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“Easy On Yourself Today”

Laura Bartnick

Washing my hair this morning, enjoying the soft, hot water rushing over my body, a message came into my thoughts, “Be easy on yourself today.”

Okay, I thought. I’ll go easy on myself and enjoy each moment. I’ll not let the tyranny of lists defeat me.  I’ll make the easier decisions today and take all-the-things-I-desperately-need-to-find-out a tad more casually.

Stepping out of the shower, then, I realized that I didn’t know what this “easy on yourself” message meant. What was I to do – not do?  Was it an ominous warning to prepare for something unkind seeping through the cracks of my family or work?

Was it a message to not blame myself if someone were to fall ill or die? I felt a rising doubt, anxiety.

Double Checking

I decided to think it over by doing a rote task. Towels from their hooks were lifted and pitched. I took the laundry basket downstairs, though carefully. Doing something that I would regret, like tripping over a trailing shirt sleeve, say, and falling down the stairs this morning, could be the reason for such a message. It could be a warning. I pulled out the shirts and pants. Spraying on stain remover, counting to sixty as it soaked in, I then began to push dirty clothes into the dryer.

This is not the washing machine, dear. The little message was showing its potential to make me neurotic! I tugged out the towels and clothing and tossed them together into the washing cylinder. Then, I switched the program to one notch lower in heat than usual.

Next, I opened and tied back the curtains on either side of our front door.  That sweet light coming through those sheer panels, the green grass, longish and wet with last night’s rain, and the boughs of blue spruce edging around the corners of the sky brought a sigh. My shoulders rolled back for the gift of a new day.

Going into the kitchen, I decided to make a banana smoothy. Just a half cup, with one small ripening banana and vanilla and nutmeg. I also started the coffee. The feelings of curiosity and wonder continued to follow me. Then, I began to feel sadness at the thought that I’ve started days like this before, only to end up “doing something real quick that needed some desperate attention” and falling into extreme anxiety for all that I was unable to accomplish at the end of the day.

Looking into my dining room, I spied my Bible and decided to read the next chapter in 2 Chronicles. It was about a very bad king of Judah, who had enjoyed a murderous reign until, as prophesied, his intestines spilled out and he died, unmourned. His wicked son, Ahaziah, molded by his embittered mother, Athaliah, only reigned one year. This was because he was slain by someone named Jehu who was anointed by God to execute judgment on that evil household. No-one mourned this king’s passing either, except his mother who went into a murderous frenzy.  I prayed, “What am I supposed to learn from this?”

Silence.

Bill called.  I told him about the message-in-the-shower to give myself a break today, so I’m trying to do that. He laughed, put in a dinner request for crockpot roast, then went back to work.

Distractions

I turned my eyes to the following chapter, how Athaliah, the enraged widow of King Jehoram, mother of the assassinated Ahaziah, set about killing the entire royal family of Judah upon learning of her son’s demise.  But, the lesser daughter of the murderous father, King Jehoram, also being the half-sister of the bad king, Ahaziah, set her stealthy wit to act against her bitter sister-in-law, Athaliah. Raised and surrounded by a conniving, murderous family, Jehosheba had married a temple priest, who became a man of God.

Yes, somehow, she escaped the family character. Yet, she had access to the palace.

When she saw that her sister-in-law was going to kill all of the royal princes, she stole away the youngest prince and hid him in a room with his nurse and then brought him to her husband, the priest.

They raised the boy for six years while the evil sister-in-law reigned her terrors.

Then the text says, “In the seventh year Jehoiada showed his strength.” Wow. I liked that phrase. It goes on to describe how the man of God had been thinking about all of King David’s swords from his mighty men stored for posterity in the temple.  He’d been thinking about God’s covenant with David’s household. Wound up, he sprang into action.

He called up all of the Levites and heads of Israelite families from all the towns. The priestly musicians came with their musical instruments used for worship and praise and other fanfare. He led all of these priests and heads of households into making a covenant together to put the rightful young prince onto David’s throne and to swear allegiance to him.

Jehoiada, the priest, warned those who were not consecrated priests and therefore prohibited from entering the temple of the Lord, not to enter because they would be put to death.  Their objective was to guard the rightful king and stay close to him or sing and play a fanfare. He told them to hold up the ancient swords, focus on their jobs, and not get too curious about what was going on in the temple. He separated the whole assembly into thirds.

One third of the assembly was to guard the doors of the temple, one-third was to guard the royal palace and one-third was to guard the Foundation Gate. All other family members were to hang out in the courtyards of the temple and shout “Long Live the King!” when the young Joash was crowned.

This is what they did.  When the wicked Athaliah heard the trumpets blowing, the people rejoicing, the musicians leading praises from all these areas, she tore her robes and shouted, “Treason! Treason!”

But Johoiada the priest instructed the commanders of the troops to bring out the woman, Athaliah, and kill her and all who followed her to the gate before she could get near the temple.  No talking, no reasoning, no arguing. After that, the people went down to the temple of Baal and tore it down. They smashed the altars and idols and killed Mattan the priest of Baal in front of his altars.

Johoiada appointed the priests to their assignments as King David had outlined and ordered, and all of the people rejoiced because Athaliah had been slain with the sword.

What a classic drama, epic proportions!

What a fun read!

The laundry calls ding-ding-ding-ding-ding, finished!  Oh, dear. I’ve been distracted.

So, the basket is filled with cleaned fabrics, and I carry it upstairs.

