“I put some brownies in your refrigerator,” my very nice new friend kindly informed me.
We were standing in my entry-way. “You did?” I smiled.
“I can’t stay for lunch,” she continued, “but I wanted to bring something for dessert for those who can. Thanks so much for inviting us.”
I was touched by her gesture. We have a group that meets at my house on Tuesdays for a Bible study. This particular day, I thought the lesson was a bit long, so I emailed everyone to stay for lunch if they wanted. A sandwich lunch. Nothing extravagant.
But as she told me about her kind gesture, I couldn’t stop my mind from racing through our refrigerator shelves.
“Oh my word,” I thought, still smiling as if I didn’t have a care in the world. Did she see the lettuce from last week that is still wrapped in dish towels? I had put the extra-washed leaves back in the refrigerator to have for a salad the next day. But “next day” might have turned into a week.
Ew. I could only imagine what that must look like.
If only my thoughts could stop at the lettuce. The towels rested on top of chicken and potato soup still chilling in the pot in which it was cooked. As was a pot of spaghetti resting on a shelf above. One week? Maybe two? Have I even cooked since those meals? It’s not like we have endless pots!
Then there’s the expired buttermilk, moldy cheese, the dirty shelves, the refrigerator door crammed packed with all kinds of goodies: several open Cokes sporting the straws, nibbled on chocolate bars (why eat it all at once when you can take a bite and put it back. It lasts longer.), salad dressings, ketchup packets, week-old pizza, a golf ball. (Why? Who knows.) Should I go on?
Let’s just say, a surprise visitor to one’s refrigerator can be a tiny bit unnerving.
I felt naked.
What did she think? Did she notice all the mess? Sure it’s nice and shiny on the outside. Clean and sparkly. But was she prepared for what she would find when she opened the pristine doors and searched for a spot to place her very nice gift?
I didn’t have a chance to apologize for what I’m sure bowled her over. Or maybe it didn’t. All I knew is that I had been meaning to clean out that fridge for days. Lots of other fires took precedence. So, she got to see our good, the bad, the ugly, and certainly the smelly.
She didn’t say anything, though.
She had just smiled the kindest smile as she warmly thanked me and shared something with me that she loved – a plate of delicious brownies.
As I thought about my gut reaction to her seeing something that is normally hidden, I was struck by the similarity of that refrigerator and me. Life is full of doors that we close to hide what we don’t want anyone to see. For me, it’s a lot of well-intentioned tasks that just never get done, insecurities, stacks and stacks of things – basically, areas of life that fall short of what I hope.
It’s like our cars. We keep them looking fine on the outside, but live life – especially with kids – on the inside. Wrappers strewn, cups in every holder, smelly socks under seats, multiple pairs of shoes throughout, bags of “return” items that may or may not have been in the very far back for months. It’s all good until an adult un-expectantly opens the door. Then we quickly pray, “Oh, please let them not see all the crud. May she think that the piece of trash that flew in their face when she opened the door was a butterfly.”
We’ve all been there.
Don’t we live there?
In the land of regular.
The land where milk expires. The land where old leftovers mold as they overstay their welcome. The land where clutter and wrappers infest cars. The land where closed doors hide over-stuffed closets and the same load of laundry that has been washed and forgotten three times.
I doubt she saw what I was afraid she might see.
But it still took my breath away until I realized that anyone who would bring brownies and put them in my fridge cares about me. Not about what I look like on the outside, but who I am on the inside – moldy cheese and all.
So rather than let a messy fridge ruin my day, I sunk into the fact that true joy resides in caring for and celebrating others. Like my friend did for me.
She didn’t notice the mess. And if she did, she laughed it off. Because her fridge is probably messy, too. She was so happy to help me out – even when I didn’t ask. Her gesture jazzed her and blessed me. And that alone was worth relishing.
Why ruin the moment by worrying about how I looked. Maybe when I’m less concerned about the outside, I can deal with the inside, grasp the fact that we’re all in it together … and realize it’s not nearly as messy as I think.
Kay Wyma is the author of Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement. She shares the hilarity and the tears that come with raising adolescents & teens on her blog The Moat … because who wants to walk that road alone.