So the boy flicks on the light at 4:30 am and whispers it ridiculously loud, “Mom? Apple Crumble? Am I going to get apple crumble before I go or not?”
Yeah, sure thing. Apple crumble at 4:30 am. Definitely, boy. I’m on it.
Because that was the deal and I was the one who lost the deal, so c’mon, roll like a barrel over the Falls and get yourself outta bed, girl.
Did anybody get any apples from the orchard?
“Done. On the counter.”
He’s perky for 4:30. He’s been up since 3:30.
See, he’d come home from university and then gone to church and then come home from church and he’s laying there on the couch telling me about both, university and church, and I’m standing there at the sink, cutting up onions for a pan of roasted squash and onion because this is his favorite and nothing makes you want to cook better than to lure your boy home from university.
I hadn’t gone to church.
Because the youngest boy, the 4th boy, the 5th kid, he’d somehow miraculously or catastrophically, depending how you look at it, contracted poison oak while helping the Farmer cut wood up at the back of the Hurst farm on Thursday afternoon. So Sunday morning has himself scratching himself like a mangy Heinz 57 mutt with an epic case of fleas.
He’s oozing and itching and I’m dabbing on the calomine lotion with this ratty cloth that should have been tossed a decade ago but is serving this pupose quite well actually so my domestic ineptitude again somehow is redeemed.
“I don’t get it. Why did God make poison oak?” Kai’s standing there in only a pair of two-sizes-too-small Levis, his gangly torso stretching long and spotted.
And before I can launch into other universal queries like why God made mosquitos or teenage hormones in bodies with not yet developed frontal cortexes or chin hairs that just erupt at 2 inches long and won’t be discovered till after you get home from Bible Study, Malakai has already locked, loaded and shot out the next question:
“And why pink? Why pink calomine lotion? Why not white or grey or tan or brown – why pink? Do they really think only girls get poison oak? This isn’t going to work for me – there’s no way I’m going to church looking pink.”
I’ve got hot pink calomine lotion smeared up his neck, down his chest, up his arms, across his hands.
So the fourth manly son who apparently isn’t into the pastel colors of the Don-Johnson, Miami Vice era, he and I stay home from church. He peels squash. I listen to a Tim Keller sermon.
And when his brother gets home from church first, Caleb throws himself on the couch and tells Malakai and I about Mark chapter 6. And how his stock in Tesla Motors is doing. And how his Latin teacher knows 8 languages and knows his Bible because he quoted verses this week from both Job and Genesis. And that Google stock jumped last week. And how the disciples couldn’t believe that Jesus could walk on water.
I slide the chopped onion and squash into the oven turned up to a raving 450F.
“Oh, and a lawyer showed up at church for you.” Caleb kicks off his shoes.
“No, seriously. A professor of law. Bald. Bow tie. Said he finished reading One Thousand Gifts? last night. So he drove up here this morning.”
“So he drove up here this morning?” The kid’s pulling my leg – laughing too hard and pulling my flabby leg.
“I couldn’t make this stuff up, Mom.” He looks like my dad when he’s laughing like that.
“Hey, didn’t you land the writing award at graduation? Yeah, you could totally make this stuff up.”
“Okay, if I made it up – I make you apple crumble. If a lawyer really showed up for you this morning, and Dad comes home and says so – you make me apple crumble?” He’s a big boy begging with this silly grin and I can’t resist.
When the Farmer walks in with the rest of the ragamuffin kids, Caleb’s still grinning silly, hopeful.
“Well.” The Farmer smiles slow.
“You know how Corey helped us cut wood on Thursday? Well, when Pastor Gary invited us all to turn around, greet someone, and shake hands – guess who is sitting in front of me?”
I shrug. “No idea.” I’ll play along for more of that smile of his. And because there doesn’t seem to be a lawyer in sight.
