Wasp Watcher

This bug – probably a wasp – has been hanging around all week.  He snuck in Monday afternoon somehow.  Jonathon and I tried opening the front door to lure him out to greener pastures. We encouraged him and waved our hands at the open door. Nothing doing.  Instead, he flew towards our large window that looks out over the driveway.  To be fair, mornings fill this living room/dining room with light.  The place glows.  Poor misguided bug went towards the light, he did.

He’s larger than a honeybee, but long, and almost all black.  He lacks the tubby roundedness of a bumblebee.  Somewhere along the way, he lost his stinger.  He beat himself against the windowpane, trying to get free.  He buzzed, angry now, and beat some more.  Realizing he wouldn’t be exiting our home any time soon, I closed the curtains around him.

“Mom,” Zac protested.  “That’s mean!”

“Yes,” I chuckled.  “And he’ll be dead by morning.” Mom – 1, Wasp – 0.

Only he wasn’t.

As we ate breakfast, Ruby and I heard the busy humming of the trapped insect. He survived, and kept on surviving. Cue Donna Summer, folks.

WaspHe looks roach-like in this photo, but he’s really not.  Anyway, it’s Thursday now.  The wasp, near the end of his life cycle, managed to crawl out of the curtains.  Yet he’s still stuck.  Lacking energy to fly or seek another passage, he alternately rests and vibrates.  Both cats have monitored his progress.  Rex found him first, gazing up at the mysterious flying object. Even now, Chloe sits next to the big window.  It’s her turn, apparently. The wasp fights against the glass, again, loudly, without success. He flies and drops, flies and drops.

I have to admire his tenacity.  He is nothing if not persistent.  Lest you think me incredibly cruel, the window he chose doesn’t open.  Never has.  It’s been painted shut since we moved in almost 8 years ago now. All the muscle I possess won’t budge it.

It’s quiet. I hear no buzzing now.  Rex dozes on the rug in front of me. Chloe waits and watches, a fuzzy paragon of patience.  It’s only a matter of time.

Compassion rose up within me.  I couldn’t watch him die, not after witnessing such chutzpah. With no fight – or stinger – left in him, he wouldn’t be able to hurt me. I grabbed a plastic container and a piece of paper to cover it with.  I gently scraped him into the container and opened the front door.  He clung to the paper until I flung him off.  He landed on the ground in the sun.

I felt the wasp’s frustration.  How many times have I beat my head against a wall, willing situations and the people in them to change?  My willfulness traps us into thinking we know the only way to do something, get somewhere. That’s when I know I need the Lord’s wisdom and probably a little surrender, too. Tenacity doesn’t always reap benefits. Sometimes windows don’t open; doors either.  It’s time to turn around and retrace our steps back to what we know. Or rather, who we know.

Shine Bright

Photo by nationalgeographic.com

Photo by science.nationalgeographic.com

In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
 – Matthew 5:16

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world…- Philippians 2:14-15

I’ve been considering what it means to shine. Candles burn a wick in order to provide light. Lacking understanding in this arena, I turn to ScienceIQ.com for this explanation:

When you light the wick on a candle, the heat melts the wax in the wick and at the top of the candle. This liquid wax is drawn up the wick by capillary action, getting hotter and hotter until it turns into a gas. This gas mixes with oxygen in the air and is ignited by the flame that melted the wax in the first place. The heat of the flame melts more wax and this wax too is drawn up the wick. Then the whole process repeats itself until all the wax has been burnt.

So why does a candle need a wick? If you try to light a lump of wax you can melt the wax but that is just about all that happens. The wick does the important job of keeping the molten wax in the heat of the flame long enough to vaporize. Liquid wax does not burn. Wax has to be in its gaseous state before it will ignite and burn. If you look at the wick of a candle that has already been used you will see that it is all burnt and black. What you are seeing is loose, powdery carbon and soot, held together by the wax that was traveling up the wick when it was blown out.

