Better Off Some Place Else

Dear God,

It’s on days like today that I know that I’m fragile.  I overslept this morning and was an hour and a half late for work.  I didn’t spend any time reading or reflecting on your word and am frankly to exhausted to focus on the print now.  Please forgive me and help me to be more with it tomorrow.

Work was tiring today.  I had planned to go out to lunch and then shopping for a new NON-COMPANY calendar with Gina who is still a bit distant – I think … or it could be me … I was pretty vague today.  But she was disappointed when I said that I couldn’t go.  I think she’d been looking forward to some time out of the office with company.  Yay me for stuffing that up.

Anyway she went and I stayed to try to catch up on some of the work from this morning, but finished up chasing my own tail.  Plus I’m still pretty tired and found it hard to concentrate.  I’d have been better off just going with Gina.  But it would have looked bad.

Graham came down looking for Gina during lunch and seemed surprised not to find her.  Apparently he’d wanted to talk to her about something and she’d told him to come down at lunch time.  Maybe she forgot we were heading out today.  When I told him that she’d gone out for lunch today Graham just sighed, nodded and left.  Weird.  Graham usually stops to chat a little with the staff.  I’m obviously looking like a jumble of joy to be around today.

About half an hour later Gina bundles back into the office.

“Hi! Did you miss me?”

“Nope.” I say – but actually I did.  Sad hey … “But Graham did.”

“oh.” she nods too absently.  “Good.”

Then she sees me looking at her and quickly adds with a cough, “I mean, I’ll find him later on.”

I look at her sideways, then add with a cough of my own,

“Bulldust!”

And she laughs.  Probably the first sign of levity I have seen in Gina since sometime last week.

I laugh back.

Scott sticks his head in the opening to our work area in the next minute,

“Hel – loooo …. ” and I’m sorry to say that we lost it.  Poor Scott triggered our two overstrung systems into fits of giggles and never did get to ask his question.  Instead he stared at us laughing like a pair of idiots, shrugged his shoulders and moved on to find someone else more sane.

Eventually, Gina and I contained our fits of giggles down to occasional snorts and the odd grin and got back to work.  By the end of the day we were able to grin at each other as we took our worried selves – yes, she was worried about something, who knows what, but something – home.

I feel like I achieved nothing today.

I’m not really sure that I did.

Actually, that’s not true.  I booked a hair appointment.

And I got home.

Lord, I’m too tired tonight to do anything more than sleep.  Please just let me sleep well.  I feel like I’m fading fast.

Amen

Oh Lord, What is Gina’s Bible doing on the shelf?

Curiously Curious

Today was strange.

You know those days where you know that something is supposed to happen, but nothing actually does.

Graham replaced the coffeepot, saying that he didn’t care whose budget it was supposed to come out of – yesterday had been the worst day at work since … then he stopped and looked right at Gina … (although I only noticed that because I was right beside her and she looked right back at him) then carried on … since he didn’t know when.

But that wasn’t true.  Graham knew exactly when the day was worse.

And so did Gina.

And now it was going to drive me crazy.

Ever wonder how gossip started?

Oh the temptation!

“Kelly, did you see the way that Graham looked at Gina when he was talking about the worst day since something else happening? … ” BUT YOU JUST CAN’T DO THAT.  Well I couldn’t anyway.  Not to Gina.  Or Graham.  But I really, really, really want to know what that was about.  I wonder if Gina would mind if I asked.

No.  She’d have said something if she wanted to.

Maybe.

Maybe she just doesn’t know how to raise it???

Now you’re being an idiot.  Gina always knows how to say what she wants to say.

“Do you want to tell me what you’re stewing about over there?” Okay.  So now she’s noticed that I’m restless.  Do I tell her?

“Ummm.  Nothing.”

“Yeah, and I’ve got all the style of Audrey Hepburn.  Spill.”

“You and Graham go back a long way, don’t you?” take it slowly.

“You could say that”

Drat, she’s going to make me work for it.

“Do you and him have a history?” There.  It’s out there now.

Gina laughs.  Really laughs.

“NO!” she laughs again.  Then she became serious again “You remember how I told you that I was engaged once?”

I nod dumbly.

“That was Graham’s best friend.”

Gina turned around and went back to her work.  Conversation closed.

I simply sat there, jaw hanging open, blinking.

I had had one question answered only to discover a thousand more.

I am going to give up being curious one day.

