In which Grace is considered

I wonder…how often do I miss moments of Grace in my life. Anne Lamott, in her book, “Small Victories”, says, “Sometimes grace is a ribbon of mountain air that gets in through the cracks.”

Now, I really don’t know what that means as I’ve never been on a snowy mountain top in the cold, inside a small, heated, wood cabin. But I have been in my life – my small, narrow life, in which is sometimes akin to being  surrounded by deep cold with only the tiny flame of faith to warm my toes. And I still wonder where Grace slips in and do I miss it when it does?

I’m more likely to know where Grace isn’t than where or when it is. Or, maybe, I have the wrong idea of Grace – just what it is and is not. If only I knew for sure. But maybe, that’s also a part of Grace – the not knowing for sure.

Case in point: God has blessed me (or sometimes it feels like cursed me) with four-legged and winged creatures to look after.  I moved into my mother’s home with 4 cats – a super mellow male, an ancient old mancat, feisty young female, and an anxiety-riddled middle-aged female who could really use a dose of valium or xanax to help her get through her day. I also had 3 female finches. Mom had 2 male and 3 female finches, an ancient hound dog and an old mancat who is the last of 3 brothers and is supremely angry about his only-cat-world being turned upside down.  Life moves on and so do God’s creatures. There are now only a finch pair (we think they’re brother and sister – but if they mate I don’t think it will seriously screw up the world’s finch gene pool) and I adopted a 10-year old corgi-chi mix who is extremely well behaved for 99% of the time.

Taking care of these needy animals is sometimes rewarding, but if I’m honest, a huge pain in the a** a lot of the time. Litter boxes, throw up, poop in the yard, bird doo in the water dish, is it feeding time again? …

I just had to stop and break up yet another fight between mom’s old mancat Moose and one of my girls. He has discovered he can’t intimidate the mellow Toby and ancient Simon (who doesn’t count as a rival), but, boy, does he go after the Sue’s (BobbieSue and PeggySue). At any given moment when they are walking past his door he’ll go after them. The fights are mostly noise with no injuries so far. (Calming collars and a baby gate are forthcoming to keep them calm and separate.)

Anyway, I’ve digressed from my topic of Grace. Where is the Grace of God in all this madness? Most days if it’s there (and I’m sure it is) I don’t see it. It just passes me by like a thought too fleeting for my poor, self-pitying brain. I’m only going on faith here – and in the experience of others on the path who are way ahead of me and have left small altars along the way for me to stop and meditate on their path. But I ultimately have to climb back on to my path and start moving again.

So my prayer for today, ‘God, I believe in Your Grace. I sure as heck don’t understand it, don’t feel it most of the time, and am too self-absorbed to notice. Please open the eyes of my eyes, the ears of my ears, and most importantly, the heart of my heart, that I may see, hear and feel/know Your Grace when it happens.’

‘And thank You for the blessing/curse of Your precious creatures to look after. I guess if You had not trusted me to care for them in my feeble, decidedly graceless way, You would not have gifted them to me. Help me to find Your Grace in their care.’

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In which I get coffee and a lesson in Patience

I was standing in line at WaWa’s the other morning, getting my usual coffee before work and the line was so long. Usually when the line gets to three people they open another register. But on this morning there were at least a hundred people ahead of me – not really, there were only 7 or 8 but it felt like a hundred.

There was the guy that was in front of me – I remember him because he had on camouflage jeans that hung well below his butt and when he pulled out his money out of his pocket several 50’s and a bunch of other unknown bills hit the floor in wads; he picked them up and shoved them back in. He then jumped the line to the front and performed the same routine again to pay for his coffee – money on the floor, on the counter, try to figure out what bill to pay with, and shoved it all back into his pocket. All of that took at least 30 minutes (not really, but again, it felt like 30 minutes).

Each person ahead of me needed something else beside paying for their coffee or monster drinks or whatever. I could hear the manager laughing and talking in her office to other employees – and, in my mind, I went to her door and yelled at her, “Get off your butt and get out here and help your drowning employee!” There was a day when I actually would have done that. I hate lines. Especially when I’m going to be late for work. Especially when I left the house late and the morning isn’t going as smoothly as expected.

