Monday, December 17, 2007

The Bird of Peace is Circling and She's Coming in for a Landing

It has happened again. Despite holding onto my Christmas spirit, teeth clenched; despite my lists and budgeting of time; despite the sickeningly sweet glaze of holiday music I smeared on all of my mundane tasks; despite my best laid plans, I have become exhausted and overwhelmed.

My frustration sits just below my skin with a heat and itch that boil with the mounting tension and thinning of time. There have been moments when I've contemplated packing away the decorations, giving everything a good dusting, and calling the whole thing off. Christmas has been canceled!

My kids wanted cell phones and i pods and nine hundred dollar sweat shirts from Aber.crombie and (as recently as yesterday) a pink Vespa. Are you freaking kidding me?

We've lost it.

Whatever earnest but pale Meaning of Christmas was holding on for dear life in this house has all but evaporated. My children know the story of Jesus: born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes, three men visiting beneath a brilliant star, Heavenly Hosts Heralding His arrival. We know the story, but have completely missed the application.

The gift of a Father...heart breaking, knowing it's the right thing.

The desparation of a mother, thankful to have lived through the night, bleeding, exhausted, having given birth in a barn in the dirt. Her baby wrapped in the cloth used to clean the animals. Terrified to consider the future.

Joseph, likely wondering, Where do I fit in this story?

And a baby...the fate of humanity resting on the fragile shoulders of a carpenter's son.

The feeling and beauty of Christmas is circling the drain in my neck of the woods, and I am considering donating a couple dozen beautifully wrapped Christmas gifts, so that we wake to the glorious gift of family and love on Christmas morning. We won't be distracted with all of the shiny plastic and blinking lights and mountains of crumpled gift wrap. There would be no arguments over whether or not one's sister will EVER be allowed to lay a finger on one's new sweater. There would be no scrounging for receipts needed to return pants that are 2 sizes too small or woefully out of fashion. There would be only five souls gathered in a room over hot cocoa and sticky buns, reading stories of selflessness and generosity and love that bridges the deepest chasms of time and hurt.

My grapevine reindeer have stood ankle deep in the snow for two weeks, now. Stalwart. Elegant. Graceful. And in their element. I will take a page from their book. And I will let peace blanket this house when it comes, like today, as I am writing this post, and pray for our own host of angels to serenade...


Lori said...

I can sympathize with these feelings. My boys also know the story of Christmas, but what they "get" is the fun of opening presents. It's hard to find the balance between the two.

But what I wonder is this... is it really possible to have a balance? I mean, even if you took the presents out of Christmas, would that mean they would grasp the significance of it any better? Maybe there are parents who have done a better job than I have of communicating their faith, but is it realistic to think of young kids being moved by such spiritual, abstract notions like salvation, redemption, and eternity? Sometimes I wonder if kids just grab onto the parts of the story they can understand. Giving and receiving gifts, they get that. The rest of it is pretty out there.

I did have to laugh though imagining your suggested scenario in the last paragraph. I'm not sure there would be a lot of glorious family love going on in my house if my boys woke up Christmas morning and there were no presents. Yeah. I'm thinking no love at all in fact. :)

Julie Pippert said...

A VESPA?!?! A $900 sweatshirt?!?! I didn't even know that was an option!

This is brilliant, "My frustration sits just below my skin with a heat and itch that boil with the mounting tension and thinning of time."

I know oh so well that feeling. Most days I am ready to just jump out of my skin by 5 p.m.

I'm thinking maybe your idea of a kind of reality check for the kids is a good idea. I do think kids can get it; I know my six year old can grasp the salient, concrete parts. I'm not sure donating the presents is the answer...but make those valuable somehow rather than expected.

Good luck and hang in there. This is the home stretch. The transition of school finishing up and holiday vacation starting is almost finished. Once that frenzy settles I think it will be easier.

Using My Words

Lori said...

I thought more about this, and my comment, and wanted to clarify. I do think kids can understand the story, and certainly children can be incredibly spiritual in their own, beautiful way. My point was more that as they get older and they reach ages where their whole existence is wrapped up in social confusion, competition, emotional angst etc... I think it is hard for them to grasp the relevance of the mystery of the Incarnation to their lives today, in this moment. The relevance of an ipod or cell phone to their lives feels far more tangible and immediate for them. And yes, it is very, very hard as their parents to try and convince them that there are things not of this world that are of far greater value.

I am praying for that host of angels to bring you and yours peace as well. And then after they are done with your family, send them my way...

Emily said...

Lori-you are right of course about the Christmas morning with no presents. There would be no love. That scenario exists only in my mind. And anything of importance outside of labels and small electronics is hard for my 10 y.o. to conceptualize. I'm trying not to take her shallow approach to Christmas to heart, but to allow her to be a 10 year old, after all. And bring on The Multitude!

Julie-You've hit the nail on the head! transitioning into winter break has been difficult. The girls have a HOLY HOST of projects and reports and tests and loose ends to gather at school (Which inevitably means more work for me at home.) I think once we're out from underneath scholastic obligations, the load will lighten significantly.

Tomorrow, we go to the store where the girls will use their own $ to buy toys for Toys for Tots. I think it will do my kids good.

painted maypole said...

i hope that peace is settling over you like a heavy blanket of snow.

i love your reflections on that first Christmas...

Anonymous said...

Reading posts like this makes me very grateful that we are exempt from the madness. I think you are right to try to reclaim your family's peace, however you can.

Emily R

slouching mom said...

lovely post, lovely sentiments.