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.

Sudoku

In a house with 4 kids who go to 3 different schools, weekday mornings can be hectic. Breakfast must be eaten. Backpacks must be packed. Lunches must be made. Pajamas must be traded for school clothes. The majority of my kids are relatively self-sufficient, but I still need to be available to monitor the morning progress if I want everyone out the door and to school on time. So the busyness of the morning makes completing the newspaper puzzles fairly difficult.

 

Since my older sister homeschools her 4 kids, her mornings are a little less hectic (but the rest of the day is pretty busy!). Therefore, she prioritizes her morning time and her newspaper puzzles. She has told me, “I do the top left scramble, then the sudoku, the bottom scramble, the crossword and then the cryptoquote. Brain work!!” She said that the first 4 puzzles are her prep work for the tricky and often perplexing code-breaking exercise of the cryptoquote.

 

If I do get around to completing any puzzles, I usually only do the sudoku puzzles on Mondays and Tuesdays. This is not because those are our less crazy days of the week. It’s actually because I’m aware of my limitations. The difficulty of each sudoku puzzle is noted with a number of stars. Monday is usually a 1-star and Tuesday is a 2-star. I’m just not willing to devote the amount of effort to a puzzle that’s more difficult than that. Call it lazy or call it self-awareness, but it’s true.

 

According to sudokudragon.com, the name sudokuis “abbreviated from the Japanese suuji wa dokushin ni kagiru, which means ‘the numbers must occur only once.’” Because of its name, many might assume the sudoku puzzle is a Japanese invention, but there’s a lot more to its origin story.

 

It started out as the invention of a Swiss mathematician named Leonhard Euler in the late 1700’s. It eventually made its way to French newspapers between 1890-1920. Then the puzzle showed up in an American magazine in 1979. By the 1980’s, Japan started printed the eventually-named Sudoku puzzles in their magazines and newspapers. The Japanese people love a good puzzle as much as anyone but found that the structure of their language and lettering made it difficult to construct a Japanese crossword puzzle. A number puzzle worked much better for them.

 

For those who don’t really care for newspaper puzzles, the history of the sudoku might seem as mind-numbingly boring as actually completing a sudoku puzzle, but there’s an interesting evolution to its existence and popularity. This grid made up of 81 boxes and a few well-placed numbers, has changed over the last 250+ years as it was altered by various cultures. Instead of keeping it just so, when a new group discovered it, they would look to make it better or more challenging or more universally appealing.

 

Though the name Su Dokumeans “number single,” its persistence in so many diverse places shows its multiplicity. It’s an excellent example of the melting pot theory. Learning from and sharing what we love with others can create some pretty amazing things.

Make your paths straight

If anyone is looking for me on most Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, they can find me in the preschool wing of my church. Our curriculum has a video series which we show the 3 year-olds to kindergarteners to reinforce their classroom lessons. The kids begin in their rooms, then about 15 minutes into Bible class time, they all come out to me on the area we call the “green triangle” (named after the color and shape of the carpeting in front of the television).

 

We sing a few songs, and then I ask someone to switch off the lights. [Side note: Being the Chosen One who turns off the lights is a GIANT deal. I always choose a child I know can handle the task without a) needing assistance from me which would remove me from my post, or b) run out the door to escape. For the last two years I asked my youngest son to complete this task most of the time. Knowing he was about to age out of the preschool and move on to the elementary wing, I had him mentor a few reliable 4 year-olds. It was an interesting take on discipleship and a reminder that people like to be made to feel special.]

 

Once the lights are off and the mood is set, we watch the video which shows a character who is questioning or struggling with a problem. An animated owl named Ollie overhears and offers a related Bible story to help them resolve their issues. Each month, there’s a new theme and Bible verse. Before we watch the video we practice the verse. This month it’s Proverbs 3:5—just the first part. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.”

 

I love this verse, especially when you look at the complete thought – Proverbs 3:5,6

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV)

 

Working on this with the kids helped me I realize that I learned this verse in different versions:

“In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV)

“In all your ways acknowledge Him,And He shalldirect your paths.” (NKJV)

“In all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight.” (CSB)

“Seek his will in all you do,and he will show you which path to take.” (NLT)

 

I started thinking about the difference between God “showing which path to take” or “directing my paths” and “making my path straight”.  They seem different, don’t they? The most literal translation is “make your paths straight.” The idea is clearing all obstructions and obstacles out of the way.

 

That’s not to say God doesn’t want to tell you with path to take. In Isaiah 30:21, we learn that “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (NIV)

 

But the Scriptures teach us about the versatility of God, and His willingness to wait for us and find us and know us. So sometimes He will whisper to tell us which way to go and sometimes He will remove obstacles in our path. In the end, He just asks us to trust him.

 

When I look back at the ways God has used me and challenged me, I see times when God removed the obstacles to pave the way for me to act. Upon reflection, I’m given the blessing of standing further down a road and looking back to see where I’ve been. Often I can understand a little better why the detours and the roadblocks came just when they did. God was providing me with a path made straight both by His foresight and His desire to bless me.

