Carleton the Creature

by +CrystalThieringer    @cdthieringer

Every now and again, particularly after the two cats have been wrestling, we discover Carleton The Creature. If we aren’t vigilant, he spawns baby Carletons until we’re overrun by little balls of fluff in most rooms of the house. I’m certain Carleton’s cousin thrice-removed was the inspiration for that Star Trek episode with the Tribbles.

Carleton the CreatureMy husband is the first line of defense, militarily introducing Carleton to the compost bin whenever he sees him. I’ve been known to give Carleton a temporary reprieve. Usually, the Creature hugs the stairs, tucked into the corner of the riser. He can be found lurking on the baseboard. On his most brazen days he’ll sunbathe in the best of the morning’s light, stealing the warmth of the hardwood for a few minutes. When the furnace comes on or we open the front door, the resulting change in airflow sends Carleton scuttling to another part of the room.

Such was the scene this morning. As my husband left for work, Carleton rode the blast of frozen air that entered the house, tumbling carefree into the front room. No doubt Carleton must meet his demise today, but I had little intention of ensuring it right then.

A few years ago, I had been in the habit of beginning my mornings in the very chair I am settled into now. My priorities were clear. Quiet time with God, meditation and reflection as I try to embrace the practice of journalling–a practice with which I’ve always struggled. I set aside specific moments for authentic connection beyond what social media allows. I’m not sure how or when, but I’ve let other activities move into that time, and I’m unhappy with the resultant change in my spirit.

I’ve joined an online Lenten Study, and it marks my effort to regain this discipline. Aside from the fact I’m huddled under a heavy blanket against that same blasted cold, this commitment is why I am resisting Carleton. For now. Even though it’s hard.

Our study (40 Days of Decrease, by Alicia Britt Chole) has already given me rich moments of reflection. Today’s reading offers these words:

“If God is not who we thought He was, then who are we? Many of us dare not even ask the questions. Do we fear that God will fail the test?”

In the context of the study, my friend and I have honestly discussed the perceived failings of our first marriages. She knows my story, almost all of it. I know much of hers. We have dared to yell the question, “Why, God? Why?” We have felt–at least temporarily–that God failed us. The issues in those relationships were significant, the kind that shredded the essence of who we were as women. Thankfully, graciously, God has given us both second chances with better men. We are better women, too, though the lessons in those times of waiting were difficult indeed.

As always, Valentine’s Day highlights similar feelings of being unloved and not good enough for many people. Friends faced their first-after-the-breakup Valentine’s Day, and even though such days may have been precariously propped up with cardboard before, the first artificially sweetened one is bitter. For one friend, it was even harder because her kids were with their dad, and it was Family Day weekend to boot and she was alone. My divorce was finalized on a Family Day. There’s no escaping that little bit of irony. “Just wait,” I tell her. “Better things are possible. Just wait.”

Waiting is hard, though. When we think God has failed our test (before realizing our hubris in creating one), it’s hard to imagine a “next”. Waiting is such a passive, weak stance.

The furnace comes on, and as the house warms, I finally come out from under my heavy blanket. A bit of movement distracts me. Sydney the rescue cat is slinking against the wall. She is stalking Carleton. Carleton shifts slightly, considering a lazy rumba in the warming air. I chuckle at my ridiculous cat, so intent on this work. Ears back. Body low to the floor. Eyes wide, bright. A whisker wiggles. Her hindquarters quiver. Sydney waits. Her tail curls the slightest bit. No. Not yet. She waits some more.

You can see it in her eyes, that moment Sydney decides to pounce. She attacks Carleton. Smacks him with her front paw. Rolls with him. Carleton attaches to her fur and seems to disappear. Sydney looks around, satisfied the foe has been vanquished. She sits and preens, immensely satisfied. I reach over and pick Carleton off before he becomes a hairball (another problem altogether). A moment later, Sydney crawls under a sunbeam for her nap.

This is the difference between resting and waiting. One truly is a passive activity, restorative in nature. But waiting? I think back to all of the inner activity Sydney displayed. There was no shortage of movement as she readied herself. She waited, yes, but she was neither passive nor weak.

