We spent the summer mostly by the pool. Those plastic loungers acted as a cradle of respite for me, a safe, uninterruptible space for me to wrestle with my angst related to community and a wound that oozed far longer than seemed reasonable. I was near militant about our pool going. Mostly, the kids were on board, but even on days when they turned their toes in and sighed, again?! I drug them there, assuring them that it would be fun.
I needed what the pool deck offered, and maybe someday, when my children are adults, they will understand, and if it is warranted, perhaps they’ll even be moved to forgive me for forcing them to have the best summer of their young lives. (You can’t see it, but I say this with slightly rolling eyes and my tongue in my cheek). Nobody was harmed in my self-declared “Summer of Swimming”.
Those long hours by the pool among strangers gave me room to sit still in the warmth of God’s sun and untangle the knots that pressed me to close my heart to invitations. With the strips of that plastic lounge chair sticking to the backs of my sweaty knees, I had to reckon with whether or not I’d willing step back into community, or take cover and run.
Nearly every day I fantasized about running.
Cover holds far more draw than deliberately walking back into spaces where risk and wounding are a potential hazard.
One afternoon, while walking through the store, I found this welcome mat with a pineapple on it. “Should I buy it?” I asked my kids.
“If you want to.” They each answered.
But my mind trailed off to how hospitality may begin with a welcoming doormat, but it has to go further than the threshold of our homes and our hearts. For much of the summer I hid at the pool because it was safer than being present in the midst of where I might need to invite. I was in no shape for it.
There are legitimate seasons of healing. There are for sure, times when what we need is to sit quiet besides cool water and let God surgically fix our broken hearts. But there is also a time for returning. And so often it’s the very spaces that wound us that God also uses to heal us. We are, none-of-us, islands. We are people made to be with other people. And the togetherness that we are made for, implies risk.
Putting the mat back on the shelf, I continued on down the aisle because I have a perfectly functional one sitting on my doorstep. I didn’t need a new mat this summer, I needed a re-newed heart for hospitality. I needed a heart that was willing to invite again. I needed legitimate healing, fresh perspective, and to be reminded that closing doors and crossing arms is easy, but Christ flung His arms wide to those who rejected Him.
It took all three months of sitting there beside the blue pool water for me to dig through the junk that festered in my heart. It took all three months for me to say “yes” to uncrossing my arms.
The pool is closed now. Fall is in the air and I’m working my way back to opening my door. As is so often the case for me, I find the answers to my prayers while in the kitchen, with my eyes dripping from the onions, and my stomach rumbling at the promise of something good filling it.
Isn’t food always what brings us back to the table? Isn’t it the promise of being filled in body that opens our hearts to being filled in spirit? We call it comfort food for a reason…
While fighting off an end of summer cold, nursing the last edges of my wound, I made a pot of homemade tomato soup. Even in the process, I found room to breathe a little deeper. It’s an easy and delicious recipe, perfect for enlarging and sharing. A hearty, simple option, perfect for inviting yourself and others back to the table.
- 2 Cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 2 Cans of stewed tomatoes
- 1 Cup of chicken or beef broth (or water)
- 1/2 Cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 TBSP butter
- 1 Medium onion, grated
- 3 Cloves of garlic, minced
- 1TBSP Olive oil
- 2TBSP Dried oregano
- 1TBSP Kosher salt
- 1TBSP Black ground pepper
- a pinch of Red pepper flakes
- Add butter and olive oil to your soup pot, melt on low heat
- peel and grate entire onion
- add grated onion, and garlic to olive oil/butter mixture in pot
- simmer on medium low until onions become transparent
- add in oregano, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, stir
- add all 4 cans of tomatoes with their juice to the onion/butter mixture in pot. Turn up to medium heat.
- Add in broth (or water) and simmer for 5-7 minutes
- use a hand-held immersion blender to puree the soup (be careful not to splatter yourself with the hot coup during this process)
- once the soup is the consistency you like, stir in the cream, and simmer on low for 10 min.
- Serve and enjoy!
- For added flavor, top your soup with fresh grated parmesan cheese, mozzarella, or fresh basil. Pair with a chunk of crusty bread, and an oaky red wine for a body-warming fall dinner.