Picking things up, letting things go

I had two clear spiritual experiences today.  One I knew was such when it was happening.  The other, it just hit me that it was one a few minutes ago.  (There were probably some others that I missed; we’re going to focus on just the two right now.)

And both of them seemed to show that my life is turning (or, I should say, being turned) onto a new section of the path God has called me to.  So I thought it would be worth sharing.

All right, Ray, enough teasing — what happened?!?

To quote Isaac Asimov, “I hasten, dear reader, I hasten …”

First, the one I didn’t spot immediately.  Having finally finished the major house-related project of the last several weeks — scrubbing the kitchen within an inch of its culinary life — I was ready to tackle other work around Chez Anselmeau.  The kitchen-cleaning was prompted by my landlord, who (kindly but firmly) had let me know that we needed to be taking better care of his property than we had recently.  Granted, we have been otherwise occupied — Sean’s illness, my mom’s death, this and that — but I had to admit that we had let things go too far.  Thus, his charge to “treat this place as your own” — and my tackling of the kitchen, possibly the room that had gotten the grubbiest.

Originally, I’d planned to make my next target the utility room, the new grubbiest room now that the kitchen was knocked down to size.  And I will, eventually.  But today, I started the ball rolling on three other things:

  • I broke out the paintbrush and a can of Flat White latex enamel (interior/exterior) and laid down the first coat of paint on the wooden railing of the back stairs.  Said railing is a cobbled-together mess, and some of the spars look as if they’d been chewed by wild dogs.  (For all I know, maybe they were — the previous tenants were doing some odd stuff.)  I’ll give it a second coat tomorrow.  I was a little worried that the white (which I’m using because I had it around already to touch up the inside walls) didn’t match anything else on the outside of the house except the railing on the front stairs.  Then I realized the landlord himself had painted the back stairs brick-red, which doesn’t match anything on the outside except the front porch and steps.  So I figure I’m good.
  • I called a tree-trimming service to come over and give us an estimate on pruning the five big trees in our backyard — an almond, an oak, two olives and a privet.  Some of them probably date back to when the house was built in the 1920s, and I’m sure none of them have had a professional trimming in over a decade.  The fellow I talked to will be here Wednesday morning; if nothing else, I’ll at least know what I can afford.
  • I called an exterminator to help us with our ongoing bug problem.  We’ve been dealing with these suckers for about five years, and every time we think we’ve driven them to the big roach motel in the sky, they come back in force.  The final straw was when we bug-bombed every room in the house a couple of weeks ago … and it didn’t make a significant dent in their population.  Forget it — it’s time to call in the pros.  (They’ll visit Thursday morning.)

It wasn’t until evening that it hit me: this was really the first time since Sean got sick that I took on a new responsibility.

Cleaning the house isn’t a new responsibility, after all — we’ve been doing that (not as consistently as we should, but doing it) since we moved in in January 2004.  Same with taking care of the lawn and general upkeep of the grounds; that was the first major project I threw myself into when we got here.  But painting the stair rail, or calling in outside help?  That, to me, was always stuff an owner does, not a tenant.  But if I’m to treat the place as my own … those things need to be done.  So I’m doin’ ’em.  Maybe the landlord will reimburse us; maybe he won’t.  I’m not worrying about it at present.

More to the point, I’m moving on from just being the person with a dying/dead mom and a kid who has Leigh’s disease.  Which has been pretty much my life for the last year — everything else has revolved around those two things.  If anything, I was afraid to try much else, because I was worried I wouldn’t be able to handle one more thing.  I’m rather surprised I was able to — it seems almost like God opened my hand and popped this into it.

Which, maybe He did.  Maybe this was His way of saying, before I was conscious of it, “paradigm shift time, dude!  Your mom is up here with Me, I’m progressively healing your son — now you’re ready for new things, and boy, do I have new things for you!”  At least, that’s how it seems to finite little me.  We’ll see what the future holds.

At the same time, if I’m to start new things, I probably need to clear out some old things.  And that was the other, more obvious spiritual experience.

