Alarming

I can’t think of anything more confusing than suddenly being awakened from a deep sleep in the middle of the night, unless it’s suddenly being awakened from a deep sleep in the middle of the night while you’re away from home, sleeping on a pull-out sofa in a strange hotel and the fire alarm is blaring up and down the halls.

 

This was my recent experience, and I’m still recovering from it. Our 9-year old’s first response was “I didn’t do anything! It wasn’t my fault!” which it wasn’t, but I sure would like to know what he was dreaming about at 1:45 am. This information might be very revealing.

 

My husband, our two sons and I hopped up and threw on shoes before shuffling down the stairwell with the rest of the hotel’s sleepy occupants. We all stood in the parking lot, huddled in groups and waiting for the fire trucks to arrive. To entertain myself, I played a favorite game of mine which I call “Look How Everybody Thinks Differently.” Though it was a chilly 40-something degrees, several people were wearing only shorts and t-shirts, and some were even bare-footed. Others had jackets or blankets draped over their shoulders. One couple emerged outside fully dressed and pulling wheeled suitcases toward their car. They are my first suspects in The Case of Someone Pulled the Fire Alarm. Some joked, others fumed, but most seemed to assume the alarm signified no real threat to any of us.

 

The fire truck arrived with only lights flashing and no siren, a sign that this was going to be speedily resolved and we’d be happily snoozing away in no time. But moments after the alarm was turned off and we were back in our room, the alarm started back up again. Beeeeep, beeeep, beep it repeated every 25 seconds, followed by a 4 second break, a more clipped beeep, beep, and then it started all over again. (I know this because I counted.) More than an hour after it began, the alarm finally stopped and, if we could also stop the residual ringing in our heads, we could fall asleep.

 

It seems we’ve become overly comfortable with alarms. More often than not, we ignore the warnings because they come way too frequently, or we find that it’s easier to assume that it’s just a drill. Murder hornets and melting icecaps. Wildfires raging in California and derechos blowing through the Tennessee Valley. Widespread racism, harassment in the workplace, child abuse, identity theft…I could go on and on, but it’s too depressing and I might have to curl up in a ball, making it really difficult to type.

 

Reading the Bible gives me insight about being watchful but in a way which won’t drive me to the fetal position. 1 Peter 5 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (NIV)

 

I see four steps to follow as I attempt to up my Watchfulness Game: 1) From a place of extreme humility, acknowledge that God is in control. 2) With the knowledge that this All-Powerful God cares for me, transfer my worry to His mighty and capable shoulders. 3) Realizing that the devil is watching and ready to pounce, be equally as alert. 4) Sustained by my faith and backed by an army of fellow believers, refuse to follow the devil.

 

With God’s help, I can be prepared and watchful without giving up the peace He promises.

Warp and Weft

I’ve been doing a little sewing lately—a set of curtains, hemming a couple of skirts, and, of course, cloth masks. Fabric is one of those things that most of us take for granted—the cotton that makes the threads that makes the fabric that makes that favorite shirt you love so much so you never put it in the dryer. But if you look closely at the fabric, you can see a miniature kingdom of order and uniformity, tiny stitches going one way and tiny stitches going the opposite way. Longitude and latitude of warp and weft.

 

Imagine a loom being prepared for weaving: Yarn stretched taught in vertical lines, followed by shuttles of yarn woven in and out creating horizontal lines. To determine which set of thread is warp and which is weft, you must hold it in your hands and stretch it. If you pull on the fabric one way, there is very little stretch. If you turn it and pull the opposite way, the fabric gives. The stronger set of threads is the warp, because they were designed to withstand the tension of the weaving process.

 

I’ve always been interested in the character of strong, courageous people. What is it about their backgrounds that make them this way? Was it the resilience cultivated in them after some childhood tragedy that made them the “warp” of their families? Or did they learn this strong moral code from watching the Giants of Goodness who walked among them as they grew up? When the “weft” around them stretch and change colors like a chameleon according to current opinions, the strong stand up for what’s right even when it’s not popular, but how did they get that way?

 

The phrase “Be strong and courageous” is used four times in the space of one chapter in the Bible. Flip to Joshua 1 and you’ll see why. Moses, the Israelites’ revered leader, has died and General Joshua is taking over. They are about to battle against nation after nation, and they need to be reminded how to be the “warp”.

 

Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. (vs. 6) Be strong and very courageous. (vs. 7) Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. (vs. 9) Only be strong and courageous! (vs. 18)

 

Sometimes I also need to be reminded about the strength of my own design. I was woven with a warp and weft, strengths and weaknesses. There are times which require me to give a little and be flexible, just as there are times when I need to stand firm. Either way, we can heed the words given to Joshua: “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Roller Coaster Ride

You inhale deeply as you approach the wooden archway. A voice from the speaker above you and to your right is midway through its recording: “…so ride at your own risk. Only you know your limitations.”

