April 1 // 2022
“Let us call a halt,” Oswald said in his devotional for today.
This morning my alarm was set two hours later than normal because it is my day off, and I stretched in the living room while the coffee brewed. I have now enjoyed three cups of hot coffee on my couch.
I will admit that I want to complain and lament. All of my personal writing—the stuff my family will find after I’m gone—has been lament lately, and I haven’t wanted to post such woe-is-me-isms. I’ve been writing psalms of lament for just myself, and I wonder if David was ever given counsel about the importance of “writing from scars, not from wounds”. Did Nathan say hey you know, it sounds like you maybe haven't healed from this yet and I think you should work through these issues before you write about them for others?
But this morning I slept two whole extra hours and had coffee in my own home, by the fire, with the dogs, in my pajamas—a whole string of prepositional phrases that put me in the right place for writing. I agree that writing publicly is fraught with pits of self-pity and unhealthy venting, and that kind of writing is not helpful in most cases, but aren’t we all living a life that calls for lament?
We are all living quite a life.
Lately my life has been consumed with price margins, shopping lists, and breakfast burritos; coffee by the half gallon; scheduling requests and shift changes; expired inventory. Here is where I start to lament, because life was just fine and we didn’t need any of this and I miss the way things were. I miss my life—not just my “old life”, but life. Period. The part where I am a person and I do things people do. Why did we start a business in the middle of a pandemic and right before historic inflation? Why did we start a business at all? Because things really were fine before.
But for several weeks now, on the whole and for the most part and typically, I have not had to work both the opening and the closing shift. I have one whole day where I can “call a halt”, when I usually do not show my face at the deli at all. I have painted my nails and mowed the lawn and even started reading books again, writing words, going for walks occasionally. I am a person still. A tired, overwhelmed person, who receives every suggestion and helpful tip from customers and friends as if it were her duty to fulfill them all. Good ideas. I’ll get right on that. This is the person I am.
I don’t get right on anything these days, and you can tell, dear reader, by the amount of italics in this post, that I am having a lot of conversations in my head—me and God, hashing it out. I keep making lists too long for the day and looking ambitiously at my evenings as “free time”, deceiving myself about my time vs. energy. One is static and the other is waning. Maybe all of our time is “free” but we keep choosing to spend it on a hamster wheel of tasks, repeated each day, in hopes of one day catching up.
Tim says we’ll never catch up with our lists, and he means it to be encouraging. Owning a deli and a store is an endless cycle of chopping and shopping and spending and depositing and sweeping and stocking and ordering and writing it on the list because we are out of it again. But regular life is this way, too.
Remember when David said,
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long will I store up anxious concerns within me,
agony in my mind every day?
Yes it's dramatic. I am exhausted and discouraged because we've started a new business in the midst of tremendous uncertainty. I am sleep and nutrient deprived, cut-off from my normal routines and relationships, and I find comfort in the words of a man who's life was literally endangered by flesh-and-blood enemies. But it seems like David wrote these words while hiding in a cave somewhere, in the middle of his distressing situation, and not after years of therapy and reflection. From wounds, not scars, if you will. He didn’t know he would survive to be king.
No one is hunting me down but I still lament. I feel it in my body and in my spirit, and apparently I wear it on my face because people keep saying how are you doing? You look tired. Complete strangers say this to me as they load my cart with boxes of iceberg lettuce which has doubled in price.
I think lipstick will help and I found three new colors last month, all a degree or two different from each other. Maybe eyeliner will help. Maybe highlighter.
I smell like a sandwich and bacon, like a breakfast burrito and biscuits and gravy. I smell good to my dog.
I feel like the carton of eggs the dairyman brought us a few weeks ago—the one that hasn't sold because something dripped on it and it looks soggy in one corner, even though the contents are in tact. It's fine but no one will buy it.
I am plucked out of life and only my dog misses me. My presence in the world is not missed. I could disappear.
But we have "deli friends" now. Tim and I know the morning guys, pulling their trucks to the highway's shoulder and coming for their bacon or breakfast sandwich or half case of Coors Light in the morning. These are our new friends, who's names and relatives and cares we know. Isn't this how it should be?
