Tuesday, December 22, 2015
It's Christmas week. I spent yesterday morning in front of the fireplace at Panera Bread finishing up grading for the semester and cleaning out my inbox for the last time in 2015. After that, I finished my shopping in a marathon afternoon of seven stops and a very good list. Then, I picked the munchkins up, threw in a frozen pizza, and put them to work making cards for their teachers and counting exactly 21 miniature Christmas-scented hand-sanitizers from Bath and Body Works for all the sweet college girls who make their days fun. After daycare gifts were ready and the kids were nestled all snug in their beds, Beau sat at the island and kept me company for nearly three hours as I embarked on the mountain of boxes in need of pretty wrappings. We listened to Jack Johnson Christmas, strategically decided which presents come from us and which come from Santa, and laughed hysterically at the Elf Yourself video I made of the four of us to surprise Cruz with tomorrow morning. Although Boone gets all the credit. :)
This morning, we delivered one big box of Christmas goodies for all our daycare teachers and friends, and the kids got a taste of the joy of giving when their gifts were accompanied with warm hugs and sparkly smiles. Then, it was grocery shopping for me. I've spent weeks dreaming up all the food I want to prepare for the next several days, and took my time savoring all the colors and smells of the grocery aisles. I filled my cart with candied pecans and pomegranate seeds for a Christmas salad, honey walnut goat cheese and prosciutto for a big charcuterie board, Ghirardelli chocolate squares for a tradition of baked hot chocolate on Christmas Eve night, and all the fixings for egg bake and warm gooey monkey bread Christmas morning. Our fridge and pantry are more full then they have been since we moved in and I love the thought of using it all up one by one from the kitchen. Good food prepared for my people is definitely my love language.
We are just three sleeps away from Christmas morning and it seems I'm finally taking a deep breath and letting it all soak in. I love Christmas and all the magic it brings, but would be remiss to not identify all the other feelings that accompany this time of year. The end of the year is a busy season for most, and it's easy to feel stressed, stretched, and overwhelmed. Anxiety and expectation, my two biggest vices, sneak in and sometimes I let them get the best of me. And, with this time of year and all the joy in it, I've always felt a small, lingering ache at Christmastime. I ache for those who deeply miss loved ones this time of year, ache at the sight of my babies growing up too fast, and fear the uncertainties that lie ahead in a new year. It's easy to oversimplify Christmas, to sugarcoat it with all the commercialized holidays fixings, but I'm learning a new depth of this season this year in a way I've never really understood before. This messy, complex, juxtaposition of Christmas is exactly how it all began. It's exactly why we need Christmas.
When I really strip it all away, it all becomes about Jesus. We are messy, complex, and broken people. We feel anxious, stressed, and full of fear this time of year, probably quite similar to how the shepherds felt when that choir of angels greeted them in the middle of the night. After all, their first words to them were, Fear Not! That fear, and whatever it may be that perpetuates it, is a part of what makes us human. And sinful. And what makes Christmas so amazing. Because after the angels tell the shepherds to fear not, they tell them of a way out - of great joy in a baby born to rescue us from our broken, simple-minded humanness. That news and the joy that exists in Jesus, makes it easier to surrender those negative feelings and feel the magic of not only this season, but every season of our lives.
I sat at church a few weeks ago and listened to this message and for the first time in a long time, Christmas resonated with me in a deeper way. Since then, I've listened to it again and again, and made it my daily goal to surrender a little more and let the true joy of Jesus fill me up. This joy takes many different faces, and I've made it a point to recognized it and call it out when I see it. Through pictures and words, some true snapshots of great joy this season, all thanks to a baby born in a manger that brings light to our dark, broken world.
A link to this teaching, if you'd like to listen. Beau and I talked about it for weeks.
Okay, not all pictures are full of joy. :)
Peanut butter and piggy tails...
...An unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon where Cruz and I decided to take a short walk to get the mail at the end of our street. We just so happened to choose the right day, because inside our mailbox was a letter to Cruz in response to his North Pole letter sent earlier this month. I read it to him and his eyes lit up, and he surprisingly said, "I am on the happy list this year!"
...Mila repeatedly saying, "Not nice!" during the Grinch.
...The warmth of the wood floor right in front of the fireplace.
...Picking out new Christmas books to read before bed each night.
...The kids and their chap stick, scored in the pockets of their advent calendar. Mila uses hers as a face balm, and Cruz proudly brought his to school. It's always so funny to see the things they latch onto, and I'm happy to say our kids have the softest lips in the land this season. :)
...Turning in five binders of artifacts, six years of savings for a very important milestone of this woman's life. And then, turning in a 50 page paper the very next week.
...That overwhelming familiarity of so much love it makes you hurt. With Christmas music and sweet babies in flannel nightgowns who aren't quite babies anymore sleeping in their cribs.