Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others,
faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.
I Peter 4: 9-10
As the year changes over, I vow this will be the year I get ahead of the game—whatever that game might be.
I'm tired of procrastinating. I'm tired of feeling the pressure of should-dos. I'm tired of being tired. So . . . my solution is to embrace the Boy Scout motto: be prepared. Ahead of time. A little at a time.
The first test occurs right away as I make preparations for some family visitors who are staying two nights. I need to be domestic and clean and cook. Unfortunately, none of these attributes are my attributes, unless I’m in the mood, and I’ve long realized those moods can easily leapfrog months. Or years.
But this year, with my new resolution in tow, I vow that I will get ahead of the game and get the entire thing under control. D-day (done-day) is five days away, when the guests will arrive.
Day #1: I psych myself up to do it right.
However, as the day wears on and I haven't actually done anything beyond thinking about doing something, I end up feeling very much like Scarlett O’Hara: I’ll do it tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day.
Day #2: I look at my to-do list and divide the house into battle zones: basement, main floor, top floor. When the kids were little, I used to draw squares in the carpet of their bedrooms with a finger, telling them to “Clean up this square” in an attempt to make the chaos seem more manageable. This might have been a helpful memory until I acknowledge the first floor of my house is mostly wood.
Instead I collect dirty dishes from all three floors and fill the dishwasher.
I forget to turn it on.
Day #3: Feeling guilty for yesterday, I make a menu and a grocery list. I even recopy the list according to sections in the grocery store: Produce, Dairy, and the Fat-Sugar-Chemical aisle. Knowing this is above and beyond any “getting ahead of the game” scenario I ever aspired to, I feel smug and done for the day but . . . I refuse to give into the temptation and actually go to the grocery store and buy the things I need.
It takes two carts.
Back home, enticed by the food in the Fat-Sugar-Chemical aisle, I make lunch. And since that makes a mess, I dive in and cook the menu items that can be frozen until the weekend. Adrenalin kicks in. Four hours later I have made sweet & sour chicken, coffee cake, muffins, crumb cookies, and a monstrous mess. I wonder if Merry Maids has a 911 number . . .
I clean up and collapse on the couch. I fall asleep to "Law & Order" reruns.
Day #4: I remember the Proverbs 31 Woman (sigh) and try to take verse seventeen to heart: "She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks." We'll see about that.
The basement beckons. As I vacuum, I notice a path in the carpet the cats have made on their way to their Poo-Room. I decide to force them into a new path by pulling out a bar stool, relocating a potted plant, and moving a footstool in the direct line of their padding little feet. I wait for a cat to run the gauntlet. Pepper complies, and I feel momentarily victorious, until I realize a new path will be pressed into the carpet.
I also realize as I vacuum the stairway, that the felines are not the only guilty party. Looking down upon my work, I see my own footprints in the plush. Because there is no solution, and because my back hurts, I retire to the couch and watch "Law & Order" reruns.
Day #5 -- D-Day: I wallow in the fact the wood floor cannot leave track marks like the carpet, but grieve that it produces a community of dust bunnies. I do my best rounding them up before proceeding to the second floor where bathrooms and clean sheets beckon. I try to imitate a fabric softener commercial by making a sheet float through the air to fall neatly on the bed. I only succeed in getting it caught in the ceiling fan and knocking over a lamp. But I make my mother proud by making everything fresh and new—including hospital corners.
It’s nearly time for them to arrive. I'm sweaty and want a nap. If I ignore the need for makeup, I could probably slip in ten minutes of rest. I close my eyes (to afternoon "Law & Order" reruns) and am nearly asleep when a kitty jumps up on my chest. From my position on the couch I notice the entry light has cobwebs. The cat jumps to safety as I take care of it.
And the windows need washing . . . Hopefully, no one will be tempted to look through them.
And my roots need touching up . . . If I comb my hair just right or wear a hat . . .
The doorbell rings. And so the weekend begins. The house is filled with family who bring their coats, suitcases, and oft-heard stories, which makes me realize no one is looking at the house anyway. We are too busy talking and being.
The fellowship is awesome, the food edible, and time flies. As they leave I vow to add something to my “get ahead of the game” scenario: don’t worry so much about anything because my family don’t care about kitty tracks, they accept whatever level of scrubbed tub I can manage, and they’d settle for McDonald’s if that’s what I chose to serve.
They love me and I love them, and our time together is what’s important. "If we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." (I John 4: 12)
Knowing that is truly getting ahead of the game.