Beauty in the Undone Things

The night before Thanksgiving, and all through the house- everything was left undone.

Undone because the day before Thanksgiving I was informed that a very important part of our water heater is broken, and not in stock, anywhere in Arizona. This necessitates the shipping of said integral part (of which none happens tomorrow).

And so, it is difficult to finish doing all of the things, and preparing all of the things, for Thanksgiving when you lack access to hot water. The least of these things being a shower to wash off the daily sticky, gooey, film three littles leave on their Mama (most especially an eighteen month old with a head cold and booger nose).  Therefore in the interest of my sanity I have decided to leave most of it undone. Undone in the name of being thankful for what I have right now, right here, in this moment. Which is quite a lot actually, even if some of it is broken. This principle I have discovered, is somewhat biblical.

There was another meal once, requiring much perceived preparation and busyness and doing. Two women, one going out of her head, mired in busyness, checking to be sure the turkey was adequately displayed, and the cranberry goop was glopped just right (probably, not really). I imagine her counters had been cleansed with just the right bleach to water ratio, and in perfect flylady fashion her sink was shined. This woman was also probably well coiffed, or at least her apron was fancy (or she at least had an apron), and she must have lacked the apparent booger badges of honor that I wear so proudly. Her floor was likely recently swept, or swept in this decade, and I’m quite positive she had aromatic soy candles burning or some essential oil diffusing (who am I kidding it was probably both). But all of this perfection came at a great price. And this price was stress and busyness and angst. A bad attitude, a heart laced with accusation and pride.

Meanwhile this woman’s dear sister neglected her feasting and hosting duties, refusing to be what we now envision the perfect Proverbs 31 woman to be. The moment her Teacher walked in, her Rabbi. her Savior, her Lord, she forgot her duties. She went straight to His feet, and there she sat.

Listening. Learning. Being.

I imagine she forgot that smudge of flour on her cheek, or that she had spent the whole morning baking and so forgot to change into that smashing new frock, or even just a clean one. She probably forgot the cherry goo smudge from her poorly latticed cherry pie on her counter, and the mixing bowl with cementing flour on it. Nor did she remember the slightly over cooked stuffing she forgot to take out of the oven on time, because her Lord had knocked on her door, and she answered.

Neither woman likely had any hot water from a tap (just saying).

No, this second woman, this sister, Mary, she forgot about the stuff, the extra, the distractions.

She let it go, knowing no matter what, now that her Lord was here, it would be good. She closed the kitchen, and she opened her heart. She was willing to leave things undone, to sit at his feet. She was willing to be undone, so that He could make her whole.

Martha of course, didn’t understand. She was a sweet woman, a follower of Christ herself, but she just got so wrapped up in it.
“BUT THE THINGS!” she cried. “Jesus, she has left me to do all of the things! All of them, by myself! ALL OF THE THINGS!”

And then He spoke.

41“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42

Poor dear Martha. I love her. I am her. Every day. I run around distracted, crying about all of the things. Diapers and dishes and dinner. Now add a feast day, PIES AND HAMS AND TURKEY. How do I remove giblets? Why are they so gross. What is a yam?

And tonight, oh how I feel it. The distraction, the upset, the quiet percolating undercurrent of annoyed fury at ALL OF THE THINGS, seeking to explode at the slightest prodding and annoyance. Annoyances like say, a water heater deciding to take the weekend off.

But then Jesus, not content to leave us in our fury of busyness and distraction. His gentle reminder, only one thing is needed, and it isn’t a water heater.

Or a pie, or cranberries, or deviled eggs, or turkey, or green bean casseroll or a even clean kitchen, home, bathroom or insert blank here.

No. What we need, all we need, is Jesus. To sit at his feet, to learn, to hear, to come close. The only thing beautiful friends that Jesus is concerned about making clean, is our hearts.

And so while we rush, and worry and fret and freak out tonight and tomorrow and on into Christmas, God has something more for us. An invitation to choose what is better, to walk away from the busy, from this idea of perfection, and sit at the feet of Perfection Itself. An invitation to find beauty in the undone as we lay it at the alter, and draw near to God.

Things don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. Things don’t have to be finished to be beautiful. God sees us, and not our homes and our kitchen and our dishes and our water heaters. He sees me, covered in Christ, his masterpiece, perfect in every way despite my failings and asks only that I give up my worry and my things and follow him. He asks that I choose what is better.

What a blessing would it be if tomorrow instead of choosing stress, I chose to get messy with my kids and make cinnamon rolls and snuggle and not worry about the icing handprints on the couch. What if instead of cursing my hot water heater, I chose to be thankful for the running water that I can drink. What if I set an example to my children that even when things go wrong, despite our picturesque ideas of perfection, we can still laugh and find joy and make good memories. The legos all over the floor and books all over our couch and laundry (all over everything) really doesn’t matter, because we have what we need, Jesus.

Maybe they wouldn’t remember this as the Thanksgiving mommy went crazy and yelled and stomped and told off a repair man, but instead would remember learning about the blessing of hot water, and how so many don’t have it and how rich we truly are. They would remember that Mommy was kind to a stranger spending his day working in our garage, even after he couldn’t fix it and delivered kind of crappy news. Maybe we would be the one house that didn’t yell at him that day. Maybe my kiddos would learn to make the best of a situation that isn’t all that bad anyway. Maybe they would learn resilience and reliance on the only thing that matters, Jesus.

We talk so much about the Proverbs Woman and her example as some sort of Godly, Wifely, Perfection, but tonight I invite us all to instead be a Mary, to lay all of the undone and broken things at the feet of our Savior, to walk away from the frazzlement and the fray, and choose what is better, on a day that is all about thankfulness anyway. When something goes wrong tomorrow, when something is forgotten, or burnt or left out or not washed, lay it down.

Tomorrow will look so different for everyone,  lay down the burden of expectations, because life is burdensome enough without magazine perfect thanksgivings holding us hostage.

If your husband died last month, and you’re navigating the holidays as a widow with fatherless littles, and its all you can do to get to Denny’s so your kids eat a thanksgiving meal, it’s enough and its beautiful. If you’re praying over a sick precious child riddled with IV holes and PICC lines in the hospital and your meal consists of whatever sad turkey the hospital cafeteria is serving families, it’s okay, it’s enough, and it’s beautiful. If you’re family is all separated and disjointed by distance or failing relationships, or both, what you have already done is enough, lay down the rest it is beautiful. It is beautiful because Jesus is already there. I don’t need the things to make a beautiful Thanksgiving, I just need Jesus.

And if my turkey burns, or my water heater explodes in the dead of night, I will lay it down, because what I already have is enough.

I will leave the many things, leave all of the things, and choose what is better.

Tomorrow, I will choose what is better. Tomorrow I will choose Jesus, and let the rest be undone.

I am undone, unfinished, and broken, (just like my water heater, coincidentally). But God. But God, is teaching me that there is beauty in the unfinished things like my kitchen, and the broken things like my water heater, and that I can lay those undone things down at the feet of Jesus and just be, because he has promised already to see his work in me through to completion. I won’t always be undone, but for today, I can be undone and thankful.

I can look at the one dirty dish in my sink (or thousands, whose counting) or I can choose to look at my cupboards full of clean dishes. I can look at my dirty floor with muddy footprints, or I can choose to look at the wonderful tiny toes and chubby feet that made them. I can look at the booger stains on my shirt, or I can choose to look at my precious baby who is laughing at her snot bubbles. I can look at the many things, or I can choose to look at Jesus.

Tomorrow, will you choose look at Jesus with me?

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