I called Megan this afternoon.  She was tied up this evening and I didn’t want to talk about Emily and Jonah’s conversation with her over the phone, so we’re having lunch tomorrow.  Megan’s coming to my place after the kids have finished their drum lessons.  After all the drama of the last week, I have a feeling that we’re both going to need it.  I have a feeling that a storm is brewing for Saturday around the time of Hamish’s drum lesson ready for delivery by the good brother Joel.

I’m not at all curious about Saturday.

Not one tiny bit.

No Day For the Faint Hearted

The coffee machine died today.

Everyone at work was strung out like nothing on earth.

No, I am not kidding.  I promise you this.  Tempers were short.  Fuses would blow over next to nothing.  People were complaining of headaches.  You could almost see Charlie Green’s eyes roll back in their sockets.

If you ever want to make a workplace dysfunctional – just kill the coffeepot.

The only sane person in the place was Angie who’s pregnant and has been off the stuff for about six months… Oh – and of course there was Gina who is on a herbal tea fad (thank goodness) but she had something under her skin anyway and was no more fun than those suffering from coffeepot withdrawal.

I spent the morning playing it safe and stuck to desk work in the office with as little human contact as possible, then just before lunch snuck out to use the photocopier… only to find Scott having a show down with the machine.  He was red in the face and yelling at the thing calling it all manner of names that I’ve never heard him use on anything alive or dead as though this was going to stir the machine into action.  He’d obviously been there for some time with something he wanted done with some urgency.  But driven mad by lack of caffeine, he’d not examined the problem carefully in the exhaustive, systematic way that Scott usually does.

How did I know that?

Because I could see exactly why the machine wasn’t working.  And so could Gina when she stopped beside me looking at Scott’s ranting and raging.

“What the…?”

“I believe he’s trying to photocopy something.”

“You reckon?” she asks sarcastically.

Both of us know how awful the morning has been.  Both of us are a little unsettled by this foul tempered Scott who seems to have taken up residence where our annoyingly goofy Scott usually resides.  Neither of us is convinced we want to see the new Scott flatly embarrassed.

“You go and distract him and I’ll get that while he’s not looking.”

“Why do I have to do the talking?  He’ll bite my head off and swallow me whole.”

“No he won’t.  Just ask him some dumb question about what next week’s Bible study is supposed to be – I can’t do that and you know it.  Go on – now!” and she pushed me out of the shelter of the doorway and into the path of the jolly green giant.

“Uh … Scott?”

“What?” he thunders back at me.

Gina sneaks in on the other side of the photocopy room.  I’m committed now.

“Um. What passage are we looking at next week before prayer meeting?  I think it’s my turn to prepare.”

Scott looks kind of shocked now.  As though I’ve hit him over the head with a club.

Gina is down on her hands and knees beside the photocopier.

“I’m not sure, I’d have to check, but it’s not your turn” he adds calmly, speaking with the old Scott’s voice, “It’s Graham’s turn next week – you’re after Graham.”

“Oh,” I say, as Gina plugs the photocopier in and switches it on at the wall, “Thanks.” she rises and scoots out of the room.  “Hey, are you okay, you look kind of strung out?”

He looks a little embarrassed here as though wondering how much I’ve seen.  I must have kept a pretty blank face though, because he just answered,

“Yeah, a bit.  But I’m okay now.  Now if I can just get this photocopier working …” and he pushed the button again, looking stunned when the machine whirred to action and started copying.  “Well what do you know?”

“Yep.  A photocopier that copies things,” I say, as though oblivious to his last few minutes.  And then I leave.  Quickly.  Before I fall over laughing like Gina is already around the corner as she greets me with the words, “Well what do you know?”

After lunch though, the internet goes down, the internal mail servers crash and the fax goes off to join the coffee machine in the great electrical circuit in the sky.

Once more our department shows that we have the best staff with the most initiative in the place though – Kylie copied the coffee preferences list from the tea room and took Gina and I down to Gloria Jeans with her to get coffees, hot chocolate and iced tea for the team.  We were the only group in the building that left feeling good today.

Gina followed me home, saying that she thought that she’d left a book she wanted at my place after her Cello lesson on Monday.  I didn’t remember seeing one around anywhere – but then I’ve barely stopped and I’ve been a bit preoccupied the last couple of days.  When we got in there were two messages on my phone so I left her to scout for her book while I went to listen to the messages and make some hot chocolate.  The first message was from Emily who sounded distressed and asked me to call her back.  The second was Hamish – which worried me more.  He clearly asked me not to call back but said that he’d call back when he had a chance.

