This was the year. It’s been coming. We’ve always been committed to savoring the present opening — one person at a time, one present at a time, while everyone else watches. But that takes a long time with 20 different people giving presents to each other — especially when one of them is a present-junkie like me who never does less next year like I always say I’m going to do, and especially when seven of those twenty people are four years old and younger.
Something had to change this year. There was a fresh, new, less-than-24-hours-old grandson/nephew/cousin to go visit up the road. There were games to play. The gift exchange needed an efficiency expert to step in. So our engineering son took command.
It was chaos. Glorious, joyous, a-little-bit-of-heaven kind of chaos — paper and ribbons flying, toys, music, duck calls, books, so much noise we could barely hear each other talk, electronic sounds, a few crashes, a few tears, a lot of excitement, an amazing chair from all the people who matter most to me, and enough food to feed at least twenty more people.
We gave up the formal sit-down meal with centerpieces and candles because there’s just not enough room to sit everyone down at one continuous table and still be able to walk through the house. We ate, we sang, we played games, we ate some more, and laughed a lot.
This morning I stayed in bed a lot longer than normal. I knew what I was going to face when I walked out of our bedroom. (Besides, I had stayed up until 3:30 the previous morning.) But it wasn’t as bad as I thought when I finally ventured out. As I started picking up the last of the paper and boxes, and folded up the TV trays, avoiding the greasy pots and pans that waited for me in the kitchen, a proverb came to mind:
Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox (Proverbs 14:4, ESV).
I thanked the gracious Giver of all good gifts. I am so blessed. The dirty dishes, the overflowing wastebaskets, the scattered toys and misplaced gifts, the cookie crumbs and sticky counters — all displays of His abundant love and grace. My manger is not clean, and I’m glad.
I will give up any illusion of being in control and embrace the chaos. Messes are part of loving and being loved. Messes are part of blessing.
Instagram photos by Joseph Forster, Johanna Conser, and Peter Mahar