Our former home was what I called a “Sprucer Upper” but I was probably fooling myself. We started with an entire kitchen remodel, taking it down to the studs and then, in the six years we owned the house, we continued room by room installing new floors, retexturing ceilings, adding windows and painting, from the day we took possession until the day it burned. Outside of painting, and Paul installing a couple of floors, we hired all the work.
Three years ago we set our sights on the living room. Our plan was to replace the ancient berber carpet with bamboo; remove the faux beams which lowered our already low ceiling and cast shadows; and give everything a fresh coat of paint.
We did all that, as well as installed an entirely new ceiling and replaced, the hideous and ancient inset lights. A miscommunication with the electrician caused a huge delay. And then the drywall guy got sick so a project which was scheduled to wrap up before Thanksgiving wasn’t completed until less than a week before Christmas.
I mentioned here how important getting a Christmas Tree is in our family. Our tradition is to go the day after Thanksgiving or occasionally the day after that. One year we needed to wait a week and none of us liked it a bit.
Three years ago, the week before Thanksgiving, I told the kids, “We aren’t going to be able to get the tree the day after Thanksgiving this year,” and explained why. No one was thrilled, but everyone resigned themselves to it.
In the meantime we were living in chaos. The contents of our living room were stacked in our dining room, and “stacked” is a euphemism. I had already bought new furniture and hadn’t gotten rid of the old, so we had two sofas, seven chairs, three side tables, various books and paintings from the living room, jammed in with the rightful contents of the dining room: a table, five chairs, a large antique cabinet/armoire and a wide bookcase more than full of books.
It was a mess.
And it was Christmas. My sister-in-law offered to lend us her tabletop tree, but I laughed; we didn’t even have the top of a table free. Christmas, the decorations at least, would have to wait.
This began me thinking about how we live in the mess. In this case it was literal but it made me consider the figurative ones too. We had to set aside what had defined our Christmas traditions and in some ways we were simply enduring, waiting for the time to pass when our life would be back to normal.
What I wondered was how to celebrate the time despite or in the midst of the mess. Life is to be more than simply endured, but I didn’t know how exactly between actual and spiritual worlds. Paul and I had been through many hard times: his cancer as a boy, the untimely deaths of both of our fathers, my struggle with depression, Christopher’s various diagnoses and surgeries and other trials. But three years ago we were stable in every sense. So our dining room was a hellhole, life itself was good. Of course we still had stresses and concerns but they weren’t overwhelming.
Something I was thinking about too was the idea of God’s presence. One of the names of God is Emmanuel which means, “God with us.” I have been a follower of Christ since I was a child and there are aspects of the faith I have known since—at least intellectually. As I get older I have begun to know them truly and deeply. I had known the name Emmanuel as long as I could remember, but I had been newly struck by what it meant to have God with me always and I wondered about enduring vs. thriving, even celebrating in the mess of life, because of this.
I wish I had written about it then, because so soon I would be able to apply this rumination. Six months later our house will burn, we will lose all our possessions and be plunged into our most stressful time—maybe our biggest mess—yet.
To Be Continued….