Sunday, August 13, 2006

Water, water everywhere... This is a long one.

Back to my irrigation system story... five sprinkler heads went awry on Friday morning, spraying water non-stop. Yesterday afternoon, one rabid water conservationist (me) descended quickly into what was nearly full-blown panic about how to make it stop. The choices were few: let it flow so that we could also have full water pressure in the house OR reduce the water pressure enough to make the sprinkler heads drop, but the water would still flow ceaselessly out of one of them OR turn the water off completely at the street but we'd have no water in the house.

All the while, Steve was in Orlando merrily watching Daniel play basketball. So I've gotta make this decision on my own. Or do I?

No, I was not alone. Alexandra and Marlon were with me. And Steve was merely a phone call away. So I called him. He gave me the phone number of the people who installed the system. I called them and left a message. A kind gentleman called back within half an hour and walked me through the steps of finding the irrigation system shut off valve. It was buried under the lawn just a few inches away from the household shut off valve. Marlon dug up the cover, turned the valve, and the water ceased flowing. Finally. I looked up into the cloudy afternoon sky and thanked God in English and Spanish.

So, Lord, what's the lesson in this? I always want to see and learn the lesson quickly in the hopes of not having to go through the course again.

1- I have no control over the rain, the water, or the irrigation system. I can pray for rain. I can plead with my husband not to overuse the watering system. I can keep my showers as short as possible. But ultimately the control over the water is not mine.

2- I am never truly alone in facing the crises of my life. Steve is never more than a phone call away. Friends far and near always welcome my calls and emails and pleas for help, for advice, and for their presence. Even when none of us can do anything, we can join hands and face the problem together.

3- When all else fails, call the manufacturer and get help from the one who created and installed the system. None of us knew about that other control box. As he explained to me where it was, I looked held the telephone to my ear and looked down at the grass. No box was visible. He said that's as it should be; it was installed in such a way that the grass would grow over it. The only reason to dig it up would be if there were a true emergency - and we were in a true emergency.

It wasn't long before the deeper lessons came to mind.

I have no control over the flow of love, kindness, grace, mercy, or peace in my life. Sometimes all of these attributes overwhelm me, flow through me, and cascade out onto the people in my life. Sometimes I feel as dry as a shallow Orlando creekbed in the August heat. Desperate. Ravenous. Parched.

At those moments - and at so many other moments of life - I feel alone. Abandoned. Empty. Solicitous of attention. I am glad to say that I have been mistaken in my perception of loneliness almost every time. Dozens, if not hundreds, of people I know and love stand with me in the flesh, in spirit, in prayer, in thought, and on the busy lanes of the virtual superhighway --> you stand with me with support, encouragement, admonishment, and love. You sit with me over glasses of wine, sweet tea, coffee, and ice water. You write to me, call me, come see me, and show your love in so many ways. For your friendship, I am always grateful.

But far greater than all of that is the eternal, unchanging love of God. The love that catches my eye with the full moon, the smile of a child at a basketball game, the beauty of the sky, a beautiful woman, a handsome man, or a great skirt on sale at Eddie Bauer.

The love that constantly brings me up short with glimpses of divine providence that are clearly ordained by Someone watching over me: coming back into the house to get my journal only to discover that I'd left the coffee maker on.

Last week, as I was getting dressed after my morning shower, I decided to call my brother, Darryl, as soon as I was ready. The phone rang two minutes later; it was him.

Sitting in church this morning thinking of a woman I hadn't seen in at least nine months. Claudina is the mother of my friend, Daniel, a young man condemned to 27 years in prison. I wondered how she was doing. As soon as the service ended, she came running over to me and gave me a huge hug.

Kathleen McNamara began teaching the same year I did - 1989. We met at a new teachers' conference and became fast friends. I stopped teaching four years later when Kristiana was born; Kathleen is now the upper school head at a private school in California. One of my great sorrows in moving here to Charlotte was having to say farewell to her; at that time, she was working at a school just under an hour from our home in Connecticut. Unfortunately we have fallen out of touch, except for Christmas cards and the occasional phone call. I thought about her while I was in Florida last week, wondering how she and her family are doing. Her husband is from Lebanon, so these must be difficult days for them. I came home yesterday to discover that she had emailed me while I was in Florida.