 

You pull the corners of your mouth into a forced smile at the child who stands beside you. She has asked you to join her on this journey. It would be pure cowardice to retreat.

 

Together, you weave through the maze of metal fencing to find your place in line. The bars are painted a dark red. Shallow scratches and deep gashes in the paint show the original steely gray underneath. You rest your palms against the horizontal bars at your waist, but pull them back as you consider all of the sticky, sweaty hands that have blazed this trail before you, pioneers in tank tops and athletic shorts.

 

You glance at your child who stands shoulder-to-shoulder with you. You notice that you are eye level now. When did she get so tall or when did you shrink? She leans her back against the bar behind her, looking carefree and relaxed. A clattering sound rumbles over your heads, followed seconds later by deafening screams, and then both sounds are gone in a rush of air.

 

You shuffle forward a few feet. Conversations circle around you. Small children whine about the wait. Mothers remind them to be patient. A girl braids her friend’s hair into a long, tight rope. You turn away when you see a young couple embrace—too much affection in such a confined space.

 

Finally, you see the loading area. You watch people—brave souls just like you—as they board the cars. You fight the urge to salute them and their bravery. The affectionate couple from before is seated and both of them look nervous.

 

“I’m a little scared,” your child says quietly. You fake enthusiasm and confidence. You tell her, “Ah, come on. It’ll be fun. I promise.”

 

The cars return with their windswept occupants, smiling broadly. You wonder if their smiles are from joy or relief or both. Either way, you are encouraged that they returned without injury.

 

Your child slides into the car and you follow her. You attempt to steady trembling hands as you buckle the thick seat belt and pull down the padded bar. The bored, teen-aged park employee walks past each pair and tugs at their restraints. Internally, you question the extent of the training that allows him to operate this giant death trap.

 

It’s too late to turn back now. The cars rumble away slowly, teasing you with their nonchalant speed. You know this is a trick. You know this ride is designed to rattle your fillings and challenge your bladder.

 

The car climbs the steep hill with a repetition of clicks. At the top of the hill, you have only the briefest moment to assess the situation. In that moment, you calculate the risks and search your memory bank for any relevant news stories of crashes and negligent park staff. Then, you fall. The rapid descent lifts you ever so slightly from your seat. Your heart races and your stomach drops.

 

You chance a look at your child next to you—her eyes shut tight and her hands thrown into the air. She smiles. You scream. You find that you are grabbing her arm, involuntarily. The fear you felt before for your safety has been transferred to fear for hers.

 

When the ride is jerked to an abrupt end, you step out of the car and onto the platform with shaky legs. “That was fun!” your child says, as she bounces up and down with the release of pent-up energy. “Wanna do it again?” You manage a weak smile in response.

 

The endless recording continues as you exit the archway: “Only you know your limitations.” You chuckle at the thought of fully knowing something as fluid as your limitations. You follow your child away from the ride, watching her long legs manage a smooth, assertive stride and you wonder where this confidence comes from.

 

Suddenly, you wake up. It was all a dream. You’re not at an amusement park, but safely in your bed. As you examine the feelings of riding those ups and downs with your child, you realize that it’s May and your child is graduating from high school. Eighteen years of being her mom, and then this. Though there are giant question marks looming overhead as big as thunderclouds which seemed to be raining down their periods in the form of hail stones, you know there are sunny days ahead, just as you know that you are the proud parent of a Class of 2020 graduate.

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.

Forbearance

Scottish-born author Robert Louis Stevenson was no stranger to being stuck at home. Although he was an acclaimed travel writer and author of some of the 19th century’s most exciting works of fiction—Kidnapped,Treasure Island, and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde—almost all of his 44 years were spent suffering through sickness. Just like his mother and his grandfather, Stevenson continually nursed a weak chest and a persistent cough. He nearly died several times, barely surviving particularly cold winters or after making long voyages.

 

In his poem “The Land of Counterpane,” it’s easy to imagine Stevenson as a weak, sickly boy as he writes: “When I was sick and lay a-bed/I had two pillows at my head/And all my toys beside me lay/To keep me happy all the day.” He had to learn how to find contentment and entertainment while confined to his bed.

