Friday, December 19, 2014

{Rooted}



It's 6 days til Christmas, or so the makeshift calendar tells me, the one Fiona wrote out and Jonah consults each morning. It's afternoon now. Lemon bars are baking for a party later on and the dishwasher hums away in the kitchen. My two baby/toddlers are upstairs blessedly napping. Outside the big kids and a neighbor child, home for break, are fighting an epic battle of some sort. Inside its still, it's quiet, it's restful. I've got a basket-full of unfinished knitting projects at my feet. It feels, for a moment, like Advent.

Sure, there are things I have left to do in these fast fleeting days before Christmas, but with just one car and a husband at work, for the moment I'm only able to be just here, rooted in the restful now. Despite being a hard year, somehow this Advent seems the most peaceful I've ever known. I think it may come from a certain amount of acceptance and gratitude for just this. I know perhaps better now than ever before that even if my list doesn't get completely checked off, even if I somehow don't manage to pack it all in - Christmas will come just the same. That endless striving and inevitable burnout is all for nothing because nothing can make Christmas more than it already is on it's own.

Today I read this article about Christian refugees in tent camps preparing to celebrate Christmas. The pictures speak much more than the words do, and reaffirmed my thinking. Even in the absence of all we think we need to have a perfect holiday - the warmth and happiness of home, the closeness of family, the assurances of tomorrow - Christmas still comes. Christ still comes. The one thing that still roots us, firm - that never lets go. There will always be a reason to celebrate, always a reason for Joy - because He is always and forever. Even if everything that we think we need for it to truly be Christmas was stripped away - He remains.

I'm thankful today for the warmth of home, the voices of my happy and healthy children, our little tree and the celebrations we share with family and friends. We have an abundance beyond our needs and that is truly a blessing. But more than anything, I'm so, so thankful that my heart is rooted securely and eternally with Him, the source of pure joy.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

O Antiphons and 6 Truths About Large Family Christmas

Last night marked the beginning of the O Antiphons, one of my favorite parts of Advent. I "discovered" these prayers, beginning on December 17th and leading right up to Christmas Eve, just last year after clicking on a link one of my Catholic friends shared on facebook. Such short little prayers but so infused with meaning and importance and taken straight from Scripture - the perfect thing to carry us through these last few days of Advent in mindfulness and wonder. This year my Missouri Synod Lutheran Church brought them into our Advent celebration as well. I love church tradition and was so thrilled that we decided to embrace these ancient and meaningful prayers this year. Here is the O Antiphon for today, December 18th:


Today my younger brother Noah sent a sibling - wide text. "6 Days Before Christmas! Initiate Christmas Spirit!" This year and, honestly, most years, he embodies Christmas Spirit and drags the rest of us along with him. There are 7 of us in addition to 3 spouses, and we are all close but never quite as close as at Christmas time. Our parents did a great job making Christmas important to us growing up and we have a lot of fun shared memories. Here are five truths about Christmas in large family, just in case you're wondering how that all goes down:

1) Someone will get something "wrapped" in a garbage bag, often with a bow slapped on for festivity-sake.

2) As a result of late night wrapping exhaustion, there will be several unmarked gifts that have to be unwrapped just to see who they are intended for.

3) It is not uncommon for parents to still be shopping for their brood on Christmas eve.

4) Christmas looks HUGE - even if it's not, due to the sheer number of people and presents crammed in the living room.

5) Coffee before gifts is not only recommended, it's required. All children know this and can be seen in the kitchen brewing an extra big pot just to coax their exhausted parents down stairs.

6) The best part of the whole thing is the spirit and joy that celebrating together brings.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Year Of Courage That Wasn't




I had all but forgotten about it, displaced by so many worries and stresses and concerns this year, when my best friend surprised me by bringing it up on the phone.

"I know this year has been a hard one for you guys, and I was remembering how you chose the word Courage for 2014..."

Maybe I hadn't forgotten. Maybe instead I had abandoned it when the going got tough because that's really not what I had in mind when I chose that word. Thinking back to a year ago now, I remember optimism. I remember the feeling of surfacing after months of Rosemary's colic and feeling, for the first time in a long time, strong. Able. When I chose the word "Courage" to be my word for the year, I imagined the courage to make great things happen. The inspiration for positive changes. I never once considered that courage would be required of me through difficulty and that was why it was the word that came to mind at the time.

It's 12 months later and I say it right out into the phone, "I can't wait for 2014 to be over. It's been awful and I'm done." 2014 left me disappointed and disillusioned. 2014 left me jarred and afraid. 2014 felt like one crisis after another dashing into me, into us. I know that no magic switch is flipped on January 1st each year, but somehow it can feel that way. Just get me to a new year, a clean slate, a fresh page - someplace for me to start over.

 I expected to need courage for big things. Instead, 12 months later, it looks like not much has changed except the adults in this family are a little more ragged, a little more jaded. It almost seems like this year was anything but a courageous one. This year was survival, pure and simple. There have been blessings, yes, and God turned up in probably the most real ways I've ever experienced, but it has been a hard and fearful year.

But then I take a closer look back. Past the appearances of it all, right into the heart. And that's when I see it: the courage that was required to make it through all of it. Each day when something new cropped up and devastated us, each night when I went to bed with nothing but desperate prayers. Courage isn't just required for those swallowing fears and putting themselves out there in good ways. Courage is required for battle. Courage is necessary for the every day struggles that being a human on this whirling rock brings about. Courage is required for every day that these little ones pat me awake and for every night I tuck them all in. It's required for parenting and marriage and work and play. It's required for letting go and realizing that our control is an illusion and we're all of us just doing what we can with what we have.

This year, there were fears. And tears. And most days I felt that courage was the the farthest thing from my reach. But I think maybe that's where it is. Courage doesn't come easily. Courage requires facing the odds against us and trusting that when all we see is darkness, there's still a Light that never wavers. Courage is the first step into the unseen void, and the breathlessness of being caught - and held - through every battle and every fear.

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