I see the stack of mailing boxes I’ll be needing to pick through today in order to post a set of books to a retail chain store buyer.  I compare them all and pull out the largest one from my stash in the closet.  Then, I find a pretty mailing label, but the labels are outdated.  I’ll have to edit or recreate them and get more printed. Where did I hide those suckers? If I can find where I’ve hidden the file on my computer or perhaps a thumb drive, I need to do that soon. Sigh.

Dismissing the incident, I go easy on myself.

Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

I open up my laptop, and instead of getting right to work.  I jump up. Maybe I should take a walk first? Opening the door, I feel the chill, check the thermostat, and appraise the watery street. It’s too cold and wet to walk. I shut the door and go easy on myself.

Two projects for my books eat through an hour of time, so I hire someone to help me finish each of them. I go easy on myself.

I rip out two pages from a book I wrote that has now been edited to pieces. If I give this book out as a freebie, I don’t want those pages in there.  After the pages go into the kindling pile beside the fireplace, I begin to regret the mess that I’ve made of this book. Then, I stop.

I go easy on myself.

Shaky with hunger, I pour half a bag of cheese onto an almond flour fake tortilla shell, cap it with another fake tortilla shell, and shove the plate into the microwave. When it’s melted, I slice up the quesadilla, add salsa and sour cream and down the whole thing in a moment.

What have I done? Is that the kind of eating tradition that will kill me?

Going easy on myself, I turn back to work.

I begin to collect all of the tip sheets for books on a thumb drive.  The documents will be printed out today.

When I get into the car, and round the corner, it dawns on me that I have no idea where I put the thumb drive with the cover letter to the retailer and tip sheets inside.  I say a few words about myself and round the block winding up in my driveway again. As I get out of the car, I put my hand in my pocket and realize the thumb drive’s there. Oh well, there’s a thermos of water I need from the kitchen anyway. I go easy on myself and bring the water back to the car.

At the printers, waiting for the letter and tip sheets to print, I copy the address onto the mailing label with a Sharpie, then, I tape the whole mailer together, all ten books, tip sheets, note cards, and cover letter with a packing list.

Off to the bank, then to the post office to stand in line with my retail box proposal.

Driving home, a driver of the car behind me becomes irritated.  I’m probably driving too slowly. He honks, swerves around me. and when he fires by my car, he slows way down. I laugh.

I go easy on myself and on him.

My husband finds me sitting in the parked car in the garage listening to a human interest story.

He taps on the roof of the vehicle, then he flips the lights off and on and closes the garage door.

“I just wanted a minute, please!” I shout.

Fine. Shrugged off, I finish listening to the story then steal another moment to read a Facebook post.

It tells what it means for the shepherd to anoint the head of His sheep with oil.

Apparently, the oil protects the sheep from being tormented by flies that like to lay their eggs in the sheep’s wool around their nose. The hovering flies can cause sheep to panic and run wildly. This sort of activity can ruin their meat and milk and may result in injury or death.

According to the reporter, Nicky Ellis, if the fly is successful, in a few days, larvae will hatch and burrow into the soft flesh of the sheep’s nasal passages. Wounds cause irritation, inflammation, and infection. The pain will cause the sheep to rub its head on the ground, thrash through the underbrush, and bang its head on tree trunks attempting to get rid of the intruders.

In severe cases, a sheep may kill itself trying to get away from the pain. If the sheep manages to survive, the infection caused by the larvae can cause it to go blind.

A good shepherd will mix cooking oil with four parts of each of these essential oils:

  • Lemongrass
  • Citronella
  • Tea Tree
  • Cedar

Astounded, and resonating with the baaing sheep, I collect my thermos, the receipts, my phone, and purse, and go inside.  “Sorry, hon.”  He shrugs and begins telling me about his hours at work. I listen to his stories half-heartedly, and we give each other a break.

With the story of the anointing of sheep running along in the back of my mind, I tell him that my mom called earlier to ask for a ride to her hairstylist, but that I had my afternoon squashed with this package proposal thingy I had to mail out, so I actually told my mom I couldn’t do it today.  She accepted this, and I gave myself a break from the guilt trip.

He smiles and calls me beautiful. He can be very kind.

Since I started the roast at three, it should have been ready by six.

He helps clean off the papers and notepads lying on the table in the way of our plates and water glasses. “You’re a mess,” he says.  I smile.

We eat instead in front of the T.V. and watch a recorded show together. This kind of dinner and show event is something I’m unused to doing, but it feels good.  We chat about the contents of the mailbox and make plans for next month.

A less-than-average meal, my husband is happy to be fed meat with green chili and hominy. “Did you notice this meat was a teriyaki marinade?” He pops a bite of it covered with green chili into his mouth. “I bought this.”

“Ugh! No, I didn’t notice! No wonder the dish turned out somewhat less than intended.” We gag at each other and laugh.

I go easy on myself.

He gets my inhaler when I start coughing, probably from the strange combination of spices. Recovered, we watch the mystery together enjoying a cheap date.

Like anointing oil pouring over my head, I soak up the good fortune of this man, this husband, my great gift in life.

Then, taking a gander at the published blog post I’d prepped for one of my authors, I realize I hadn’t fully edited it and it is in the public eye! I’ve misrepresented her style and quality of work. Anxiety begins to rise as I immediately begin to doctor and update the blog. There is no taking back what is published, even if it is retracted and edited, and updated. Some people have read the original.