 

Though Stevenson was raised by devout Protestant parents, he later proclaimed as a young adult that he was an atheist, telling his father that he couldn’t continue to live a lie. In his final years, Stevenson retired to a Samoan island where he hoped the warmer climate would improve his health. During those last four years, his feelings about religion seemed to change. Stevenson wrote Prayers Written at Vailima, a collection of devotions meant to be read at various times of the day. One of these prayers is simply called, “For Success.”

 

“Give us grace and strength to forbear and to persevere. Give us courage and gaiety, and the quiet mind. Spare to us our friends, soften to us our enemies. Bless us, if it may be, in all our innocent endeavors. If it may not, give us the strength to encounter that which is to come, that we may be brave in peril, constant in tribulation, temperate in wrath, and in all changes of fortune, and down to the gates of death, loyal and loving to one another.”

 

In spite of how his late-19th century wording might fall on modern ears, something about this prayer especially resonates now. This man with all his unfortunate flaws and unique talents and the tragedy of his battles with sickness and seclusion, can speak to us in these extraordinary times.

 

One word in particular stood out to me—forbearance. It’s not a word I use in regular conversation, but desperate times calls for descriptive vocabulary. I’m already in the practice of daily praying for patience, but now I pray for forbearance. It’s a word with more weight, like the thud of two feet being planted in place to prepare for the attack of an opponent. To forebear is to abstain, to bear up against, to control one’s feelings. There’s a sense of delaying, of waiting, and in the waiting, an endurance. I can imagine a young Robert, lying in bed with toy soldiers and books carelessly thrown around him on the sheets. He looks out the window and sees a world he misses. He wonders what lies beyond what he can see, both down the street and in his future years. A century and a half later, these are my thoughts, too.

Tag team

When my twin daughters were newborns, they kept me moving. Seeing as how they were helpless in every way, there was always something to do for them. After a few months of being their mom, I realized something funny—they mostly alternated in their fussiness. One would be happily staring into her blurry void, a slobbery, toothless grin plastered on her face, while the other one would be screaming bloody murder. Then, a few hours later, they would change it up. Happy Baby would morph into Grouchy Baby and Angry Baby would switch to Cheerful Baby. It was as if they were professional wrestlers, tagging in and out of the ring (where I was the all-time opponent).

 

This memory about my now almost 18-year old daughters recently surfaced to my mind as we were all quarantined together. I noticed that all of the people in our home have been alternating in their emotions. One of us would begin to feel hopeless and scared about the virus and the shortages and the cancelled events, but not all of us felt these emotions to the same extent at the same time. Slowly, the frightened one would breathe deeply and pray silently, and the wave of nauseous panic would subside. Without verbalizing it, we were tagging in and out. It was as if we were announcing, “It’s my turn to cry in the bathroom, so ya’ll hold down the fort and play a few hands of Skip Bo like we’re just on Spring Break, without a care in the world.”

 

1 Corinthians 12 talks about this idea of all of us coming to the table with different strengths and weaknesses, different skills and challenges. The Apostle Paul uses the analogy of a body:

 

“Yes, the body has many parts, not just one part. If the foot says, ‘I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,’ that does not make it any less a part of the body. And what would you think if you heard an ear say, ‘I am not part of the body because I am only an ear and not an eye’? Would that make it any less a part of the body? Suppose the whole body were an eye—then how would you hear? Or if your whole body were just one big ear, how could you smell anything? But that isn’t the way God has made us. He has made many parts for our bodies and has put each part just where he wants it. What a strange thing a body would be if it had only one part! So he has made many parts, but still there is only one body.  And some of the parts that seem weakest and least important are really the most necessary. If one part suffers, all parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. Now here is what I am trying to say: All of you together are the one body of Christ, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it.” (TLB)

 

We were never meant to be alone—just a pinky toe or an earlobe, disconnected from the body—and this is more true now than ever, even if it might be more difficult to practice in our current situation. When I alternate in the peaks and valleys of the next weeks and months, I’ll need to be encouraged by the strength of the part of God’s body (or person) at the opposite side of the curve. Then, when my strength has been renewed and I can mount up with wings like eagles and run without being weary or walk without being faint, I’ll be able to be that source of encouragement to others.

Bad Luck

The past couple of weeks have been pretty hectic around the Rosser house, and most of that bad luck has been aimed at me. Sickness and doctor’s appointments, broken clothes dryer and backed up sewer line. (FYI: I’ve realized that a working sewage system is one of the things I most take for granted.) It’s been weeks of mopping and wet/dry vacuuming and remembering to take my antibiotics. To add to my misery, the check enginelight just came on and my van is shaking like nobody’s business, so now I’m without my handy-dandy minivan until they can fix the problem.

