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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Keeping Busy

Forget the old image of a candle aflame at both ends and replace it with the picture of a pool of molten wax in a skillet over a blue flame, a wizened wick floating uselessly in the middle of the sizzling liquid, like a damned soul in the lake of fire. That’s my schedule lately.

2:30 AM. I’ve just gotten home from Georgetown, where I finished over 10 hours’ worth of painstaking grading of the second round of “quizzes” (tests) administered in the History of Russia I class. I had a few perfect scores, but most people’s marks hovered around 70%. They could have done better—a full third of the grade was comprised of an essay, and the professor had given them the question ahead of time! The rest of the test was four short answers, also from a list provided beforehand. I’ve only had one student all semester come to my office hours.

This past Thursday evening, after working at Georgetown, I went with Dex to the annual Romanian Christian Enterprises fundraiser. Like reading the new history of the Tuskegee Airmen, Freedom Flyers, attending the event was simultaneously encouraging and sobering, the small but steadily-growing victories of rescuing one orphan child at a time standing in stark contrast to the looming evil affecting thousands of such young unfortunates who languish in state custody every year.

I worked until 1:15 AM Saturday morning, helping to set up an estate sale in a posh flat over near the National Cathedral. [Wednesday I had spent six hours in closets and a cellar in a DC duplex, throwing away wastepaper and sorting financial documents to be given to the executors of another estate—all this detritus must be cleared before we can get down to the serious business of tagging and pricing.] I had to be up again at 7 AM to return to the Arlington Market with my jewelry wares, a day that proved surprisingly successful. I had already committed to going out with friends to a restaurant at the National Harbor that evening, so when I got back from my last fit of pleasant socializing at 10 PM, I was more than ready for bed, thanking God that I had an extra hour (Daylight Savings could not have come at a better time) for sleeping before church!

Keeping busy, despite fatigue, is one way that I’m shoring up my shaky emotional state—I keep wanting to call Daddy and tell him what I’m doing, ask his advice about things. Having him gone is like having one of my limbs torn away, which is ironic, because when we kids really irritated him with our needs, or he was feeling dramatic, Daddy would tell us that he’d “cut off his right arm” for us. At the Romanian Christian Enterprises meeting (they fed us, then there was a sit-down program, followed by dessert), a little girl was sitting in her father’s lap at the end of our row. He’d rub her small back occasionally, and it reminded me of the small affectionate gestures I miss so much—Daddy rubbing or patting my head, in particular. It always made me feel so loved and cared for, from the time I was a toddler. I miss him so much, even though he thought my jobs—from estate sales to jewelry making—were a waste of my time and talents. But his was a loyal opposition, and one that is hard to live without.

But one day at a time, one small victory at a time.... It is my nature (and I suspect that of a lot of other people) to want to arrive at a neat, complete solution to problems and concerns in a moment, to accomplish a goal in a single grand gesture, rather than realizing redemption and success in almost all facets of human existence are the results of a long, messy, and frequently painful process. As when rescuing children or challenging racism, our weak and sinful selves are used by God to build and heal relationships over time. Sanctification is not immediate, however much we wish it were--and we must rely on grace every single step of the way.

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