Now you know. See, the candle stays lit if the wick burns. And that takes a flame, which uses gaseous wax as fuel.  The flame, though bright and beautiful, is temporary unless the fuel keeps coming.  With a candle, it’s a finite operation. Even PartyLite knows this.

Stars, however, can burn for millions of years. But eventually, even stars go out.  Their fuel source, often hydrogen, runs dry. They pass through several processes – red giant, planetary nebula, white dwarf, then finally a black dwarf.  That star, whose light traveled light years for us to glimpse its pinprick light, will someday go dark.

Which begs the question:  why shine at all?  Is it even worth it? Because you know what?  It costs something to shine.  Shining means something must burn.  Shining requires fuel of some sort.  What sort of fuel stokes the fire? As Christians, we know God covers misunderstandings.  He fights for us.  He heals our diseases and soothes our broken hearts. The hope we have within us doesn’t disappoint. It never runs out, either. As our hurts and dashed plans get consumed in the furnace of His love, our love for God and others glow ever brighter. I think surrendering the pain to Christ allows it to be turned into something useful. That, friends, allows us to get up and shine again and again and again, despite what each day brings.

Static Seasons

It's coming up...

It’s coming up…

I assisted at the last Lap Club today.  Summer is nearly upon us. The school year has almost wound itself down, a 180-day clock set in motion every Labor Day.

I’m a little sad.  Second grade and 9th grade will never be for Ruby or Zac again.  I’m looking forward to summer and slower-paced days, lazing in the sun.  I’m thinking about running in the sprinkler, possibly hiking.  Not at the same time.

I’m also thinking about how I’m unwilling to force things anymore.  I’m learning to ebb and flow in friendships.  I’m getting the drift of letting go and being in the moment.  I don’t have to be in control or make things happen.

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
 A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest.
 A time to kill and a time to heal.
    A time to tear down and a time to build up.
 A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.
 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
 A time to search and a time to quit searching.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.
 A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
 A time to love and a time to hate.
    A time for war and a time for peace. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

(Got the old song in your head now, dontcha?) Honestly, never been a huge fan of the wisdom books.  Does this mean I lack wisdom?  Probably.  I guess I’ve always found them rather dull and boring.

Seasons in our natural world don’t wait on our permission in order to change.  “Fall, I’m not quite ready for you yet.  Gotta get those new boots before the rain sets in.  Can you wait a week?”  “Sure thing, Susan.  I got all year.”  No.  The seasons were set in place at the creation of the earth.  I can’t hurry spring along, either. Seasons come and go at the Father’s bidding.

But I’m finding this scripture from Ecclesiastes applying to my life more and more.  If we truly belong to Christ and submit to his reign in our lives, we don’t get to choose the season we find ourselves in. You know what?  There’s peace in the surrender.  I can rest in His hands, knowing He’s got it under control.  Yes, I pray when things get squishy.  But anxiety and twisting and pushing accomplish nothing.  I’ve learned this the hard way.  Ask my husband.  Talk to my kids.  They’ll tell you. I still struggle with this sometimes. Why don’t you do it my way, Lord?!

The root issue is trust.  Will I let God bring the flower to bloom in His timing? He will water and fertilize, cultivate and shelter. The blossoming might not meet my deadline.  It always meets His.

Unclogging the Pipes

Not the culprit.

Innocent bystander.

Warning:  This post contains references and inferences to poop, pee and such.  Plan your meal accordingly.

This morning, before anyone else was up, I clogged the toilet.

Lest you think me a troglodyte, it was accidental.  Unlike children who will remain nameless (Ruby and Zac), I did not use an entire roll of toilet paper doing my business.  We live in a 1920s-era house.  Our toilet is probably 1960s.  A certain sensitivity to,  uh, content comes with the territory.

