Sunday, 25 November 2012

The small miracle of extended warranties

Have you ever walked into a raging windstorm?

Swirling debris pelts you, and you close your mouth and even your eyes at times in defence. Step by step you go forward, but your one thought is, "When will this be over?"

This week was a bit like that.

Crisis after crisis (some of my own making, I admit) had me reeling and unprepared when the next one hit. Feeling an affinity with Job, I stumbled through each day, crying out to God and definitely not walking in the joy of the Lord.

In the middle of this week-I-want-to-erase, I washed my phone.

I blame distraction. While getting dressed in the early morning, I gathered together a basket of laundry. I love the "multi-tasking" feeling of accomplishment when my laundry is being washed while I am on the train going to work. Because the dress I was wearing had no pockets, I put my phone on the laundry basket, and set it on the landing. Bustling to make lunch, style my hair and get out the door, I was pleased to realize I had the two minutes necessary to run down and throw in the laundry. I left the house feeling accomplished.

As I boarded the train, I realized I'd forgotten my phone. Because it is my access to everyone and everything, I felt like my right arm was suddenly missing. When my friend got on the train, I used her phone to call my husband. A worm of fear had begun to crawl around my middle. "I'm pretty sure I left it on the counter, but just in case, can you check the washer, too. And phone me at work to let me know."

When the call came, I burst into tears.  Having to replace an expensive phone just before Christmas when things were already tight was going to kill me. Not replacing it wasn't an option. We'd just cut off our landline the month before and were now "cell only."

I pulled the file I had on the phone (which I hadn't opened since the day I filed it) and went to the store where I bought it. The news wasn't good. With 17 months left on the contract, it was going to be an expensive mistake. (In the spirit of true confessions, I have to tell you. This isn't the first time I've done this.  About three years ago, I did exactly the same thing with another phone.  Which is why I have a bruise on my head from pounding it against the wall. Figuratively.)

The salesman was flipping through my contract, when his head jerked. "Wait a minute. You've got the Apple extended warranty. You can go to their store and get a new phone--no questions asked."

Really? Really. I now have a brand new, not cracked (my other one slipped out of my pocket and had an unfortunate encounter with the pavement) iPhone, and the Christmas budget is intact. Extended warranties. Wow.

Can I get an extended warranty on my life? Could I hand over the stupid things I say or the unwise things I do, and have them go away? Be replaced with a godly attitude and wisdom?

Unfortunately, it's not immediate like my phone, but God does promise that He will work with me, if I ask Him to.

Prov. 15:1a "A soft answer turns away wrath."
Prov. 10:11 "The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life."
Prov. 12:18 "The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing."
Prov. 31:26 "She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is in her tongue." (Oh virtuous woman, how I long to be like you!)
Eccl. 3:7 "There is a time to keep silent and a time to speak."

And finally--James 1:26 "Those who consider themselves religious and do not keep a tight reign on their tongues deceive themselves and their religion is worthless." (Ouch.)

Colossians 3:17 "Whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

So, Lord, it's a new week. Remind me--constantly--that I am your child, and help me live each moment to please You.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The small miracle of the list

I can't remember.

I wasn't there.

For those of us born in the generation after World War II, the best we can do is actively listen to the stories, and try to imagine how it felt. But is it even possible to imagine the horrors of war, or the agony of waiting at home? I've never been personally touched by it. My Dad wasn't in active service, and although some of my uncles were, I was never close enough to them to hear their stories. They all came home, and lived fulfilled lives. I grew up with the Viet Nam war, but didn't understand the issues or know anyone who went. I am blessed every day by the freedom that those who fought purchased for me, many with their lives, and I am thankful.

But remembering was difficult.

Something that happened this week changed that.

I was standing waiting for the slowest elevator in the building, and glanced at the bulletin board beside it. Two papers were posted, listing residents who are veterans, and giving others who may have been missed a chance to sign up. All the names will be read and honoured during the Remembrance Day service. Several columns identified whether they were army, navy, air force or merchant marine, and whether they were veterans or veterans' wives. I scanned the names, and began to reflect on how many of the names I know.

People I know.

Mary and Charles and Bruce and Alan. Dorothy and Claire and Brian. Men and woman who fought and served when they were younger than my youngest child. Who walked willingly into unspeakable situations for me. Who waited in agony at home for letters which came only sporatically, and were weeks old and filled with holes when they finally arrived. Men and women who lost brothers and fathers and friends because they believed it was important  to keep our country safe. To keep me safe.

The names on this list are people I talk with every day. They are men and women who gave a portion of their young lives to serve me, and now I have the incredible priviledge to serve them.

Then I knew. I remember. Thank you.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

The small miracle of small steps

I'll never get a good neighbour award.

Not that I'm a bad neighbour. I'm a quiet neighbour. I live my life side-by-side with people in my townhouse complex and smile shyly at them as we put out our mutual garbage. We all hibernate in the winter, emerging in the frozen night to go to work. and slinking back under cover of dark at the end of the day.A snowfall will bring us from our lairs briefly, where we puff and complain about the weather, as we fling snow with abandon. We grunt words like, "Tough." "Canadian, eh." and "This was nothing, you should have seen..." and creep to our cozy homes when the task is complete.

In the spring as the buds emerge and the grass greens, I spend more time outdoors and begin to greet my neighbours with shy smiles again. We rush past each other with a few friendly words.

I don't  know their names.

Last spring, as Hunter walked the lake for exercise after his heart surgery, he talked to people. It's who he is, and I was amazed. When we walked together, he gave me the condensed version of what he had learned. "That's Sally. She has three kids. The oldest is in university, and she's worried about him. Her husband works for Hydro and she's a nurse." I gaped at Sally as she jogged by with a friendly wave. I'd seen her before and didn't know a blessed thing about her--not even her name. Although I don't have Hunter's outgoing personality, I realized I wanted to learn to connect with my neighbours in a way that worked for me.

"Lord, is there a way a shy-but-essentially-friendly woman can reach out to her neighbours?"

The answer was on Facebook.

I heard of a couple in the U.S. who offered coffee and baking to the adults on Halloween. Interesting.

I decided to try it.

That's when everything went wrong.

After a crazy-busy day at work, I got away a few minutes late.The nature of my long commute is that, if one factor (like a missed bus) occurs, the whole thing dominoes out of control. I got home 30 minutes late, it was already dark, and little people in costumes were on my doorstep. I almost gave up, but an unexpected lull in the crowd gave me the opportunity to get my curbside cafe together. Then this shy-but-essentially-friendly woman stood hollering at the parents who were shivering at the curb, "I've got COFFEE!"

They came.

Through the sodden leaves and the raindrops they wrapped both hands around styrofoam mugs and smiled. "Forget the candy. This is definitely the best house." declared one dad.

Today, I am thankful for neighbours, my community, and the small miracle of small steps in connecting with them.

"Each of us should please our neighbours for their good, to build them up." Rom. 15:2