The story of Friday

Confession: I should have seen it coming, I suppose, with Friday being the thirteenth and all, but I didn’t. Of course I don’t technically believe in bad luck—

Have I ever told you about Our Lane?
This picture makes it look easier than it is.

our lane (2)

But that is a story for another time. Suffice it to say that the public bussing system finally rebelled; and when little Angel Boy goes to school two afternoons a week, we must meet the bus at the fire station a quarter mile down the road.

His bus driver, who had been making the run up and down Our Lane very nicely for some time, said “Well, the day D— rode with me it took her breath away coming over the top, that moment when you can’t see anything but sky.”

I laughed at him. “It’s our own private adrenaline rush. I just hate putting other people through it.”

Friday is one of Angel Boy’s days for school, pick up scheduled for 11:50 am.

We only have one vehicle, now that Our Car is on holiday. Our Car might be a story for another time as well. She sends Hawaiian postcards from Meadville mailing addresses, and we pretend we can’t see her backend sticking out of the snow over there. She’s no fonder of snow than I be.

Ryan was out on the road meeting a client on Friday morning, and the time kept ticking away. I texted him at eleven thirty to remind him of my need for the van. No reply. I called him at eleven forty. No reply. His phone has an unfortunate habit of dying when unconnected to life support for longer than a couple of hours, and my heart sank.

Alright, I said to myself. You will have to drive Our Car to the station, and take both kiddos along.

But by now I had hardly allowed myself enough time to prepare.

I went to get Angel Boy. He wasn’t on the couch where he’d been a minute ago, so I went upstairs where he likes to explore and checked every room. What in the world? I came downstairs to find my daughter laughing at me. Angel Boy had hidden himself behind the rocking chair in the living room.

And I couldn’t get within ten feet without encountering the telltale odor.

Oh son. Really? Right now?

But I can change a poopy diaper in record time (any objections to the word poopy in this context? very well, carry on), and within minutes I had him clean, dry, bundled, shod, and ready to roll. I tucked Kelly and me into our winter gear as well, against the bitter cold.

I toted the children outside, strapped in Angel Boy, opened the frozen door for Kelly, and started Our Grumbling Car to begin warming. Then I girded up my loins to tackle her exterior. Did I mention she’s been sitting in snow? I scooped that off her windshield and found a solid sheet of ice. My best efforts with the scraper did not clear so much as a centimeter. I was now down to just-enough-time-to-get-to-the-station-by-eleven-fifty. Scrape, scrape, scrape, harder and harder—and not a dent in that stubborn ice.

I had nearly resigned myself to sitting and waiting for her to thaw, bus driver or no bus driver, when a familiar blue van turned down Our Lane. Ryan was home, at eleven fifty on the dot. I may or may not have wanted to spear him at this moment.

I switched Angel Boy from car to van, shooed Kelly into the house to stay with her father, and rocketed out Our Lane.

At the station I sat. And sat. And sat.

The last time our bus driver was ten minutes late he told me “I’m sorry, I got stuck in a lane. My own.” And I had laughed at him again. But this was getting alarming, and now I found I had forgotten my phone at home: the bus system could be calling me and I would have no idea.

I’m going to wait until twelve five, I told myself, and then… Um. And then I’m going to make a new plan.

To kill time and steady myself, I pulled Angel Boy’s notebook out of his school bag—the red notebook used for correspondence between teachers and home—to write a quick note on his development. The first words I read were the teacher’s from Wednesday.

“Just a reminder. On Friday the 13th there will be no school.”

Smoke, strength and separation

“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?

 

Learning about grace

Confession: Idiocy is one of my infirmities.

in·fir·mi·ty

noun, plural in·fir·mi·ties

a physical weakness or ailment, lack of strength, a moral weakness or failing.

I often ask Jesus to forgive my sin, but where to go with my stupidity? I know He will pardon my transgressions, but I’m always suspicious He’ll let me hang for my folly.

People suffer from my mistakes! even when I commit them in innocence. And I suffer! My life can be forever changed by the thoughtless choices of 15 minutes.

…surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…

I know God is in charge, but what if I messed up His plan by doing something really Dumb?

If you identify at all with what I am saying, read over that last question a few times out loud, not like a parrot, but slowly, with different inflections. Now.

…who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree: by whose stripes ye were healed…

By the time you get to the seventh repetition, you will hear yourself, and start laughing or crying. If God is in charge, how can there be a but…? I am simply not that big.

…himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses…

Can it be that redemption of Jesus is for idiots as well as sinners? I cannot be wise any more than I can be good.

…of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption…

Today (like yesterday) (and the day before) I must place my faith in a God who carried to the cross all my weakness, a God large enough to wrap the foolishness of millennia into one perfect plan.

 “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.