In Between: Five Minute Friday

I’m writing a day late (and possibly a dollar short?) with the Five Minute Friday gang. Free therapy, indeed. Thanks Lisa-Jo for being the mastermind behind this wonderful gift each week. If you have a blog or love to write, you might think about joining us. The rules are here.

I can’t shop at Fitch’s IGA without crying. At least not this morning.

In this small Kentucky town, Fitch’s is the independent grocery store. It’s small, old-fashioned and the freezers are empty this morning as they get repaired. Mr. Leonard Fitch moves ahead of me slowly, leaning on the same kind of walker my grandmother used after her stroke. And maybe it’s that memory or the fact that Mr. Fitch looks so much like my Pop-pop but something makes me tear up before I’m even at the milk.

A roll of biscuits exploded in the refrigerator case and I pick them up. One is hard around the edges; another has a dead fly on it. I carry them towards Mr. Fitch and explain what must have happened, asking where I should bring them.

“You could take them home if you wanted,” he offers. His face has a few white whiskers that escaped his razor, his eyes are gentle and generous. Small-town lore has it that Mr. Fitch feeds local families when they can’t afford to pay. I don’t mention the fly but I opt to leave them with the cashier.

This small grocery store seems like it is teetering on its last leg. It’s more expensive than Kroger. It’s not as expansive or shiny or organic as grocery stores should be these days. My thin grocery budget can’t offer me an extra dollar to pay for this or that, so I don’t. But I just love Mr. Fitch.

I don’t bemoan the loss of a “way of life.” Maybe it’s my training in anthropology or my years living cross-culturally but I actually think there are both good and bad things about a local store and a Kroger (no throwing stones, please). But this morning, as I remember my Pop-pop’s hardware store and the free popcorn and the expertise with which he picked out nuts and bolts and screws and nails, I look at Mr. Fitch and I cry. Because it isn’t a way of life that will die when this store does but a part of his life. A large part.

A friend cites a study I’ve never read about how small towns decline markedly when the local grocery store closes. It may be true. But what catches me in the throat on my way to the hot donuts in the back corner, passing older gentlemen eating their Saturday morning treat in overalls, is that a person declines. That we all decline.

I can see it so clearly: the last birthday card my Pop-pop signed for me. It wasn’t how shaky his writing had become that hurt. It was my mom’s steady pencil lines that he had had to trace. Love, Pop-pop. Even now my breathe is hard to catch, the grief is that deep. Not just because he was my Pop-pop but because it had to happen at all. The strong arms that could throw me into the water and help me jump off the cherry tree and twirl me around needed to trace pencil lines.

A friend wrote recently of her deep despair and clinical depression. During those days, she wrote, she needed to hold someone’s hand. I think of my grandparents’ skin as they aged, how it grew papery and dry and how they loved to hold my hand. Did they, like my friend, need a hand to ground them on this earth as they lived out the days between the losses of those they loved, one by one, and the day they knew was coming to them?

So with tears I remember on the way to the donuts that I live in between the Yes and the Amen. All of God’s promises are Yes and Amen in Jesus Christ. Yet I live in the and. The already-not-yet. This world of beauty and promise and hope and coursing joy that jolts my head up straight. And this world where vitality drains and lives dwindle to an end or snap sharp and are gone. This world that haunts me with a song of all that should be and whispers promises of all that will be but leaves me to live in all that is. Dead flies in the biscuits and papery skin grasping my hand and men who need to lean, on walkers and on daughters, to do what’s ahead of them. Irises that stand, regal head stretching skyward until the blossom bends them low, unable to stand under the weight of their own glory. Today, I see us in those flowers and weep.

Five Minute Friday

Rhythm: Five Minute Friday

I’m writing again today with Lisa-Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday. I’m so thankful for the prompt each Friday, even when I don’t feel like writing! The rules are simple: a one-word prompt, five minutes, no extreme editing or contemplation. Ready, set, go!
Five Minute Friday

My hair hasn’t been in a ponytail in a long time. But today, it is. Before the sky dawns pink, before any other feet hit the floor, before a word is spoken: I’m outside and ready. I am not a runner. A woman at church taught me a new word: wog. It is, of course, the combination of walking and jogging that we both enjoy. There are days that my wog turns into a jog and moments when my jog turns into a run, when the rhythm of a ponytail swishing across my shoulders keeps time with the feet falling softly on pavement and breath getting shorter and shorter.

This whole symphony plays alongside birds chirping and newspaper delivery cars and a lone man, wheeling his garbage can to the curb. In my ears, David Crowder reminds me: “If his grace is an ocean then we all are sinking.”

But it’s really the other rhythm that catches me, fills me, brings delight to someone who would much rather be in bed. The music of strength and life and vitality. The song of the feminine and the human and the runner. The ponytail swishing and lungs expanding and heart pounding and blood coursing and feet falling and arms pumping.

