I’ve had a week of weirdness. Unrelated things and people converged. Like heavily collided. Like the Universe has picked me up, moved me a second and set me back in the exact same but more aware-ly connected place; same space.
Yep, I’m gonna vague the details. Broadly, though, I was up until 1:00 AM last night plunking keys trying to connect the linear lights, random thoughts and rigid letters into a sphere of a story.
I tried an hour of editing. Tried to respectfully cloak it in anonymity. You know – so the players won’t know. Tonight’s tweaking didn’t take it to where it truly needed to be. So, it’s still incubating and I’m not letting it go. Yet. Be kind to me. I’m still so up on it, 24 hours later. Hoppy, happily awed at the alignment.
Goose bump similar, going/coming back. Retro. I’m in it like 2007, when a series of well-planned, well-placed God-smack coincidences sent me missioning to New Orleans with 49 strangers. Yeah, it’s like that. He’s got a plan and I’m waiting for it, excited. I’m going somewhere. Maybe only metaphysically. Maybe long haul. Maybe temporary. Maybe anything…
Hyped-up; like downing a mega-coffee specialty cuppa on an empty stomach, at midnight. Sort of odd since I’m off coffee on doctor’s orders. Glad, I unknowingly had that last fling with the Cola-Cola concoction.
It’s day 5 of nothing from a cow, nothing with gluten. I’m the way opposite of withdrawal. Go figure.
Comically, I scrolled into a Starbuck’s “Want!” inducing ad. Pistachio. Latte. So desirable, I may have whimpered, but since Nala-Lala thought I was talking to her, I’m gonna go with that. Hey, Universe – do your thing. Make that potentially tasty run last a little while. Please.
Make this run last a little while, too, please. Something’s happening here, and it feels so good.
There are at least six, solid, Biblical references regarding meatballs.
“Hi, we were wondering…”
I received a significant, mid-week invitation from a dear, don’t-get-to-see-often, friend. It was one of those jump-to-it, second-chance, “you don’t want to miss this,” opportunities. The last time I rode along became a scary freeway ice-dancing event featuring sliding cars, sudden lane-swerving, and frightening brake pumping. A few near-accidents in, a committee of concerned participants made the reluctant decision to head home before reaching our destination. It was a hard call to make, because individually and as a group, we don’t take volunteering lightly. In this case, it was clear a no-show would have serious consequences, but the severity of the travel conditions could not be ignored.
That’s how a recent early Saturday morning found me munching a Clif protein bar, hanging in the far parking lot of Sam’s Club, waiting on another ride.
In mission work there are sometimes great gaps of knowledge. This one wasn’t much of a mystery. We knew where we were headed, and what we would do. Still, the informational brochure I was handed filled in a lot of unknown blanks in my perception of the project. The impressive scale of Cass Community Social Services in Detroit is something to behold. The volunteer schedule is equally as impressive.
The Saturday kitchen schedule was filled by a church confirmation class from Alpena, a church youth group from Northville, the Detroit chapter of One Brick, some Michigan State-ers on spring break, and a women’s church group from Tecumseh. It started off slowly, but at one point I counted 24 people in the kitchen.
We had arrived believing we would be making sandwiches, and left not having made a single one. The new first order of kitchen business was slicing semi-frozen flanks of meat. The first problem I encountered was a lack of latex free gloves. By default, I became the dishwasher.
A volunteer named Bobby, who has been washing dishes at Cass for 9 years, so far, demonstrated the basics. Food down this shoot; rinse, load, fill, sanitize, stack, and re-shelve. I really wanted a bit more instruction from Bobby, but he wasn’t inclined to give it. He walked away and I proceeded to process dishes, utensils, pots and pans for two hours straight. Bobby would fly by every once in a while, saying the same thing, “You’re doin’ alright!”
During one of those passes, another volunteer pointed to my cleaning stash and requested an aluminum scrubbie. When I turned for it, Bobby was in my way, so I asked him to please hand it over. He didn’t. “The scrubbie,” I reiterated, thinking perhaps he hadn’t heard my quiet voice in the ruckus. He just stood there, shaking his head at us. I tried again, carefully explaining and renaming the item, “She would like that scouring pad, please.” Finally, he cracked a semi-smile and pointed behind her. There, at the exact spot where the question had originated, in a rather obvious place, was another one.
