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December 22, 2011
"Are those teapots going to stay on the workbench?"

A tide of defensiveness rises quickly in me at the question. Discarding the rapier-like response I want to make, I reply with that deadly evenness married couples know well.

"No, of course they are not, Sweetheart. I'm finding a place for them. I've been a little busy." The martyrdom in these simple declarative statements is breathtaking in its subtlety, and I cannot help but pause for a moment to admire my craft. I am really, really good at this.

The fact is that very little of the silver has been unpacked, and it is true that the elements of several tea services now stand and wait in the chaotic sea of hand tools on the workbench in the basement. I want to get it all unpacked so we can use it for Christmas.

But where will I put it? The large cupboard in which it was gloriously displayed has gone south to live with a niece. The smaller one in the little dining room wouldn't hold a tenth of what we have -- besides, it is already full.

My daughter is home for the holidays, so I have someone to whine to about not having accomplished enough in unpacking our move. She is a better person than I, in many respects, and one of them is her ability to be kind and direct at the same time. This must come from teaching middle school.

"Are you sure you need it up here? It looks so nice as it is. You wouldn't want to clutter the room. Maybe just leave it down there, all packed. Use it as you need it."

She is right. Our little house looks nice precisely because we've resisted the temptation to display all our stuff from the old place. The last thing it needs is a boatload of silver covering very surface. I will get the tea service off the workbench, store it in silver cloth bags and put them in labeled boxes. Just when I will do this is unclear. But at least I know what I will not do, which is turn our dining room into an estate sale.

"You have silver? You have a dining room? You have multiple cupboards? And these are your problems?" A voice speaks to me with the accent of steely love I recognize as the voice of God, cutting through my fantasies of gracious living: the Son of Man has no place to lay His head. A woman in the Philippines surveys the sodden pile of mud and sticks of wood that was once her home. A family arrives at the air base in Dover to claim the body of their only son, the last American casualty of the Iraq war. A father writes with gratitude that his little girl has been seizure free for almost a year. "You're worried about teapots?"

Lord, have mercy.
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