When your dog teaches you a lesson about the condition of your heart, you know it is time for a change… of heart.
The Advent Workshop at our church was one week ago today. This is a family event that we look forward to every year, for it gets us into the Christmas spirit and reminds us why we celebrate. Plus, there’s Lee’s fried chicken. Green beans and mac & cheese. And buttery biscuits. And cookies. Waaaait a second! There weren’t cookies this year! I will have to question my Christian Ed friend about that when I see her next week. (Did I just deviate? Do you see how easily my heart is led astray?)
Anyway, I was trying to get the three kids out the door to get to the workshop early, so they would have plenty of time to eat and do all the thoughtful crafts that
I wanted them they wanted to do. There are darling little wooden nativity sets, felt banners, Advent calendars, painted pottery ornaments, cinnamon cookie-cutter shaped ornaments, and THE WREATH. The treasured Advent Wreath made from freshly-cut boxwood and pine, lovingly arranged without any complaining about the stems being too thick to stick into the pre-soaked florist’s oasis or complaints about your husband re-arranging what you have already done because he is better at it than you, or complaints that your children are sweating like pigs in the gym as they play basketball instead of helping you your husband lovingly arrange the wreath by himself when it is supposed to be a family participation event. It’s quite joyful, really.
So back to the dog.
We were just opening the door to leave the house when Mozzie “I-Luv-Mud” Doyle appeared at the back door, happily grinning from matted ear to matted ear. Unbeknownst to me, she had been outside playing in the, well, mud. You would have thought that the Devil himself appeared the way I began screaming. There is a convicting verse in Scripture about the mouth spewing whatever is inside your heart. I’ll just say I am convicted on a daily basis.
“For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.”
~ Matthew 12:34
Well, this was me at that moment. There I was, right in front of my on-looking children, ready to go to church in order to PREPARE MY HEART (!) for Advent, letting my messy heart overfloweth with messy words through my messy mouth. Not my finest moment.
So as I am ranting and raving, stomping up the stairway to the bathtub, while holding a 42-lb. dirty-wet-muddy-smelly dog, my mouth is still overflowing with messiness from my heart. The Advent had been sucked from me and replaced with resentful bitterness.
But then we got up to the bathroom and Mozzie looked at me with those big brown Springer eyes…and I softened. See, her eyes were doing the speaking since she couldn’t. Her eyes showed the overflow of her heart. I think that if Moz could speak, she would have told me that she was sorry. That she was just having fun, enjoying nature, loving her new backyard, and that she really just wants to make me happy, and to please bathe her now, because she really does love baths.
After Moz was bathed and dried, we finally managed to get out the door, get to the Workshop, meet Husband there, eat some fried chicken, eat some biscuits, wonder where the cookies were, hang out with some dear friends, make some crafts, play some basketball, get scolded for running with a football through the halls, finish THE WREATH, spill some drinks on the paper tablecloth, mold fake dog poop from the dough meant for the cinnamon ornaments (Henry!), and share some Advent Workshop family memories to file away until next year, when we do the insanity all over again.
Undoubtedly, my heart was in a better place leaving the workshop than it was when I arrived at the workshop. And I think that’s the point of why we continue to live out this tradition in our church family every year. But most importantly, even amid the stress of the evening (I’m telling you, these workshops are paradoxically full of stress), we were able to maybe, just maybe, PREPARE OUR HEARTS for what is to come.