The Retreat Lady's Message
By Sandra Petersen
The smell assaulted my nostrils as soon as I entered the door. Garbage overflowed the trash can and moldy dishes soaked in the sink. And what was that substance caked on the stove burners? I had been suspecting this would happen since the morning I left with Joanie and Lori for the women's retreat at Lake Cadotte Lodge. The tattletale sounds of a John Wayne western from the living room and the boom-boom vibrations of our teenage son's music from upstairs mingled to give me a most unwelcome welcome.
They promised! I seethed, slamming my car keys onto the counter top.
What had the retreat speaker taught? At this moment, I didn't want to remember, but the memory surged through my brain all the same.
"Others will fail to fulfill your expectations, but the Lord will never fail," the speaker had intoned. As I began to think about her speech, I remembered how perfect she had seemed. Not a strand of hair out of place, a perfect manicure, a radiant smile that would chase away shadows. At the time, I had taken notes and nodded in agreement with everything she said. All of us had.
Yeah, right, I grumbled as I fished in greasy dishwater to drain the sink. I bet she came home to a warm meal and no housework.
The Holy Spirit was nudging me to sit at the table and collect my thoughts, but I resisted.
I can't, Lord! I muttered. If I don't clean up this mess, who will? Maybe, just maybe, sooner or later they'll wander out here to get a snack and see that I'm home.
I placed the plates and bowls in an orderly stack, refusing to give in to my desire to smash them on the kitchen floor. What was the last thing my husband and son had said as I got into my car to go?
I thought back. Stan had stood with Trevor at his side and my list of to-dos in his hand. "I'm sure we can handle it," he reassured me. The way he smiled and hurried me away should have warned me. But it didn't. Instead, I trusted that just this once they would take care of things and make me happy.
I picked up the last bowl from the sink and fumbled it. As it smashed into several shards on the kitchen floor, tears filled my eyes. My cheeks burned hot with self-pity. I was sure Ms. Retreat Lady was even now being served supper in bed by her adoring family.
"Is that you, Debbie?" Stan called from the living room.
"Yes!" I shouted. Biting my lower lip, I collapsed into a chair and closed my eyes.
Okay, Lord. What do you want to say? I murmured.
Go and see your husband. Tell him how much you missed him, the Lord urged me.
That was the last thing I wanted to do, but I knew that I shouldn't disobey. I breathed in a deep breath and held it. As I stood and walked to the living room, I tried to focus on what I would say to Stan.
Instead, the words of Ms. Retreat Lady came back. "You may expect much from those around you, but how many times has the Lord expected a right attitude, a cheerful manner, and obedience from you, and you failed to fulfill His wishes?"
I gritted my teeth in remembrance.
At first glance, I didn't see Stan, though the TV flashed with the gunfight he was watching. His head poked up from the couch and he groaned with the effort of the movement.
"What's wrong with you that you can't come out to meet me at the door?" I blurted. Then I saw the cast on his leg and more white plaster on his right arm.
I gasped. "What happened to you?"
"I was up on the ladder cleaning out the rain gutters and the ladder broke," he said with a weak grin. "I'm sorry we didn't get to all the stuff on the list. Trevor tried, but he had finals to study for this week, and me..." He lifted his injured arm in a kind of apology.
"That's all right," I whispered, ashamed of myself, and knelt in front of him on the floor. "I'm home now, and I'll take care of you."
As I gingerly hugged Stan, the Lord whispered to my heart again, That's My girl.
Sandra Lynn Petersen lives in Two Harbors, Minnesota, with her husband, three homeschooled daughters, and two dogs. Her family attends Living Waters Fellowship where she plays the clarinet on the worship team and is the church librarian. A member of FaithWriters, she has had two articles published in FW anthologies. You can contact Sandra through the Letters page of this magazine.