Mere coincidence? I don't think so. What I do think is that God has a fantastic sense of humor and an inexhaustible Creative Flair. How is it possible to believe that kiwi, watermelons, Great Dane dogs, guppies, roses, daylilies, fingernails, earlobes, the four seasons, the ferocity of Niagra Falls, and the gentle dew of the morning are all the result of random accidents of nature? I find it much easier, comforting, and downright sensible to believe in an All-mighty, All-knowing, gracious God who created the earth, the stars, the animals, and all of us.

Why, then, do wars, famine, events like September 11th, the murder of women by the men they love, hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes still happen? On the one hand, I do not know. On the other hand, a lot of the terrible things that happen in the world are things we human beings do to ourselves: war, September 11th, uncontrolled consumption of oil, coal, and water, obesity, global warming, murder, and abuse. On the third hand, what do we expect when we as humans insist that our personal desires and needs are all that matters: "my country, my land, my oil, my water, my house, my family, my needs, my way or the highway, my lifestyle... No one else, no other nation, no other way of thought matters." We do whatever it takes to get what we want on our own terms. On the fourth hand (think of me as a sea star for a few minutes) God is not going to impose His will on us. If we choose not to believe what He says about Himself in the Bible (not the word of wacky preachers or graceless, loveless nutcases who pick up bullhorns and assault our senses in the street), if we choose to reject all possibility of His love, His grace, and His mercy, if we tell God to leave us alone, He will leave us alone. Fifth and finally, refer back to #1.

When worse came to worse yesterday, I called the company that installed the system.

Sometimes worse comes to worse in my life as well.
Every now and then, the system goes awry.
My mother-in-law goes into a mental and emotional tailspin.
My (birth) family starts spinning in the opposite direction.
My love for my husband runs cold.
My children rebel.
Homeschooling drives home the benefits of traditional schooling.
Maya poops on the carpet.
The car tire goes flat.
Demands for my time grow, but the hours in the day do not.
I get tired of doing the right thing;
I long to run away and be bad, very bad.
I get pissed. Impatient. And make plans to bolt.
Instead of being grateful for the ceaseless flow of activity in my life,
I feel overwhelmed by the deluge.
My arms, legs, and soul become exhausted by the treading of life's waters,
and I begin to sink. I can't turn off the system.

At those times, I call upon the One who made me, who installed my emotional circuitry, my desires, my joys, my strengths, the One who always stands beside me, and lives within me. He walks me through the process of finding the buried controls to turn off the spray of bitterness, lack of forgiveness, and overflowing criticism of others. He knows that in the course of my life, I allow weeds and other things to grow over the door of the control panel of my heart. But He never forgets where the door is. He is always nearby to pick me up when I fall, to hold me up when I sink, and to show me His glory whenever I ask.

The first part of Isaiah 43 says this:
"When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze...
Do not be afraid, for I am with you."

May I not soon forget the lessons of these past three days:
I have control of almost nothing in this life.
I have good friends who are willing to help me when I am in need.
When in doubt, call The Manufacturer.
He knows the system because He created it.

The sprinkler system is silent. The repairman is due tomorrow.
Daniel's 3-on-3 Hoop-it-Up team came in 2nd in the nation, second out of 580 teams.
He and Steve are at the Orlando airport awaiting their flight home.
All is well.
For the moment.

Wait... is that a leaky faucet I hear dripping?


Goddess of Leonie said...

i truly love the way you share and the way you write, graceful gail...

Andrew said...

I don't think any of us are ever truly alone in facing life's hurdles, but it's easy to FEEL like we are, like we have no options, no one to turn to and that's a horrible feeling. Yours is a good realization.

To Love, Honor and Dismay