On Mondays, when the smallest kids go down for a nap, I whip up something gooey and chocolate and stick paper straws into mason jars filled with lemonade.
Around here, Mondays mean that a handful of teenaged girls from the neighborhood are coming for a few hours of girl talk and all around foolishness and I am the resident mama managing the chaos. Sometimes, Jesus smiles upon me and sends a college girl to help me out on Mondays, but for the most part, it’s just little ol’ me.
I must tell you that although I have two teenaged daughters, teenage foolishness and conversation is not my jam. A house full of people who smell funny and act funny and look funny give me the willies. And when the peals of laughter reach a certain decibel, my eyes cross and I have to fight the urge to want to lose it. Lame, huh? I know.
But, hey, we’re all in process and so on Mondays, I put on my big girl panties and take a deep breath and fling open the front door, right at 2pm…and I wait…because no one is ever, ever on time.
And I use those few extra minutes to give Jesus my nub of a heart.
Jesus help me to see these girls as your beloved children. Help me to be patient and kind and loving. Help me to know what to say when their stories make my head roll and my heart ache. And help me to want to enter in and stay.
And on Monday nights, when everyone has gone home and I’m standing over the kitchen sink with suds up to my elbows, I often find myself wondering what in the world I am doing with these girls.
But two weeks ago, everything changed.
Well, not everything. Just my heart.
Two weeks ago, after two hours of girlish giggling and coming clean kind of conversation, things got quiet in the house. The bowls of dump cake had all but been licked clean and the jars of lemonade were empty and the girls were still hanging around, no one too eager to head home.
I was watching the clock, trying to find a way to usher the kids out the door, when one of the girls opened a brand new can of worms. She was sitting on an ottoman in front of the window and the light was spilling in behind her making the flecks of blond in her hair shimmer like gold. Her elbows were resting on her knees, her small frame bent forward, her mouth making words that I had long stopped hearing because my heart was stuck trying to absorb the very essence of her.
I watched her from my corner of the room trying to put my finger on exactly what I was feeling and why I was feeling it. I blinked, willing my eyes to see what my heart wasn’t seeing. Her feet were three shades of filthy. Her hair was stringy and needed a good washing. Her tank was too small, her chest too developed for her age. Her words were crass and vulgar, her story painful to hear.
Yet in that moment, everything about her was lovely and good and precious to me and I could feel my heart welling up to hold all of her.
And all I could think was that this must be what it feels like to love my neighbor like Jesus loves me.
This afternoon, after putting the babies down for their nap, I grabbed a bowl and the bushel of pink-eyed purple hull peas waiting to be shelled and headed to the front porch for an hour of quiet shelling.
I was fifteen peas deep when I looked up to see my golden haired neighbor walking down the sidewalk in a tank that hugged her in all the right-wrong places. The porch was free space and I had nothing but time and a mess of peas to shell.
“You wanna join me?” I asked her. She nodded and pulled up a rocker.
I searched her face for a glimpse of the girl I saw on the ottoman in my home two weeks prior and when the light hit the edge of her nose just right, I smiled. There she is, I thought to myself. Right there.
And for a split second, I knew that I was looking at the very image of God.
We’re kin, you know? We, who walk the face of God’s green earth, belong to one another.
We are created in the image of God, teeming with a million little shards of glory, that in the right light, burst forth in such radiance that no one can deny the Creator’s fingerprints.
And you want to know what happens when we begin to see glimpses of God in each other?
We begin to move towards one another in awe of the glory residing underneath our skin.
We stop being judgmental and condemning and instead, begin to bear with one another in love.
This place is where hospitality rings the truest.
And this is the place where we come to know Jesus most intimately.