Written on January 9, 2017. By Shari Norvell
A few months ago, my person and I happened upon a little adventure. Well, it seemed little when we stumbled upon it, but grew bigger and bigger the more we tumbled into it.
A house, pretty simple. Except we weren’t looking. I had never been to a real estate website or any such thing when the whispers woke me up. I had an app downloaded in minutes. I proceeded to find the house, this house just as fast.
I waited the whole night without waking my person up so he could wisely talk me out of it. But even after I less than gently shoved my phone in his face the instant he awakened, okay, maybe he wasn’t quite awake yet, even then, he did no such thing. In fact, this rouge, wild man next to me, actually talked me farther in.
He did so with a question. “What is it that captured you?” He then took away my go to’s such as the trees or the porch. With nothing for it, I confessed. “The bathtub”. This didn’t surprise him that much. I’m a tub person. To the core. Not just the tub of course, but the scented bubbles that fill it, the flickering candles that hem it and the steaming teacup perched on the ledge. And, just being honest, my person atop a little old rocker on the side strumming his guitar.
I told you. Tub person. But this tub, the one that captured me with one look, was a far cry from the tubs we have had. Not jets. No whirlpool. Barely room for one whole person. Yet it awakened something that desperately needed waking. Memory.
It wasn’t until we had actually purchased the tub, I mean the house, moved in and I took that first bath that I recognized the memory. I let it cascade over me with the water. I let it ebb and flow a bit. The memory of a little girl in a tiny house during a great big summer.
My Mamaw and Papaw’s house in a little oil town in New Mexico. The entirety of the town smelled like an oil rig, all the time. Down the street from the house was our favorite store. The Locker Plant. They had soda and candy there. They also slaughtered cows several times a week. Sound and smell. So sorry if you are a visual person like me. So sorry.
The house itself I think would be called a cracker box. 3 tiny bedrooms rooms and a great big closet that was our hideout. We needed that because we needed to spy on my Mamaw and Papaw and all those top secret conversations that had. Of course.
There was another room, just off the kitchen. The laundry room. My favorite. It wasn’t the washer and dryer the hugged the wall. It was the bathtub in the smack dab middle of the room. Tall enough that you had to climb in. Clawfooted and glorious. Ancient and wonderful. I can’t remember if it had running water or if we had to pour water into it. Pouring water in is fancier so I’m going to remember it that way.
Our tub now is much modernized. But it reminds me. Of so very much.
One day, my sister, aunt and I were out exploring. The sight this added to the town was desert, tumbleweeds and horny toads. A a turtle whose back we painted every year to see if he would come back. He always did. Or else my Papaw sweetly found another one and painted it at the beginning of each summer so we wouldn’t be disappointed. That was the kind of Papaw he was.
So on this day, I ended up in a real mess. I wasn’t trying to, but I was kinda that kid. Innocent mostly. Curious largely. Messy much. With my sister and aunt trying to comfort me and my mess, we headed back to the house.
We entered the back way and I snuck quietly behind my Mamaw’s chair. I had to ask her a question. I wanted to ask it without having to tell the story. I’m sure my eyes were pooled with tears as I whispered my question so low it needed repeating. You see, my mess needed a bath. The bathtub in the laundry room. But we had a certain bath day to keep bills low and this was not that day.
My Mamaw never looked at me. She never said she knew what dastardly disaster had befallen me. But she knew. I knew she knew. She just laid her hand, full of the knots and nimbles of arthritis on mine and said, “You know, I think what you need is a nice long bath.”
I snuck away as quietly as I had come and went straight to my favorite room with my favorite room with my favorite thing. And I soaked. And I cried. And I washed clean of all the embarrassment that clung to me just moments before. And I sang. And I thanked Pappa. And I learned a new word, that I have never forgotten.
That was the gift my Mamaw gave me that day. This frail little woman who was so strong. The one that sent us a dollar in a card every birthday and holiday. To the outside world it looked like she had so little, yet she gave me so much that day. I’m sure the water that filled that tub was more than she could afford. But it was an alabaster jar, broken open and poured out for me.
It was extravagance. It was someone’s more than enough to meet my need. It was something so easily hoarded, but given freely. And that is what extravagance has and always will mean to me. It is that which Pappa gives to meet my need, laced and loved with more than the need requires. It comes with enough to give away to someone else when their need shows up.
We so easily confuse extravagance with excess. But excess is what we have obtained for ourselves, without Him. That we might brag on us instead of boast in Him.
Extravagant things are not the most expensive, but they are costly. For they are given to us with the greatest of trust that we might take the greatest of care with them. And those things that seem most expensive we so often put another in debt to in order to share it. Extravagance doesn’t bind us to something. It frees us for something. Something great. Something mighty. Something majestic.
This week, you may have someone or several someone’s to your table for Shabbat. They may have had dastardly doings happen all around them. They may need to be washed clean and found amazing by your extravagance. They may have a need they can only whisper but hope with all they have you will hear.
To journal is to chronicle the story within. Take some time this week to journal the extravagant things you have. Let yourself be reminded of the need they met in the first place and then let the spirit navigate you to how you can give it away this week.
Talk together with those at your table about what extravagant means to you – each and every.