Wednesday, November 27, 2013

This is Advent, or, Excuse the Mess

Panic coursed through her hands as her thumb hit the blazing red “end” button on her phone. She tossed it onto the kitchen counter and swept the room with her eyes. Not now, she thought. Seriously? Why is he coming now?

Janet had called her with the news. The Mayor’s son was in town for a visit, and everyone knew what that meant- Inspections. That’s what most people called them, Inspections. No one knew just why, but anytime that man came around he just insisted on getting into people’s lives. Most people assumed it was so he could size them up, so they called the phenomenon Inspections and the name just stuck. Just the word sent shivers down her spine. She looked around again hoping, even praying, some of the clutter would magically disappear. But it didn’t. It just sat there like it always had, piling higher and higher.

When did I turn into such a hoarder?

Most of Natalie’s neighbors had told her about the Mayor’s son, with vastly different descriptions. Sometimes she wondered if He even existed. Some said they invited him in and he was just the most pleasant man you could ever meet. But she had seen their homes. They were beautiful, immaculate, at least from the outside. How could he not be impressed with them? I wonder what people think of the outside of my house? Could they tell she was a complete mess?

Others said he was rude, what with all that knocking. He knocked and when they answered the door he asked them to come in. Imagine that! Uninvited, he would just show up and expect them to treat him like someone special. And the way he acted like he knew them just made them angry. They smirked when they reported how they just shut the door right in his face.

Some didn’t even answer the door.

Was it out of fear? Natalie wasn’t sure how she was going to handle this, but one thing was certain- he was coming her way. At least, that’s what Janet said. Janet also said to just let him come in. It’s easier than fighting it. But Janet hadn’t been in Natalie’s world for some time now. She didn’t know what Natalie’s house contained and how everything had somehow spun out of control.

Better get started. Natalie set out into the living room and got to work. Putting things in their place, she smiled with pride when one whole corner of the room was organized. She stepped back to admire her work when she tripped on the stack of magazines behind her. She fell into another pile of clutter and began to sob.

It was then that she heard the steps outside. Her heart ran laps in her chest, threatening to leap right out. She couldn’t catch her breath. Not yet. Not yet!

There was a pause. Maybe someone was just passing by.

Then it came. The knock. It wasn’t loud, yet it lingered long in the air. Reverberating in her soul and shaking her to the core. She sat there, covered in junk and salt water tears, frozen in fear. No one had been inside in so long. No one ever asked to come in. This was too much. Instinctively, she grabbed the nearest magazine stack and covered her legs. She opened the nearby box of Christmas ornaments and began dumping them, gently so as not to make much noise. She then stuck the large cardboard box over her head. Her body sat there, completely covered. Maybe he would think she wasn’t home and just go away.

She sat there several minutes while the knocking continued. This is ridiculous, Natalie, she thought. You are a grown woman. Go open that door. Still, the thought of exposing her secret life to the Mayor’s son was more than she could bear. She spent so much time hiding, so much time secretly judging herself, comparing her mess to the lives of all the people out there who had their acts together. She couldn’t handle any more judgment.

Another minute of knocking passed as she thought up a plan with a little more dignity. She crawled out of her heap- she was just going to tell him to go away. It was simple. Other people did it all the time. It was the holidays after all- she had enough to worry about without accommodating extra company. Surely he could understand that.

With each step, Natalie could feel the tremors of the knocking shaking her knees into submission. They almost completely buckled. She grabbed the doorknob, pressing her body against the door for support. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Slowly she turned the handle and began to pull.

She opened the door just wide enough to stick her head through. When she finally opened her eyes she started. Nervous laughter escaped her body. She caught herself. “I’m sorry,” she chuckled. “I thought you were someone else. Can I help you?”

The man smiled, sporting little more than a five o’clock shadow.

“Actually, Natalie,” his voice was rich with humor, “I was wondering if I could help you. Would you mind if I came in?”

She froze. Then her smile fell. She slammed the door and locked it.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid! She caught her breath and peeked out the peep hole. He was still there. Sneaky in his jeans and sweatshirt. Still, she managed to face the Mayor’s son and not die of embarrassment. That was an accomplishment. She wasn’t sure she could face him again though. She knew she couldn’t. So she called to him through the door, “Uh. Yeah. Excuse me? I’m sorry I just… listen… I’m just kind of busy right now and I’m not really ready for… guests. So if you could just come back later, that would be… great. Ok? Bye then!”

She watched out the peephole as he turned around and headed down her sidewalk. Oh good, he’s going. To be sure, she would watch until he was out of sight. He stopped. He was bending down. What was he picking up? It was a bag. A bag? What, is he camping out? She watched as he lifted the duffel bag to his shoulders and walked back up the stairs to her front porch. He dropped the bag and sat on her steps.

He’s getting comfortable! It hit her that he wasn’t going anywhere soon. She sprinted into her living room and began picking up her junk, throwing it into closets, out the back window. Anywhere. Just to get it out of the way.

That’s when she heard his voice again, calling through the door, “You know, Natalie. You don’t have to bother cleaning up for me. I’m more than happy to come into your home as it is.”

Yeah, you haven’t seen it yet. She plastered on a fake smile, hoping it would give her confidence. She hurried to the door, unlocked it, and popped her head out. She couldn’t look at him, so she turned her eyes downward.

“Ok, thanks for your interest and everything, but you really need to go. I am just really busy with the holidays and presents and family and all that other stuff. You know, giving. ‘Give give give’ I always say.” She laughed nervously. “So, maybe you could come back when things aren’t so busy.”

“When will that be?” His question seemed sincere. She thought about it. He answered his own question for her, “The truth is, you will always be too busy for me if you choose to be. I don’t plan on going anywhere, Natalie.”

“Is that why you have that bag there?”

“This? Ha, no. I was hoping to move in.”

Slam.

Natalie leaned against the shut door. Her back slid down the cool wood until she sat in a heap of nerves. She was trembling. Was she having a heart attack? Surely this shock was going to kill her. How dare he go around to people’s homes shocking them to death. Knees too shaky for walking, she crawled across the living room, into the middle of her stuff, and in an exhausted ball she closed her eyes and began to cry.

It was the gust of wind that stole her from her misery. Her aching eyes searched the room until they landed on the front door. That’s where he was standing. He was looking at her. No smile this time. She thought for a moment he was disappointed with her. But that didn’t seem to be it. In fact, he didn’t seem to notice the mess at all. He was looking at her and only her.

“You forgot to lock the door. You couldn’t hear the knocks above your crying, but I’m here now. I want to take care of you.”

For a second she thought she should just kick him out, but inside she knew she didn’t forget to lock the door. No one had ever come for her before, and part of her hoped he would. He did.

She placed her hands on the floor and pushed herself up onto her knees. She began picking up her ornaments, her tears flowing freely to the floor, when she felt his hand on hers. "Excuse the mess," she managed to whisper.
"I already have." He knelt beside her, took the ornament, and set it aside. Then he put his arms around her and cradled her to Him. “There will be time for all this later, Natalie. For now, just sit with me.”

And for the first time in her life, she felt peace.
 
 And again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse will come,
    even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Romans 15:12-13
------

Today's story is linking up with Simply Beth for Three Word Wednesday, as well as Word Filled Wednesday! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I will see you on Monday:)