Idiot Day

Once upon a time there was a beguiling eight year old boy who had a unique way of being in the world. He lived with a wonderfully wise and exquisitely patient mother who was called, from time to time, to lovingly, but firmly, address his unique ways. On such occasions, there were often divergent opinions as they worked through their ideological differences. One day, in the midst of such a discussion, the boy looked up at his mother and frustratingly wondered, “Mom, ur, ur…I don’t want you to think I’m calling you an idiot, but, ur, ur…is it possible you’re, ummm, having an idiot day?”

I had an idiot day last week. This is the season of more and more things demanding my time and energy. More planning. More questing. More travel further a field in hopes of finding exactly what I’m looking for. More traffic. More fatigue. More opportunities for my Advent-life to have idiot days. Idiot days come about as a series of simple, cascading, unexamined decisions that snowball even when the temperatures are in the mid 60s. They occur when I fail to be faithful to one of my basic tenets… Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should.

My latest idiot day happened because of the Christmas tree at church. One of my decor partners and I agreed that the undecorated flocked tree usually adorned with traditional red, green and gold ornaments would look better this year in blue and silver to emphasis the Christmas Light theme along with the blue fabrics swagged along the chancel wall around the Star of Bethlehem banner. Since I would be out of town. ornament questing would be left to my friend.

While in North Carolina I spotted, at a nation-wide home improvement store, just what I knew she would be looking for. I texted where she could find them. But the demands of the season had overtaken her; she had not been able to look for the blue and silver ornaments. Once home, I decided to swing by a nearby Home Depot and simply look for the desired items since I was running errands anyway. No such luck. And it was at that unexaminded moment that my idiot day dawned.

Rather than simply questing for ornaments, I suddenly became responsible for decorating the tree. Rather than say it was ok for the tree to remain undecorated one more week, I moved into hyper ridiculous quest mode and drove to seven stores trying to find what I’d seen back east. All the while wearing a pair of shoes my feet slid in when I walked quickly. Blisters and hot spots on the bottom of my feet weren’t the only things growing more irritated. The thought of having to decorate that tree was more than I could manage. By the time I got back to the church bearing sacks full of ornaments, I would glady have torched the tree and been pleased to be arrested for arson. I was in full idiot day mode.

But God even intervenes on idiot days. A teen friend was baking cookies in the church kitchen for the girls group that evening. A desperate idea. Did she think the girls might be willing to decorate the tree for me? Absolutely! A phone call confirmed the plan with her youth leader and I was headed blessedly home to put my idiot day to rest. An early morning email indicated there’d been a hiccup in the plan – a band rehearsal prevented the high schoolers from decorating the tree the night before. My heart sank. My inner idiot roused and rumbled.

But other emails followed. One saying they would. The other saying they did. The youth leader and the teen’s mom, two wonderful women in the midst of their own busy Advent-lives, decorated the tree the next morning. No gift I receive this year will be more appreciated than their sacrifice of time and their compassion to willingly companion a woman having a full-blown idiot day. Not only did this holy gift spare me from decorating the tree, it gave me space to seriously reflect on what my Advent-life had become, what that was all about, and what will I have learned from this that will influence the future.

What series of simple, cascading, unexamined decisions have snowballed into an idiot day for you? What are the circumstances or situations that might tempt you to have an idiot day sometime in the near future? How might your inner idiot be made holy? If you were to create an “Idiot Day” portrait, what would it look like?

I’m looking forward to your comments.

PS – Thomas Hoffman, in A Child in Winter, says, “The great mystery this Advent is that our personal holiness touches the lives of all those with whom we come into contact. When we are made holy as individuals, it is the whole world that reaps the reward.”


10 comments to Idiot Day

  • Joanna Ulmer

    The beautiful tree and blue material with the banner took my breath away, Lynn. Thank you for sharing your story and your talent. Also thank you for the introspective project you led at Women’s Bible Study. It all came together so well.

  • Maureen

    Simple, cascading ideas… Yes, I have been there. Once an idea percolates and becomes a vision, the trouble begins. It is so hard to resist the urge to execute the vision…. Despite your self proclaimed idiocy,your personal holiness always reaps great teaching.

  • Lee Hodges

    In spite of being in full-blown idiot-day mode, and desiring to torch the tree, you put it on the “back-burner”, so to speak. You forged ahead at the Lighthouse, where we laughed and made Christmas ornaments with the ladies. Your servant-heart won out. Jesus rules.

  • Ginny

    I’ve been feeling my inner idiot rising to the surface lately, whispering to me that it would sure be nice if I could, by tomorrow, come up with an idea for a handmade sewn gift for my group of 5 woman friends who are meeting tomorrow night. Also, by Christmas: repaint the furniture in the dining room and recover the chair pads for the, ahem, 8 chairs in the dining room. Also, pick up the bunkbed a family is passing on to us and rearrange the boys bedroom, get a christmas tree, decorate house, finish shopping, do fun holiday activites with the kids, bake cookies, prepare food for the feast, host my family from the east coast for a week….and then in early January check myself into a nice rest home for a month…

    Maybe I’ll just buy the ladies starbucks cards….gotta do the rest of the stuff. December – official idiot month. Love it.

  • Robin Rice

    It is amazing how you think you are old enough to have learned everything, then you realize that Idiot Day is just around the corner. I try to take a deep breath and step away to look at the whole picture….such as No Christmas tree should be decorated alone. That is a spiritual, group activity. It sounds like the tree turned out wonderful!
    With that, I’m heading back to the sewing table to madly work on another gift!

  • Karen Fuller Mauro

    November & December are characterized as ‘Idiot-Days’ Waiting To Happen” months for me. And my way too long of lists of simple,unexamined decisions almost always snowball/avalanches when I get into what my husband calls my hyper-frenzy” mode. Unlike Lynne, a creative masterpiece isn’t usually the end product. And now at least I can appologize in a fun heartfelt way with the phrase “Idiot Days”. Through prayer and God’s help, I’ve managed to accomplish everything I usually do with time for the solitude I need to maintain a balanced life. It’s when I don’t have this solitude that my string of Idiot-Days usually commence. I’ve had several hectic exhausting days, but have been able to counterbalance with mornings like today in which I’ve had the opportunity to cuddle up for a few hours with my very special throw that my husband gave to me as a gift, my Bible and my novel. Lynne, I truly appreciate how you’ve always seem to put words to my unarticulated thoughts….this has helped me tremendously in the past and the phrase “Idiot-Days” puts a whole lot of things in a nutshell for me today. Thank You!

  • Tim

    I have a lot of idiot days! In fact, I now consider my normal days ‘smart days’ and my idiot days normal. 😛

  • Judy Farrow

    Please tell me that story at the beginning actually happened. I plan to congratulate my father on his diplomacy!

  • Lynne

    Jude, the opening story is a true, but not about anyone we’re related to.

  • Deanna J Bowling

    My idiot days are usually a result of my getting into the past, instead of staying in HIS presence. This morning I went and worked on my Secret Santa shopping this morning, and now feel much better.

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