Wednesday, February 8, 2012

If I'd known you were coming...

My mom texted to let me know that my grandparents are on their way up to visit. She didn't know when they were leaving to make the three or four hour trip, but it could be today.

I treasure my grandparents. They were a big part of raising us when our dad died (I was 5 at the time). They mean the world to me, and if they are coming to visit, it's a special thing. I want to be ready for them. Having said that, the last time they were here was pretty stressful. My grandfather is accustomed to having things done his way, and he expects things to run on his schedule. We have our own schedule around here, one which is tantalizingly close to a routine on some days, but it revolves around babies' naps and a preschooler's snacks, not the preferences of retired grandpas. His practice of never calling ahead to tell me he is coming makes things even more complicated.

With Mom's text, I felt the room slowly start to tilt to one side. My chest started feeling a little tight.

Still in my pajamas and on my second day without a shower, I surveyed the scene around me and marveled at how I could trace the last two days' events by the position of various things on the floors and counters and table. Looking up from the chicken I was trimming to put into the crock pot for dinner, I noticed the crumbs on the counter from breakfast toast, some flour on the floor from Monday's breadmaking (thought for sure I'd swept that!), basket full of laundry in the living room waiting to be folded, another laundry basket with neat piles folded yesterday by my helpful friend but still waiting to be put away. Sam's toy trains, dinosaurs, matchbox cars and an Elmo figurine were in the middle of the floor, involved in an elaborate, complex relationship about which I confess I do not know the details.

A slightly crazy feeling washed over me - knowing someone is coming but not knowing when- not the day nor the hour - how was I supposed to get ready? It kind of reminded me of those talks about THE RAPTURE we used to get in Sunday School. Or that sign on the realty building in the town where I grew up: Jesus Is Coming! Rapture - Next Major Event. I had a similar feeling of helplessness. How could I prepare for the unknown? I took a deep breath. What is the thing I'd feel worst about if they showed up right now? Start there, I told myself. Then if they come walking in, at least that one thing will be done.

How we receive people matters a great deal. Having spent some formative personal time with Benedictines, I'm aware that hospitality doesn't have to be fancy...the spirit in which things are offered makes all the difference. The heart of Benedictine hospitality is the recognition that all are to be received as Christ, that Christ is present in each guest and should be welcomed. Simple is fine, as long as the door is open and there's room at the table. I love this about my Benedictine friends and yearn to live up to this standard when welcoming people to my home.

As I think about this ideal, I have to hope that Christ (and my guests, alike) would appreciate that I chose to take time to rock my babies this morning for fun, even though they weren't sleepy, to cuddle with them and smell their hair and watch them hold each other's hands. I did that instead of dusting the bookcase or decluttering that annoying pile of papers next to the microwave. I tried to remind myself that the house didn't have to look perfect for my grandparents as long as they knew we were happy to have them here (although it would probably help if they didn't trip over Elmo and the dinosaurs on their way in).

I have been spending some time on Pinterest lately, loving all the beautiful pictures of interiors. Sometimes Pinterest tricks me, making me think that those photos of houses are real, actual houses...that people are carrying on their crazy lives in those lovely, perfectly appointed kitchens with no crumbs on the counters. My house doesn't look like that. I don't have a themed shelf in my home with rotating seasonal displays. I don't have a handmade Valentine wreath on the door that I created from used coffee filters and hair salvaged from the vacuum cleaner and custom-colored baker's twine that matches our trim. I confess that I'm not even exactly sure when my rugs were last vacuumed. The thing is, I like that stuff! I'd like to have monogrammed towels and napkins I'd stitched myself, a perfectly clean, decorated and "together" house.

Really, though, at this stage in my life, with two babies and a preschooler, this isn't going to happen. It's not even important.

We do, however, have food in the slow cooker for dinner tonight, and everyone is wearing clothes that are reasonably clean, and no one is missing or dead.

These things are important, and I feel good about these things. And about rocking the girls. I'm okay with my non-Pinteresting house today. I think the people who live here also need to be treated as Christ, which sometimes results in a less-than-picturesque environment. Sometimes, the couch cushions are on the floor. Sometimes there are even handprints on the carpet. Despite these shortcomings and imperfections, we are going to have a warm welcome to offer my grandparents whenever they do show up.

Now I really should clean the bathroom.