One of my favorite things about being a pastor’s wife is having people over for dinner. This summer my husband and I are organizing a weekly roster of dinner guests from our new community and I’m feeling very Shauna Niequist. I’m reading bbq cookbooks and planning menus and imagining refreshing conversations over sorbets. I love the sounds and smells of inviting people in to my home, but my favorite moment is right before we eat, when we hold hands and bow our heads and I get to bless the meal.
We take turns, my husband and I, when we give grace. His prayers are always praise-filled, Ebenezer memory marking prayers of how God’s been faithful to our family and our new friends. I never know what he’ll pray because he adjusts it for his audience. He is an amazing communicator, after all. I’ve tried his extemporaneous manner of blessing the meal, but it usually reduces me to a weepy mess of tears falling on to my buttered bread which is such an awkward way to start a new friendship.
So, my prayer is the same when I bless a meal:
Jesus, thank you for these new friends. Knit our hearts together in a special way over this meal. As the food nourishes our bodies, let our stories nourish our souls and our encouragements nourish our hearts. Thank you for the hands that prepared it and the hands the served it; please bless them.
In your name we pray, Amen.
Recently, I had brunch with a friend and even though I’ve prayed that prayer countless times, when I blessed the meal, the part about the hands stuck out to me. How often do I pay attention to hands? Not often enough, I decided, so I started studying hands around me.
Paying attention to hands and all they do, I can’t help but think about the things is use in a different way. I’m growing more thankful for the hands the produced all the stuff of my life. Like my mulit-grain bagel this morning. I’m curious about the people whose hands milled the flour, kneaded the dough, sliced the bagel. I’m grateful for the barista with the interesting arrow tattoo on his forearm who, with his hands, toasted my breakfast; gratefulness moves to pray blessing over him. Hands, and by extension, their owners have been on my mind of late.
Next month is my first trunk show with Noonday Collection since we moved to LA from Boston. Hands have been on my mind preparing for this show, too. When a woman invited to this show asked about my involvement with Noonday, the first answer I wanted to give was because of all the hands put to work to create the pieces and the hands working hard to carve our economic shalom from a system hardened by greed.
I thought our artisans’ hands and wonder, if before they worked with a Noonday partner did their hands tremble in fear of what they had to do provide for themselves or out of weaknesses brought on by untreated sickness? Did their fingers wipe away tears of loss when separated from their children? Did they clasp their hands in prayer for deliverance, hoping that Jesus, Lover of the broken, Champion of the oppressed, was listening with great love and a great plan? I don’t know. If I were in their position, I would.
When they learned that Noonday partnered in their community to help create sustainable jobs, did they clap their hands in delight? Did they shake hands with joy over their work agreement? Do they smile over their busy hands rolling paper, cutting thread, stitching lining, threading beads? Do they hold up completed pieces in their hands and beam with pride? I don’t know, but I were given a chance crush poverty by creating beauty with my hands, I think I would, too.
I’m a Noonday ambassador because I’m a lover of hands. The hands of Jesus that wrote truth to defend a disgraced woman. The subversive work of his hands that tore apart racism and gender inequality when he cupped water poured by a Samaritan woman. His bloody hands that stretched out on the cross awaiting the nails that told proclaimed we are loved, we are valuable, we are seen.
Yesterday, when my friend questioned me about Noonday, I thought about my mealtime prayer that Jesus would bless the hands. So often, I ask this, but do I explore my responsibility for those blessings? Do I offer sincere gratitude or do I operate with a sense of entitlement. “Of course you’re supposed to make my meals- you invited me over or you’re paid by Starbucks or you chose to live off of tips!” It’s this entitlement that keeps the vulnerable in broken systems.
I wonder if my responsibility as a Christian requires that I put my hands to work to bless everyone I come in contact with, whether in person or through the things they make.
To do this is costly- I’ll have to resist entitlement, re-frame my shopping habits, and speak up for the hands that are violated to keep me warm, fed, and stylish. If I’m grateful for the great price of His hands that communicated my worth, then shouldn’t I spend a little more on ethical, fair trade products to communicate the worth of fellow image-bearers? Sometimes when we pray for someone to be blessed we’re the tools God’s hands use to become that very blessing.
I’m looking forward to this show in June because I get to talk about hands and wholeness, people and stories, accessories and dignity. It’s my job as an ambassador draw attention to the power of hands: Jesus’ and the artisans’ and those of every person at the Home Office in Austin. At a trunk show, I get to paint a picture of a world lush with Shalom and flourishing with change when I hold up the evidences of victory and the mementos of hope in every necklace I style and every arm party I create. With your hands, you can join me too. You can purchase a piece handmade with love and pray blessings over the artisan who made it. With your hands, you can open the door to your home and welcome people into this new way of honoring the hands of Jesus as a hostess. With your hands, you can digitally sign up to become an ambassador and join me in telling our artisans stories and securing a bright future of employment for them.
The only question is, will you put your hands to this work and join us too?
Seeking Shalom and Noticing Hands,
PS. In the readers’ survey, lots of y’all wanted to hear more about my Noonday journey and I’m so excited to share. If you haven’t taken the survey and want to see more posts like this (or less, or different, there’s lots of shalom-y goodness to cover) please pop over and take five minutes to share your thoughts.