 

I’m a glass half-full kind of girl, so I can spin a lot of things toward the “it could’ve been worst” zone. What if the sewer line had backed up while we were gone for Fall Break? That would’ve been a disaster! What if the check enginelight came on while I was with my daughter looking at a college out of town? We would’ve been stranded in the middle of Arkansas! And of course, I can always tell myself, “Stop whining! Even with a basement covered in sewer water, you’re still a million times more fortunate than most of this planet. If you have a clean mattress to sleep on, know how to read, and eat vegetables every day, you are richly blessed!”

 

Even with that kind of pep talk, this much bad luck this close together might still find a chink in my optimism armor. That was the day I got a tag on the trash can telling me I didn’t put it out before 6:00 am, in time for pick-up, even though I had it out the night before. The reprimand was such a little thing, but it pushed me over the edge. “Are you kidding me?!?” I wanted to yell to someone in charge.

 

When you’re feeling like you’re in the middle of one of those frustrating movies where everything goes wrong for the main character to the point of absurdity, go to the Book of Psalms. They get you there.

 

The world has just recently lost the very insightful Eugene Peterson, pastor and author of The Message. His paraphrase of Psalm 73 makes me think he understood a little about bad luck, just as the original author—Asaph, the leader of King David’s choir—must’ve also experienced some fairly awful days.

 

“What’s going on here? Is God out to lunch?Nobody’s tending the store.The wicked get by with everything;they have it made, piling up riches.I’ve been stupid to play by the rules;what has it gotten me?A long run of bad luck, that’s what—a slap in the face every time I walk out the door…Still, when I tried to figure it out, all I got was a splitting headache, until I entered the sanctuary of God.Then I saw the whole picture…When I was beleaguered and bitter,totally consumed by envy,I was totally ignorant, a dumb oxin your very presence.I’m still in your presence,but you’ve taken my hand.You wisely and tenderly lead me,and then you bless me.” Psalm 73:11-24 (The Message)

 

On those Bad Luck Days, I yearn to see the whole picture, to see how it all fits together and why it’s still important for me to hunger for righteousness. In the meantime, I’ll just hold God’s hand and allow Him to bless me, even if I can’t always discern the blessings from the bad luck.

The day the lights went out

One mid-morning last week the power went out at our house unexpectedly. There were no storms or other obvious reasons for the outage. I was unloading groceries from my van and then, with a click and a fading whir, everything just stopped. I waited to see if the problem would be remedied quickly and magically and without my assistance, but nothing happened. I checked the breaker box and saw that all of the switches were facing the correct direction (that’s the extent of my electrical expertise). I stepped outside to listen for any noises associated with electricity coming from neighboring homes—HVAC systems humming, garage doors screeching. All was quiet.

 

I finished unloading my groceries, grouping items requiring refrigeration together so that I could sneak them into my dark refrigerator stealthily to let out as little cold air as possible. Then I called the electric company to report the outage.

 

I never do this. I always expect someone else to make the call when the power goes out, but this time I started thinking about how few people are home on a Monday at 10:00 am and how none of our neighbors might even know that the power went out.

 

Another thought which crossed my mind was how foolish it would be for me to sit down at my kitchen table and twiddle my thumbs while I waited for others to take steps to get everything turned back on. Additionally, how foolish it would be to assume the electric company would act if no one alerted them to the problem.

 

When I called, the friendly electric company employee seemed surprised by the outage and told me that no one else had reported any issues. An hour or so later, everything revved back up, including the lights in all of the rooms I had earlier entered and automatically flipped on the switch even though I knew the power was out.

 

I moved from room to room, turning off lights and changing the time on the flashing digital clocks. (Side note: I forgot to change my husband’s alarm clock and the next morning he woke up at 4:20 am, showered and dressed and drove a mile before he realized it was an hour earlier than he thought. Oops!)

 

There are times when an issue rears its ugly head and we must report it, when bad behavior or unfair treatment must be dealt with. Ignoring the power going out wasn’t immediately a problem for me—it was warmish in the house and I didn’t have anywhere pressing to be so the garage door could stay open for a while—but it would’ve become a major issue eventually. When my food began to spoil and the night grew cold, I would be forced to act. Unless I was planning to become Amish, forsaking all electricity, I would have to take steps toward correcting the situation, even if I was limited by my own power and skill to completely rectify the problem.

 

We face life-altering dilemmas every day and the complicated enormity of these problems tempt us to ignore them. But we can’t sit at our kitchen tables and twiddle our thumbs, assuming others will make the call. We need to draw clear lines and act when those lines are crossed. There’s no good reason to sit in a cold, dark room or to let others do the same when we have the ability to get the lights turned back on.