The water rushed to the top of the bowl, swirling aimlessly.  Awesome.  Just what I wanted to do at 6:26 a.m.  I hunted up the plunger from under the kitchen sink.  I stalked back to the bathroom and administered CPR on the yawning maw of the hole.  Push, push, push.  Nothing.  Broken up bits of…matter floated, mocking me.  Squish, squish, squish.  Nothing.  Huh.  Now what?  Usually it took very little to get things moving again. I tried again.  And again.

Unaware of my plight, Jonathon slumbered upstairs.  Dare I wake the man for this?!  I wanted to solve it on my own.  I mean, “I am woman, hear me roar”, right?  Well, no roaring before 7:00 a.m. generally, but you get the idea.

The large rubber suction cup gulped water but pulled up nada.  I flushed it again, thinking hopeful thoughts.  Nope.  The brackish water swirled a taunt. The water level edged closer to the toilet bowl’s rim. Great.

This toilet is the workhorse – if you’ll pardon the expression – of our house.  We have another one upstairs as part of our master bedroom setup, but it doesn’t get nearly the use this one does.  I clean the downstairs bath very regularly because of it.

After several minutes of pushing down with my massive brute force and getting no results, I called it quits.  I mounted the stairs and woke the fixer of broken things.  There’s a patron saint for that.  No?  How about St. Jude Thaddeus, patron saint of desperate causes.  He’ll do.  In a pinch, though, I’ll take Jonathon.  He’s cuter and still alive.

Jonathon walked downstairs.  While reading my Bible in another room, I heard the sploosh of the plunger hit the ceramic.  Then I heard all the water drain out of the bowl. Just like that.  One touch.  All clear! Geez. Jonathon saluted me and went back to bed.

Why didn’t it work for me?

And that, folks, is what this whole week has been like.  I can’t fix it on my own. I try, strive and get frustrated.  I can’t control things and circumstances. Or people.  I might even cry over issues.  I can’t make my body do what I want it to do.  The blockage won’t move under my brute force.  I can only trust and seek help.  I can pray.  I can relax in the Father’s hand.  That’s when the “all clear” comes, when I’m done putting forcing it all to come together.  One touch, one word from Him and I’m at peace.

Puny Power

I felt nothing like this.  At. All.

I felt nothing like this. At. All.

Yesterday, I spent most of the day on the couch.  I felt awful.  Sore throat, incredibly worn out and emotional.  I know I was emotional because nobody cries while watching Men in Black 3.  Except me.  That was my cue to take the day off.  I was feeling, in the words of a good friend, puny.

Which is why I didn’t write yesterday or do much of anything.  I even missed my writers group.  That hurt the most.  I love those guys.

It’s one thing to feel physically ill.  It’s quite another to be discouraged, too.  And I got that, also!  Awesome.

I watched old movies starring Joan Crawford – always uplifting – and Kim Novak.  Not together.  And not my friend Kim Novak.  The old 1950s movie star Kim Novak.

It took all my strength to get a shower.  Then I had to sit down.  At least I smelled like frosting afterwards.  Bonus!  I’m a human cupcake.

My back got cranky.  I need to be moving around.  You won’t like me when I don’t work out.  I know I don’t.

We have a lot going on this weekend.  In fact, it seems like we got invited to every possible event for tomorrow.  I was feeling a touch overwhelmed at making all the connections and getting it all done.  The only outings missing were a wedding and a funeral.  Possibly a bar mitzvah.

But…

His mercies are new every morning.  Sometimes, you just need to sleep on it. Surrender, Dorothy! You need to let go of thinking about everything and worrying and just *be*. Today is much better. We won’t be able to do everything so we will prioritize and have fun doing it.   I still feel weak, but I’m going to take it minute by minute and lean on the everlasting arms.

Loaves and Fishes

loaves and fishes

I am finally in the New Testament for the 90-day Bible reading plan.  Huzzah!  This is the second day.  I am plowing through Mark now.

