Balance

It took nearly four years to bring our adopted son home from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. During that time, I was constantly searching for information about his home country. Did the Congolese President mention adoption at his latest news conference? What were those protests about and was anyone hurt? What illness was affecting the people there? I got in a habit of turning on the radio every time I walked in the kitchen. I wanted the news running in the background so that I could catch any bits of information that I might have missed online. My ear was tuned to pick up certain words: Congo, Kabila, Ebola.

 

Now that our son has been home for four years, I realized that I still turn on the radio while I’m in the kitchen. It’s routine, like flipping on the light switch. But listening to the news I hear on the radio now is too much to absorb for hours at a time. While it’s important to stay informed, I can’t listen to the number of deaths and job losses all day long. It’s not right to turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the misery of others, but it’s not healthy to swallow that darkness in such big gulp-fulls. I decided I would allow myself thirty minutes of news radio, and then switch to music for the rest of the day. I would limit social media as much as possible, choosing instead to sit in the sunshine (when available…Thank you, Jesus!) and watch the squirrels and birds in my yard. I was searching for balance.

 

Another way I’ve calmed my anxiety has been through crocheting, picking up my crochet hook and yarn during this time of social distancing. For years, I’ve enjoyed making afghans for friends, but it’s become a new form of therapy for me now. I decided to use the various balls of yarn from old projects to make a granny square blanket for one of my daughters who’s going away to college next year. Instead of making separate squares that would be joined together like a quilt, I chose to make one giant square that would change colors for each row.

 

I began with red yarn in a tiny ring that grew into four little clusters, then a little larger ring of navy, followed by another ring of mustard yellow. Little by little it’s growing, but the rings can only be made one cluster at a time, and those clusters can only be made one stitch at a time. At the beginning it seemed daunting: How would this little stitch become large enough to cover a bed? How long would it take? Though the beginning rings were smaller and took less time to make, they seemed more difficult because I couldn’t see what design was forming. Now that it’s a big enough square to just cover my lap, I am encouraged. Now I see that I can complete it as long as I stick to the plan—one stitch at a time.

 

It’s like this period of quarantine—months made from weeks, weeks made from days, days made from hours, hours made from breaths…one breath and then another and then another. Look for the balance you need to take this season one day at a time. The author of the Book of Ecclesiastes understood this kind of balance when he wrote: “There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth: a right time for birth and another for death, a right time to plant and another to reap, a right time to kill and another to heal, a right time to destroy and another to construct, a right time to cry and another to laugh…” (The Message Bible)

 

He also reminds us about enjoying TODAY: “Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange for the hard work of staying alive. Make the most of each one! Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily! This is your last and only chance at it…” (The Message Bible)

Fed by ravens

The prophet Elijah sat next to a brook, watching the water level lower and waiting for his next meal delivery. Ever since he told King Ahab that there would be no rain and God sent him to the brook to await further instructions, Elijah had been fed by ravens each morning and evening with bread and meat hanging from their beaks. I can only imagine the waiting and wondering as he sat next to that shrinking brook. Left to the solitude of his camp, did he replay what he had said to ruthless King Ahab over and over in his mind? Did he continually pinch himself to wake up from the strangest dream he’d ever had?

 

Once the brook was completely dry, God gave Elijah instructions to move on to the village of Zarephath. He was told to find a widow there who would feed him. He found her gathering sticks to light a fire and cook her last bit of flour and oil. She told Elijah her plans to make her final meal for herself and her son, and then they would die of hunger. But Elijah urged her to give him the last loaf of bread and trust that God would provide. No doubt he still had the taste of the raven-delivered bread on his own lips as he told the woman that she could trust God. Then he promised her that the oil and flour wouldn’t run out until the rains returned.

 

Elijah went on to Mount Carmel and called for a showdown with the 450 priests of Baal. He built an altar and had them do the same. Then, in the presence of King Ahab, he told the priests that only the True God would be able to send down fire to light it. The priests of Baal cried and screamed and cut themselves, but nothing happened. Elijah, the lone Prophet of God, mocked them and called for everyone to gather around to see what a Real God could do. He asked for water to be poured on the altar, soaking the wood and flowing into the deep trench that had been dug around it. Then he prayed to God. He said, “Lord, please act so that these people will know what I know about You.” God sent fire, and it consumed the sacrificed bull, the wood, and the stones. It even licked up the water in the trench. The people turned on the priests of Baal and slaughtered them.

