Unwrap Peace

I am wrapped up in a fleecy, red, plaid blanket, sitting on the couch with my 6-year-old sleeping at the other end. This is the third night in a row that she and I have ended up sleeping in the same room. She is going through one of her phases, as she does about every 2-3 months. She gets very anxious and wakes up several times a night to come check on us. She has sad thoughts and bad dreams. Lots of emotions.

The first night she came into our room crying. We prayed with her and then my husband went to the couch for the night and she stayed with me. The second night she came in crying and we prayed with her and then firmly took her back to her own bed. An hour later, she came back to inform us she had puked in her bathroom. Sure enough, a huge puddle of sour chunks waited on the tile for me. Again, my incredibly kind and gracious husband took the couch while she stayed with me in case there were any follow-ups. There weren’t. She slept through the rest of the night while I tossed and turned and tried to avoid her kicking feet and flailing arms. Last night,  she came to our room again. After some conversations about bad guys breaking in, angels and God watching out for us and a smiling child escorted back to her own bed, I thought for sure we had tucked it all away for the last time. Lo and behold, ten minutes later she was back with tears streaming down her face. First it was the bad guys again, then it was about not getting to be with Mommy all the time (we are home schooling-she is with Mommy ALL THE TIME!), then it was back to the “I think I’m going to throw up again.”

Sigh.

Is she manipulating me? Kinda feels like it. Is she incredibly sensitive emotionally? No doubt. Always has been. Am I tired? HA! That’s an understatement.

Last night, I watched as my husband yawned his way through our family devo time. Maybe all pastors are yawning their way through this season. It is an intense time for clergy and their families. Hugs for all of my fellow pastor wifey friends! Hang in there, Girls!

Anyway, we are of course reading the story of Jesus’ first coming. The house is all decorated. The lights on the tree create an enchanting glow on my children’s faces. Last night it was my eight-year old’s turn to pull a numbered flag off our Advent tree and light the candles representing hope and peace.  She was delighted that it was her turn (we missed a few nights because life happens, so she’d been waiting her turn for awhile) she was so delighted that, after we read about Mary and Joseph’s betrothal, she ran to our nativity scene and grabbed Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus and set them in front of the Advent candles. She couldn’t help but feel the excitement, and I felt it too. The joy she was feeling as her mind grasped what this season is about connected to my heart and I was elated. We were having a moment!  

There is so much expectation at this time of year. There is the expectation of gifts, family time, meaningful moments in the glow of soft lights and whimsical music. These expectations are fine, except when real life happens and kids are crying and puking, it takes away from some of the romanticism. We can easily find ourselves frustrated that our Pinterest perfect plans are not unfolding like we had hoped. We are tired. We are rushed. We are burnt out.

You know what? Last year, I took the Christmas décor down the day after Christmas. I was so done. My kids cried buckets as I unclogged the glitter and fake pine needles from my vacuum cleaner. Mom killed Christmas with plastic tubs and a red Dirt Devil.

This year, I am determined to do less. This time, I am fighting the urge to pretend that I’m ok with the hustle of the holidays-because I’m not y’all. I’m really not. Not this time.

This time, I will do less.

Our church does a campaign every year to spend less on Christmas so we can give more to those who need it. We’ve adopted this, not just for our finances, but for our time as well. If I spend less time shopping, stressing, rushing, filling my schedule with activities and every little holiday opportunity that comes along, then I can give more.

I can give more time to the things that really matter.

I can give more time to discipling my kids through this glorious season of celebrating the arrival of Christ. That makes me really happy! Happier than an impressively planned party or a decorated house. Instead of spending my time on creating the right table setting, I can spend my time prepping a meal or bags of clothes for families that cannot get those things for themselves. Yes, I could do both the table setting and the helping others, but then I would be the crazy woman with circles under her eyes and coffee stains on her shirt because she is trying to do it all and not fall asleep in the middle of it. The problem is - I just can’t do it all. I won’t survive this insanity we call “the holidays”. Aren’t holidays supposed to be days of play and rest? Somehow, we’ve confused going on a holiday with going on a crazy train to the insane asylum while singing Jingle Bells all the way.

The other problem is that we don’t understand advent and the waiting that it calls for. We’ve lost the art of waiting. Waiting is no longer a part of our culture. So when we are forced to wait, we fill our time with mindless activity. Go ahead, try not to pull your phone out while you are waiting around with nothing to do (I about had a conniption fit the other day when I tried not to grab my phone out of my pocket while waiting for my drink at Starbucks. I was determined to wait without entertainment or updates and looked like an awkward idiot in the process). Rather than waiting with quiet hearts, we forgo peace and replace it with stressful frenzy. We want to skip the inconvenience of waiting. We are a multi-tasking, highly efficient, activity obsessed people.

There is nothing about advent that requires those things. (Go ahead and throw your hands up and shout out a hallelujah!)

His yoke is easy. His burden is light. Jesus came to give us peace-not more busywork. It is our own expectations and strivings that weigh us down with the extras that are carried more out of obligation or guilt. It is usually the pleasing of others that pushes us to do more than we should. And our relationships suffer for it. We don’t have room for real life when we are filling it with unrealistic expectations. There is no time for kids with issues when there are so many other things that need to get done.

I really want to spend less time fighting traffic and crowds to buy stuff that will be in next fall’s garage sale, and give more time to my people, snuggling close, laughing, talking and rejoicing in the life that’s been gifted to us. I want to spend less time obsessing over a perfectly, Pinterest holiday, so that I can have more minutes in my pocket to give to those who need a listening ear or a home-cooked meal. We have nothing better to do while we wait. I promise we really don’t.

My prayer for you and me today is that we will find peace in waiting quietly. I pray that we will place our flailing hands in our laps for a moment of stillness. I pray that this holiday season will find our hearts resting rather than striving. I pray that we will enjoy our holiday for the gift that it is and resist the temptation to demand that it be more. I pray that we will be satisfied with our life today, not wishing it was more magical or easy, but accepting it for what it is…sleepless and pukey as it may be.

What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?

A generation goes, and a generation comes…

The sun rises, and the sun goes down,

 and hastens to the place where it rises.

The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north;

 around and around goes the wind,

and on its circuits the wind returns…

All things are full of weariness;

a man cannot utter it;

 the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing…

What has a man from all the toil and striving

 of heart with which he toils beneath the sun?

 For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation.

 Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.

There is nothing better for a person

 than that he should eat and drink

and find enjoyment in his toil.

This also, I saw, is from the hand of God,

 for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?

 For to the one who pleases him

God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy…

Ecclesiastes 1:3-8; 2:22-26