Preoccupied, I went back out to Gina who said that she had found the book.  We talked a little over our hot chocolate, but I didn’t notice until later that she hadn’t had much to say.

I called Emily almost as soon as Gina left.  She sounded so distressed that I went around to Paul’s to talk to her.

It seems that Hamish has been forbidden to talk to Jonah anymore.  This surprised no-one but Emily who couldn’t believe that her uncle could be so hard-hearted.  Hamish had also had his Bible taken off him and was told that he was not allowed to be a Christian anymore.  This did surprise me.  I had not expected Joel to be so direct and heavy-handed.  But Emily said that Hamish had told Joel that he could not say that it was not true about Jesus when it was true and that he was not embarrassed to be a Christian no matter what he thought of him.  She asked me if I thought that was brave, to which I agreed it was and told her that God helped people to be brave for him.

Emily also told me that Jonah thought that his mother was dying.  When I asked her why he thought that, she said that all he had told her was that “this was just like it was last time”.  I will have to talk to Megan.

When I got home I found two things.  Another message from Hamish on my answering machine.  The same as the first one.  “Don’t call me back.”

And a gap in the shelf that held Gina’s books.

Her Bible was gone.

nb Hamish also posted today 

Sweet and Sour Pudding

What an evening!

Megan is amazing.  She says that she hopes that we can keep in touch – and she’s the kind of person you just believe when she says that.  We just sort of clicked.  It was nice.  I hope we can be friends.  I haven’t had a good Christian friend my own age in so long.  I mean, I’m not setting her up to be my best friend and all that – but I think I could feel connected to her.  The closest I’ve come to that with anyone but Bennie since Kylie went to Scotland and Lisa died is Gina.  I want to be her friend. And for some reason I think she wants to be mine.

The kids had a great time I think for the afternoon, although they were pretty serious after tea and Emily looked pretty rattled by something for a moment.  Not that it was there for all to see for longer than that … but she is so like Lisa it’s hard not to read her sometimes.  I was going to ask her if she wanted to talk on the way home, but – well we were all a little distracted by then …

Carlos is studying full-time this year thanks to some supporters who had put aside his tuition fees.  He’s been working towards developing some further training programmes that can be run for local believers where they are serving.  He also wants to start work on some ongoing work that will help the small team that they work with to remain heartened as the work is often hard and slow to bear fruit despite the fact that the people are kind to them.  It doesn’t help that the government is closed to the gospel.  They tell of tremendous lessons in the value of a prayerful heart and the lessons that they have learned about praying.  I am no longer surprised that the first thing that the first thing that Hamish learned about from Jonah was prayer, nor that this seems to be one of the things that seems most natural for him to do.

I think that Jazzy enjoyed the company of the big kids.  They were pretty good about including her.  There was a little while while they were talking by themselves, but she was quite happily sitting with Paul by then.  I think that he liked them too.  This is good.  It means he can be comfortable talking with Carlos.

Overall the night went well until Joel came to get Hamish.

I hadn’t thought anything of it, but of course – to Joel it was strange that Paul and I were here also.  He threw up his guard immediately.

“What are you doing here?”

“Oh,” says Megan, looking around and picking up on the tension, but not aware of the larger picture. “You must be Joel.  Karen said that you’d be picking Hamish up.  It didn’t click then that you’re all family.  We met Alciana and Paul and the girls on Sunday at church and invited them around to get to know them better.  It’s nice to get to meet you too.”

I grimaced.  I did.  Joel didn’t see it.  Paul did.  I don’t know about the girls – but I saw the equally horrified look on Hamish’s face and knew the truth.  Hamish was scared.  Not just worried.  Scared.  Thankfully, Megan, puzzled by my grimace, had not seen it.  Emily grasped his hand.  She had.  Hamish shuffled his feet and shoulders and everything in between but accepted the support. And the clock only ticked once.

“You people are all the same.  You take an intelligent person and try to brainwash them into the fold.  I’ve seen it before.  Well no more.  No thank you.  You will not do that to my son.”

Megan and Carlos stood aghast at Joel’s accusations.  Carlos went to take a step forward.  I shook my head and said quietly,

“Not today.” and nodded at Hamish.

Hamish stood ashen face, but with a kind of defiance in every muscle of his body.

Emily’s knuckles were white, but she didn’t seem to notice.  She had tears in her eyes, looking at her Uncle Joel with a resigned disbelief.

