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.

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A Spot of Bother

Dear God,

Thank you for sustaining me through the last three days.

I woke up on Sunday morning feeling bright and cheerful and alive.  The sun was out.  The garden looked great.  Sure, the girls had been a bit tired Saturday night, but today was a new day and we had adventures aplenty in store.

I snuck on my tippiest of tippy toes in to greet them, thinking what a rare treat this was – normally by now they’d have been in to wake me and I’d have read them at least two stories.

So I sneak through the open door and find two little girls lying in bed.  One is asleep and looks very pale under a rosy flush on her face.  The other is bundled firmly up in her doona shivering and sweating and pale.

“Auntie Alciana, I feel sick.”  I feel her skin with the back of my hand.

“Yep,” I nod, “I think you feel sick too.  Think you can stand a glass of water to start with?”

Emily nods.

On the other side of the room seven-year-old Jazz groans and calls out in a teary voice, “Auntie Alciana, I feel sick.”

“You too, huh?  How about I get you some water too and then I might ring your Dad and see what he wants me to do with two sick chicks?”

Both nod miserably.

When I finally get to ring Paul he sounds awful.

“Alci?  Is that you?  That’s good, I was just about to ring you.  Do you think you could keep the girls for a few days – Mum could help a bit before and after school while you’re at work …”

“Paul, the girls …”

“… I’m really worried about what else to do with them until I’m sure I’m not contagious anymore …”

“Paul, …. the girls are … ”

” … I swear, I was so off last night – but Alci – I’ve got Chicken Pox.”

Chicken Pox … Lord, why Chicken Pox?

“Fan-tas-tic!”  Paul misreads my sarcasm.

“Yeah, I know.  Bummer, hey.  So, what do you say?  I know its not ideal with work and your own health and all, but…”

“I say that I’m taking Emily & Jazz to the doctor to confirm that they probably have Chicken Pox too, and then I’m packing a bag and coming out to look after you all while you’re still off colour.  I’ll go home when you’re just spotty and not sick.”

“What?”

“They’re sick.  Both of them.  Burning up like little steam engines.  Like when I had it when I was sixteen.  Paul, I’d say you, Emily and Jasmine all have Chicken Pox.”

Then Paul said a word that I’m not writing in my journal.

By lunchtime there were spots on their tummies.

Paul and I decided doctors could wait til Monday, so I picked up calamine lotion and stuff to put in the bath that everybody was glad of.

I cooked dinner to the disinterest of all but myself and the dog.

Monday came and I called work to arrange time off to care for family – no problems.

Next on the agenda saw me driving all three miserable specimens into the doctor’s surgery.  One, two, three spotty persons along the wall.  Everyone coming in (or already there) took one look and made for the other side of the room.

“Give me a bell and I’ll walk around yelling ‘unclean! unclean!” Paul mumbled out of the side of his mouth.

I giggled.  And then thought.

“Where did you pick that up?”  I asked.

He shrugged.  “I’ve been reading bits of the Bible now and then – though it’s hard to make sense of some of it.  A guy at work who explains some bits to me if I ask him said some people had to do that if they had diseases and stuff that were considered ceremonially unclean by the Jews”

Interesting

“Cool.”

Lord, Paul’s been reading your word and has been talking to another believer about you.  I never give you enough credit for what you without me … I always seem to think that my family getting to know you depends upon me – but it’s really all you, isn’t it?  Help me keep my role in perspective.  This is not my job, but yours.

Medical certificates for school and Paul’s work fixed up … although Jazz was reluctant to part with hers until she at length grasped the fact that it was not an achievement award.  (for getting the chicken pox????)  We assured her that we would be keeping a copy anyway.  She has already shown her certificate (still seen as one of merit) to the school office ladies, the groundsman, the pharmacy assistant, old Mrs Hargraves, Bennie – who was at the pharmacy and to the post man (she waited for him … I think she has cabin fever already).

Tuesday

Lord, after two days of chasing my tail I am so dizzy that I am seeing spots.  No.  Actually.  The spots are real.  They are still there.

So are the grumbles.

The normally good-humoured Johns family of the brother Paul are scratchy.  Scratchy of mood and finger.

I resorted in a moment of impulsive frustration today to taping Jasmine into oven mitts today.  They were handy and I couldn’t stop her from scratching.

