An Inconvenient Truth (or rather a truth for the inconvenience)

It’s humid this morning and it’s gumming up the works. Like the air is sliceable and we’re moving in slow motion, fighting against the extra resistance of the air.

Which may be why we were almost late to school this morning.

Or maybe it was because I’m cooking out of the trailer right now. Running the house from an off-site location.

Yesterday, I spewed forth a total Pollyanna response to someone’s compassion over our kitchen situation. It went something like this: “You know, we get really comfortable in our patterns and in our habits and sometimes we need to shake things up a bit. Sometimes God shakes us up a bit to get us acting and reacting in new ways. Cooking in the trailer takes creativity and patience and we’re finding ways to be joyful in our situation. It’s actually kind of fun.”

Yeah. That.

Was yesterday. Today, as I tossed backpacks and lunchbags into the truck and slammed the door, I believe my words were, “I’m so done with this.” Specifically done with a 12-inch by 12-inch square of counter space for cutting, preparing, making lunches, cooking breakfast, and putting dinner in the crockpot all at once. Done with leaving the kids in the house on their own while I go cook. Without my constant nagging, and yes, on certain days, it is constant, they wander off the “get ready for school” path onto the “let’s play and lollygag” path. Those walkie-talkies Joseph got a few years back… yep. We ‘re putting them to use starting tonight.

“Roger, roger, kids are you getting dressed?”
“That’s a 10-4 Mom, dressing going on now.”

Did you notice the title of this blog? An Inconvenient Truth. Do you know why that sounds familiar? It was the title of the film that catapulted Al Gore into international fame that went beyond his political career and that landed him the Nobel Peace Prize.

As I watch ¾ of my friends, of my country, struggle under the weight of snow and cold and as I feel for my mommy friends out there who are snow bound yet another day with the kids off school and as I hear the people around me stewing about our drought here in California, I have to chuckle. It’s weather. And it’s inconvenient… as is our kitchen situation. Inconvenient.

And the truth is that we really can’t make a hill of a difference.

Just finished reading the book of Job. WOW. And ugh. Page after page and verse after verse of argument and finger pointing until the heavens open somewhere around chapter 38. And God speaks up. “I’ve got a few questions for you, Job,” God says. Forgive me for this long quote, but really, this is good stuff.

38 Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:
“Who is this that questions my wisdom
with such ignorant words?
Brace yourself like a man,
because I have some questions for you,
 and you must answer them.
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much.
Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line?
What supports its foundations,
and who laid its cornerstone
as the morning stars sang together
and all the angels[a] shouted for joy?
“Who kept the sea inside its boundaries
 as it burst from the womb,
and as I clothed it with clouds
and wrapped it in thick darkness?
For I locked it behind barred gates,
limiting its shores.
I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come. Here your proud waves must stop!’
“Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east?
Have you made daylight spread to the ends of the earth, to bring an end to the night’s wickedness?
As the light approaches, the earth takes shape like clay pressed beneath a seal; it is robed in brilliant colors.[b]
The light disturbs the wicked
and stops the arm that is raised in violence.
“Have you explored the springs from which the seas come? Have you explored their depths?
Do you know where the gates of death are located? Have you seen the gates of utter gloom?
Do you realize the extent of the earth? Tell me about it if you know!
“Where does light come from, 
and where does darkness go?
Can you take each to its home? Do you know how to get there?
But of course you know all this!
For you were born before it was all created,
 and you are so very experienced!
“Have you visited the storehouses of the snow 
or seen the storehouses of hail?
(I have reserved them as weapons for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war.)
Where is the path to the source of light? Where is the home of the east wind?
“Who created a channel for the torrents of rain? Who laid out the path for the lightning?
Who makes the rain fall on barren land, 
in a desert where no one lives?
Who sends rain to satisfy the parched ground
 and make the tender grass spring up?
“Does the rain have a father?
 Who gives birth to the dew?
Who is the mother of the ice?
 Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens?
For the water turns to ice as hard as rock, and the surface of the water freezes.
“Can you direct the movement of the stars—
binding the cluster of the Pleiades or loosening the cords of Orion?
Can you direct the sequence of the seasons
 or guide the Bear with her cubs across the heavens?
Do you know the laws of the universe? 
Can you use them to regulate the earth?
“Can you shout to the clouds 
and make it rain?
Can you make lightning appear and cause it to strike as you direct?
Who gives intuition to the heart
 and instinct to the mind?
Who is wise enough to count all the clouds? 
Who can tilt the water jars of heaven
when the parched ground is dry and the soil has hardened into clods?
“Can you stalk prey for a lioness 
and satisfy the young lions’ appetites
as they lie in their dens
 or crouch in the thicket?
Who provides food for the ravens when their young cry out to God 
and wander about in hunger?

