My very first guest post! I’m thrilled to host the lovely writer and editor Evelyn Bence today, whom I know through the Christian publishing world. She lives in Virginia, where I used to live, though we didn’t know each other well when I lived there. Yet I can picture her in my former stomping grounds, the suburbs of Washington, DC, which makes me smile. Snarled traffic but warm hearts.
Late spring: over coffee I was catching up with a former colleague named David. My news: “I’m just finishing a book manuscript. Fifty-two devotionals or meditations, about table hospitality. The setups are very anecdotal, from early planning and shopping to cooking, conversation, and cleanup. I’ve got forty-two. I’m not sure where I’m going to ‘find’ ten more stories, say nothing of insightful spiritual applications.”
“Fresh herbs,” he said, taking his conversational turn and describing his nightly foray before dinner, out into the yard to snip parsley, basil, rosemary, thyme for the vegetable or salad served up to his family. “The boys”—high school and college-aged—“roll their eyes at me. But I know they appreciate the taste, and, besides, I’m having fun.”
When he dropped me, back home, he recognized and pointed to the greenery in my porch boxes. “Remember the herbs. Parsley. Right there. Write about it.”
I knocked the idea around but couldn’t make it work. The final meditations jelled by other means, other themes.
Fast forward to a cold-weather Wednesday, late morning. An editorial job due on my desktop on Monday hadn’t yet arrived, but surely it would come in any moment now . . . or maybe not. Restless and unfocused, I flitted around the house, not able to settle on a new project or pick up an old, until my eyes rested on a bunch of thyme stems, grown out front, pruned way back, dried in a closet, and now pushed aside on a tabletop. David came to mind and his “remember the herbs.”
“Just sit,” an inner voice said. “Strip the leaves from a few stems.”
The hands-on—tactile—sensation focused me physically. Then the aroma! My spirit settled down. My restless thoughts turned to prayers, including thanks for David and the memory of our herbal conversation. I stayed with fragrant manual task until I had only two piles: barren stems for discard and tiny pointy leaves for my thyme tin.
I calmly checked my computer inbox. The job hadn’t arrived. But I felt as if I’d been graced—by choosing to redeem the time with thyme.
Evelyn Bence is author of Room at My Table: Preparing Heart and Home for Christian Hospitality.