Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Surrendering to Joy

When one is sick, the following pattern is typically pursued in some order: bed, bathroom, bed, TV, tea, toast, bathroom, bed. 

When one is a sick mom, this pattern becomes something like the following:   

Bed. Bag of shredded cheese shaken over your head by child.  

“Mom, I want this!!” 

Arise in full knowledge that the bag will be opened by child should you insist on bed.  Fumble into kitchen, then turn and bolt for bathroom, three year-old with cheese in hot pursuit.  

“But Mommy, I want my bowl! I need a snack! That’s not the way!  Aww…”  

Stumble back to bed, while baby toddles in, hands raised.  You weakly drag her into your bed, where she plops down on your roiling stomach and starts pointing pointedly at your shirt.  

“No baby, not right now, Momma’s sick…”  

Over the crescendo of your baby’s wail, you hear loud giggles, and struggle upright to see preschooler dancing in glee over a carpet of cheese on the floor.  And that’s just the first twenty minutes of your sick day.

That’s what I’ve been doing here while I haven’t been writing.  Still haven’t recovered from whatever auto immune flare-up my Thanksgiving vacation set in motion.  Prayers are appreciated; I’m hanging in there.

At least well enough—by nightfall--to help with the homework of a 5th grader.  My daughter was deep into the most serious of classroom political campaigning last night: poster making.  I was trying to coax a dried super glue into affixing a little mirror under “LOOK” followed by “who’s voting for Annemarie for VP!” 

I realized she had the misfortune of misspelling “responsible” on her poster.  In permanent marker.  A hunt for wite-out followed.  A hunt for viable wite-out followed that.  When that failed, my husband took on the task of bringing the wite-out back to life with hot water, then alcohol.  After five applications of the regenerated substance, it almost worked. 

All the while, I was blasting Christmas music.  Yes, Christmas music.  No, not Advent music.  No, I am not a pagan.  Yes, I spent years resisting the overly early emergence of Christmas.  But this year, I am surrendering to joy.  Well, at least when they aren’t playing “Santa Baby” on the radio; that’s just painful.  Besides, I can sing it better. :)

No, I’m like you, really: I resent the rushing of the holidays.  How the culture hurries us along like children: yes, yes, you are enjoying Thanksgiving dinner but look over there!  Sales!  Shopping!  Wrap!  Decorate!  Send out the cards! 

And then on December 26th, just when we’ve actually started to celebrate, it’s over. Trees on the curb.  Music off the radio.  I mean, some hang on to the New Year and give the whole holiday a good week, but mostly I feel society looks up dully on the 26th and says, “What?  Christmas?  Oh we were over that at 10 AM yesterday.  So glad to get that tree out of my house.”

How sad!!  I mean really!!  Very sad.  Rushing towards a goal only to be bored when we reach it.  That’s one of the many reasons I’m a big fan of Advent.  I deeply appreciate the weeks of preparation, spiritually and externally, to celebrate the birth of Christ, God becoming man, the wonder of the Incarnation.  That's also why I really tried to put the brakes on Christmas until _Christmas_.  I cringed at the holly jollyness of the world around me.  And I insisted my family at least try to be liturgically appropriate.  Last year at this time, like the previous years, I was singing only Advent songs with the kids.  Mostly the twenty-two verses of “O Come Emmanuel.”  We did the Jesse tree.  We had Advent links with a little sacrifice /  act of kindness every day to be done.  We had purple decorations.  Didn’t get a tree till that pink candle week of Gaudete Sunday.  And yes, I'll continue most of these.  

But last year, I realized in the midst of my resisting the climate of frenzied celebration, that I was missing out.  No, not on just the commercialism that all spiritually minded folk try to do without during this holy season.  But on some perfectly acceptable joy.
I’ve been blessed back in the stone age of my single life to spend parts of this season in convents.  And I wanted that quiet reflection, that interior preparation for my family.  Finally realized this year that that—really--isn’t going to happen that way.  I can’t recreate that blissful bubble of cloister for an active family immersed in today’s society.  My kids have been steeped in pine and cinnamon scents since October, their peers are talking nonstop about the holy day (I mean holiday, which means holyday… jokes on you, PC society J)… Unless you go underground, red and green and Santa are inescapable here.  

So we won’t go from barren purple décor to sumptuous Christmas regalia overnight on the eve of the 24th, much as I wish that was the case in my desire for symbolism and living the liturgical life.  But, in the midst of doing acts of charity to prepare for baby Jesus, I’m coming to the realization that my kids and I can also be singing the songs of Christmas.  Okay maybe I’m a little slow, but this was a big realization for me.  Even though the world around us may not fully “get” it, with the huge inflatable snowmen and light up candy canes--they do know there is something to celebrate here.  Something way beyond ordinary, though the ordinary birth of an ordinary baby is wondrous enough.  But now there are whispers of the miraculous birth of a Savior, slipping into a stable, a quiet, steady Light in a dark world.  And while society may try to cover it with décor, and wrap it in Santa movies, and insist on calling it a holiday with holiday trees (again, lol), they are—however blindly and unconsciously—reaching out for the Divine.  Our Lord is there in the center of it all.  So we'll join in the celebration that surrounds us, because God is at its center, however swaddled the culture tries to have Him be. 

This year, I am surrendering to the joy that surrounds us.  Yes I will pray and reflect, but without insisting on perfection.  Christmas music is on my radio, and when it happens to actually be Christocentric, I blast the stuff.  We have the Advent wreath, and light a candle every week.  But we’ll get the tree a little earlier... like as soon as possible.  I want my babies to see the lights, and will talk to them of the Light.  And I’m hoping to continue a family tradition of mine this year: celebrating the feast of St. Nicholas.  Shoes out, fire in the hearth, cocoa and singing all the Christmas carols we know.  Okay, shoot that would be… tonight, so I’d better try to get ready.  I'm currently thinking dollar bills might be unimaginative, but for a distracted and forgetful mom, that's good in a pinch.  Happy Feast of St. Nick, the “real Santa,” to you all!  - TLC

"And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." John 1:5


  1. I had the same thought this year. As I was driving through my neighborhood "disapproving" of my neighbors who had decorated thier houses just after Thanksgiving, it occurred to me: at least they're still celebrating Christmas. So, I'm blurring the lines. ;)

  2. That's exactly what I've always thought too!! There is no excuse for anyone to out-joy us . . . we know who is really stringing the lights and hanging the mistletoe, if only we have eyes to see and ears to hear.