And the biscuit-and-gravy kid who comes back again at lunch. The chef-salad-with-balsamic girl, the small-breakfast-burrito-and-a-rockstar lady who bought a sandwich for a friend one day and now he, too, is a morning guy—ham-and-cheese-sandwich guy. And there’s frittata-guy. And the guy saving his Weight Watchers points who is still losing with a half order of biscuits and gravy a couple times a week. Good for him.
I lost 10 pounds those first couple weeks of opening the deli. Nerves and chaos and mistakes all made for a loss of appetite, and 16 hour days times 7 days in a week didn't leave much time for sitting down to eat.
I've since found the lost pounds, which means things are better? This is the cycle: lose it gain it, buy it sell it; wash, rinse, repeat.
I make sausage gravy, soup, frittata, pulled pork, bacon, more bacon, coffee. I wrap the burritos while Tim works the grill, and he reminds me he never wanted to be in the restaurant business. We laugh at the stupid things we do in the kitchen at 5 a.m., and he always turns on the "open" sign before 6, before we officially open, sometimes before I have cash in the till. We laugh and we get irritated and we laugh again. Sundays are nuts, absolute chaos, and I think we're getting a handle on it.
But we're tired. Things were fine before. Life was good. We didn't need any of this.
How long will my enemy dominate me?
On our second day of business someone wrote us a bad review and said our breakfast burritos were "obviously from McDonald's". The nearest McDonald's is an hour round trip and I guarantee you I did not get up at 4 a.m. to drive to McDonald's for your burrito, good sir. No. On that second day of business I got up at 4 a.m. to go open the store alone because my husband had worked himself into a complete physical meltdown after months and months of remodeling, cleaning, buying equipment and groceries, stocking the store and deli with his life's savings, and working 18 hours on opening day, kind sir. He could not stand upright without vomiting that morning, without the room spinning, without his heart leaping from his chest. I opened the store by myself that day—the second day of this completely different life—and I cooked the sausage and scrambled the eggs and assembled the best breakfast burrito I could at the time, sir. I'm sorry you didn't like it.
Consider me and answer, LORD my God.
Restore brightness to my eyes;
otherwise, I will sleep in death.
My enemy will say, "I have triumphed over him,"
and my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.
It's hard not to see the naysayers as enemies, God. Do they have any idea what a business like this costs us? Do they know our life was fine before all this? Do they care that we are tired and broke, that our bodies bear actual scars from this?
Tim works the early morning hours with me and then goes off to build stuff—his regular job. This week he’s been putting the roof on a shop, high off the ground, clinging for life. He’s tired and his body laments.
But I remember why we did this, Lord. I see our community using this building as a meeting place. I see them having coffee together, sharing a meal. They buy groceries here and I feel grateful, like they're doing it just to encourage us. Groups come for Bible study and moms come alone with their books and journals. I remember, Lord. This is it, and our finances and time are paid back in this way.
We are rooted down even deeper into a community we've often wanted to leave, and I keep thinking about that.
Staying has always been hard.
In Invitation to the Psalms, brothers and authors Rolf and Karl Jacobson say, "The theology of the psalms is a lived theology. It is a theology that is less about figuring out all of the best answers to tricky questions and more about living out life with other broken people, in the midst of a broken world, and in relationship with a God of loving faithfulness."
I heard Shawn Smucker say in an interview, "Writers who are writing are among the most hopeful people." I want to prove him right, which requires me to be a writer who is writing, and hopeful. The theology of the psalms is about real life, full of lamentable situations and people, and if you read them you see that they end refocused, pointed at the one broken for us. David did us a favor by writing in the midst of his troubles. Shawn did me a favor by reminding me that words put broken and hopeless people back together. Not everything is solved by writing, or accomplished by writing, or even made better by writing—especially bad writing. But waiting until the time and the mood and the thoughts coalesce, until the wounds heal into scars, only leaves the sufferers to suffer alone.
I can't think of many things I need more right now—hope; writers who are writing; poets who are prophesying; chased and shaken kings hiding in caves writing laments ending in praise. It’s been a long season of grief and exhaustion, even before we started this new business, but I’m past the stage where I thought God was wrong. I’m not quite to the part where I see all the purposes of God,
But I have trusted in your faithful love;
my heart will rejoice in your deliverance.
I will sing to the LORD
because he has treated me generously.
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January 1 // 2022
Courage in Uncertain Territory
Feeding a son
What you see