Thursday, December 13, 2007

These are the days...

Here I am.

I know that you have missed me, you whole seven people that come by here regularly. And I have missed you too. I have been itching to write so badly, it's embarrassing really. But it's Christmastime. And Christmastime leaves no time for anything but Christmastime. With four children it becomes an all encompassing black hole of a thing, sucking up time and thoughts and money until there is nothing left. And I admit I don't handle this gracefully. More like with whining and frazzledness and plastic smiles when my children are involved.

Saturday night I sat on my couch with The Man, a worn blanket pulled over my knees despite the unseasonably warm weather weather outside. After a busy day of Christmas activities, I was exhausted and strongly feeling the martyrdom of my role as Christmas-maker. I needed the coddling of a fuzzy blanket and a hot drink. As I was sipping tea and trying to will my mind to stop making lists, I looked up to see Allison and Ben standing in front of the entryway table.
Their heads were almost touching as they bent close to the nativity we had just put out that day. I nudged The Man to look their way, and we watched in silence as Allison pointed to each figure and introduced them to her little brother.

"These are the shepherds.
This is the Angel that came and told them that Jesus was born.
These are the kings who came on camels to see Jesus.
This is Mary, she is the mommy.
This is Joseph, he is the daddy.
And this is Baby Jesus in the manger" she said lightly, carefully lifting the little porcelain baby and putting it in Ben's hands.

Been gasped.

"I love baby Jesus!" he exclaimed excitedly clasping his small hands around the even smaller figure and pulling it up to his face.

And tears came to my eyes as I watched my daughter try to explain The Christmas Story to her baby brother. It was one of those perfect gooey parenting moments that I knew I would want to remember forever; etch it into the walls of my mind so I can gaze at it again and again.

This moment has been with me for days now. Singing to me. Whispering to me a secret over and over until I finally started to hear it.

'This is as good as it will ever be'

Today I woke up and dressed Ben and Clara in Christmas outfits for Ben's three year old program at school. We dropped him off, went to buy our designated food item, and came back to watch a room full of three year olds jingle bells and yell Christmas Carols at their parents. It was delightful.

It was also about ten minutes, and constituted half a dozen items on my to-do list for this week. Wash and press red shirt for Ben. Check. Buy preschool music teacher gift. Check. Buy sodas for reception. Check. Charge movie camera. Um...not so much.

And sadly, this is what Christmas had become for me, one incredibly long list of things I must get checked off, by tonight, this weekend, or Christmas Eve. And try as I might, I can not seem to get this list shortened one iota. I have four children with four different Sunday School teachers and parties and church and school programs. And I am always behind. There isn't even a tree in our home yet, something I am acutely reminded of by the stack of this years handmade ornaments sitting on our kitchen counter.

Truthfully, I had actually come to dread this time of year. Something that was miraculous and magical and exciting to me my entire life had simply become one big extended chore.

But Saturday night I feel that God gave me new perspective on this time in my life. What is it that I wish was different? Someday soon, my kids will be older. The days of countless parties, and programs and teacher gifts will be behind me. I will be able to shop for gifts without the whining of toddlers. Will I really find this a relief? Or will I sit nostalgic for the days of three year olds yelling carols and middle schoolers making their first attempts at 3-part-harmony? Surely I will miss the feeling of lying awake unable to sleep on Christmas Eve because of my own excitement at my children's joy. Of living rooms on Christmas morning knee deep with boxes and wrapping paper and bows.

Won't I cry when Allison no longer wants to have her annual caroling party? Won't my heart ache when there are no more babies to share the story of Jesus with? Do I really wish I had less people in my life to love and buy gifts for? Which grandmother or niece or faithful Sunday School teacher would I like to do without? Am I honestly longing for a day when the kids are old enough to not jump with excitement at the thought of going out to buying a tree or baking cookies? How could I possibly wish for days when no one here cares if we have one?

Yes it is busy. Extremely busy. The things to do pile on like weights sometimes. But aren't the things I am doing (Okay not All- but many) things of value? Yes, it is a materialistic holiday fraught with consumerism and irreverence to the newborn King. Yes, my son's one true wish is to get an XBOX 360 for Christmas and we can't afford it and might not buy if we could. But isn't the fact that I am miserable this time of year simply a heart issue and not a world issue; born from my inability to appreciate the life I have. And my failure to realize that in some ways, These will be the best Christmases of my life. Days that I will look back on with a sense of loss when they have passed.

