Have you ever considered the possibility of spending more energy and attention on learning to let God love you rather than tirelessly learning to love God?
WHAAAT? Sounds upside down, right?!
I couldn’t agree more, yet in the summer of 2014 we went on a vacation that opened the door of my own heart to the more challenging idea of learning to let God love me. (I confess I have spent a fair amount of time being useful and looking busy in the event Jesus shows up unexpectedly on a Wednesday!)
Enter our summer “vacay” in Bellingham, Washington.
Being on the water immediately shifts me into vacation mode, but being that my man is the great great grandson of Vikings, the beach is not always a kind to his fair skin. So when our dear friend Nancy offered her northwestern lake home, we were on our way!
Well, hello large snow capped wonder!
We were desperate to get away from the unrelenting challenges of a business teetering on the edge of extinction. And as soon as we touched down, one last phone call very effectively dashed our hopes of a deal that might just have turned things around.
But hey, welcome to Washington! Relax and enjoy your stay!
So we sat long and lingered on the dock.
We went out on classic Cris Craft boats.
I pretended to be someone fancy and carefree (note the sunglasses, pearls and the casual pose).
We ate amazing food (that I didn’t have to cook).
We went to the farmers market.
We drove along the coast in a convertible (picture neck scarf and hair blowing in the wind).
We rode the ferry out into the San Juan Islands. (I feel like all he needs is a pipe to complete the picture!).
We visited magical Roche Harbor…who knew?
We sat on the dock watching the sunlight sparkle on ripples of the summer breeze.
As I look back at these pictures, I can so clearly that God was serving me a feast for my senses, wooing me with His creativity, beauty and love at every turn- quietly whispering, “You are part of this beautiful picture.” He was softening the armour around my battle weary heart at every turn.
A few days before we left, I wanted to take one more ferry trip.
This was where the hubs shifted into research mode only to discover a young world famous chef who had a restaurant on nearby Lummi Island.
Chances of getting a reservation were slim since you generally had to make them a year in advance, but he called. “So sorry, sir, we are completely booked (like from here until the end of time), but may we have your number in the event of a cancellation (just to make you feel better for making such a ridiculous request)?” Number given but without much hope of it ever being used.
His phone rang the next day. Giddiness ensued after momentary shock and disbelief.
Letting God love us was about to become a living picture that would overwhelm all of our senses that night and for years to come.
We got in the convertible (YESSSS, I was really enjoying the fact that we had a convertible to cruise around in- thus I will refer to it whenever possible!) and drove to the ferry. OK- the ferry ride was only seven minutes, but really, who drives their car onto a ferry to go to dinner? People in the northwest apparently do it all of the time.
This is Lummi Island.
This is The Willows, humble, homey, warm, welcoming AND the home of the young chef who is ranked among the top ten of the world- TOP TEN, people!
This is where the magic is beginning to happen.
This is the view from the deck- quiet, peaceful, vast and rich in treasure underneath all of this beauty.
This is a cocktail made of rhubarb, garden rosemary and tequila.
These are oysters on the half shell (Party foul! Loud screeching record sound! – Or was that me?! I was not about to put a wad of slime in my mouth and have it get stuck in the back of my throat only to heave it back onto the plate in front of the foodies sitting around us on the deck!).
Oh and btw, that is lamb prosciutto next to them. (I am not a lamb fan- especially not raw-ish lamb.)
Looking at this picture two years later, I see that there are actually sun kissed garden tomatoes sprinkled with fresh thyme and sea salt. I was obviously blinded by my horror of all things raw and fleshy.
Then it occurred to me we were no doubt paying through the nose for those fleshy little wads. (There were no prices. Not on the website. Not on the menu. If you have to ask… we just chose denial.) So what the heck? Bottoms up! (And darling bar wench, I am going to need another cocktail-pronto, please-in the nicest way!)
To my amazement the disgusting little wads magically became the freshness of the sea in my mouth like I had never experienced before.
This is another cocktail made from wild woodruff from the forest floor, citrus and vodka. We drank it next to the tranquil sea. (You’ll be glad to know my stomach remained tranquil as well.)
