Saturday, April 17, 2010

I'm Thankful ... for Martha's story ... and a lot more

So I'm reading this book, Finding Martha's Place, and it is not at all what I expected. Partly that is because it is a true story about a woman finding her way out of poverty and mental illness to have a famous soul food restaurant. Finding her soul, so I thought before I began reading it, through the restorative power of cooking.

That's there. But that's somehow almost incidental to what I'm finding. I have to admit that I am not reading this book the right way. Or maybe I need to say, I'm not reading it in order. I was so astounded by the forward, the Overture it is called, with it's strong and natural praise of God and prayer that I began flipping around in it. Saw glimpses of Martha's mental illness and the voices in her head (called The Company ... which puts me in mind of Legion from the Bible), saw glimpses of her poverty-filled childhood, her later mental anguish and desire to be able to take care of and mother her four boys, glimpses of her home again and cooking and caring for those boys, and glimpses of earlier when, most astounding of all, she picked up a Bible one day when in a mental institution and God began connecting with her through the words inside. I love the straight forward way she reads the stories and puts Jesus in His most human context, which is why He came in the first place to show us that love in person. I love the fact that when she went home the voice in her head was love and speaking to her in a way that any Christ follower can recognize. She calls it the voice of love. And I relate absolutely to the way she is astounded when the Bible continually flips open to the same passage for her, even when it is a completely different Bible. Been there myself. Not much, but when it counted.

She writes about this so naturally. Or actually, Marcus Brotherton does. But I believe he is giving us Martha's story in her words. That's why it is real. You can feel the truth.

Obviously, I can. And I really need to go back to chapter three or so and take up the story in order. By this time you can tell that I also am resolved to get my Catholic women's book club to read this book. But in my flipping I came to the acknowledgments page which, for some reason, made me think of all that I am thankful for ...

So much to be thankful for and all of it people really ... and I wanted to sit down and get it down while I was thinking about it. And that's why we have this stream-of-consciousness mid-book review. Also, my list...which is so random in some ways, though not in others clearly.
  • For our FedEx lady, who is always smiling because, "you don't know when your smile makes a big difference in someone's day, maybe the most important difference." And, who when I said, "That's right" looked me in the eye and nodded and said, "I'm a Christian too ..."
  • For Joanette, my sister. But not my sister really ... she's a soul sister. We're connected somehow and when she talks, God uses her on me. So I listen.
  • For good friends like Lizzie, Heather O., and Dr. Gemma ... who have become more than just blogging or podcasting pals. They've gotten under my skin.
  • For Heather and for Susan ... who are going through those hard times with serious illnesses of a parent, and the final goodbye in one case ... for their friendship and for their reminder of those hard moments of grace when we need it most.
  • For Dr. France (or was it French? I wasn't in the best circumstances to remember ...) who astounded me by smiling at my father in the hospital and saying, "I guess Jesus isn't ready to take you home just yet." I didn't know that a doctor in a hospital would dare say such a thing, but it was a little sign for us.
  • For the anonymous lady in the hospital cafe who stopped at our table and, on one of our worst days ever, smiled and wished us a good day. Simple act. God's timing.
  • For Dad, when we were sitting on the side of his hospice bed when I was saying goodbye really, but actually we were saying, "Until we meet again" as I begged him to take God's hand when he died so that he could finally be truly happy. And for the tears in his eyes as he cried out, "I will, I will!"
  • For Mom, who began praying during that whole experience of Dad's final illness and death. Who, when I asked her if I could send her a Bible with commentary I thought she'd like, said, "Well, maybe after I get over all this [current illness] and then I can think about it." I paused, "Well ..." thinking of how to say what I was thinking without sounding pushy. Into the silence, she said slowly, "or I guess that these times are when we need it too." Amen.
  • For Lisa, who inspired me with her spiritual growth and wisdom when she said about Dad's death, "What did I learn? That we must take care of these bodies God has given us and that the devil is real and we have to keep our eyes open."
  • For my brother who is just about the only person I know who will talk about God the way I do. And believes and steps out in faith every day. (And for his wife, Jackie, whose hard-edged Christian reality is an inspiration.)
  • For Tom who gives me movie moments (and you can interpret that however you want)
  • For Hannah and Rose ... who have given me so much more than the gift of their selves in my life. They have brought along their friends and taught me that I love teenagers.
That's not all ... but it's some. God is good. Thanks Martha for making me think about it.

And now I'm terribly embarrassed and must hit publish post and go away before I erase all of this.


  1. gosh, should I be embarrassed that I got a little teary reading this lovely post then?

    I don't think so..