The inner critic cries out my shortcomings, flogs my awful failures. I wonder if our relationship will survive. Then, it occurs to me that giving myself a break simply means that I forgive myself. Hopefully, she will, too.

Forgiving myself is simply agreeing with God.

Forgiving myself is simply agreeing that I mess up pretty regularly, that I don’t have enough time in the day, that my hands are too full of responsibilities, that I don’t care enough for those I should care for. And, yet, He forgave me, puts protective oils on my head, and the sovereign Lord forgives me daily!

“Going easy on myself” means allowing myself to experience that moment-by-moment feeling of not being rushed to fix one thing and then another.  After all, I can’t save the world, so my urgent efforts to do so robs me of resting in my own forgiveness.

I’m always struggling to improve myself or improve others. It’s a gift and a curse. Two sides of a coin.

“Going easy on myself” means living slowly and enjoyably in certain forgiveness and grace.  I allow myself to agree with God that I’m actually forgiven for all of my failures and shortcomings, and I will rest in a grace I’m giving myself because He’s given it to me already. That’s all.

How about it?

Go easy on yourself.

If you are an author looking for solid ideas to promote your new book, I’m going to make it a little easier on you today, too, by giving you this list of help.

Enjoy a unique day!

Laura Bartnick
Laura Bartnick is the author of BEING CREATIVE a creative and inspirational guide to entering into the Creator’s purposes.

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Ferris Wheel Vacation

By Charmayne Hafen, a short story about marriage

My legs are sticking to the seat again.  I squeeze my eyes shut and peel my thighs off the black vinyl.  They make a sucking sound and I think of the algae eater on the side of our fish tank at home.  I see its large, fleshy mouth cover a round portion of the glass.  It moves along from one side to the other, cleaning and polishing its distorted picture window.

Michael stares out the windshield, miles away from here, miles away from me.  His mouth is clamped shut, locked against anything conversational or intimate.  The algae eater is more intimate.   Does the world look as perverse to him as it does to me?  How is it the sun can burst through thick white clouds? How can it color the day with that brilliance dripping over every tree, oozing over every car, and shining the casement of every building we pass?

This time together in our vehicle is dark, dreary, and foreboding.  We’re on a weekend trip to save our marriage.  The sky should be in silent mourning, holding back its cool breeze, waiting for the end to come.

I release the pent up air in my lungs and glance sideways.

Michael has a piece of Juicy Fruit between his teeth.  His mouth moves up and down as he chews.  The movement is comforting.  It looks similar to the motion a mouth makes while talking.   Perhaps he will speak to me and feed me a few morsels of his soul.  My soul continues to starve.

My stomach rumbles and tells me the Cheerios I fed it two hours ago have dissolved and made their journey through my bloodstream.

“Let’s get something to eat,” I suggest, suddenly buoyant with the sound of my own voice.  Silence can become so thick and heavy.  Michael continues to stare at the highway ahead.  I follow the direction of his eyes and squint to see if there’s something out there  I’m missing.  Sun, trees, shiny, expensive cars, a hint of smog against the blue sky….a typical weekend day in Southern California.

“Where?”

The question comes unexpectedly.  My dazed gaze slams against it.   My eyes refocus on Michael.  “Where what?”

Deep furrows stack up across his forehead.  “You said you wanted to get something to eat.  Where do you want to go?”

I shrug.  “I don’t know.”  I can tell without looking that Michael is rolling his eyes.  Michael doesn’t know our marriage is coming to an end.  He doesn’t realize how important this trip is.  His annoying little wife is going to leave him if something doesn’t change. “Sushi.”

The furrows dig deeper into Michael’s forehead.  “Sushi what?”

“I want sushi for lunch.”

“Oh yes.  Of course, you would want sushi; especially since I hate it.  Why do you always do this?”

“Do what?!”

“Oh, now comes the puzzled look.  That’s all part of it, isn’t it?”

I enunciate each word. “A part of what, Michael?”

“This game you play.  You announce you’re hungry.  I ask where you would like to go and you pick something that you know I hate.”

I prop my bared foot up on the dashboard and wiggle back into my seat.  I’ve assumed the battle position and I’m going in for the kill.  “No,” I shake my head.  “I don’t know, because you don’t talk to me.  You don’t tell me anything; not even what you like to eat for lunch.”

“I’m not participating in this discussion.”  Michael’s knuckles turn white as he grips the steering wheel.  “I already know the outcome and I refuse to make excuses for who I am, Sam.  You knew I wasn’t much of a  talker before you  married me.”

My eyes are rolling.  I wiggle my head back and forth.  “That’s such a lie.  You did talk to me when we were dating.  The first year we were married you told me what you were thinking and how you were feeling a lot.”

“It’s easy to talk when life is sweet.”

Michael continues to stare straight ahead.  I wish he would look at me. “What are you saying, Michael?” I almost hope he’ll ignore my question.  He does sort of.

“You see that man on the side of the highway?”

I turn my head and look out the window in the direction Michael is pointing.  A guy who looks like he could be Michael’s age carries a large, orange trash bag.   He walks and stoops down, picking up pieces of trash that lay scattered along the highway.  I shrug. “What about him?”

“I’m just like him.”

Now I’m wondering why I ever wanted him to speak.  He’s not making sense and I’m starting to feel depressed.   I let out another sigh.  “The air is getting stale in here,” I reason while rolling down my window.

