Gallibantin’

Originally posted on moving honestly:

Only one grandfather graced my childhood.  I never knew my dad’s dad, but my mom’s dad, everyone knew him.  He was hard not to know, and even as a kid, I wasn’t sure what to think of his renown.  A character, some would say.  Quietly proud of him, quietly a bit scared for his inner life and his eternal destiny.  As a child, I labored much in prayer for him.  And I absorbed different flavors of holy hanging out with him.

Up until my double digits, it was not uncommon for my brother and me to spend a night at Granny and Daddy Hob’s house on the weekends.  Farm land and left-over farm stuff–two barns, a smokehouse, and what became a shed of sorts–sat at the lower end of the property, sloping at the far edges to the fishing lake.  We played for hours in and around the buildings, soaking up the…

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Gallibantin’

Only one grandfather graced my childhood.  I never knew my dad’s dad, but my mom’s dad, everyone knew him.  He was hard not to know, and even as a kid, I wasn’t sure what to think of his renown.  A character, some would say.  Quietly proud of him, quietly a bit scared for his inner life and his eternal destiny.  As a child, I labored much in prayer for him.  And I absorbed different flavors of holy hanging out with him.

Up until my double digits, it was not uncommon for my brother and me to spend a night at Granny and Daddy Hob’s house on the weekends.  Farm land and left-over farm stuff–two barns, a smokehouse, and what became a shed of sorts–sat at the lower end of the property, sloping at the far edges to the fishing lake.  We played for hours in and around the buildings, soaking up the greasy tractor and old hay smells, tinkering with rusty tools and skipping flat stones across the surface of the water.  Granny called us in for lunch or supper, and Daddy Hob came in through the back door, hung his hat on the hooks by the basement door, and washed up with Lava soap in the porch sink.

Many times, my brother and I shared our stays with any and all nearby cousins.  After supper and an episode of The Walton’s or Little House on the Prairie, we all lighted on a bed or the couch or the floor in a sleeping bag.  The clock over the television tick-tocked in a certain Granny-and-Daddy-Hob’s-house kind of way, lulling us to sleep eventually.  The next morning, always a Sunday, meant gallivanting.  Must get sleep.

At the earliest, in that crisp and damp time of the morning, when the dew stuck to our tennis shoes, we grabbed the handle to Daddy Hob’s truck and slid across the bench seat.  The lucky ones reached for the tailgate and flung themselves into the kind of dust that only lives in the back of pick-up’s.  He cranked the engine, and off we went to do what you do when you go gallibantin’.

First stop, the Minute Mart. Daddy Hob let us pick out one candy. He laughed and talked to Paul and Vivian and whoever else was stopping on their way to church or not to church. I worried for us all, skipping church and everything.  But it never bothered my grandfather, or any of my cousins.

Treats in hand, we loaded up again.  The wind blew our hair all the through town, across the railroad bridge, and to the farm gate.  The truck lumbered over hills and across creek beds, the wind more gentle now and mingling with swirls of unfiltered tobacco smoke.  We all laughed as we jostled when Daddy Hob hit some bumps in the field.  The rearview mirror showed his blue eyes lost in a mischievous grin.

Daddy Hob called his cows by honking his horn in a certain pattern, very unlike my dad and his technique.  Funny, the cows came to his truck the same as Dad’s cows came to his truck, no matter that he called them in such a fashion.  He counted, just like Dad, and he checked the salt blocks and the feed bins.  We helped as we could or as he let us.  But mostly we just were there in the great wide open, counting cows and eating completely unapproved foods and laughing and listening and being bathed in spring sunbeams skipping through the tree limbs.

The morning waned.  We had been gone for hours, we thought.  Soon our parents came, school the next day.  A Sunday gone and no church.  Not the regular kind anyway.

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Grace for the road

Perfection is not obtainable.  We know this, intellectually.  Or maybe we don’t.

Maybe it is reachable in a category.  Say, cooking or baking.  A perfect culinary creation, a cake made by a master chef.  Or in a sports field.  Figure skaters and gymnasts can achieve perfect 10’s.  The SAT and ACT, perfect scores have been recorded.  Or the one time a scientific experiment led to the discovery of something that changed history, is that not a perfect equation?

But what about everyday stuff.  Relationships, words, conversations, parenting, jobs, school, learning.  Learning.

Or what about raising a dog?  It can be like raising a child sometimes.  And we want well-behaved children and well-behaved pets.  Honestly, it is hard to say that we don’t want some level of perfection from kids, dogs, ourselves, our parents, our neighbors, our pastors, our schools, our bosses, our co-workers, the clerk at the store, the postal service.  Have I left something out?  I mean, we can say that we don’t really want that, and I think it is true.  How boring and Stepford-like to have perfect all of these things.

When the poop hits the fan and goes flying on any of these (church, family, schools, jobs, etc.), when the reality of our blessed humanity feels so blasted real, oy vey.  Tell me then that we wouldn’t like a little perfection.

You see the precarious nature of the concept.  Perfection is not a realistic goal, and yet our culture breeds the need for it in many arenas.  The church is, I’m afraid, a great instigator in this quandary.

In my personal and internal life, it keeps cropping up.  I have few answers.  No answer seems to wrap anything up neatly.  The only reasonable response  is what my friend, Libby, used to utter repeatedly when we would pray together some years back.  “Grace and mercy, Lord.  Thank you for your grace and your mercies,” she prayed.  Grace for me and for you.  Mercy for me and for you.  If I can receive it, I think it follows that I can also give it.

I would like to say that every part of me is cured of a desire for perfection, for pleasing people.  More honestly, I would like to say that I’ve ceased caring what other people think of me, or my children or my dog.  As gross as it is, that is what sits at the bottom of it:  people-pleasing and poor self-worth.  It is a graceless and merciless way to live.  It would be nice to say I’m completely through with that manner of living.

