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  • Writer's picture Bethany McMillon

Gentle Whispers and Good Food




I push the two buttons almost simultaneously - one to pull in the side windows of my car, the other to open my garage door; and I hover my foot above the brake.  My car creeps carefully into my garage.  I turn the car off but leave the garage door open.  The car is completely silent.  The noises of the world, including our dog barking a greeting since she heard my car, are muffled. I don’t open the car door. Instead, I exhale, close my eyes and lean my head back to savor the quiet moment. 

The day had been a good one: safe travels to and from a conference in Waco, great conversations with coworkers, learning about a subject I’m passionate about and wonderful timing in which we missed rush hour traffic going and coming home.  The days leading up to it had also been full, almost frantically so on occasion, and had been laced with both laughter and gut-wrenching hardship. 

Today, my soul desperately desires stillness and solace for just a moment.  So, I simply sit a moment.

***

My almost grown boy sits at the kitchen bar recounting his day.  His laptop and textbooks are open, waiting until he returns to his schoolwork.  But several irritations in his teenage life have bubbled to the surface and he animatedly vents about each situation, knowing he is in a safe place.  I listen for a while, offer encouragement, and feed him a snack.  With peanut butter crackers and a protein shake in his belly, he calms, and a smile relaxes his face. 

Dinner time isn’t too far off, but I abandoned the “snacks will ruin your dinner” adage years ago as we hit the bottomless-stomach-years.  For now, I keep our pantry stocked with protein-filled snacks (and sweet and salty treats) and offer them up often.  Schoolwork is hard, navigating the teenage social scene is difficult, and today he simply needs to eat. 

***

It's Saturday morning and we don’t have plans until later in the day.  There is laundry spinning in the washing machine and our dog is snoring at my side.  I down the last drops of my coffee and, instead of doing anything productive, I scroll through social media.  There are several sweet pictures of holiday celebrations and tiny new members of families.  There is an engagement announcement and photos of a retirement party.   I tap the heart or thumbs up or hug at most of them and leave a comment or two, grateful in many ways to be able to keep up with friends in faraway places. 

However, as I scroll, I see fewer and fewer friendly social updates and more ads, more reminders that I probably need to work out more, more skinny women prompting me to order hormone replacement or diet supplements.  Within a few minutes, my mood has shifted to a feeling of being less than and unworthy. 

My dryer dings and I swipe up to close the apps.  I chastise myself a little for how much negative emotion seeps in while I scroll.  I pull open the dryer door and grab the first pair of shorts.  I snap them straight and smooth out any wrinkles while they are still warm.  Over and over again I repeat the motion with each item in the dryer.  I whisper gratitude and prayers for peace for those I love, for those I saw in both moments of celebration and hardship on my social feeds. 

I open the washing machine and move the damp clothes into the dryer, then the dirty clothes into the washing machine, then the clean and folded clothes to the put-away-soon pile.  A few minutes later, I’m back on the couch.  This time, though, I cover myself with a blanket and open a book.  I simply need to think about something besides Life’s hardships.

***

After a frenzy of text messages through the afternoon, we decide on a place to meet for last-minute dinner plans.  Now we sit, helping ourselves to warm rolls and planning what we were going to order, congratulating ourselves on having a free evening on the same night.  I place my napkin in my lap, glance over the menu for a quick decision and tune my ears, my heart and my mind to the story being told.  We’ve been friends for long enough that we only occasionally need to refresh the backstory.  Instead, we pick up in the middle, jumping into stories and saying too many words, but ones that our souls need to say.  We pause to order our dinner as the sun sets behind the restaurants and stores just outside the window. 

Conversation flows freely, laughter intermingles and at least one of us must reach for a tissue to wipe a tear on more than one occasion.  But at last, the patient waiter, who had kept our glasses full of water for over two hours, bids us goodbye.  We step out of the doorway and into the cool evening air.   A delicious dinner and a delightful conversation leave us feeling refreshed and stronger for the days ahead. 

***

In 1 Kings 19 we read about Elijah.  Many of us have heard the story: Elijah was a prophet, who had just been part of one of God’s mighty miracles, but he felt scared and alone and perhaps even “done” with those he was sent to serve.  So, he ran, straight to the wilderness.  As he sat under a tree, he fell asleep, only to be awakened by an angel of the Lord ordering him to eat and to drink.  Again, he went to sleep, this time with hydration and a full belly.  For a second time, an angel woke him with encouragement to eat and drink to prepare for the journey ahead.  When he was stronger, he walked (for 40 days!) to a cave, where he met the Lord – not in the wild wind, or the earthquake or the fire, but in a gentle whisper.

In this life I lead – busy, fast-paced, full of hardship and heartbreak – I sometimes run.  I seek refuge and rest.  I rely on and savor moments of conversation and even good food to give me strength to carry on.  And I often find the Lord in the gentle whispers, not the raging storms around me.  What about you?  Where do you find Him? 

“After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  After the fire, there was a soft whisper.” 1 Kings 19:12

 

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