Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Here's to the Flush of Freedom

Me and My First S'More

Today I am thankful. Gratitude fills me as I stroke the soft pristine white Charmin tissue. I look around at the four walls and the door with a lock and I smile. The tender sound of the melodic flush brings a tear to one eye. No spillage caresses my cheek, but I’m definitely misty.

I love my bathroom. Never will I take it for granted again.

This past weekend I experienced “real camping” (my brother Phil’s words) for the first time since I was a teenager. At 15, I spent a week backpacking through the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico. I think back to that time and the lack of facilities does not make any of my memories. At 50, with a history of tummy issues, life is different. Running water is not just a luxury, it’s a need. (Puuullllease, you missionaries and campers of the world, I know, I know. This is a first world issue I’m talking about and I may come off spoiled. I get it!)

In a wilderness a few hours southwest of Denver, we camped for two nights. After we set up our tent and cot, I asked to be shown the restroom. I was guided up a winding path through trees and brush and came upon an old fallen tree.

“Behind that.”

“What? Where are the walls?”

“No walls. But you’ll be quite hidden back here.”

I traipsed around the tree and found a box with a bag in it covered by a toilet seat, a container with toilet paper to one side and a box of kitty litter on the other.

Quickly, I weighed my options. 1) Fake a heart attack and demand to be taken to the hospital, cancelling our camping expedition or 2) Deal with this backward, antiquated powder room.

The first time I took advantage of El Bano I knew that someone/something must be watching. Probably a bear and his family, deciding if they wanted the white meat woman for breakfast or dinner. But I didn’t see them and I endured. Later that day I asked our group what to do if I saw a bear. My nephew Hunter, a 19 year old who has his dad’s demented humor, said, “Aunt Robbie, just try to get really small and whimper. And look the bear in the eyes.”

No one commented so I said, “Okay, really? That works?” A smattering of snickers. “Tell me the truth!”

Betty, a wonderful Godly woman, said, “Robbie, just run. If I see a bear, I don’t have to run faster than it. Just faster than you.”

Everyone laughed at Betty’s reference to the old joke. I just stared at my former friend. J

The first night of camping I was given two sleeping bags to make sure I kept warm on my cot in my tent. I thought I would be extremely smart and take apart the sleeping bags and use them as two blankets. After I huddled underneath, the temps dropped to 5 below. Now my husband, who fell asleep in his sleeping bag before I said “Good night,” seemed oblivious to the frozen tundra inside our tent. But I knew I would be found frozen in the morning, a 50 year old white piece of meat all ready for cryogenic studies.

And then…of course…I found I needed to use the latrine. My brother, the expert camper who I love, had situated our tent about 100 yards away from the facilities. In the middle of the arctic, that distance equals 5 miles. I got up, all my layers still upon my body, put my shoes on and headed out for a 2 a.m. trek. My trusty flashlight led the way and I prayed every step. I prayed that the fear of being that bear’s midnight snack would not be realized. I prayed that my white bottom would not glow in the dark and provide a spotlight for said bear to target. In my frosty state, I tried to remember if I was supposed to run or get small and whimper. I couldn’t think so I cursed both Hunter and Betty.

I made it safely back to my tent. By that time, it occurred to me that using the sleeping bags like burritos would be a good choice. So I zipped up both, put one inside the other, crawled in and prayed that I would not die.

Morning light communicated that I had survived.

That day Phil informed me that sleeping bags are designed to reflect body heat and by taking off the many layers of clothes I’d worn, I would utilize the bag to its best intended use. That night I took his advice and wore very little as I scrunched up into the bags tossing and turning like a puppy trying to find the best position. Finally I found it and felt hope for reverie. However, the temperature again dropped quickly to at least 20 below. I shivered and turned and glared at sleeping John who was clueless to the misery of his wife. (The next day my brother Phil and our friend Bennie had the nerve to remark on how HOT the night had been…what???)

But in the great words of that Etta James song, AT LAST, I found peace and a tiny bit of warmth and hope for the future comfort of all that is my civilization.

Then I had to use the little girls’ room. Or in this case, everyone in the forest’s room.