Michael slams the air conditioner switch off.  There’s another mark against my name today.  First sushi, now rolling the window down while the air is on.  “You’re not like that man at all.”  I’m hoping to divert his attention from my most recent offense.  “That man is doing community service for some crime he’s committed.  He’s probably on his way to jail.”

“I’m already there.”

I can’t read him.

The side of Michael’s face is a blank. “What’s that supposed to mean?”  I prop both feet on the dash, hoping to appear unshaken.  I feel a quiver start at the center of my stomach and ripple against my ribs.  I really need to eat.

“My life is a prison, Samantha. I may not have committed any crime but I’m still in jail just the same. ”

He pauses. Nothing more is said. That’s it?!  That’s all he’s going to say?!

“You see why I don’t talk, Sam?”  This time he looks at me with a smug little grin scribbled on his face.  I wish the algae eater were here to suck it off.

“Forget lunch,” I say, turning my head towards the window.  “I’m not hungry.”

“Are you kidding me?!!” Michael starts to yell. The car is slowing down and he pulls over on the side of the highway. The tank is sitting on empty. “We’re out of gas! I thought you got some this morning!”

Gas. The one thing I forgot. Great! “I’m sorry, Michael. I forgot.”

“Well, this is just wonderful!”

He won’t talk to me after he calls the Uber ride. He tells the driver he has to get a container of gas from the nearest gas station which he’s already located on his cellphone.  It’s only a few miles away. I wander around the embankment on the side of the road for awhile and then sit in the car with the passenger door open, waiting.

He is silent after he returns with enough gas to get us to the station. I notice his jaw clenching for miles.

Our gas tank isn’t the only thing on empty.

By the time we reached our hotel on the beach, our relationship is dry as a southern wind.

The world looks so small from the fifteenth floor of this Holiday Inn.  I am right now, standing carefully on the balcony of our hotel room.  This must be how the world looks to God.  We’re a bunch of ants fighting over the crumbs of life.  Maybe if I threw all my problems off this balcony, they would become as small as the dotted people and cars below me. Maybe they would just disintegrate from the force of the fall.

Michael is in the shower. He’s trying to cool off. Things got pretty heated after we passed the man with the orange trash bag.  Then, of course, the car ran out of gas.

That was my fault.  At least in Michael’s eyes. I think he sees one version of me all the time-a screwed up. I was supposed to get gas yesterday.  I didn’t.  Lisa called, and I got distracted from my errands. Michael could care less that Lisa was in a crisis.  All he knows is that we have now missed our cruise to Catalina Island.

I still say it’s partly his fault. He didn’t check the gas gauge when we got in the car this morning. I know he was tired and grumpy.  I know we were running late and that I should have gotten out of bed sooner. Still, I wasn’t the one who kept him from checking.

I suppose it doesn’t really matter anyway. 

I’ve decided I’m going to leave Michael.  I don’t really have any other choice. If I don’t leave, I’ll go crazy.  Life is just hell when we’re together.  He works at the bank all day. I talk for eight hours to cranky people who won’t pay their bills.  We come home, eat dinner and stare at the T.V. until it’s time to go to bed. Then we get up and do it all over again.  Nothing is fun anymore.  See what I mean . . . hell?

We used to like each other.  We even loved each other, I suppose.  It’s hard to believe with the way things are now.  We’ve joined the rest of the world and we’re fighting each other for the crumbs.

Michael used to write “I want you” on the bathroom mirror with toothpaste. We took some long showers then.  Some mornings he would sit straight up in bed and grab my arm. “You!” he would say. “It’s really you. I thought you were just a dream!” I would laugh and smile at how good those words felt.

I can see the ocean from where I’m standing.  It’s so grand.  So is the sunset.  It makes me sick to think of how this beauty is being wasted.  How can I watch the sky burst into flames and feel cool, ocean air on my skin when my marriage is ending?  I won’t look at the ocean.  I’ll just watch cars and people from this isolated perch.

My eyes follow a stream of cars into a large parking lot.  

To the right of the parking lot, the red and yellow neon lights of a Tilt-O-Whirl blink on. Then I notice the flashing white lights of a roller coaster and the bright green and purple sign for The Zipper.  A carnival!

I don’t think about what I’m doing.  I grab my purse just as Michael shuts the water off.  “I’m going to a carnival,” I yell at the bathroom door.

“What!?  What carnival?”

I don’t answer. I slam the hotel door shut and keep walking down the carpeted hallway.  I smile.  It feels good to leave him hanging.  He deserves it after saying that nonsense about being in jail and then claming up for the rest of the trip.

I’m breathing heavily, partly because I’m walking so fast and partly because I feel so free. Exhilaration claims me like I’ve just been let out of a dark, musty closet.  Maybe Michael and I are both in prison.

The air is cool and salty.  My skin tingles and I walk even faster.  I’m smiling at everyone I pass. Little girls, little boys hopping and skipping. Teen flocks. Young lovers. Older couples hand-in-hand. I’m still a few blocks from the carnival, but I can already smell the salty-sweet mixture of hot dogs and cotton candy.  My stomach cramps and growls.  We never did eat lunch today.

There crowd grows-the little kids now with sticky, cotton candy mouths and wild eyes, tired parents clutching balloons and stuffed animals, couples with hands locked together or arms around shoulders and waists.

I stop at a hot dog stand and take my place in line.

