We sat down most mornings since February and I could only muster up a paltry offering of, “Here I am.”
I gathered the crumbs of my life lived the day before, the life I lived in college, the life I lived as a toddler and I spilled them out on the page – somehow these crumbs needed to become a feast. I’m not sure how He did it but all my “here I ams” turned into words and pages and chapters and a book.
We wrote a book, the Lord and I.
On the evening of September 5, 2016 I turned in my first sweated over, doubted over, cried over, smiled over, manuscript. That moment looked very different in theory than how it actually played out. I thought for sure I’d be running to my computer or phone to let you all know that I turned in my manuscript. To celebrate with you. To rest in your love and good cheer.
It was also a very real thought that I might not come to this moment. There were many times over the summer that I wondered if I actually did have a book in me. There were so many times I wondered if I could even bring this book to life in the timeframe I had. I seriously contemplated calling my editor and requesting an extension,
“Can you pencil this manuscript in for, say, summer 2020? Let’s touch base then. Thanks!”
Showing up to what we’ve been called to can be so uncomfortable. He calls the unqualified doesn’t He? He works best in the, “I can’t do this” moments. I felt the echoes of all those Old Testament characters ring and shoot through my own mouth, “Me? Are you sure me?”
I’d ask Him at night in-between tossing and turning, “Are you sure me, Father?” And He’d always say, “Well we’re here, aren’t we? You and me. Aren’t we right here in it?” I’d fall back asleep and then wake up early and go to my desk and respond, “Here I am.”
I wrote a lot of pages that I read by the end of the day and looked at in disbelief, “No one will read this.” Late at night I edited. Early morning, write. Night, edit. I would spend my morning tapping on my keys in full surrender and then step away. In the evening I had my hand on one key, delete.
Write. Delete. Edit. Delete. Delete. Delete. Write.
But I kept showing up. I kept my prayer short before getting to work, “Here I am!”
He kept showing up too. The deleting was like taking a rag to a dusty mirror. We were getting to the real heart of things. Some days I fell into bed so filled I could burst. Other days I crawled into bed overcome by doubt.
But like I said, I turned in my manuscript on the evening of September 5. Jeremy beamed at me, “Congratulations! You turned in a manuscript. How do you want to celebrate?!”
I just wanted a nap.
This was exactly and only my reality,
“I felt the good kind of emptiness that comes when
I’ve finished writing something.” -Madeleine L’Engle
I threw myself on the couch. I could not have felt more empty. Jeremy was a little concerned because I am almost never without some kind of highlighted emotion. He studied me and I knew what he was thinking so I spat it out,
“All my emotions are in that book. That book has all of me.”
“We better get that manuscript back!” He quipped.
We did go out to dinner. He had read the manuscript that day so we talked about it the whole meal which was really fun. But I still did not feel much.
“I bet I will feel relief tomorrow morning. I just need to sleep.”
But the next day I did not feel relief. I did not feel joy or accomplishment or even doubt. My close friends asked how it felt to turn in the manuscript and I could barely give them more than a few blinks of my eyes.
But Jesus knows His girl. He knew all the questions I was asking. Was all that time on the manuscript worth it? Was it worth all the risk and all the surrender? Will it even matter? Is it even a thing?
Two days later we received a letter from one our of sponsored children in Sri Lanka. In it was a picture of her with some items she purchased with the birthday money we sent her. In her letter she wrote,
“I bought a table for my family to eat at.”
I could barely comprehend the words so I grabbed the picture again and there in the background was a brand new dinner table. The legs still wrapped in packaging.
I burst into tears. It was all worth it.
My book is about coming to the table. The every day table. It’s about showing up and bringing all of you so you can invite others to bring all of them too. In many ways, I grew up at the table. I learned the hardest lessons at the table. I received the most amazing gifts at the table. I was found and lost at the table. I believe in the table more than any other item we have in our home. It is a life force. It is the exact place Jesus chose to spend His last night before His capture and crucifixion.
So here I am holding this picture of this sweet girl who lives in desperate poverty. Her family is barely eating one meal a day and she took the birthday money we sent her and she bought a table. Sadali must know the power of a table too.
In that moment I felt it all. I felt it was worth it. Writing about a table for two years. Writing about all the tables I have had the honor and heartbreak of sitting at.
I put the picture of Sadali and her table in a frame and sit it on our table. It’s a reminder that I do believe in the message God gave me. It was a lesson that was hard-won. A message that changed my life. And the life of my marriage. And the way we love people.
It changed the way I took in Jesus’ life in this world. The Jesus people called a glutton. Almost always eating. Almost always at a table. I once read a New Testament scholar say that in the book of Luke Jesus is either on His way to a meal, at a meal, or leaving a meal.
My heart swells every time I look at Sadali standing in front of her table and I know, I was not created to just write the message of the table – I was created to live it. To bless others by turning water into wine in my own way. To have every single kind of person with every kind of background to my table. To keep showing up not only to the writing table but also to my every day meal table and saying to Jesus and my people,
“Here I am.”