Like a couple of real idiots, we decided to dive into a kitchen renovation right before the holiday season. Honestly, it was a comedy of errors—as most home projects are—that led to this decision, this schedule, and telling you is my attempt at unloading some of the responsibility for this foolish endeavor. You go into a thing knowing it’s going to be awful, yet don’t you still deserve some right to whine about it? I think so. I have been whining and wining my way through the whole thing.
My great Christmas wish and hope for a miracle is that I can place platters of Christmas cookies on a new kitchen counter on actual Christmas day, just in case you’d like to join hands with me and whisper this to Santa. Still, in the midst of my own version of 2022 hustle-bustle, I’ve found this little bit of suffering—this lotta bit of waiting—a sort of Advent lesson for life. O Come, O Come Emmanuel has a little more ring to it than O Come, O Come Counter Installation People, but, you know, I think the sentiment is the same if you’re in the festive mood to search for it.
Like a Christmas newsletter full of heart and thanks, here is what a holiday kitchen renovation is teaching me this Advent season.
1. We’re still warm.
There is no more first-world problem than fretting that the chaos and destruction might continue yet another week longer: this is neither chaos nor destruction except from the cushy perch of my lovely life. Every day I come home to this warm house, whether or not it has a real floor in one room. When I reflect on this, I am overcome with gratitude for my home, for its shelter, for the ability to take on such a project as this. Christmas miracles are really of our own design; a simple shift in perspective turns something manic into something magic.
2. Home is where the heart is—not the stomach.
Similarly, we have not gone hungry. The technological wonders abound like the twelve gifts of Christmas! The InstantPot, the induction cooktop from the camper van, the woodburning fireplace perfect for heating soup—not to mention, online ordering! Six weeks without a kitchen, and not once have I wondered where my next meal might come from, even if sometimes it has required a little imagination. Six weeks without a kitchen, and my little family has found a way to gather around something to eat while we decompress from our days. May we be thankful for full stomachs and be ever watchful to feed the hungry.
3. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
You know those household tasks you hate? The dishwashing and the broth-boiling and the drudgery of meal-planning day-in and day-out? I miss it all dearly. Oh blessed routines of the domesticated woman, how you were a liturgy for my daily life! To scrub a pot in a full-sized sink, I think, would feel like a meditation at this point, and I covet the day I am restored to such worship. I miss my kitchen so much, I am sure, upon its completion, I may spend all day, every day in it, all jokes about gender roles aside.
4. It’s okay to be taken care of now and then.
Truth be told, I don’t like to ask for help. It will shock no one that, in my need for control and highly structured living, I am the person who just gets it done. When my kid wanted to have a birthday party during this mess? Well, let’s make it a camp out! S’mores by the fire! A tent with twinkle lights! Who would even miss a home-baked cake? But in the weeks and weeks of this inconvenient disruption, I have run short of such daily creativity. Friends who know me well have not waited for me to ask. They’ve uninstalled cabinets, dropped-off meals, reinstalled cabinets, and treated us to nights away from the project site, all unsolicited. I have found that giving is great, and sometimes allowing yourself to receive is also wonderful.
5. Patience is a virtue.
I’m like a kid on Christmas morning waiting for this thing to be done. I’m already sneaking things into the cabinets that are finished, imagining what will go inside the ones still wrapped up in that sticky cellophane film. The best gifts are worth waiting for, and I imagine this kitchen will be the same. It’s been five years coming, after all. What’s another week or two?
I am wishing you all a renovation-free holiday, but whatever mess you find yourself in this holiday season, I pray your eyes are opened to the beauty of it. May all your days be merry and bright, under expertly-installed kitchen lighting.