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too little too much just enough

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I am knee-deep in writing my doctoral thesis. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that the water is just beginning to lap at my ankles, but nevertheless, I wade into the muck of words on a regular basis and try to move forward. Moving forward is sometimes a bit complicated. A few weeks ago, our air conditioner did a very good impersonation of Niagara Falls and and spewed water all over the stairway. After taking the machine apart and fixing it for the eleven-hundredth time (it is old and needs tender loving care on a regular basis), I checked out the storage space underneath the stairs and found that the water had seeped through the floor and specks of mould were beginning to form on the drywall. Oh oh! It was the day before we were leaving for vacation, so we couldn't deal with it immediately.

This past week we removed everything from the storage room (who knew such a small space could house a gazillion boxes of stuff that I didn't even remember we had?), dried out the wet stuff, went through everything, and decided whether we should keep it, sell it, shred it, or simply toss it in the garbage.

I used the past tense there because it makes me feel better. In truth, this process is very much in the present, continuous tense. Much of the house is taken over by boxes and plastic storage bins containing financial records, old files and photo albums, vinyl records, cassettes, VHS tapes, a hammock, and 28 small drinking glasses, all in various stages of drying, being sorted, being sold, or waiting to be thrust into the dreaded shredder. It's kind of like moving without actually going anywhere. Oh, and did I mention I have house guests arriving next week? Surprise!

In theory, I like surprises. As surprises go, this one is not so bad. After the initial sharp intake of breath and the natural reflex of tightening one's shoulders to brace for disaster, I am taking it in stride. I have found that I can actually work on my thesis surrounded by half-packed boxes and general untidiness, at least temporarily. And one of the wonders of nature is that things just naturally dry out after being exposed to fresh air for a few days. In addition, we have lovely large garbage bins at the back of our parking lot which are hungry for all kinds of moist cardboard and smelly refuse. Best of all, we are simplifying life a bit and that is actually one of the reasons why I like moving every few years: it keeps life from getting too cluttered. This situation has once again brought up two challenges which I continue to face.

First, I am one of those people who can be prone to feeling like I lack something: I don't have enough love, enough patience, enough smarts, enough energy, enough cats ... you catch my drift. It is helpful to remind myself that Jesus is enough. I read the Matthew account of Jesus feeding the five thousand this morning and it became an invitation to peace, to rest, to thankfulness, to not panicking. The story shows us that contrary to our urge to accumulate things (Hey! We need more fishes and more loaves!), Jesus's way is to take what we have and show us that it is enough. Not because we are enough, but because Jesus is enough.

Second, I am also prone to feeling like it is all too much. I get short of breath when my house is cluttered, when too many people are talking, when I am faced with multiple tasks that demand action all at the same time, and when there is very little silence or space to move. Many times I don't want more (unless it is popcorn), I want less. That same story of Jesus feeding the five thousand begins with Jesus receiving the horrible news that his cousin, John, has just been killed in a gruesome manner. Jesus retreats to have some alone time, but people follow him and soon there is a crowd, eager for miracles. Jesus does what I find nearly impossible to do: he has compassion on people when he is the one who needs compassion. He spends all day healing the sick and then he feeds the crowd. Jesus takes "too much" and makes it really simple. He has compassion. He takes care of the people in front of him. And then he goes to the mountain and talks to God. (See Matthew 14)

Where I have lack, Jesus is enough. When life is too much, Jesus can make it simple. This is my prayer today.

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