Gingerbread House Meltdown

It was Thursday. My husband is gone every Thursday so I run solo doing dinner and bedtime. But this month is December, a time to pack in more activities (NO!) and a perfect night to take all 5 of my kids to the library for their annual gingerbread house building night. (NO! NO!)

Kids have to bring their own empty tissue boxes, which serve as the “frame” around which the house is built, but the library provides graham crackers, bowls of frosting, a cardboard base to build on, and of course an entire table full of CANDY!! Gummy bears, pinwheels, candy canes, Nilla wafers, mints, gumdrops, Skittles, M&M’s, sprinkles, you name it.

So while we may refer to the event as “making a gingerbread house” in my girls mind it is, “bring home as much candy as possible.” The first year they tried to disguise this idea by sticking tons of candy on the house, roof and yard, acting like they actually thought it looked good. The second year they tried harder to make their houses look decent but that meant holding off on the random loads of candy. However, bringing home this small amount of candy would never do! The solution? Fill their tissue box with candy!! That year I went to pick up one of the beautiful looking houses but was surprised by how heavy it was. My youngest daughter proudly pointed to the hole in her tissue box which now functioned as a silo for candy. I looked at her… speechless.

This year was their third rodeo. The girls were determined to create an awesome looking house. Not simple and neat, but not random either. My second oldest, Lucy, worked away, carefully constructing the sides of the house and the yard. Then she turned her attention to the roof. This year’s roof was going to be cool. Normally a flat roof makes the most sense because anything else is too finicky and likely to collapse. This year she decided to build a tall, peaked roof, lined with Nilla wafers. She realized it was tricky, but she was up for the challenge.

After 45 minutes of building and constructing it is time to go. Carefully carrying the houses we head out the doors of the gingerbread room into the hallway where our coats are hanging near a bench. Lucy bends to set her house on the bench so she can get her coat on. But as she does, she tips the house ever so slightly. Her beautifully constructed roof crashes to the bench. Bits of grahams, wafers, candy and frosting all over the bench.

Lucy is known for her meltdowns. She wears her emotions on her sleeve. We even have a secret acronym to describe these events: LMD- Lucy Melt-Downs. I feel bad for her. I’m sure she wishes she was better at hiding her feelings like everyone else seems to be able to do so well.

As dramatic as Lucy can be, she is maturing and in this public setting she only barely melts down. She is sad and angry all at the same time but she and Mariele calmly pick up the pieces. I show her how she could turn it into a flat roof, but flat roofs are for the little kids, and she spent all that time building a beautiful Adirondack style roof! Realizing this was the obvious and inevitable solution, she settles on it and walks out carrying her flat-roofed gingerbread house.

I’ll skip the car ride, which was an event all of its own…

We arrive home and Lucy is first to enter the house. To her delight, Grandma and Grandpa are right there to greet her. She proudly shows off her beautiful house and mentions the regretful remodel the roof underwent.

Once again she carries her beloved house into a hallway, this time to put her coat away.

Suddenly I hear a crash… followed by a cry. I turn around to see the entirety of Lucy’s house on the floor. For the second time that night, I look down to see a mix of broken grahams, wafers, candy and frosting. Only this time it wasn’t just the roof.

With a look of devastation she declares, “the cardboard bent!” In her hand is the empty cardboard base which is indeed bent in half. While holding one side of the square, the weight of the house caused it to crack. Mariele has already jumped into action, scooping up the main part of the house and laying it on the counter before running back to salvage more pieces. I quickly drop my coat and purse, put the baby down and turn to help.

To my left, the gingerbread house is in pieces on the floor and Grandma and Grandpa are standing over it. They can’t help but openly chuckle, trying to make light of the situation in hopes that Lucy too might be able to laugh at the ridiculous and unfortunate nature of it all.

I look up from the pile on the floor and turn to my right where Lucy stood. Tears are streaming down her red cheeks, but she is at peace and her chin is up. Holding her head high are the heads of both her sisters, buried into her right and left sides with arms wrapped around her. They are sad with her and for her.

I understand my parents desire to help by providing Lucy with laughter and perspective and the ability to laugh at frustrating situations has helped me and my children more times then I can count. But on this occasion, her sisters met her right where she was. Lucy wasn’t forced to move on from her meltdown or suppress it. Instead, she was embraced and loved in the midst of it. It was beautiful. After they let Lucy cry as long as she needed, they all worked together to pick up the pieces and salvage what they could.

In the end, Lucy was pleased knowing that at least the candy could still be eaten.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. – Romans 12:15

We’ve talked about this verse as a family countless times, but this Christmas season I got to see it in action. It was a beautiful picture and reminder of what Jesus did by coming to this earth as a baby. He, the King of Heaven and Earth, the Lord of all creation, humbly became one of us.

On some level we can all relate to Lucy. As a mother, I try to craft the month of December just like Lucy tried to craft a beautiful gingerbread house. Having gone too far with activities in the past, but too simple in other years, each year striving to find a perfect balance of activities, decorations, gifts, and all the while keeping Christ at the center. But sometimes the house or roof crashes. And I’m left trying to tidy myself up and pick up the pieces.

This season, be reminded that Christ has come to love us and meet us right where we are. Whether brokenhearted, overwhelmed or distracted, He is there. Not telling us to move on, suppress or toughen up. Just there to embrace us.

In Luke 4 Jesus read from this passage to describe his mission:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isaiah 61:1-3

And like Grandma and Grandpa, sometimes that “oil of gladness” enables us to laugh and reminds us the candy on the floor is still edible!

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