"You know," I begin, "I've got aged stones on a ancient path leading nowhere and," I tilt my head toward the leaf bags lined up all tough and stuffed with soggy leaves and, well, with the remains of rose canes gone wild. I fold my arms around my middle. God knows what I'm nodding toward. He knows the story.
"Yep," He nods back, "you've got that going on out here, too."
"And You heard," I squint tears back because too many have fallen this morning, "You heard, what was said about me. To me."
He squints back, because He did hear and He knows it hurt.
"Is it true? What was said, is it still true?" I stepped on toes this morning. I didn't mean to. I really didn't mean to. I meant to for my heart to be heard . It wasn't. It was exposed and thought I wore armor, not egg shell. I thought I'd buckled on the boots of gospel truth and true peace and I don't recall taking them off. "Is there still shell around my heart?" I don't want there to be. Don't want others to feel they have to tip-toe around me lest I break and they're crunching egg shell beneath their feet.
"I know it used to be true." It was. "But, Lord, is it still true?" I'm standing on this stone wondering if I left a heap of broken egg shell where I tried not to cry, but did.
He doesn't answer my question. "Let's redirect this stone pathway."
"I'll go get my gloves."
The stones are wedged by time and by this soil I call "clamudirt." Clay-mud-dirt, pronounced a lot like "cluttered."
I pry the stone up just enough to see if there's a snake or recluse living there. I've disturbed them before and yeah, I check because I don't trust life on a path going nowhere. It's a cluttered mix of once upon a time plans that don't happen because time goes on and other things happen, and shrubs grow up, and eggs shells crack, and leaves get raked into dry piles and then get snowed on before they get bagged.
And there's more. I am branch grafted into the holy root; and I'm clay, and somehow the holy grows right out of me and somehow I branch out of the holy, and may I not deceive myself.
May I bear Spirit fruit from holy root no matter what my soul feels when life prunes hard, because soul fruit will go rebel. It'll look all spiritual blossom and belief, but the proof is in the pruning and I need a mess of grace when I try to live out of the name I was grafted into.
Walkway and snake, rose and thorn, armor and egg shell, branch and clay.
I call it clamudirt.
"This pathway was going to lead to a quiet bench," I heft the stone, brace it against my waist and waddle a few steps to the right. "Here?" I ask because I don't know where to begin a new walkway.
"A little to your left. Now back up. There!" He knows where to place the first stone. Smack in the middle of clamudirt. Well, aren't first steps like this sometimes? Messy beauty and nervous hope?
The ground is gooey enough to raze it with the stone itself and I'm saved a trip back to the garage to find the shovel.
My arms strain and my neck sinews strain. I muscle goo till it piles a few inches on all four sides of the square stone. I'm bearing the weight, pushing out a footprint, and "You know, Lord," I step back to admire the first step forward, "I think I've labored like this before."
"Hmm," He knows I have. I've pushed four pairs of feet out of this bit of clamudirt that I am. And they've made footprints and pathways across this very yard, in this garden they helped plant, and they've left indelible marks on the carpet and on me.
"Let's go get another stone from that old path," He's intent on this and I'm kind of wandering down memory lane.
GardenerI didn't plan on laying out a new walkway this morning. I'm not dressed for it. I didn't expect to do more than bag damp leaves heavy with snow melt. My blue flip-flops are sogged and my bare toes are mud caked. And does my soul have fingernails? It does. I know it does because I've dug them in and hung by them before. I've had to do this. I've hung by soul-nails onto the Life for dear life, but today I dig through cluttered life. I dig up the old walkway and lay down a new one.
Dirt gets under the fingernails, gloves or not, because that's what happens when the way of heaven above is done on this earth. And we, God and I, are laying out a new walkway that goes somewhere.
He tells me where to place the next stone, and I deliver one stone at a time into this big stone called Earth.
"Where are we going?" I really don't know exactly. And I don't know if I have enough old stones to get there. "Are we going to run out?" I lean back and hug the fifth stone against me because it's heavy in tired arms.
"Okay. Now place this one right there." He's still not answering my questions. "Now give it a nudge." We're turning a corner. "Nudge it more to the riiight," He leans to the right because He's feeling it while I make the adjustment. "Perfect!"
