Why I Struggle to Live a Spacious Life

An obedient life is spacious

…continued from yesterday.

It has taken me years to learn to ask forgiveness of someone when I have done wrong, so knocking on Sarah’s door took all of my self-discipline and courage.

“Come in,” she said.

“I am so sorry for the way I spoke to you just now,” I said. “Will you forgive me?”

“Yes.” She still hadn’t really looked up from what she was doing.

“In addition,” I continued, “I’d like to have a do-over, if you’re willing.”

“Sure.”

I closed the door quietly and then knocked again.

“Come in.”

“Hey, Sarah,” I exclaimed in as cheery of a voice as I could muster. “Thank you so much for taking the turkeys to Miss Grimm this morning when I forgot them.”

“You’re welcome,” she said, a ghost of a smile crossing her features.

“I’m running a little late and I need to start making Thanksgiving dinner for tonight.”

“Ok.”

I closed her door and rushed to the kitchen, hoping to salvage both the dinner and my proposed blog post. As I read the instructions for the roasting bag, I realized I had forgotten one important item—a thermometer.

Sarah wandered in. “Can I help?”

“Yes! Could you run to the store and buy a meat thermometer? Just take my debit card.”

“Sure. What’s a meat thermometer?”

I paused and explained which aisle she would find it in and exactly what it looked like. In doing so, I realized that I had forgotten to buy whipping cream for the pies. “Could you grab some whipping cream, too?” I asked.

She headed out the door whilst I rinsed the turkey and patted it dry. By the time I had prepared the rub and the roasting bag, Sarah returned…with a candy thermometer. I sucked in a big breath of air and smiled.

“Oops! You grabbed the wrong one. That’s a candy thermometer.”

“Oh, man! I should have read the package better. I’ll return it and look for the right one.”

“Thank you. If you can’t find what you need, you can always ask someone.”

Another half an hour passed, during which I struggled to take the necessary photos whilst wrestling with a 20-pound turkey. Sarah breezed through the door holding up a meat thermometer. “Is this the right one?”

“Absolutely!” I nodded toward the counter. “Could you set it there? This is taking me longer than I expected.”

“Do you want some help?” she said.

“I would love help,” I said. For the next two hours we worked together in the kitchen. She took photos whilst I pointed out the dangers of roasting a turkey (for example, hidden cavities on the bird that are full of other body parts). Afterwards, she helped me peel potatoes and prepare the stuffing. By 5:30, we had everything in the oven and the table set.

We ate an hour late, but our faculty family didn’t seem to mind too much.

***

In my devotional reading the next morning I came across Proverbs 15:32. The Message version laid it out so that even I could understand. I felt down in the dumps and frustrated because I had spent too much time lately worrying about me and how Sarah’s problems caused disruptions in my routine, my comfort, and my marriage. I had fallen into the self-willed, puny life trap.

I had fallen into the self-willed, puny life trap. It was time to work on obedience. Click To Tweet

Instead, I needed to focus on how maybe God wanted me to grow and change and align myself with his will for the situation so that I could live a spacious life. I determined that I would try to reframe the situation and quit trying to solve it on my own. I needed to keep myself open to doing what I could, but realize that I couldn’t provide the solution.

Later that day, one of the other faculty members pulled me aside and asked me if Sarah had mentioned her drive into town the previous day.

“No,” I said. “Did something happen?”

“I was behind the school bus,” she said, “and it pulled over and put its stop sign out.”

I nodded, wondering what this all had to do with Sarah.

“Sarah went barreling past in the opposite direction.”

“When the stop sign was out?” I couldn’t believe it. Sarah got her driver’s permit the day she turned 15 and logged all of her required hours behind the wheel so she could get her license six months later. She drove carefully and had never been pulled over before.

“The kids hadn’t gotten off the bus yet,” my friend said.

“I’ll have to chat with her and see if she’s forgotten the basic road rules,” I said. “Maybe she forgot during her time in Argentina. Thank you for telling me.”

I wanted to storm back into the house and yell at Sarah, “You could have killed a kid yesterday!” Instead, I remembered what I had read that morning. I prayed first and then decided to file the incident away until my temper had cooled. Yelling didn’t solve anything, and I certainly didn’t want to make Sarah feel any worse than she already did about herself.

***

The following week we all traveled to California to visit Laura and Louis for Thanksgiving. Although Sarah still hadn’t returned to normal, for the first time in months I heard her laugh. She joined Laura and I for a Friday coffee date, and even let me take of selfie of the three of us to post on Facebook.

I confess that I probably spend more time on Facebook than anyone else in the family. Laura comes in a close second, Sarah a distant third, and Pedro occasionally updates his status. During her time in Argentina, Sarah had posted photos and updates on a regular basis, and interacted with her friends back in the states. From May to November, she posted nothing.

Her friends, however, had not forgotten her. They left friendly messages on her Facebook page, asking her if she was ok and wondering what had happened to her.  They posted the occasional photo or encouraging graphic as well.

Holbrook has a dearth of young adults and not much to do for the ones who live here. The one theatre in town shows only one movie at a time—and its only open a few days of the week. One of the younger staff members had befriended Sarah, and occasionally they’d go to Flagstaff for a girl’s afternoon out or to the local movie theatre.

I felt badly that Pedro and I ended up as Sarah’s main source of companionship—what 20-year-old wants to hang out with her parents all of the time?

***

November morphed into December and the holidays. We spent a week with Laura and Louis and then drove north to spend a week with Pedro’s brother and sister-in-law. I worried that returning to Angwin might bring back all of Sarah’s angst from the summer time, but she handled it well.

We drove over to Reno to spend a day with Pedro’s parents. Sarah received a surprising invitation while we were there. Her grandparents planned on visiting family in Puerto Rico for a month in February, and they invited Sarah to come along to help them with travel and driving.

Sarah quickly accepted the offer. On the one hand, I didn’t blame her for wanting to escape Holbrook. On the other hand, I couldn’t imagine spending a month with Pedro’s mom.

For years I had joked about Pedro’s mom being obsessive-compulsive/manic-depressive. She embodies all the personality traits that I find difficult to deal with—and I have never done a very good job of dealing with her. It has taken me years to set up boundaries. I came to the realization several years ago that she probably experienced some kind of trauma in her early childhood and so in times of stress, she reverts to the behavior of her early childhood. But that’s just me playing armchair analyst.

I have a difficult time having a pleasant conversation with her—mostly because I get impatient and angry when she tries to manipulate me through her doleful pronouncements or incessant counsel. I have tried to remain as neutral in my opinions as possible and to make sure that the girls spent time with their grandparents—but I’m sure my antipathy leaked out more than I wanted it to.

So when Sarah accepted the invitation, I held my tongue. Maybe a change of scenery would really benefit Sarah, I thought. Maybe spending time with two people who doted on her would help build her self-confidence.

Maybe it would be a horrible disaster. I tried to squash that thought.

…to be continued.

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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