December 30, 2016
Christmas is just messy. Paper shreds and bows and boxes and crumbs and boil-overs and meltdowns and gift returns and sugar rushes and hurry and hurry and hurry. I wanted this year to be different. I wanted to have everything baked and prepped and wrapped and decorated and complete in time to sit back and relax on Christmas Eve. After what happened this summer, I needed Christmas to be easy. Not this year.
Just around 10 pm a week before Christmas, Paul, Lauren, and I were bailing water out of the main-floor bathroom after the septic tank backed up and flooded the bathroom, down through the air duct, and soaked the garage ceiling below and rained down on my car and everything else unlucky enough to be in the garage. We’ve had the pipes rootered, septic tank pumped, dealt with insurance adjusters, and the water restoration company has ripped up the bathroom and hallway floor and garage ceiling. We’ve been sanitized and just completed 11 days of industrial fans and dehumidifiers on 2 levels of our house. It’s bare subfloor in the bathroom and hallway. I’m finally able to park in the garage but Paul can’t, and we had 2 dozen bags of discarded flooring and ceiling material in the driveway. We spent 2 nights in a hotel because we were unable to use any water. And eventually, we will be in the hotel again for about a week when the floors are redone. So we’ll have to move everything from the main floor and have all the hardwoods replaced in the kitchen and den and living room and dining room and bathroom.
Needless to say, I couldn’t bake cookies and pies or wrap presents or do much else from the hotel. And I spent one morning at the laundromat not only doing the weekly washing, but also pumping quarters into the machine to wash every single towel we own from trying to soak up the flood.
And this was the year of the dead Christmas tree. I knew the day after we set up the tree that something was wrong. It wouldn’t take up any water and it was crunchy for 3 weeks. The girls knew not to turn on the tree lights unless Mom or Dad are home and in the room. The fire extinguisher sat right next to the tree just in case. There were needles all over, and we wasted no time dragging that fire-hazard to the street the day after Christmas.
And Lauren is on penicillin for strep throat. We are fostering Lauren’s class pet until next week. Welcome Arizona the bearded dragon. Lauren is dog sitting two very sweet pugs with special needs and bladder issues. Emily just adopted 2 Spanish goldfish tonight. And Grace’s pet snake done R-U-N-N-O-F-T last night, and there’s no telling where in the house she is. So it’s been a little crazy.
But it’s Christmastime. It’s New Years. And this isn’t how I wanted my year end to be gift wrapped. 2016 doesn’t even feel gift wrapped. As I was bailing water that Saturday night, it felt like my year was just crammed inside a Target bag. So the week before Christmas I had a little cry one morning at work, and I bellyached to my sister via text, and I had a breakdown in the kitchen with Paul. Then I realized that this is not the worst thing in the world. People have survived worse at the holidays. Instead of bailing water and hotel-living the week before Christmas, we could have been dealing with that on Christmas Day. So suck it up buttercup, and let’s move on. And I stayed there for about a day. But it didn’t feel right. I wondered why my big girl panties were giving me such a wedgie. Then I realized who my God is. It could have been worse. Sure. But I believe God is more than I can even believe. So my theology, what I believe about God, needs to be more than just “whew, I dodged that bullet.” That’s not good enough. That’s not God enough. My family has dodged bullets from a little bump in the road to a septic backup to a suicide attempt just this year. And it could have been worse. But I’m not willing to just swallow all that crap and say “it’s all good, it is what it is, whatever!” If all I believe about God is that He gave me a flood a week before Christmas just to spare me from the inconvenience of a Christmas Eve flood, or that He rescued Grace from death just so we could consider what life without her would have been like, then He’s only a God of near misses. And I’d be missing the God of blessing and anointing and promise and fulfillment and overflow and perfection and protection and completion and feast and agape and the rainbow and manger and cross and empty tomb. And more. Unto abundance. Do I hear Him?? “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.” Luke 6:38. It’s not about me missing the famine. It’s about me being on time and dressed to the nines and head of the table and hostess with the mostest at the feast! Do I hear Him??
And I have feasted this year! He has shown me the sweetness of His feast. “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119:103. If nothing else, He has filled my table with more people showing us love than any other time in my life. Don’t even get me started on the people who have loved us so well. The encouragement and support and affirmation has been life to my family like manna in the desert. You have walked with us to the table. Some of you put food on our table when we were spending all our time in the hospital. You brought gifts to our table. You cleaned up our table (and mowed our grass and built our deck). And you sat around the table and listened and talked and cried and laughed. And then once we were strong enough again, you let us do good in your lives. And if He was only a God of near misses, I would have missed all of that.
So the Praise Board sits on the kitchen counter. And we mark time and seasons and holidays and special occasions by writing what we love on that board. So during flood-week, between our first and second nights in the hotel, I texted Paul, Grace, Lauren, and Oh Emily to ask them what they love about Christmas (because I have to text the people I live with). I had just come home from the laundromat and all I could be thankful for in that moment was that Christmas is waterproof. No matter what. A little or a lot of water would not ruin Christmas. It’s all good. It is what it is. Whatever.
“Finally, brothers, WHATEVER is true, WHATEVER is honorable, WHATEVER is just, WHATEVER is pure, WHATEVER is lovely, WHATEVER is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8