On Sunday Afternoon

IMG_7372IIMG_7367tIMG_7381IMG_7365‘s Sunday afternoon in November and the leaves are in a rush to vacate the trees. It’s like they’re mamas and they have urgent errands to run and important places to be, and the kids couldn’t find their socks again so now they’re late to arrive on the ground, unlike all the other leaves who seem to have it together and arrived much earlier, so they’re running to catch up. “Here are your socks, Kid Leaves, now go, go, GO!” and dozens of leaves spiral for the earth to win the relentless race against time and themselves.

The sky, gray and overcast already, is growing demonstrably darker, and I can hear distant thunder rumbling cautiously, trying to decide whether it ought to approach us or not, like we’re wild animals and unpredictable, even though we stay in our cages when it comes around. The thunder is probably right to be wary of us, and brave to come as often as it does.

It’s not usually my place to notice such things, having little time to stop and watch the sky. But it’s Sunday afternoon and, with the exception of the laundry tumbling round and round in our modern magic machines, All the Things I should be doing are on hold.

I’ve been rushing lately like the leaves and rumbling a little like the thunder, on the go rather constantly with places to be even though I don’t always feel brave enough to venture there, and, as a result, I’ve had hardly any moments to sit watch over my world. To act as gatekeeper and guardian. To find the missing socks. And so I find myself today wanting to hug the earth and rest my head in the mud and sit quietly, watching the sky and season change around me. I am, quite literally, in the calm before the storm, since storms are on the way always, and I am, just for this minute, at peace.

I’ve been wanting to write to you about prayer, friends, for quite some time — the rote record and strict structure I believed prayer was, versus the calmer and quieter and louder and freer way it’s turned out to be — and I meant to try again today, but every time I start to write it, I end up waylaid, falling beside the ocean or intercepted by the sky. So I’ll tell you this, instead: the back path to my house is muddy today, and it makes the feet of everyone who walks it messy. Those who enter my house that way inevitably track in mud and mess, but they bring magic and mirth in equal measure, and I greet them with gratitude and grace because all who arrive that way are my people.

I thought for years that prayer was a front door experience, and that I ought to arrive at God’s door via the conventional method, knocking politely, dressed pristinely, and wondering whether I’d be admitted, instead of tumbling through the back with twigs in my hair and dirt under my fingernails, having wallowed in the mire and rather enjoyed the mess. The older I get, though, the more I find people like me — those uncomfortable with the formality of the foyer — arriving at the back door, flinging the it open with enthusiasm and forgetting to shut it behind us in our hurry to reach the kitchen which is bright and boisterous and a little bit grimy.

Someone throws a pot of water on the stove while others rummage for the tea and honey, and we hand around a half-full bottle of whiskey to warm us while we wait at the big farm table that always has room for one more.

The storm comes and scatters leaves, which rush and rest and rot and are reborn, and we are, too. We are, too, friends, as we sit and swig around the table and swing back and forth on the pendulum from human to divine, fabulous and fallible and still somehow made in Love’s own image.

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
7 comments
  1. Beautiful and true. This is one of my favorite parts of my relationship with God. <3

  2. Heard an awesome message yesterday, and saw Matthew West last week, and all around me I am bombarded by messages of Grace. And here is another one. Clearly, God is trying to get me to HEAR and truly accept grace. So, so hard for me.

    Thank you for this beautiful post.

  3. Beautiful. I needed this reminder that we can bring the mess inside with us, and that it’s even ok to have enjoyed the mess sometimes!

  4. This is so beautiful……..

  5. Your writing this imagery is such poetry. And the photos that just capture the mood so perfectly. Lovely.
    Prayer is so important and I know I don’t do it often enough, mostly when I’m in the shower and hopefully none of the littles are hollering at each other or coming to find me with random bit of things. Somehow I find it easier to pray with the hot water pouring around me, like it’s washing away all the flying thoughts and I can actually think real things in my head.

  6. I like back door prayer, too. When I was getting ready to be baptized at age 7, the pastor told me that I could pray to God anywhere and any time I needed to. He said we could talk to Him like a friend, and as long as we were respectful it was ok. He was so clear about our being able to talk to God ANYWHERE that I asked Pastor if we could pray on the toilet. I was, after all, 7. He sputtered. Apparently, as modern a Pastor as he was, this was too much.

  7. Darn you, Beth! You do it all so well! When you write funny, you are so tremendously funny, and when you slow down and write THIS–well, you are tremendously moving. Thank you for capturing it all so well.

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