Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Living It Well

The month of December always seems to shape into this weird dichotomy of busy and slow.  With the reality of six separate family Christmases to attend, there are presents to buy, food to prepare, and places to be almost every weekend from Thanksgiving to the new year.  We are challenged with the task of attempting to find time to all get together while also trying to fit in the special memories and traditions important to our family network at home.  I feel bombarded knowing where and how to spend our end-of-the-year resources, attempting to find a balance between giving to those who need it far more than we do, finding special treasures to put under the tree for Cruz, and giving to those we love.  Meanwhile, as I struggle to determine priorities between a weeknight drive to look at Christmas lights, a Saturday spent volunteering at our church's yearly Christmas Store event, baking cookies for neighbors, and sitting at the table and playing a game with Cruz, it all feels overwhelming and I struggle to best know what to eliminate and what to keep.  We attended a Christmas concert for our local Boys and Girls Club last week and a plate was passed.  We added to our church's goal of 2,500 toys for a Christmas Store in East Waterloo next weekend.  We have another Boys and Girls Club event tomorrow night, thank you notes and gifts to deliver to teachers, a supply list to donate for Cruz's daycare, cookies and goodies to bring to neighbors, an adopted family to contribute for work, not to mention lists of cousins, siblings, and grandparents to find that perfect gift for.  Meanwhile, the laundry has piled up once again, finals' week is looming, and there is an unpacked hospital bag staring me in the face bed upstairs.  I am fully aware of the true meaning of this season, but I sometimes struggle to know what exactly that looks like in how we spend our days here on Earth.  Our society is criticized so often for our high expectations and 'do it all' approach to the holidays, yet I often feel conflicted as to where my time should be spent and what should be cut in this month that calls for so much.  I question how to best live out not only these weeks leading up to Christmas, but how to best live out these ever important days of raising little people.  The decisions I make no longer impact just me, but they set the stage for how my own babies will someday view and live out the holidays. 

The older I get, the more aware I've become, and I've found that a growing sense of awareness can sometimes lead to a growing sense of restlessness.  I relate to Emilie Autumn's words that 'awareness is the enemy of sanity, for once you hear the screaming, it never stops.'  I do the best I can living out these days and soaking up these moments, but often feel restless wondering if I'm doing it right and questioning what it really means to live well.  I overthink things, struggle to please all those I love, and tend to be hard on myself, wishing I could just let it go and not care so much. 

But awareness also leads to so much beauty and it's not hard to find it in December.  It's the tricky dichotomy of it all.  That as crazy as the days can be and as stretched as one can feel this month, there are these quiet moments sprinkled throughout that truly make it the most joy-filled time of the year.  The way my house looks at night with all the Christmas lights lit, the way Cruz's eyes light up when he digs into another advent mitten, or the feeling of gratitude that washes over me when I hear a favorite carol on the radio are the moments this time of year is all about.  They come in many shapes and forms during this month, but if look closely enough, joy can be found in all of it.  
Cruz has taught me that I live best in the little moments.  That it's not necessarily about what we are doing, but how we are doing it.  So oftentimes, things can feel like an obligation; like we're doing them because we feel we should, or because others do, or because it's just the thing to do, but that any moment can be a joy-filled one if you let it.  We are bound to be busy - it's just the season of life we are in.  But when I step back and look at it all, I am so very thankful for what our busy represents.  A large family that is healthy, lives close, and values time spent together.  A church we are so blessed to be part of.  A job I truly love and resources that allow us to give back.  And a God, who feels our challenges and sent his son to walk right here with us, to live in our struggles and help us find the joy and wonder in them.     

I found joy in so much of our weekend.

...Joy in a Friday afternoon cup of cocoa with extra marshmallows.  

...Joy in a fun Friday night with Cruz, a trip to Toys 'R Us, and a lesson in giving to others who may not have Christmas presents this year.  Toys 'R Us is a rare occurrence for us and it was fun to watch our boy in his version of heaven.  Beau and I had as much fun as Cruz pushing buttons and dancing with minions and it was a nice feeling to leave buying toys for others instead of our own.   

...Joy in a booth at Noodles and Company on a cold winter's night.

...Joy in forgetting to turn off Cruz's Christmas tree and stopping to watch him sleep on my way out the door.  Nestled in his new Grinch flannel sheets, he looked so cozy.  I felt the urge to capture the stillness of that picture of his room and I hope to never forget the peace I feel when I watch my baby sleep.

...Joy in a Saturday trip to Allison to visit Santa Claus.  He loved Santa, loved his "Moose Munch" more, and loved the trio of 'cowboys' singing in the atrium most of all.  He asked if "them were real cowboys," and commented on their hats and 'seat belts.' 


...Joy in watching Cruz dance to his little heart's content.  Although he may have danced like no one was watching, he had the eyes of every senior citizen in that room and didn't have the slightest clue the attention he was drawing.  

I heart this picture so much.  He's got his cowboy hat, got his moose munch, what else does a little guy need?!

...Joy in a new pair of train pajamas, a red Santa hat, and a magical ride on the Snowflake Express with my family.

...Joy in a little boy who held his train ticket tight, pressed his little nose up tight against the cold glass of the train window, and drank his watered-down hot cocoa as if it was the best thing on earth.  

...Joy in watching a little boy proudly carrying a set of Hot Wheels to church with him on Sunday and a very first lesson in the joy that exists in giving to others.

...Joy in a pretty Sunday snowfall, a matching pair of boots, and cold mittened hands on my cheeks.

...Joy in a rosy-cheeked little snow boy who loves the powder this year.  He wanted to play baseball, but settled for snow castles instead.  And when he started to cry because his hands were cold, he remembered what his daddy said at the tree farm and stuck both hands in his little pockets and walked slowly for the door. 

...Joy in laughing until I nearly peed my pants as Cruz tried to help his pregnant mama remove her boots after playing outside.  Beau was still outside shoveling and I absolutely could not bend over far enough to get them off.  Cruz pulled like mad and the harder he tried, the harder I laughed. 

...Joy in watching football with Beau while Cruz napped, laughing at the Lions and Eagles attempting to play the game in seven inches of snow.  It was wild.

...Joy in a cuddle on the couch and the classic version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Cruz liked the puppy the best, obviously.

...Joy in a Sunday matinee at the movies, a box of Junior Mints, and a sensitive little boy who felt a little too much at the end of the movie.  He started to cry and we snuck away to watch the last five minutes from the edge of the theater, tucked away from other viewers.  I kept assuring him to keep watching as it was about to get happy, and soon, his mouth was wide open at the magical ending to Frozen.  Afterwards, he danced during the credits and talked about his very own snowman all the way home.

...Joy in a sweet Disney movie and a lesson for young people everywhere.  Be your own hero.  You don't need a prince charming to swoop in and save the day.   I loved this movie. 

...Joy in a Sunday night dance party to a little Snoopy jukebox ornament hanging on the tree.   

The weekend wasn't perfect and I found myself battling unwanted stress, playing into a game of comparisons, and striving for a Pinterest perfection that doesn't exist.  I got frustrated with Beau, lost my patience with Cruz, and got stressed over a messy kitchen and unfinished to-do list on Sunday.  But thankfully, I have this little teacher who is constantly reminding me how to best live out these days.  It's about silly moments, smiling faces, and the wonder of a baby born in a stable 2,000 years ago.  

What is your December mantra?  How do you find balance amidst the busyness of this month?         

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