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Sometimes, great lessons arise from the unexpected chaos of our daily routines. Last week, as I navigated the whirlwind of home renovations, a seemingly small decision at church presented a unique challenge. Little did I know, this experience would not only test my limits but also offer a lesson in faith, family, and the joys of hospitality.
Embracing the Chaos
Last Sunday they passed around a sign up sheet in Relief Society to feed the missionaries. I knew that I was dead in the middle of renovations in our home. My house was a mad disaster and there was no way that I would be ready to have it cleaned up and guest ready by Sunday. But a little nudge told me to sign up.
The week before in our presidency meeting one of the counselors had shared an experience where she had put too many things on her schedule but felt like she should add one more thing to her schedule. She had borne her testimony of how she’s found that when she has too many things to do but she’s doing it on the Lord’s behalf somehow her time seems to lengthen and things work out.
I have a tendency to over commit myself. It’s been a huge problem and in recent years I’ve tried to be better about not saying yes to absolutely every request. I don’t have to run the book club, and a homeschool co-op, and fulfill my calling, and plan fun adventures for my kids, and make healthy dinners, and… and… and. At some point I need to decide which things are the most important to me and which are not and choose my time accordingly.
But this time… I decided to say yes. I knew it was crazy. I knew there were a dozen other families in the ward who could have hosted the missionaries. I knew it was totally ok if someone else got to have them over. But I took that ballpoint pen and wrote my name and number on the line for Sunday night.
I knew the week would be crazy, but it was even more so than I’d expected. We were supposed to be done Tuesday or Wednesday, but the last baseboards weren’t installed until Saturday afternoon. At which point our house was an incredible disaster. We were halfway moved into the rooms upstairs but we needed to move the rest of us in. Our house hadn’t been properly cleaned in about two months since the flooding happened, and there were boxes and detritus EVERYWHERE.
On Saturday night I looked around and wanted to cry. There was no way that we’d be anywhere close to guest ready by Sunday evening. I didn’t even know what I was going to make! I’d spent every last second all week just trying to get us moved back into our own space. But, I’d said yes and I’d have to figure out the rest of it the next day.
Sunday morning rolled around and despite the continued chaos of our house we all made it to church on time for the sacrament (just barely). On the way I had given marching orders to the family that when we got home it would be all hands on deck to try and get our main floor to a vaguely presentable state before the missionaries came. I still didn’t know what I was going to make for dinner though and I knew I didn’t have ingredients on hand to make most of the things that I wanted to.
I thought there was a good chance that I had ingredients to make my tomato basil soup and if I made some homemade bread to go with that it would be pretty good. Unfortunately bread baking is the specialty of my mom, sister and brothers… not me. So while I nursed my baby in the mother’s lounge I texted my mom and sister for recipes and suggestions for how to make homemade bread as simply as possible in the few hours after we got home.
Race against the clock
Our ward meets at noon so we don’t get home until nearly 2:30 – which meant a pretty quick turnaround when we got home to be fully ready for the missionaries. Of course, since it was fast Sunday my boys had to go collect fast offerings which meant I lost my two biggest helpers right off the bat. Plus our ward choir decided to start back up that week too so my husband headed off in another direction – leaving me with my 9 year old, 6 year old and 7 month old. Not exactly the A team.
Luckily I discovered that I had all the ingredients for my enchiladas – which I’m way better at making than homemade bread. So I was able to quickly get that going while I started to clean up the house as best as I could. Of course, the baby objected part way through and insisted on being fed and put to sleep. By the time all my boys got back it was about 4pm – the ingredients were assembled to make enchiladas but they weren’t yet made, and I was stuck on the rocking chair keeping the baby asleep.
I handed the baby off to snuggle with my husband. In the next hour we managed to get two pans of enchiladas made, a pan of brownies mixed up, the floor mostly swept, the family room and entry halls picked up, the bathroom lightly cleaned, a salad made, the table set, the dishwasher started, the counters cleared and an egg borrowed from the neighbors.
I cannot adequately express how improbable it was that we would be able to get all the things done before the missionaries arrived. There was more than once that I looked at the clock and thought, “those numbers should have changed more than that since I last looked at the clock”. But somehow, miraculously, the Lord gave me the time I needed to accomplish what He needed me to do.
A Meeting of Faith and Fellowship
Having the missionaries over was great. One of them was named Elder Anderson from Perth, Australia – an exciting combination as my maiden name is Anderson and my mom’s family is from Australia as well. We made some fun connections and were able to reminisce about our family’s trip Down Under last year.
It was so good for my kids to get a chance to talk to the missionaries. We had a good takeaway challenge that I think is going to really strengthen our family, and my 14 year old had a chance to really dive into some of the deeper doctrinal questions with them.
After they left I realized that the work that I really needed my family to complete before the weekend was over – was mostly done in that 2.5 hour time span after church… in addition to all the preparations we made for the meal. There’s no way that if we’d come home from church and hadn’t had the motivation of the missionaries coming over that we would have gotten that done. Somehow the Lord really had figured out how to make it so that I added one more thing to my schedule and actually added more time to my day. It’s loaves and fishes math, not regular math.
Lessons Learned: Faith in the Frenzy
As I’d been talking to my mom while I was trying to figure out what I was even going to make for dinner I told her – “When the sign ups came around last week I felt like, ‘there’s no way we can host the missionaries, everything is too much in chaos’ but I also felt like I needed to have some faith and just do the thing…. So we’re in more chaos still than I even thought we would be. So I’m trying to muster up even more faith to do the thing that I felt like I should do. Faith is stressful.”
I think that might be a new motto for me – “Faith is stressful.” Stress seems like the opposite of faith, but I’m starting to realize that without the difficulties that make things stressful – there’s no faith. You don’t need any faith to do easy things – faith only comes in when things are difficult. I still want to be careful about how I manage my time and what things I allow to come into my schedule – but I also hope that I allow myself to be stretched. I want to say yes to the opportunities that the Lord is ready to give me if I’m willing to go outside my comfort zone. I hope I can be mindful of where I can use my own abilities to their limits and let the Lord step in to turn my tiny loaves and fish into a feast. I’m willing to be stressed for the Lord because I know He won’t leave me hanging. “I can do ALL things through Christ” – even feed the missionaries on a day when there’s really no way that is going to work out. If the Lord can do that with me, why would I limit Him on anything else that He wants to do with me?
(P.S. – I hope you enjoy the picture that I had ChatGPT help me make for this post, the process was hilarious. I asked for a woman who looked frazzled but faith filled. Each iteration either looked like she was going to DIE or completely serene 50’s style perfection. – there was no in between. This one came closest to what I was looking for – but I love that there are 3x as many kids as I have in the picture. You can’t see them, but there are also babies flying around behind the headline. I thought you might enjoy seeing some of the other images that were generated for this that I didn’t end up using.)