“Marilla, isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
“I’ll warrant you’ll make plenty in it,” said Marilla. “I never saw your beat for making mistakes, Anne.”
“Yes, and well I know it,” admitted Anne mournfully. “But have you ever noticed one encouraging thing about me, Marilla? I never make the same mistake twice.”
“I don’t know as that’s much benefit when you’re always making new ones.”
“Oh, don’t you see, Marilla? There must be a limit to the mistakes one person can make, and when I get to the end of them, then I’ll be through with them. That’s a very comforting thought.”
“Well, you’d better go and give that cake to the pigs,” said Marilla. “It isn’t fit for any human to eat.”
–Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables, chapter 21
Confession: I was so proud of that fire. I carefully crumpled the papers in the grate, arranged the kindling my husband had split for me, stacked on a few big pieces. All was ready to go. Struck the spark and it worked like magic. The wood kindled, the satisfying hissing and popping started…
…and the room began to fill with smoke.
Wait a minute. What’s going on?
I blew on the fire. I opened a window. More smoke, a solid mass of it in the sunlight from the window. Soon the house was cloudy. Upstairs I could hardly breathe, and a smoke detector was going off. Not bad for a fireman’s wife.
I’ve heard the word “flue” all my life but I thought it was just a nursery rhyme figment. You know, the flea and the fly and the flue. Oh, I’m a smart one, I am. I know my Mother Goose inside and out.
And it would have to happen on the night, the one impossible night I was playing hostess alone. The evening before, we’d looked at each other, aghast. Are you kidding me? You just confirmed with a client to spend all-afternoon-into-the-night tomorrow doing a major renovation on his computer systems off of business hours? I just confirmed with four families to come for dinner. As in final confirmation. Your client is driving from four hours away and you just said “we’re on.” My ladies know exactly what food they’re bringing and I just said “we’re on.”
Well, boy, let’s do this thing. You go fix computers and burn the midnight oil. I’ll prep the house, the food, and the kids and do the hosting. They’re bringing most of the eatables anyway, and we’re roasting hotdogs. The weather’s too cold for an outdoor roast; I’ll use the fireplace. It will be easier for me anyway, without all the fetching and carrying.
But nobody warned me about the flue. Nothing in any of my training had prepared me for the flue.
Smoke and more smoke! I put out the fire in the fireplace, whacked the smoke detector, and opened the house up wide.
When the first male guest arrived–my senior pastor, incidentally–he took a look, and then he called me into the living room and graciously showed me a little lever… just a little lever that swings to the side and opens the flue…
By then I had cooked the hotdogs in a skillet on my stove. But he rebuilt the fire and we all sat around it and told stories and roasted marshmallows for s’mores and were happy.
One of the things I love best about being thirty-one years old is that I can make an idiot of myself and actually live through it. Do you know what I mean? I do way dumber stuff now than when I was eighteen (mostly because the stakes are higher; I’m in charge of several people’s life expectancies and permanent happiness), but I don’t remember the last time I felt the crushing shame I used to feel regularly on the volleyball court or at a game of Rook, where the stakes existed only in theory.
Well well. One more mistake checked off my life list.
Beautifully, gently, through a series of events that are crushing in their own way, Jesus is teaching me that He doesn’t need me to be strong.
This is going to come up again soon, I can feel it… the (not) needing to be strong. If you have preliminary thoughts, I want to hear them. Are you a strong woman? Do you need to be?
And–There is never a good time to say this. But whenever I offer you anonymity on a touchy topic, I worry that you will stay anonymous. And this time it happened, a little. Please don’t be afraid. I will never ban anonymous comments (if that’s the way you find the courage to speak, please do so, with my gratitude and respect), but I–well, I have to remind you, if I may?–the more of yourself you bring to any situation, the more good power and influence you have. Be
strong brave. It’s part of my job to make it safe for you to speak, if you wish to.
What is the opposite of strong? Are you a strong woman? Do you need to be?