It's February! We've had 2 weeks of the flu at our house. Then the Washington DC area got with an Arctic Chill and two blizzards. Last Friday morning, my husband and I woke up to the downstairs thermostat reading 53 Degrees. That number started to feel dangerous to me in a house with 3 kids under age 5. My husband is brave with this kind of hardy suffering stuff while I'm a total chicken.
So I went upstairs, to our warmer bedrooms, and googled "How cold is a safe temperature for the inside of a house?" (Because I'm a writer who solves all her problems with the internet). Oh my goodness. People are crazy! There are artists in Baltimore who live without heat in loft apartments. When the temperature indoors gets below 45 Degrees these guys build a yurt out of blankets in the center of their living room and drag their cats inside with them.
My husband is a super commuter to Washington DC. He leaves me alone in our house filled with kids each morning at 6 AM, while it is still dark outside. "I'm sure the house will warm up when the sun comes up today!" he said with a reassuring smile as he wrapped layer after layer of a winter scarf around his neck.
"Hmmmm....." I wondered quietly inside my own head.
At 9 AM, I put the baby down for a non-nap in his crib. I crept downstairs to avoid waking up all my other five sleeping kids in my house. The thermostat read 52 Degrees! It had gotten 1 degree colder in my house after the sun had appeared for 2 1/2 hours.
Long story short, I find a wood cutter in my in neighborhood. (I'm still freaked out that as a former City girl I live in a town with professional wood cutters). This angel of a man comes in 0 Degree weather to bring me a half cord of wood in an emergency. He doesn't even charge me a premium for making him work in the cold. A tip and a thank you seemed so inadequate.
Today, my husband stoked the "only for cold weather emergency" wood stove in our basement during an 8 inch Saturday blizzard. The downstairs thermostat reached a toasty 70 Degrees. Upstairs, in our bedroom, it's 5 degrees warmer. I feel like I'm in Florida. There are no socks on my feet and my nose isn't freezing!
When the temperature got to 68 Degrees a basement pipe burst spilling water all over our cold weather gear. My husband put on his only pair of dry sneakers to go to the hardware store in the middle of a snowstorm. The roads were unplowed and messy. He said the only people in the store were professional plumbers. A kind plumber directed my husband how to get the right supplies to fix the leak. Tonight my husband replaced his first ever copper pipe. I was so proud of him. We went from no water in the house to "no problem" in a matter of minutes. Can you imagine?
Instead of waiting for an emergency plumber visit, we watched "Clash of the Titans" for movie night, and laughed about all our favorite Greek myths. We ate salmon out of a tin can with cream cheese on crackers for dinner. Best of all we are warm. We had water to take showers, wash the dishes and do laundry. When my husband was fixing the broken cooper pipe next to my huge, 8 family member basement laundry pile, I kept telling him "Thank you!" I can handle doing emergency laundry by hand in the summer months, but doing that same task in the middle of winter seems so much harder to me.
It's Lent and Lent means hard work. I hate fasting. I hate the cold. I hate sickness and dark, bleak weather. I hate the emergencies that crop up without warning in a large family. Lent seems so hard for me until suddenly it's over and suddenly I'm grateful for the all small mercies in my life. Tonight I'm grateful to have running water and warm heat. I'm grateful my kids are finally healthy and cheerful again. I'm grateful the hot guy I married for looks alone can handle emergency plumbing work. All the hard work in Lent feels like it moves me somewhere more peaceful and more calm at the end. I'm grateful that in meaningful suffering Christ hands me an express pass to the easy life!