Wednesday, December 19, 2012

When things don't go as planned, Christmas edition

My childhood Christmas memories are more or less perfect. Not that Christmas was perfect, but the images and impressions that I hold in my mind are not marred by feeling too busy, by cookies that didn’t look good, or by not getting something that I desperately wanted. I loved decorating the tree, listening to Christmas music while baking cookies with my mom and sisters, and writing a note to Santa knowing that “he” always wrote back with Dad’s handwriting. Now that I’m on the parent side of things, I am abundantly aware that these memories are not the complete picture. Christmas was never “perfect” when I was little. Rather, the pure joy of my childhood memories is a testament to the faithfulness of my parents when things didn’t go as planned.

Since moving out of the home for my first Christmas married, each year has been different, as our lives have moved from newlyweds, to expecting our first child, to having one small child, to having two small children. This year, with Emma nearly four and Will two (but thinks he’s three), Christmas is beginning to look more like my childhood memories.

I knew December was going to be full when I looked at the calendar in mid-November and saw the first three weekends already booked with two to three activities each. I geared myself up, worked on saying ‘no’ to keep things from getting crazier, and thought that this would be the year for the perfect Christmas.

We put up some decorations, played Christmas music, and pulled out all the Christmas stickers and little toys I had stored away a year ago. I had my Scripture verses and advent activities from last year all ready to go, just needing to be paired with a little jar for the kids to open and a small treat for each night. I even planned ahead and bought felt to make a Christmas tree that the kids could decorate and re-decorate. It was only December 1st and I was on top of things…for a few days at least.

The wreath was on the front door, but so were the ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ window clings. The decorations were out, and so the snow globe was dropped and shattered open. We cut down our tree, and it stood completely naked for a day until I added the lights. Two days later we hung the ornaments. I made gingerbread cookies (after 3 trips to the store in 24 hours). We decorated cookies with friends, and my children shoveled handfuls of sprinkles into their mouths while I pulled the cookies out of the oven. The kids enjoyed the first week of advent activities, but then I fell behind since I hadn’t prepped them all at once, and we skipped a week and a half of the perfect little homemade advent calendar. As so many of my best laid plans and intentions fell crashing out of my hands this week I had a choice to make. I could despair, throw myself a pity party, and complain, or realize that things don’t have to go perfectly to be meaningful or special or perfect.

Our kids have had a blast helping decorate, make cookies, and take part in our disjointed advent activities. We’ve read the Christmas story from Luke and they are excited to celebrate the birth of Jesus. They don’t need a thousand special activities to make Christmas special, they need Mom and Dad to point them to what is most important, even when the tyranny of the urgent and less significant tries to take over. They don’t need me to make their memories perfect, they need me to respond to imperfect situations in a way that leads and prepares them for an uncertain future where plans are thwarted and mistakes happen. They don’t need me to make more of Christmas; they need me to make more of Jesus. To use the times when I’m frustrated because chocolate is stuck in the frosting tip to acknowledge my own sin and need for a Savior.

The candles still aren’t in the windows and I have more shopping left to do. Every day Emma asks if today is Christmas. I’ve been responding with a simple “not yet,” but I think it should be more. Christmas isn’t here yet, but Christ is – when things don’t go as planned, when today’s “special activities” are laundry, and yes, when Christmas finally arrives.


Baysoxfan1 said...

wonderful comments. all will work all out in the end. See you on the 26th. Merry Christmas. Uncle Bill

Anonymous said...

Beth Anne, thanks for your very personal reflections and most of all your commitment to The Lord. Love, Dad