My college roommate once told me a story about walking into her kitchen one morning during a weekend visit to find her mother crying at the table. When she asked her what was wrong, she said she was crying because it was December, and she dread the work involved in preparing for Christmas. My roommate and I laughed at how silly her mother was. What's so hard about Christmas?
I take it back now.
A few weeks ago, we were talking in my study about Advent, the season of preparation. I said I have a hard time getting into the mentality of reflection and preparation, because December just feels like one big party to me. Who wants to sit in the middle of a party and reflect? Someone commented that maybe I was just already balancing the demands of Christmas well enough to not need the reprieve. I knew in the moment they were giving me too much credit - I am definitely not naturally balanced, friends. And last night, had any one of you been sitting in MY kitchen, you could have confirmed just how un-balanced about Christmas I am.
It started with the tree. Our Christmas tree has become a sort of scrapbook of our life together. Anytime we go on a vacation, or something significant changes in our lives (like a baby), we commemorate with an ornament. We have ornaments from our honeymoon, ornaments from our trip to Disney World when we were dating, teacher gifts from when I taught in Nashville, an ornament from our Kansas City friends, etc. I love it.
Friday night Brian brought the decorations down from the attic. But if you'll remember, we bought both a roof and an air conditioning system this year, and more than one repairman has rearranged our attic since last December. Meaning that Brian couldn't find one box of decorations, and it turned out to be the box containing all of our favorites. What he brought down instead were the ornaments Granny made the year she died. I think her intent was for us to have them after she was gone (Granny picked up painting as a hobby as she got older - we have enough Santas and trains and teddy bears to decorate a house three times this size). There were extra "Baby's First Christmas" bears and a black truck (like Brian's) carrying a Christmas tree. Not only were we missing (for the moment - Brian found them the next day) the best memories, but our tree was filling up with ornaments Granny made, knowing she wouldn't be there to give them out.
Ya'll, it was DEPRESSING.
My mood snowballed from there. Next week is so insanely busy I don't even want to tell you what all we'll be doing, because I'll get anxious about it all over again. Let's just put it this way - within the five weeks of the Christmas season, we will have a family wedding, a three-year-old birthday, Christmas, and an annual (last!) trip to Nashville. Also, Brian works in a church, and Lane's old saying of "Holy Crap It's Holy Week" applies directly to Advent as well. Plus, Asher is now in preschool, and I didn't realize the additional layer of activity and responsibility that would add to our lives at Christmas time until, well, now. Add it all together, plus the preparation involved for each, and you can see why last night found me very very nearly crying in my kitchen as I recounted to Brian just how much work December had become.
Brian intervened. He helped me figure out the best way to use my prep time, heavily suggested I find a gracious way to back out of a couple of things, and flat-out told me I was crazy if I did a few others. He also said something along the lines of, "What were you THINKING to overcommit yourself like this?" to which I replied, "December is busy either way. I figure if I'm already in it, I might as well be in it." And then he laughed at me, saying how much I needed to build some quiet into my schedule before I shriveled into mass of cupcakes and ornaments on the living room floor and died.
In short, I need a little more Advent in my Christmas.
He's right. It's not natural to me to stop in the middle of a party and reflect, but there are plenty of things about a life of faith that don't come naturally to any of us. And like so much of life, when I align myself with God's Way, my burden will be light. So long as I continue to do this my way, every December will find me crying in my kitchen.