My five year old boy told our neighbor this morning, “It’s ‘cuz boys are stronger than girls.” I won’t deny that his father can lift more than me and that I beg off wrestling every. single. time. His father gladly remembers how my body carried and delivered two boys and quickly forfeits the “strongest in the house” award. He doesn’t do blood and guts or pain or needles, so all at once garners me the imaginary award.

In the morning, I sing a song that celebrates strength. It isn’t about being the strongest or the fastest, as I am certainly neither. It’s about the song. Entering the rhythm of running even for a few moments reminds me God has given me strength. As the sun stretches herself over the horizon, I head up the impossible hill and smile for the chance to sing.

Emptiness and Fullness

I hesitate to publish this post because it is about fasting, that which is done in the quiet, the unseen, not for the recognition of man. But I have joined this community of people seeking God in fasting on Wednesdays and I often find I have something to write in response. Here goes….

Each action is measured, thought through. There is no energy to waste so there is no wasted action. I pause, I consider, I choose, I act, I reflect.

In fasting, I choose against my instinct to shove in one more thing: into my mouth, into my heart, into my day, into my life. Each opportunity to consume rolls around in my hand, inspected, observed, seen for what it is. Today there are no empty calories to fuel needless activity and I discover the quiet power of embracing only what is needful.

Shoes stay in a messy heap; quiet, unnoticed attention to my children as they play seems more needful. They don’t need me to watch them but I need to see them. The phone is ignored, isolated in my purse. Because fasting isn’t about food but about all the consuming I enter into mindlessly: the Facebook scrolling, blog checking, email writing included.

Before my fast even begins, I am aware of the reality rising to the surface that I have over-committed. The deep impulse to be helpful has left me stranded in a busyness not ordered from the heart of God, I feel certain. Beneath the impulse to be helpful to others is a gaping wound of needing recognition. Surely it goes back to the little years, to times of needing recognition, of needing to be special, of cleaning my father’s boat with intense precision to be noticed. But the deeper truth is that no parenting or self-help books even broach is this: his acknowledgement was not enough. I recall the moment of growing disinterested in playing Cinderella after a day on the ocean, not because my dad didn’t notice but because he noticed and it was a drop of water in an empty oil drum. I thought I knew what I was looking for but on deeper reflection, I see again: it wasn’t him and it wasn’t the intoxication of lovers or the accolades of the academy or the gentle pleasure of marriage or the joy of motherhood. It wasn’t even the unconditional love of my own mother. Some of those things I experienced and some I didn’t. But all the false ways of finding wholeness, of putting in one more thing to finally be full, are revealed in their futility when I fast.

What I really need is simple: the perfect love of a perfect God that reaches this aching hole in perfect fullness.

Fasting reminds me of things seen and unseen. Jesus told us, his followers, to make no show of this practice. To not need our recognition from man. At the heart of this, I think, is not condemnation of needing to be seen but an invitation, a revelation even, of the reality of a life hidden in God. That which is hidden is by definition unseen, unrecognized. Our truest lives, my deepest self, is hidden with Christ in God. In the God of fullness, in the God of love, in the God who shepherds the lost, the lonely, the oppressed. So much of what I do is to overcome the emptiness, the lack, the wounds of this world but in fasting the beautiful reality is held out to me as pure gift: in this emptiness, of belly, of activity, of dinner plate and dishwasher, I am invited to find myself hidden in the fullness of God. Paradoxically seen and recognized in the only way that will ever matter when I can embrace the unseenness of this quiet day of fasting.

Fall: Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday On Friday, I write with the Five Minute Friday group at Lisa-Jo Baker’s. There are some days I don’t want to write (yes, like today) but this community of encouraging writers helps me push through and get a post done! It’s only five minutes, there’s no editing and at least one will swing by with the kind words a blogging writer needs.

The cans of orange soda in the doorway of the fridge have dwindled down to none. No more late afternoon boat rides or early evening fishing trips; no more need for Orange Crush already cold. Brisk winds call for the turtlenecks at the bottom of the cedar hope chest and for hand-knit sweaters that dress me in a mother’s love.

Smokey wisps whisper of warming fires inside; car exhaust lightens white in the cold morning air at the bus stop.

But most of all, there is the click, clack, slide of field hockey sticks. Flat side to flat side, curved side to curved side, hooked together. A description that will mean nothing to those who chose the soccer team and mean a whole world to the girls who battled ferociously all while wearing plaid skirts.

I wrote about it here when I was nineteen and just remembering it thirteen years later makes me cry for the sheer life of it all. How we ran and we spit and we bled and we yelled and we played a sport that is dominated by men in many places and virtually unknown in America. And all this in a skirt. How the beauty and the roughness met there in perfect harmony: elegant wings sprinting ahead, sending the ball across the field while goalies wrapped in helmets and padding charged.

I haven’t found any intramural leagues around. Just those falls, forever etched in my mind.