Friday, January 25, 2013

Breaking the Ice

Have you ever attended a social gathering and had to play one of those awkward icebreaker games? Gosh, I hate those games. Silly as it may sound, I always feel ill equipped for them. In my mind, I nervously go over again and again what to say. Seriously. How hard can it be to say your name? Apparently, I have a condition in which I totally forget English; but am somehow completely versed in gibberish when it’s my turn to speak. Talent. Sheer talent. At least that’s what I tell myself to feel better. And, don’t even get me started on the crazed lunatic sway I develop when it’s my turn. It’s quite likely I could star in a television series titled, “When Icebreakers Go Wrong.” Sigh. I would be so much more comfortable having a prepared statement to read during an icebreaker. I don’t care much for being put on the spot.

Hello, my name is Angela and I have a Type A personality.

Structure, routine and control are my friends. I thrive on organization and planning. I love sticky notes. Highlighter ink runs through my veins. I'm not a fly by the seat of the pants kind of girl. I even prefer to plan my spontaneity.

"In our hearts, we may plan our course, but it is the Lord who determines our steps."
-Proverbs 16:9

Earlier this year, the Lord brought a couple into our lives. Our new friends have a beautiful home. Every nook and cranny is decorated like the pages of Martha magazine. Even my seven and ten year old boys love visiting. Of course, their love might have something to do with the outrageous toy room filled to the brim with toys from current and past decades. Needless to say, if this family should offer to adopt us, we would be willing to move in stat!

For months, we visited our friends’ home for food, fun and fellowship. Their friendship was a welcome respite to our parched, hearts - hungry for friendship, community and love. But, then…then, the time came for us to reciprocate. I had put it off long enough and we were long overdue to extend a dinner invitation at our home. It’s not that I didn't want them to come over, it’s just that…well, it’s just that I didn't want them to see my house. I felt it paled in comparison to theirs. Don’t get me wrong, I love my home. But, what if they didn't? What if they thought less of me after seeing my home? After all, it wasn't nearly as big as theirs. It wasn't nearly as new. It wasn't nearly as decorated and tidy. My boys’ toys weren't perfectly displayed and organized in a toy room. Quite the contrary! Their toys were littered all over the living room. Lego Star Wars had taken up occupancy there and one would be hard pressed to find a place to sit without an Ewok, Jedi or clone trooper poking you in the rear! Their home had beautiful siding and brick. My home had many shades of peeling paint. Their lawn was beautifully landscaped and manicured with gorgeous flowers and trees. Mine was overgrown with weeds and dead flowers. Sigh…they were perfect. I was not.

I looked forward to their visit, but the anxiety in my chest rose higher and higher as the visit drew nearer. I shared my concerns with my husband,Todd.

“You know they aren't going to care what the house looks like, right? They aren't like that.” 

He was right. I knew and believed it in my heart. They had never made us feel inferior…they never flaunted their home, or bragged about their belongings. I had no reason to feel threatened or anxious. But, I did.

I took a day off work prior to their visit to plan and prepare. Step one: Take back living room from evil Lego Star Wars forces. I was determined to get the “situation” under control and serve up some eviction notices. I carefully crawled under my seven year old son, Joseph’s, bunk to retrieve one of many plastic containers I felt would work nicely for the new abode of Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, et al.

Oh. My. Word. Help, I’m under my son’s bed and I can’t get up! 

With eyes huge and mouth wide (and I mean W.I.D.E. - WIDE) open, I laid under the bunk in absolute astonishment.

We are totally going to be on an episode of "Hoarders".

Somehow, someway, Joseph had seemingly prepared for the apocalypse by stashing things under his bed. Short of beverages, this kid was set. Struggling to look at this in a positive light, I found a shred of peace in knowing if I got stuck under there, I’d probably survive a week or two on the bag of parade candy I found stashed.

Four and a half hours. FOUR. AND. A. HALF. HOURS! That’s the amount of time it took for me to clean Joseph’s room that day. (Did I mention I'm Type A?) It appeared this child, this flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone, had saved every paper from preschool to present and shoved them all under his bed. And, the toys…OH! THE TOYS!

Hey Joey, Santa called. There’s a toy shortage at the North Pole and he needs your help. 

On a lighter note, I also managed to find a little over a dollar in change (SCORE!).

With Joe’s room and the rest of the house finally in order and Star Wars Legos nestled snugly in their new home, we were now ready for our friends’ visit. Food, fun and fellowship ensued. Not once did they mention the peeling paint, dead flowers, lack of square footage or toy room. Nope. Nada. Not one bit of any of that.

“Your house is so cute, Angela”, she said. 

Oh, thank you. Joseph has said many times he’d like a house like yours. Your home is so beautiful, and he of course, loves the toy room! You have everything so nicely organized. It just amazes me. 

“(laughing) You haven’t seen her bedroom closet have you”, her husband said. 
“Oh, my closet is a mess! I never hang up my clothes! They're all over the floor in there”, she replied. 

Say what? I sat there in awe as I digested this information.

But, but, but…their home. It looked so neat and tidy on the surface. Yet, behind the closed closet doors, it was a mess! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! (insert happy dance here) 

And, then it struck me. Isn't this how our lives are as well? None of us are really as put together as we portray ourselves to be. We clean ourselves up as we head out in the world…putting our best face and foot forward, and praying no one sees the mess underneath. We suffer and stuff our messy lives behind closed doors (or under the bed, in Joseph’s case) with our bags of parade candy and clothes on the floor. But not a one of us is perfect and tidy like my friend’s toy room.   Rather we’re more like her messy closet matter how much planning and organizing we may do.

Letting others see our messes is tough business. I much prefer everyone think I have it all together. So much of the identity I've created for myself is wrapped up in the way I think others perceive me. And, if I think they perceive a hot mess, well…then maybe I am.

“It’s not about you, Angela. It’s not about them. It never has been. It’s about me.”

Thank you Lord.  Thank you for your gentle reminder. 

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” –Proverbs 29:2 

In the messiness of my life, there is a God who loves me. No matter how much I stuff and hide from others, He always sees. He always knows. And, most importantly, He always, always loves me. Me and my mess, we’re safe with Him. And, you and your mess are safe too!  (If you feel the need to highlight that last sentence, I understand)

Oh Lord, keep us safe. Hold our hearts, and let your light and your work shine in our lives. Shine through the mess. For it’s not about us, it’s about You. May the glory belong to You forever and ever, Lord - when the roads in our lives are unplanned and slickery and... when the roads are smooth.

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