I must be one of the most hard-headed people I know! How many times have I instructed family members to empty out their pockets before adding clothes to the  hamper? And yet here I am – pulling out clothes, my clothes, with fishing line tied around each piece. Even in my 6th decade of life, I am so much in the learning phase. Can you identify? Please say I am not the only one who acts without thinking, or takes on a task without planning ahead. Whatever you want to call it, action without forethought usually has regret attached. The fishing line was a partial spool I tucked into my jacket pocket two days ago just incase I broke a line. But in my washer, it was as big a problem as all the tissue particles that covered my jackets, jeans, and my husband’s socks. Now, with the line wound back around the plastic piece, and the dryer taking care (I hope) of the remaining tissue, I am reminded of a few things. One, is how little fragments escape our internal library of ‘lesson learned’; also, how grace is bigger than regret; and third, we sure can haul in more than fish when we go fishing!

Saturday was a beautiful day and I had the privilege of spending it with an eleven and a half year old “Little Man” who calls me Aunt Pat. We met on the day of his birth, and that’s another story. How did he get to be so grown up so soon? I have two children of my own, adults who grew up at the speed of light even though I tried to hold onto every hour. We know they do that, right? Yet don’t we still put off things we meant to do with our loved ones, believing ‘some days’ will get here before the ‘too lates’? I’ve known for at least 6 fishing years that this little fellow would someday know whether or not I was really fishing, or just out there to enjoy the great outdoors and let him think he was fishing. My husband had bought two new poles, the modern metal version of a cane pole which came with hook, line and sinker. Really! All I had to do was tie the line onto the end of the pole after extending it the full 13 feet. Well, that just looked like too much line, so my young assistant Ryan and I cut it with the clippers in his nicely stocked tackle box, and the remainder went into my pocket. Had I thought to figure out ahead how to use this pole still wrapped in plastic after a year(!), or restock my son’s melted, stinky contents of his old tackle box? No, that would just be too easy, I say with a smirk. To keep this from being too long, let me just say that Ryan is now fully aware of Aunt Pat’s fishing deficits. I’d say he knew that when I had to call my dad to see what the bass would be biting, and then had to borrow that green lizard from Ryan. A good sport about sharing his bait, he also didn’t laugh when my self-cut line didn’t quite reach the center of our pond. We threw back my first little fish, and he caught a couple nice ones with his spinner bait on a rod and reel. Good job! Not to be completely humiliated, I patiently kept trying and did add the third catch to our supper plans.

Did I mention taking on a task without planning? Have you cleaned and prepared fresh fish lately, with a spoon and a dull paring knife? (Thank you Ryan’s parents for stocking his box with a fish scaler!) Next time, I may consider Ryan’s first idea of throwing them all back! But oh no, I was going to have fresh fish for supper – over a fire yet! The end result was grilled fish, bone in, over charcoal; delicious for all except Ryan who thought hotdogs looked more appetizing. The fire pit was fun for him to start but not in time to cook (who forgot to bring the firewood over?) except to roast marshmallows for dessert.

Several times throughout our day, I mentioned things like “what a beautiful day God made” or “I’m sure God knew when He created this or that….” We decided to bury the fish heads and entrails in my garden which I said would thank God for our catch by fertilizing the ground. I hope when Ryan remembers our time together, he recalls that Aunt Pat gave credit to God for all things good. I hope I remember what I really caught: good memories and good lessons. Those are, first, when I forgot to check my pockets, it ‘tied up’ some time so to speak, so I need to remember the lessons of the Lord’s Word, which saves many hardships over going it our own way. In Proverbs we read, “My son, do to forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands; for length of days and long life and peace they will add to you.” (Proverbs 3:1) My second thought was that I wasn’t fully prepared but my friend Ryan had what I needed. Jesus knows our every weakness, and oh, what a friend we have in Jesus! Paul wrote to the church at Galatia “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” (Galatians 1:3-4) Last, my methods weren’t the best, but with patience I caught a fish. So, I’ll try to be patient, wait on the Lord, and be supplied. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” (Psalm 23:1)

I’m sure glad Ryan wasn’t watching today as I pulled the extra line out of my washer. I’m glad God was, and enables me to share some lesson reminders. Even without a great deal of planning, the day was packed with fun and blessings, some of which were sunshine, laughter, friends and family, a hawk soaring over the trees, geese honking, and the reward of delicious food shared with loved ones. With my lack of preparation, I didn’t deserve such a good day. With our human error, missing the mark, we sure do not deserve all that God has done for us, but we have opportunity to receive anyway. Because he loves us.

I felt almost guilty using my son’s tackle box, because I didn’t make the time, nor find the know-how to take him fishing when he was little; and he sure turned out great anyway. Those ‘somedays’ I mentioned slipped by me and were followed by regret. However, I am thankful for the grace of loving forgiving hearts, and second chances. So when I mess up and leave tissues and fishing line in my pockets, I need to extend that grace to a certain family member who does the same. Even if I let busy-ness crowd out time to call my loved ones and spend more time with them, God keeps giving me more. More time, more opportunities. I am eternally thankful for them all, and I want to seize that time before there is no more, to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. (Micah 6:8) I want to grab the opportunities to soar above the storms with wings growing stronger as I wait for the Lord to work in my life. (Isiah 40:31) More than anything else, I am thankful that He forgives when we forget to do life His way, and that He keeps putting more blessings on my hook than I could ever imagine hauling in.

It just occurred to me that if I’d had my old agitator washer instead of this high-efficiency washer that I’ve complained about so much, I’d have been in a much worse mess of tangled fishing line! Small favors!