When my older brother Mike was in elementary school, he was assigned a task—to write a short directive on the proper steps to take if one’s home phone were to ring. Step one, according to little Mike: Don’t panic.
Sometimes God calls our home phone, and I panic.
This past week, He called to let us know that the house we had had our eye on had dropped twenty thousand dollars in price, and we had to make an offer on it that day if we wanted it. After an afternoon of printing, signing, faxing, and running upstairs and downstairs, we had gotten our offer in. But in the excitement, I had lost my head, and it was gone for a week.
As my husband prepared to leave us for the weekend to see the house, I dreamt of carpet and paint, worried about mortgages, and neglected the children and our meals. Only remembering at noon one day that I hadn’t taken the chicken for our dinner that night out of the freezer, I absently dumped a whole tray of frozen chicken into the crockpot without having peeled off the absorbent pad underneath. Halfway through dinner, I got up to retrieve more from the crockpot and only then noticed the melted plastic and puffy absorbent filler floating next to the chicken. No need to distress anyone—we had already eaten, it was in God’s hands now—I quietly slid the whole thing into a dark corner of the counter where it sat for two days.
My husband left, the children were out-of-sorts from the hectic week, and my house quickly turned upside down. The children were bickering one afternoon as I noticed the crockpot that had been sitting quietly in the corner, untouched from days ago. While snapping at the children to stop snapping at each other, I rashly picked up the crockpot and dumped the whole mess down the garbage disposal-less sink, forgoing the use of even a stopper because heck, the big pieces would get caught up in the drain, wouldn’t they? And surely the sludge would just keep going down the pipe.
But it didn’t. It stayed. As the weekend wore on and I lost my keys, Magnificat, temper, and general control of things and the kids grew more wired and the baby started noticing my husband’s absence, crying “Da-da” whenever things didn’t go her way, the water level of the sink rose, it’s murky, chicken water gurgling taunts at me. It was Sunday when I noticed the dishwasher wasn’t draining and had what also looked like chicken water in the bottom of it. Dirty dishes were piled on all flat surfaces in the kitchen, making the kitchen feel like some cruel thought experiment, and my husband called to talk about important mortgage things, to which I could only respond, “Uh huh,” as I looked around and wondered where else I could wash them. The bathtub? Someone else’s house? “Yeah, adjustable rates are such a pain.”
God pulled me aside one evening and gently reminded me of all the calls He had put in at Mary’s house: to be His Son’s mother, to have her heart pierced, to flee for Egypt. He nudged me: and how did your mother respond, Meg? She didn’t freak out, I answered. No, He said, she didn’t freak out. She wondered and pondered and kept all things in her heart. And she did her work. Okay, I said. I’m sorry…but could you please give a hand with the sink?
On Monday, God let St. Anthony find my Magnificat and then brought over a friend with Draino and an idea to use a wire hanger to unclog the sink. It worked beautifully, and she did the rest of the dishes and played with the kids while I hid in the kitchen, watching everything work itself back into place just in time for my husband’s arrival the next day.
I winced as I replayed the weekend’s events. It didn’t have to be that hard. In fact, it wasn’t the circumstances of the house-hunting that ruined my weekend, but rather my careless reactions to it all that had started the real trouble. Next time, I vowed, when God calls, I’ll just listen, ponder, put it in His hands and then do my work. And if I can’t do that, I’ll call Mary.
Copyright 2012 Meg Matenaer