Plump, juicy links rotate slowly on a wheel at the left side of the metallic counter.  Ten people wait in front of me.  I feel impatient so I look around, trying to take my mind off my hunger.  My eye catches a glimpse of a giant Ferris wheel off to my right.  Bright red, blue, and yellow lights wink on and off, outlining the spokes of the wheel.  I step out of the line and walk towards it.  The hot dog can wait.  I love Ferris wheels.  They’ve always been my favorite ride at carnivals.  When I’m at the very top, for an instant, I feel like I’m flying unleashed.

There’s another line, not as long as the hot dog truck’s, for the Ferris wheel. Dinner time is the perfect time to catch a ride. I step up.

“Can I ride with you?”

Michael is standing beside me.  His hair is still wet from the shower and his face is flushed.  He must have run all the way from the hotel.  His light blue eyes seem even paler against his red skin.  I  smell the spicy musk of his aftershave.   Surprisingly, every inch of me is glad he’s here.  He remembered to check my favorite ride to find me.

“Yeah, I think that would work.”

“Good.”

We don’t look at each other.   It’s like we just met and we’re both feeling shy and awkward.  It’s kind of exciting.   Out of the corner of my eye, I  see him looking at his hands or his shoes-anywhere but at me.  I feel a chuckle rising in my throat.  “So what made you come?  I didn’t think you liked carnival’s anymore.”

Michael clears his throat.  “Well, I don’t but I couldn’t see any point in sitting alone in that stuffy hotel room all night.   I mean, we drove all this way.   It would be stupid and a waste of time.”

Why can’t he say he wanted to be with me?  Why does it have to be about wasting time or not wasting time?

The Ferris wheel stops.  We climb into a bright blue carriage with a little umbrella swinging overhead.   I slide to the middle of the seat and wish I could slide over a little further.  I don’t want to be next to him but I don’t want to look like a child. Michael slides in next to me and rests his hands on his lap.  At least he isn’t putting his arm around me.  Somehow, this makes me even angrier.  “Don’t forget, Sam,” I coach myself, “he’s only here so he can avoid wasting time.”  The carriage lurches forward and we’re off the ground.

The cool, evening breeze is stronger and colder above the beach, the waves of the Pacific. I try to focus on the bright lights of the carnival below, on the moonlight bobbing in ripples on the waves of the ocean.  I can’t distract my mind from the fact that I’m a bundle of nerves, and freezing.  Goosebumps give texture to my arms and legs.  I should have put something warmer on before I left.  These shorts and tank top aren’t made for an evening out by the ocean, what was I thinking?  Michael notices my bumps and asks if I’m cold.

No, your presence just thrills me so.  Another unspoken thought. “Maybe a little. I’m all right though.”  Michael’s tan arm slides across my shoulders. I’m tempted to wiggle a little closer. The warmth of his body feels uncomfortably good but my anger still feels too right to let go of just yet.

“I’m not in prison because of you, Sam.”

This catches me off guard.  I lose focus of my anger.   “You’re not?  I thought that’s what you meant, that our marriage is like a prison.”

“No.  It’s just life.  There’s so much pressure.”

Our carriage is moving backward, descending to the ground.  The pull of gravity, along with Michael’s words, makes me heady.  My anger evaporates with the sea spray.  I see myself tossing a few problems off the balcony at the hotel though I remain silent, almost holding my breath.  Maybe he’ll keep talking.  He does.

“I don’t like who I am anymore, Sam.   All I do is work and complain about how awful everything is.  And, I hate what’s happening to us.  All we do is fight.”  I slide closer to him and press against his side.  His hand squeezes my shoulder.

“I swore things would never be this way when we first got married.  I made a promise to myself that I would not live a mediocre life like my family and friends. So far, this weekend places us square in their camp.”

“We’re just living like a couple of algae eaters,” I say looking up at him.

Michael smiles.  I’m wishing I had my camera so I could take a picture of his face.  His smile is so beautiful and so rare anymore.  “What do you mean by that?”

“We’re viewing life through our four algae-covered windows, like our fish tank. And it’s always distorted.”

He nods his head.  “So how do we change the view?”

We’re at the top of the wheel again.

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” Michael smiles, remembering the self-help book we read together months ago.

“We are products of our past but we don’t have to be prisoners of it tomorrow.”

I nod in agreement. “We change tomorrow’s view by what we’re doing right now,” I answer.  “Wow. The world looks a lot different from up here, doesn’t it?”

“True.”

“If we threw our problems off the side of this carriage at the top, they would seem a lot smaller.”

“You’re a strange one, Sam.”  Michael is smiling again.  I love his smile even more than Ferris wheels.

“I know.  That’s why you’re so madly in love with me.”

Michael scratches his forehead.  “Yeah, I’ll buy that.”

We ride the bumper cars and eat greasy hot dogs.  Michael kisses me in the funhouse in front of a mirror that made our heads look like bloated ticks.

It’s after midnight before we make it back to the hotel room.  Michael is wide awake.  Hanging the tiny stuffed bear he won for me from his ear, he dances a strange male dance and manages to peel his clothes off, somewhat awkwardly, at the same time.

The only thing I can say for the rest of our little trip is that we didn’t quite make it to Catalina.  Missing our cruise turned out to be the best thing that could have happened.

We’re on our way back to the real world today. 

I’m driving. I’ve decided not to leave Michael. Tomorrow is Monday but I don’t think it will be the same as every other Monday.  In fact, I don’t think our life will be the same. We’ve made a new vow to change our view at least once a week.