My thoughts return to my friend. She’s posted a picture of her Valentine roses from her now-husband, from the one who “cherishes her exquisitely.” She had wrestled with God, but she waited upon the Lord, and her strength was renewed. I smile at this victory. My now-husband sends a text. He’s arrived at work. I have waited too. This is not a perfect life, but it is full and good and we are cherished. Better, we understand what that means now.

God has not failed us. My friend and I have not failed either. We dared to be brave enough to live an honest faith and wrestled with our own Carletons until God said, “Enough.”

The wait was necessary. The rest is reward.



14 thoughts on “Carleton the Creature

  1. Oh wow – I never had given thought to how very different “rest” and “wait” really are! How many times have I received the message “Wait” but had behaved as though I were “resting”? Not watching intently, not preparing to take action, not readying myself for motion.

    I love the journey you’ve invited us to take with you, Crystal. I will definitely be more mindful in future.

    Thank you!

    1. I always thought waiting was hard work–but I’m learning there’s more involved than I’d realized. Thanks for joining me, Carryl!

  2. Sigh. “When we think God has failed our test (before realizing our hubris in creating one)…”–yes, this.

    And “This is the difference between resting and waiting. One truly is a passive activity, restorative in nature. But waiting? I think back to all of the inner activity Sydney displayed. There was no shortage of movement as she readied herself. She waited, yes, but she was neither passive nor weak.” Yeah, that, too.

    I don’t know if I’m waiting or resting. Which probably means I’m just resisting.

    1. Could you not be doing both? Perhaps waiting isn’t always crouching, reading, pouncing. Perhaps there are smaller steps to take first, and much resting to do in between?

  3. I absolutely loved this and appreciate you sharing the journey. The differences between waiting and resting, insightful and thought provoking. “God has not failed us…” This post reminds me of a song I absolutely love by Garth Brooks- Unanswered Prayers. You and your friend were brave enough to wait.

  4. I love this. So rarely do we hear anything good about waiting and yet I know that we I find myself impatient with waiting, it’s a sure sign I need to let go and accept the unknown, my lack of control over the world, and the fact that so many things are out of my hands. I love the idea of waiting as a “Carleton” and something we find annoying which is an inevitable part of our lives. Now I wish I would never find another Carleton burying deep in my fur trying to become my next hairball, but you make me see that every riser has it’s Carletons, that winds of change fling them through open doors and right of our lives without regard for our efforts to keep them at bay. I love this post.

    1. Waiting is hard–and waiting is work. There’s nothing passive about it. I hope you managed to tame your Carleton.

  5. Crystal – This is a beautiful. Learning to be a where I am is such a difficult thing for me. I’m afraid I’m not very good at waiting or resting, but I’m awesome at hiding. Next time I feel like I need to act when I know I should wait, I’ll work on slow rhythmic breathing, timed to match Carleton’s lazy dance in the sunshine.

    1. Whitney, I think most of us are awesome at hiding. I always find it can take me just as much effort (or more) to hide from what I need to face, than to face it though, so I’m not sure I’m really much further ahead!

  6. Wonderful post, with much food for thought. I like to think I’m waiting and resting, but the resting is more like the hiding that Whitney speaks of, which isn’t restful at all. I discussed this effort involved in “hiding” with my sister the other day, saying I don’t understand how we can experience a constant reel of worries and “I shoulds” when sometimes just a little effort (pounce!) can handle a problem and remove it from the reel – yet when hiding we don’t do it. I think I’m wandering off topic here – as always, thanks for your insights. Beautifully said.

    1. These comments on hiding vs waiting/resting are giving me much to think about this week. I don’t think you’re off-topic at all, but I do think you’re giving me ideas for another one. Thanks so much.

  7. This was so interesting conceptually, I need to think about it some more. I love the detailed precision with which you descrbe the cats’ moves. Waiting… expectancy… the unmanifest vibrant with life, with potential… that will manifest into form at the correct time… Lots of food for thought and lovely writing.

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