We don’t arrive today.  It is a long road.  We have questions* along the way.  I pray you’ll help me up when I fumble, when I miss it, when I don’t hit the target in the center.  And when you’re not perfect, I will help you remember, as I remind myself, that perfection is not the goal for us.

 

*I spent some time over the weekend with our friend, Rusty Gates, over on Audio Liturgy Podcast.  We spent some time talking about journeying with questions and grace and wonder and imperfection.  

 

 

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What I remember

The sign just outside of town read “Population 750.”  That was over 35 years ago, but it was a proud moment when they put up the sign Welcome to Campbellsburg.  That road, Highway 421, runs straight through the city, turning into Main Street, and then back out again.  As a little kid, the city was big.  No one told me that I really lived in a very small town.

I had lots of freedom, within a range, to roam where I wanted.  My dad held employment at the bank on Main Street.  After school sometimes and on Saturday mornings, I could go to the free-range places in the center of town while he finished his work.

Cook’s Pharmacy, located just next door to the United Citizens Bank at that time, intrigued me with all the merchandise they carried.  For, aside from being a drug store, it was also a general store with a host of fascinating merchandise.  A small jewelry area, a toy section with a small assortment of stuffed animals, a magazine section (the former location of internet lyric searches and the latest issues of Tiger Beat), the school supply section, cards, and candy.  I spent my time at Cook’s browsing around, imagining how the school supplies would enable me to be a teacher or planning how I could save money for some make-up to use someday.  Elsie worked behind the counter, and she was always kind and gentle, even if I didn’t purchase anything.

Often, I visited Sue’s Beauty Shop.  My Nannie and many of the older women in Campbellsburg had standing weekly appointments to get their hair washed and curlered and set.  Sue and Pam let me sit in the dryer seats and watch and listen, and sometimes I volunteered to sweep up hair or straighten the nail polish display.  The smells of shampoo and permanent solution and woman perfume and hairspray fused all together and seeped out of the doorway, a screen door and a wooden door.  I liked the way the door sounded, first one and then the other, going in or going out, creaking just so.

The neighboring establishment to Sue’s produced odors of its own.  Just around the edge of the building, and through the heavier spring-loaded front door of James’ Java Shop, all of the aromas of drip coffee and hot griddle and fresh pie greeted me every time.  Four-top tables covered in vinyl tablecloths, wooden chairs with green pleather on the seats, and a soda counter complete with spinny stools–this is where coffee happened and where local farmers smoked their cigarettes and talked about stuff, where families could go to dinner as a special once in a while, where a kid could get a chocolate milkshake made by Eileen or Mamie.  The best hamburgers I ever remember came from that little kitchen and the modest culinary skills of Malcolm and his staff.  One of the most delectable treats, that I can still taste if I think about it just right, was a hot honey bun that Mamie grilled with butter on the griddle.  Sometimes, if she was talking to me while it cooked, it got a little crispy on the bottom.  No matter, because it still held the buttery sugary heat.  Maybe it even tasted better because she was busy visiting with people.

The Carol Ann Shop was next door to the Java Shop; the two businesses were connected by a hallway, so it was really logical to go after the Java shop, or before.  I could spend what seemed like hours in there, dreaming myself older so I could wear the women’s fashions on display.  I pretended in my mind to have a cash register and a store of my own where I could sell materials and a rainbow of thread spools.  Carol Ann babysat us often, and when she established her business, I felt she became a very important grown-up.

When I was little, that was my big city world.  A little town tucked away somewhere off of Interstate 71.  It wasn’t a perfect community, and I knew so much even then.  But it was and is one of the sanctuaries for my memories.  It holds stacks of photographs and movie reels of sacred spaces and tattered saints who lived life in and around Main Street.

 

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small seasons

I watched the sun beam off of the snow this morning, brightness stinging my eyes, but I could not look away. Sometimes I think to myself that if I could absorb enough of the glints off of the water or enough contrast of the grey dog against the blanket white or enough of the hush of mornings, then I could blend into the splendor and disappear for a while.

Life is not like that. Of course. Feet shuffled upstairs, and I knew my bed-haired son would soon walk into the rays of sunlight spraying the kitchen. The day would move forward from still and glistening, earth turning and moving the shadows to newly appointed positions. The dog begged for company, the boy needed direction, the girl-woman asked for my reading voice to bring church history alive, an index card held a neatly penned list of things to do.

An essential oil scent caught my attention, I inhaled deeply. Its name is Peace and Calming, and I prayed it into my system, into my spirit, with each long expanded breath. Please, God.

These days my heart feels small, squished inside a smaller box. It peeks outside frequently, looking for safe spaces to stretch and breathe. The beginning of daylight hours when the sun broadens the sky, when quiet leaves room for ravens and geese to be brilliant, when the cars have yet to rumble and whir, when I hear the sleeping breathing of my children—this might be the streams of quiet waters, the lush meadows where He leads me to rest. But fox-like and stealth, the noise gathers in many forms, and chaos pushes the lid on more tightly.

It doesn’t take much, it seems, for external chatter to morph into internal clanging and clashing. And the box wherein my heart lies becomes all the more constricted. I wish it weren’t so, that I didn’t feel rather breakable, but that instead I could say I felt stable and steady.

I hear whispered to me in the stolen moments of exquisite and heart breaking beauty, in the quiet before the last of the Walton children says Goodnight, that all shall be well, that there is grace enough even for small-box hearts. This, too, shall pass.  And to rest inside the little box, because it will not always be so.  Remain in my love, He says, while the fragile and small times are happening.  The spirit of the living God bids my heart to keep peeking out and to please keep letting the wonder in.

 

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