Thursday, June 2, 2011

to thank, instead of fume...

(This post written a week ago... been having multiple internet issues since returning from our visa run... thank you for grace!)

It’s 2:36pm.  I’m sitting at my desk, longing for a nap, stubbornly holding my eyelids open to read and respond to “just one more” of the 91 emails I’ve received during our 6-day visa run.  (Which, by the way, resulted in us receiving a one-year visa in just one day - unheard of!  Praise the Lord)  
I’ve wallowed my way through multiple loads of laundry, a garden filled with weeds and a house filled with cobwebs, and I’m procrastinating lying down (never a good idea) to wallow my way through a few more things on my to-do list… 
...and then I hear it.  The pelt of raindrops outside.  I have 4 loads of holiday laundry on the lines out back, hung out because my covered lines had broken last night, and this morning it had just sprinkled a bit before turning warm and sunny.  I know all 4 loads are already dry - they’d been out there since 10am.  I’d been planning to bring them in before my nap, and had gotten sidetracked with email… 

Frothing at the mouth (I’m hardly exaggerating), I race outside and get thoroughly damp myself while frantically pulling everything off the line and stuffing violently into the basket, nearly sobbing with frustration and fatigue and sheer futility.   I stomp back and forth in the dust-turning-to-mud, angrily slinging clothes around and flinging handfuls of pins into the container as hard as I could, already feeling a bit embarrassed inside at my ridiculous overreaction, surreptitiously peeking over the fence to make sure my staid elderly neighbors weren’t witnessing my display of immaturity.  
In a phrase, I “spat the dummy”(*see bottom of post).  Over a few drops of rain.  Granted, I now have 4 loads of once-dry, now-damp laundry strewn all over my living room with no place to hang it.  Frustrating, yes.  Occasion for a massive temper tantrum?  No.  So what in the world is going on?

I finally curl up for my nap, still fuming, and lie here ruminating on my immaturity and lack of self-control…. How is it possible to be 29 years old, walking with Jesus since I was 3, and still completely lose control of my emotions over a bit of damp laundry?  
{I do think a current bout with culture stress might have something to do with it... Yesterday I burst into tears like a 5-yr-old over not being able to read a KFC menu in Russian, mistakenly ordering a bucket of 16 spicy wings which none of us like, and then not being allowed to exchange it for something else even though we hadn’t touched it.  In retrospect, there’s probably not a fast-food restaurant on the planet that would exchange an order for something else once the person has walked off with it!  But at the time it was very distressing: I felt like a child, angry, humiliated and defeated.  All typical culture stress symptoms: normal, but never easy to cope with.}
But is there something deeper than culture stress going on here?  To absolutely throw a temper tantrum over dry clothes getting wet?  Over my own laziness and procrastination?  Over loss of time, and loss of control over my environment, my day, my plans?  To be so intensely and vehemently angry that it took a full half-hour for my breathing to return to normal?  
Whatever the deeper causes may be (and I’m still looking for them), one thing is for sure: as I talked with Jesus about my “episode”, curled up under my blanket, here’s what I heard:
You didn’t try giving thanks.
“What?!?  Thanks?!?  Give thanks for what?  For… all my hard work wasted?”
How about for having clothes to wear?  So many clothes that you can take away a suitcase full, not do any laundry for a week, and return with extra clean clothes still in your suitcase?
What about rain to make the garden grow?

Lines to hang your clothes on?  Pins to hang them with?

Arms to hang them up and take them down?

The sunshine that dried them?

A house to bring them back into and a floor to spread them out on?

A voice, even if you’re shouting and screaming at me with it?

The precious people in your family who wore these clothes, and the fun things you did together that got them dirty?

“Oh… yeah… I guess that’s a start.”
Maybe if you tried thanking, instead of fuming, you’d keep perspective a bit better? 

Yes.  As I write all this down to post to the world, I feel humbled, chastened and encouraged, all at the same time.  

Trying to learn to thank instead of fume: to choose in the very throes of emotion to find something, anything, to say Thank You for, instead of spitting that dummy just as far as I can spit.
So there you have it, folks.  Me, in all my glory as a sinful human being in progress… will you come and try this with me, this choosing to thank instead of fume?   Maybe we'll learn to dance in the rain...

Question to ponder:
What chance did you have today 
to use thanksgiving as a doorway 
out of negative emotion into praise?  

Did you use it or blow it?  

Leave your story in the comments: I’d love to hear from you!

*"to spit the dummy" = New Zealand English for “freaking out” or “losing it” - from the picture of a baby spitting out their "dummy" (pacifier) in frustration.  So flattering.  And convicting.


  1. Thanks, I needed the to thank, instead of fume rminder this week. I have spent the last week in hospital and feeling so weak. Fumming about having to move my return date back a few weeks, instead of being thankful I was in Canada when my appendix burst, thankful for my family's loving support and care. Fumming at the pain instead of thankful for a place to rest and grow strong. As I said... thanks for the post dear friend. We may be far apart but I always loved our good conversations. Love Karen

  2. Oh Carolyn! Thank you for sharing. I felt like I could have written this post, though I don't have the cultural stress component.

    I love the phrase "to spit the dummy" That is a very apt description.

    Unfortunately, my children are most often the ones who bear the brunt of my lack of self-control. I lost it yesterday with my oldest. Reflecting back I realized I didn't address his attitude when I first say it and it built over the course of several hours until I lost control.

    I read recently that anger can be could at helping identify a problem, but is not could at solving it. That really has helped me reflect when I am angry with my children. Usually some training is needed when I feel angry at them. But who learns well after being screamed at? Very humbling.

    Praise God for the year long visa!

    Our love to James and the kids!

  3. What a blessing you are! This evening I was leaning towards being miffed at Derek, since he didn't bother to call and tell me he would be late at work tonight, so couldn't stop and pick up pizza dough on the way home, which meant I couldn't make pizza as planned, and here it is 6:00pm and the kids are hungry... BUT I remembered your post I'd read this morning, and decided to "thank instead of fume!" So I'm thankful that I can pull bacon out of my freezer, put it in my microwave to defrost, pick fresh tomatoes off my porch, and put it all on homemade bread for yummy BLT's! And I could also make pancakes with freshly ground wheat, french bread, fry farm-fresh eggs, pull meatballs out of the freezer... such an endless list of fresh, healthy, convenient food... and a husband who's working hard to make it all possible!