Two nights ago I stayed up late wrapping presents, criss-cross applesauce on my closet floor for literally hours, surrounded by turquoise bows and rolls of tape and four different designs of pink wrapping paper. Was still sitting there frantically working at midnight-fifteen, and still didn't finish.
Needless to say that last night, after a full day of work, a hectic late-afternoon of driving back and forth into town finishing last minute holiday preparations, and a busy evening at my grandparents' house exchanging gifts with that sweet side of the family, I was ready to crash. Halfway did in the chair anyway with my Little Miss before we officially went to sleep, to the tune of Max & Ruby's Christmas Tree on Nick Jr., after 11 p.m.
I fell into bed, with zero recollection of washing my face but my make up was gone the next morning, so it must have happened.
And was woken up a little over an hour later, around 1 a.m., to a single, piercing BEEP.
Through the haze of sleep and the fog of Christmas cheer and the cloud that can only be described as late night "Huh?", I realized one very unfortunate thing.
Not unfortunate in the sense of smelling smoke, but unfortunate all the same in the very real sense of "low battery alert."
I waited. Twenty seconds-ish later. BEEP.
This wasn't going to stop.
I stumbled around the house making sure it was just the one in my room. It was. Stumbled back.
Stood on my vanity stool, gripping the closet door frame with one hand, and tapped the detector with the other. (I'm a handyman by night, can you tell?)
I jerked, shrieked, waited. Twenty seconds-ish later. BEEP.
Now I'm sleepy and mad.
I start pushing on it, twisting, turning, tugging, pulling.
Nothing changes. I finally locate the battery door hinge, and push the plastic lever to swing it open.
The lever breaks off in my hand.
The little compartment is open, though, so one problem at a time. I see the dead battery peering down at me, so I grab it. Tug. Pull. HEAVE. Nothing. It's wedged in there.
The noise is all the more shrill directly above my head, and all the more shrill in accompaniment to the adrenaline rushing in my ears. This is now a direct challenge, this is now a war. My own version of Hunger Games. I yank. Nothing. Nothing except the muscles in my shoulder starting to burn from having my arm over my head for so long.
Little pieces of white plaster and sheet rock and ceiling dust rain.
I yank the battery again.
It comes out.
Still on the stool, I sag against the door-frame in relief. I did it. Cursed battery out, in my hand, which is coated in a thick layer of white chalky dust, and start to climb down.
I stare in shock at the naked, empty machine and did what any single mom would do.
And promptly discovered it wanted a new battery.
Now it's personal. Who on the green earth actually has a battery at 1 a.m. (now almost 1:30 a.m.) that's not a simple Double A or Triple A? I knew I had both of those, and knew the weird contraption in my hand was neither.
Just to rule out logic, I check the junk drawer in the kitchen where the batteries are, and who knew - a matching weird battery, only one left, right there in the opened package, left over from last time they needed changing years ago.
Hope rose as my unlikely companion as I climbed back on the vanity stool. Grasped the door frame. Attempted to, blindly, (as I'm not 8 feet tall even on a stool) shove the fresh battery back into place.
Won't go. Won't fit. Won't slide. I ask Jesus to help. To guide it, guide me, guide my hand. To make it work.
But it just won't.
I turn it over, try again. Now I'm praying for angels to intervene. Attempt again. Shoulder burning, muscles aching, tears building. The sleep-deprived-ness is kicking in, and I'm saying words I shouldn't. Anger and frustration launch a full attack. I fumble with the battery as more white dusty chalk showers down like mock snow.
Now matter what I tried, it just wouldn't go.
Still on the stool, I bend over double and burst into hysterical tears. Sobbing, snotty, wailing, hopeless tears, the kind that can only come at 1:30 a.m. and can only spring from a woman that's not crying about batteries or missed sleep anymore. It was deeper, it was wider, it was much more now. It wasn't the battery, it was my spirit. It wasn't the incessant beep, it was the cry of my soul. It wasn't the ache in my shoulder, it was the sting in my heart.
This wasn't supposed to happen. I wasn't supposed to be a single mom on a stool four nights before Christmas, incapable, helpless, desperate. This changing of the battery was "the husband's job" and I didn't have one anymore, I only had a dead battery and a foul taste in my mouth and a constant monologue of regrets.
The worst part was, it felt like Jesus didn't want to help either.
I had asked Him last year, too. To guide my marriage, guide me, guide my heart. To make us work.
But no matter what I tried, it just wouldn't.
I straighten up and try again. Now the battery is wedged half in the broken compartment door, and won't come out or go in correctly.
So I leave it. I step off the stool, calloused. Bruised. Worn. Brush of the dust. Rinse my hands off. Put the stool away. Stoic. Mechanical. Hard.
Get back in bed. Not super-politely remind Jesus He's bigger than a smoke detector and He can make that thing shut up for me to go to sleep, if He really cared enough to. Put the pillow over my head. Defeat. Failure. Again.
And hear Him gently remind me to give thanks anyway.
At this point, there is absolutely zero to lose. So I try. I thank Him that there wasn't actually a fire. Thank Him for my pillow that fit nicely over my head. Thank Him that the chirping detector was in my room and not Little Miss's room, and that she was still able to sleep. Thank Him for His grace and forgiveness for women who have emotional breakdowns on stools and say ungodly things. And thank Him for loving all of the hot mess that equaled me.
Peace be still.
And I slept.
Slept even though. Slept even so. Slept through the constant beeping that didn't let up all night. Slept through the storm because He was with me, despite not giving me what I wanted, He was with me, despite not solving the problem directly, He was with me, and wasn't that the solution anyway?
He cared. He cared enough to remind me of the bigger picture and the soul-healthy part of pain and frustration and injustice, and cared enough to do a middle of the night work that was even a bigger miracle than Him stopping the beep - He stilled my spirit and let me sleep through the noise.
Mark 4 - And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.
Peace be still.
I don't know what's beeping incessantly in your soul this Christmas season. I don't know what layers of stress and frustration and defeat are coating your heart like white chalky dust in the middle of the night, but Jesus is there to peel them back. Brush you off. And give you peace.
Even though it's Christmas, start with some Thanksgiving.