Nope, that’s not a typo in the title. It’s the ETV (Elizabeth Thompson Version) of 2 Peter 1:3: “His divine power has given you everything you need for
life lice and godliness.” (Hey—I think my translation still suits the spirit of the scripture.)
I’ll take another liberty, this time with Clement Clarke Moore’s famous poem:
‘Twas three days before Christmas, and all through my house, not a creature was stirring, except for a louse…
Yep. This Christmas, we got visited by more than just elves and Santa Claus.
It was December 22, 6:00 am. The night before, I had nearly killed myself to finish an intense editing job—I’d worked long hours for weeks on end, scrambling to finish with a few days to spare so I could shut down and spend time with my family for Christmas.
So there I was, the morning of December 22, finally free, and happy, happy, happy. For thirty-eight minutes, everything was perfect. I woke up before the rest of the family, smiling to myself in a dark and sleepy house. I brewed coffee, switched on peaceful music and the Christmas tree lights, and settled down on the couch with a mug and my Bible. Christmas had finally begun, and I was going to start it off right: alone with God.
A few minutes later, my daughter stumbled out, bleary-eyed and tousle-haired, and snuggled up beside me with her head in my lap. Happy, happy, happy, I sat there and prayed over her and stroked her hair.
And that’s when I saw it: a louse, scurrying across her head.
I should pause the story here to note that I am bug-ophobic in the extreme. And lice? My terror knows no bounds. (Don’t believe me? Read here: On Pinkeye, Lice, and Love.)
So you will be impressed—perhaps even amazed—to hear that I did not scream. I did not even gasp. But I felt my happy, happy, happy feeling skittering away, carried off by little louse feet.
Want more of Elizabeth’s writing on finding joy in the midst of the mess? Click here to order When God Says “Wait.”
Within an hour, the whole house was awake and Kevin and I had kicked into Save-This-Christmas Mode. We called and made an appointment with the “Lice Lady” who had saved our vacation the last time the lice fairy paid our family a visit, when we were on vacation. Who cared if her office was a ninety-minute drive away? Christmas had to be saved. (I hereby pause this essay for a random proclamation: If your kid gets lice, hire a Lice Lady. Hock a family heirloom to pay for it if you have to. It will be the best money you have ever spent, except maybe for your epidural. Lice Ladies know what they are doing, and will help you get rid of evil bugs waaaaaaay faster than you could on your own. They will also help you retain your sanity, your spouse, and your salvation. Okay. Back to our story.)
So we stuck a shower cap on the Infected One, cancelled our big Star Wars plans with friends, loaded up the four Crazies in the minivan, packed enough snacks to survive a four-month covered wagon journey across the Oregon Trail, blasted Frank Sinatra Christmas carols, and trundled down the road to the Lice Lady. When we got there, our poor almost-three-year-old squealed with glee: “We going ice skating!” We had to break her heart and re-enunciate: “We are going to the LICE LADY, not ice skating. Instead of ice skating, you get to sit in a chair and let someone comb your hair looking for bugs! Woohoo!”
And so began the Great Christmas De-Lousing.
The first appointment was just the beginning. The afternoon at the Lice Lady’s office was followed by several days of laundry and hours of follow-up nit-picking, even as family members gradually filled our house for the holiday. (Paranoid family members, I might add, who were terrified—rightfully so, I’m not judging—of hugging us.)
But you know what’s great?
I didn’t lose it. I didn’t cry one self-pitying tear. Not even when my dryer decided not to help me dry the 4,000 loads of laundry I needed to do when we got home. I didn’t lose my temper, or snap at my husband or kids. I didn’t flip out, not even behind closed doors. I just rolled with it. I even laughed about it. I’m kind of gawking at the computer screen even as I type these words, because this is not normal for me.
Through the Christmas Lice Fairy Visit, I realized that by the grace of God I have grown this year. God has pounded a profound life lesson into my thick head (a louse-free head, in case you were wondering), and apparently, I have listened and started to learn:
I am beginning to accept that life is messy. Things do not go according to plan, pretty much ever. If we wait for our whole life to be perfect to be happy, we will be waiting forever. We will grit our teeth through a series of disappointments, and only find peace and joy when we make it to heaven. That’s not how God wants us to live.
The secret to a joyful life is appreciating what we have, when we have it, for as long as it lasts. Not placing rules or restrictions on our happiness—rules like: “I can’t be happy until…” or “I won’t be happy unless…”
Nope. That’s not how joy works. That’s just a recipe for disappointment, frustration, and unhappiness.
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We find joy in spite of the mess.
In the midst of the mess.
Sometimes even because of the mess.
As 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 puts it, “Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I’ve come to accept that there will always be something wrong with our life. Something we wish was better, or different, or…whatever.
There was a day—two years and nine months’ worth of days, actually—when I couldn’t get pregnant, and I would have gladly given my right arm to have a house filled with lice-infested children. I never want to forget those lonely days.
If we can learn to roll with the unexpected, to adapt on the fly, to appreciate what we have even though there are things we lack, to “laugh at the days to come” instead of fearing them (Proverbs 31:25)—better yet, to laugh at the days that are, even when they go so completely wrong…then we can do more than just survive life. We can enjoy it. We can thank God for it. We can be a person we’re proud of being, in all kinds of circumstances.
So if I have a new year’s resolution this year, it’s this: To keep on rolling with the punches. To stop waiting for perfection. To stop expecting smooth sailing. To accept, embrace, and even laugh at the mayhem of the unexpected. To be happy now—no asterisks, addendums, or alterations.
And to braid my daughters’ hair, and spray it with mint spray, every day from now until eternity.
Happy new year, y’all. Here’s to the madness.