Is that a Restaurant in Your Garage?


M_Idelette1“Don’t be a hoarder.”

Austin Kleon’s brilliant little book Show Your Work dropped that word into my heart like a rock. “Hoarder.”

But too tired at the end of a long day, I drifted off to sleep and prayed, What is here for me, Lord?

At the beginning of last year, two friendly guys unloaded a truckload full of wood into our garage. It looked like dirty old planks—dark wood rescued from a demolished building in Vancouver. This pile of wood came with a promise: in a few months another truck will come, load them up and take them away to a place where a carpenter will restore them. They would become the paneling on the new restaurant my hubby was working on.

It will look gorgeous, Scott promised.
I trusted him.

Our van slept in the driveway for more than a year. The kids and I piled into the crazy hot van in the summer and I hauled out umbrellas in the Pacific Northwest winter. This was our small sacrifice towards the new restaurant.

It was the thing Scott worked on in the margins of his life. It was his dream. His work. His future.

I watched him labor deep into the night. I watched as the work slowly unfolded.

Then one ordinary day, a few months ago, a truck came by and picked up all the dirty old planks. They swept the garage and made room for another delivery: this time a truckload full of restaurant chairs. Scott and Paddy, his business partner, had found these chairs in Portland and for the next several months, those chairs slept in our garage next to the giant boxes with light fixtures they’d picked up at the Restoration Hardware outlet in Seattle.

One Saturday last winter, Scott came home with a van load full of restaurant supplies form an auction: a kitchen trolley, sauce buckets, wine coolers, salad spinner, pots, champagne flutes, even a broom.

There we were on a Saturday night, our little family of five, unloading the van, carrying the future restaurant down the stairs into the basement. As I carried the spoons and the champagne flutes and the mop bucket, down, down, down, I realized I was no longer an observer. I had become a participant.

It was no longer Scott’s work. It had become our work. Our restaurant. Our future.

M_Idelette3Suddenly it was something we all needed to help with. Something we all had to carry.

In about two weeks, the new restaurant will open.

The wood beams have been restored and look gorgeous on the walls. The chairs have come and gone. The light fixtures followed suit. The only things still left in our garage are two tall, gray lockers. I know they’ll be disappearing soon too.

As a creative, what’s stirred me about this process of building a restaurant, is how none of the elements were stored in our garage forever and ever, amen. Storage was part of the timeline and the process, but it didn’t get stuck there.

Unlike my words.

I took the prompt from the little yellow book—my terrible uneasiness around that word “hoard”—to my journal and prayer time that next morning.

Do I hoard my words? I asked Holy Spirit.

I felt tender. There was something there.

I saw the restaurant in our garage and I knew everything stored there was with a promise and a hope. But the wood and the chairs and the light fixtures didn’t stay there. This was not their purpose. They were never intended to serve the garage.

Neither are my words.

I treat my writing like there’s life to come, but it’s not yet. Maybe one day after I’d spent more time. Maybe one day after I polished the words. Maybe one day after everything is organized in my head, I’ll carry them out of the basement into the light.

I live as if one day my words will function within their full purpose and serve my world.

But not yet … For now, they’re loaded into the many many folders that make up the garage on my computer.

When new words and thoughts come, I keep piling them all into that garage.

These thoughts dawn and I am horrified: Yes, I am a hoarder.
I hoard my words, my ideas, my thoughts for someday and one day…

They gather dust in my garage and get battered by time, but there’s no benefit to anyone. No one is served by the words in my garage. No one is fed. No one gets nourished.

I may exercise my writing muscles, like carrying boxes up and down to the basement. But my words do not come to their full purpose, safely in the garage.

Plus, I realized: They clog up my capacity. They keep me from participating in the current conversation. Instead of being present to the circles I find myself in, I want to point to the stuff in my garage. O, I’ve thought about that, yes! Come, have a look at this very well-articulated thought in my garage.

But nobody’s interested. They want to hear what’s on my heart today. They want to eat from a fresh plate. They want to sit with me.

“The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.” –Annie Dillard

What is a better picture then? I ask Holy Spirit.
Sharing words like daily meals. Lunches at the counter. Dinners at the table.
Taco soup and lasagne. Grilled cheese sandwiches and spinach salad.
Sharing the ordinary, everyday life.