I can see where this path is going and I'm intimidated. "It's going to the barren place, Lord, and I don't know how to fill it in." I miss the glory days when there were enough hours of sunlight and the roses grew into the names they were given at the grafting-American Beauty, Joseph's Coat, and Pinata.
I kneel on this turning stone and pack it into the ground. I'm quiet, but my soul isn't, because I was nudged kind of hard enough to press out tears where egg shells fell this morning. And really I shed a few more out here just all clamudirt. Yet God is out here, too, and He shows me my path.
He shows me my path.
"Go your own way, and loose who you are; go nowhere, and lose direction. But go My way, and find yourself; go where I go, and find your way."
My soul quiets, hums, as this realizations settles in and I remember an old church camp song. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." I hum it.
"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." I sing the words.
"When I feel afraid, and think I've lost my way, still, You're right there beside me," I look at the barren place, rise to my feet and hum is anthem declared, "Nothing will I fear as long as You are near," and I feel His presence solid as the stone beneath my feet and rounding a bend.
"We're going somewhere!" I'm not intimidated anymore. I still don't know what's going to fill the bare place, but I'm not intimidated by it and this old camp song is the word of God. I retrieve my iPhone from the top of a leaf bag and google the song. It's from Psalm 119, and His word is heaven on earth just so dirt-under-the-fingernails wise to me. "Let's go get another stone from the old path!"
I lay the last stone. The walkway ends where the barren begins as if it had been drawn up in a garden plan. Maybe it was. "Now what?" I ask.
"Let's go get that bright blue raised garden bed. And the red plastic chairs from the patio. And," He continues but I catch His enthusiasm and interrupt.
"Oh! And the chiminea! We can put that in the middle of those stumps where the ground is flat bare!"
"Hmm," His eyes are lit warm as if the chiminea is burning pecan wood and we're roasting marshmallows around it singing church camp songs.
"Would it be ridiculous to place the old kitchen chairs beneath the magnolia tree?" I'm getting carried away. "I know. The chairs are padded, and the wood is weak and the backs are cracked, but, still?"
"Still," He picks up where I leave off, "they would be beautiful there! And your motto for them always been, 'Let's get as much mileage out of these as we can before they break.'"
"Haha! True!" And now that I'm fifty and freely using the wedding china for hamburgers, "Let's get as much mileage out of life as we can before I break" is motto!
Red ChairsWe do it. We fill the barren place with colorful chairs and pots to be filled with flowers. We string up from peach tree branches solar lit mason jars that store up the hours of sun too short for roses but long enough for firefly lighting.
We hang wind chimes that sing and a hummingbird feeder because we invite life.
And the fire of the chiminea, the gathering place where marshmallows will be roasted and songs sung and where laughter will just laugh is in the center of the bare place; in the center of the rose stumps I burned to ashen knobs. We placed large flat stones beside them and will paint the word "believe" on one of them, "trust" on the next, and "hope" on the third because to believe and to trust is to have faith enough to never loose hope no matter what. This is my life word, pisteuo, defined. I've written books about it and I try to live it every day because, live pisteuo and life is full.
"It's not bare anymore; not this barren place and not life," I put words to my thoughts.
"I am the resurrection and the life." He spoke these words when Lazarus died and his absence was a bare place in his sisters' every day lives and their hearts shattered like egg shells. And Jesus' too. His heart shattered because their's did. He wept. They wept. Then Jesus showed them the meaning of who He is.
"Take the stone away," He said. I hear it differently now as I sit on the red chair and listen to wind chime song. I hear it, "Let's redirect this pathway."
They lifted the stone away and Lazarus was raised from the dead. "Lazarus, come forth!" Jesus said it strong. "And he who died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, 'Loose him, and let him go. (John 11:44)."
"I've come to give beauty for ashes." He speaks Isaiah 63 to me.
"I've come to heal the brokenhearted." Is He referring to the egg shells from this morning?
"I've come to proclaim liberty." Is He reminding me that I'm not who I used to be?
He says such things and it's like spreading grass seed over a lifetime of clamudirt.
written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig