We knew the summer was getting off on the wrong foot when our air conditioner died. When I say "died," I mean beyond repair; cannot be fixed; i.e. bring out the check book/credit cards. Then, 2 of our 3 vehicles' air conditioning went out. Air conditioning the house was priority over the cars, so we took care of the house...but our 2 cars have been riding through the summer with their windows down...which in Mississippi doesn't really cool you off as much as just mess up your hair and let the mosquitoes in. Then, our riding lawn mower died. Now, we have approx. 1 1/2-2 acres to mow, and while a riding lawn mower is not exactly a necessity...it does help! But, since we had just shelled out for a new air conditioner, the squeeze on our finances called for creative cutting: 2 push lawn mowers. Not fun...but do-able.
Then, the thing that just about pushed us right over the edge...one of my younger kids came home from day camp with lice. Now, let me just say that this is my absolute worst nightmare. Well, when you have nine kids...even if one kid has lice, you have to treat the whole family. So we had to strip all beds and bedding, wash anything that anybody had come in contact with, vacuum EVERYTHING (oh, did I mention that my vacuum cleaner broke, too? Oh, not the whole thing, just the part that allows you to stand up and comfortably walk around while you're vacuuming...so yes, I have been vacuuming on my hands and knees with the little round hose all summer, too!), treat everyone with lice shampoo, and then pick microscopic nits out of their hair. Well, just to give you an idea of how long this process takes...one of the lice shampoo bottles said that it takes 1-2 hours to go through one person's hair properly. Okay, just imagine...I have 10 people to go through, and then I have to find some willing soul to go through my hair. Are you feeling a little of my stress yet?
Well, the instructions on the bottle of shampoo say that all you have to do is shampoo once, pick out any remaining nits, then shampoo 7-10 days later and waa-lah...no more lice. Well, it wasn't quite that easy. Our new pets evidently liked their new home, and they were determined to stay. We began to shampoo every 7-10 days with the pesticide (all the while cleaning, laundering, vacuuming, and nit-picking) to no avail. Finally, I researched the internet, and found that you can break the cycle of persistent nits by smothering them in olive oil. So all of us, from my 6'1" husband down to my 1 mo. old newborn baby had to have olive oil slathered in their hair every 3 days and sleep in it. Well, if you have never before been "anointed with oil," it does not just "stay put" on your head. It rolls down your face, your neck, everywhere. The first time we did it, I asked my hubby to bring home shower caps for everyone to sleep in. Well, the only ones he could find were pink shower caps. Shower caps themselves are not very cool to wear when you are a teenage boy (or a grown man) anyway...but a pink shower cap is the bottom of the barrel! So, to try to be nice to our boys for having to do this...he tried to find a more "manly" alternative. He brought home the black knit caps that you basically see on your stereotypical gang member/hoodlum (yes, they sell these at the local Walmart). Well, unfortunately for the boys (and him), if you have never before tried to be a gang member or hoodlum, you wouldn't know until you tried it on that it is basically like putting black pantyhose on your head. It does nothing for keeping oil from sliding down your face. So, we did get our first real laugh of the summer looking around at each other with 11 pink shower caps on our heads. We were glad we weren't on a reality series that showed what we looked like to the whole world. (Kudos, Jon & Kate!)
So, this continued pretty much all summer long. I cried. I prayed. I cried and prayed. I tried thanking God for the lice. Hey, at least we weren't praying for God to kill cancer cells...just annoying microscopic critters that made your head itch. But, they still wouldn't go away. My husband asked (at the risk of getting smacked) if I had "rejoiced" in the lice yet. He pointed out as nicely as possible that the Bible tells us to "...consider it pure joy when you go through all kinds of trials...". I had thanked God, but I definitely had not rejoiced.
The turning point in my summer break(down) came when I came across the following verse:
"...we were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many." (II Cor. 1:8b-11)
Now, I know that broken air conditioners and lawnmowers and lice are not life-threatening, but I had to admit that I was absolutely overwhelmed. I began to devour God's word this summer more than I have in a very long time. I forgot to mention that another item that broke this summer was our cable...which meant no computer...which was probably a good thing in my life. Time that I normally spent on the computer, was now spent in God's Word. My kids began spending time in God's Word. It became our priority...not an afterthought. So now when I look back on my summer, I have come full circle... I realize that:
" It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees."
( Psalm 119:71)
And, yes, I rejoice in the fact that God got my attention....even if He had to use little critters to do it.