Back in Matthew 15, Jesus fed the multitude with 7 loaves and a few small fish.  Miraculous!  The disciples brought him what they had, and He blessed it.  Earlier in Matthew, He did the same thing with five loves and two fishes.  In Mark 8, the scenario is recounted again.

The disciples and a little boy shared what they had, knowing it could not possibly be enough.  But they wanted to try to meet the need:  hunger.  In the natural, physical world, there was no way it would feed everyone – thousands of men, women and children. They surrendered it up anyway.  They trusted God to bless it, to make it stretch.  The odds looked impossible.  It could have been an opportunity for despair to take over.  God cared about meeting the most basic needs of people.

I’ve often heard these miracles used in the context of tithing and giving.  And they should be.  I don’t see a wrong application there.  The Lord is our provider. But what about our impossible circumstances? Our particular need may be as great to us as physical hunger. When we’ve done all we can to fix things, and they still aren’t right, what then?  I believe we must surrender up our tools and our ideas and say, “Here, God.  I can’t do any more.  It’s time for you to do what you do best.”  Our efforts and input do count.  I believe the bread and fish represent our contribution to make things better.  Jesus could have made loaves and fishes appear, but He asked, “What do you have?”  Our prayers, our time, our considered counsel matter. They show our willingness to put our best effort forward to help. They show our care and concern.  Yet, when they fail, it is then that the Lord must breathe on them to give them life.

The loaves and fishes miracles recount the disciples picking up basketfuls of leftover bread and fish.  Basketfuls!  Twelve basketfuls, in Mark 8, to be exact.  How did that happen?  Did the crowd eat sparingly?  Somehow, I suspect not.  There may have been 5,000 men, but I’m betting there were thousands of children present, too. Little kids don’t think that way.  They trust that there will be plenty and they eat until they are full.  They trust.  They’re not worrying about lack.

Do I trust my God to find a solution when things look bleak?  Am I willing to lay down my loaves and fishes and say, “It’s yours now, Abba”?  I have done all I can.  I need to be like a little child and let my Daddy take over. He will not fail me.

On the Bench

Last night, I had a brilliant idea.  I would wake up and do the Lotte Berk Method, getting all loose.  Then I would try some walk-running, or run-walking.

At 4 a.m., when I woke up, it still sounded pretty good.  I was excited!  Maybe I could get back into running after a month off.

I put the exercise DVD on and did the warm up.  I stretched my legs and back a bit.  Then I put on my raingear and attached the music and headed out, hope in my heart.  A gibbous moon shone brightly between wispy clouds. I walked to the end of my street and crossed the intersecting street.  I started running.  Three steps in, I knew it wasn’t going to work.  I turned back home.  Foiled again.

Frustrated, I did a hodge podge workout with jumping rope, kettlebells and such, making sure to stretch well at the end.

I cannot hurry this recovery, much as I would like to.  It is humbling and frustrating and annoying.  I want to run again. I feel like I’m being punished for bad sportsmanship or double dribbling. It’s very humbling. “Surrender, Dorothy!”  I guess maybe God needs to write it in the sky for me after all.  Sigh.  Not that I would be able to *see* it, what with it being overcast and all.  But you get the point.

I have to look at all the things I can do.  I can still walk – though not far.  walking is supposed to be good for this type of injury but all I find is that it hurts like hell.  I am healthy in all other respects.  I can still function normally, even though it feels like my soul has been cut out and left in a dumpster.

It’s a matter of perspective.  Nobody wants to be around someone who is moping or feeling sorry for themselves, least of all me.  I need to celebrate where I am right now. I’ve been holding onto this “toy”, a.k.a. my body, thinking that I can make it better.  I should probably take my own advice.  All I can do is enjoy the journey and keep on stretching; I can’t make my back heal any faster. It’s simply not in my purview.  To be fair, I hurt much less than I used to.  I am hardly on any medication at all and don’t need a heating pad constantly attached to me like a removable hunch.  Uncle, already!

Can I learn to be grateful even now?  Stay tuned.