On Mother’s Day all I wanted was a clothes dryer. Don’t even think about buying me the candles and the lotion, my sweet cherubs. Let’s forego the homemade coupon book with free back rubs unless there’s also a coupon in there for $500. This year, I was focused. I had talked to Jesus about this for weeks, and I felt I truly deserved it. My dryer had been broken for over three months, which is a really long time in laundry years. For three months, I hung clothes on the line outside and also all around our house, like a bitter Laura Ingalls Wilder. Socks and underwear should not ever hang from the computer monitor in one’s office. They do not help with the aesthetic in a house, unless you want to call my aesthetic “bitter Laura Ingalls.”
If you’re not aware, Mother’s Day is always on a Sunday, and this is unacceptable. Sundays are hard on a mom. In my case, I am trying to make sure my older son is not wearing pants that are too small and that make him walk funny, and that my younger son actually wakes up early enough to hold a toothbrush in front of his face and stare at it for twenty seconds before we head to church.
Sunday is when I too try on clothes that are too tight because I work from home. Working from home means sweats and t-shirts and evidently a lot of carbs. So, all in all, Sunday mornings are a confusing time. They are not particularly enjoyable. Jesus and I have talked about this at length as well, but alas. Sunday still comes with its daring regularity, and Jesus still says, “Buy pants with elastic waistbands and don’t be a control freak. Come on.”
When I was a kid, our church used to ask the mothers to stand up on Mother’s Day, and my mom would always sigh quietly and pull on her shirt a little and half-stand. We would all applaud and I would look up at her and clap in that teenagery way that actually seems to suck the life out of all clapping, because she had yelled at me just fifteen minutes before about too much blue eyeshadow. I would think, “She looks tired.” And she would think, “I am tired. We know who the mothers are here. We don’t want to stand up. We’re tired.”
I get it now, Mom. That’s the understatement of all parents.
I’ll just cut to the chase and tell you there was no dryer, festooned with a big red bow and balloons, in my laundry room on that fateful Sunday. As I stood in front of the (still) broken appliance, Bitter Laura decided to speak her truth to her Almanzo.
“You went to Lowe’s yesterday! You said you had to buy a shower rod and you WENT to LOWE’S.” I waved my hands in front of me. “This is supposed to be a NEW dryer! Where is it?” Glancing around, like the dryer might be tucked behind a door, I took a breath.
“WASN’T THE TRIP TO LOWE’S THE ONE WHERE YOU BOUGHT MY DRYER?”
“No. I bought a shower rod. Do you want to go see it—“
At this point, both children arrived with their homemade cards and useless coupon books and tiny pants, and I smiled at them. And then I asked them, very sweetly, “Did YOU guys buy me a dryer?” They just blinked, and Brian shoved a card into my hand, and I glowered.
The thing is, my marriage is full of grace. It has not always been this way. I am not sure where this shifted, probably sometime around when I got sober. We had been married for about eight years, and during early sobriety I think we both learned a sobering truth: Desperation tends to whittle away at all the unnecessary bits in a relationship. I got sober, and Brian had to watch and not help much, and we both knew. Life is too short for silly battles.
Occasionally I forget this. But we have an unwritten law in our house that helps us out. It goes something like this: Only One Person Can Be Mad at a Time in Here.
So, as I opened the card and read the contents, Brian just smiled and had a grace moment and didn’t say a word. He could have said many words because I had been pretty rotten, but he was quiet. And sometimes being quiet is the best grace of all.
And then this happened: As I read the card two pieces of paper fell out of the envelope and fluttered to the floor. I stooped to pick them up, still sulking while saying “Thank you for my card.” On the fluttery papers I read: “Tickets. Earth, Wind, and Fire.”
How do chagrin and disco mix? With those two tickets. Months ago, I had texted Brian in my haphazard way that has loads of significance, but no focus. The text said this: heyyy earth wind and wire comig here
But what I really I meant was this:
I listened to “September” while I was at the pool slathering on Tropicana and wearing my hair in a yellow banana clip and the air smelled like chlorine and hope. “Boogie Wonderland” played while I feathered my bangs and had my first crush on a guy with big glasses named Jimmy Poole. I watched my brother shave while “Let’s Groove” made the Top 40 with Casey Kasem. Chris would go out dancing with his friends and stay out too late. There was a lot of polyester and Brut going on. So, I must go see Earth, Wind, and Fire, or for all my days left here on this planet I will know I missed something Big.
But then life happened, and I kind of let it go. And I figured Brian would buy me a dryer.
Friends, I picked up those tickets and my eyes widened, and then I actually leaped into Brian’s arms. This was an audacious move because I am not in a Jane Austen novel, and Brian has very bad knees. So I sort of bounced off his upper torso and just stood there, and the boys got all embarrassed, which is always a bonus. Then I high-fived him.
When I write about Brian, it seems like he’s such a wonderful person. Well, he sort of is. Except when he isn’t, which is another article for another day.
There’s a verse in the Bible that never made much sense to me until I got married. It’s in John and says, “Out of his fullness we have received grace upon grace” (John 1:16).
“Fullness” just makes me think of my kids trying to pour milk. They end up filling the cup to Absolute Maximum Capacity so that carrying it anywhere is impossible, but that never stops them from trying. Fullness can mean abundance, but it also means spillage. And mess. And in terms of very own, deeply personal, things-just-got-real, messy life with Jesus? This “fullness” means his absolute graciousness overflows directly into me. With his blessing, he sacrificed and he spilled out, and then he said, “It’s all right. I’m still here. Take me. Take my spirit and my strength. Oh, and there’s more. Take my grace. It’s okay. There’s more. There’s so much more.”
It should take my breath away. Every minute. But you see, I had always distrusted abundance. As one who struggles with addiction, I know why. But Jesus can be trusted. This is real. This is Big.
This is grace.
So, Brian doesn’t buy dryers very quickly, but he has grace for days, and on that Sunday, right after church, we all drove to Lowe’s. He was quiet about it. There were so many opportunities to remind me about my morning behavior, especially when we were told that only a custom-sized dryer would work, and that it would cost about as much as my first car. There were plenty of moments to review bad choices as we were told about shipping delays and inabilities to find stock and that all the dryers in the world are on a freighter somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Brian stayed quiet.
Oh, and the concert? It was grace with a brass section. I danced so hard my body ached the next day. Nearly everyone in the audience was in my age range, and we all boogied and grooved to the point of embarrassment. It was very loud. I had a hot flash or two. At one point the lead singer asked us to shine our flashlights and wave them back and forth during a slow song, and half the crowd started asking the other half how to do this because we don’t totally understand our iPhones.
Pure joy for two full hours. I cried and thanked Jesus for it all, especially September.
So, this is grace. An undeserved melody. A daily surprise. I lean on it hard because it’s the only way to survive being human. Jesus is the original earth, wind, and fire guy, after all. If I walk and talk (and groove) with Jesus enough, I can do grace and life with those around me.
By the way, I do have a working dryer now. A week later a quiet fellow from a small appliance store came to our house, made some clanging noises in the laundry room for ten minutes, and then it worked. My dryer was raised from the dead. And lo, it was good.
Would you like to see a glimpse of Brian getting his groove on? He made the theater’s Facebook page!