A great debate ensued in my mind. Do I really need to go? How badly? Maybe I could just take the sleeping bags in to a dry cleaner. If so, I could experience warmth…at least for a little bit. My mind went further into contemplation, exploring my mortality and if it was indeed, time for me to buy Depends. Before I started shopping for nursing homes, I made my decision.

Wearing very little, I wrestled with my sleeping bags and got up to find my clothes and put them on. Many, many layers. I cursed my brother for a little bit and then I changed targets as I watched the hubs snore in deep sleep. Yes, I made noise as I changed. Purposeful, loud noise to try to wake him up. No use. He was gone.

Taking my flashlight, I trekked the tundra again, this time almost wishing those bears would come and eat me, ending my wretched woe. The box/bag greeted me like a mocking friend.

“Hi! I hoped you’d drop by.”

I sneered at it and dreamed of private ladies lounges with aromatic soaps and lotions and soft towels. The next morning, as I travelled to the lavatory, the water closet, the loo for the last time, I looked upon the broken down tree and the surrounding brush and forest and I became Scarlett O’Hara, (and mixed up some of her quotes.)

“As God is my witness,” I pledged, “I will make it home!” (This was said aloud in a Georgian accent – you need to know that detail) “I will say thank you to my restroom and I will not come back here. For tomorrow is another day! And not one for camping without running water!”

The great thing about being an adult living in America is that I don’t HAVE to ever camp again without running water. Unless the Commies invade us and hold a gun to my head, I never have to experience this again.

With that thought, I am thankful. I have found myself on occasion this week, passing by the bathroom and flushing for no particular reason. But I smile. As I flush, I flush with freedom, with liberty and justice for all. Amen.

(The camping trip did have some WONDERFUL moments. Sign up for my weekly Joyvotion by giving me your email and I will send you a devotion of the cool things God showed me on my camping trip.   J

Thursday, June 06, 2013

A New Perspective Under a Coat of Paint

“…that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (NASB)

3 Things I Hate:
 1) TV news anchors that engage in witty banter, pretending to be comedians
 2) The stair master at the gym 
 3) Asking for help 

In the midst of painting the inside of my home the other day, my friend Deb emerged from my son’s bathroom and said, “Well, the bathtub is clean.”

“What? Deb, did you clean the bathroom?!”

“Yes,” she said with a smile. “I wanted to bless you.”

A rush of emotions curled up in my stomach and punched me.  Embarrassment, humiliation and anger rolled into one.  “Deb, I asked you to help me paint, not clean.”

“Robbie, “My friend Sonya joined in, “Receive it. It’s a gift she wants to give you.’

This week I discovered that I have a little problem asking for assistance and a huge problem asking for guidance. We all have different gifts and talents and in my world, I was at recess when God gave out the gifts for painting, cleaning and decorating. My friend Sonya has an incredible gift for all three of these. A few weeks ago, I asked my friend Sonya for help in redoing my home. She didn’t hesitate in saying yes. This week was painting week. Sonya came into my home and assisted me and guided me into a more gorgeous and peaceful place to live.

Through this process, I’ve had to choose to be grateful for my friends instead of humiliated that I don’t have the abilities they have. I didn’t like that Deb cleaned my bathroom. It was so uncomfortable to accept that Sonya knew how to organize my cabinets in a way that made sense. A way that I haven't thought about. I cringed when I watched Lynn and Helen and Loretta paint and clean with such an intense knowledge and gusto when I felt that we should just quit and all go sit in a movie theatre and eat popcorn.

It was difficult.

And through it all, God knew that I needed these ladies to teach me that to receive with a grateful heart, even when it hurts, is to allow Him to complete His work in me. He is teaching me that showing the ugliness in my life to others (they actually were privy to seeing all that has grown behind my stove and under my kitchen sink) is showing God an open heart in which He can work.

These are lessons I could not begin to learn on my own. Philippians 1:6 reminds us even though we are works in progress, God is constantly working to perfect us. And many times He uses our friends to do this, but we have to be open to ask and receive.

And you should see my home. Beautiful! (Thank you Sonya, Deb, Loretta, Lynn and Helen!)