I met a woman in the bookstore a few weeks ago.

We chatted about baby girls. She had a granddaughter she adored.  She loved to visit her and teach her to read and paint. Williamsburg pumps Christmas spirit out like Disneyworld does happiness and the bookstore was full of bundled up shoppers in search of the authentic Colonial Christmas experience. (Should I be the one to tell them it would involve outhouses and war and death? I think not.) It was a very Christmas-y talk with a stranger. When we parted ways, I chimed “Have a Merry Christmas!”

Then waited for it.

It came. (It always does.)

“Well,…the Indiana grandparents get to be with her for Christmas. So we shall see…”

Oh Christmas. Why are you a heartbreaker?

Why do all those inmost layers we manage to keep neatly in their proper places arise and stare us down over the next few days? Why do they lie and tell us our lives are sadder, lesser, messier than anyone else’s? (Or than they were last year.) And why do my kids keep asking for  THAT ELF? Sorry, non-sequiter.

I wasn’t going to write about Christmas this year. I was going to be too busy being joyful and relaxed. But then something I had never thought of before occurred to me while picking up the Little People Nativity pieces one night. (We have a zebra and Noah currently visiting the Christ child –  you?)

For the first time, I wondered, “Why, if Joseph was going to the home of his ancestors, during a census, were there not some extended family involved? Wouldn’t there have been a whole group of them in matching t-shirts out at the Bethlehem campground? At the least, did he not have a Great Aunt in town who could connect them with a decent midwife? Or be the midwife? Or did Mary stare him straight in the eye and say “Look. Either I birth this baby, or I navigate your family dynamics. Not both. Not at the holidays.”

Either all the Joseph-sons, were there and just left out of the narrative, (perhaps due to unnecessary advice and commentary that annoyed the author)…Or this poor, scandalized, faithful couple was very much alone.  Alone with the overwhelming circumstances of their lives, alone with changed expectations about, well, everything, and alone with the full knowledge of what a difference a year makes. 

Anyone else?

I am in a class this semester called The Christian Life. Yes, that is what it’s called. I’ll be honest, I kind of thought I had this one, based on the title. Turns out I am no good at The Christian Life. We have studied and practiced spiritual disciplines over the past seven weeks and I’ve learned I’m better at studying than actually doing spiritual disciplines.” Please! “I wanted to beg the professor , “Let me read more, write more, think more! Don’t make me actually practice the discipline.” Alas, I limped on, learned how to separate space and time for prayer and silence and realized meditating on Scripture was more reliable than my own thoughts every time.

So tonight on this eve of The Eve, know that this weakest of Spiritual disciples will light a candle and say a prayer for a list of names. For people I love who feel alone, hurt,  disappointed, – not where they want to be, and not where they thought they’d be. My name’s on the list. I think that’s allowed. I will pray that over the next few days, heavy with expectation, our Shepherds arrive in some form – unexpected voices who can affirm that though circumstances scream differently, we have never been alone, and even more we live on the brink of something incredibly New.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,

and ransom captive Israel

that mourns in lonely exile here

until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

As the Beatles say, Happy Christmas Friends.  As C.S. Lewis says, Aslan is on the move.

Advent Prayer

 

With five days to go, emotions are high and nutritional food consumption is low. I ate Peppermint Bark for three meals this week.  I’m struggling for peace and rest and presence and rest so no more adding to the Big Christmas Project Idea List of Hopes and Dreams over here, only removing. And this morning, a prayer and a quote, thank you Henri Nouwen. 

The Advent Prayer – Henri Nouwen

Lord Jesus, Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.

We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.

We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.

We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.

We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.

We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light. To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!”

 

“The Lord is coming, always coming. Be alert to his coming. When you have ears to hear and eyes to see,  you will recognize him at any moment of your life. Life is Advent; life is recognizing the coming of the Lord.” Henri Nouwen

On Turning One.

This has not been an easy year in our family. There has been challenge and change.

And there has been a baby.

Except looking back, as 2013 nears its close, I can see what a gift this baby has been this year. 

Because, the winter felt long, but then she got so smiley.

When I felt we were plodding through spring and summer, I turned around and she was crawling, then pulling up. 

This fall when I forgot to be consumed with my own worries, I noticed that she began climbing

and reading.