In those two minutes, my pile had grown to overflowing the staging-space allotted to dirty items. but went back to work with a conquer-this-mountain attitude. Eventually, I was relieved of dish duty. I didn’t want to be relieved, but Miss Lonetta – head cook, kitchen orchestrator/coordinator, menu planner – insisted. She handed me two bowls with bananas, oranges, and grapes, pushed open a door and told me to go sit outside. A few minutes later, I became the fruit sharer, offering fruit and fresh-air seats to the also forced-to-take-a-break cooking crew.
The beef slicers also chopped a lot of broccoli and garlic, grated carrots and cheese, made rice, cracked dozens of eggs, and melted butter. From 9:00 AM until Noon, the principles hustled us along. It was about then that some of the volunteer shifts had ended. There were only about 6 of us left. Lonetta told me to go grab some parchment paper, and pointed in the general direction supplies. I wasn’t exactly sure where to look, but eventually I spied, grabbed, and delivered.
Then she wanted to know why I wasn’t making meatballs, with the few remain-ers who were also running out of time. I explained about the latex, and she gleefully cried. “Grab an apron and suit up!” One of the volunteer groups had shown up with a box of latex-free gloves. On my first grab, it was interesting to discover my right hand was reluctant to roll anything. It was sorely sore from squeezing the hand-held faucet. Still, I did my best with the sticky stuff. Out of 500 meatballs needed, jumping in at the last minute, I probably rolled somewhere around 50.
During the course of the morning and early afternoon, Lynetta changed her meal plan three times while we were prepping. Due to a lack of peppers, Pepper Steak turned into Steak ala Cass, which is actually pepper steak minus peppers, plus onions and mushrooms. Ten trays of garlic bread were prepped for the oven. For the most part, those who come for Cass meals, don’t eat vegetables if they’re presented as a side. Miss Lonetta devised a way to sneak them in. Meatballs were beefed up with carrots, broccoli, and onion, and stretched with crumbs, eggs and cheese. At the last minute, we learned a vegetarian entry would also be needed. We reviewed ingredients available, put our thinking caps on, and came up with a very improvised veggie stir-fry.
I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: each person’s mission experience will differ. I can’t say this is an accurate reflection for anyone else but me, but, the 30-second do-this dishwashing brief, the here’s-two-bowls-go-sit-outside directive, and the frantic search for parchment were unnerving in a successful, hyped-up sort of way. There is something to be said for being available and able to fumble around, change directions, and do whatever has to be done. It brings a little self-pride, a little coping confirmation, and an absolutely miniscule idea of what may be expected next time.
My unofficial three-part summary of Cass Kitchen philosophy:
Philippians 2:4: Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens.
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Out-do one another in showing honor.
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
Making rice isn’t for the faint of heart. That’s because of the whole don’t lift the lid thing.
Watching my pot not boil, I have time to think. I’ve been studying my life, lately. Trying to determine self-worth against a fear of no-worth. Trying to remember to trust God.
I snicker, and Blu answers questioningly. If I’m standing here because I can’t trust the outcome of my rice, how can I trust Him on things bigger than potential burnt grain? I snicker again, and Blu huffs a sigh, curling back into cat-nap position.
Right. They’re two different things, aren’t they? Umm, are they?
This is what happens when I can’t lift the lid. I compulsively stay nearby for rescue and the sake of safety. Puttering around rearranging cabinets, wiping out drawers, my Fitbit faithfully paces steps in my galley kitchen.
A boil over would singe my last nerve tonight. After a 7-hour seasonal cleaning marathon, I’ve realized I’m not done, but my body is. Treadmill time doesn’t create kneel-stand-stretch-pull-bend endurance.
I gauge the roil. I re-read the instructions and unsurely determine its time to turn down the heat. The timer is active, but I am not.
I’m still standing there thru the simmer, and its not looking good. There seems to be too much water. At least that’s how it looks thru the lid. I’m determined not to burn. So, I wiggle the pot in lifted circles; ‘stirring’ within the rules, not lifting the lid. It’s not any clearer what’s going on in the there.
At 12 minutes, it suddenly is. Clearer. Now a slurry of milky roiling water and slightly swollen rice nubs, this feels like the dangerous part. The critical point where I really want to stir the pot. I swirl the pan again, and lament that nothing’s significantly moving. Then, it hits me: not much water – that’s a good thing, right?
