I was a mess! Stinky. Sweaty. Stressed out. Family was coming to visit, and there was so much to do to get our house ready for them.
Clutter drives me crazy, but it seems Monday through Friday it is an unwelcome visitor that just doesn’t know when to leave.
Overwhelmed by the amount of work, I couldn’t even make a to-do list (which I love, and have been known to put finished tasks on the list after-the-fact just so I could feel the satisfaction of crossing them off!) because it all made my head spin. Our family had not found our groove for the new school year; my son’s birthday party was that weekend (an entirely separate to-do list!); and four precious family members were literally en route to our house.
Our extended family doesn’t care what our house looks like, thus I was only going to this much trouble in part for them. I had surgery just a few weeks before, and I was set on convincing myself, and proving to everyone else, this wasn’t going to stop the normal flow of our lives no matter the toll it took on me.
My heart pounded to the rhythm of the dishwasher, while I blankly stared at the clothes swirling around in the washing machine – as if my icy glare would make the washer work any faster. Just when I thought it was somewhat manageable to get it all done, I turned around and caught a glimpse of our dirty, stinky dog. She has this ritual of what we call “moling” in the grass when we walk her. She doesn’t walk. She puts her head down, muzzle to the ground, and sticks out her tongue. Then she takes off on her extendable leash and runs as fast as she can (throwing my back out once and costing me a few trips to the chiropractor, thank you very much) so she can lap up the morning dew off of the grass. Needless to say, she comes home wet and dirty with leaves and tiny sticks stuck in her fur. She’s one happy dog. But she was gross!
So into the laundry sink she went for a rapid home-spa, which with all her drama surrounding bath time I ended up as wet as she was.
Yep. Stinky. Sweaty from hauling the vacuum up and down stairs, cleaning floors, dusting, primping pillows, making beds, running errands, etc. Basically, I was trying to make our home look like no one lived there – which is impossible with five people and one crazy dog – and an African Pygmy Hedgehog to boot. It definitely couldn’t look like we were in the throws of a new school year, which reeks havoc in all of our lives trying to buy the “right” school supplies on the 10th trip to the store that week. Not to mention the impending birthday party or the fact that I was down an arm due to the shoulder surgery.
It was quite a feat to haul that vacuum all over creation one-handed, while trying to clean using my less-dominant hand. Comical to say the least. But, the real showstopper was when I looked out the window and saw the grass needed mowing. Yes, one-handed.
There I was, zipping around in circles till dizzy, trying to control a mower that is lightening fast with my weaker arm. It was challenging to say the least, but I conquered the mower and the grass eventually, though the grass looked like it had been mowed blindfolded. Oh well.
I looked down at my watch, for the millionth time that morning, and saw it was 11:55am. Oh no! In five little minutes I had to be at a friend’s house for lunch. Really? Like this? No way.
I scrambled for my cell phone to tell her I couldn’t come, but as I dialed her number I realized she had already made it – given I was supposed to be there by then. What to do?
The house wasn’t done. The food for guests wasn’t planned. I had more errands to run and company would be on our doorstep in a matter of a few hours. Not to mention the fact I had dog hair and grass stuck to me. Dirt and sweat coated my arms and legs. A baseball cap hid my atrocious hair underneath. I smelled like a mix of earth, wet dog and baby shampoo. No make up. No energy. No time for lunch. No time to chat. No guts to say no.
Slipping out of my nasty yard shoes and into flip flops (at the time I thought they were a better choice so as to not leave a trail of grass in my friend’s home) I trudged down to her house not daring to look up at cars passing me by.
At her door, I took a deep, embarrassing breath and knocked. Two little, angelic faces – about knee and waist height – appeared in the window. Their shining smiles were only outdone by the excitement their dog showed as he pounced over them to get to the window.
My friend opened the door, and her eyes grew big when she saw me. I said hello with a sheepish grin. I was a sight to behold and we both knew it. Thankfully, she is not a fair-weathered friend. She is real. Down-to-earth. Gracious. Funny. Kind. I couldn’t have shown up to just anyone’s house like this, but I knew she desired my company more than my choice of clothes.