And Jonah looked sad.  Like he’d seen it all before.  Felt it all before.  Praying the prayers he’d prayed before.  And I realised, given his parents’ account of their ministry that he probably had.

“Hamish.” Joel summoned his son.

Hamish started walking only to be held back by his cousin’s grasp.  Realising that she was still holding his hand, Emily let go and Hamish walked obediently out of the house, thanking his friend’s parents for their hospitality.

When Hamish had gone, Joel turned briskly and left the house, wiping his feet on the doormat as he left.

Trust Joel for that little bit of drama.

Megan had tears in her eyes – for Hamish, I think – and perhaps Joel.  Carl’s voice was raspy.  Paul and I were embarrassed and both started to apologise for the scene at once.

Carlos interrupted and reassured us.

“We all know that the word of God is not welcome among unbelievers.  It should be no surprise to us that Joel was hostile to Megan or myself that he didn’t like his son being with believers.  We’re just not used to such strong reactions at home.  This is a part of everyday where we are normally.”

Which is all very well but Joel was still horribly rude.  And his son, despite his lack of fear for his faith was terrified of his father.

Suddenly then Megan got up and hurried from the room with Carlos behind her.

There must have been some kind of routine to this because Jonah frowned, stood and with Emily by his side went purposely from the room in a different direction.  Jazzy – somehow after Joel’s soap opera scene had fallen asleep in a bean bag.

Paul and I just looked at each other.

“She’s out like a light.  We should go soon.”

“Yeah.  Wait ’til Megan comes back and we can find Emily then.”

“Nice people.”

“Yeah.  I hope I get to see more of Megan.  She says she doesn’t really know a lot of people around here.  She could make a good friend.”

“You haven’t really had that for a while – what with Kylie overseas and Lisa gone … ”

“No.  What did you think of Carlos?”

“Seems like a good bloke.  He said he’d come and help Andy and I sort out a couple of the questions I’m having that he can’t answer.”

“That’s great.”

“Yeah.  I’m beginning to think so.”

Megan and Carlos come back in.

“Where are the kids.”

“Went walkabout.”

“Ah. Sorry.  People tell you about morning sickness – mine comes at night.  Half Irish, you see.”

“Oh. Congratulations.  Does Jonah know?”

“No.  We won’t tell him ’til we’re reasonably sure this one’s going to make it.  The last couple haven’t and before that I carried one to term and she died a day after she was born.  That nearly broke his heart.”

“Oh Megan.”

“Megan gets pretty sick when she’s pregnant too.  We nearly lost her with the last miscarriage.  That’s another reason why we came home when we found out she was pregnant again.”

“We haven’t told many people.  But – I wanted to tell you.  I want us to be friends, and you seem to too.  But please don’t tell anyone else about the baby.”

“Of course I won’t tell anybody and if Paul does, I’ll box his ears – but you can trust him with a secret forever.  Lisa used to say the only thing you had to worry about is if he’d remember it… ” I grinned at him.  He grinned back at the memory.

“If you’re not careful I’ll start …”

“Then we’d better say our thank yous and goodbyes and go”

Lord, please soften Joel’s heart.  Strengthen Hamish for whatever is in the days ahead.  I have a feeling that they’re not going to be easy.  Help Jonah to be a support for his friend no matter how creative he has to be.  And Lord please help him with whatever that worried look was for.  Help me to find a moment to talk to Emily also.  Thanks for the work you’re doing in Paul.  May he continue to ask questions about you and come to trust you.

And Father, thank you for a friend.  Please keep her safe.

Amen.

Going Dotty

Dear God,

Back to work today.  Out of the castle.  No more castle-fever.

I had Chicken Pox when I was 16.  I got in my car and waved good bye to the three faces that were now becoming well enough to care that one of could leave while they remained imprisoned in the castle.

But, Father, I walked from one building full of spots into another.  There were spots on my desk.  There were spots on my chair.  There were spots on my floor, my stationary, my computer, my clock, my phone – you name it … there were spots.  I opened the desk drawer and there were spots in there too.  And somebody just plain gross had added pus leaking from the ones on the filing cabinet (Gina? no she’s more subtle than that – she did the drawer.  Scott).

My office space has Chicken Pox!