I’ve got a strong craving for sushi and Michael has agreed to try it again. He’s talking about the things pressuring him. I’m listening. Together, we’ll break down the pressures of life with a new perspective from a higher viewpoint. Things have definitely changed.  We’re entering a new age, a fresh season and this time, our gas tank is full.

Charmayne Hafen is a contemporary issues author with Capture Books. Typically writing on faith issues for teens, her youth books and children’s books are clean reads, full of adventures, compassion, and mystery. Hafen’s writing displays empathy and redirection for marital health and the welfare of children. She holds an MA in group counseling and obtained her B.A. in Journalism from John Brown University. She is currently working on her first adult novel.

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a side of sweet potatoes, Advice, ah autumn, analysis, breath of joy, harvest celebration, Kathy Joy, rest and work, Thanksgiving hostess gifts

Rx for Rest

Harvests are mostly gathered and stored for winter by now. Unbelievably, Thanksgiving will be here soon.

We will celebrate Abundance and gather in the fruits of our farming community’s labors.

Thoughts from Ah, Autumn: Breath of Joy by Kathy Joy

Our tables will stagger under the weight of Plenty; traditions will keep us grounded during the niggling uncertainty that is Covid.

What gets lost in the thrill of costumes, bags of sweets, parties, then the whipping of Thanksgiving spuds and cranberry sauce, is the season of rest to follow.

“If we only see the harvest as a time to be grateful, we miss the opportunity to be grateful for rest, planting, and caring.”
Mike Martin

I didn’t really want to mention it, but Winter is coming – this season of sleeping bears and soft flannel; an interval of climbing in and hunkering down.

Dormant crops will slumber beneath the frozen earth.

It’s a time for rest, a well-deserved respite for planters, reapers and gatherers.

Symbolically, we’re all in the business of planting, reaping and gathering.

Seems logical, then, that we should plan for rest, and lean into it like a comfy quilt.

But we don’t.

Rest, in our industrious, git ‘er done culture, is the Last Stop on a Fast Track.

In some ways, the year 2020 has forced many of us to rest from something, open our hands, wear some masks, separate from all the parties and associations of labor, and receive something very new. Some new growth. New perspective. New value. New understanding.

Rest is too often frowned upon, equated with “lazy”.

That’s just sad. I know a woman who never tells her mother that she has been reading for hours, or drawing, or quietly designing something. It would be frowned upon.

What’s worse is, we often feel guilty for getting some downtime when there’s so much yet to cross off the To-Do List.

People who own their own company rarely get to just shut down and go to the beach for a week. Others feel their vacation time must be spent with family when they would rather explore a mountain retreat alone. Is that kind of vacation commitment more productive?

Give yourself permission to relax. Schedule down-time and honor that impulse to shut all the calling needs out. As a colleague is fond of saying, “You’re not lazy – you’re spent!”

She’s right — we’re operating on 2 cylinders and still hoping to put more miles on before bedtime.

We.

Are.

Spent.

No judgement here.

You can’t serve from an empty vessel.

Book KATHY JOY as your speaker/presenter here.

©Capture Books, 2020

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Thoughts from Winter Whispers: Breath of Joy by Kathy Joy

analysis, better together, breath of joy, Chick-fil-A, Faith, featureed, rest and work, sabbath, Sunday Lunch, trust

The Honor of Rest: CHICK-FIL-A® Model

By Laura Bartnick

As a teenager, I remember rambling with my mom through her favorite shopping mall and getting the treat of the best chicken sandwich with pickles and mayonnaise whenever we arrived at Chick-fil-A’s wait line.  It was perhaps the first “addictive” food experience I ever encountered. I asked, “Why wouldn’t they want to have a free-standing piece of real estate near our neighborhood like the burger joints had?” — And soon the pizza parlors?

My mom didn’t know the answer, but it was the first realization I had that Chick-fil-A® chose to do its own thing while the world was doing something else.

The Chick-fil-A® company history website touts, “We change the world, and ourselves, by our response to unexpected opportunities.”  S.Truett Cathy 1921 — 2014

Atlanta Georgians wondered the same thing. And, somehow, they were first in line when free-standing Chick-fil-As were built.

Shortly after opening the first free-standing Chick-fil-A in 1986, founder Truett Cathy created a new restaurant that replicated his first restaurant, the Dwarf Grill. Beginning in the late 1980s and through the early 1990s, Cathy oversaw the construction of multiple Dwarf House restaurants located around the metro Atlanta area. Designed to honor the history of the Chick-fil-A franchise, these restaurants offer sit down, counter and drive-thru service.

Truett’s Grill was originally opened in 1996 to commemorate Truett Cathy’s 50th anniversary as a restauranteur. There are now three locations in Georgia, and the restaurant has the look and feel of a 1950s diner. Truett’s Grill offers sit down, counter and drive-thru service, and features the full Chick-fil-A menu alongside Southern dishes including Fried Okra and Collard Greens.

Many people consider Chick-fil-a a household name, as restaurants and fast food joint go.  But not many people know the name of the man S. Truett Cathy, who founded the chain, or what his aim was. We may assume that to make bushels of money, a CEO must take the tact, the sky is the limit, right? Isn’t making more and more money every business owner’s aim?

Not necessarily. Not at the expense of 1) quality and 2) rest for a dab of weekly humility. So thought a wealthy man named S. Truett Cathy.

Quality

“S. Truett Cathy was a devout Southern Baptist; his religious beliefs had a major impact on the company. The company’s official statement of corporate purpose says that the business exists “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.”

