No, not like your teeth or your food. What are you thinking? What do I come to you people for if you're just gonna make cracks like that? Focus.
I mean you SAY something. And you didn't even think it up, that you can recall. And it's really good. And you hear it for the first time when it comes out your mouth. As if someone else said it.
That happened to me this morning. I came up with a REALLLLLY good excuse/explanation for behavior unbecoming a gentlewoman. (Well, I'm not much of a "gentlewoman" but I'm laying groundwork here.)
I was folding laundry. I had spent the night on the couch. Grizzly, the husband, now has the sickness we all had and we don't sleep together very well when one of us is puny. I squeezed out about four hours of sleep between flicking the tv on and off and changing laundry every time I woke up. The sound of the washer and dryer running lulls the kids to sleep (Wild Man, the son, almost melted down when we got a new washer and dryer. "I'll NEVER be able to sleep now because they won't SOUND the same!") and it blocks the sound of the tv. Oh, and it was also good to do laundry because at any given time, I'm usually eight years behind. But you know this about me.
So, as I hunted and picked through 3,000 socks, none of which had a match, I was telling the kids about a good thing that happened to someone we know. The kids were happy for them. Yes, this was good. I dug around the basket some more and pulled out a pair of underwear. As I looked at them I realized Minky, our six-month-old Border Collie pup, had chewed out the "center" (I'm trying to be delicate here.) How did this happen? Oh my socks and garters, just don't even ask. Toss. (Socks and garters! Isn't that just the best exclamation?! Especially for laundry. And no one here even WEARS socks with garters. Thankfully. That might mean my husband was 98 which would be ten years older than me.)
What was I saying?
Oh yes, continuing on with my big news, which wasn't the underwear, I then began to talk about WHY these wonderful things had happened to our friend. And I mentioned all the advantages life had offered her. Being born with a silver spoon in her mouth, as it were. Having wonderful parental support, don't cha know. Ample access to money that might give the faint-of-heart the vapors. Beautiful surroundings. Supportive, adoring husband. Wonderful health. Lots of family and help.
The Wild Man was not duped. "Don't covet," he advised, using my OWN words against me. (Coveting has always been on the front lines of my lectures because it robs us of gratitude and satisfaction. And I detest ingratitude.)
"I'm not coveting!" I laughed lightly. "I'm counting her blessings!" Wasn't that BRILLIANT?! What a fantastic explanation. And that's when that moment occurred I just mentioned. I didn't even know that was on my lips. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth spoke. Perfect! Excuse dujour extraordinaire!
Hannah-Bo, the daughter, laughed from the bathroom where she was getting ready for choir. "I LIKE that," she said. "I'm gonna use it!"
"Me too!" I responded. "That's my new lingo for coveting now. I'll just tell people I'm counting their blessings." How tidy!
And then I flopped back down on the couch and started having thoughts about how God CHOSE to allow her to be blessed in this way. And then something about Job, from the Bible, and me, and anyone else whoever asked, "What gives?" popped into my head. "Who are you to question God? If this is what he sees fit to do for her and not for you, then so be it."
Okay, Wisdom. If you're gonna come in, would you at least knock first? Just so I can decide if I want to open the door? It would at least give me the chance to act like I'm not home. Guess it's too late for THAT.
And a wonderful/terrible object lesson came rushing back to me.
I have to tell you first that our family has desperately desired to live in the country. We foam at the mouth when we talk about it. We have had a veggie garden, cats, dogs, chickens, a lamb, and varmints of all varieties in a suburban backyard. We rhapsodize about wide-open spaces, we glory in the mountains and views of them, we revel in the sounds of nature (except that confounded incessantly barking dog next door!). We have more trees on our little lot than the rest of the block combined. In fact, when we read the first Little House on the Prairie book, "Little House in the Big Woods," we dubbed our homestead "Big House in the Little Woods." (It's not all that big - it's just that the lot is SMALL.)
All that being said, we frequently take drives into the countryside and dream. And we oooh and ahhh. And we imagine. But the reality of that dream is not on our financial horizon nor will it likely be, short of a miracle. And it was in this mindset that the kids and I went on a "Point-and-Drive" one day. (The Wild Man started this and I do declare I will post about it.)
We came upon a grand house. It was in a Victorian style with three stories, beautifully appointed and painted in hues of light green, mocha, and burgundy, and situated on grounds that were more reminiscent of lush gardens than of a yard. An elegant white, sculpted wrought-iron fence surrounded all of it. And it was encompassed about by tree-filled acres opening to a view of the Sierras. We stopped the car. Who wouldn't? We pulled over to the side of the road and sat sighing, taking it all in. We talked about how lucky those people were to live in that place. And what must THAT be like? And wouldn't we love to have all this?
About that time, I saw a man walking out from the house toward the gate. The mailbox was there. Maybe he was headed for it. I presumed it was the owner and I thought he might be wondering what we were doing. Although I didn't think a woman and her two kids in their SUV would seem like an imminent threat, I felt I owed him an explanation. And, having NEVER met a stranger in my life, saying hello wasn't a big deal. I started the car and pulled closer to his gate.
"Hi," I said as he approached. "You probably get this all the time. Your home is so beautiful I imagine people are constantly stopping just to admire it."
"Sometimes," he answered with a smile. "I haven't been here too long. It was our dream home." He seemed to want to talk about it and, since talking is my main hobby, I could tell we were in friendly waters. "We just built it a few years ago," he explained.
"Wow," the kids and I responded. "You sure did an incredible job. I can't believe you could accomplish so much in such a short time," I added.
"I was a firefighter in San Francisco," he said. "Housing prices skyrocketed and after living there for thirty years, we were able to sell, move down here, and pay for everything outright."
"That's amazing," I replied. "How wonderful for you."
"Yeah, well, it would have been," he returned, "but right after we moved in, my wife got diagnosed with cancer and I lost her nine months later. I live here alone now. It's too big for me so I'm thinking about selling. My three boys all live in the area and one of them is talking about buying it. I can't rattle around in here. It was our house. It has everything she ever dreamed of. I built it for her. We'd been planning every detail for years. What's the point if she's not here to enjoy it?"
"Oh, I'm so sorry," I offered, feeling unable to think of the right words to say. I felt instantly broken for him. "How terribly hard that must be. I'm so glad you have your boys nearby." It sounded feeble.
"Yeah," he said. "It's good. I spend a lot of time with them. But they sure miss their mom, too, and the grand kids will be growing up without her."
We talked on for a few minutes more and then shook hands warmly and said our good-byes. Our hearts were heavy as we drove away. We felt so very sad for his dream lived out, alone.
And then I looked at the kids and they looked at me. "God allowed us to meet that man today and hear his story," I said. "When we look from the outside all we see are our own dreams and we imagine life to be perfect if only we lived like that. But would you trade your life and your blessings for his heartache? Let's try to remember that God knows best and we are where we are by his plan and design. And to want something else, to the point that it keeps us from appreciating the blessings we have, is to tell him he doesn't know what he's doing. That's what coveting is. God must love us dearly to allow us to learn this lesson in such a profound way."
And so, as I sat contemplating my laundry, I remembered this penetrating object lesson and stopped coveting, for the moment, again. And even if I call it "Counting Her Blessings" it all adds up to the same thing: dissatisfaction with what God has given me and thinking someone else is getting a better deal, or has something I think I need. And it took my son to name it.
So then I gave thanks for the 3,000 socks with no match.
No I didn't.
If you think I'm THAT far down the road of wisdom you haven't been hanging out with me long enough. Stick around.