Upside Down

Upside Down

I feel damp deck wood darkened with rain beneath my bare feet, as I enter morning. I carry journal and pen now, return with coffee and fresh water a moment later.

As I write, ink spotting my hands, my fingers — long used to the efficient tap of keyboard typing— fumble, messy, splotchy, nearly illegible, impatient with the process. I’ve been computer journaling this past year and a half, and the transition to pen and paper has not been easy.

The snapdragon on the table to my right calls attention, as I pause, pen poised, trying to make a murky morning thought clear. Raindrops shiver on her crimson velvet forehead and lips, dot themselves liberally down her thin green stalk of slender leaves.

Perched here on the high deck, overlooking the yard, cataloguing and recording my morning thoughts becomes less important than following the overwhelming urge to enter the moist, green, lush fullness below.

I walk, barefoot, pajama’d, beckoned by a sense of promise, of mystery, of beauty in the fresh and fertile hour before the children wake. I feel the brush of humid air to bare skin, inhale the moist earth grounding me, walk back to overlook the creek, rushing full and brown, always responsive to the rain.

In this rare, quiet moment of being, I feel perfectly content, not straining towards what’s next, but, rather, quivering like a crystal raindrop on a light lavender hosta bell — round, full, shimmering, alive.

hosta-raindrops

****

I never saw this coming.

Just a few weeks ago, a quiet voice whispered a long-held secret into my ear. It was both an unexpected departure and a long-awaited homecoming, wrapped together and presented as the most exquisite gift:

You’re not Martha, you’re Mary.

I have been on a rollercoaster of self-discovery since December of last year, and this revelation seemed to cap it all.

It had begun innocently enough, as these things often do. A conversation with a friend. A question casually offered: Maybe you’re an introvert?

For years, I’ve categorized myself as outgoing, because I’m generally friendly and social. But what I begin to realize — after extensive research — is that your introvert/extrovert status is not determined by how sociable you are {or are not}, but rather, by what nourishes you:

Do you get energy from being around others? Do you thrive with lots of social interaction and wither in solitude? Or, rather, does quiet time and alone time stock your depleted reserves and make you feel human again? Do social situations — however diverting — leave you feeling like you need an escape?

However hidden I was to myself at this point, this much I knew:

I craved solitude, adored it, needed it, didn’t get it enough, and had felt, at some points — when dangerously long deprived of it — that I would go to shockingly dramatic lengths to get alone time. It was as essential to me as breathing and fed life-giving oxygen to every part of my being. When I deprived myself of this introvert-oxygen, parts of me wilted and began to die.

I won’t tell you all the versions of me I tried on and discarded as I began exploring personality typing. But, I will tell you that what started to emerge was this:

I had been living my life so fully given over to who I thought I should be, that my real self had been deeply buried. I was excavating my identity, layer by layer, to find who I really was, at my core, who God created me to be—

not who I wished I was,

not who my family wanted me to be,

not who the world thought I should be …

You see, I have long identified with the capable, bustling Martha. In fact, I have always been very uncomfortable with the Bible story which extolls Mary’s virtue. But don’t you see? I think: The meal must be made! The house cleaned! There are things to do, and Mary is not doing them.

So, I do the things. I teach the Sunday School, I co-lead the Girl Scout troop; I volunteer at school; I cook the meals; I organize the toys; I manage the schedules — all good and necessary things, for sure — but I do them to the death of Mary me. I place Martha tasks over Mary time, again and again. And, why am I surprised when there is no Mary me left to write, to reflect, to sit at Jesus’ feet?

God has been patiently revealing to stubborn me that my inherent skills and natural temperament align more with Mary, no matter how much I want to be Martha.

I wish I derived the same satisfaction from gardening that I do from chasing down a well-turned phrase.

It would make so much more sense to spend my spare time volunteering at school or church, instead of writing poetry.

It would seem only logical that I spend the money I use on hosting and domain fees for this tiny spiritual blog to help pay off our vacation instead.

And, so I hide. I hide my Mary tendencies. I take my stolen Mary moments and feel I have to wrap them in veils of productivity and practicality. Instead of talking with shining eyes about the beauty of a morning spent praying and reading and wandering ‘round my damp yard in my PJ’s taking imperfect close-up photos of raindrops on flowers, I talk about anything and everything else.

I almost never admit who I really am, what I really do. I hide behind my Martha.

****

This morning I pull out my “real” camera {vs. my phone camera} and attach a set of inexpensive metal extension tubes that allow my digital SLR to take extreme close-ups. The metal tubes can’t talk to the automatic focus, so I’m stuck with turning the ring manually to bring my subject into relief. (Unfortunately, manual focus has never been my forte.) Because my lens hovers mere millimeters from my subject, and a slight breeze can drastically change the shot, I am never quite sure what I will get.

Sometimes I get this.

hosta-blurry

Or this.

hosta-blurry-2

I end up deleting most of these largely blurry, uncomposed images.

Photographic amateur that I am, this exercise is about adventure. It’s about what the lens shows me, rather than what I plan to capture. Sometimes I am surprised; but, other times, like today, I am astounded.

This is what the camera shows me today:

hosta-upside-down-close

A tiny, inverted garden, reflected in a shivering raindrop.

Mary not Martha.

My entire world captured in stunning, miniaturized detail — beautifully, perfectly upside down.

Comments

  1. Your post gave me shivers of delight; I identify with every word. Thank-you for responding to the call of Jesus to become who you really are… the person He created you to be. (And by the way… your gift of writing is exquisite!)

  2. Exquisite images and necessary thoughts. So glad to have stumbled upon this post via Kel’s R.’s trackback today. Sending up a prayer for more Mary moments for each of us where, however imperfectly, we marry the moment.

    • Thanks for venturing over from Kel’s. I so appreciate your prayer for more Mary moments — where we give ourselves permission to slow down and intentionally seek and glorify Him — even as the very world around us overwhelms us with its Martha pressures.
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