Under afternoon cloud cover, just before rain spits, H and I sit on the empty concrete step in front of the entrance to a closed building with containers of paella burning our knee caps. Directly across from us, through portholes between legs of people, I watch a woman strumming a guitar and singing country sadness at the Portobello Market. The smell of paella and sound of her voice have been stamped in my memory for over a year now.
It wasn’t the songs that initially attracted my attention but the gaunt, leathery appearance of a survivor; a bird whose wings have been clipped by what life has dealt her.
And yet, this singer in the spotlight on a street corner, she isn’t allowing brokenness to stop the music of her life from flowing out. The membrane of the melody makes me curious about the faces of God somehow.
She illustrates the tension of life we all experience but are not often vulnerable enough to admit.
While fearless and faithful to exercise our gifts, we are, some of us, a small flicker of the flame God ignites within us when we become overtaken by the cares of life.
On a wooden chair, I sit at a table that normally seats two adults and four children under the age of six. H and I converse with a lovely couple who have welcomed us with red wine, hummus, lasagna and Ben & Jerry’s – in that order if you were wondering.
After fledging attempts from both of us with messaging and emails and then trains being cancelled at the last minute, we manage to agree on Saturday night for dinner. And arrive thirty minutes late into a quiet house that was a hurricane of chaos minutes earlier, so they tell us.
Sometimes determination to push past the road blocks of life can prove to be small miracles of God’s kindness when trusting in divine providence.
They have been married eight years to our twenty-five this month and when they ask (in their beautiful English accent, I must add with deep fondness) what we miss about living in the US, all I can think about is God knew we would be sitting in their house when we heard their two year old whimper from the monitor.
The same way He orchestrated meeting each of the people who have played a part in the circuitous route our lives have taken.
While I am looking for plots in the stories of others like a journalist hungry for information, God is confirming His existence in the faces of people.
In The Alphabet of Grace, Frederick Buechner writes, “How do I happen to believe in God? I will give one more answer which can be stated briefly. Writing, novels, I got into the habit of looking for plots. After awhile, I began to suspect that my own life had a plot. And after awhile more, I began to suspect that life itself has a plot.”
On a stool, in front of my dressing table, while holding a tube of concealer and Q-tip, I look in the mirror and make an admission to H. A realization about the ways God has answered my unspoken prayers of wanderlust.
I have lived in the plains of the Midwest and in the arid desert, on the top of a rocky mountain and a stone’s throw away from the ocean, in the hills of the South and in the urban center of the world’s largest city. In hot, cold, wet, dry and temperate climates; in a townhouse, apartment, historic home, condo, new construction and borrowed terrace house.
On a random May morning, when the last two swallows of tea are cold in my cup and the birds are convincing me it’s warm out, I unlatch the window and look at my bare face illuminated by sunlight, a breeze blowing the curtains back.
All the years of my life exposed as a collection like the highlighted sentences in a favorite book; forgotten but remembered at the right moment.
The faces of God are moving, mysterious and most often revelatory when at the same time; I have forgotten myself and remember His faithfulness.
We are, all of us, singers of story, harmonizing with brokenness; the face of God to someone who is watching.
Perhaps He is spotlighting your life right now for the sake of someone who needs to see His presence in the midst of crowded circumstance. Don’t allow situations to snuff your song out.