The Little Things

The following is an assignment I’ve submitted for a current class I’m taking. It was intended to read more as a blog post than academic writing, so I decided to actually post it to my neglected blog.

Fasting: going without

“Ok, God, give me something to sustain me!” I yelled sarcastically as I read a section from Richard Foster’s classic book, Celebration of Discipline. He wrote “Fasting reminds us that we are sustained ‘by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Food does not sustain us; God sustains us.”[1]

I was only about three hours into my fast.

I texted with my friend Yaakov throughout the day, as he was also fasting; it was Taanit Esther; I had chosen that day to fast because I knew I would get support from him.

Kelly: “I don’t know how you do this multiple times per year.”

Yaakov: “How bad is it?”

Kelly: “it hasn’t even been 3 hours since sunrise and I am getting hungry, cranky, and a little shaky.”

I went back and forth about whether or not I had to actually complete what I started. There are no rules I have to follow; this discipline is an experiment for me. I could adapt it any way I wanted. I could quit.

I am not a quitter.

Kelly: “what is the purpose behind fasting, other than God said so?”

Yaakov: “Many times in scripture you find that when people are satisfied and things are going well that they forget about God. So fasting is a sign of self-affliction to help you remember to turn to God in contrition.”

“Dinner’s ready!” I announced to my husband and kids, and started dishing food onto my kids’ plates for them to take into the dining room. My husband got a plate and said, “I’m not really that hungry.” I gave him a LOOK. I hardly spoke during dinner. I stared at Greg’s plate of pasta and meatballs, watching him twist the fettucine around his fork. My older son noticed. “Why are you just staring at Dad’s plate? Why aren’t you eating?” I reminded him I was fasting today. He went on with his meal. I got up and made a sandwich to go since I had to take my son to basketball practice later, and my fast would end as the sun slipped from the sky at 6:52 p.m. The facility has a concession stand and asks people not to bring in outside food, but I wasn’t interested in concession stand food, nor in paying the exorbitant prices for it.

One hour to go.

Yaakov: bon apetite

Kelly: two minutes!!!

Kelly: mmmmmmmmmmm

I don’t think a roast beef and pepperjack cheese sandwich ever tasted so good, and I paid  $1.75 for a Twix candy bar.

Gardening: lessons in death and life

When I discovered that gardening and running were the activities I had for number six, I felt a little deflated. At 42, I know full well that gardening is not a skill nor an interest I have, and I have absolutely, without a doubt, hated running since I was a child. Of the two, I prefer plants over running, and since it is not the optimal time to attempt to garden, I bought a bamboo plant because supposedly it is something that is easy to keep alive. I even bought it plant food.

I have never kept a garden, but my backyard used to be beautiful; in its prime, it looked like a scene out of a flower catalog and had been on the local garden tour, but when we moved in, years of neglect and overgrowth hid the way it once was. Every spring and summer I trim branches, tear out weeds, and attempt to make it look somewhat nice again. It is a lot of work but with it comes surprising lessons.

My favorite part of the yard is the lilac tree outside my sunroom door. When it is in bloom and the weather is nice, the heady scent drifts in through the screen. The first year I trimmed it back, I was afraid. I knew trimming was supposed to be necessary for growth, but I also did not want to inadvertently kill it. The next year, I was amazed to see new growth; branches sprouting from near the bottom, where I hadn’t trimmed anything. They didn’t bloom, but they hold the promise and hope that they will someday. My bamboo plant has some brown leaves, but it does appear to still be alive. It is strong and resilient, but still needs care and maintenance. It cannot get through life in a solitary manner.

Journaling: regular maintenance

“Have you journaled lately?” Robert, my senior pastor, asked me the other day, after I had stood quietly in the office, my head against the window, looking out into the empty parking lot as the rain trickled down from the gray sky. We were not under a shelter-at-home mandate yet, but we had decided to cancel all in-person activities.

“No.”

“Maybe you should, so you can process what you’re thinking and feeling about all of this.”

I knew he was right, but I cannot find the energy to journal, which, for someone who has journals going back to the fourth grade, says something. It says I do not really want to face everything that is happening and what it makes me feel.

It is a time when spiritual practices are perhaps more vitally important than any other, yet also a time when it becomes easy to forget about them, especially with schedules and routines all out of order. When it is difficult to know what day it is, it is even harder to implement any new practices. In this time, I’ve relied more heavily on my “Sacred Space” guided prayer app; I use this regularly each morning when I have my coffee in the sunroom. While it is still dark, I can sit in the silence, one hand warm from the mug, the other tapping “next” as I move through the prayer.

Spiritual practices have different dimensions and will work differently in people’s lives. Sometimes, we need the “big” ones, other times, something simple and regular to hold onto in the midst of life’s uncertainty, and always, we can learn about life and resurrection being revealed in time in the little things, after deprivation, pain, and death.

 

———————-

[1] Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, 20th anniversary ed., 3rd ed., rev. ed. (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998), 55.

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