As Christmas week approaches, I am reminded of all the reasons I love student ministry. I love getting all of your Christmas cards with pictures of your sweet families. I love seeing pictures on facebook of all of the babies being born. There seems to be an abundance of you sweeties getting married and having babies right now! One thing I don’t love in student ministry, but I always try to take in stride, is the way you show your love through your humor. Although I use the word humor loosely since we all have different perspective on what is considered funny.
One December about 15 years ago, we embarked on a ski trip with a group of teenagers from Metropolitan Baptist Church in Houston. As happened often, we hired someone, a college student, to come over and take care of our dog once a day, and we begged someone, my parents, to take our daughter for the week. I will mention that finding someone to feed a 120 pound Rottweiler was a bit more challenging than twisting my mom’s arm to entertain herself with a 14 month old cutie pie. Compounding the issue, Walter is cautious about security issues like giving out house keys and letting people into our home. He chooses carefully in these matters.
Christmas that year was going to be at our house, so I meticulously decorated our real Christmas tree, which was dry and messy by that point. The house sparkled and things were arranged perfectly to receive my parents and my sister’s family of 3 when we arrived home on Christmas Eve. This required some intense planning on my part to have all gifts purchased and wrapped, food planned and purchased, and the house clean. Did I mention how hard I worked to clean that house?
As we headed home on that charter bus for the 18+ hour ride back to Houston, I mentally shifted to how excited I was to see my baby again and have a Christmas she could enjoy after the last one where she basically slept through the whole thing. My family would be arriving with her just a few hours after we got back from Colorado, so my to-do list needed to be short and shared between Walter and I. Thankfully the guest bath tub had already been cleaned, so he could devote his attention to other tasks. As the hours passed, the weather grew worse and the roads began covering with ice. Being on a charter bus with other people’s children on icy roads amps up the stress level a bit. When an 18 hour trip stretches to 27, the stress level also rises.
We realized that we weren’t going to be home in time to let my family, with two toddlers in tow, into the house, so Walter called our dog sitter to see if he could open the door for them. For the sake of convenience, we’ll just call him Johnny. Well, Johnny sheepishly admitted to my
head of security husband that he had lost the key to our house after taking care of the dog the day before. This was going to be a problem since they were all in on the road already. The only solution we could think of was for them to hang out at a nearby McDonald’s and let the kids play while they waited for us to get there and open the door. As soon as the bus stopped, I jumped off to run home and open the door before running back to help unload food and supplies from the bus. Again, the stress level compounded by the exhaustion level was not conducive to a peaceful family holiday. Then I opened my door and the stress level reached an all time high. In the light from the entry way, I could see into the living room, but I couldn’t imagine why I was looking at the back of my dresser. I walked into the living room and saw that my entire bedroom was in the living room. Realizing that this couldn’t be dealt with at this moment, I closed the door and went up to the church to finish cleaning up from the trip.
Upon arrival at the church, I sought out Walter and promptly burst into tears explaining the mess that we faced when we got home. We finished our work while some mystery person made some calls and explained to “Johnny” and his sidekicks (let’s just call them Drew and Wade) that Shelly didn’t seem to be enjoying their little joke. Evidently these boys had decided it would be funny (again the distortion between what some people think is funny) to completely switch my bedroom with the dust and clutter stored under the bed and the living room with the live Christmas tree surrounded by presents and already breathing its last breath. This included taking pictures from walls and doors from hinges to make the closest possible imitation of each room in the other’s space. I must admit that I only heard this description from a female who had been present at the rearranging and wisely tried to explain to the 20 year old children that while Walter may laugh, Shelly most certainly wouldn’t. The glance I got as I opened the door and promptly left did not do it justice. When we arrived home, all of my family sat at the kitchen table while those three boys put the finishing touches on vacuuming the pine needles and returning my house to its former state. Evidently they had received and earful from another sponsor who had been on the trip with us, was just as tired as we were, and had an extreme aversion to any kind of pranks to people’s houses, including toilet paper in the yard. My mom said that wasn’t a pleasant discussion and my dad and brother in law informed us that it really was a great prank. We will have to take their word for it because we never saw the completed product. In fact, as divine justice would have it, Walter never saw even a tiny glimpse of what they did. I can imagine the hours they spent getting everything just right and the hours it took to get it…well… just right back where they found it. Two of those boys married and went into student ministry. I still wish for them to face a similar prank. Although Walter told them he would probably find it funny in a couple of years, I assured them I never would.
And that is the story of the second worst Christmas Eve ever. Now those boys have finally received the notoriety their prank deserves! If you are curious about why I changed the title, Walter did a funeral for an 18 year old boy involved in a ski accident on Christmas Eve one year. I couldn’t imagine that my little inconvenient furniture arrangement could compare to that.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas! The Christmas card and letter aren’t happening from us this year, so consider yourselves loved. We are truly thankful for all of the people God has brought into our lives to bless us and help us make wonderful memories!