Poor kiddie.  She looked a bit like an American basketball fan with those big foam things on.

Emily, seeing what I’d done to Jazzy when she couldn’t leave the spots alone went upstairs for a while – and just as I was about to go looking for her  – down the stairs she came in a balaclava with socks on her hands.

I looked at her.

She looked at Jazz’s hands, then held up her own and shrugged.

I’d have loved to have seen the expression on her face.

Paul – Paul just scratches when he thinks the girls aren’t looking; looks at me and says, “what? I can’t help it … Don’t you even think about it!”

Never brother dear.  You may bear your scars manfully.

But I noticed him letting the girls talk him into putting socks on his hands.

Gave me a filthy look over their heads as he melted.

Thinking about scratching makes me think of the way James talks about temptation in chapter one.  First there’s the itch.  Nobody makes you scratch it.  But the desire is there.  You scratch when your desire to do so is enticed by the itch and you make the choice to – (and make chicken pock scars?)… and then it’s harder and harder to stop.

Lord through James you make it clear that a Christian is to be steadfast and reaching for the ultimate prize of eternal life.  Please help me to resist temptation.  May you strengthen me so that I may not allow sinful desire to be enticed, but that you will replace sinful desires with good and perfect ones from you.  Father please protect me from habitually ignoring sin and discounting it, but make me long for your truth and the way that you have set forth in your word as wise and righteous and godly.  Forgive me for the times when I want to or try to lay responsibility for my sin at your feet – for you are a good God, holy and righteous, perfect and just and have been for all time.  You are unchanging.

Father thank you for choosing to grant me new life through the gospel and a place in eternity.

Amen.

Sweet Dreams

Dear God,

Today was a family day.  It was a great one.  It was a hard one.  As I stand and watch my precious nieces sleeping peacefully in my spare room all rugged up in bright, pretty bedding that I couldn’t help myself from getting for them.  They love the cushions at the end of the bed with the clumsy hand stitched pictures and their names on them for when they sleep over that Lisa and I made them when they were very little – one for home and one for here.  Father, I miss Lisa at times like this most of all.  She just loved being a Mum.  Its in these moments that I yearn for it too.

Emily and Hamish are still practicing hard.  Karen must be going out of her brain – or would be if they hadn’t bought him that electronic drum kit so that he could use earphones … still the dull thuds must get to her.  Em will be just bashing away down the back shed at home as usual and since they’re on acreage she gets away with it – mostly.  She’s not right under the neighbour’s windows – and they all know she lost her Mum last year so I think they’re pretty cool about it anyway.  Paul once said to her, “Perhaps it’ll help keep the possums at bay.” and she’s never let him forget it.  Good luck swallowing those words, Paul.  You’ve got a better chance with the possums than Emily.

I will swear that they are still competing over something.  I wonder what the prize is.  What’s the equivalent to a sheep station to a ten-year-old?

Mrs Hedge … sorry Grace was a hoot.  She might have broken her hip, but she’s keen as to be up and moving pain or no pain.  I can just see her leading the ward walking frame races – as soon as the nurses, physios & OTs turn their backs!  Thanks that she’s doing well. Please continue to heal her rapidly.

What a joy to know that she now belongs to you, Lord.  All that energy and she wants others to know you too.  She’s already got her family lined up for a course explaining the gospel like a true matriarch.  Carol says that she and several of the others are genuinely interested, others are wanting to do it because they’re worried about Grace being taken advantage of by a religious group.  She says that some changes in her mother are noticeable even now and she was so excited when they gave her a Bible – she read that like she usually reads the newspaper – and she won’t move in the morning most days till she’s read the paper cover to cover.  That was right up until she started catching that bus – always that particular bus since her last doctor’s appointment.

“I couldn’t work out why until she sent me to tell the ‘girl who answers my questions’ that she was okay,” she added.

So she had been a seeker when she kept joining me on the bus.  Thank you Lord for the privilege of being part of the plan.

Lord, how many of my own demons do I face down tonight when I am vulnerable.  My longing for children of my own to mother – and yes now is a time when missing out on a husband seems like a kick in the teeth – I want someone to share my days with – and my doona … well some of it anyway; my plans, my dreams … and it would have been nice to have a family of my own to talk about with Grace today.

