Consider this my gift to you as we move into this season of many festivities and let it stand as a reminder of what is real. This was my attempt to get that All-Smiling-It’s-A-Wonderful-Life Christmas photo. And this is the card I’ll be sending. Why? Because this is my reality. So as the first step in my guide to maintaining sanity throughout the holidays, I urge you to take a quick glance around the space you are currently in and say to yourself, “This is my life.” No, you are not Martha Stewart preparing for the filming of your T.V. special, Coming Home for the Holidays. You are you and here is a list of things that could very well happen in the reality that is your life.
- Your kid could wake up puking on Christmas morning.
- The center of your pie could completely cave in.
- Your family members could end up in an all-out brawl over turkey and stuffing.
- Your flight could be delayed, delayed again, and cancelled.
- The last-minute gift you ordered from Overstock for that aunt you forgot could end up in Alaska or some place very much not your front door.
I’m not wishing it upon you. I’m just telling you this so you can think about it and practice the way that you will continue to breathe and smile and rejoice in this beautiful, messy, mysteriously good reality that is motherhood, because that’s what Christmas is all about, isn’t it? That beautiful nativity scene that you will soon unwrap and display—the one where everyone is clean and smiling—I would venture to say that it was all a little messier than that. I mean, I’m not a farmer, but do barn animals really lie peacefully by while a woman gives birth in their hay pile? And Mary? I’m guessing that that first Christmas was sooooo not how she planned it in her head. I’m thinking that in the very story of Christmas, the very intentional way that God sent His Son to be Love among us, that He is throwing us moms a bone with a note attached that says, “It’s not all going to look pretty, but it’s going to be really, really good.”
I’m telling you this also because I think our millennial generation suffers from an epidemic I’m calling life-as-a-movie-syndrome. Somewhere deep down we have this idea in our minds that life should look like a movie and if it doesn’t something is wrong. It’s this over-saturation of celebrity and reality television and Hollywood we’ve grown up in all our lives. It’s hard to reconcile what life really is with what you thought it would be when what you thought it would be was based on Full House, Family Matters, and Boy Meets World; every episode tied up nicely in the end with a joke and a family hug. I haven’t been a mom for all that long, but I’ve quickly learned the art of self-talk in which I say, “Hey, self. Let’s think about how we want this to go, but let’s realize too that we don’t really have control over how it all goes, that it’s not a movie, and it will probably look a bit different than the sepia-toned version in your head. Hey, self? That is ok. Let’s just rejoice in what it is.” See what I mean? I’m getting pretty good at this whole accepting reality thing.
And the thirty-minute sitcom plot is just not reality for anyone. We have family problems and marriage problems and money problems and kid problems that won’t be resolved before December 25th. But here is the truth: in the midst of the current situation that is your life, there is a hope in Christ Jesus who came and was born right smack dab into the middle of it all to redeem the lost and forsaken. That is us.
The world is foolish, but the Church is wise. Consumerist culture tries to force us to jump the gun each year, blowing right past this beautiful and incredibly important season of Advent in which we check the way we are waiting. We remind ourselves of the reality that is the Christian life—one so far above Cyber Monday and DIY door hangers. It’s the reality of what we are really always supposed to be doing: waiting for when He comes again. Watching. Ready.
It’s hard in the hustle and bustle of things to keep that eternal perspective in mind. Jesus is coming. He is coming into our hearts and homes this Christmas bringing renewed hope and that silent-night-peace that tells us we are okay, that we have a Savior among us, here to redeem and restore regardless of how messed up we are; here to make all things new. But, also He is coming again and when He does, He won’t be worried about Christmas cards or pies. I’m saying this to myself because I’ve been obsessing for like six weeks about whether my daughter would be happier with a cupcake Play Doh set or My Little Pony.
Truth be told, we could buy a $2 Crazy Eights card game and if we are all sitting on the floor playing it together, they would be over the moon with happiness. And that’s how I want Jesus to find me when He comes—investing in the reality that is my life, committed to this mission that He has set before me—to love my husband, to love our kids, and to be present to this vocation that is mine. Not the Martha Stewart version, but this—kids squirming and bolting through the food court in Christmas outfits because they’ve been dragged around the mall for an hour looking for the photography studio that is now closed (Thanks, Sears.) and all they really want is to ride the merry-go-round.
My last tip for holiday sanity: commit to one form of prayer that you can hold to each day—one scripture that you can memorize and pray on for a few minutes in the morning, one book of the Bible to read through between now and Christmas, one Morning Offering, one rosary—whatever it is, something to remind you that it’s not about the pie. It’s about the Lord Who sees you where you are, loves you and comes to you there, and is coming again in glory. Happy Advent!
Copyright 2015 Kelly Pease
Photos copyright 2015 Kelly Pease. All rights reserved.