Monday, August 16, 2010

Gratitude, Hutchmoot-style

Last weekend my good friend Laura Peterson and I attended a conference in Nashville called Hutchmoot. As I have labored over this post over the course of the last week, I have found the actual event to be quite as inexplicable as the name. “What is a Hutchmoot?” is almost as difficult a question to answer as “How was Hutchmoot?”

Here’s my best shot at explaining the first: Hutchmoot was a gathering of various sorts of storytellers (authors, songwriters, sit-in-a-coffee-shop-with-a-book-and-a-friend storytellers, etc.) who share a belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We found each other by way of the Rabbit Room (an excellent little corner of the internet) and many of us also share a love for the writing and/or music of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Frederick Buechner, Andrew Peterson, Jason Gray, and many others. In short, Hutchmoot was a way for a bunch of people who had never met each other to come and talk about things they found they all cared about.

Laura and I were there among them, and I’m gladder than I can say that we were.

I’m glad because now I know what “the magic hour” is and find myself filled with gratitude almost every evening when the descending light turns everything golden. It is a fine thing to have more gratitude in your life.

I’m glad because I now have several new items on my List of Books to Read. They come with recommendations from most trusted sources, so I’m counting on them being Very Good.

I’m glad because I now have a heavy (but not too heavy) hand-thrown mug called “The Professor” to drink my coffee out of every morning. I want to say that when I drink from it I get little visions of the wonderful things that I learned at Hutchmoot, but that’s not really true. It’s more of just a warm feeling, a comfort, like a smile I don’t realize I’m smiling until later.

I’m glad because I know better than I did before that I have something to offer other people. During one session Andrew Peterson shared with us his belief that each of us is an “image-bearer,” and therefore each of us, even the most unlikely, can create and share and edify. At Hutchmoot, I remembered that my desire to create is a good and God-given thing. At Hutchmoot, I realized that what the Rabbit Room contributors do that convicts and affirms and encourages me is essentially just “composed experience,” to quote Walt Wangerin. It’s shaping and naming, and then sharing. Handing it to someone else to experience. I have dabbled in the shaping. Now I want to learn how to do the sharing.

I’m glad for the delight of having crossed paths (even ever so briefly) with other people who believe that stories are important, that beauty is worth taking time to shape and thank God for, and that The Story is indeed true. I remember now better than I did why I believe these things.

And I’m glad for the delight of a more lasting variety of continuing on the same path, at least for now, with my good friend and traveling companion Laura Peterson.

There’s more to say, of course. Maybe there will be other Hutchmoot posts in future days. But for now, may I simply be thankful for what I have been given.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Sandwich

Today I worked for 6.5 hours, made six dollars, and spent five of them on my lunch. It was the best decision I made all day. I got a Monte Cristo sandwich—ham, turkey, and swiss in between two thick pieces of powdered sugar French toast with raspberry dipping sauce on the side. I savored every bite. I raved about it to my coworkers, who politely nodded. I ate the whole thing instead of saving the second half for later.

I spent the other dollar on a coffee at Lemonjello’s, where I am right now, enjoying the air conditioning and the unexpected afternoon off work.

Talk about enjoying what you have like you couldn't if you were worrying about what you don’t. May I remember.

It was a rough day. There’s a hefty amount of cleaning and various other chores to do in our restaurant, even when you don’t have tables to serve, and today we definitely didn’t have enough tables to serve. It’s always discouraging to work hard and not be compensated for it. It’s easy to complain, easy to compare your lot with someone else’s, easy to let bitterness crawl out of you… or at the very least, crawl around inside you (Yes, I think I inadvertently borrowed that sentence structure from Andrew Peterson).

But God was gracious. On the whole, I was more grateful than I might have been, more controlled than I wanted to be, and more good-humored than the rusted and corroded soul inside me could have ever been without the grace of God.

I guess when things reach a certain point of bad-ness, there’s really not anything you can do about it except laugh. So I laughed. And, without even putting my ice scoop down, I hugged Amelia when she told me I could go home.

(By the way, my Hutchmoot response post is indeed still forthcoming, for all of you who have asked about the weekend and been disappointed by my vague answer of “It was really good.” I haven’t given up yet.)