bay leaf

In thoughts on things on January 13, 2010 at 11:58 pm

we all have places that feel like home, that are not, in fact, our house.

i went to the ladies bible study today at the church i grew up in.  i could not more carefully and mindfully craft the characters that just are at bay leaf.

it is the epitome of southern charm, manners, and money.  it is where christ equates to republican which equates to wealthy.  cleanliness is next to godliness.  manners make or break a young lady.  jesus is a well-suited, white-skinned american man with a nice beard. he is the CEO of Lifeway Christian Bookstore and K-Love radio station. or at least, this is how it seems at the surface, and i’m allowed to say it because i grew up there, just like i’m allowed to yell at my mom and dropkick anyone else who even thinks about it.

i walk into the education building and my friend rachel is waiting for me.  rachel is young, married, and vivacious, and serves as the bridge between me and the women i have less in common with in the bible study.

i’m excited because i know what to expect with bay leaf.  no matter how long i am away, going back there feels comfortable, like home.  not necessarily the realtionships, or even the religious institution, but mostly the place.  the big, beautiful buildings.  the cemetery and the baseball field.  the history it holds in the community of bay leaf, the northernmost part of raleigh before it hits wakefield and wake forest.

i found most of my sundays and wednesdays growing up in all of these places.  i know the secret corners from hiding during games of underground church.  i know that they always leave one outside door unlocked, which i of course would take as a personal invitation to sneak in at night and play the grand piano in the sanctuary.  i know the major families, the major financial contributors, the major topics of conversation within the church.  even having taken my hiatus from this church in particular for, oh i don’t know, six or seven years?  i still know.  it is a part of me and it is a part of my family.

[the reason i decided to do this bible study once a week is because i really do respect the women at bay leaf, and i know i have a great deal i can learn from them.  by the time my career at college was coming to a close, one of things i missed most was older women in my life.  on a very personal level, these women have helped me and my family through steady times and extremely unstable times.  they wrote me checks to send me overseas, some have written checks to pay for my parents mortgage.  i am 22, they are 30 and [far] beyond.  they have families.  they have gone to the grocery store hundreds of thousands of times and have prepared countless meals.  they have overcome the obstacles only years can bring.  they are respected and have stories to tell.  my witty observation stems largely from my respect for these women.]

we’re sitting in the small group, rachel, two others, and myself.  we’re chatting and i feel comfortable, and am glad i decided to wear my pearl earrings today. definite point of commonality, i am accepted.  in walks the bay leaf young mom.  she has short, bobbed blonde hair and a carefully constructed outfit with copious amounts of accessories.  she talks in high pitches and goes around to hug the others, and introduces herself to me.  she asks rachel if rachel is pregnant yet (an affliction the newlyweds of bay leaf must be prepared to subscribe to) and rachel says no.  then the search begins.

her eyes dart over my hands, and i catch her, to which she nervously asks “are you married?”  no, i am single, i say, and i smile.  she nods and continues her conversation about her husband losing his job and she finally has to work but “honestly, what work could a housewife possibly do?” she says, then laughs.  she says her heart has been changed and she is launching a business that makes bows and decorative house pieces for holidays and birthdays.  it is funny.  and then i am reminded of the passage in proverbs 31, that says a good woman and excellent wife

“considers a field and buys it;

with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard….

she perceives that her merchandise is profitable.

Her lamp does not go out at night.”

i think there’s something to be said about that.

i was brought up in household where superlatives like “right,” “best,” and “only,” were commonplace to our beliefs and our lifestyle.  i remember it being said with laughter but also with seriousness, as if we knew how we sounded but believed it anyway.  i was brought up privileged, and this label was enforced in everyday life.  it was like we were the chosen, we were white-Jesus’ white dream team who only shopped at Lifeway and listened to K-Love.  we got new cars for christmas and went on 2 week mission trips during the summer, haggling local vendors to make their dirt-cheap items even cheaper mainly for our entertainment and financial convenience.

it’s raleigh, and it’s the south, too.  these things are a part of me, and i cannot deny or expel them.  over the years i’ve been able to see many different sides and shadings of these things, and have grown to understand them within their context.  we are no better than the single mom barely living paycheck to paycheck.  we are all one breath away from a disaster which rocks us to our very core.  mrs. bay leaf young mom even said it best, “God can’t teach as well when we’re comfortable,”  and i think she hit the nail on the head.

as much as i can get intimidated by the face and the unsaid do’s and don’ts of bay leaf ladies, i understand they live real lives.  they have known every kind of hurt and trial under the sun, because they are humans and are not immune to the effects of the fall, the evil in this world.  alcoholism, abuse, death, financial difficulty, divorce – they have felt it.  these women continue to trust in the Lord, and with each other.  bay leaf was home when my home wasn’t comfortable or safe to be in.  and now i see it becoming home in a different light, a homage of sorts, to the place and people who have been constant.  they’re messed up like the rest of us.  we’re messed up just like them.  praise God he does the whole “messed up” thing, and gives us homes here until we’re ready to go home for good.


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