“Founder Truett Cathy wanted the company’s name to reflect the top-quality customers should expect each time they visited a restaurant. That’s why he chose Chick-fil-A: “Chick” to represent our signature menu item, and “fil-A” as a play on the word “filet,” with a small twist. He replaced “et” with “A” to represent the “Grade-A” quality of our chicken.

“And while some aspects of our restaurants have changed over the years, that commitment to “Grade-A” top quality has never wavered. From the big things, like rigorous safety standards, to all the little things, like the “my pleasures,” we want customers to know – no matter which restaurant they visit – they will receive the high-quality food, service and hospitality that they’ve come to expect from Chick-fil-A.” Snagged from the landing page, “Where Does the “A” In Chick-Fil-A Come From?”

Safety and cleanliness is as popular inside Chick-fil-A, as the “my pleasure” responses of the kids and crew catering to my meal.

The Human Need for Rest

I’ve been following Chick-fil-A for almost a lifetime now. Through it all, I admit I’ve yearned for a bite of chicken sandwich after church at times, but I’ve never found a Chick-fil-A to be open on a Sunday. 

In the past few years, it has caused me to pause and reconsider Moses’ commandment to honor the Sabbath, but I’ve wrestled with that language since Sabbaths just do not make sense in a nation where commerce remains open seven days a week and sometimes all through the night as well.  And, is Sunday the new Sabbath?, I’ve wondered.

My socio-religious existence is bathed in guilt whether it be for lack of rest on a Saturday or lack of rest on a Sunday because I have found it unpleasant and difficult to buck the cultural swing and groove which makes our own work ethics and playtimes. In my culture, after an hour or two of Sunday teaching and worship, we all go out to eat and “fellowship” causing staff to wait and work for us and money to change hands. Beyond that, there are the gardens to tend and home afterward and projects to build every weekend. 

God can’t still be serious about this day-of-rest thing, can He?

Why Then, Closed Sundays?

“It’s no secret that the founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett Cathy, was a devout Christian, and the ‘corporate purpose’ on the company’s website even reads, ‘To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.’ It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, then, that Cathy’s ‘closed on Sunday’ policy originally stemmed from his religious beliefs.

According to a Chick-fil-A press release from 2009, “Cathy’s practice of closing his restaurants on Sunday is unique to the restaurant business and a testament to his faith in God. Within the first week of business at his Dwarf Grill restaurant in Hapeville, Ga. more than 60 years ago, Cathy knew that he would not deal with money on the ‘Lord’s Day.’ … Cathy believes that being closed on Sunday says two important things to people: One, that there must be something special about the way Chick-fil-A people view their spiritual life; and, two, that there must be something special about how Chick-fil-A feels about its people. Cathy believes that by giving employees Sunday off as a day for family, worship, fellowship or rest, the company attracts quality people…”

Tremendous Growth Under New CEO, Dan Cathy

A committment to rest on one full day of each week has not stopped Cathy’s son, Dan Cathy, from being innovative and successful. He has taken an unconventional, yet personal and professionally rewarding approach to Chick-fil-A leadership.

“Dan Cathy literally grew up in his father’s restaurant – he jokingly says he’s been in the restaurant business since “roughly nine months before I was born.” When he and his siblings (younger brother, Donald “Bubba” Cathy, and sister, Trudy Cathy White) were very young, their father would take them to his Dwarf Grill restaurant where they would entertain guests and perform odd jobs. Dan remembers, “Dad would give us each a butter knife so we could scrape the chewing gum (and other things) from the bottoms of each table. We would do that almost every day. It was all very glamorous,” he smiles.” – from the Chick-fil-A website’s board of director’s landing page for Dan.

The leadership at Chick-fil-A keeps a good sense of humor and human warmth, as most experience in their encounters with the organization.

Yet the Chick-fil-A description continues, “under Dan’s leadership, Chick-fil-A has experienced tremendous growth — not just in numbers of restaurants and sales, but also geographically. With recent restaurants going up in cities like Los Angeles and downtown Chicago, Chick-fil-A opened its first restaurant in the Big Apple in 2015, where the Manhattan location enjoys nearly constant out-the-door lines.

In addition to his focus on physical growth, Cathy is also a key figure in championing digital expansion through development of the Chick-fil-A One app, which held a notable reign as the most downloaded app on iTunes with more than 4 million downloads in its first three days.” 

A Servant-Leader

“Over the years, Cathy has become known as a respected leader, speaker, and influencer in the business community. He regularly shares his life lessons, business practices, trade secrets, and unrelenting spirit of generosity as it relates to leading others well. “Selfless, servant leadership is about action,” he says, “and the bottom line is that what we say and what we believe will only be as effective as what we are also willing to do.”

“To Cathy, service is not just something he does; it’s something he lives. Service is helping. Service is smiling. Service is a handshake. It’s the Golden Rule. From helping mothers with children to their tables, to refreshing a guest’s beverage, to a very simple, but meaningful “my pleasure,” Dan believes that every moment of every day is another opportunity to encourage and bring happiness to others by serving them well.”

A Renaissance Man

“At home, Cathy is first and foremost a family man. He and his wife Rhonda live on a farm south of Atlanta, where they regularly host gatherings with their two sons, Andrew and Ross and enjoy time with their three grandchildren. There Cathy spreads his time developing a myriad of interests. “Believe it or not, Chick-fil-A does not define me,” he says. “It’s a huge part of my life, but there are a lot of other meaningful things that make up who I am.” 

