As I lay in bed this morning, feeling overwhelmed by the thought of getting up and facing the day, I tried to unravel why I am struggling so hard to find the Christmas spirit in my heart and hands, and to provide it in my home. When Ryan asked me last night what I was thinking, all I could say was, "I am the Grinch." Conversation over, I killed it.
Earlier this morning, Jake came in and snuggled close for a minute, all smiles seeing me here. Morgan bounded in here after a bath, waving and smiling joyfully! McKay came into to announce he can't believe how fast the days are going by toward Christmas Eve and to tell me what happens in "Czech Land" to those who are naughty. They get a tomato in their shoe on Christmas morning and then the devil comes with three angels to sing to them. If they're still bad the devil will spank them! Easton sat on the bed next to me to just be near and chat.
What will I do when no little faces greet me each morning, telling me I am enough just for being here? All my family wants of me is for me to be present, preferably not as the Grinch. And so often, that is just so hard, especially at Christmas!
Ryan loves everything about the Christmas season – the ambiance of the lit tree, the smells and tastes of favorite foods, the mountain of wrapped gifts, music wafting through our apartment, the heart swells to watching favorite movies, the outings to Christmas markets. The children have been eagerly counting down the days until they can tear open presents and treats. Every year I feel like I am riding their coat tails into the season, merely surviving it all.
So when Jake's smile initially began melting my heart this morning, it hit me.
I often allow the Christmas season to tell me I am not enough. I am the opposite of being Pinterest-worthy in the realms of cooking, baking, decorating, gift giving, DIY, crafting, cleaning, organizing, dressing, hair-doing – all the ambiance-creating that my husband, children, and community love so much. If I can’t do something well, I often shrug my shoulders and want to hibernate in the pillowed fetal position with a good book. Or I busy myself with tasks around the house as I did on Saturday, listening to some interesting podcasts. When I don’t feel I am enough, I struggle to be present for my family.
The pace of the season with all the school projects and celebrations, church assignments and celebrations, and community events blew my regular to do list out of the water and sank my ship faster than the Titanic! I feel like I've been sprinting through the year since March. I'm worn out and behind in everything around the house. And yet, I'm wanting to dive into a meaty calling and study some things I am loving. Then Christmas came knocking and I let it tell me I am not enough of what I want to be and what I perceive other people expect me to be. I have become the Grinch at home.
I have been pondering Christ’s words this past month – his invitation to the source of what I see as true happiness and peace in my life. Matthew 22:36-39
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
Check. Got it, I feel secure on this one.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
I love others – my family, my communities. It is often so easy for me to love others. But when it comes to Christmas and all that it asks of me, I am very hard pressed to love myself. (Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy with my life, my family, and our communities here in Stuttgart.)
Last night we were blessed to welcome not one, but two groups of carolers into our home. We welcomed God’s gift of friendship into our home. We welcomed them in our ratty pjs, untidy apartment with remnants of dinner still on the table, kids bouncing off the walls with excitement and totally misbehaving. We enjoyed the gift our carolers gave of themselves, the carols they sang of our Savior’s birth, plates of goodies, and the joyful conversations. Sometimes, it is our turn to be loved in our humbled circumstances. To simply be present and receive like the Shepherds seeing the angel announce the birth of the Savior of the world and the hope his mission provides us.
Our Savior in his earthly ministry went about showing love, extending kindness to all, irrespective of their rank or situation. Just as I was finishing this post, my sweet German neighbor, Karin, rang our bell. She had a beautifully wrapped big gift for me. She told me that she found it at a flea market and just knew it was for me. I began crying. I thanked her for melting my Grinch heart a bit more. I love her, we just get each other - even if our lives rarely intersect. Inside, I gathered the kids around to open it.
And I was crying again. The scripture above the angel says:
"For He will command His Angels concerning you . . . To guard you in all your ways. Psalm 91:11"
God loves me and gives me sisters everywhere I live because He knows I need them. And these sisters are supported by wonderful husbands and children, all making their way together through this mortal journey’s ups and downs. We become each others' Angels which join those unseen Angels working on our behalf too.
As much as I enjoyed these visits last night and this morning, I found myself wishing I/we were the ones out spreading love and Christmas cheer. I wish I’d been organized and present enough to have baked goodies, packaged them beautifully with love, thriftily shopping and gifting. I wish I’d been energized enough to take my family out to spread Christmas spirit to those we love and consider our family here. But instead I felt humbled. My Grinch heart and hands felt humbled.
When I am not accepting myself, it's often easier for me to show love outside my apartment walls than to those that reside within these walls with me. My family's mirrored reflection of me is often not my best side, the light often harsh rather than warm. This year I haven't mustered the energy to do those outward shows/gifts of love to friends and teachers and I've felt guilty. But guiltier still for my Grinch-ness at home.
I love to ponder the Christmas story and think of each person’s circumstances. What did it require of their heart and hands to welcome the Christ-child and the circumstances of his birth? And how is it any different than being present for each of my beautiful children and dear husband? They are some of God's greatest gifts to me.
So today I will join my family and be present. We will work together to bring Christmas into my hands. With God’s love in my heart and hands, I will be enough if I show up. Hopefully, the light I see reflected from them will have come from me and it will be warm and loving.
The tree decorating might get finished, goodies might get baked, presents to ship honestly won't get finished or shipped, cards may be mailed, bathroom/kitchen/random piles might get cleaned, etc. But those sweet faces, at least those sweet faces will be kissed, laughed with, and hugs will happen!
Grinch be gone!