"For God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made His light shine in our hearts.... But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." (2Cor 4:6-7)
A jar of clay? A pot. An image of earthly humanity. And at my age, my "pot" has been used and beat around. Which makes me what? A cracked old pot, not so much containing God's glory as helplessly hoping that's what will shine through and ooze out in a way that blesses my world.
morning. November sun mild on the balcony. I drew the chair close to put a foot on the low ledge. It rested
there, toes all browny-pink with the month-old pedicure. Nails so long that one had started to curve round the end of its toe. Polish remover pad in hand, I
surveyed the distance and counted the cost to reach those toes and minister to
My 59-year-old back was tight.
It aches with muscle spasms brought on by the bending, stooping, stretching and
reaching of gathering olives. Lots of olives. I pulled my body forward, thigh
pressing into the resistant fat of a soft, sagging front. Yes, I can still do
this little work of self-care, but gone are the days when I could pull that
foot easily to my face, or so contort my frame as to hook it behind my neck. When
this bit of self-care was fast and effortless.
I scrubbed for some minutes to get through
layers of polish. Then to the clipping. And the filing. And finally the application of oils and lotions. My left leg, less limber than the right, tends
to cant sideways as if to plié. Hard to hold so that those toenails face me.
Its broken little toe was swollen and protested the twist to clip and
As I labored, images of my dad’s crabbed feet
with their thick nails and thin skin led me into musings around the self-care
that is necessary to sustain a pouring-out kind of life full of people and
laundry and food prep and harvest and laundry and language learning and ironing
that fill the gaps of my contemplative life. That morning approaches when
others will have to take up these matters of personal care and do them for me, as we did for Dad.
In the past week at Spa for the Soul we hosted
guests; I gave time to spiritual direction, to listening, and to the
preparation of tasty meals; we gathered 300+ pounds of olives from our trees and
hauled them to a village press where they yielded up 27 liters (7 gallons) of
oil; we continued that sometimes delightful, often amusing, and mostly
downright confusing journey of language learning; and we prayed: for this place
and its people, for those in our care, for concerns and obstacles, and for
Ayşe and Çiğdem walked me through olive making
...the scent of sun-dried clothes and sheets...
Tuesday bore the whole mix.
Early morning prayer gave way to a clogged
kitchen sink. Curt was testy-weary of maintenance things small and large. I
hauled laundry from over the house, sorted piles over the kitchen floor, and
got the first load in. No electricity. Power cuts: many this week, and several
times for hours on end. Tuesday’s cut lasted until too late for anything to dry
on the line. The laundry got put off until Wednesday. There we were, stepping
over the piles.
After a string of disrupted days, I was
determined that morning to return to my plan to write and study Turkish for four or five uninterruptable
hours in the morning. As I settled at my desk, Curt’s phone rang. I heard him,
“Sure, we need to bring a guest down
to the bus station this morning anyway. Yeah, we can meet—say, 10:30 or 11:00?
I’ll call when we get there.” The guy who sold us a couple of old kayaks was
in town with the promised spray skirts and life-vests.
There went the plan. Again. I turned to my
computer to at least pay a few bills in the short time I had. Humpf. No
electricity, no internet.
As, under Curt's plan, both of us would go to town, it seemed good to take care of several “town” needs. We dropped our guest
at the bus station, then wandered Kaş. Curt got new glass cut for a broken
bathroom light fixture. I picked up groceries I’d forgotten the day before. We
chatted with the kayak guy. I returned a lamp and paid for the one we kept. Curt
picked up his prints. I hunted down brown paint to repair another broken
light fixture. Then there is that other “what we need to do in town.” Errands
are a social occasion—coffee with Halil, Gül and Dilek; tea with
Paskal. Chat with Gafer, and with Ahmet. So much goodness, and it all takes time and energy.
Which brings me to the other thing. Self-care
and sustainable living. We returned to Spa for the Soul after our summer break
just a month ago. And I’m exhausted. Curt is wearing thin. By early afternoon
we were home and all I wanted was my bed. With so much waiting to be done.
How to describe the weariness. Anything that
needs doing, well, it feels just…too…hard. Mind and body together whine for
mindlessness and for rest.
Why? Why so exhausted in the midst of goodness, fruit, and beauty?
We work hard. We do hard physical work. We
pour into relationships. And we stretch our minds in creative work. We drain ourselves dry.
My back is all spasms, stiff with pain that saps energy.
To listen deeply and to pray with and for
guests and neighbors, yes, that too consumes fragile emotional reserves. It is
work that I love, and work that bears much fruit, rich with God’s movement and goodness. As an
introvert I am wired for deep listening and interaction. Still it saps my
energy and the exhaustion goes deep.
Who can account for the energy consumption
of language learning, and living and working in a language we speak only
And we are aging.
Lately I suspect still another reason
for the intensity of exhaustion. There is an enemy who prowls. His weapons are
deceit and confusion. He is good at throwing obstacles our way. I’m tempted to
go into details, but I won’t.
Tuesday afternoon I felt too drained for
anything. Curt hung out with his olive trees while I rested. At sunset we
played cards for a bit, then enjoyed a bit of TV with popcorn for dinner.
Now it is Thursday. Nothing has changed. Life
continues good and beautiful and blessed. The day is mild. The laughter and
chat and games of pre-school children at play wafts through my open window.
