I’m sitting in one of those chapels where a big chunk of the walls are made of glass windows. The sky and the trees serve as the backdrop of the worship. Two geese fly by as we finish singing a worship song about drawing near to Jesus. We’ve considered the paramount importance of knowing our weakness so that we may draw near to Jesus. We are encouraging each other to be honest with our prayers. Am I angry? I am sad? Am I disappointed? We are encouraging each other to be okay with learning obedience. We don’t have to have it all figured out. I’m sitting in the very back row in the corner by the wall. Behind me is the grand piano. I choose to sit near the piano because I am convinced that the vibrations will calm my nerves like a lullaby to my anxious heart. I am being asked to reflect on what I’ve learned this weekend at the women’s retreat. I take out my journal and pen and look over to my bag, a little canvas bag with illustrations of herbs on it. I start writing, “I’m remembering...” I pause.
And then I continue, “I’m remembering herbs. My bag has herbs on it. The first time I thought about the word herb was in a play in first or second or maybe third grade. I’m confused about exactly where I was. Well, I’ll just say it was one of those plays where everyone gets a little part and its more of an event than a story. In the play, there was a character named Herb, and everyone kept saying his name wrong. He kept correcting them- Herb. The h is not silent. He’d go on and on. I don’t really remember the rest of the play—I think it was teaching us about where food comes from and probably had other good things to teach us about working together or something of that aim. I don’t even remember my part in the play. A farm animal or a vegetable maybe? Was I even it it? Was I just watching it? I don’t know. I do know Herb. He was a freckle faced boy with reddish-blondish hair, overalls, and a ball cap that reminded me a bit more of a train conductor hat. He kept holding on to his farm tool correcting people about his name.
Why does this memory remain in me? Was it because I didn’t know there was a joke I should know about it? This Herb vs ERB situation that everyone else seemed to be in on. Was it because I felt shame for not knowing and that I should have known? Was it because of the importance of knowing each other’s names? He was so frustrated and maybe he didn’t feel loved because they weren’t taking the time and effort to know his name. I think there might be something to these two points. I think most of all, I am frustrated that I can’t place this memory. I have a generic memory of the gym where they play was put on, but was I in Arkansas or Virginia? It matters to me to place this memory somewhere and I just can’t. I think I can almost convince myself it was third grade just before I have a vague inkling that I am probably wrong. I feel weak. If I cannot even place my memory, how can I possibly deal with it. What am I even doing dealing with a memory from elementary school? Why do I think I need to file it away into some organization? Why I am I thinking about this at a retreat? I’m supposed to be reflecting on Jesus and his suffering and my weakness. Did you catch that? I’m using “supposed to “ language. I should be doing this. I should be doing that. I have to figure this out. I should have known it was pronounced that way.
And ultimately, I think I’m sad because I don’t remember who I was with in this memory. Who was my best friend then? Who was I forced to be between on the bleachers simply because my last name was at the end of the alphabet? Or maybe because of my height? Probably more to do with the height. I can’t place myself in a place or with a people. I can’t remember where this memory belongs. It would be nice to know the place I grew to consider the pronunciation of the word Herb. It’s weird, but it’s a memory that comes up every time I see herbs. It literally flavors my conscious with herbs. Or was it herbs. No herbs. That’s right.
And then time is up for our reflection and the retreat comes to an end. I want more time.
Later on a walk with a friend, I realize some significant pain I’ve been avoiding. I didn’t even know it was bothering me. And do you know how I realized it? I told her about this whole Herb story. She listened. And I was frustrated. She listened. And then more things came out as I verbally processed. She listened some more. And suddenly through our fellowship, we both were in tears. Jesus was showing me my weakness, and I was able to draw near.
In gardening, there is a cliche phrase that people use all the time , “Right plant, right place.” It’s basically just referring to the obvious. If you want good growth in your garden, you have to have the right plant in the right place. You want to make sure you start with a plant that is suited for your geographical zone. And then you have to consider the layout of your garden or container. You wouldn’t put a shade loving fern in the sun to be burned to a crisp. You wouldn’t plant lavender in a wet soil. If you wanted blueberries, you would make sure you had the right soil, full of acidity. And you would want the right varietal that would accumulate the appropriate chill hours to be able to even produce fruit. Chill hours. That is a thing. Who knew? Anyways, you get the point. Not only do you need to make sure you have the right plant, but you also need to make sure you put it in the best place for it’s growth.
Do you think there might be a correlation for us? We can rest assured that we are the right plant, in a manner of speaking. We can have assurance that God made us to be our unique selves. But, I think we might not always be in the best place. That might mean geographically or metaphorically. I think that’s why my Herb memory was so frustrating. I wanted to place where I was during that time. Geographically and metaphorically. Was I surviving or thriving?
Well, I just don’t know. And I probably will never know. But I can trust that God was with me in that time. No matter what. And I can focus on today. I can trust that God is with me right now. He is asking me to draw near with confidence to him when I am in need. And that is the right place. When I’m drawing near, I am exactly where I need to be. And I find singing and dancing find their place too.
We can thrive when we realize all our springs are in Him. We can rest in that. I don’t have to do the work. I don’t have to place my own memory. I can place my mind in the care of the memory giver. I can really abide in the home He provides.
Here is a little poem I found today and wanted to share with you
Home by Edgar Guest
IT takes a heap o' livin' in a house t' make it home, A heap o' sun an' shadder, an' ye sometimes have t' roam Afore ye really 'preciate the things ye lef' behind, An' hunger fer 'em somehow, with 'em allus on yer mind. It don't make any differunce how rich ye get t' be, How much yer chairs an' tables cost, how great yer luxury; It ain't home t' ye, though it be the palace of a king, Until somehow yer soul is sort o' wrapped round everything. Home ain't a place that gold can buy or get up in a minute; Afore it's home there's got t' be a heap o' livin' in it; Within the walls there's got t' be some babies born, and then Right there ye've got t' bring 'em up t' women good, an' men; And gradjerly as time goes on, ye find ye wouldn't part With anything they ever used -- they've grown into yer heart: The old high chairs, the playthings, too, the little shoes they wore Ye hoard; an' if ye could ye'd keep the thumb-marks on the door. Ye've got t' weep t' make it home, ye've got t' sit an' sigh An' watch beside a loved one's bed, an' know that Death is nigh; An' in the stillness o' the night t' see Death's angel come, An' close the eyes o' her that smiled, an' leave her sweet voice dumb. Fer these are scenes that grip the heart, an'when yer tears are dried, Ye find the home is dearer than it was, an' sanctified; An' tuggin' at ye always are the pleasant memories O' her that was an' is no more -- ye can't escape from these. Ye've got t' sing an' dance fer years, ye've got t' romp an' play, An' learn t' love the things ye have by usin' 'em each day; Even the roses 'round the porch must blossom year by year Afore they 'come a part o' ye, suggestin' someone dear Who used t' love 'em long ago, an' trained 'em jes t' run The way they do, so's they would get the early mornin' sun; Ye've got t' love each brick an' stone from cellar up t' dome: It takes a heap o' livin' in a house t' make it home. Sincerely,
Listen to these words here.