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Day 18: This is why they call it Labor Day

September 3, 2018


“Oh, I’m really sorry,” said Alice, leaping out of her desk and grabbing her water bottle off of the floor. The top of the bottle, of course, was open.  Water all down the classroom aisle.  Well, the spill was not too bad, and the bottle wasn’t broken.

One of the few things that didn’t break these past few days.

So now it’s the Labor Day weekend.  At our household I can tell you that this title takes on a literal meaning every year.

Every year we labor in fixing things that break on this weekend.  I am not kidding you.  It’s like a curse.

People go on vacation on Labor Day.  We have stuff fall apart on this specific weekend.

Three years ago, we spent the better part of Labor Day weekend repairing  – or at least trying to repair – a full shower fixture that had burst within the walls of our master bathroom. It was a lost cause – the only thing that was noticeable after that whole weekend was a 12 by 18 inch chunk of wall removed from behind the pipework, right in the closet space behind the shower – you couldn’t see the hole.  Oh, yeah, and there was also a seventeen-inch square in the ceiling of the basement right below the bathroom because the whole thing leaked down below.  That hole you could see.

Then two years ago the van window on the driver’s side opened with ease but refused to close again.  That little motor within the door decided to take a Labor Day vacation.  Better than that, he decided to retire for good.  You ought to see how I tried to patch up the window with Saran Wrap before we could get it to a mechanic in a driving rain.

Last year was a lawn mower breakdown and a shredded tire. Clockwork.

So you can see why this year I anticipated a special commemorative weekend event.  I mean, it seems each year the breakdowns get more creative.

I wasn’t disappointed.

First of all, my common sense broke.

I jumped in the car early Saturday to take a quick trip to the Oak Ridge Farmer’s Market to get some local honey.  As I puttered across town, I realized that many vendors don’t take a debit card, and that the Market was going to close within the hour .  I was watching the clock as I raced into WalMart to buy some shoelaces and Rain-X and then get an extra $20 in cash from the self-checkout machine.  I flew out of the store, confident that I made it to the Market before they closed and jogged over to the vegetable stand…

… only to realize that I had left the twenty-dollar bill sitting in the machine.  Stupidly, I had checked out, picked up my items, got the receipt and totally forgot the currency that silently slid out right into a slot under my nose.  My frantic call back to WalMart netted no results.  A happy shopper was now enjoying my twenty dollars.

Then I came back to try to repair the toilet.  Earlier in the week the downstairs toilet refused to flush.  It just wanted to entertain us by bubbling happy tunes and giving an anemic effort in moving any water.

Something was stuck deep inside that pipe.  Wet wipes?  A towel?  A Lego set?  Early in the week I ran a twenty foot plumber’s snake into it.  No result.   So I plotted to attack it on Saturday.

I met with some of our church fellows and we pulled apart the toilet and ran a fifty-foot plumber’s snake into it.  No success.  For the next hour it was guesswork.  We had used plungers, snakes, screwdrivers, wrenches and the floor was littered with water and wet towels.

“I can’t figure out the clog, ” said Jason, straightening up and shaking his head.  “The problem must be somewhere else.” Ty wiped his hands on a towel and shrugged in confusion as well.

I removed my gloves.  “Do you want to take a look at the storage room?  The sump pump is in there.  You think it might be the pump, or maybe an electrical connection to the pump?

It didn’t take Jason long to figure it out.  It was the pump motor.  “Don’t use the sink, shower or toilet down here until we get that motor fixed,” he said.  “Might take a few days to get the part.”

I was trying to figure out our family bathroom-sharing for the next week when Jill came over with news about our van.

Jill had just brought the van back from the mechanic’s shop for some work on a heater coil.  The van now had a fixed heating system and a new tail light.  She had stopped over at the church on the way home.

“Say,” said Jeremy, our youth pastor, as he walked by her.  “I just went by your van out in the parking lot.  Do you know your brake lights are still on?” It was true.  They were on, even though the car was turned off.  She was beyond puzzled; she had just picked up the car from the mechanic.

“The brake lights just won’t turn off,” said Jill.

I went outside and walked around the van.  Sure enough, the brake lights were still on.  I went in and fiddled with every dashboard dial.  I started up the van and turned it off.  I went outside and smacked the lights.  I checked every nook and cranny. I couldn’t turn those lights off.  And the mechanic’s shop closed for the weekend an hour earlier.  They would be closed until Tuesday.

Oh, and the neighbor’s dog started barking 24/7 again.  The dog started – you guessed it – at the beginning of the Labor Day weekend.  I found out that dogs can’t get sore throats.  Isn’t that a joyous thing to remember at 2 in the morning?

It’s at times like this that I see my well-rehearsed Zockoll impatience being tested.  Just as I have talked with the students about trials in the life of a Believer, I experience these myself, but with a different twist.  2 Corinthians 4:8-9 reminds me that I have been knocked down, but not for good, and I can agree with that. Philippians 4:12 also assures me that I can have contentment in the midst of a testing period; after all, it could be much worse.

It’s the James 1:2-4 passage that gets me, though:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Seriously – having joy?

Having joy – a deep-seated goodwill-settled soul – is the challenge in all this.  You see, I am okay as I face persecution when a non-Believer wants to insult me and challenge my belief.  That’s ministry.  I can also see when sickness might stifle my energies – that’s a reminder for me to slow down and maybe even spend more time with the Lord Jesus.

But to watch things fritter, flake and fall apart bit by bit is like the Song of Songs describing the “the little foxes that ruin the vineyards”  – it’s one small thing right after another.   These things aren’t insurmountable, but for crying out loud, they can nibble away at my patience.

But that’s life here on Earth, isn’t it?  No amount of anger will change it.

When it all gets down to it, I remind myself of the blessings I do have – a beautiful wife, a loving daughter, a nice secure home, a second car, great students … counting blessings can change my view quickly.  And, like the other times,  things have a way of straightening out.

That brake light got repaired.  Happily, my two good church friends just happened to know how to squeeze and reach up underneath the brake pedal and re-adjust a toggle switch.  The lights were now functioning as a normal vehicle’s should.  We beat the curse.  And it looks like the sump pump will be a good price, and some very kind folk are going to install it gratis.  Okay, things will be fine.

Welllllllllll … not quite.

Jill just pulled the van into the garage and jumped out quickly.  This is the van that just got back from the shop, mind you.  Steam was hissing from within the engine near the driver’s side.  I peered in and smelled.  Not antifreeze

Then I looked underneath the van.  Oily fluid  – lots of it – was streaming out of the motor and running out into the driveway. You can see the picture at the beginning of this blog entry.

What can I say?  I’ll be working today.  Oh, and the brake lights went out again.

It’s Labor Day, after all.




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  1. Rachael Woodard permalink

    When we have situations like this, and we do.. it reminds me to be grateful for the “things” that we have that cause these problems. When visiting other countries, I see people who have no cars, no indoor plumbing, no Christian schools, no such “problem makers” and so I just sigh, and when my internet goes out, and a septic system backs up, I’m just reminded of how glad I am that we have these things to occasionally “not work.” It keeps us thankful for the good times when they do.

    • Rachel, you are absolutely right. When my daughter gets frustrated at these things i remind her that we have these things in the first place, and we are blessed. Then I sit down and remind myself. I’m a little dense, you see.

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