Curt is out with his olives. My back remains fragile, and I am weary. Dear ones
come and go, and they speak of ways they are blessed by this place and their
time here. I notice enemy whispers about all the things I can’t do well, whether
in the realm of self-care, harvest, creative process, or beyond-my-control
I recall God’s promises. They cut through
the haze. Whatever one can say about me, HE is strong—and able, and good. "His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love." Psalm 147:11
The Tuesday report: an occasional meditation on the everydays of
expatriate life. How many times has someone said to me, “Your life is so
exciting, while mine is, well… I’m here in the same place doing the same things
I always do.” Yet wherever you and I live, life happens in everydays. We gather
food, do laundry, encounter friends and neighbors, find time for a shower, show
up for prayer. Why Tuesday? Tuesday strikes me as a nothing-special day--routinely
filled with whatevers, the mundane stuff of getting on with life.
I started this post last Friday. And so the days fly by....
I thought about how I might reflect on
Tuesday, what I might want to write about, on the day. And on the Tuesday
before last, and on the one before that. But now it is Friday. Again. I thought
of what I would say back in March, and in April. But now it is Halloween, and
tomorrow November begins.
All those small wonders, and those troubling
bits, that shoot through every day. We returned to Turkey just three weeks ago
after four months in the US.
After time away, normal joys, and the normal headaches, seem bigger. They vibrate in my inner places—mostly
to tickle and massage, but sometimes to unnerve my soul. So that I stand in my
kitchen all exhilarated by the bitty bits of normal. Things like:
Scraping vegetable cuttings and food
waste into used shopping bags. Later I will lean out a window to hang the daily
offering on my neighbor’s fence post. Not waste, but chicken feed!
The constant clucking, scratch,
and crow of chickens. I walked outside early today, the sky barely tinged with
pink light. All down the hillside cocks celebrated (or did they protest?) the
movement from night to day.
Çiğdem calling from her next-door
balcony, “Jeri-abla…. Mommy? Where are you?” She passes a message, or an
invitation, or asks whether we’ll go into town today.
A sunset picnic atop nearby Kyaneai. We sit round the cook-fire with Spa for the Soul guests. Flames
cast their shadowy light on the ancient amphitheater and small house-like tombs. The
moonless sky is milky with stars. Curt stands watch over grill and fire, and tosses a couple of
foot-long centipedes into the coals.
Dobby the doggy house-elf at play
in the garden. Our most frequent guest, he came home
with us on our arrival and will stay yet one more week.
Work that begins before dawn and
continues into evening dark--the work to make a four-months empty house
ready to receive guests, and the work to provide for and accompany the several retreatants
who came and went during our first days back:
o I hang load after load of sheets, towels, blankets and clothing on the line to dry,
o then gather in the sun-scented pieces,
o later to stand hours at the ironing board to steam away wrinkles as I pray over those dear ones that this work of love will serve.
o I write menus, rummage through supplies and then through shops. Finally those many trips up and down our 40 steps to the front door with bags full of goodness.
o I make yeast dough and bake bread,
o while Curt prunes, weeds, and blows debris from terraces,
o and pulls garden furniture from nooks and crannies of storage.
o We lay tables, pack picnics, wash dishes, and give ourselves over to listen to and pray for those dear ones.
Retraining ourselves to make sure
toilet paper lands in the bin and never in the toilet where it will so easily
clog pipes and septic. It is a semi-annual adjustment of habit.
Sweat. Even when I’m still.
Though summer heat is finished, it will be yet another week or so before I go
about my work and play in comfort. With age, my over-sensitivity to heat grows extreme.
The casual friendships that
define the life of this place. Business is not done without a glass of tea and
generous inquires about family and life. We wander through our errands to the
accompaniment of invitations to stop, enjoy a coffee, and chat. We greet and
are greeted. Hugged, kissed, taken in.
Rumor and gossip, especially the
tales of the former owner of our house who has been wandering the town drunk and accosting our friends to tell them to tell us that he
wants another $50,000 or he will sell our house to someone else. For us and others in this village where modern ways of deed and title are still in the works the concern rumbles in the background of life—now reawakened
by this man who says such things to our friends and neighbors but never to us.
Turkish. Chatting along barely
realizing I’m speaking the language. And all those other times when the words
garble and I have no idea what they, or I, just said. When I repeat a sentence
three times before I get the grammar right, rewarded by the chuckles of my
Lightning bolts illuminating the
horizon over the sea; slow-arriving thunder; all while stars glint in the
Camped up high and sleeping when
the sky rips open with red-eye explosions of light, the roar and clap of air in
the bolt’s wake, and crazy-heavy rain! Where just an hour before all had been
cloudless starlight and gentle breeze.
And so much more. All to the accompaniment of
that one-foot-in-Turkey, other-foot-still-grounded-in-the-US orchestra. Every time we jet
across the world, there is this season where two diverse places inhabit my
inner spaces. For a few days both feel tangible. I
can hear grand-daughter Lia chasing after Curt. “Dede!
Dede!” Round and round through kitchen, living and dining room in Cait and Josh's Kansas City home. All while roosters crow in Çiğdem’s garden and I sweat in
Mediterranean heat, my nose full of the abundance of ripening olives and sun-drenched wash from the line.