‘Twas the night before Christmas,
And due to a delay,
Every Baran was wailing—
Even the INTJ.
And that is as far as my poetic abilities extend.
But no, it’s true. Most people think of Christmas Eve as a night of laughter and joy and glad tidings spread throughout the holly-decked halls. My Christmas Eve was a little less… romanticized. (Which shouldn’t seem too unusual. Seriously, who bases their expectations of Christmas off of sappy songs playing in Walmart? Not ME, I can tell you that much.)
The cause of my distress was simple: Everything that could go wrong had.
My family was planning on traveling back to Maryland to spend a few days with our family. I hadn’t seen any of them – my grandparents, my older brother, my aunts and uncles – since we moved out of state, and though I’m not one for crowds, noisiness, or family gatherings (where crowds and noisiness transfuse their evils into one ultimate social villain), the prospect of spending time with them again was enough to outdo all the silly Christmas songs.
So yes, this little social hermit was actually looking forward to crowds and noisiness. Sue me.
And that, folks, is when it happened: The day before we left, GUESS WHAT DECIDED TO GO ON THE FRITZ??
You know I live in Michigan, right?
It’s cold up here.
There was no possible way we could go anywhere for an extended period of time and leave our pipes to freeze in a heatless house. That just wasn’t an option. Nor was there any chance of getting the furnace repaired in time – no handyman was going to leave his warm abode on Christmas Eve to come fix our problem.
There went the idea of visiting grandparents over Christmas.
“But it’s okay,” said my sister. (Who isn’t generally the optimist, but must have been having a particularly good day, despite the circumstances.) “We can still have fun here!”
I wasn’t convinced.
It didn’t help that I’d recently caught a nasty cold, and could hardly talk, let alone feel enthusiastic about a dismal, dark holiday spent in the frozen wastelands of unfamiliar territory. And if those two things weren’t bad enough, I ended up burning my hand that day – my dominant hand I use to do everything.
Pain and swelling ensued.
“Aw, stop whining,” said Anna, who hasn’t a drop of sympathy in her entire cold-hearted soul. “We’re making overnight cinnamon rolls, and if that isn’t enough to cheer someone up, they’re clearly dead. Tomorrow will be amazing.”
Something of key importance that must be noted here is that in Anna’s vocabulary, ‘we’ equals ‘Sarah’.
Sarah is making overnight cinnamon rolls.
She failed to mention that they were of the nasty, gluten-free variety. Before I knew it, I’d been wrangled into mixing together some strange, pasty slop made out of bean flour.
I am convinced that flour made from beans is the direct work of the Devil.
Listen, people: I’m a fairly decent baker. I’ve tried my hand at meringue pies and citrus layer cakes. I’ve made whoopee-pie cookies and raspberry cheesecake. I’ve baked quite an assortment of difficult things, and they all turned out fine. But nothing in my baking existence had prepared me for bean flour. After wrestling with that gunk for an hour, my cinnamon rolls looked more like depressed snails than edible pastries.
That’s just embarrassing.
“THIS IS THE GREATEST THING EVER,” crowed my dear sister, who is The Actual Worst. “I’m generally the one who has these epic flops! It’s ten times funnier when YOU, the elegant one, make horrendous mistakes.”
I wasn’t feeling the humor.
Shall we list all the things that were contributing to my bleak existence?
- I had a headache the size of Mount Rushmore.
- The dam meant to keep snot inside my head was clearly in need of maintenance.
- My voice sounded like Katniss after Peeta strangled her.
- My favorite hand was incapacitated and I could no longer write, type, or draw – the three things I usually go to as boons in my troubled times.
- I WANTED TO GO TO MARYLAND, SHEESH.
- And bean flour didn’t like me.
An honorable mention in this bullet-pointed record of woe is that Anna, who is NEVER optimistic, was feeling a random and rare burst of insufferable cheerfulness.
I was not.
A slight meltdown may or may not have ensued.
In my defense, her happiness was provoking me.
And so the night passed, and it was awful. The next day – Christmas Day – dawned bright and brown (White Christmas, you lied to me), but…
Lo and behold, my sister had made a new batch of cinnamon rolls while I was still sleeping.
They tasted even better than they look.
So we hunkered down in our little farmhouse, ate cinnamon rolls, and watched It’s a Wonderful Life. Dad cracked jokes that weren’t funny. Mom spewed her usual array of mangled quotes and quips. Anna attempted one of my gluten free cinnamon rolls and was kind enough to refrain from telling me what they tasted like.
And somehow, against all odds, it was a surprisingly successful day.
Then, several days later, our furnace was functioning enough to allow us a quick trip back to Maryland to FINALLY visit our extended family, catch up with grandparents and brother, and drop Anna off at the airport so she could embark on a two-week mission trip to Peru. My list of woes shrank considerably during that time period, even if my hand was still burnt and voice half-strangled by a cold.
Now, as I’ve replayed that week over again in my mind, I’ve realized something – my “misfortunes” weren’t so very bad after all. I also happen to be a terrible hypocrite:
Because joy isn’t just for happy times.
Is it possible that you can be just as happy when everything is going wrong as you can when everything is going right?
Is it possible that disappointments and failures and things that seem like the end of the world are really just an invitation to correct your perspective?
Is it possible that a good attitude can make the worst situations become grand adventures?
There’ve been a lot of new faces surfacing on this blog recently, and you’ve all probably seen my tagline: Finding joy in the daily hum-drummities of life. So yes, newsflash: I’m a huge hypocrite who hasn’t yet learned to practice what I preach. (Thank goodness God still bears with me, even when I have a mental breakdown over cinnamon rolls.) But as I look to 2019 (please tell me it’s not actually tomorrow…), this is what I want to remember:
I am not in control of my circumstances. I am not in control of what God decides to do with my circumstances. But I am in control of my attitude.
And attitude makes the difference between misery and joy.
Happy New Year, folks, and let this be our battle cry for 2019: That no matter what God flings at us in the upcoming 365 day cycle, we will choose contentment. We will choose faith. We will choose joy.
Joy in the daily hum-drummities of life.