Who are we? Who do we think we are? What do we know of God? Who are we to complain? Who are we to stew, fret, worry? Doesn’t the maker of the whole universe, the One who controls the snowy storerooms and the One who directs the path of the lightning bolts, doesn’t He have the ultimate control? And doesn’t He provide?

Doesn’t He provide.

That is the truth of it all. Throughout the incoveniences of life, the salt-shaker that broke between the garage and the trailer this morning, IMG_20140124_194531_592 IMG_20140129_125338_926 IMG_20140129_130840_322 IMG_20140129_131729_852the plate of scrambled eggs left on the table, the garden shoes I’m wearing instead of “real” shoes because of our rush, the car that is in the shop, driving the truck instead, making my Compassion Tea in the laundry room morning, noon, and night, throughout all of that… I have everything I need. God’s love, God’s grace, God’s son. I have God’s promises… spring will break the bonds of the cold, will break free from winter’s prison, rain will fall and the golden state will be green again, mold will be abated, lives restored. Maybe it won’t follow our timing, but it will happen. And in the meantime, I have all that I need.

And in truth, that repaints the morning. The humidity, the tardiness, the mess waiting to be cleaned, the snow, the drought, let’s even throw in climate change… when we look through the lens of God’s control, with a God’s got this mentality, it all seems like a hamster ball exercise.

My friend has mentioned that I’ve got material for a reality show going on in my life right now. I’ve responded that I’m grateful there are no cameras. Can you just imagine. But, I can imagine God laughing in joy at his little Linda hamster, spinning in her wheel of worry and stress, loving my running, shaking His head at me, and reaching down to lift me off the wheel, to hug me and caress my heart. Dear one… get off the wheel. Let Him handle this.

Ann Voskamp

Ann Voskamp

As part of her musings on how to truly live, Ms. Voskamp suggests breathing in the scent of steaming tea. We’re thinking Compassion Tea English Breakfast or maybe Monk’s Blend….

The Constant

Moon resting on the shoulder of the ridge, street lamp underneath copying the light, poor substitute, mocker. And yet there’s something delightful in the pairing – God’s creation, Man’s attempt to light the night, imperfect and yet brilliant.

Frost on the rooftops, sweat on my brow. This early morning walk to clear the gullet, the sinuses, the brain before today’s demands awake.

The first bird of the morning flits from under a bush and makes a peep, tentative. “Is it time to get up?” it seems to query.

Across the valley, the sky is yellowing. The blue over the ridge is washing out, too. The moon still hangs, awaiting the arrival of the sun, wanting to greet the maker of its light. How lovely to be here for the passing of the giants.

Clara saw it in reverse the other night while riding the horse. Sun set across the valley, slipping down the ridge into the bay, while moon arose, full and orange, larger than life in the tricks of the atmosphere, triumphant in its artificial light. It spoke to her as this morning speaks to me.

Since the beginning of creation, there has been this moon and this sun and how many mornings and how many evenings have they passed in the sky, nodding to each other, tilting their hats in polite recognition. “Good morning, Sun.” “Why, a good morning to you too, Moon.”

It is the continuity that startles me today. While the things of life seem ever changing, ever awash, while I balance precariously on the tightrope of life, while the storms of life strike again and again at me and certainly at those around me… this is unchanging.

