I took the picture above early on Friday.
I’d been putting off setting up the Christmas tree because we have a very active toddler in the house this year. He was a late walker and actually took his first steps on Christmas day last year, so the tree wasn’t a big deal last year. I was faster than he was. He has certainly made up for lost time in the last twelve months. The speed with which he can destroy stuff now is dizzying. We call him “Mobile Entropy Unit 2.0”. His brother was the first model, and really hasn’t totally grown out of the wrecking ball stage himself at this point.
I had a tricky list for Friday. I had to get the house ready for guests, which is the only reason the tree made it up at all. I needed to grocery shop, do a mountain of laundry, and several errands that would require me to leave the house with three kids in tow. ….and those kids? They were in rare form on Friday.
Have you ever looked at one of those hamsters running in a wheel and thought, “Oh. Yeah. That’s me.”? Well, that was me on Friday morning. For every one thing I marked off on my list, two more showed up, and another was added by something a child did, or did not do. When I finally got caught up on the regular chore type stuff, I finally came to terms with the fact that we were going to have to decorate that tree.
I’m not so much a perfectionist these days. Perfectionists are people that I consider to be control freaks. I used to be one of those people. 20 years of fashion merchandising will do that to you. I was cool with the fact that our tree would be kind of “kid messy”. I even liked that idea. Since leaving my career and becoming a full time mom I have learned to like imperfection. Embrace it even. I can find beauty in things most folks would call ugly. It’s true. I think part of the reason for that is I have a rebellious nature that makes me want to be different. I have taken pride in my eye for the imperfect. I even boasted that I was free from my control issues sometime after kid number two arrived.
No, I was much more concerned about getting the tree decorated without any major new messes being made than I was about the tree being perfect. Clearly I had just redirected my control issues.
The “bigs” and I quickly hung all the paper ornaments we’d made two years ago. About the time I got the last one hung, I realized that my two year old was nekkid from the waist down. I bellowed to my 8 year old to put hooks on all the Borax crystal ornaments we made last year, while I chased him down, re-diapered him, and searched to make sure he hadn’t left us any surprises anywhere. Not to mention I had to locate the evacuated diaper.
I came back to crystal bits everywhere. Because the Borax ornaments were kind of stiff and my 5 year old tried to stretch them out. The result was a sugary looking mess all over the floor.
So we hung that round of ornaments and started on the glass balls that we had painted the insides with nail polish last year. I got the hooks in them all when I realized that the toddler was once again in the buff. So, I put the oldest in charge of getting the hooks on the ornaments while I ran off to catch him. This time I re-diapered with the help of duct tape. (true story, I totally did it) Ruthie had moved on to the balls filled with glitter….I’m sure you can guess that all the glitter did not stay in the balls.
The dryer buzzed. I ran down stairs to grab the clothes before they wrinkled, yelling threats to anyone who may be thinking of touching the ornaments while I was not in the room. I made it back up in 10 minutes. I started handing out the delicate glass ornaments with my intent being to give each of the “bigs” an equal number of turns to place ornaments. Of course, one is able to make decisions in a more time efficient manner than the other so this backfired and caused a sibling fight. Also, there was a very concentrated number of Christmas balls on the lower left side of the tree as compared to the side that was decorated by the indecisive child. As much as I love imperfect, that was taking it a little too far. With the ornament storage box under one arm, I stepped over to spread them out a little. This action sparked a temper tantrum from one of the children who felt they were perfectly fine in the large cluster where he had put them. As I was loudly insisting over his whining that he go get in bed and take a nap, I heard it.
CRASH! It was followed by an unmistakeable giggle. I knew what it was. About the time I rounded the corner I heard it again!
I was greeted by a very smiley and pleased, blonde imp. He was surrounded by the fallout of two of my bigger glass ball ornaments. At that moment, my freak showed up, and she knew she did not have control. She began to bark orders.
“UGHHHH!!!!!” (it was more of a roar really)
“Get out you two!”
“Go get the broom!”
“Bring me my shoes!”
“No one come into this mess!”
“Why can’t y’all just listen!” (Y’all is southern for you all, just in case you did not know)
Somehow that final thing, that broken ornament, translated into my very own temper tantrum.
I can tell you this. When you are in the Middle of a relationship with Jesus, you will recognize quickly where you need sanctification. The enemy however does not want that and will help you twist that recognition if you aren’t careful.
“I’m a terrible mom.”
“What was I thinking trying to homeschool? I’m a failure at it.”
“Good mothers don’t yell like that.”
“He could have gotten hurt. I should never have left those ornaments there.”
“I can’t believe I unleashed that temper again. I’m dooming my kids to the same!”
I thought all these things while I was crying and sweeping up the aftermath. I even felt guilty for putting my “little” in toddler jail (his bed) and turning on a video for him to watch so I could clean up and catch my breath.
As I swept the pieces up it made a pretty little pile. Beautiful colors, with the sun hitting the ornament pieces just right. Little bits of colorful trash that the broom had picked up along with it. I snapped a picture of my pretty little mess. I had just seen beauty in imperfection. I had no idea how that picture would shift my perspective in less than an hour.
After I finally cleaned up all the messes, finalized the tree decorations, dressed the dining room table and gathered my list for the groceries, I took a facebook break and started seeing the mind numbing news about the Connecticut tragedy begin to emerge in the statuses of my friends.
Suddenly I was very grateful for my difficult morning. My perspective was shattered and all the trash I’d picked along the way was swept away with it. My heart suddenly ached for mamas I didn’t even know, and I cried for babies that I’d never held. I squeezed my kids, especially my kindergartener, a little tighter for a little longer.
“Love is patient and kind: love does not envy or boast: it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way: it is not irritable or resentful: it does not rejoice at wrongdoing,
but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
The shift let me see those same hard questions through a new lense. One that made mercy, grace, and love easier to see. They are still issues and questions that have to be dealt with, but with the shattering, I can see the potential for beauty in the imperfections.