“Corey. Who turns to me and says, ”Oh, glad it’s you. I got poison oak and didn’t want to shake any hands – but I figure seeing as you were in the poison oak too? It’s all good to shake your hand.”
“And was he all smeared in pink calomine lotion, too?” Malakai looks up from his pile of squash peel with the question that all inquiring minds are burning to know.
“No pink.” The Farmer tussles his pink-painted boy’s hair.
“But there was a lawyer,” the Farmer pulls the man’s business card out of his Bible. “A law professor, there in a bow tie.”
“See! See, I tooooold ya!” Caleb’s jumping around the kitchen like a big giddy kid who’s won the apple crumble lottery.
When you believe you are the Beloved, you begin to see love notes in the impossible.
So at 4:30 the next morning, so there I am in the kitchen making apple crumble because I didn’t believe.
I’m peeling 8 Russet apples picked from out in the orchard in the dark. Peel and core and quarter and slice. Stir oatmeal and flour and melted butter.
And we don’t have brown sugar, so I make it with white granulated sugar and molasses that says right on the carton “Fancy Molasses” and at 4:48 am I want to know what unfancy molasses looks like, what down-to-earth, common molasses looks like, because I have bedhead and unbrushed teeth and the world doesn’t need fancy like it needs real.
And I’m stirring a bowl of crumble for a boy and thinking about that Sunday sermon I’d listened to and Jacob coming with his bowl of game to his father looking for a blessing.
He isn’t the only one.
The apple-crumble hungry kid, the poisoned, scratching, tarred and feathered and painted-pink kid, the bow-tied lawyer, the weary woman up early in the kitchen — The wrestle for blessing is the storyline of our lives.
We are kids and professionals and beggars and old and we are the different and we are the same: We are all Jacobs looking for blessings to claim.
The whole of our life is this one unspoken prayer to God: “I will not let you go until You bless me.”
Bless me. I will wrestle You – until You bless me.
I won’t rest until I find grace, until I believe that even I am beloved.
Because the truth is:
No one can bless themselves.
We live like we can bless ourselves – but our souls know we can only rest when we know we are blessed by God.
Jacob dresses like Esau to get the blessing from Isaac. We try to get blessings from somebody — by dressing up as somebody else.
Why do we keep dressing up to bring the blessings down.
Why do we keep thinking we have to be somebody different to get the love of anybody at all.
Why do we keep thinking who we really are couldn’t be who He really loves.
Why do we believe that to be blessed we can’t be ourselves. We hide ourselves because we don’t think we can be loved for ourselves.
I’m thinking it’s that — We wear masks when we feel barely loved.
Are we missing Jesus in our days — because we go through our days missing chances to share our real selves?
That little kid dressed up in his pink paint covering his wounds and his poison, the lawyer dressed up fine in his bow tie who makes a brave and good journey to share the relief of grace, the lanky teen dressed up after church looking to make deals for a bowl of blessing — no matter how we’re dressed up – we’re all the same:
Everybody is just a brave beggar looking for a blessing.
We’re all Jacobs. There isn’t anybody who isn’t starved for a word of blessing.
What if no one had to dress up any better, any stronger, any braver — and we just handed out words that bless to everyone just as they are in all their real and honest messiness?
What if we weren’t about dressing up as good — but about giving the blessing now?
This changes your life and a thousand more: Only speak words that make souls stronger.
To the smoldering teenager and the bored guy pumping gas and the burdened husband slumped at the table and the volcanic kid spewing lava ugly everywhere. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God and words have the power of God in them. Words have the power to literally breathe life — to literally reshape the atoms of real lives.
Sticks and stones may break bones — but only words can curse a soul or be a blessing.
We could make it a different world: We don’t demand anyone go dressing up as good, to get our blessing now.
The morning light coming up, I hand one kid his bowl of apple crumble for breakfast.
And in all these messy crumbs, this breaking everywhere, he sits there, not yet dressed for the day —
and swallows the blessing down.