At 9 minutes, I recant. Maybe its not going as planned, according to the assurances of preparation materials so blithely plastered on paper. 3 easy steps. Except for the don’t lift the lid part.
Guess that’s life though. Standing over a watched pot, hoping everything will become clearer once the process is complete.
6 min. Yeah. Life’s like that. Your focus has to be just right to see thru the condensation. Rivulets riot with your view. Concentration required comes with a headache from peering over the heated coil, red-face full of radiant heat.
3 minutes. I can still see simmering just below the surface of swollen bits. Ugh. There’s still liquid; disappointment.
2 minutes. Dear God. I hope this doesn’t burn. Technically, it’s not part of my Keto plan. I do reasonably plan to only eat small ¼ cup portions at 5 carbs each. 35 minutes of my life has now been poured into the procedure.
1 minute. A burn now would be a waste of a full 40 minutes, and waste even more time dealing with the mess.
I’m nervously watching the timer. 30 seconds.
It’s time to lift the lid away. Everything is fine, if ‘fine’ means slightly sticky rice.
Life’s like that. All about timing. Whether you’re waiting on rice or God.
The relief is nice, but short-lived. Success over shadowed by nausea, I quickly evaluate my situation, pull the pot from the heat, find a seat and dangle my head below my knees. All the extra effort, sweltering over the course of experience, worry and watching did not change the outcome.
Will I do it again? Probably. The same way? Probably, maybe. My treacherous mind still believes in the future possibility of failure. Which, directly connects to my Matthew 6:25-34 struggle. Not worrying seems irresponsible to me. But, that’s another blog.
I am often compelled to take an awkward photo – one that I’m not even sure why I’m taking. One I obsess a little over – to delete or not. So, it ends up safely staying on my phone, saved to my cloud, downloaded to my computer; lingering with no real use or draw.
Until one day, when I find myself without words. Unable to form sentences of condolences, I scroll through unreasonably hoarded memories searching for inspiration, a photo prompt, anything that will spark the conversations I have to begin.
I found it filed under spring’s May adventure. I went for another reason; saw what I wanted to see. It wasn’t as impressive as I’d imagined. Truthfully, disappointed, I moved on to try and find a more engaging reason to make the trip worthwhile. Leisurely exploring gifted me three themes: architecture, modern art and whimsy.
I took the same route down as I had going up; on foot, on stairs – noting to myself perhaps there’d be a picture in it, later. Hours later, travelled down, I turned to evaluate that thought.
I found that ‘later’ came with more impressive light and a focal exclamation point. I likely took a dozen and a few views. Hard to tell, because I whittled them down to the three I was having trouble letting go. This time, I looked a little closer. Somehow, a connection sparked between the three photos and the three recent events that needed those words I was looking for.
I still don’t have the words. I do, however, have the hope of heaven and a picture that paints a thousand words.
with love for BD 06-23-18, JS 06-28-18 & JK 07-11-18 their families and their friends.
I’ve been more than tempted to just say, “Not this week…” Staring off into space thinking about where we’ll go next, my blurred vision focused on a book shelf. Clearing on a black binding, I suddenly realized the season.
I drew it from its spot, wedged firmly between other versions of the same book in different formats and different languages. Flipping open the cover, I remembered why I had this treasure. The volume that caught my attention, didn’t originally belong to me. It does now, by default.
I’ll stress this up front. My love gave me gifts. The gift of acceptance, the gift of care; gifts of hope and light that meant a lot to me then, but even more to me now. The greatest of all these – love – has always been there, remains and endures.
I reiterate these truths from a season past:
I don’t want to own false grief.
I’m not happy about losing Jeff. I’m not angry, either.
I’m not questioning, “Why?” I know why, and I’m thankful.
I don’t want to own false hope.
I want to have faith that where I am headed will someday make sense to me, and maybe to some others.
I don’t want to own the responsibility of false vision, knowing all that lies ahead.
I want to affirm that life’s adventure is a gift, gladly opening each day as such.
I don’t want to own a false sense of security.
I want to believe with my whole soul that, as paths change, they will continue to be clearly marked in my rear-view mirror – under the direction of the only GPS necessary: God’s Positioning System.
Ephesians 2:6: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (NIV)
I do believe. I do believe I’ve been gifted. I do believe I’ve been gifted, many times over.