Someone – or someones had obviously brought in a tonne of target bags and catalogues and had a go at them with the scissors – in their breaks, of course …

One of the fun things about office life is that life goes on without you.  The problem is, that people still need things when you’re not there.  So – over the past three days there have been people ratting through my stuff looking for reports or files or equipment that I may or may not have in an attempt to locate it.  There have been people borrowing things and people borrowing things and then there has been Rodney.  Rodney has the equivalent position to myself (and to Kelly), but in yet another department.  This week he was hauled in to cover my spot on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning to complete something that needed to be sent off by Tuesday afternoon.  However, he needed access to stuff managed under a password that I hold to do it, so arrangements were made with IT to get him access which meant changing the password.  So Rodney goes on holidays to Scotland without telling a soul what the password is now rendering the computer largely inaccessible to me.  I offered to go to Scotland to get it from him, but they sent for IT at 3pm as I was leaving instead.

“Oh, excellent!  You’re here to fix up the computer so I can use it?  Just leave the information in sealed envelope with the Department Manager when you’re done and I’ll get it in the morning.”

“Sorry.  You’ll need to wait.  You need to sign for the password or I’ll have to come back at another time.  It won’t take long.”

So I wait.

And wait.

And wait.

“Look, I’m really sorry, but are you almost done?  I really have to go.”

“Just a couple more minutes, ma’am.  The password is in but I have a couple of minor adjustments that need to be made for security and then I can shut up shop and you’re right to go.”

“Again, I’m sorry to rush you, but I have kids waiting at home who are sick with Chicken Pox.  If you give me the password now, I will sign … ”

“But … ”

“Please … password – or I sneeze in your general direction and you take the risk that I have Chicken Pox a second time … ”

I got the password.

I finally got home to find that the household had gone mad.  Well, not mad.  Dotty.

“Auntie Alciana,” Jazzie runs up to me, “we’re having a dotty day.”

I would never have guessed by what I see around me … everywhere … dots.

Emily joins us.

“You’re only allowed to do things where there are dots in them.  We played Twister this morning, and dominoes …”

“We did join the dots and coloured them in with dots with colouring pencils and we had fairy bread for lunch!”

“And raw carrot cut in circles.”

“An’ Daddy found the twirly apple cutter so he made apple twirlies and they’re round with a big empty spot in the middle where the core was.  Isn’t that right, Daddy?”

“It is,” grins Paul, looking tired.  “Then, after lunch we all had a spot of sleep.”

“We played dot scotch!” piped in Jazz again.

“That’s like hopscotch, but with dots like the dominoes instead of numbers in the squares,” Emily explained.

“And now we’re building domino houses.  Lots of them”

“That’s right,” nods Paul.  “Because domino houses fall down with a great big crash every now and then, don’t they?”

The girls nod at me while Paul pulls a face that says he’s had enough domino houses for today, please? over their heads.

“Are they places where dotty people live?” I grin as I ask them.

The girls giggle.

Then Emily looks over her shoulder at her father, receives a nod, then turns back to me.

“Auntie Alci … ” she looks like the child that she is, disappointed not to be able to bring me a surprise. “We don’t know what we should do for dinner … ”

A thought comes just in time.  I smile.

“How about spaghetti and meatballs?  Spaghetti is long and round, and meatballs are just big round dots!  And … while you’re clearing up the dominoes and today’s games, I’ll go to the shops and get a surprise for dessert!”

Before setting out to make dinner I set them up with one last – probably the messiest – activity of the day.  I set them up with old magazines and coloured paper, a hole punch, scissors, glue, scrapbooks and a pencil each and introduced them to the ‘Dotty Mosaic’.  The idea:  draw a picture (try for one that has circles or dots included in it like wheels or wrapping paper), then instead of colouring in with pencils or paint, stick on coloured circles of paper the colour that you want things to be … “like this…” and made a tree.

Off they went.  Very content in a very spotty mess.  Hands sticky and too busy to be scratching …

I made dinner which went down very well.

Doughnut holes were a hit for desert – hooray!

I’m going home tomorrow.  If Paul can manage a “Dotty day”, visits will do from here-on-in.

Lord, I finished the last of James 1 today.  What a challenge to lay down.  Yet again and again, you challenge me to take up and show my faith by action.  Lord my control over my tongue is generally an ongoing and mutinous war.  Time and time again it brings me to my knees before you in humility as the only place to go.  I struggle endlessly to filter the pollution from the good while living in this world so spoiled by sin.  But Father, thanks for the chance to look after a widower and his two daughters in their time of need this week.

Amen.