My unstated resolution for the year… to reread the Bible cover to cover. I bought a chronological Bible divided for just such a goal as this. I’m reading the stories of Jacob and Joseph, captivating stories, coming to life again in the holy words. Jacob, in his wrestling with God, saw this same sun. Joseph, from his cell in prison, must have marveled at the moon through the window. The same sun shone on Dinah and Rebekah and Rachel and Sarah too. And they marked their days by the stages of the moon.

The sun, it shines on little Prosy in Africa today, in Uganda, and South Africa and on the people seeking healthcare and the people serving them.

It will shine on tea drinkers, opening the morning paper, reading today’s Facebook posts from friends, heading to work, or settling into the sofa still in jammies for a morning of leisure.

It will be there later today when I drive a road that requires extra prayer. Constant, like its creator. And in that constancy I can relax; I find assurance, hope and faith are built.

Even in the parts of the world where cloud covers the sky, rise up above, soar through the clouds, and there on the other side is the sun. It didn’t disappear. It didn’t go whizzing off into space in a frightful blaze. No, it’s glory is there, behind the clouds, waiting to be revealed.

And tonight, somewhere in the sky, Moon and Sun will tip their hats in polite greeting. “Well done, friend Sun.” “Why thank you, friend Moon. Carry on!”

A Morning Minute

There was this.

A little boy in his jammies, not quite ready to sit up, jiving to his own jingle on the bar stools after breakfast. The sound of the fans kept me from hearing the words, but his little voice carried pitch above the jet engine going off in my kitchen. Such a moment of calm and joy.IMG_20140112_081805_976

Then there was this, a Facebook post:

In 3 weeks 288 orphans will load up into vans and make their way to their homes! For many of them, this will be the first time they have slept in a real bed, in a real home. The first time they will sleep in safety, not wondering if someone will attack them in the night. First time they will have 3 meals a day!

If you wonder, “are my donations making a difference?” The answer is, YES THEY ARE!!!!

Thank you!!!

From Village of Hope Uganda, celebrating the return of the students to the original campus and a group of 96 who will travel to the second campus, brand new. A school, a medical clinic, training, love, shelter, food, the beginning of life anew. How do we reconcile these words… “the first time they have slept in a real bed, in a real home.” Ever. Not just in a month or in a year… ever. Joy to be a part of that! Hallelujah and Praise God for bringing them to a home, protecting them from “someone attacking in the night.” Joy!

Then there was this, another Facebook post:

we are all devastated . One of our community children on the way home from our centre was knocked down and killed.

RIP little one

This one from 1000 Hills Community Helpers, South Africa. And pop… joy explodes, gushes from the balloon. One of the least of these. Fragile life made more fragile by want, poverty, disease, death. Fragile life found friendship, hope, food, medicine, community. And yet death comes anyway. We say too early but who is to say God’s commands are wrong. We are devastated by tragedy, by the tragic loss of young life, by the wrongness of it.

And then Jesus says, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” (Luke 18: 17)

The little one, the least of these, dancing on the streets of gold brings joy beyond measure. Sadness for the family, the community, but joy for the child embracing Jesus.

All in a morning minute.

Finding the Joy in the Mess

Took the dog for a walk yesterday.

It’s been a while. He’s had to settle for chasing balls and frisbees in the front yard… what with the flu striking the house and now the water issues. Poor dear.

We circled the block near the school and ended at the park where he could go off-leash. The boy went nuts! He was free and literally jumping… every step had a bounce. And he stopped and turned and looked at me and there was a smile on that dog’s face. Joy, covered in shag. It was uninhibited freedom and joy with a big black nose and floppy ears.IMG_20130208_115154_813 IMG_20130823_105449_287 IMG_20131019_165045_397

And I thought there’s a story here, a message. Because that is the kind of joy I seek. Right here, in the middle of the mess, joy. Over the sound of the blowers and the air scrubber… joy.

