It happened fast. One minute, my heart was doing the cha-cha over the newly installed water line to our washing machine and bidding adieu to the personal sprinkler that “mostly” connected to the sink faucet. I was even dreaming up a blog post on the little things that I’m thankful for, the small details that bless the way we do life. The perfect place to store the inexpensive, but oh-so-versatile, plastic stools. A shelf for our collection of chargers and corded stuff with blinking lights. A laundry sink now freed up for pre-treating and hand-washing. Learning just where to hang out 4 beds’ worth of sheets to make the most of a sunny morning. I’d gotten as far as the kids’ suction cup toothbrush holders that free up our 10 square inches of bathroom counter space, when they gathered around.
Foxes. The little foxes that ruin the vineyard. The ones that steal joy.
It started with something silly. Doesn’t it always? I pulled one of my special cleaning cloths from the washer and found it crusted with PVC cement from the recent renovation. My husband’s definition of “rag” was substantially different than mine. These good-and-faithful servants had been important enough on my scale to rate airfare from Nebraska. It was like losing a member of your infantry corps. We’d been through the trenches together, across 4 houses , 3 tours of potty training, a son with reflux, and an ailing cat. I may have teared up a little.
I should have known when I heard myself grumble, but it took me a while longer.
Cleaning rags aside, I have this magical person in my life called a husband. Things break, he fixes them. We need to get somewhere, he figures out how. When we opened a Costa Rican bank account, he was the one who ping-ponged around the branch office for hours to get it up and running. He then decoded the complicated rite of logging into that account online, using multiple identity codes and the number generation of a security key fob.
So when the newly upgraded internet service and our month-old router went on strike, it was his territory. Common ground he was used to navigating. 4 Days and 12 hours of help-line assistance later, we had neither functional wifi, nor any logical reason for it to be so stubbornly silent. What we did have was 1 frustrated husband and 1 wife feeling increasingly isolated. The world wide web is an artery to the work we do here and a lifeline to community back in the states. The broken-internet-elephant stomped on toes as it took up a huge amount of emotional space in the room and all of Matt’s free time. We prayed and asked others to join us. We waited for God to move.
Then the real storm blew in. Someone’s economy or ingenuity—a piece of thin plastic electrical conduit grafted into the water line from the holding tank—burst. When your tile floor becomes a running streambed, all you can do is open the back door and grab a broom. But be careful, wet tile is slippery. You may need to get back up on your feet a time or two.
As I bailed, we had a rapid-fire discussion. Too low of a pipe to use a bucket. No way to plug the 1” hole. My swishes kept time while that incredible husband searched for the shut-off valve to the water tank. The deluge was over in something like 60 seconds. We mopped up late into the night, counting our blessings. The ballooning tube hadn’t given way until we were home and yet still awake. We had easy access to the gated water tank because of a neighbor’s help with a hacksaw during a previous plumbing adventure. The water hadn’t reached far enough to touch any of the important rooms or valuable stuff. A trip to Hogar de Vida’s workshop didn’t yield all of the pieces Matt needed for the repair, but we dropped off to sleep feeling like we’d dodged the bullet by God’s grace.
The reason that every house on the block has a water tank in the first place is that the municipal water in our area only runs intermittently, usually in the wee hours of the morning. When I heard the tank begin to fill around 4 a.m., I should have done more than give thanks for the closed shut-off valve and roll my tired self over. Two and a half hours later when Matt went down to pray, he found the major flooding we thought we had avoided. Apparently, the city water flows in to fill the tank through the same broken pipe that draws water out of it.
With rolled-up pajamas and a frazzled heart, I was back to bailing. And bailing. Matt’s screwdriver poked and prodded the front yard until the Lord showed him the shut-off valve for the house’s main water line. Better than any Easter egg, it was hidden inside of a sunken culvert half-filled with turf.
The stream stopped like the River Jordan, and we started to cross over to the other side of the damage. My love for plastic storage had served us well, but everything touching the floor had to be moved to either dry in the sun or make way for broom and towel. In place of rest on the Sabbath, we had upheaval. I pushed back emotions like I was pushing water on the floor.
A phone call later, our neighbor arrived with an offer of help, an armload of towels, and a large squeegee on a pole. Slowly, things dried up and found their places again. The Lord had protected us from serious loss. I was grateful, but as if through a distantly focused lens. The worship song I began to sing in the cleanup was more warfare than adoration.
The foxes still had me.
Come dinnertime, when the oven control panel stopped responding, I had had enough. The rag: my ability to keep house. The internet: a big part of my ministry and connection to friends and family. The flood: the order and peace of our home. The oven: the heartbeat of my hospitality to our family and this community. I was done with those clever bushy tails.
I spoke out my weakness to deal with these issues and put it all into the strength of God’s hands. Then I declared that no matter how bad things got, I wasn’t going anywhere. I wouldn’t leave this calling until the Lord moved us. So there, foxes.
That moment, the oven came back on like normal. Over the next few days, the house came back together with fresh appreciation for its comfort. When Matt reconnected the wifi router, it cozied up to the modem like an old friend. For a week, anyway. But when we lost service again, my focus was back where it should be.
The foxes may be fleet of foot, but the Lord is worthy. We will stand our ground and let Him work through us. The vineyards are in blossom.
Catch for us the foxes,
the little foxes
that ruin the vineyards,
our vineyards that are in bloom.
Song of Songs 2:15 NIV
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.