The lost remote

We have three remote controls for our living room television: one for the TV, one for the DVD player, and one to navigate all of the extras (Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube, etc.) It is a necessity of the fallen nature of our world that at least one of those remotes should go missing every day.

 

The AWOL remote can usually be found fairly quickly by taking all of the cushions off the sofa and throwing them on the floor. The slippery little devils love to slide down into the bowels of my sofa, hiding in between cloth-covered boards and consequently reminding me of how crumby those hidey-holes can get even though my children are NOT SUPPOSED TO EAT WHILE SITTING ON THE SOFA. (Apparently goldfish crackers can swim to the sofa all by themselves. Isn’t Nature amazing?)

 

So when my youngest son was ready to watch his afternoon “chill-out” movie, the required remote could not be found. We took out all the cushions and checked the drawers of the hutch and the TV stand and the end tables. We checked in nearby rooms—the bathroom and the kitchen—but still no luck. When we looked under the sofa and the loveseat we found naught by giant dust bunnies, an orange bouncy ball, and a broken pencil.

 

My son continued to search for the remote (his desire to seeMulan 2was this strong!), but I shifted my focus to the dust bunnies. I brought out the dust mop and the vacuum. I ridded the hardwood floors of their gray layer of filth and vacuumed the living room rug which is known to be a prolific shedder.

 

After I had the floors in “company’s coming” appearance, I stood up and glanced at the mirror hanging above the loveseat. I found the greasy imprint of a face—forehead, nose, and puckered lips—a gift from one of my dear darlings, no doubt. I put away the mop and vacuum and turned my attention to the Windex and paper towels. One thing led to another and before long I had cleaned most all of the glass surfaces in the living room, kitchen, and sunroom.

 

This was not my plan. I had planned to get a movie started for my youngest and work on supper, but something clicked inside my head. A voice said, “Enough of this madness! You must cleanse this place!” The dust and the grime I walk past all too often finally mounted up past my level of tolerance to the extent that I was compelled to act.

 

At those moments—those fanatical dusting, sorting, purging moments—my spirit gets all up in the Book of Ecclesiastes. The invisible preacher in my head starts saying things like: “Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might, for there is no work in the grave, whither thou goest.” (Sometimes the Preacher morphs into King James Version if I get really worked up.)

 

It’s weird, because the mess had been there for days but I was finally moved to act when I was searching for something else. It makes me wonder what other messes I am unaffected by, possibly because the job to clean them up or the frequency of the chaos is too great. I wonder if there’s an injustice I’ve ignored or a misery I don’t want to think about, but I’m actually supposed to get to work in that place. Maybe as I’m searching for some distraction, my eyes will be opened to a place that needs my care and attention.

No Fair!

This morning my 6-year old Ezra woke up on the grumpy side of the bottom bunk. In his defense, it was a dark, rainy Monday, and none of us were really thrilled about the 6:30 am wake-up call. But as the morning progressed, there was a definite theme to his dialogue.

 

When I grabbed a pair of socks to give to his older brother Knox (Knox has a broken ankle, otherwise he’d be getting his own socks), Ezra said, “No fair! Knox has undies and socks in the same drawer! Why can’t my socks and undies be together?”

 

I mostly ignored this question due to its absurdity and hustled Ezra to the kitchen. I saw my husband eating what I assumed was a bowl of cereal, and I said, “I thought I used up all the milk last night,” and my husband answered, “This is yogurt.” Then Ezra said, “No fair! Me want milk!” To which I replied, “But you don’t like milk.” Ezra stomped back to his room in a huff.

 

After he eventually returned to the kitchen, Ezra overheard me talking to Knox (you know, the favorite child whose undies and socks get to hang out together in the same drawer) asking him if he wanted to bring leftovers in his lunch and warm them up in the cafeteria microwave. “No fair!” Ezra cried, “Why Knox get to use the microwave? Why me no have microwave at my school?!”

 

And so forth and so on went the morning.

 

It’s comical to think of his lamenting over such trivial stuff because he’s six and most likely forgot the whole exchange by the time he stepped into his classroom. I wish I could say that 6-year olds were the only ones who flew the “Unfair” banner so carelessly.

 

As adults, we may not whine over the same topics as children do, but the whining does happen. Claiming “No Fair” often occurs after we unnecessarily compare ourselves to others. “Why does she have that ___________ (insert house, car, weight, clothes, marriage, etc.) and I don’t?! It’s not fair!” Talk about feeling as gloomy as a rainy Monday morning–that line of questioning will ruin anyone’s day.

 

Other than the negativity these comparisons create, the other travesty is that there really is rampant unfairness in the world. And the people who cry “No Fair” aren’t usually the ones with the most valid reason to say it.

 

So instead of concentrating on the inconsequential issues that threaten to spoil what could turn out to be the most blessed day you’ll spend on this planet, take advice from the Book of Isaiah and look for ways to help those whose lives truly are unfair.

 

“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.” (NLT) Isaiah 1:17