The weekend after New Year’s I had many at church ask how our Christmas was and if we had a good time traveling to see family.
Some of my friends genuinely asked how I was. My answer was hesitant, “I’m good! ... just experiencing Re-Entry.”
River Church had nine Christmas services this year! Yes, nine - over the course of three days. My husband sang, played, drummed, and preached at all of them. My children and I attended eight of them (missing one due to naps). It was a whirlwind of a few days ensuring everyone was fed, clothed, and accounted for.
We spent Christmas and the following three full days at home - resting, recovering, and reconnecting as a family of 6.
And then we got on the road and made the 204-mile drive to see family. We spent the next 4 days attending two family Christmases, eating bacon and eggs, building a 1,000-piece puzzle, visiting my brother-in-law’s church, and drinking strong coffee over great conversation. It was pretty stress-free.
We traveled home on New Year’s Day and although our Christmas Break was much needed and appreciated, I was anxious to get back to our rules, rhythms, and routines of what we call “normal.”
On January 2, I woke up early to get a good start on my day by first spending time with the Lord. My husband woke up, showered, ate breakfast with me, and then left for the office - leaving me, my four children, and the kitty in a house that felt very much upside-down.
Downstairs, the family room rug was hidden under all the luggage and Christmas gifts from the gift exchanges.
Upstairs, “Christmas” was still out, and the tree, lights, ornaments, and stockings were all screaming to be put away.
There were dishes in the sink and laundry in the dryer.
There were two boys that needed to be taught their school and two more that needed to be engaged or at least accounted for.
All of a sudden, I didn’t feel “stress-free.” I was slipping down those slippery slopes of Re-Entry and was trying to brace myself from the fall.
And then I remembered what I tell myself when I feel that way:
“I don’t work for joy. I work with joy.”
Meaning, I don’t go about my day in a wild frenzy: cleaning, organizing, managing, teaching, instructing, etc. - all in the attempts that when the dishes are done, floors are swept, laundry is washed, dried, and put away, lessons are complete, and supper is cooking on the stove that then I’ve achieved my joy.
On the contrary, joy is working with me when I scrape my breakfast oatmeal out of my pot and sautéed onion from my pan; when I pull back my bar stools to sweep for the third time for the day because my children are young, messy eaters; when I make my seventh trip down to the basement to switch a load of laundry out to fold and sort into five different baskets; when the lessons get done - only an hour later than we wanted to; and when supper sets off the smoke alarm because the oil in the pan got too hot.
Yes, I can count all of that (the piles, messes, and spills) JOY.
It’s attainable for each and every situation. And for each and every day.
Even on those Re-Entry days.
So when I feel like I can’t breathe and my list is too long for one person to tackle alone in one day, I have to pace myself! And I have to extend grace to myself in the process.
I take it one day at a time. One pile at a time. One hour at a time.
The laundry wasn’t going to get done in one load - let alone in one day. So, I would start a load first thing in the morning and do one at a time throughout my day.
The dishes were going to get done because I had committed to do them every night this year. So I would load my dishwasher and wash the rest - one at a time.
Slowly, surely, the luggage got unpacked - bag by bag and piece by piece.
The new toys gradually made their way up to their appropriate bedrooms or spots in the house. Again, one at a time.
The new clothes ended up in one basket in the basement so I could cut the tags off and wash them all at once.
It took a while, but I was starting to see some of that rug!
The Christmas décor ended up coming down over the course of a few days. And one by one, the totes made their way back into storage.
Ever so slightly the house started to look normal again, and with each item back in its designated spot, I was feeling more and more at ease.
Our house was beginning to feel like a home again.
I prayed a lot that week because Re-Entry is hard - especially after Christmas Break when my children (and myself) enjoyed sleeping in, staying up late, eating more sweets than we should have, had no worries of work or school, and stayed in our pajamas for far too long.
Considering all of that, I was gentle in my approach with them when it was time to get back to it.
Now, two years ago, I remember being convicted in my Re-Entry. We had stayed, traveled, and then came home much like this year. I had piles and messes and toys to deal with. I remember being stressed about where to put it all! I found myself holding a new toy and realizing that I was more concerned about where to put it then I was with wanting to engage my son with it. I looked around the living room and noticed that I hadn’t played with any of the toys with the children - I had just put them away. It crushed me.
I was stressed from the mess! And it had caused me to miss out on moments that had my name on it.
I learned a powerful lesson that day:
We cannot get so caught up in the weeds that we miss the beauty of the meadow.
Philippians 4:6 says,
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
The Bible says we are not to be anxious about anything - including putting our house back to normal post-Christmas Break and Holiday travels!
I asked God to forgive me. And to help me.
I have since become better at looking up. And when I look up long enough, I experience His peace.
Philippians 4:7 says,
7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Even in Re-Entry.
So when the dust settles, let’s depend on Him. Let’s work with His supernatural joy when we return from our Holiday breaks, vacations, and travels. Let’s experience His peace that only He provides.
And when your friends genuinely ask how you are, I hope you can respond with a “Good!” as well.