 

When King Ahab reported to his wife, the cruel Queen Jezebel, what had happened, she sent a message to Elijah that she would kill him. Elijah was afraid and ran. Hopeless and miserable, he plopped down in the desert, ready to die. God sent an angel to feed him and sent him on to Mount Sinai, a 40-day journey. Once there, he found a cave and spent the night. Then God asked him, “What are you doing here?” Elijah explained that he had served the Lord faithfully, but he had nothing to show for it. The people still broke all of the covenants God had made with them. He was the only prophet left, and they were trying to kill him, too. Then God sent him to stand on the mountain.

 

“And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.” (NLT)

 

Then God asked him again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

 

I can’t say why God asked Elijah this question two times in one chapter. I do know that when God asks a question he already knows the answer. Is it rhetorical? Is God saying, “You ran away because you were afraid for your life, but do you remember what I did on top of Mount Carmel? Do you remember the flour and oil that replenished itself from thin air and the angel that brought you food in the desert? And how about those ravens?”

 

This is my time to remember when I’ve been fed by ravens. I need to focus on the times when God has provided for me. When Elijah had a belly-full of God’s provisions, he was able to stand up to 450 angry pagan priests. I may not get an answer like he did on that mountain—mighty fire sent to burn an altar—but I may get the response he got on a different mountain. Heaven knows I have the time to listen now, Lord, so open my ears to hear your gentle whisper.

The 2020 Rosser Games

It feels like everything has been turned upside-down: We’re wearing masks and gloves to the grocery store. Adults are worried about their jobs and kids are missing their friends. Our elderly loved ones are more lonely than ever, as they’ve been isolated from family and others who might unintentionally make them very sick. And people are talking about toilet paper way more than they used to.

 

For my family, the loss of sports has been a big blow. It’s been so bad that I recently walked in the living room only to see the menfolk intensely watching a rerun of a competitive cup-stacking competition on TV. They’re especially sad that the Olympics have been postponed, so we decided to use the week of Spring Break to stage our own Olympic-type games—The Rosser Games. (Cue Olympic theme song.)

 

There were eight of us, so we decided to divide into 4 teams with an adult and child/teen on each team. Then we became the following countries: The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Isle of Man, Greece and Argentina. Though the teams were picked at random, it was clear from the outset that the Isle of Man team was stacked with the most athletic kid and the most athletic adult. (Note: I wasn’t on that team.)

 

Our first competition was a Backyard Obstacle Course. There was jumping and running and crawling and kicking and throwing. Next came Driveway Bowling. This consisted of 10 various plastic bottles we pulled from the recycling bin and placed at the bottom of our sloped driveway. Then, the bowler stood behind a chalked line further up the driveway and rolled a soccer ball, hoping it would curve and eventually careen into the bottles.

Over the following days, my husband (the Games Commissioner) planned more games. We played Frisbee Horseshoes (where we tried to get the frisbee as close to a stake in the ground as possible with extra points awarded for hitting the stake), Foosball, Stair Golf (a cup was taped to the carpet at the bottom of the stairs and the golfer stood on the landing and attempted to putt a golf ball into the cup), Bocce Ball, and Football Toss (my son wanted to do an egg toss but I wasn’t going to waste any eggs). Our final game was Bounce Off, a game from Mattel that we have had for years but never really played much before. You sit at a table and bounce ping-pong balls into a plastic grid, trying to replicate the pattern on a card. We were surprised by how intense the competition got! If we had had sports commentators, they would’ve waxed eloquently about celebrating the unbreakable human spirit and the tragedy of defeat.

It was no surprise that Isle of Man came out the victor at the end of the week. They were first in all but two events. In lieu of medals, their awards will be coming via Amazon in a few weeks—a 3’x5’ flag of their adopted country.

 

The Rosser Games were the embodiment of one of my oft-repeated mantras during this time of quarantine: “We just have to make the best of it.” This isn’t what we wanted for our Spring Break, but it’s better than competitive moping. Maybe those imaginary sports commentators were right, maybe there is something about the unbreakable human spirit to celebrate.