Then our fairy like hostess (aka darling bar wench only in my moments of culinary panic) invited us into be seated at our table. This was what the sunset looked like through the screen door of The Willows as we began the dinner of a lifetime. (I get a little choked up even now.)
Here are just a few of the 18 courses we were served. I apologize for the less than food photo stylist quality pics. (I’m sure it was just due to the first world problem of having a super lame iPhone 5S at the time!)
Hopefully they give you a hint of our culinary journey’s other worldliness.
Course number one. A small cedar box that upon opening kisses you with a puff of woody cedar sweetness (remember the good looking man stoking the fire) before revealing a smoked oyster sitting atop warm rocks found along the beach.
“It’s something a gnome with a crush on you would have left on your doorstep!” (A great description from a food critic)
As we finished each course, the next one magically appeared. No fuss, no rush just a beautifully choreographed dance of friendly fairy like service gracefully placing the next work of food art in front of us.
At one point, a kind young man appeared with yet another plate of deliciousness and I couldn’t help but ask him, “Can you believe you work here?!”
His easy smile grew into a big grin, “No, I can’t. I wake up every day and can’t believe how lucky I am!”
“And how did you find such an amazing place to work?”
“Well I saw an ad on Craig’s List and applied for the job and here I am!” (Honestly, now. Is that all you’ve got?! Craig’s List, really?)
But back to the food- each course was lovingly foraged, fished or farmed on Lummi Island (by Craig’s List employees, of course.).
Crispy crepes filled with snipped chives, creme fresh and caviar nested on a bed of field grass. (Now you know to save your lawn clippings for dinner decor, my friend. To heck with the compost pile!)
Garden beet carpaccio with fresh herbs and some silky goodness I cannot remember.
Nasturtiums, squash blossoms, sweet pea flowers for dipping in a bright, spicy puree of flowers.
Organic lamb shank in cherry sauce topped with herbs and woodruff blossoms. (I am pretty sure they employ lots of gnomes on the island to pick these tiny white gems!)
At this point in the meal, I wanted to curl up, take a nap and never wake up from this delectable dream.
Eighteen courses of food art paired with drink, served by beautiful fairy-like Craig’s list people. Oh, and did I mention there were several dessert courses?
Wild and farm fresh berries- sigh.
This was when the hubs asked if Chef Blaine was in. Oh, yes, of course… out comes the young man who found the job on Craig’s List!! (Darling Bar Wench, help me!) THE star chef, thoroughly and anonymously delighting in serving those seated at his table.
And then the bill. Or shall I say THE BILL?
My hubs, the guy who is the great great grandson of Vikings, threw his head back and began to laugh! And then came the tears. Tears of joy, tears of irony, tears of gratitude, tears of tender mercy, sweet salty tears.
Here’s the deal or dare I say the gift?
We had knowingly given ourselves to an adventure unlike any other we’d ever been on. We knew it would cost us a lot but we had no idea how far beyond our wildest imaginings it would cost.
We also had no idea how far beyond our wildest imaginings it would change the way we came to understand the wild, creative, and extravagant love of God.
I have come to believe this can be said of anything God invites or calls us to… career, marriage, family, ministry, politics, sports, art- you name it.
I don’t know about you but I have spent the majority of my life trying to love God with all my heart, mind and soul. I have done my best to love my neighbor as myself. (Mind you, both of these endeavors have been more messy than well executed.) While these are not bad things to spend yourself on, I have come to the conclusion that learning to rest in God’s love and linger at His table is a more terrifying act of faith for me.
If I am honest, it feels awfully risky to leave the all too familiar mainland of security, control and worry and to give myself to the possibility that life’s proverbial slimy wads of flesh might actually offer me the freshness of the sea.
If I am honest, believing God loves me and delights in quietly and humbly serving me course after course of beautiful nourishment for my soul is an exercise in believing I am safe in Him because He really IS Unconditional Unfailing Unending Love.
If I am honest, I don’t always believe God can use the ordinary things of my life, the everyday earthy things, the foraged, the fished or the farmed things of my life to create something beautiful beyond imagination.
I am still learning (BIG TIME) to stay seated at His table and trust Him for the next amazing course at just the right time, but I now know enough to know I don’t want to be found anywhere else!
This is me on the last ferry back to the mainland- delighted and deeply satisfied.