Today we have been preparing for our annual Heneise Christmas Party. We’ve had one every year for the past 14 years, only missed once. It’s a special time for me as a lot of our old friends come who I sometimes don’t see at all through the year. It’s a day of family and friends and fellowship. I love it. But, today, we have been doing the preparing part. Not so fun. Trying to clean the house while we are still living in it.
I have a tendency to go a bit crazy when I’m trying to get ready for an event. I promise that I have improved over the years, but the tendency is always there and I have to do some exaggerated deep breathing, put myself in time-out occasionally, and do a lot of self-talk to keep myself from totally flipping out. Here’s a link to a Youtube video that really sums up my state of mind when I’m getting ready for some big entertaining at my house.
So today I made lists for all the kids which detailed what chores they had to do. Organized. Efficient. The kids all got to work and actually had decent attitudes about the whole thing. For the most part. So, my 9 yr old vacuumed the couches. The 11 year old swept/mopped/vaccuumed the living room. The little girls swept/mopped the hall. My 13 yr old swept/mopped the dining room. Many hands make light work. Right. So here comes the almost 2 yr old. He was sitting at the table chewing on a chunk of french bread. All is well. He is where he is supposed to be. Crumbs are being contained. I walked out of the room to do something and turned around and he’s following me, carrying his chunk of bread, shedding crumbs everywhere. I walked towards him with the intention of picking him up and setting him back at the table. He sees me coming, thinks this is some great game and takes off running. Through the dining room, through the hall, through the living room, throws himself on the couch, still holding the french bread which he is now mushing into the couch cushions. I lose it. I’m yelling, grab him, swat his behind and thrust him into my 16 yr old son’s hands. TAKE HIM!! GET HIM OUT OF HERE NOW!!!! I learned many many years ago that when you are angry at your child it’s better to get away from them for a while till you calm down. My son takes off with the baby and I grab paper towels and brooms and dustpans and attempt to undo the damage that little run through the house caused. I’m muttering under my breath. All the kids are keeping their distance. I decide it’s time to give myself a time-out. Go sit in a corner somewhere and get hold of myself.
I stomp back to my bedroom and sit in my chair. Take some deep breaths. Then I start feeling guilty. My kids don’t deserve this. They do not need me to be going crazy about keeping a house clean for the next 24 hrs until the party starts. I sit quietly and I hear the Christmas music playing from the living room. The Little Drummer Boy. “I have no gift to bring…pa rum pum pum pum…That’s fit to give the King… pa rum pum pum…” And I think. It’s true. I don’t have a worthy gift to give my King. Because of course, the sappy, pat answer is, I bring myself as a gift to the King. Well, here I am being grumpy. Yelling at my kids. Being a jerk. Not much of a gift.
I sit quietly a bit longer and then I start remembering the night before. My husband and I went and saw “A Christmas Carol” at the Clarence Brown Theater. It was a wonderful production. I was in tears by the end, truly moved by the story and the actors who portrayed it so well. One of Scrooge’s lines really stood out to me and I started thinking about it again.
“Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forebearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business.”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Mankind. People. That’s what we’re here for. In Matthew 22:36-40 someone asks Jesus which is the greatest commandment and he says, Love God with everything you’ve got. And then love your neighbor as yourself. (a paraphrase). It came home to me once again. What is the meaning of life?? To love God and to love people. That’s it. What gift can I bring my King? I can continue to love Him and love the people around me. Love my kids. Even though I know they’re going to mess up my house after we cleaned all morning. Love my friends. Love my neighbors. Love the people I see in the street, at the store. That is the gift I have to bring. Love. When Scrooge has a change of heart, at the end, he starts the process of repentance, restoration. In the play he walks into the church. Standing at the entrance, hesitant, uncertain of his welcome. When I watched this I had a vision of the story of the Prodigal Son, when the father welcomes back his wayward son with open arms. And I found myself silently encouraging Scrooge, Yes! Go in! You are welcome! Forgiveness is at hand! That wonderful forgiveness that I need daily, hourly, minute by minute as I mess up over and over again. You are forgiven! You are free from the burden of guilt. Free to love. Get up, try again.
I relaxed my shoulders. I decided. Ok. Right now we are doing the deep cleaning. Tomorrow we will tidy up whatever messes have occurred. Keeping a clean house is not what it’s all about. Let’s go back out there, offer some apologies, and try being patient and gentle again. This is the way to live, open hands offering up a life that is full of love and repentance, and love again.