We walked into the kitchen and my feet froze as I gasped! There before my exhausted body was the most beautiful sight. Lunch for two. Real dishes. Water goblets. Shiny silverware. Homemade chicken salad sandwiches with a beautiful spinach salad with strawberries and nuts. Nestled in the bay window of her kitchen was the most welcoming table I had ever seen. It was just for her and me.
Her young children, having already eaten, still tried to scam the strawberries off of the plates, but I just laughed.
I found my breath, blinked, and told her that #1, she went to way too much trouble, and #2, now I felt doubly bad for showing up in my humbled guise.
She reassured me it didn’t matter, and because I knew she meant it I knew I could stay and be comfortable. I pulled out the gorgeous wooden chair with a delicate fabric overlay, and my weary bones sank into the cushioned seat. She asked a blessing for our food, and I tried not to inhale even the plate as I had skipped breakfast in the name of time.
Nourishment and good conversation hydrated my wilted soul, and before I knew it we were chatting and laughing as the sun’s rays laced the windows and table. It was truly a scene out of a book.
I was so glad I didn’t cancel on her at the last minute. Although my watch screamed at me all day that I was late late late; and my shoulder was grumpy and telling me I was overdoing it; and the to-do list taunted and teased me; I needed this time with my friend – even though I had no idea I did. Our time together was good to the last berry and giggle. I left feeling stronger and with a tremendous sense of peace that people are more important than to-do lists. Time with my friend was like a cold glass of water; a nap on rainy day; the smile of a loved one. It was just what I needed. Had I been too proud to go because of how I looked and smelled, I would have missed all of the sweet blessings that came out of our time together – both everything she had planned and our spontaneous conversations.
I walked home thinking about how often I cancel on God when He wants to meet with me. He has planned something extraordinary for us each and every day, but because of being too busy, too tired, too distracted, or too proud (not wanting Him to see me in my sinful estate), I miss the fellowship, intimacy, joy, laughter, healing, company and teaching He has so lovingly designed for our lives. We miss the peace and strength that comes from drawing from the Living Water, Christ (John 4:13), who is also the Bread of Life (John 6:35). I have missed so much goodness that comes from spending time with our Abba Father, Creator, Redeemer, Restorer because I considered other tasks more time sensitive or more important that day. Or, I knew my sin and didn’t want to come to Him all mucky like I was that day with my friend. Later, God, once I’m all cleaned up. But later never comes.
We can get so wrapped up in our own little worlds, we miss the bigger plan – our destiny – that may lie just around the corner revealed in a conversation with God. We spin our wheels on things that don’t make an eternal difference. We stress and strain over tasks that most people never even notice – much less comment on.
That lunch was one of the most precious times I’ve ever spent with a friend. She invited me and asked me to bring nothing. She welcomed me in her home despite how dirty I was, and treated me like a queen for no reason at all except that she loves me and wanted to show me so. It was nothing I deserved or expected, it was a gift given freely.
That is exactly what God does for us. He plans, prepares and invites us to His table. He actually wants us to come with empty hands so He can fill them with blessings like joy, peace, encouragement and strength. He wants nothing from us except to be in communion with us. To be part of our day, involved in our stuff, so He can bear the burden and share the load. He wants to show His love for us, but too often I’ve left Him sitting at a table for one.
It was that lunch date that changed my thinking about spending time with God. It revealed the pride that holds me back. The mis-prioritizing of tasks that leaves my head spinning and stomach churning. The giant hole in my heart that aches until the only One who can fill it, pours His living water into it and fills my soul.
Even though I’ve been walking with God for a long time, I need to be reminded that I can make things unnecessarily complicated between Him and me. The game of hide-and-seek is all me. He’s not hiding from me at all. Rather, He’s waiting for me and for you. Waiting for us to come, just as we are, and respond to the invitation. To relationship with Him over our own special table for two. He sits and waits eternally patient on His children, because He will never leave. He can’t because He cannot break His own oath to Himself – even when we cancel on our end.
Meeting with Him is not about checking yet another obligation off the to-do list. It’s about responding to an invitation, just like my friend’s, and coming with open hands and hungry hearts. He just wants to be with us. Every day. The table is set. He is waiting to listen and to speak. To laugh and cry with us. To dream and plan with us. To discipline and disciple us. To challenge and to hold us.
Will you join Him?