Finally, when there were only 5 people ahead of me and a whole bunch behind me, did the manager come out of her hiding place and yell, “I’ll take half of you on the other side.” Everyone behind me suddenly vanished; I stayed where I was and said, “Finally! It’s about time!” I couldn’t keep it in anymore. I wanted to say more but somehow, I kept my mouth shut. Sorry folks, no song and dance routine for you this morning.

When it was my turn to pay, I told the cashier (whom I see each morning) I was sorry his manager had abandoned him; he just nodded without smiling at all, but the look in his eyes said “Thanks, but I’m gonna kill her one day.” I try to be extra nice to him because he has that look almost every day I go in there and I worry he might just actually do it.

When I got to my car, I apologized to God for my outburst. Waiting in line for a few extra minutes is no big deal when I think about what that cashier has to go through on a daily basis. He is most definitely overworked – as are all the early morning WaWa’s employees. They’re always short staffed and the manager doesn’t really help out on the floor all that much. But maybe that manager has her own problems that she obviously hasn’t shared with me.

I need to work on my patience. And think of the other person. And think of anyone other than me with my own shortsightedness. And to not blame others when I’ve had a bad morning and running late and stopped for a cup of coffee anyway.

And into the crucible I go having patience ground into me by lots of disgruntled customers screaming their displeasure over the phone. What’s that phrase? “God, help me have patience but I need it RIGHT NOW!”

Thank You, God, for the mortar and pestle You’re subjecting me to. It is pounding patience into me and sooner or latter I’ll learn.

In Which the Little Things Make Me Nuts

It’s the little things that get you. Those mosquitoes buzzing past your ear on an otherwise perfect warm, summer evening. The tiny fleas that jump on you as your dog passes by (why isn’t that flea medicine working? I paid $60 bucks for it and it doesn’t work. And why am I paying so much for something millions of people use on their pets that doesn’t even work? But that’s a different rant…). The little things.

The customer who screams in my ear because they can’t get what they want and because I happen to be there, representing the company, they take out all their anger and frustration on me. God loves them. I don’t.

I offer disgruntled/angry/hostile customers a chance to make a complaint – one just said to me “I’ve been complaining for 10 years and nothing has changed.”  Hmmm. Kind of makes me think. If nothing has changed after ten years of complaining about the same thing, what makes you think today will be any different?  Hope? Maybe, but I don’t think so. This particular customer – I know her voice, I’ve spoken to her at least 3 times a week for 6 years now – always asks the same question and more than not gets the answer she doesn’t want. She gets mad and hangs up. Everyday she calls. Everyday she gets mad. How can anyone live like that? How can getting the ‘right’ answer be so important? When does wisdom kick in – the wisdom that teaches you what you’re doing wrong and if you learned the lesson your life will be different?

Of course, I say this about myself because how often do I have to experience the same lesson over and over again until, maybe, wisdom kicks in – by actually kicking me in the butt in order to open my eyes and ears to the truth? Judging by the numbness in my bottom, quite a lot.

Case in point, why do I let grumpy customers get to me? Why do I still get offended when they call me terrible things or say equally, if not worse, things about my employer? It’s like I have this giant flashing red button that say’s “Push Here and watch me spin out of control.”  Why haven’t I developed a sense compassion but still maintain a crap-resistance outer shell? More importantly, why haven’t I learned to love these angry and unhappy crazy people in spite of the anger they vomit through the phone?

God loves lunatic people the way He loves me. He plays no favorites. And, if truth be told, that bothers me. In my own self-importance I try to be a good person, one who doesn’t lie (well, maybe, a bit) and one who does the right thing (most of the time). I don’t scream at people over the phone anymore. I’ve learned its not the fault of the person answering that their employer sucks. And yet, try as I might to be like Jesus, God loves those folks who don’t give a flying hooey about anything but themselves the same as He loves me. That doesn’t seem fair, does it?

In my flawed human senses it isn’t fair. It isn’t fair, humanly speaking, that the worst criminal in the world can be enlightened to God’s Presence in his last breath and God will still welcome him home. With open arms. That’s Divine fairness. With God, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done or how often you’ve done it, He’ll still love you, even past the last nanosecond chance of redemption.

And somehow, that offers me a glimmer of hope. I still have to learn the lesson of the crazy folks, though. But even if I never learn, God will never hold it against me. And I have to admit, however grudgingly, maybe Divine fairness isn’t so bad. After all, the same Grace that falls saint and sinner alike also falls on me.