“What is that?” I grimaced.
I looked down to my legs and feet to determine where the minute, but piercing snaps of pain were coming from.
I gasped at what I observed.
And then to my dismay – also my fingers, hands and forearms.
Tiny, very annoying and very distracting reddish-brown ants were scrambling, scurrying and biting their way along my legs and arms at rapid speed. If I wasn’t careful, these little beasts would soon reach my core.
“John,” I blurted. “I need you to come home now!”
Of course, this wasn’t going to happen. John is away on a 10-12-day ministry trip in Zimbabwe. However, it’s a moment like this one when I really, really, really appreciate my husband and his incredible care of our family.
How had this ant attack happened?
Well, here is the back story:
We have been experiencing a ton of rainfall this week. A ton.
So much so that it has been difficult to do some of my outside activities/chores. For example, we hang our washing out on a line to dry under the South African sun. With the rainy weather, our clothing and our towels have taken longer to dry than usual – sometimes more than a day. Second, the house we rent has an in-ground pool in the front garden.
Yes, I know. This reality may sound strange for a missionary family. Yet, I cannot think of one house in our neighborhood that doesn’t have a pool. Pools play an integral part of South African family life – especially in our part of Johannesburg.
But, I digress.
Due to the exorbitant amount of rain fall, the pool had filled up and up and up. The pool water had nearly reached the rim. If the water should overflow, the cascading water could damage the brick rim.
Thus, with a break in the rain fall this morning, I decided I better check out the pool and determine what needed to be done for its upkeep and care. As I was emptying a very full basket of leaves and other material that had accumulated in the leaf trap, I noticed ants scurrying fast and furious under our folded pool tarp. I lifted the tarp and discovered hundreds of ants and hundreds of eggs. These tiny, white, oval-shaped eggs had the very real potential of hatching soon. If they did, then, their natural inclination would be to build a colony, And then? They would begin foraging for food.
There were countless numbers of these little critters under this one section of the pool tarp. I knew that I needed to act fast.
However, I also wondered. Were there more?
I lifted another section of the folded tarp and groaned.
I discovered another cache of ant eggs and even more ants scurrying about to protect them.
Then, I lifted another section of the pool tarp.
Even more ants and even more ant eggs!!!
I walked further along the pool side and lifted yet another section of the pool tarp – yes, it is that big – and grimaced once again. More ants. More eggs.
Meanwhile, I had disrupted these ant armies and left their eggs and their shelters unprotected. So, what did they do in response? They attacked!
Before I realized it, I had prickly, little ants in my shoes, in my socks, climbing my legs, and on my forearms. As they crawled, they bit. The biting action was similar to a small pin prick – but happening all at once on my arms and legs. My skin was creeping and crawling with these little pests!
I can’t say I was having much fun.
I ran into the house and grabbed a can of Raid. Sorry, folks. These ants couldn’t be left to their own devices. They had to be eliminated. I sprayed five different egg storehouses and five different spaces of ants, ants, and more ants. Thousands of them, I’m sure!
Once that was done, I realized that I couldn’t continue with my pool cleaning work until I removed all of the ants from my shoes, socks, legs, arms, and who knows where else! Their nips and bites were driving me crazy!
I took a shower and then threw my clothes and my shoes into the washing machine.
I still felt like my skin was creeping and crawling with them.
I asked Caleb to help me unfold the pool tarp and then pull the cover onto the grass. This step would deny any more ants from setting up a future shelter under the folded tarp.
After that, I turned my attention back to the pool. As I peered into the water’s depths, I noticed something moving on the pool floor.
What on earth?
Upon closer examination, I counted about eleven worms wriggling about on the pool floor. What were they doing there?
I determined that the large amount of rain fall had probably washed these creatures into the pool and trapped them there.
And John is not here.
I realized that the only way to remove these worms from the pool water was to basically have the pool sweeper that sucks up leaves, dirt, and other unwanted pool residue, to do the same with these unlucky worms.
I turned on the backwash switch on the pool pump to do its dirty, but very efficient work. In time, the pool sweep extracted every worm, along with more leaves, more dirt, and more gunk.
The ants were eliminated.
The worms were sucked up and away.
This had not been a pretty, uplifting, whistle-while-you-work morning. And no, I did not turn this into homeschooling moment in which I could have invited Jake and Caleb to come out and examine these creatures and have a wondrous, learning opportunity.
No. Not today.
Today, I was a grim reaper with a job to be done before the heavy rainfall returned. (And it did!)
In fact, I’m usually not a grim reaper at all. With most insects, spiders, and lizards (yes, we have them here, too), my usual response is to catch and release them. Unfortunately, there was no way to save these dying worms. And the ants? The ants posed a real threat to our home. If left unchecked, these same ants would be making their way towards our house to forage, forage, and forage. Ants have been a real problem in the past and I didn’t want to invite future battles – not on my watch – certainly not with John away.
I’m typing up this experience to just go blaaah about it all. With John out of the country, I haven’t had much adult interaction during the past ten days. (We’ve also had four days of load shedding in which our electricity was turned off for 4 1/2 to 6 hours a day – so some things that I planned to do were cancelled due to loss of power across our area – that’s a whole other story! ).
Writing helps me decompress – because in all honesty – what I did this morning was hard for me. There were more things associated with this pool cleaning task, the rainy weather, and the care and upkeep of this house that happened today, but I’m not going to write about it. Some days there is just too much of a story to tell! The ants and worms were enough!
But, I did it.
That’s what I will appreciate and give myself credit for today.
I’m not going to lie. I really, really, really wanted John to be here to contend with the ants, the worms, the pool, the water, and the rain. But, he wasn’t. This was all on me today.
So, I prayed.
Yes, I did.
I asked my God to help me with all of this stuff – especially with all of the ants that were nipping at me and causing a significant amount of discomfort.
There are some verses in the Contemporary English Translation of the Bible that seem to fit today’s experience:
Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel.
Philippians 4: 6-7, Contemporary English Translation
So, my friends, just as an encouragement – if I can pray to my God to help me with ants and worms and pool crud – we really can pray to Him about everything! Trusting Him to hear us and to answer, really does bring a strengthening, assuring peace that no one can completely understand. This confident peace enabled me to take care of some things that I had no desire to take care of today. With God’s help, the gruesome, difficult task was done. And the blessing? John doesn’t have to deal with this yucky task when he eventually returns home. Like I said, it’s all done.
My God helped me.
You may not be battling ants or having to suck up some dying worms, but what is something that you need God to help you with today? I bet there’s something hard you have to do.
Ask your God to help you.
I’m sure He will.