There was joy beyond compare yesterday and today, too, for my son who found a pile of gravel left over at the park. Some really big sticks and rocks and this pile of gravel and he could play for hours. Imagination working overtime, joy in the physical labor of digging a cave, body heat and the sun’s warmth pinking his cheeks. The stick is a sword, a gun, a laser beam, a shovel, a tool depending on the moment. Sand in the shoes and the pockets, grime on the hands, grit in the hair… is there anything that announces the joy of a boy so loudly?IMG_20140110_143815_362 IMG_20140109_133617_039

I delight in their joy. It brings a smile to my face and lifts my spirits. But where do I find that same kind of joy? I’m envious of the freedom dog and boy have to feel intense joy. (And maybe non-dog lovers are tilting their heads asking do dogs really feel intense emotion. I have to argue that yes joy is in their sensory data.) Where do I go for that same kind of kick-in-the-pants frolic?

Really been feeling kind of blue today. I blame it on the sound of jet engines in my kitchen, the slow drying out of my house, the tedious calls with insurance, the waiting. Waiting is my personal pariah. Not good at it. Horrible actually. Just ask my husband about the time I couldn’t wait for him to help me paint the back door, or the time I enlisted the help of the children to help me move the sofa instead of waiting for him to return home. I want action, decision, answers, progress.

And yet, funny thing. God hasn’t been content with my moping. “Look for the blessings! At least this isn’t happening over Christmas,” quips a friend this morning. Another friend texts me Psalm 16:11, “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” During some quiet time this morning, my Bible study takes me to James 1: 2-4, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing…” and to Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ….”
He’s got my attention. I’m listening. And I’m asking. Is this wet kitchen a trial, a challenge that ranks with the biblical challenges faced by the heroes of the Bible? There seem to be categories of challenges… something like this… challenges to one’s ministry, challenges to one’s safety and security, challenges to one’s beliefs about self and/or standing in society, challenges to one’s health and comfort. There must be some variation in the intensity of the challenge too. Right? And don’t challenges to one’s ministry rank higher in biblical implications than say challenges to one’s comfort?

I’m confused. We are to count each challenge as joy. I can understand how the apostles felt joyful over a flogging because they felt like they were experiencing what Christ had suffered and there was testimony in coming through it well. Not that I personally want to experience this particular challenge. But I’m having trouble finding joy in the mess that is my kitchen. And I just can’t reconcile my challenge as necessarily bringing God glory. How? No, it just seems like a major inconvenience, a distraction sent to derail me… like the plethora of distractions this fall. Kind of sick of the derailments.

The Bible study went on to talk about how we are not citizens of this world, this is not our home, we are mere travelers, nomads on earth. This is Christianese, church talk. I like it, I get it. There was that time I heard Beth Moore talk about going out to a Mexican restaurant and ordering fajitas. After the meal, she smelled like fajitas. She equated it to our lives here on earth. We are to eat the fajitas but not smell like the fajitas, be a part of the earthly world, but not act like it, smell like it, or cling to it.

And really it’s not the kitchen itself that has me upset. I know that it will all get sorted and a kitchen is just a kitchen after all and at least I have a kitchen and hot water and electricity and food to prepare. So I don’t think I’m clinging to the world; I don’t think that is really creating the funk.

Really, I’m just not sure where to find the joy and … big AND… can I come through this without smelling like the world? Can I deal with the inconvenience and the disruption to plans and the kids telling me I’m not fair because I have to choose being home to meet a plumber over going to the park and claims agents who may or may not have our best interests at heart? How do I live in the world, because this is where God put me, for just such a time as this, how do I live in this with a soggy kitchen when I’m really seeking Heaven? I have to deal with the here and now. And do soggy kitchens really have eternal implications?

Is there a 12 step program out there on how to live in the world and not smell like it?

The answer is right in front of me… in the words of my friends, in Scripture. Count the blessings. Look for them, seek them out, open the eyes. Dig in the dirt to find them. Take off the leash and jump. Count God’s gifts. Because in God’s presence is fullness of joy… not in the kitchens or the other things of this world… in God’s presence.