Then on November 8,  I had to cancel the big birthday party I had planned because of The Great Infestation. So, instead of celebrating with all of our family, we stood around her high chair, with only my Mother in Law (may the Lord Bless her forever) in shower caps, singing…and all the while under my breath I’m muttering,  ‘2013. Get Behind Me.”  –  but right around then, she began walking. 

The Apostle Pauls says “Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life”

Newness of Life.

That’s who Leila has been this year – a persistent promise of newness.  Newness of Life has filled my house, kept me company in the night, and now, every time I turn around, is sitting on the dining room table.

About three years ago I consigned  my baby clothes. I wasn’t too sure we would have another baby. Life felt full. My heart felt full. And, I told myself, if I have another one, surely it would not be another girl.

Dear Sweet Leila Lou. You came into my heart when it felt full and you made it overflow. Happy Birthday Baby Girl.

Now get off the dining room table.

On Turning Five

Olivia turned five on November 3 and as promised, we had a backyard bash with family and neighbors straight out of 1992, complete with a surprise appearance by THE SHARPTOOTH and a “Land Before Time” movie poster taped to the side of the house. My only regret involved Daylight Savings Time. Turning the clocks back on a five year old’s birthday when the party isn’t until the afternoon? Cruel.

Last year, the day before Leila was born, and four days after Olivia had turned four, I lost it. I had a scheduled c-section the next day and decided it was the perfect time to have it out with Olivia over her choice of clothing.  She wanted to wear the same thing every day. She could not expand. (School uniforms have been wonderful for this part of her, which is why we have pictures of her in her school jumper on the beach and at Disney World.) 90% of the time I was Zen Mom. But on this fragile day I decided to intervene.  I lost it. It was ugly. We both cried.

Then I drove her to Leah’s house because I had to go to an appointment at the hospital. I handed her to Leah and said. ” I was so so mean. And tomorrow I’m going to die.  I’m going to die on that table and this is what she’ll remember.” 

Leah told me that I was going to be fine, and held Olivia with the IPad. This is the nurture we all need.

I didn’t die the next day. And Olivia has been better than fine.

She arrived to visit her  sister in the hospital, all smiles but with no desire to hold the new baby. This girl knows important moments cannot be manufactured. It was two months later  that their relationship began as many epic ones have: with handholding. “Do you think I can hold  Leila’s hand?” she whispered to me. So they held hands, and have never looked back.

In March, sitting around the dinner table, Olivia made an astounding announcement. “Sophia,” she said, “I am going to be the Silly One.” Like that a Middle Child was born. She wears the mantle fiercely. Her humor borders on inappropriate – but whose doesn’t? This girl has come laughter and singing and role playing and games. She does a spot-on imitation of Rapunzel’s Mother Gothel, can play every part in Snow White, and  loves The Grinch more than any story. I’m proud and inspired. Her imagination still integrates almost seamlessly into her reality. She looked at me the other day while listening to Christmas music and said in response to Mariah Carey’s bellows, ” Mommy, I don’t want her to get me for Christmas.”

Olivia is funny. She  is  sensitive and she is strong. One of my true delights this year has been witnessing who she is becoming. She still says out of nowhere, quite often, “Mommy  I love you. Will I always be your precious girl?”

Sweet child,  you have no idea. 

Onward (to six??!!).

 

“This is the irrational season

Where love blooms bright and wild. 

Had Mary been filled with reason

There’d have been no room for the child.”

Madeline L’Engle

Well HELLO December.

Our house is covered in twinkly colored lights – inside and out. Fresh greens and fruit? Someday Williamsburg someday.

Brene’ Brown says we get to choose comfort or courage, not both. Oh Tricky December, your clever branding promises comfort yet so often what you require is courage –  relational, hopeful, faithful, brave courage.

Here’s to not letting reason stand in the way of decorating, hoping, or believing this season.

(And Here’s to being BRAVE enough to celebrate irrational joy. )

Upon referencing my editorial calendar which I plan well ahead and strongly adhere to, I’m not sure  I’ll be writing much more on the topic of  Christmas this year.  Here are a few of my favorite Christmas posts from years past. Love and colored lights to all…

Welcome Christmas (2012)

Two of  My December Best Friends (2011) (Recipe included!)

Already, Not Yet (2009)