‘Never argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel’

Our story so far: We unearthed a number of interesting things, valuable and amusing, as we cleaned up the 126-year-old Methodist church we planned to turn into our house.

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“Advent is a season of preparation.”

Perhaps a church sign is dangerous in the hands of a writer. Instead of just listing the service times, a clever sign keeper can post phrases like “If you’re looking for a sign from God, this is it” and “God answers knee-mail.”

Only the first of a string of messages with double meaning understood, perhaps, only by me.

Well, the old Methodist church came with a sign.

Originally, I thought we’d eventually demo the sign, but more and more friends urged us to keep it and post messages like “We welcome the Hendricksons for dinner” and “Guess who turns 51!”

And on Day Two of cleaning up the church and tearing down the crusty stuff, I found the box of metal letters for the sign board.

Actually, Tyler found them, and he directed me to remove the message about the food shelf moving across town and replace it with “Merry Christmas.”

The only problem was, it wasn’t Christmas yet. It wasn’t even December.

It was the last glorious day in November, unseasonably warm enough to remove one’s jacket if one is working hard trimming hedges, carrying brush and raking leaves. As a fairly regular church goer, I knew the first Sunday in the liturgical year when Christians all over the world celebrate the beginning of Advent was coming in a few days. Advent is the run-up to Christmas, a liminal season of expectation. But to describe it only as a time of waiting sells Advent short, just as the days between Thanksgiving and December 25 are more than simply an out-of-breath sprint to be endured.

Bible readings this time of year are about waiting and preparation and expectation. I enjoyed Advent, reminding myself it is not an empty time. It is a season of fullness. Because preparing can be just as meaningful as the celebration itself.

And so I posted a message on our church sign with a handy double meaning: “Advent is a season of preparation.”

I could have been slogging through days of demolition and cleaning and organizing, simply wishing we could be done with them. But with months of work ahead of us, I’d be wishing away a significant portion of my life. I’d better be enjoying the dirty, noisy or drafty moments for what they were; anticipation should be as joy-filled as the hullabaloo for which we’re waiting.

I was inordinately pleased with my church sign message. I smiled to myself every time I drove by. One day, the former pastor of our old Methodist church stopped by when Tyler was burning brush in the back yard. She thanked him for preserving the old building, and she also made a point of telling him she liked the message in the sign.

“She got it!” I shrieked happily when Tyler told me about the encounter.

A writer never tires of the act of publication, even if it’s only as public as a church sign.

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Tomorrow: More revelations during the demo phase. Read it here.

2 thoughts on “‘Never argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel’

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