I feel very strongly that teaching my girls about providing for those who have “not enough” is so important. Not only is it important in teaching them selflessness and how to focus their attention away from themselves and what they want, don’t have, or are mad/sad about, but it is important to teach them about loving others. All kinds of people. People who smell different. People who look different. People who act different. People who talk different. I want to teach them to love like Christ loves. I want to teach them to see people, know their stories, recognize needs, and do something about it.
That being said, every year as a family we fill a bag full of all kinds of traditional thanksgiving foods and provide a complete Thanksgiving meal to a family who may not be able to afford or provide it for themselves. This is a family thing where we all go to the grocery store together to buy the items and pack them in the bag together. I spend time explaining to the girls why we do this and how it reflects Christ’s love. Today was the day we were to fill our bag. In my mind it was going to be a glorious time of togetherness. It was going to be beautiful. Picturesque.
In my mind it looked like this:
After a wonderful relaxing day of togetherness we would choose somewhere to go out to eat as a family. We would all be showered, smelling good and looking beautiful. My girls would have bows in their adorably styled hair. I’d have jeans, boots, a sweater, and a scarf on. My hair would have the perfect amount of body and soft curl to it. I’d have make-up on, but just enough to look like I didn’t really have much on. After a quiet, uneventful dinner at a restaurant, we’d go by starbucks. Hot chocolate for the girls, pumpkin spice latte for me. We would get out and casually stroll into Sprouts Market, starbucks and shopping list in hand. As I’d read off items, my girls would calmly take turns getting cans off of the shelf. We’d talk about how much the family we were buying the items for would enjoy them and enjoy a carefree thanksgiving meal. After we got home we would fill the large bag together and pray over the family. There would be pumpkin candles burning in the background. There would be laughing. There would be hugging. There would be teachable moments. It would be an evening my girls would remember forever.
In reality it looked like this:
I have been a bit under the weather and felt extraordinarily like crap the last few days. It was Saturday and my children still woke up at 6am. From that moment on, my girls sat in their pajamas in front of the tv. All day. Until it was 6pm. I’m not sure what they watched but I think it was Casper at one point. I stayed in my pajamas and in my bed with unbrushed teeth, hair, etc all day. ALL DAY. I watched cheesy Christmas movies on Netflix. In November. ALL DAY. I knew we needed to go to the store, but my husband had some stuff to do so I told him to go do everything and we would go after dinner to the store. At 6pm I became real with myself and knew I wasn’t actually going to get up and cook something so I told the girls to go change into some sweats and put some shoes on. I changed out of my pajamas into other pajamas (yoga pants and a sweatshirt) and some flip-flops. I brushed my teeth. I put on no make-up. I had horrible dark circles under my eyes- partially from exhaustion and partially from old mascara from a few days before. My hair—I took a shower on Thursday morning and let my hair air-dry, so it had been thrown into various curly, messy buns since then and resembled less curl and more birds nest mess—was thrown into a messy bun that defied all other messy buns. They only headband I could find to push the fly-away hairs out of my face belonged to my 6 year old daughters. It did not have a bow on it, but it was covered in rhinestones. We piled into the car and drove through McDonalds for some of those heavily processed chicken nuggets everyone always posts about. We met my husband at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart on a Saturday night….along with everyone else on the planet. We met my husband there and he got McDonalds to eat as we went through the store. My children turned to look at me and it was as if I could see a gleam of red in their eyes and instead of Heaven coming down, Hell came up. They hung on the basket, fought over who got to get what and put it in the basket, screamed about not being able to push the basket, cried for more processed nuggets because they didn’t get their fill the first time, and did pirouettes down the aisles as other customers dodged them with annoyed looks on their faces. At one point, my teenager called me to ask permission for something so I was on my phone….while pushing the cart….and holding the list….and pen in my mouth….raleigh wanted to see how long she could go without moving if she held onto the cart and let it drag her, so she was literally sprawled out behind the cart on the filthy floor being dragged by the cart…Riley was shouting to get my attention about something but I was on the phone so she kept getting louder and louder. Toby was 10 steps behind trying to inhale his bag of fried-up goodness from McDonalds. Bless them. Bless the other customers who did not call CPS on me. Bless Wal-Mart.
While I did talk to my girls on the way to Wal-Mart about what we were doing and why, we didn’t talk about the family while we shopped. It wasn’t calm. It wasn’t even pleasant. When we finally got home everyone went to their rooms. We didn’t pack the bag together. We didn’t sit merrily as a family and pray over the family that would receive it. There were no candles. There was no Starbucks. We didn’t look pretty…or like we even had a home or running water. It wasn’t picturesque and I’m pretty sure that memory will not be dancing around my kids’ heads for the rest of their lives.
Someday it won’t be like this. Someday I’ll shower every day. Someday going to the store with my children will not be comparable to hell, the absolute worst possible place imaginable. But you know what? When someday comes, If I haven’t at least tried, as messy as it may be, to teach my children about loving others and blessing others, then getting them to understand the importance of it at 15 or 16 will be next to impossible. Tonight I tried and while in my mind it was a huge disastrous Danny Tanner moment fail, God knows my heart. He doesn’t ask us for beautiful. He doesn’t ask us for picturesque. He doesn’t ask us for perfect. We aren’t perfect, we are messy. And you know what? Tomorrow is another day, and maybe after we’ve all had some rest, some fruit, and hopefully a shower, we can come together as a family and pray over the recipients of our bag. He will still be there to listen – He’s kind of cool like that.