But you Oh Lord are my sustainer, my companion and my protector.  You are with me always and your word promises that your grace is sufficient for me – even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes.  May my gratitude for this raise my head and heart to you and comfort my troubled heart.

Lord, in Psalm 3 David asks you to strike his enemies on the jaw and break the teeth of the wicked.  Father my enemies are not the ones David faced.  Tonight they’re the feelings that I have been cheated or robbed of something that should have been mine when I encounter moments of yearning – they are ghosts, sins like envy and discontent.  Father, smite them.

From you comes my deliverance

May your blessing be upon me

Amen.

Going Places

Dear God,

Whoever made up that song that goes “The Wheels on the Bus go round and round” obviously never travelled in peak hour traffic.  The trip home tonight took forever.  The morning trips seem to move faster these days.  Please notice, with your perfect all-hearing ears that I said “morning trips” and “seem”, not “bus” and “do”.  Probably because of this funny little lady that’s been sitting next to me the last few days.

This morning I was thinking about how great it was to know Christians at work.  I was so over-joyed a tear trickled down my cheek.  Then, suddenly – out of nowhere came a voice,

“Excuse me, are you alright? You look upset.  Do you need a tissue?”

So I thank her and take one.

Then she goes, “Is there something bothering you, anything you’d like to talk to me about? I know you don’t know me, but I will listen if you want to talk.”

I smile.  She continues.

“Yesterday you said that even when some people know the story of Jesus, they don’t realise that they still need his forgiveness.  What did you mean by that?”

“Okay then. You said everybody knows about Jesus, yes?”

“Yes.”

“What is it that everybody knows about him?  Because some know more than others…”

“That he came to save us from our sins.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

“Okay.” I nodded, “but was everybody taught how?”

“Well you ask forgiveness for your sins.”

“As simple as that?” I ask.

“As simple as that.” she nods.

“Have you?” I asked her.

“Have I what?” she looked confused.

“Have you asked forgiveness?”

“Of course not.  Only sinners need to do that.”

“Are you telling me that you don’t sin?”

“I’m pretty good.  Are you telling me that God doesn’t forgive good people?”

“Different people say different things about good and bad people.  The thing is that’s not what its really all about.  It all revolves around Jesus…”

And at this point she hops up and mutters over her shoulder something like “This is my stop.  Maybe I’ll catch you tomorrow.”

Funny lady.  Think she’s lonely and wants someone to talk to more than anything.  Be great if she did get to know you, come to think of it.  She asks a new question every day.  Help me to listen carefully.

Getting Gina to go to lunch was a flop.

“Not you too!  Kelly’s been trying to get me to go there.  That’s that funny little place where the buskers can play a song and get a meal for free.”

“Yeah – off peak times or John would go mad, of course.”

“Broke more like it, given the way some of ’em sound.”

“Fair go,” Scott interrupts, “they need a licence.

“Hmm.  Or no fixed address from what I understand or the guy working his way through humming what he calls Handel’s “Messiah” would starve.

“I’m told the food’s great.” I say, trusting Scott.

“That may be,” says Gina, “but I’d rather go to the pub for lunch.”

“You’re kidding right?”

“Nope.  I prefer the pub meals to any others around here and its alright in the beer garden.”

Father, she was asking me to agree to sit with her and eat in an area where everybody smokes.  Thank you for helping me not to show my disgust.  Thanks for the ability to put my own preferences and concerns aside and agree to go where she wanted to.  I know I surprised Scott.  I don’t usually put aside my preferences that easily.

When he raised his concern with me about how sitting amidst all that smoke might cause me trouble for the rest of the day because smoke does always knock me around.  I reassured him that this was what I felt was right.  It would mean having the conversation somewhere where Gina was comfortable.  If it was for the sake of the gospel then her interests could come above my own and I felt that this meant trusting God with my health on Gina’s turf.

Thanks that Scott put up no more argument and that he and the others will be ready and praying.

Father, What am I going to do at the pub? I’m going to feel like I’m the pink elephant with the purple polka dots and orange stripes.  How’s it going to affect me for the afternoon with all that smoke?  I’d better go in early.  I might be as useful as the elephant by the afternoon.  Please protect me.

Amen.