“A musician known to pull out his trumpet inside and out of the office, Cathy also enjoys the quieter hobby of gardening and landscaping. He’s a former competitive wrestler and lifelong athlete who’s completed multiple marathons.  A member of the “Moo Cow Bikers,” he hits the open roads on his motorcycle with friends, and he is also known to take to the skies piloting small jets. On Sundays he teaches Bible study to high schoolers.”

A Community Influencer

“Cathy’s passion for his community can be felt through his involvement in numerous organizations, including the Eagle Ranch, the Carter Center, the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, and the Georgia Aquarium. He is also a member of the Atlanta Committee for Progress, and in 2015 was awarded the Four Pillar Tribute by the Atlanta Council for Quality Growth. 

He serves on multiple boards and remains actively involved in various ministries, philanthropies, and nonprofits, including: City of Refuge, Passion City Church, The Rock Ranch, and outreach ministries that make up the WinShape Foundation, an organization created by his parents in 1984.”

A Lot of Lost Revenue

A September 27, 2016 article in Mashed by Karen Miner claims, “But Chick-fil-A doesn’t care about your desire for instant gratification — at least not on Sundays. The chicken sandwich purveyors are famously closed on the seventh day of the week, and not even a big-time food delivery service can hack that schedule.

“When a restaurant is as popular as CFA, why in the world would they close 52 days a year? It turns out the answer is a little more complicated that you probably thought.

“…The Los Angeles Times reported in 2012 that the amount of lost revenue due to the company’s Sunday closures hovered around $47.5 million. Given how much CFA has grown in the years since then, we can only assume that number has gotten bigger and bigger. Any way you slice it, whether it’s $50 million or $100 million, it’s a whole lot of money to leave on the table.

In 2019, Super Bowl LIII was played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, where CFA happens to have a location. But fans hoping to grab one of their iconic sandwiches were in for a whole lot of disappointment when instead of a delicious deep-fried chicken patty, all they could score were some french fries. That’s because Chick-fil-A didn’t budge on their policy, and Fries Up took over their space for the day, selling only french fries with toppings aplenty, which might normally be fine if you weren’t craving “mor chikin.”

“Restaurant Business says Chick-fil-A’s once-a-week closure helps in giving a “perception of limited supply,” but there are other important ways that the policy works to the company’s advantage. For one, it’s “respectable.” RB explains that it shows that the company is willing to miss out on some revenue to give franchisees and employees a guaranteed day off each week, and in turn allows the franchisees to use it as a perk in recruiting. Happier employees mean better business, right? All in all, it’s a win for the company, even if their bottom line suffers a bit.

In a brilliant move, franchise owner Carmenza Moreno decided that rather than barricade her restaurant’s parking lot every Sunday, she’d open it up to allow fans to park (and pay). “Barricading the parking lot seemed a little unfriendly and anti-community in spirit,” she explained to The Chicken Wire. But the money doesn’t pad Moreno’s pocketbook — it all goes to the groups who man the lot each Sunday. In four years, the parking lot fundraiser has generated more than $62,000 to local organizations, and if Chick-fil-A was open seven days a week, there’s no way that would be possible.”

Read More: https://www.mashed.com/25923/real-reason-chick-fil-closed-sundays/?utm_campaign=clip

Blessings Stand at Federal Law

The Atlantic covered the 2014 Supreme Court ruling on the Hobby Lobby v. Obamacare case related to the company’s religious prerogative in national forced insurance contraception here, citing also Chick-fil-A’s lawsuit regarding the company’s Amendment One prerogative regarding gay marriage.

“Chick-fil-A ‘forgoes significant profit by closing every Sunday for religious reasons, for example,’ said Chairman Amy Ridenour.  ‘If it were not possible for a corporation to exercise religious beliefs, Chik-Fil-A would be open on Sundays.’

“Chick-fil-A’s principal founder is a devout Southern Baptist, and the restaurant became the darling of the conservative movement — and drew ire from the Left — after its CEO spoke out against legalized gay marriage.

“The restaurant reference came among a chorus of conservative reactions to the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling, which exempts certain closely held companies from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky: Today’s Supreme Court decision makes clear that the Obama administration cannot trample on the religious freedoms that Americans hold dear. Obamacare is the single worst piece of legislation to pass in the last 50 years, and I was glad to see the Supreme Court agree that this particular Obamacare mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).”- Matt VasilogambrosNational Journal June 30, 2014.

Then, with the Pandemic of Covid-19. Restaurants, bars, and grills closed temporarily, and then permanently. Not Chick-fil-A.  

Every day, the lines at Chick-fil-A remain a consecutive, then multiple line for mor chikin. Except Sunday.

Seeing this on a regular basis, and experiencing the efficiency of these lines myself, praise bubbles up thanking God for His blessing over this faithful group. At the same time, I wonder how my own blessings would change should I copy this model of one full day of rest from work, with more trust in God for enough.

Today, passing by the early brunch line of cars driving through our local Chick-fil-A, I experienced another breath of joy and prayed my usual prayer of blessing over the company and employees.

Admitedly, it’s a wondering praise of a prayer for God’s faithfulness to those who consistently practice His day of rest from work, the standard of trusting a magnificent God Who’s miracles defy natural disasters, and Who obviates nationally enacted laws to bless His own.

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