Come as you are. Come, sit with us.
Come, bring your ideas and your heart and your ordinary sentences.
Let’s try them out here.

Here we bring our words not as teaching, but as authentic sharing.
We’re a gathering place. A table, remember?

This is where we have meals together. Where we learn to chop tomatoes and cut peppers. This is where we sauté for each other and wonder, Hey, how does this taste? Does it need more salt?

This is where we speak out our ideas and practice our voices.

I don’t need words for “big days.” I need words for now, to be present to today.
Today we take out the good china.
Today we eat soup and bread and we shape the world right now.
This is the day that the Lord has made.
We build the Kingdom with our words today.
Not someday, one day.


Image credits; Top: Marc Falardeau; Middle & Lower: Idelette McVicker

Affiliate link added in this post. 

Idelette McVicker
I like soggy cereal and I would like to go to every spot on the map of the earth to meet our world’s women. I dream of a world where no women or girls are for sale. I dream of a world where women and men are partners in doing the work that brings down a new Heaven on earth. My word last year was “roar” and I learned it’s not about my voice rising as much as it is about our collective voices rising in unison to bring down walls of injustice. This year, my own word is “soar.” I have three children and this place–right here, called–is my fourth baby. I am African, although my skin colour doesn’t tell you that story. I am also a little bit Chinese, because my heart lives there amongst the tall skyscrapers of Taipei and the mountains of Chiufen. Give me sweet chai and I think I’m in heaven. I live in Vancouver, Canada and I pledged my heart to Scott 11 years ago. I believe in kindness and calling out the song in each other’s hearts. I also believe that Love covers–my gaps, my mistakes and the distances between us. I blog at and tweet @idelette.
Idelette McVicker

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Idelette McVicker


  1. Danielle Shaub says:

    Just found this one and it was just the challenge I needed!

  2. Helen Burns HBurns says:

    Oh my… I somehow missed this post until now (thanks to the e-zine that is posted today) and this post was mentioned in it. I checked the date and realized it was the day conference began so that may explain how i missed it.

    Every thought, every visual and every word is pure gold in here. I am so grateful for your heart and weight of your words and how they have transformed my life. I love you xoxoxo

  3. Monica Dunleavy Coppola says:

    i believe we come from one of two places, fear and famine or love and abundance. Fear keeps me hording because I am afraid I am not enough. That what I give in my writing will one day be depleted.I know better yet I become afraid.

    Your words are rooted in abundance, your spirit shines through your writing as it is intended. With love, I encourage you to look beyond fear, what you give away in your writing will be replenished, time and again. You come from love and you will not encounter famine because what you have to say has true value. You are answering your call, contributing to make us all more than we think we can be. Thank you for the courage to share your abundant blessings with us. We need you.

  4. Idelette, As a fellow “hoarder,” my “garage” –digital & literal boxes of old writing– is packed. It has at times bogged me down. But over the years, I’ve noticed old writing reappearing in newer and richer expressions. Now I worry less about polishing old work. I let it sit there knowing that it accomplished something in previous “here and nows.” What you say about writing in the present resonates with this creative process that I continue learning:

    “I don’t need words for “big days.” I need words for now, to be present to today.
    Today we take out the good china.Today we eat soup and bread and we shape the world right now.
    This is the day that the Lord has made.
    We build the Kingdom with our words today.
    Not someday, one day.

  5. Stephanie says:

    Oh, dear. You know when you need to read/hear something but you don’t want to because it’s so true and it’s easier not to face it? Yea, this is that. This post is too much, girl. It’s the uncomfortable truth that shakes me to the core. I almost want to fold it away neatly and say, “thank you, but maybe for another day.” Instead – I’m going to read it again and let it sink in. *gulp.*

  6. Yes! And that is what has been on my heart this week. So much that I’m waiting to happen before I make my next move. At risk of sounding a bit intense… God showed me Jeremiah 29 this week. Even whilst waiting to be set free from captivity, the people were to continue with their lives; marrying, having children, giving their children in marriage. It’s a challenge to get on and do, even though the limitations seem to be all around. Thank you so much for this!

