meet you and cup your face in my hands —- but now I want to meet your granny and grandaddy. . . . and your MAMA!!!!! I agree with Jen above me —- it's the hands. I remember my grandmother's hands as being soooo small and soft. She would reach up to hold mine, and I thought they were so fragile and that I might break them if I squeezed too hard. I miss her. I miss her hands.

    I've prayed for you so much this week. And as I read this, I saw the rainbow in the rain, the rose springing up from winter's snow, life in a desert place. And somehow I know all will be well.

    This was so precious today. I'd love to have some of those dumplings!!!!!

  8. My grandparents died when I was newly married. What I missed–and still miss–most is their prayers. I knew they prayed for me every day and I mourn that loss. It seems impossible that I'm a grandma four times over. I want to be as faithful to pray for my grands.

    Your photographs of the children made me smile. They look so content.

  9. This is stunningly beautiful… thank you for sharing this loving tribute to your grandparents and to God's goodness in your life…praying that you are feeling better, Nacole…Thanks for sharing 🙂

  10. This is the sweetest of visits you share. And…I love chicken and dumplings! Do you think Granny will set me a plate :)? It sounds like a perfect place to be.

  11. Ah… Nacole… You took time to share your beautiful heart and life here with us… You bless me so much more than you even realize…

    You are so broken and contrite and this kind of heart the Lord will not despise… with open arms Abba Father receives your offering… You paint for us such a beautiful poignant inspiring picture of your walk to the throne of grace… your walk with Him every step of this life that brings as much darkness sometimes as light… it can be so heartbreakingly beautiful… but even through it all your heart remains so pliable in His hands and this is an example to us all…

    I am looking with great anticipation for all the grace and beauty that will pour through your life… in these days to come and the years to come… for His glory….

    Love you my friend…

  12. Nacole, I cried. 🙂 big cry, not a little cry. 🙂 this is so deeply beautiful. I loved every moment shared here, hit something deep inside me. Thank you.

  13. I read it again, I cried again, just letting the tears flow. This felt so deeply personal to me, I almost can't pinpoint it… if there has been a hard place in me that needed breaking, God has used this post to minister to me and break me open.
    2007. It hit me the first time I read this through and then the second time, it hit harder. The Gospel took hold of us and we will never be the same. All the grieving and pain we all walked through after that point, all the hard and new beginnings… so many thoughts raced through my mind. Knowing that the Gospel is what is left there, present and growing powerfully in us, after so much sifting, this struck me so very deep today. I love you so much, Nacole.
    I think that when I read your writing, beholding God's glory at work in you, growth, pain, yearning, contentment, desires waiting, desires maturing, desires satisfied in Christ… I cling to Christ with you, I cling to the Gospel with you, and my soul eats and drinks and delights in our Savior, our Redeemer, our loving Father… I drink deeply of Christ with you.
    To have history with you, to have walked through life with you, to have witnessed your growth and journey is a privelege I cherish every time I read your life here. I am so thankful for these glimpses into your soul, into your life redeemed in Christ. I am turned, full-faced, to Jesus as I read.
    Big hugs to you and your dear family today…

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