Tuesday, February 22, 2011

God Sends Manna (Learning to Eat)

Today homesickness hit my gut at its morning sleepiness, settling in there like so much sand and gravel. The scene:

I sit in the student center, the side we call "Sunny Side" because of the windows, in my usual chair at my usual table. I sit reviewing notes for the class I have at 9:45, and reviewing other things here and there. And then I remember. My pen leaks ink and I leak a few tears, as I begin to scribble down all those things absent from the day:

I miss iced tea.
(Photo: Mandie Sodoma)

I missed the taste of Union Station Chop't with Hannah.

(Photo Credit: Mandie Sodoma)
I miss the sweet smells of fall in Lincoln Park.

(Photo Credit: Mandie Sodoma)

Remember how you'd dash out of the apartment and always, always, always slam the door accidentally? Remember how you'd curl up in a little ball and cradle your phone in your hands and tell Julie and Lisa those stories of growing? Hilary, remember how you managed always to drink Starbucks, to practice sign language, or flash that beautiful smile of yours at someone with all the radiant confidence that it did make a difference to their day?
(Photo Credit: Mandie Sodoma)

DC is home, love. I write to myself as I prop my legs up on the chair next to me. It's okay to miss it. It's okay to wish it was still the vehicle for manna. 

And then the words flow fast like rain. Not puddle rain, joyful in your rain boots rain, not growing season rain. No, this is the harsh cold of water smacking the window pane. This is rain that blurs your vision, soaks through your jeans and leaves you shivering.

They don't tell you about missing home when you're home. They don't tell you that you'll suddenly want to claw your way onto a plane and search its seat pockets for your heart. There is no fine print for homesickness - you write your own side effects as you go, write into trembling shaky words that all you want is return. 

And oh, Father, Father, I miss this all so much, so much my stomach hurts and my throat catches and You make the missing hard today and I don't want here, I don't want this gift, this manna, this goodness. And I can't lie to You, because You are God and You are life and from You nothing is hidden. And I miss all of it, every day. 


And then I'm reminded, by that wise person who pulls me close when she hears that sigh of hard and she calls out: "There are good things in this day!"

I don't believe her all morning. I don't believe her at lunch.

But the manna finds me. It's our class on Catholic social thought and I get to present and my bones start to soak in teaching, summarizing the text and then asking the questions, and I feel a little light kindle.

And then the manna rains down, because I get coffee with my dad and he says, Yes, Hil, you can be a teacher. And then I sit in a lecture on Flannery O'Connor and I hear hidden bright and beautiful that writing is about the comedy of life. I am mesmerized, my mind filling with ideas about characters not yet written, ideas for stories and metaphors and that quick turn of phrase. I sit entranced by this lecturer's ease and his love for studying O'Connor and her Christianity, studying her characters as breathing, living, people. And I begin to eat, eat the good food that He puts in front of me. 

God sends us manna. Every day. Every day there is new provision, new mercies, new revelations. There are, as my wise friend Julie ponders in her blog, "many annunciations."

But so often, I don't want what I'm given. I don't want to eat this manna because I want it in its August package, with the shiny bow of Georgetown M St and the fresh clean air of Lincoln Park. I don't want to eat this manna in its messy package of the present, messy with my homesickness and my tiredness and my questions.

But I am learning how to eat. How to say thank you and take that first bite. How to pray over the day, how to swallow the good bread that is always given, always here, always what I need for the day. God always sends us manna, food from Heaven. He sends us that brilliant, breathtaking sky and that smile from someone on the sidewalk and He sends us each other and good thoughts and Flannery O'Connor and blogs from Lisa-Jo and Ann. He sends good bread.

And it is always good. 


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