We are having a houseful (as the older generations once said) this Thanksgiving, something that has not happened for years, as our family has been prone to travel the fourth Thursday each November.
So I have made all of the lists: recipes, ingredients, and cleaning chores, while also counting chairs, beds, sheets, towels and pillows. Wiping the dust from ceiling fans, I noticed scuff marks in the hallway, which led me to enter a home improvement store; a nearly frozen can of old paint in my hand, labeled wall. The paint department employee, with squinted eye, informed me this was in fact, ancient paint, so old that surely this could not match our current wall color?
I don’t know, I offered. We just moved in a little over a year ago, so I really have no idea.
He stares at me dully, clearly not wanting further details, then looking behind me at the growing line.
I waited while he matched the color, then drove home $15 poorer, with a pint of touch-up paint that, you guessed it, did not match. It looked as though it would, so instead of wisely brushing a tiny and inconspicuous area, I threw caution to the wind and began touching up all of the scuff marks. This is how I roll, an unapologetic get-it-doner rather than a perfectionist. Preferable in some situations, but not in this particular one with a houseful arriving.
I felt slightly impatient, with my to-do list mentally scrolling on autoplay as I drove to Home Depot after having made some phone calls to track down the proper paint color.
Now I was second in line at the paint center, and with my mind fixed upon inconsequential things, I must have stepped over the orange tape affixed to the floor. The sign in front of me read: Please stand at least six feet apart.
The customer in front of me looked hard at my sneakers, toes over the line, before taking great pains to deliberately move his cart further away from where I had overstepped, adjusting his mask decisively for good measure.
Suddenly, in that moment, I felt tired of everything. Tired of scuff marks and masks and lines. Tired of sickness and suffering and death, of critical spirits and fighting and misunderstandings and corruption and gossip and Do Not Step Closer tape lines.
As a little girl, I recall standing tiptoed one hot summer day in front of a candy store window, nose pressed up to the glass alongside other children as we watched the baker man create salt water taffy.
He picked up a massive slab of taffy from a metal pan, heaving it upon a machine fashioned with long hooks. Once the switch was flipped, the hooks would pull the taffy, over and over, purposely creating tiny air bubbles throughout the candy. It was mesmerizing to watch the rhythmical tug of those machines, stretching to perfection. Depending upon the flavor, the candy man would adjust the time of the pull. It could be twenty minutes or perhaps an hour. Those tiny bubbles, he explained, made the candy what it is designed to be: light and chewy.
Only after the pulling was complete, could the candy be cut and twisted into tasty treats, wrapped in wax paper and sold by the pound.
Standing in that paint line, feeling done, I glanced over my shoulder, catching a glimpse of a twinkly Christmas tree display. I am preparing for Thanksgiving, but Christmas is coming too, and quickly.
Feeling convicted of my whiny spirit, I prayed for God to change my attitude; to help me begin preparing my heart for Advent. Eternity is coming.
Sometimes God moves swiftly. I looked at the grumpy man in front of me, scrolling on his phone, and suddenly felt compassion. We have all endured this heartbreak year; everyone has suffered to some degree, and we are feeling hard-pressed.
Aren’t we like taffy, being pulled and twisted again and again and again? As a Christ-follower, I understand that none of this is random. God is working out his kindness and perfect goodness, measuring our days on the machine, creating air bubbles of faith and obedience, making us more like his Son. Each day is a treasure, and although we cannot control what unfolds, we are permitted to choose what attitude we will hold.
What paint project are you working on today? I asked the man in front of me.
He turned, surprised I think.
I’m painting a shed. He pulled out his phone. Let me show you the color.
So he did. It was a beautiful shed, an addition to the new house he purchased. The color was just right, and we discussed palettes, and the best paint brands and so on. Sometime during the conversation, he lowered his mask and his shoulders relaxed.
And then, his paint order was ready, and it was my turn.
Enjoy your shed! I smiled as he walked away.
I will! I think I’ll call it my He-shed! He cackled at his own joke, waving as he left.
This time my paint color matched. It was supposed to be flat, but I think the paint man gave me eggshell, so there is a slight sheen during certain moments of the day, when the sunlight hits.
I will leave it. It feels like a holy reminder, a nudge prompting me to see that it is not the paint nor the lists nor the recipes nor the holiday perfection that matters.
It is the attitude of my heart, my tenderness towards God and my love for the people he has gifted to me today.