So, counting the blessings of today:
1. Sunshine and a dirt pile
2. Making a new friend
3. A tree full of birds
4. 3 multi-colored chicken eggs in a freshly cleaned roosting box
5. Following 3 police cars rather than being followed by 3 police cars
6. A surprise gift arriving
7. Lemons hanging on a tree
8. The beauty of sharing faith with a friend
9. Quiet time… despite the fans
10. A dog’s nose resting on my arm in companionship

And each of these is a gift of God, a little treasure He tucked into my day, moments to stop and feel His presence.

Reveling in those moments, counting them, listing them, publicly announcing them for what they are, that is how one doesn’t smell like the world. It derails the funk, turns living into thanksgiving, ushers us into God’s presence, and makes us look different, smell different, less worldly. We can rejoice in our challenges, whatever they may be, when we count the blessings.

Of Leaking Pipes and Moping Children

“Well, that just shows that you never have time for us.” These are the words out of my son’s mouth.

Him, the little one who is always first in line for a kiss, who hugs bear style, trying to wrestle you to the ground with the fierceness of his affection, him with the bright blue eyes that speak of summer skies and flying, of crystal waters and deep swimming, of adventures and calm juxtaposed in limitless blue, he who utters “love you mama” at the slightest offense on his part, the one I can always count on to take my side, have my back.

And I’m standing in the mud next to a lake in the shadows of dusk, fishing tackle in one hand, dog leash in the other. We’ve spent an hour trying to catch fish, throwing sticks into the water for the dog, exploring the reeds, and just breathing in the chill as evening settles in. We have to go home. It will be dark by the time we get home and the plumber will be waiting. Turns out we have a hot water pipe leaking under the kitchen. Mold and mildew in the cupboards tipped us off something is amiss. I don’t want to miss the plumber.

Yet, this. These words of frustration or trial or just plain mean-hearted sass. I’m blind-sided. Not fair. I want to turn hard, to force recognition of injustice, to call this one out. I want to whine like they do. Not fair.

2:37 AM. I knew I’d be awake. I had fallen asleep readily, but the idea of leaky pipes, mold, sopping insulation, changing a day’s plans, remodeling, no hot water for how long… I knew in advance that at some point these monsters of supposition, of inference, of imagination, of unknown commodities would rear up and strike at my rest. Am I doing enough, disinfecting everything in sight? Are we all going to fall violently ill? How long are we going to be inconvenienced? Who will I have to inconvenience along with me?

I can feel the knots forming around my body. In the shoulders, in the stomach. I’m hot and restless and hubby’s heavy breathing grates. This is not how to spend the night.

Ann’s book comes to mind. Find the gift, because “before the miracle comes the eucharisteo.” 1000 Gifts. Count them.

First thoughts are hard. I want to moan and complain. Maybe a little self-pity here is appropriate. Not unlike my son and his scathing, scarring words, I feel a little put out. If everything that befalls passes through His hands first, has to be approved by Him, then why. Why can’t I be left to do my work, to do my writing, my child-rearing, my wifely duties, my duties as a daughter and as a community member. Why thwart, inconvenience, alter plans?

Petulant, pouting child that I am.

But then the conversation starts. Father God. Please send us a plumber. Please protect us from the mold. The broken record of my mind skips and replays these requests.

Peace like a river? More like a slow warming, like snuggling up in a blanket by a warm fire, bit-by-bit the body responds to the warming trend, to the peace-giving. Remember that time when God gave this? Remember how He is working in that life, in that situation, look back and see the times He showed up. In looking back, I see the promise fulfilled, the peace given, the miracle delivered. Which is why we read the Bible I’m told. To remember. Through the Word, we see the promise fulfilled, the peace given, the miracle delivered… to others, yes, but to us by association, by adoption, by grace. Their stories are our stories. How many times did God’s people say, “Well, this just proves you never have time for us” when in fact the time has been taken, the way paved, the fire quenched, the lion’s mouth closed, the enemy defeated.

With the remembering and the counting comes sleep, peaceful sleep.

And in the morning as I pray again, “Father God, please send us a plumber,” the phone rings. Who calls at 6:45? It’s the plumber. And he’s coming. And no one is inconvenienced.

This will be another gift to remember, to count. With time, I hope, there will be less of the drama and more of the peace, less of the accusation and moping, and more of the rejoicing.