Monday, May 19, 2014

Pearls in May, #3: The stampede becomes the gift

The events of the last month have felt a bit like a stampede of elephants trampling my sense of well-being. Whenever elephant stampedes invade my life, I have to work twice as hard to notice the good gifts that pervade every difficulty. So this month, in an attempt to work my gratitude muscles, I'm collecting and posting a gift a day. Soon, I will have a written series of little gifts strung together like a strand of pearls!

To read the introductory post to this series click here

And the elephant stampedes continue. This time, my ceiling literally looks as though it received the impact of some pretty energetic elephants. Since the new tenant started parking his car in the garage above me last week, my ceiling started cracking. The cracks are quickly becoming wider and more numerous, giving me reason to believe that my Chicken Little worries last week weren't that far-fetched. The ceiling just might fall after all.

On Saturday, the cracks had become big enough that I decided life-saving measures needed to be taken, so I headed to the new tenant's house to ask him if he'd be willing to park in the driveway for one night until an inspector could come investigate the stability of the structure.

The visit was unproductive though, as my new neighbor is an elitist Buddhist monk who only receives VIP visitors, and his servant wasn't sympathetic to my plight.

(P.S. I love Jesus. His humility, kindness, and servant's heart. His declaration that the least of these will be the greatest. The way he sought out people who were about as far from "VIP" as you can get. The dignity he bestowed to every person he met. The fact that he never asked his disciples to do any act of service that he didn't do himself. There is no one — no god or religious founder — like the God of the Bible.)

So I walked down the street to my neighbor L's house and asked her if I could sleep on her couch that night. She welcomed me with open arms. "Oh honey, come in; come in! You can stay in my guest room," she said as she hugged me. So I went home to pack my bags, and then made the dark trek down to her house.

After putting my bags in her spare bedroom, I snuggled onto the couch next to her recliner. We chatted about our day, stopping occasionally to watch snippets of the Everybody Loves Raymond marathon on t.v. Eventually, our eyes grew heavy and we headed to bed.

The next morning, I enjoyed a cuppa tea with L (how nice to have morning company!), and then I headed back to my house to meet the inspector (we'll call him "M") from the insurance company. I was excited to see him.

The night before, M called me to schedule an appointment. "Sarah!" he said in rapid Spanish. "How are you? How is your health?" I smiled when I realized he'd remembered me, since it had been almost four months since I'd seen him last.

Remember my big flood back in February? A tree outside my window had grown into one of my bathroom pipes, clogging it and causing a rather sizable flood that gushed from the bathroom into the living room/bedroom. The damage was significant enough that I had to move out for nine days so a crew from the insurance company could repair the damage. M was the man in charge of the crew.

M was kind, helpful, and considerate. He set me at ease during a pretty stressful situation and was a great conversationalist. He's also a native Spanish speaker, so we got to converse in Spanish for most of the time, which is always fun for me.

Awhile into our conversation last February he asked, "Does your job give you peace?" 

And so I told him how my job is wonderfully satisfying but doesn't give me peace. I told him that the only thing that's ever given me peace is restored relationship with God, and that this peace is available to everyone because of Christ's work on the cross.

He listened intently and asked questions, and we talked about suffering and sin and how to understand God's goodness in the thick of it all. And then he looked me in the eyes, with tears in his eyes, and said,

"When I walked in here I thought to myself, 'This is a place of peace, and the girl who lives here is at peace.' And now, I see it in your eyes."

I felt my eyes well up, and the carpet underneath us squished and splashed, and the towels in the tub were heavy with water, and I thought how utterly, heavenly perfect it was that all this water would give me an opportunity to share how Grace has changed my life, because His embrace is like taking a warm bath in acceptance, purity, hope, renewal, and peace.

I've wondered about M since that conversation. I've wondered how he and his family are doing, and how work is going for him. I've wanted to reconnect with him. And here he was, coming to help me again. What a gift. I know that these sorts of chance meetings are never coincidence. They are always an opportunity for us to discover, more profoundly, how much God loves us.

When he arrived yesterday morning, he brought his wife with him. She is just as lovely as he is.

M, his wife, and I chatted for awhile and then M inspected the garage and my studio. His assessment confirmed my fear: the garage floor is not strong enough to hold a car. He and his crew will have to take my ceiling apart to investigate the extent of the weakness in the garage floor above me, and until then, no one can park there. I was relieved to hear him relay the news to the neighbor, who agreed to park his car in the driveway.

After M had finished his assessment, I invited him and his wife to stay for tea. They had somewhere to get to, but invited me for lunch at their house after this crazy ceiling business is over. "You're in for a real treat," M told me. "My wife is a truly amazing cook."

So today's "pearl" has turned out to be a string of pearls. A hospitable neighbor, a reconnection with M, a new friend in M's wife, and a future lunch date. And once again, I'm reminded that worrisome inconveniences are God-given opportunities. God is always extending an armful of gifts; we just have to receive them.

I'm tired, though. Really tired. This week is finals week, which means my tank is on empty, and I'm about to get a mountain of grading. I still have a sore throat, seven days after getting sick; and taking care of my ceiling is going to be a really big task. I'll have to move out for an indefinite period of time.

I guess this is another opportunity to learn to live daily in Sabbath Rest — to work hard as unto the Lord but with the knowledge that he does not need my efforts to keep my world spinning. And one day, after we've labored long and hard for the cause of Christ, we'll stand before him and he'll look us in the eyes, his eyes burning with love for us, and say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

"Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." I love these words of Jesus.

In the meantime, I'm in a yoke with Jesus; and his yoke his easy, his burden light. And somehow, I know the inconveniences of the next few weeks will give me plenty of opportunities to tell the people I meet how much God loves us. They always do. It turns out my life's tiring inconveniences are really God-appointed opportunities.

I'd love your prayers for health, stamina and provision this week, if you're the praying type.

Happy Monday, friends!


© by scj


  1. I'm the praying type- I got your back!

  2. Sarah this is just such a lovely and inspiring way to invite people into your life and remind us all that the things we most want to get frustrated with are often the places where God is most at work. I love your heart and your spirit and the way you are living your life for Jesus and seeing these golden opportunities in the midst of a hard situation. Love you friend and let me know if you ever need a place to crash! We always have room for you at our house <3

    1. Laura,

      Thank you, my friend, for your encouragement and open house! :) God certainly is at work in every discouraging, frustrating mishap. I'm glad for the reminders because heavens knows I forget so easily!

      Thankful for you,