A little background: last month my daughter Charlotte completed third grade.  AND fourth grade.  The charter school she attended promoted her in mid-year (long overdue, in the eyes of her parents), and she still managed to make the modern equivalent of straight A’s at the new level.  She did so well that she was named Student of the Year — and this is a school that goes from kindergarten to grade 12!  Pretty impressive, yes?  (Nod and agree with the proud daddy.  Thank you.)

However, while the academic environment at the charter school was good, the social environment was lacking — Charlotte was getting picked on to the extent that her teacher was meeting with Nina to find a way to protect her from her fellow students.  Furthermore, the school’s administration has been ridiculously lax: in discipline, in basic clerical tasks, in paying their staff, across the board.  (Suffice to say that Nina had to press them to test Charlotte for a possible grade promotion for almost a year and a half after they agreed to do it.  They’re just that sloppy about following through.)  So we’re looking at finding her a new school — preferably a new charter school, with a local public school as a fallback position.

But the local school district doesn’t allow students to skip grades; they actually have a policy against it.  So Charlotte will be forced to re-take fourth grade unless we have a letter from her old school saying she’s completed the fourth-grade coursework and graduated from that level.  Nina talked to the school administrators at the end of the school year on June 11, and they told her they’d draft the letter and get it to her.

32 days later?  They haven’t typed one word.  And the public school’s new term starts in two weeks.  Did I say they were sloppy about following through?  Scratch “sloppy,” and write in “incompetent.”

Needless to say, I’ve been less than pleased with their ineptitude.  Today, I was ticked enough that I was ready to call them myself  — I usually leave this stuff to Nina, as I tend to lose patience too easily — and give them a deadline for cranking out that letter or I would report their non-compliance to the school district that oversees their charter.  (Which might have shaken them loose; Nina has told me that in previous similar situations, a threat to go to the district has resulted in immediate apologies and subsequent action.)  I was ready to call … but the Supermodel, bless her heart, asked me not to.  She knows that an overwrought Ray often causes more problems than he solves.

So I took a step back, a deep breath … and locked myself in the bathroom.  (To each his prayer closet.)  Being foolish enough to believe that God will sometimes answer a direct question from one of His people, I prayed that he would show me what to do/not do in this situation.

Being foolish enough to believe I’d listen, He told me.  (At least I believe it was Him.  Debate it at your leisure.)  To paraphrase, He said, “hands off this one, cowboy.  I will take care of it.  And … whenever you think about those school administrators and want to take action, pray that My will be done in their lives.”

Now, I wouldn’t want to speculate on what God’s will might be for people who claim to be Christians but continually break their promises and unilaterally short their employees’ paychecks.  (Mostly ’cause when I do, I tend to get this look on my face that scares those around me.)  The more important point was the “hands off” part.  I do have a bit of a “white knight” complex when I feel my wife or kids are being done wrong. I have this desire to break out the whoopin’ stick (metaphorically speaking) against anyone who’s making their lives difficult, even if it’s just by neglect.  A situation like this is right in my “defend their honor” wheelhouse …

… except God is saying no, don’t, let Him take care of this.  (Maybe with the Supermodel’s help.  Not with mine.)  So I’m on the sidelines for this match.

The unusual thing?  I’m relatively good with it.  That’s major progress for me; I haven’t let things go that well in the past.  But it’s not the past.  And whatever new thing God is leading me into, I know deep down in my deep-down that this is a big part of it.

Knowing Him, we’ll either have that letter before I’ve finished scrubbing the paint drips off the back steps, or it’ll turn out we don’t need it.  Time will tell.  In the meantime, I’ll be talking with the tree guy and the bug people, praying God’s will be done … and waiting to see what He does next …

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3 Responses to Picking things up, letting things go

  1. Lori Knutson says:

    Ray,

    I really enjoyed reading this. I will let it serve as today’s reminder that sometimes we just need to back off and let God take care of things in his way. Keeping that in mind gives me a certain sense of peace with which to go about my day.

    Lori

  2. Kerstin says:

    Hey, ok, I get it, I guess – but does this really work?

  3. […] The tree trimmers were here today to work on the almond tree in our backyard.  (I mentioned calling them a week ago in this space.)  Originally we had wanted him to take care of all five trees in the yard, but when he gave us an […]

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