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

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