I have a bookshelf, the bookshelf lives in a small hallway in my home and on it reside a church mouse from York, several books, a large bowl shaped rock found years ago, photos and candles, and a feathered black crow. The crow is tippy, prone to falling on the floor, he is vacuumed in the several times weekly rotation, and he has a spot on the second shelf, next to a snowflake crocheted by my friend Kelly, and a stack of books on church architecture. The shelf came from the basement of my church when it was cleaned out, it has lovely carved edges and it sits in the hallway of a home built in 1901.
I love old things.
And I love the crow.
I’m not sure why. He’s a dollar store crow, a silly thing thrown in the cart on a trip around Halloween, a decoration who was never put away. I notice crows, I say the rhyme to myself, one for sorrow, two for joy….my crow guards my most treasured things.
My wedding veil hangs in my closet, in an unofficial and temporary spot, trying to avoid the sharp claws of a big barn cat who insists on sleeping on the top stair (yes, there are stairs to nowhere in my closet), who knocks things down and steps on them.
And a dear friend has announced his retirement, and I am left gasping, a fish out of water, suddenly feeling late to a party I was probably never invited to in the first place, one where I sort of showed up and was invited in, where I found myself at home, against all odds.
This friend and I sat on the bench of his new piano and he sang and we sang, and I admired the sheen and deep glow of finish, and last Sunday we honored him with a standing ovation with nary a dry eye in the room.
In the basement a swing and a bouncy seat wait, shrouded and sealed to keep out the damp. In the hall closet hangs my wedding gown, hem still dirty from the night I walked in bare feet down the aisle grasping the hand of my husband as my dear, retiring, friend played the organ and my brother smiled through his tears.
My heart is full of these things. Full of moments and crows and rhymes, hymns and hours and words.
As I’ve spent these years unpacking and repacking my drawer of things, sewing my patchwork cloak, not the robe I thought I would receive when I was confirmed, new and white and starched – but the comforting cloak, I realize that I am still not there. I still have not unpacked it all, still have not examined it all. Some things sit in the drawer and they wait for my bumbling inspection, to see if they will be put back or discarded.
My mom talks about writing time on her heart. And if I could write time on my heart I could not stop there, I would be covered in fine gold henna paint, every inch of my body, with words and symbols, music notes and Hebrew characters. I walk around with these shining things on my skin, irrefutable parts of who I am, the map of my journey toward home.
I come and I bring chaos and I bring a swirling mess of little girls and not little girls, of marriage and addiction, of old houses and all their problems, of dogs who forget where they live and whichever particular thing has pricked my heart on that day. I bring my apron and my small hands.
I know that this doesn’t make sense. I know that it seems to be written in code.
My heart is full of Old Testament scripture, full of New Testament translation, full of apologists and the difference between them and Rome. Full with a cappella singing and teaching Eucharists, full of singing Bohemian Rhapsody and the Midnight Club, full of friends and ministers and people who understand what it is to have God chase you down and shout in your face that you must serve his church, that you must leave everything, lay it all down, and walk this road. Full with the people who do not understand what it means to be called in that way.
On my way home from choir last night I saw a man who comes to the soup kitchen and who an article was written about recently in the parish page. He is one of the only people who I think are actually homeless who come for a meal. He was sitting on a bench on a rather idyllic street, in the dark, with one hand on his bike, just staring into space. And I wondered what was in his heart, what he was thinking about, who he was wishing for, where it went the way that it did, where he picked up the path that lead to that bench, on that cold night, sitting alone and without a place to go.
My heart is full of the people who don’t have enough, and while it is one thing to feed and house and clothe them, it is quite another to find out why they need to be fed and clothed and housed.
My heart is full of questions that focus on why people are left out, full of an urge to be a real life mockingjay, to fight back against a system that oppresses and holds down those most vulnerable.
My heart is not afraid. I have upended it for you here over and over again, shown you who I am, what I am made of, what I am about, and what I believe. I have dumped out my drawer for your inspection, offered my cloak for your critique.
My heart is with Freddie Gray and Terrence Crutcher, with the little girl in the backseat of a car who watched a police officer shoot the man in the front seat and her mother kneel on the pavement in handcuffs as she sobbed.
My job is not to sit down and shut up, my job is not to play the game, not to take the easy way, not to go with the tide. My heart is called to something else.
My heart is the heart of deacon. Tied to the mast amid ship, holding the ends together, the world that would disregard the good news of Christ as so much more religion than they can handle, the church that would prefer to write a check but not to get hands dirty as the waters of this world swirl and roil around us.
The contents of my heart are varied and battered and shiny. There is Kaia in her crib yelling my name, AWESHA. There is Ave saying words like particular and edit and especially. There is an old and confused dog, once a puppy chewing a first edition Alice in Wonderland, and the man who taught him to regard his own noble dog heart, a man I promised I would stand by. There are vows, holy vows, that order me to respect the dignity of every person. More vows that I would take, obedience and service, justice, upheaval, rebellion and insurgence.
I love you.
If you made it this far I congratulate you. I hope to see you soon, hope to wrap my arms around you (fair warning given) and to eat that Friday night lasagna, hope to form myself into a person who is able to incite change, who is able to birth justice.
I am heavy with it now.
The Big Dipper is in position, the message has come, the English Contingency has arrived and we will do family in all of the messy ways that family happens.
I will set aside these things for now, close the drawer for closer examination another day. Enjoy the time that is allotted.
But I am telling you that I will not stop.
These things are true. I promise you.