I don't know if I will have much time to blog between now and December 25th. My new found perspective hasn't made my lists any shorter. But I hope that during all the scrambling to check things off, that I will be able to hold tightly on to the knowledge that I should stop and appreciate the small joys of my children in this season. Before they are only memories to grasp at with regret.

11 comments:

TINA said...

OH JOY, I'M AT WORK AND TRYING NOT TO CRY. WE ALL GET IN THAT TIRED OF CHRISTMAS MOOD, BUT WHEN IT COMES DOWN TO IT I BELIEVE THAT WE ALL KNOW WHAT CHRISTMAS IS REALLY ABOUT AND LOVE IT ALL. ITS HARD TO NOT GET FUSTRATED THIS TIME OF YEAR, BUT THE FACT THAT YOU HAVE STOPPED AND TAKEN TIME TO REMEMBER THE TRUE MEANING BEHIND IT ALL AND LOOK AT YOUR CHILDREN WITH THE LOVE OF A MOTHER IS A WONDERFUL THING. I WILL PRAY FOR YOU AND THE REST OF US MOMS OUT THERE THAT WE WILL ALL BE ABLE TO STOP AND REMEMBER JESUS THIS SEASON. LOVE YALL

Trenches of Mommyhood said...

That was beautiful Joy. And so true. For all of us who feel harried and rushed and crabby this time of year.
It will pass by so fast. This I know.

Crystal said...

It may feel like all of this work is list after list and chore after chore, but you are creating memories that will last forever. Sometimes those memories come easy and sometimes they take a lot of work. This is the season of a lot of work. You sound like an amazing mom to me. I am betting that your kids think so too.

spaz said...

You are trying to find that perfect balance. At some point the amount of things we do, takes away from the fun and the magic of the season. We try to do everything and instead of being a blessing for everyone, it turns out to be miserable. My best Christmas was the "minimalistic" one. We had one small tree and almost no other decorations. The gifts were few but heartfelt. And I wasn't stressed at all. Since then, I have slowly added things, if I can do it without stressing myself out. For instance, this year I did Christmas cards. I know it is more difficult for you because you have a large family, but it is OK to say "No" to some things in order to preserve your sanity. Everyone will be happier in the long run. Most importantly, take care of yourself. When you need to sit down, sit down. Don't feel guilty. No one in your family wants you to be stressed, sick, and ornery. :) Not that you are ever ornery....

Don and Lynn said...

It does get to be a bit too much. I have totally simplified this year to completely, 100% only having lists for my immediate family. Because you're right, these are the best Christmases of our lives when the children are young. That Sunday school teacher or preschool music teacher isn't going to remember if you bought them a gift or not. I'm sure they wouldn't even give it a second thought. I know it's hard, but try just concentrating on your family, that's where all the joy is at! And, that is where all your memories will be.

Oh gosh, had to die laughing at the 3 year olds "yelling" the songs at the parents. How true! Taylor was chewing gum at her 3 year old Christmas celebration. I was waiting for it to end up in the kids hair who was standing in front of her. I would have died!

Kyla said...

You definitely have the right idea. At times, though, there are expendable parties or chores and giving one or two up and shortening that list might give you the time to enjoy it all more, if possible. Either way, when you look back at these years I can guarantee you won't be remembering the to do list, no matter how long it is.

Christy said...

What a beautiful moment to be able to watch. It brings tears to my eyes too. I know too the holidays are busy, but I love it and try to enjoy every minute of it. Only happens once a year.

Lori said...

What a precious moment between brother and sister. I'm so thankful you were given the gift of getting to witness it firsthand.

Christmas + Big Family= BUSY!! It is hard to figure out how to have it any other way. Especially when, as you pointed out so beautifully, you really do enjoy all of the activities they are involved in.

My husband and I look at each other all the time and remind each other, "Someday we will miss all of this..."

Merry Christmas Joy!!

Beck said...

This post was SO beautiful!
We're all coming down with a stomach bug - so that's put much of the busines of Christmas on hold.

erin k said...

Lovely post, Joy. As always.

Helen said...

Wow, this is SO supercute - how precious this is!

Just wanted to delurk - I am the 8th visitor - having you in my feedreader and reading for months and I don't know if I ever commented - maybe I did once when I started reading your blog.

Thanks for sharing so many great, small and cute moments - I loved the series on the christmas cards *hehe*.

Have a beautiful and blessed Christmas!