Sunday, December 20, 2015


Last night my mom picked me up from the airport. I was trembling and weak when she arrived. The turbulence on my flight was the scariest I've experienced, and my nervous system was still rather unhappy about the whole affair. Electrical shocks; heart pounding; breathing labored; throat constricting. I kept murmuring words of comfort to my body. "It's okay, Body; it's all over. Feel how the earth is holding you up. Notice the way your lungs balloon with clean air. You can relax now. All is well."

Even still, my nervous system sputtered and misfired and tried to keep me safe long after the plane landed. Seeing my mom get out of the car, wearing her red turtle neck and gold beads, made my racing, jumpy insides feel cozy, like they'd climbed inside a fuzzy sock.

When we pulled into the driveway 20 minutes later, the house was glittering with twinkle lights. "Look at all the fairies!" my mom said. Decades ago, my siblings and I loved to curl up by Christmas tree and listen to my dad spin stories about Christmas lights that were really fairies. Each day the fairies remained still as glass, determined to maintain their secret identity as lights; and each night, after all the humans had gone to bed, they flew into the darkness to have adventures.

Some nights they feasted and danced with the people in the miniature, ceramic village atop the piano, and other nights they traveled back in time and lit up baby Jesus' dark manger scene. Their adventures always made Christmas as magical as can be. Decades later, the Christmas light fairies decking the boughs in my parents' home are one of my favorite parts of Christmas. Lying here, surrounded by fairy lights, makes me feel safe and full of wonder.

My parents will return from church in a bit. My dad will be tired from preaching so he'll curl up in his easy chair by the twinkle lights with me for a bit. My mom will probably head straight to the kitchen to whip up something to eat, chatting with us from her position by the stove top.

My mom is known for her soup around these parts. A childhood friend calls it her "world famous soup." She doesn't follow a recipe when she makes soup, so it's always different. Sometimes she adds sausage and sprigs of thyme to a bubbling pot of vegetables. Sometimes she purees potato, adds a ham hock, and lets it all simmer on the stove top for hours. She always toasts bread with butter and Parmesan cheese to accompany the soup. Parmesan bread makes a tasty soup-scoop.

My dad is known for his savory herb blends. He loves to experiment with fresh herb combinations whenever he cooks. Garlic, basil, red pepper flakes, and jalapeno-infused olive oil. Rosemary, roasted chipotle powder, and a dash of maple syrup. Perhaps today he will join my mom part-way through her lunch preparations. Maybe she'll marinade the chicken while he creates an herb bath for the zucchini. Their kitchen will be filled with intoxicating smells.

Our dinner table is adjacent to the Christmas tree, several yards from the fire place. It is covered in a festive table cloth and bathed in light from the floor-to-ceiling windows. This area of the house often swirls with conversation. What did the kindergartners do in mom's Sunday school class today? What text will dad be preaching from next week? Has anybody seen any good movies lately? Hey, do you guys think reality TV can be a healthy entertainment choice? Marc, you can't let this dinner hour pass without a Nacho Libre impersonation — it just wouldn't be a proper meal without one. And by the way, how do you all understand the role of women in the church? 

Sometimes, all this conversation erupts into disagreement, and the air hums with friction. I'm learning this is inevitable when a group of verbal people gathers. I think, though, that these moments have the potential to be the most fruitful parts of our conversations. Iron sharpening iron, and all. My brothers think of things I wouldn't think to think; my dad's studied things I've been too tired to study; my mom knows just the right questions to ask; and my sister thinks of word pictures that make my conclusions seem rather dull. They push me toward developing truer beliefs.

I've grown to appreciate the bowls of steaming soup and hunks of crusty bread more than ever during these conversations because they draw out the conversations long into the night. They invite more musing, more exploring. They make the dinner table a place of connecting, of discovering, of growing.

There's snow on the forecast for this Friday. I started asking God for big, feathery flakes this morning. My sister and littlest brother and his wife will be in town that day. My littlest brother and his wife got married in September, so we've not built many memories with the two of them together. His wife is a unique blend of strength, conviction, gentleness and grace, and we're loving getting to know her. We've spent time with her in the drizzly rain of Washington and the humid heat of Florida beaches. We haven't played in the snow together, yet, though. A snow day with her would be the cherry on top of this December sundae.

I've just looked at the clock. It's noon, and I'm still in my pajamas. They're fuzzy fleece pjs that a new friend gave me a few Christmases ago, but I didn't bring a suitcase full of sweats for nothing. It's time for a mid-day change.

Cheering for you, Home Skillets,


© by scj

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