I scramble out the door carrying too much at once. Managing to get into the car without spilling self-brewed Starbucks all over me, I realize I forgot the keys. I set my coffee mug in the holder and throw everything else onto the passenger seat.
Run in. Get keys. Run out. Sit down. Close door. Turn on engine.
Are you KIDDING me?
I screech it out loud like an owl. Like the car’s going to answer me back or something. Instead, the red light on the gas gauge tells all.
Irritated, I zip down the gravel drive hoping I get to the closest gas station before I’m empty entirely.
I’m stressed. I’m already late, again. My chronic character disorder will be glaring to all, again.
I get to the station. Pull up to the pump. Get out. Insert card . . .
Oh good God!
It’s one of those electronic prompters that asks you, very s-l-o-w-l-y, to enter your zip code. Then it very s-l-o-w-l-y takes its time before asking if you want to redeem your gas points. And THEN it very s-l-o-w-l-y wants to know if you’d like a car wash . . .
No. NO. NOOOOO!
I answer quickly by banging the button. I just want GAS! Like NOW! I already swiped my credit card!
TAKE MY MONEY AND FILL MY TANK!
Trying to practice self-restraint, I don’t scream as I punch each NO button with increasing intensity. I yank the gas nozzle off its holder and shove it into my tank. I pull the lever. And . . .
WHAT the HECK???
(Yes, now I DO sound like a screech owl with my head turning mostly but not entirely around, not caring who might be witnessing my meltdown.)
I see the gas dispenser prompter, all Zen-like and calm, telling me to press the button on my preferred grade of gasoline. In a not-so-Zen-like fashion, I slam that 87 UNLEADED button like I’m about to win the grand prize on Jeapordy, only I’m not so happy.
I take a deep breath, trying to s-l-o-w myself, just like the gas dispenser prompter.
Not happening. I’m STRESSED!
Ok, distract yourself, I tell myself.
What a BRILLIANT idea!
While the gas is flowing, ever so s-l-o-w-l-y, I run into the attached McDonald’s. Of course, this is something I would NEVER do unless desperate, which I am, because I’m late and I had no time to grab GOOD food from home.
This’ll be quick, I think. All I want is an Egg McMuffin. It’s early morning. I’m sure they’ve got at least one of them, ready-made, sitting under a warming light.
In front of me at the counter is an elderly man (meaning at least 70 because I’m nearly 60 and NOT nearly elderly) talking with the order-taker-woman. Both seem nice enough. He’s sporting a cane and telling the woman about his leg injury while she s-l-o-w-l-y turns for a Styrofoam cup in which to pour his coffee (probably free, given his age). I hear all about his surgery and recovery. The man and woman latch eyes and continue chit-chatting about his cane (hand-carved!), his physical therapy (painful!), his family (wonderful!). And I’m thinking . . .
Really? Am I invisible or WHAT? Maybe they don’t see me.
This man with the cane and this order-taking woman-friend continue their dialog while I’m shifting my weight rapidly from one foot to the other like I have to pee really badly.
Then . . .
I see a vision!
It’s ME in my mind!
I have morphed into one of those cartoon characters turning red like a mercury thermometer rising fast from my feet to my head until steam shoots out both ears and a loud horn blows.
I still say nothing, waiting patiently (on the outside), trying to be all Zen-like on the inside, like the gas dispenser prompter, my mentor. After all, the old man just had leg surgery! Give him some GRACE, girl!
I coach myself.
Finally, the man turns and limps s-l-o-w-l-y toward the door, cane in one hand, coffee in the other. I turn to help him out since he hasn’t a spare hand, bum leg and all.
Then, not so Zen-like, I return to the counter and ask quickly and firmly, but politely, for one Egg McMuffin. And that will be all, I dare say. But she starts in on me . . .
I respond, ever-so-nicely . . .
No I don’t want a beverage to go with my Egg McMuffin, thank you very much.
And no I don’t want an apple turn-over either. Just the sandwich. Please.
I tell it to her nicely, still seeing the vision of me with mercury rising and steam mounting.
I keep coaching myself, hoping there’s an automatic shut-off on the gas dispenser outside.
I give the woman a twenty and watch her s-l-o-w-l-y pull my change out of the drawer. Along with my money, she hands me a slip of paper and points to a web address.
“Would you like to take this on-line survey?”
No, thank you.
I say it politely, just wanting to get the heck out of there.
“But if you fill it out, you could get TWO sandwiches for the price of ONE!”
I’m thinking that, actually, I’d just like the ONE Egg McMuffin sandwich I ordered, which obviously isn’t waiting under the warming light as I thought. I’m thinking the cook must be waiting on that slice of ham to arrive from Canada where the pig is still being grown on that idyllic farm I visit in the blogosphere daily.
(Yes, Ann without the fanciful “e”, I’m talking about you and your hog farm. But I seriously doubt you sell your pigs to the BIG M.) To be blessed by Ann’s gorgeous words and photographs, visit her here @ www.aholyexperience.com.
Finally, my order-taker smiles sweetly, s-l-o-w-l-y, and hands me my hot Egg McMuffin. I smile back, wish her a nice day and push myself through the door.
Driving south on I-43 toward a support group on dealing with loss, I think about my need to lose hurry. I pray for a s-l-o-w-ing in me, to savor real connections like the man and the woman in McDonald’s, like the God-man and woman at the well long ago where people reveal real. In a frenetic world rushing in a blur of activity, I want to receive holy, wherever it is, which is everywhere.
Once home from my loss group, I take myself to our hay field and lay myself down on the green. I breathe in the grass underneath, listen to cranes overhead. I see my Yorkie pup romping. I feel the gentle breeze on my skin. I snap a few photos and bask in God’s grace, giving thanks.
Next day, a friend sits on my couch, grieving the loss of her sister, only 62, a bright spirit gone on. She cries, my friend. I hold. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last, I’m sure. It’s alright. She’ll be alright. She’s my friend, my sister in Christ. We’ll be alright if we s-l-o-w enough to take in God’s grace in these kind of moments.
Fast-food places. Pasture spaces. Couch graces. All worth setting frenzied schedules aside. Here in the s-l-o-w, I do believe, is where True Life manifests most. Where even weeds become starbursts of glory. Where every empty is filled full, finally.
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.