My Bicycle is a Gondola

Glancing down at the book wrapped in brown paper, I began to grumble to myself. Sure enough, when I checked my phone I saw two messages from my husband asking me to mail it. Harrumphing over to the window shades and giving the cord a strong yank, the gray, drizzling scene did not improve my mood.

I put off the task with a petulance born of long practice. I took my time in the shower. I took my time getting dressed. I took my time making my sandwich--but not eating it. I made one trip up the stairs to get my socks. I went downstairs and put on the shoes with extra long laces, then took my time to tie them just right. I drank the rest of the water in my water bottle, then filled it again. I made a second trip up the stairs to grab my white windbreaker off the hanger in the laundry room. I checked the elbows a second time and wished they had come cleaner.

After throwing my cell phone into my purse, I shuffled around in the closet for my gray wool hat. I stepped into the garage, grazing the wall with my fingers in search of the garage door button. I threw my purse, my water bottle, and the book into the bike basket. Rolling my bike out of the garage, I dismounted and gave the kickstand a reason for its namesake. I returned to the garage and had my finger just shy of the button again when I came to an abrupt halt.

Stop, the impression sounded quietly.

An image flashed through my mind of the couch. I laughed out loud and went inside, grabbed my keys, blew Heavenly Father a quick kiss in gratitude, and was finally on my way.

I rolled leisurely down the street the half mile to the post office. Skirting puddles carefully, it wasn't until I was stopped at the final intersection that I noticed my back was spattered with muddy water. I sighed, realizing I would have to wash my jacket again.

When the signal finally changed, I dismounted and walked across the street. I didn't bother to wait for the second signal to change before entering the parking lot of the post office.

I stepped inside, wiped my feet, and saw the bishop's wife before she saw me. In a pair of brown sweatpants and a blue sweat jacket, I assumed her day at home was also interrupted by a package to be mailed. She looked up and told me to go ahead of her, then smiled brightly once she recognized me. She asked me how I was. I weighed whether to lie politely or to be honest.

"Muddy," I said as I walked past her. In my self-pity, I couldn't think of anything else to say to her. I took off my jacket, my hat, and threw them down together with the book on the counter. I contemplated the price of a rear fender, and returned to my isolated, middle-class existence when I heard her voice again.

"Do you have a cell phone?" she asked timidly. I nodded, dug into my bag, took out my phone and slid it down to her. She paused, and brought it over to me again for the unlock code. By then I was smiling, and it was only then that the meaning behind this entire day became clear to me.

Had I done anything differently that day, even in my moodiness, I likely would have missed her. She would have gone home, grabbed her cell phone and the address she had forgotten, and had to make a second trip to the post office before they closed. She was marching through the trenches of Inconvenience in the same war as me, but not the same battle. But in the moment we shared at the counter in the post office, a place where messages are supposed to be sent and received, I finally caught the message intended for me.

I see you. I am here for you. You are not alone.

By the time she handed my phone back to me, my whole countenance had changed. I felt like a Christian again. I had been in the right place at the right time to serve someone with the same need as mine. I didn't need the Red Sea parted or the mountains to be removed--only to get my package in the mail and to get home again with my peace of mind.

As the Brazilians say, God writes straight with crooked lines. Somehow, despite all of my issues of mind and and body, I still ended up exactly where he intended me to be. Awestruck that between 1915 and 2015, his power to be present and in control has not changed.

As I glided home, not caring which puddles I met along the way, I was reminded of a favorite essay by G. K. Chesterton. After a flood in London had caused a great deal on inconvenience to everyone and everything, Mr. Chesterton took the opportunity to teach a lesson in imagination and perspective. He encourage everyone around him not to see a flood, but the sudden transformation of London into Venice. The butcher and the grocer surrounded in water were gondoliers in a rare, romantic turn of events--to be savored, not scorned. He points out that while adults detest waiting for a train at the station, nothing has ever given a child more pleasure and awe.

"An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered."
--"On Running After One's Hat," All Things Considered, 1915

Today I was reminded that my bicycle is a gondola, and I don't live in Boise, Idaho. Just for today, I live in Venice.

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