Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Stop and Smell the Chicken

I remember clearly when I got the word that my grandpa was dying. He was my step-grandpa, actually, but my most dear and real grandpa. At the time, life was just plain busy. I had a new job, and I additionally worked part time doing medical transcription. I spent a lot of time at church, and I was in the thick of wedding planning (woot!). Aaron and I somehow managed to get a last-minute four days off our combined four jobs, and we headed down to Virginia. We made it in record time - from Chicago(ish) to almostNorthCarolina in something like twelve hours. Then we raced back. Like, literally raced... aaand I got my first speeding ticket in West Virginia. Super traumatizing. And expensive. I highly recommend getting all speeding tickets in one's home state.

There's a point to this story, really.

I'm in a small group right now, studying the book 7: An Experiemental Mutiny Against Excess.  Today we talked about stress and how to intentionally find rest, even in the middle of our crazy. One question we discussed was, "how does our culture go against the grain of observing a time for rest?" We naturally segued into how we live and drive in Chicago(ish) and how it can make us rushed, impatient, and even angry. I had a memory wash over me from that trip to Virginia...

We were on our way back from Grandma's church on Sunday morning. My grandma was driving her car in front , and Aaron and I were in my car behind her. We stopped at a red light and watched as Grandma's door swung open, she stepped out of the car and shuffled her way back to our car. "JENNI!" she hollered as she approached us (She's slightly hard of hearing, which explains the hollering. She is in her seventies and was wearing her church-heels, thus, the shuffling.) You should know that my sweet Grandma is extremely Southern. Not prim-and-proper-Southern-belle, but Blue-Ridge-mountains-directly-related-to-moonshiners-with-residual-hill-folk-drawl. I'm not saying one brand of Southern is superior to the other. I just want to paint a picture for you here of my Granny-ma in her skirt-suit and pumps, hustling back to our car and calling out, "We're gonna git some chicken! Ya'll go on home and we'll meet you there!" 

IN THE MEANTIME, there were several cars pulling up behind us. The light turned from red to green. We had a conversation about lunch with my grandma, fairly certain the drivers behind us would unleash their Southern fury upon us and we would never actually make it to lunch. (Everyone knows that no one will shoot you more politely than a Southerner, but we weren't terribly comforted by this knowledge.) Grandma headed back to her car just in time for the light to turn red again, and there we sat for the longest red light in the history of mankind. The seconds ticked by, and we braced ourselves. To our amazement, no one even beeped. No one threw their hands up dramatically. No one in that long line of cars hollered out their window at us. They just waited. Clearly, they were not in a hurry and they respected the importance of fried chicken.  Since this day, my admiration for the South and the Southern is so great that I give them forever proper noun status, alway capitalized, never merely an adjective. This admiration falls just short of attaching any form of rebel flag to anything that belongs to me. Also, I will not be participating in Civil War reenactment. I will not do it. Not even for a gallon of sweet tea and a slaw dog (A hot dog with chili, onion, mustard and coleslaw. I want to weep just thinking about it, it's that beautiful).

But I digress. For me, this week is about intentionally pausing six times each day, even if the moment feels more green-light than red-light. I thought Jen Hatmaker put it well, "Stress is the calling card of our generation, the proof of our productivity, evidence of our important lives. We're busy. We're incredibly taxed. We're involved in worthwhile and stunning activities. We ensure our kids follow suit, keeping the schedule of a first year trial-lawyer, and the line items sacrificed are family dinners, unplanned afternoons, breathing space, rest." My pauses will include a short reading (from the Psalms), prayer and stillness. I'm a little concerned about how very weird this seems to anyone reading who isn't "in" this study. If you're my friend already, I assure you this is no more weird than any other thing I do on a day-to-day basis. If you're not a friend yet, I hope you'll just assume the best of me! I'll check in with 'all ya'll' on how my week went in six days or so!

Until then, please don't forget to respond appropriately to traffic signals, and to sometimes just stop and smell the chicken.