While I was “out of the country,” my “Pondering the Crosspoints,” entitled “Snot and Grace,” was to appear in our church newsletter. I was a little bit anxious about the reception of this piece, anticipating a few “Oh my gosh!”es and “Well, I never!”s from the more conservative members of our congregation. Several times I thought I heard my ears ringing, but as it turns out, this physical phenomena was totally unrelated to the buzz I thought I was creating back home.
Before publishing “Snot and Grace,” I sought, and received, the blessings of all the major players mentioned in the snotty scenarios. I spoke with my pastor, John Young, and received his blessing as well. Even so, I felt like I was climbing out on a limb and had invited him out there with me. I was an avid tree climber as a child, but over the years I’ve developed a fear of heights, and I did not relish a “fall from grace” among my peers. But up the tree I went! While perched together precariously on what felt like a very bouncy, flimsy limb, John spoke to my reservations: “Well, if anyone has difficulty with your writing, they just need an extra dose of grace.” More grace-filled words I’ve never heard!
Evidently God was not finished with my “Lessons From Snot (not to be confused with Lessons From Morey by Mitch Albom).” Two days into our trip, my sinuses unleashed a flow of drainage for which there were not enough tissues in all of Costa Rica to contain. Tissues are a third-world luxury and, as a member of the “Kleenex Generation,” I panicked when my supply from home quickly ran out. Having experienced a cold during her stay in Costa Rica, Beth tipped me off to the paper towel dispensers, which very few rest rooms provide (it’s so HOT there that one’s hands air dry before you can reach for the door knob).
The Costa Rican paper towels, thinner that what we use in the U.S, proved to be better snot-catchers than anything thus far developed by the combined efforts of Kleenex, Puffs, and Scotties! But, as I alluded to earlier, these heaven-sent dispensers of grace were few and far between, and I had to filch and hoard whatever I could of the valuable commodity whenever possible. I did find a few miniature boxes of actual “Kleenex” brand tissues strategically placed around one of our lodgings, but these pour excuses for tissues could not even handle the emission of one of my tender nostrils.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I find uncontrollable fits of sneezing, coughing, and blowing my nose in public a bit embarrassing. Even though I know Emily Post would be aghast at my public display of nose control (Mom having taught me that it is impolite to blow one’s nose at the dinner table), I was at the mercy of my out of control proboscis. If I had excused myself from the table every time I needed to clear my nostrils (Doesn’t that sound “politically correct”?), I would have missed entire meals at a time and missed the opportunity to get acquainted with many of the mission team members. Fortunately, my traveling companions looked on me with pity and accepted me, snot and all, with grace and aplomb.
It wasn’t until I was back home that it occurred to me that God had given me my very own “snotty” lesson on grace. Once again, my fears of rejection—rooted in long ago childhood experiences—were proven false. Every day, several people would ask me how I was feeling and express empathy for my condition. Jeanine had gotten sick during our mission trip to Kenya in 2000, so she was especially compassionate and supportive. Tom, her husband, informed me that I could request a medical consult at the hotel desk. Jeanette’s husband is susceptible to pneumonia, and she was so concerned about my cough, that she thought I should be Med-Jetted home. Nuria, our Coco de Playa Lion’s Club hostess, took me to a farmacia for cough medicine (nasty tasting stuff—like what I imagine turpentine to taste like!). Bob gave me a supply of better tasting Americano cough syrup that went down much easier. And Rex and Beth were so loving and sweet. I couldn’t have felt more loved and accepted.
While I wish I’d not been sick on our trip, between all the coughing fits, sneezes, and blowing, I did manage to enjoy being reunited with Beth, the beauty of God’s prolific handiwork—Pacific sunsets, itsy-bitsy sand crabs scurrying on ocean beaches, exotic butterflies and birds vividly accenting the Cloud Forest, brilliant orange lava trickling down Mt. Arenal—and the companionship of many wonderful people. Once again, grace came through.
Ah… Ah… Ah… Excuse me… Ah… does anyone have… Ahhhhhhh… a tissue??????????????
“The Lord bless you and keep you;