A couple members of my family (including myself) are of the opinion that our downstairs powder room is the most beautiful room in our house. Every now and then, when I have a few uninterrupted moments, I just take it in: the creamy beige tones on the walls contrasting crisp, white trim; the smooth texture and irregular strokes of the Venetian plaster; the crown molding that gives it that finished, tailored look. It might sound like I'm bragging, but I'm really not. I didn't do the work myself, and the entire decorating project was forced upon me against my will. I would not have chosen the chain of events that resulted in what is now the most sophisticated space in our home; neither would I undo the process if given the option. My 4X6 ft. bathroom reminds me that sometimes good things do indeed come out of disaster.
You see, a few years ago in January, temperatures here in Chicago were so bitter cold that our pipes froze. This had never happened to us before, but we had heard horror stories from people who lived to tell about their pipes freezing, thawing, and then breaking. We were desparate not to let this happen to us. We stayed home from church and held a prayer vigil, begging God to let the pipe thaw with no incident. And then, because God helps those who help themselves, (is that in the Bible?) we ran a heater under our sink and used a hair dryer to warm the pipes, all to no avail. We hardly slept that night, and Monday morning, still stuck at home, I decided to do something productive. I pulled out a business card for a window treatment company and called to inquire about purchasing blinds. A plumber answered the phone. I had misdialed, but since I had him on the phone, I explained our situation and asked for his advice. He said we were doing all we could-we just needed to wait it out.
I remember the moment it happened. I was upstairs in the master bathroom when I heard a pop! and then the sound of spraying water. It sounded like our shower, only inside the walls! I looked down and water was seeping out from under the baseboards. I flew down the stairs and was horrified to see a waterfall cascading from my space-saver microwave onto the stove, and then I ran down a few more stairs to find Niagara Falls flooding our half-bathroom and family room. I discovered something about myself that day; I am terrible in emergency situations. I had no idea what to do, except to grab the phone and re-misdial the window treatment company. Mr. Plumber answered the call and proceeded to talk a hysterical woman through the process of locating the water valve in the basement and shutting off the water supply to the entire house. fyi...if you do not know where the water supply valve is in your house and how to turn it off, it is preferable to acquaint yourself with it before you find yourself in this type of situation.
It was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and my kids were home from school. As long as I live, I will never forget the stunned looks on their faces as they watched this catastrophe unfold, and saw their panicked mother running, slipping and sliding through the house, grabbing every towel and blanket we own in an attempt to mop up some of the water.
Needless to say, the damage was extensive. The days that followed were a blur. I watched as a team of water removal specialists cut holes in our walls and ceilings, and left us with enormous dehumidifiers blowing all throughout our house. We were relieved to find out that our insurance would cover the damages, and were very pleased when the insurance adjuster cut us a generous check for all of the repairs. The water ruined the matress in our family room's sleeper-sofa sectional, and as it turned out, the only way to replace it was to have one custom made. Very expensive. We opted to keep the sectional, and use the money to buy a new sleeper-sofa for our living room. We renovated the bathroom, exchanging the outdated wallpaper for the beautiful Venetian plaster, which I never would have attempted to do on my own. When it was all over, we had updated several areas of our home, and had just enough money left over to fix our minivan. I remember thinking that it was a remarkably interesting way that God had provided for us.
If I had a list of things that really matter, my bathroom would not be on it. It is not important. Still, I can't help but remember Romans 8:28 when I think about this story. "And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." The obvious blessing that came out of our pipe breaking is a metaphor for what I have experienced in very profound ways, in areas of my life that really do matter.
When my husband, Bernie, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis over 10 years ago, our world was already beginning to crumble. As the doctor delivered the heartbreaking news, all I could picture in my mind was my young husband in a wheelchair. The only person I knew that had MS was my mother's best friend from high school. She has a very progressive, debilitating form of the disease, and for the next several months, I was pretty much driven by fear: fear of what would happen to Bernie; fear that we would not be able to pull it together and work through the problems we were experiencing in our marriage; fear that our children would grow up in a broken home. Fear of how I would make it, and perhaps worse of all, the fear of being alone. And yet these circumstances and the stress that came with them forced us into a different way of living, a more intense way of loving, and a deeper level of trusting God. We needed to do life with others if we were going to survive. We needed help, and we had to learn to be humble enough to ask for it. These pressures brought out things we needed to change in ourselves, and ultimately, I don't believe we would be the same people today, had we not gone through these trials. Thankfully our worst fears did not come true, and my husband's MS is relatively mild. Right now, he is enjoying good health, and just as significantly, we are experiencing a sense of being made whole and complete, something I don't think we were really looking for early on.
If Bernie's MS were more advanced, I am sure I would not write these words as easily. But I can say with full sincerity, although some of the stops along the way have been brutally painful, I have come to love this journey we are on. I have experienced in a deep, real way how God works all things for the good of those who love Him.
I think that the promise in Romans 8:28 is meant to gently encourage, infusing hope into our weary souls, and not to be given as a pat answer to those who are in the depths of grief and loss. Neither is it a promise that everything will work out as nicely as my powder room, or that we will always reach a place of saying, "I wouldn't change it even if I could." Some losses are so great, and so deep, that a part of us will always protest until the day we leave this earth. And yet God is good. There is no limit to His healing comfort and grace, and because of this, life, too, is good.