Finding God in macaroni and cheese

20121226-173216.jpgNo disrespect intended to those who claim to have seen images of the Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese or Jesus in a Wal-Mart reciept. Who am I to say? But today I think I saw God in some macaroni and cheese.

This has been a tough week topped off with a trip Saturday to the car dealer where I was turned down on a new car lease. Then today Ben complained of a stomach ache at Church so we left early, because I’ve cleaned up barf at the WalMart pharmacy, lots of bathrooms and various couches and recliners, but never at church and I was not doing it today.

After we got home he seemed to be better so we had some Mac and Cheese for lunch to see how that would go. He seemed fine, and I had errands to run. I needed groceries, had to drop by the 24-hour BMV kiosk to renew my plates that expired last week, and had to weather strip the front door before the big snow tonight. When he complained, I agreed to skip the grocery store and just get my plates and run into the hardware store.

As I stood in the aisle—much too long—looking at the overwhelming selection of weather stripping, he started to feel worse. So I hurried to a check-out line where he said, “Mom, I’ve got to get out here right now.”

So I told him to go stand by the door a few feet away and get some fresh air. I HAD TO HAVE MY WEATHER STRIPPING after all, before the snow started blowing in that old door. Ben stood at the entrance of the hardware store like the bravest little soldier he is, while the girl at the register offered to hurry for me. When I looked back up at him I saw him bend at the waist and lay a huge pile of his lunch at the feet of the people going in and out. I heard a few ughs, and ooohs, but the people just kept walking.

So I dumped my stuff and ran over in time to catch the next load in my hands, and the next in the jacket I’d stripped off. And I know my cotton bikini underwear were sticking out of the top of my jeans as he sat on the floor and I bent over him, trying to comfort him and catch the vomit that just kept coming, saying sorry over and over, and choking back tears.

Then out of nowhere a man and a woman were asking the cashiers for paper towels, asking for someone to come with a mop, cleaning up my child’s vomit. I begged them not to help. I didn’t want them to get sick. This was not their problem. But they ignored me. The husband just kept cleaning up and stuffing vomit-filled paper towels into Lowe’s bags while the wife cooed at me, and empathized, and told me she understood—and never once judging me for the underwear and top of my butt sticking out of the back of my hip-hugger jeans.

When we finally got enough of it cleaned up for me to look up and notice, I saw they had been standing there with a son and a daughter selling fruit baskets for Boy Scouts. Still, I protested the husband’s help but she insisted saying, “He does this all the time at his job.” All I could say was, “What kind of a job requires you to clean up somebody else’s kid’s barf?”

“Oh, he’s the manager of a restaurant. You can’t believe the things he has to clean up. He’s used to it.”

Still.

I could hardly look either of them or their two innocent kids in the eyes with my underwear showing and my hands and hair full of vomit. I have a funny thing about complete strangers seeing me at my worst. I felt bad that I had no cash to buy one of the fruit baskets to help them, too, after all of that. Geeze. Not sure what was worse the underwear problem I could do nothing about at the moment, or the jacket full of vomit I had bundled up in my hands; my guilt over not returning their kindness, or my guilt over making my poor little guy go through all this in the name of weather stripping—though looking back, I don’t think any of it really bothered him. He just wanted to go home.

Unsure if this was the end to a horrible week, or just the beginning of another awful one, the hot tears stinging my eyes, I just wanted to take my bag of vomited-on clothes and go home too. As I stood up and turned to thank them one more time and make a quick escape of it, I looked up into the face of their son with his shy smile and long hair covering one eye, and he just stood there silently holding a fruit basket out to me. After all that, giving me something else for no reason. I looked at his mother who just nodded and smiled. That was the end of the choking back. The tears poured from my eyes. I thanked them, tried to make some sort of excuse about a horrible week, took the basket and ran off to my car.

I cried for the longest time in my car in the Lowe’s parking lot, trying to do it silently so Ben wouldn’t hear, hanging on to my last shred of dignity, with my poor little guy whimpering in the back seat trying to hang on to the last shred of his lunch.

And as I thought of all this later, unpacking the fruit and placing it carefully on display on the dining room table as a reminder of the goodness of others, I saw that what that family gave me for no reason was a lot like what God gives us for no reason. We are here and He is holding out a life that nourishes us, and will treat us kindly if we allow it. I imagine His offer is somewhat like that of that adorable boy scout and his dear family; silently urging us to take it, not expecting anything in return, even after he has cleaned up after us, ignored our pleas for him to just leave us alone, and has seen us at our worst.

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Getting off track over closet doors

closet doorsI’ve been trying not to use so many four-letter words, but I have a long history with them, learning how to curse in 5th grade, and hanging out with 3 brothers most of my life. And honestly, there is something about home repairs that causes me to channel dirty old pirates and throw around swear words like a truck driver.
Sometimes it’s so frequent, even my 9-year-old doesn’t bat an eye anymore. Still, it’s at those moments, when the break downs occur and I’ve sworn up a hurricane, that if I’m quiet for just a second, I can hear God. So while the language could be curtailed a bit, there must be something about raw human emotion that God likes to hear. Sometimes I start to wonder if he likes us to suffer.

Today this is what happened. . .
First, there is something wrong with all the closet doors in my house. They are the original 1959 triple sliding hollow core doors that were installed in all the houses at the time, apparently to save space as opposed to the ones that swing open.
Anyway, they are all jacked up in various ways. Some are completely off and I can’t fix them because holding a door in one arm and trying to screw in the brackets with the other is a skill I have not acquired yet. Some scrape against one another when they slide, some wobble on and off the track at the bottom. It’s a recurring theme in my life (like dreams about water) that I always thought one day I would figure out the meaning of and do something about.

Today, I think I heard the first hint at just what all this closet door business is about. I was reinstalling a couple of those doors on the utility space in the basement where I put down the new tile. It’s sort of a closet area where the water heater and furnace are.

It never occurred to me that the doors wouldn’t fit after I put down the new tile, but now the floor is about 1/4 inch higher than it was before, so it makes sense, right? Well I got one door out of storage and shop vac’d off the spider eggs and dust and attempted to install it on the upper tracks. It scraped along the tile and pushed back and protested. Again, I was working on a limited time continuum as I was due to Ben’s school Christmas program in less than an hour.

As my nerves began to knot and the door protested louder, I pushed hard on it, and like usual, willed it into a space it didn’t want to go. I pushed and beat on it, and pushed some more, until I finally cried out, “Is everything in my life going to be fucked up?”

That’s when I heard a voice other than my own say, “Yes . . . ” and then, nearly simultaneously, the door slipped perfectly into place when I heard, “ . . . but only a little.”

I swear if I didn’t need to shower and be at that Christmas program in 30 minutes I would have fallen to my knees right then. Seriously, why does God do that stuff? I think he might have been telling me that messed up closet doors are a small thing really. Messed up families, messed up ideas, not inviting people over because you think they will criticize your tile job, those are the things that are F’d up more than a little, and I should try my hardest to avoid falling into those things and not worry so much about closet doors.

Still, I gotta find a way to shake my fist that doesn’t involve so many four-letter words. I remember going to a retreat once where the very wise and serene nun was talking about the psalms. She said that they were a way you could shake your fist at God in prayer. And when you look at them they are often about someone at the end of their rope yelling out at God in anger about how he abandoned them, or took all their stuff, or left them in the dark. So maybe the next time I am freaking out about something like closet doors, rather than yelling out four-letter words, I’ll cry out somthing like, “Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?” instead and see what sort of interesting thing God says back.