  7. These words bit really hard today. Really glad they made it to the table.

  8. pastordt says:

    I.LOVE.THIS. Be blessed at the conference these days of May, dear Idelette. And thank you for feeding us so very well with these words.

  9. Jason says:

    Thanks for that story Idelette. Just what I needed to hear to get my blog launched. Committing to do that within 5 days. 🙂

  10. Anne-Marie says:

    So exactly what I needed to chew on today. And probably for many days. Just as I”m praying – Lord – I’ve been ‘perfecting’ my novels for years, ahem…years and… Anyway. Looking, praying, to the future. And your word, so appreciated. NOW!!! Will look a little closer. Thank you dear one.

  11. I’m clapping like a seal over this post. BRING IT.

  12. Claire De Boer cjdeboer says:

    Yes! We need to hear YOUR words! I so resonate with this piece. I hold back my words because I believe they aren’t yet ripe enough, but that’s not my call to make. To share our words is to be in communion. I’m so excited for this new season in your family’s life and honoured to stand alongside you. xo

  13. “I live as if one day my words will function within their full purpose and serve my world.”

    Whoa, this post hit me in the soft places, where I too, tuck away words until…someday. There is so much wisdom here–I’ll have to reread again and again. And the restaurant? Oh, it makes me so happy. I get it, I get the restaurant world! It’s so fun reading about completing a project, seeing how it affects a family, how it nurtures dreams and demands sacrifice. I’m passing this along to my Jay 🙂
    xo and congrats to you all!

  14. That’ll preach, sister. Seriously – I kinda can’t believe I read this post today after nearly a month of not blogging. Because I am a hoarder of words sometimes, and this month was really hard on that front, at least on the blogging end. Thank you for challenging me and inviting me to the table with so much grace.

  15. Aliyah says:

    Hey Idelette thank you for sharing these words. I think you get some of my heart – the writer, God servant I am I have been wrestling with this today – I write so much and store it up, keep it in pages and pages called revelation that no one ever sees because sometimes I do think – who really cares anyway. I have struggled to feel that my deepest words born out of adversity, struggle and often times tears will just be fed to others who wont enjoy the meal. Like standing for several hours cooking and everyone gobbles it up without truly tasting it. I feel that they remain sacred with me often but then I wonder – does someone else out there need them? Well, thank you for allowing me this space to think and share and to take it back and say Father what is here! Big hugs!!

  16. Sandy Hay says:

    And you write directly to me each month, right Idelette 😉 Really, I come away from your blogs and am amazed how God says, “Listen up Sandy” Hoarding is a perfect word today, especially after my husband Rich spent the night bailing out the basement from all the East Coast rain. I’m going to take a good long look at this word. Thanks xoxo

  17. Feeling this one resonate. You make even soup and bread sound lovely and exciting. <3

  18. Sarah Joslyn Sarah Joslyn says:

    A thousand times yes, fearless leader. Thank you for lighting a fire under my feet to take out the good china and use my stored up words.

  19. Nicole A. Joshua says:

    As I reflect on your words, a word that comes to mind is, “Grace.” Grace for all the words you’ve stored up, grace for windows opening, breathing fresh air into musty spaces, enlivening and quickening the heart and spirit. A fresh wind is blowing, my precious friend, and with it, an excitement in my heart for the enlivening and quickening stirring in your heart. I feel a roar building up, and can’t wait to hear it resound across the world 🙂

  20. This is a beautiful call to take the gifts we are given and regift them to the world. Thank you for sharing.

  21. Bev Murrill says:

    I’m so excited about your new venture and Paul’s great adventure. You guys rock…love that you’re so brave in all you do.

    I love your words too… maybe you hoard. Yes, I suppose you do. But not to me. To me you are a great mouthpiece for the purposes of God, inciting others to riot against the works of darkness. Maybe I’ve said something like that to you before… but I have to say it again because it’s important for all of us to be reminded of the purposes of God in our lives.

  22. HeidiTurner says:

    WOW! it’s spectacular Idelette! Please tell Paul we’re praying and pulling for him! Wish we could eat there too! Your words struck home as we are both hoarders of things and words… thank you for the encouragement!


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