I’m thankful for hot dogs today, but not for eating.
Quite frankly, I’m not a huge fan of eating hot dogs. I’m thankful for them because of the lesson I learned one day in what is now forever known in my family as “The Hot Dog Story.”
(note: the “rest of the story” has been shared in a post on how Guilt is transformed into Grace.)
Every mother has to take a shower – alone – from time to time.
When my kids were babies, I would try very hard to shower when my husband was home, or during naptime. As they got older (and naps became increasingly rare), it became obvious that there were times I would just have to trust my children to behave themselves (and stay engrossed in a television program) long enough for me to take a shower without another adult to supervise them.
I thought I had the routine down. I would fix them a snack, then give them each cuddles and hugs, lock the gate at the top of the stairs, pop on the television in my (upstairs) bedroom, jump in the shower, and hope for the best.
One summer day when my kids were “almost 3” and “barely 4,” I was rushing to get through the whole “getting dressed up like an adult” ritual with two cranky tired children.
I’d tried everything to get them to nap, and finally gave up and left them watching something animated while I showered. When I got out of the shower, the bedroom was strangely calm.
I assumed my darling children had fallen asleep and breathed a sigh of relief as I enjoyed the luxury of getting completely dried off before attempting to get fully dressed. I even enjoyed the (almost unknown) pleasure of blowing my hair dry AND styling it without interruption.
At that point, I realized it was time to check my children.
They weren’t napping; they weren’t even in the room!!! My heart skipped a beat as I began the search… I had forgotten one essential step in my pre-shower preparations. I had not locked the gate on the stairs!
As I made my way downstairs, I began to smell the unmistakable fragrance of hot dogs.
I smiled as I thought of my husband downstairs with the boys.
I paused for a second to listen to the chatter of my boys, envisioning my sweet husband home early from work, appreciating that hubby had sensed my desperate need for a shower without having to be reminded.
I approached the kitchen with a smile, only to discover my two sons all alone in the kitchen.
They were sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor, each with a dirty paper plate, each plate holding a partially eaten exploded hot dog, and they were sharing a Styrofoam drive-thru cup that had melted ice mixed with something.
They were so proud of their accomplishment!
They had managed to open the refrigerator door, find the hot dogs, put them on a plate, and microwave them just like mommy did — well, almost. In my eyes, they had overcooked the hot dogs to the point of explosion, the plates were (slightly) dirty, and the drink was leftover. But in their eyes, they were amazingly self sufficient and independent.
I managed to ask them if they wanted some ketchup (yes) and handed them some napkins before I slunk out of the room.
When I expressed my dismay to my husband, he had a hard time understanding why I was upset. He thought it was great that they had showed such initiative. Besides, no one had been hurt.
Between sobs, I told him about the dirty plates.
I told him if I’d been able to prepare the hot dogs for them, I would have given them buns, cheese, and some chips on the side. They didn’t even have ketchup on their own. My poor kids were contented eating exploded hot dogs from a dirty plate, and I had wanted to give them so much more!
If only they had asked me, I would have been happy to give them the full hot dog experience.
It wasn’t long before God tapped me on the shoulder.
How many times have I been happy and proud to sit on a floor and eat a mangled hot dog when God had set a table with his best china, ready to feed me a gourmet meal? How many times have I been so determined to do things for myself that I missed out on the bigger blessing?
As I thought about my own parental frustration, I began to see a different side of my heavenly Father.
If I was saddened to think about what my kids missed out on, how much more was God grieved when I missed out on the “ketchup” he had intended for me to enjoy?
If I was dismayed at my children eating from slightly dirty plates (they’d held peanut butter sandwiches for lunch), how much more was God dismayed when I settled for slightly dirty in my own life? If only I would ask God, let him know that I was hungry. I began to understand that God wouldn’t have just fed me and met my needs, he would have been happy to do so!
I know that my kids’ hot dog party was not the end of the world.
It doesn’t represent a major parenting failure, the plates weren’t dirty enough to pose a health hazard, and the hot dog shrapnel was not permanently attached to the walls of the microwave.
In some ways I’m proud of my boys.
They showed independence, they showed creative problem solving, and they showed team work.
They did break the rules, and they both had to “help” clean the microwave. For many people (including my husband), their hot dog party was a minor event, a tiny bump on the parenting path.
For me, it wasn’t that simple.
It brought a deeper understanding of how much God loves me, and a richer understanding of the blessings God intends for my life.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)
I am forever grateful for hot dogs.
(reminder: the “rest of the story” has been shared in a post on how Guilt is transformed into Grace.)
What are you thankful for today?