Okay, it never is.
But, it is in its imperfections that we are often given the choice to move towards love or away from it.
We experienced a bit of this just this last year on St. Teresa of Calcutta's feast day.
Initially, I wanted to celebrate the day with friends as we had the year prior but then I remembered that my youngest son had a medical appointment in the late morning and a baseball practice in the late afternoon. So, I pivoted potential plans and decided that we would simply celebrate as a family after my son's practice.
The plan was simple: Grab some favorite frozen Indian food and enjoy a faith-focused family meal with easy Indian eats, prayer, and conversation, inspired by St. Teresa of Calcutta.
But, you know what they say: Life is what happens when you're making other plans...
After my youngest son's morning appointment - which sadly ended up going quite long - as in into the afternoon long - we popped into a store for some frozen Indian dinners to make our feast day dinner simple yet special.
Lo! The grocery store that we went to no longer sells Indian meals - only Mexican, Italian, and Thai. So, instead of quickly buying dinner at that store, we ended up doing a regular grocery run there since we were there anyway, and, then, heading to a nearby discount store for boxed Indian dishes.
Thankfully, that store had plenty of Indian meals, so I filled my youngest's cup by letting him pick out all the dishes that looked tasty to him. He was delighted! It was his first day ever of baseball practice - a much anticipated day - and we would be following his practice with a huge Indian feast that he'd picked out. In his young mind, this was perfection.
But, nothing is ever perfect, right?
Enter my oldest child.
After my children and I had put away groceries, completed some chores, and attended to a few other tasks, there was just enough time for my youngest and I to sit down for his daily 1:1 lessons. So, I directed my two older children to ready themselves to depart with me for my youngest's practice in a half hour where we'd do their 1:1's.
A simple request.
My oldest - in all of his burgeoning teen angst - found my direction inciting. He was indignant at the thought of having to go to his little brother's practice at all, much less to do his 1:1 with me there without access to an internet-connected computer where he could edit a story he's been writing with me.
Worse, instead of expressing his feelings appropriately, my eldest usurped the half hour before departure with disrespectful and oppositional blustering. Thus, my youngest got no 1:1, my middle child got upset, and my oldest escalated in poor choices.
It was not an ideal any-day occurrence, much less an ideal feast day unfolding...
Somehow, though, I stayed relatively calm and go everyone into the minivan, attempting to redirect us toward goodness through our habit of Gratitude and Greatness and our driving prayer peg . But these efforts only went so far.
We arrived at practice field in the nick of time with my youngest bowled over by the imperfections of the past moments and no longer sure he even wanted to go to practice.
Truly wanting things to reset, I encouraged my youngest to try to forget the overwhelming awful we'd all just been experiencing and, instead, to just focus on enjoying his first practice. I gave him a hug, let him know how excited I was that he was getting to finally start the season he was so looking forward to, and brought him over to the baseball field, where I introduced myself to some kind baseball dads and was grateful when they promptly paired my youngest up with another child to play warm-up catch with.
With that child bouncing back and focused on good, I, then, sat with my daughter, who was brimming with emotion, engaged her in a calming chat, and focused on her 1:1.
Her reset began happening, too.
Meanwhile, my oldest son - not in reset mode yet - came over, quietly blustering, and handed me a scrawled note that was somewhat of an apology and somewhat of a demand.
I told him that we would need to wait to discuss it until I was done with his sister's 1:1. He could wait near to us, walk around the field, or go to the minivan.
He chose a different course of action - and not the wisest one. With one son on the field and a daughter who needed me next to me, I, then, chose to trust that God would send the Guardian angels of my eldest to look after him while I awaited the end of my youngest's practice.
With thanks to my eldest's guardian angels, I found my oldest safe at home when my youngest's practice ended. That was good.
Not as good, my just-home-from-work husband and our oldest son were in the middle of a heated discussion when my younger two and I entered the scene, and, honestly, those two needed no more drama.
So, I quickly assessed things, closed my eyes, and prayed for the right actions and reactions to get back on better ground as a family unit.
I noted that my eldest had made a few good choices - putting in laundry, trying to heat up portions dinner, etc. - atop his bad ones. Still, he just wasn't ready to let some persistent vice go.
So, a weird, and very real period of rollercoaster parenting, feast day dinner preparations, and Lord-please-give-us-grace followed.
Before too, too long, however, we had the messes of the day under figurative wraps for a moment and also covered messes on the table that were just going to be too much to remove with a cloth. Then, we set out our feast day dinner - however imperfectly - and everyone gathered at the table.
A chat about St. Teresa of Calcutta, grace, and digging in happened.
Between delicious bites...
...I encouraged each person to reflect upon the day and the idea that, as St. Teresa has said, "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”" I asked us each to recall a moment in the day when we could have demonstrated greater love.
The idea that "Peace begins with a smile," (another quote attributed to St. Teresa) seemed appropriate, too.
For, despite all the hoopla earlier in the day - and even some that followed once dinner ended- we were somehow bathed in grace and - praise God! - at times some genuine smiles broke through.
(And maybe some not so genuine ones...)
St. Teresa took care of the poorest of the poor. Sometimes, even when we want to best for our families, we experience the poorest of attitudes, actions, reactions, etc. It is easy to swept up in the drama of it all, to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, foiled, you-name-the-negative emotion... But, it is also important to just keep loving.
St. Teresa once said, "If you judge people, you have no time to love them." Imperfect feast days - and imperfect anydays - remind us that no matter what kind of time we are having as a family, there is always an opportunity - and a need - to love.
When one person in the family begins a downward spiral, we have a choice: get sucked in and move away from love or move back towards love.
The right choice is obvious - but not always easy.
Still, I pray we can each make that right choice. I pray that on ideal days and imperfect ones, we may find time to love those around us.
I also pray that by sharing this snippet of real life as we tried to live the liturgical year last year, you find some encouragement.