The Christmas tree went up last night. It’s beautiful chaos, and putting it up was beautiful chaos too. I don’t usually describe chaos like that. I don’t really like chaos … It gives me anxiety.
I know we all consider ourselves to be creatures of habit. I don’t know if anyone is as married to their habits as I am. After all, humanity glorifies marriage and I’m still single, so I think it’s probable that my habits are a surrogate. Let me explain:
My life is full of routine. There’s a system to my morning: wake up, potty break, shower (there’s a system for the shower too), lotion, dress, wake up the kids, hair, brush teeth, make-up, hot tea, walk out the door. Dishes have a system: Plates first, then silverware and cups, glass bowls, plastic bowls, pots and pan, and then anything else that sits on the counter (which is usually nothing). My life is a well-oiled machine until you throw people into the system and then I have to micromanage their existence so that it doesn’t mess up my systems … living with me sounds amazing, right? My kids think so too …
We always put the Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving, but this year, we had to wait until the weekend because my daughter is now a working woman. She missed Thanksgiving (I’m now an advocate for Black Friday starting on Friday), and had to work during the nuttiness of Black Friday, so we had to put our traditions off until the weekend. I made a full Thanksgiving dinner, invited the fam and recreated Thanksgiving for her yesterday. Not to put off the tree any longer, we meshed Thanksgiving with the beginning of the Christmas season in our house and dubbed Saturday “Thanksmas.” After gorging ourselves and cleaning up, we prepared to put up the tree.
I had a plan for last night, wouldn’t you know … we always go to the store and each pick out a new ornament for the tree. Then we come home, turn on a Pandora Christmas station, get out the stuff, do the tree, drink hot chocolate, and watch a funny Christmas movie (yes, it’s almost always one of three: Home Alone, A Christmas Story, or Christmas in Wonderland). Last night, we did things a little different… By “we,” I mean mostly me. That was not part of the plan.
My kids are teenagers, so music, facetime and hanging out trumps tradition. While I brought the many boxes of Christmas up from the basement, they hung out in my son’s room and ate chips and dip. While I painstakingly added volume to each individual branch and put it in its place, they played Country and Rap to drown out Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong. While I untangled the lights, fussed with the fuses and went to the store for replacements, they played basketball under the streetlights. Every once in a while a kid would pop in to see how things were going or lend a hand, but I had to talk myself out of a few pity parties as I lamented the ways things have changed this year. So many changes and none of them were a part of the plan.
When they did finally join me, it was only to hijack my phone charger and fill the living room with 90’s pop music. I must admit, I raised some eyebrows as I busted out my 90’s dance moves and sang all the lyrics at the top of my lungs. My son was unimpressed but my daughter decided to learn Vanilla Ice verbatim. They did help me put the decorations on after the lights were strung, but things are a little different than usual. Our angelic tree topper has a large green alien sitting on her shoulder … so different than I envisioned. But so like my son, who was pleased I left it.
I shared all of this because “Man plans while God laughs.” There is so much truth to this. Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Similarly, chapter 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the purposes of the Lord prevail.” For a planner like myself, this is a little cringy. Situations that require me to just sit back and watch God do His thing are so hard. I know God is awesome and has great plans for us. I’ve read Jeremiah 29:11, and a slew of other verses that inspire me to trust God. And when I’m lost in adoration and worship, I can trust God with such fidelity. But in the drudgery, as Oswald Chambers liked to call it, the everydayness when life happens and there’s not an acute sense of God’s nearness, I go back to my meticulous planning and create order in the chaos as much as I can.
Last night taught me that strictly following my own plans robs me of the bliss in life. There’s not a ton of it, after all. If I had demanded they come into the living room and help, I would have had very sullen teenagers resisting every proposal or directive I made. If I had insisted on Christmas music, I would have missed belting Britney Spears, Spice Girls and the Soundtrack to Grease with my sixteen-year-old. Moments with my kids are slipping away faster and faster. Do I really want to miss out just because the alien clearly does not belong atop the angel atop the tree? I might have!
In light of this sobering reality, I reflected on life in the larger sense and I must admit that there may have been times I missed out on things that would have deepened my connections with others or added to my joy because I was so stuck on the preplanned things in my mind. I don’t think that’s how God operates. He’s the creator of spontaneity, after all. His plans seem to thrive in an atmosphere of bewilderment and joy. He hardly ever follows logic, and there is no rhyme or reason to the way God works. Clearly, we cannot stick to our plans so religiously and expect to walk in the perfect will of God. All of our preconceived notions make God laugh because we’re dreadfully simple and He’s extravagant and wild. I want that. I want whatever God is doing. That crazy, zany, impractical thing I can’t imagine because I like symmetry and He loves coloring outside the lines. Father, teach me to love what you are doing and the spontaneity of it. Teach me to sit back and enjoy what you are doing instead of trying to make everything make sense and have a semblance of order. Help me to hear your will and follow your directions into whatever it is you have planned for my life. I don’t want to control and contain what is clearly bigger than me and better than I can create in my own imagination. Have your way. Let’s have fun in this together.
“ … as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him—” (1 Cor. 2:9).