I love making French toast. I crack the eggs into a bowl, where the yolks stand up bright orange and tall. I whisk in the cream, slow and steady. I use Saigon cinnamon because it has a stronger flavor. I grate orange zest and watch it fall. Then I push the bread into the mixture and force it to soak. I don’t want the outer layer to be coated. I want full absorption.
I sat this morning in my front room by the window. I was drinking hot coffee and trying to erase all the bad dreams of chaos and realized this is exactly how life can sometimes be – saturating.
First there’s the guilt. The guilt that you spent too much money and spoil your kids and obsess over the number of gifts between them being even. You rush around making chicken, fussing at your kids for eating candy, making sure they have little token gifts for all their friends. How dare you spend time focusing on such trivial things when the families of Sandy Hook are still grieving, the victims of Aleppo suffering, and America is still forever bleeding from the political rancor? Have you no heart?
But your mind is full. Your body is tired. You feel terrible for injustice but you also have to make three dozen cookies by tomorrow that look like reindeer.
So we pile on more. Maybe you sign up for a petition or join an activist group. You pay for the car behind you in the fast food line. You volunteer at the food bank and help at school and care for the elderly and read to kids in an underperforming school. GIVE GIVE GIVE and PUSH PUSH PUSH until you are nothing but a sad sopping mess. Mostly drinking wine with lots of hair tangles.
This is the devil’s work, this feeling of never being good enough.
The guilt and shame for not doing more is simply covering us. These feelings are soaking into our character and increasing our insecurities. We run harder and sleep less and try to earn our worth. How dare you, you petulant privileged white woman with your blond hair and your healthy children. How dare you act as if you have problems when the world around you is crumbling.
I hear it. Can you? The neighbors of guilt and shame are at your white picket fence with signs. The words on their signs parade through your dreams. You spoiled little fool.
So I sat in my front room by the window. I was thinking about all the stress points, the areas that cause me to cry out. And the pain began to drip from my water-soaked days. The concept of blending a family and the rough and tumble world of not always being liked. Disagreeing on parenting decisions but realizing that they aren’t always mine to discipline. Moving from a home I have always loved. Not seeing my children for Christmas. Pressures at work. The need to have traditions as if my children’s lives depended on them. The forever untidy house I can’t seem to manage as a single mother trying to do it all.
The Prophet Elijah heard God call to him to go before King Ahab and bring a message of warning and repentance. And yet God did not reveal himself to Elijah in splendor. “Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.” 1 King 19:11. It was then Elijah heard the Lord’s voice – in a whisper, not a storm.
We all have mismatched days. When you wake up ten minutes late and run out of coffee and forget the dishwashing soap when you were just at the store. My therapist used to say we have margins for times like this, like the space between profits and losses, small absorptions of annoyances that disrupt our usual life balance. And yet we have absorbed so much that we are like sponges full. We keep sweeping around the same dirty mess because we have no more to give. We cannot listen to the small still voices around us. We cannot cry out for the victims of great tragedy in times when our own head is spinning.
I do not believe God wants all this terror and evil to happen on earth. I firmly believe that God is a refuge from us, to save us from this place where do we do not fully belong and where evil has taken over. And yet we also cannot let the weeds grow around us and choke out truth, love, and peace.
This holiday season, try to find a moment to listen. To be quiet and know that through all the busy, there is something greater than you at work. And pray to be vigilant to that call, whatever it might be, however you need to eliminate the noise and weeds around you to accomplish it. Despite the messy house and the odd number of Christmas gifts and the fact that your kids ate seven oreos, put your children or cats or books in your lap. Squeeze out the water. Let the sun evaporate the guilt. Let the Father’s unfailing love shine upon you like a great star. Take comfort that you are deeply, truly loved.
You are a beautiful person. Take a moment to simply be thankful for the life you have. The freedoms you have been given, the very ability to sit in a warm place, the fact that your ears and eyes and heart works.
The best French toast is crispy around the edges and soft in the middle because heat is applied. My lovely people, I know you feel the heat in this life. Let it enrich you, not ruin you.
Stop, listen, and feel the joy come back through.