It could have fooled anyone. A celebratory sight. Dressed for holiday: our table, our attire, our smiles.
Then our guest speaker started to speak slowly, gently. Soothing really. Prepared and composed. I knew there is richness in her words, and I would slowly try to match my mind’s rhythm to her speech pattern.
Then she started speaking from the heart, off-script, as the Spirit moved her. She talked about how the quality of my life influences the relationships I involve myself in. Quality of my life? So I ought to tend to the quality of my own life? I like the sound of that. Self-care. With specificity.
Then she talked about how the woman, the mother, is the heart of the house. We are the queens of our chess board. And if I am a heart, what kind of heart am I? Healthy, vigorous and full of life? Or am I burdened, wheezy, heavy, sad?
Wow. What we have and what we are, that’s what we give.
We can’t give what we don’t have.
She asked a tough question. A grim one, but it comes from the reality she has the privilege to witness on a regular basis. She asked how would we celebrate Christmas this year if it was the last one in this formula. Our husband and children are not ours. We are administrators of the gifts we received. We did nothing to deserve them. We are not entitled to them. Our family is a gift.
Today we have the opportunity and the grace to hold them close, to listen to them, to brighten their day, to love them.
She asked plainly but poignantly how is a room changed as we enter it? Does is lighten up? Do people’s faces brighten as they see us, or do their shoulders slouch, and they pull away with worry? Do we bring peace and joy?
These couple of weeks I have soured the mood as I corrected and scolded my family. Two weeks ago I met Conrad in town. He walked from kindergarten with Jackie and I met him half way. Jackie was skipping jolly as she walked with her jacket wide open. It was 5 degrees below freezing. And I kept watching them coming downhill, while they couldn’t quite see me or hear me. And I felt my frustration rise. As I got near I scolded them both for carelessness. Then Conrad got flustered and irritable and the whole mood soured. I told him he is the adult and it’s not up to her (no matter how stubborn she can be) to walk around with an open jacket in that frigid cold. Was I wrong? I don’t think so. Could I have used a kinder more encouraging voice, as what was done, was done already anyway? Definitely.
As I let my tongue loose, and say whatever I find I’m right about, I see how my words can kill the spirit. Though it’s so easy. It’s not productive, not building up. The more I do it, the easier it gets.
The Proverbs don’t talk about the wise man building his home. It keeps talking about the wise woman building and strengthening her house, her home. We have the power to destroy with our words, just as we have the power to build our family up.
It was the perfect message to hear. It tied us all together, and I think it brought us to our senses. We are in such a rush to plow through the holidays. We all have checklists. The two hours we spent together, moms of preschoolers, was a time that stood still. And we were reminded to forget the pressure and prepare our hearts to rejoice. The best gift we can give our families is a content self, a joyous self, a genuinely loving heart, that does whatever work we can without grumbling, as if for the Lord, and with no strings attached.