Monday, March 19, 2007

Patience

If there's anything in this life that should have a warning label attached, it's Galatians 5:22-23, the Fruit of the Spirit passage in the Bible. In bolded capitals, it should say, "Don't pray for this unless you really want it. Because if you want it, be prepared to be pruned."

Living in Texas has given me great skills as a pruner. Crape myrtle trees abound here. They're hardy little things; neither drought nor furnace-like temps will kill them off. They're easy to care for; other than water them occasionally and prune them, you don't have to do anything, which is why we have five in our yard. The pruning, however, is not for the faint of heart. There's actually a technical term: "crape murder," which basically means you chop off all branches except the very top ones each fall. Somehow instead of killing the tree it makes it taller and fuller.

Yesterday I sat at the dining room table with a mug of coffee and the Bible and read the fruit of the Spirit passage. Then, in a moment of naivety, I prayed for some patience. And then the heavens opened up and laughed. Today I woke up to a sick baby. I called our babysitter, Kristina, and asked her to come early so I could take Addison to the doctor. On her way to our house she got stuck in traffic, so to keep from being late, I had her meet me at the pediatrician's office, where I handed off the two boys for her to take to the park. Addison and I waited for a very long time while flu and RSV tests were being run. I take that back--it wasn't that long, but Addie is not a patient patient. It just felt long. The RSV test came back positive, and since she also has bronchitis we had to wait for multiple prescriptions to be written. I took the kids home and left them with Kristina and lunch so I could go pick up the prescriptions and run a few errands.

And then the heavens of patience-forming frustrations opportunities unleashed. I went to the post office. And waited forty minutes in line while the postal workers moved in slow motion. After mailing packages and buying stamps, I went to the bank. And waited in line. Then my bank business took about 30 minutes longer than I'd anticipated. I drove to the fabric store to pick up one measly yard of ribbon. And waited in line. Behind a woman with 18--no exaggeration here--bolts of fabric to be measured. Wal-Mart was next, and as I drove I asked myself how badly we needed wet wipes and milk. By this point Kristina said Addison had woken up and needed to eat, and I was nowhere near finished. I shopped for the entire week as fast I could, only to wait in line at the checkout, where a very nice but very relaxed checker moved like molasses.

Scratching "groceries" off my list, I sped to the pharmacy to pick up all the prescriptions. This time I was actually first in line, until a girl pulled up to the next window and had so many questions the entire pharmaceutical team had to stop and help her. Then back to the post office to mail the last package. And of course I stood in line again. By this point I was grinning, albeit more out of deranged exhaustion than goodwill. The lady in front of me got so bent out of shape at the slowness of the people in front, she finally stalked out, fuming the entire time. I watched her go, wondering what she would've done if she were living my life at the moment.

Finally--finally--I drove to the last errand before heading home. All I had to do was drop off a check at the front office. I walked in, and as the Lord is my witness I promise you I knew I was in for it the moment the lady at the desk saw me. She literally brightened as if company had come to town, and then she began talking so much and so fast she put Caiden to shame. I am not lying when I say she not only somehow got my middle name out of me, but also my age, as well as hauled out an 8 x 10 wedding picture of her daughter and went on to tell me what size dress her daughter wore, what she does for a living, and how frustrated she is that her daughter and son-in-law have been married six years and are yet to produce a grandchild. I tried not to stare at the clock above her head, but in between nods and "Ahas" and "Mhhhmmms," I remember thinking I'd been trapped and would never, ever be allowed to leave the building. As she launched into her own childhood memories--and all this from a virtual stranger!--I started backing toward the door, jingling my keys. Eventually she let up, probably as my eyes glazed over, and I fled for the car.

I pulled up to a house with a hungry baby, a van full of thawing groceries, and the knowledge that I was going to have to write a check to the babysitter twice as much as usual. And I didn't even go anywhere fun.

So now I'm sitting in my chair, surveing a scene of absolute destruction in my house. Breathing treatment supplies, puzzles, baby toys, stuffed fish, popcorn kernels--everything is everywhere, and I still have to summon enough energy to make dinner and administer medication, baths, and love to the kids before bedtime.

I've decided that I'm willing to forego character development. Being pruned stinks. The next time I sit down with my Bible and a mug of coffee, forget the fruit of the Spirit; I'm praying for something else. Like rest.

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