May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
On Monday, I will be a speaker for the Women’s Advent by Candlelight service at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church. My topic: hope. And I have been thinking and begging and praying that something stunning and eloquent and moving will come to me. So far, nada. But I am hopeful!
The service is supposed to help center women for the season of Christmas. But as many of you know, this is the time of year that I usually just kind of lose my ever-lovin’ mind. I always get sick and something expensive to fix always breaks and I always always always run out of energy about halfway through the month. And then Christmas becomes an uphill climb on black ice wearing heels and Spanx. Hard and uncomfortable. Treacherous, even.
Uncomfortable because, well, I do it to myself. Hard, because I have to admit that I do it to myself. And treacherous because I really lose focus on what this time of year is really about.
All That Glitters
I always want my house to look like Christmas threw up inside. I have decorations for the living, breakfast and dining rooms, the kid’s bathroom, their rooms, kitchen and the porch. I have three trees. Boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff to get down, dust off, put up, take down, repack, then haul back to the attic. Or in the case of last year, haul back to the garage and leave it so I can’t park my car inside.
I want all my packages to be wrapped beautifully. Pre-kids, I would handmake gift tags with bits of ribbon or coins and whatnot. After a couple years of that nonsense, I discovered wired ribbon. After I had little son and was not feeling my best, I discovered gift bags! Holy cow, what a revelation! I had an entirely bagged Christmas. That was also the year my girlfriends had to come put my tree up for me and my mom came four months later to take it down, but that’s another story.
And I want great gifts! I shop all year long, taking notes on things that would make great gifts, hiding things away from myself, tracking things on my cell phone with a gift app. But somehow I never buy enough! I always need more, more, more! The kids always need just one more thing, or the Hub’s stocking lacks a certain intangible something, the dogs need more treats, and wouldn’t my dad just loooove that book? It is a compulsion that I can’t seem to curb. Because somehow I have fallen into the trap of more stuff means more happiness. And it’s no wonder that I suffer a pretty big sense of letdownism once all the packages have been unwrapped and the trash has been collected. After weeks of adrenaline-fueled consumerism-cum-happiness, I will crash and then jones for my next fix.
Gifts of the Magi
But you know what I have decided this year? To give myself the real gifts of Christmas. Time instead of stuff. Love instead of anxiety. Renewal instead of exhaustion.
I refuse. I refuse darnit! I am not buying my kids $1,000 worth of junk that I will just come unglued about over the course of the next year. They will leave out those precious toys and magnets and colors and doo-dahs that I thought they just had to have. I will step on it or trip on it or vacuum it. I will start by asking them to pick it up. They will ignore me. By the third ask I will fly off the handle and get a trash bag and start stuffing the offending toys into the bag whilst they cry and beg me to stop. Then, in a huff, I will take it to the garage where I will let it sit until I bring it back inside or eventually throw it away.
So, here’s what I will commit to. I will spend time instead of money. The kids and I will finally make that gingerbread house I have been holding onto for two years. We will cook together. We will decorate their rooms and the living room tree and listen to Christmas music. We will drink cocoa and watch old Christmas movies and cuddle. I may add vodka to my cocoa after putting up three trees with a 2-year-old, but still… . We will see our families and play with our cousins. I will check my spending impulses and I will embrace this season of wonder instead. My children are already so excited! Little Son is plotting against Bunny because he is afraid that wascilly wabbit will sneak out of their room to eat all the reindeer food he is going to make. And I am so gonna make that happen!
I will participate more fully in my church life. I always get SO wrapped up in work this time of year, letting my anxiety about deadlines and perfection get in the way of really seeing the mystery unfold. Reverend Kathryn will spend the season spreading a message of redemption and love, and decorator Beverly Armstrong and her merry elves will transform our space into a glittering wonderland of magi and angels and lights. The impact is wonderful, transcendent if you will allow it. I get to be a part of that, a witness to that beauty. I intend to soak in more of it this year. I want my children to get more from this season than just a Barbie Dreamhouse and a remote control plane. I want to get more from this season.
I will make time for myself this season and not feel guilty for it. The easiest way for me to hold stress at bay is to rest. I will take time off, I will sleep in when the hubs is home, I will read brain candy, I will allow myself to say no, I will not do everything I tell myself I “have to” do to make it a perfect Christmas, and I will be happy in that. I will enjoy my friends and my kids and my life and not worry about my carpet or my wrapping or spots on my glasses.
You know, this season can magnify our joys, as well as our hurts and fears. My real hope for each of us is that we will embrace this time as a season of rebirth and renewal, for rest and for making connections with those we love. Forgive ourselves, forgive others, and let our hearts be filled with joy and peace.