Merry Crazy Christmas!

Well, it’s four days past Christmas, and Jesus still hasn’t made an appearance in the Miller household. “How’s that?” you say.

Simply said… we’ve been too busy.

“Too busy for Jesus? On Christmas? Isn’t that a problem?”

I guess you could say the problem is me. This year Christmas was Busy.

Insane.

Insanely Busy.

Honestly, I have no way of conveying how crazy Christmas was this year except to tell you that the thought “I hate Christmas” spontaneously ran through my mind several times during the two weeks leading up to December 25th.

That and the fact that Jesus has yet to make his appearance on our advent calendar. The kids reminded me after lunch that baby Jesus is still trapped behind door #24, to which I said, “Sorry, we don’t have time to get him out and read the last verses of the Christmas story before we run out the door for yet another event. He’ll have to wait until tomorrow.”

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You see, I said “yes” to way too much this Christmas. I meant well. I wanted to spread Christmas joy to others. I wanted to let others know I appreciated and cared about them. I wanted to give until it hurt. (Mission accomplished!)

In late October, I started saying “yes”.

Yes, I’d love to co-ordinate the Christmas staff luncheon at Alice’s school. It’s only for 35+ people? No sweat! I’m used to planning for 80. I’ll do it on one condition—I don’t decorate. Period. I barely decorate my own house, so don’t expect me to transform the uninviting gym lobby into a magical Christmas oasis.

“No problem,” they said. “There are plenty of parents who will signup to decorate.”

And it wasn’t that big of a job. The parents were phenomenal; all the meal items were covered within 72 hours of posting my signupgenius list in early December, EXCEPT for decorating.

No one signed up to decorate…. no.one.nada.zilch.zip.zero.

And so it was left to me to decorate, which was hours upon hours of work for this Christmas-decorationally-challenged woman. Centerpieces, poinsettias, snowmen, battery operated candles… by the time I was done robbing my mom’s house of her Christmas decorations, my entire car was crammed full of Christmas-ness. I felt like I was driving the Christmas Car or Santa’s sleigh… or perhaps heading to Christmas College.

car
Only partially packed… there’s much more going in there. (And a huge shout out to my mom who came and helped me actually set up the decorations! Mom… you’re the best!)

After all the decorations were returned, assembling 12 gingerbread houses for Alice’s class (and of course one for Ian) came next… because I’m the room mom, which also meant email after email of party logistics amidst having two kids with strep throat.

The eve before the strep diagnosis we canceled plans with friends, and the next two days, Daniel and I went solo to our respective family get-togethers while the other parent stayed home with recovering kiddos. How utterly sad that I found immense relief in those unexpected hours at home when I should have been enjoying the company of friends and family. Instead I was comforted knowing I was slightly ahead of schedule which might leave extra time to wrap a gift or two before Christmas Eve.

gingerbread houses

Ian's gingerbread house

There were various church obligations as well: a special service I was invited to write for and read at, Sunday school to teach, a seasonal choir I was asked to sing with, and a community Christmas project to cook and bake for. (I know I’ve got some serious grammatical issues happening here… sorry, don’t care right now.) I said “yes” to all of it. My heart was in the right place; my head was out to lunch. (Or as Daniel commented when reading this, “Ok Dufus, here’s your sign.”)

And since that wasn’t enough to put me over the Christmas edge, my man decided it was time to redo our dining room floor during his Christmas vacation. I’ve been waiting for about five years for this project to commence, so believe me, I wasn’t about to say “Hold the icing on the sugar cookies, Santa. I’ve got way too much going on right now to add obstructing the major traffic corridor in our house and cluttering the living room to the Christmas Craziness.” But seriously, it was ironically amazing how incredibly awful the timing of this project was.

floor

more floor

I crammed it all in. I crammed and crammed and crammed some more until I was so crammed with Christmas crap that I couldn’t think straight. I was not only losing my mind, but absolutely losing my patience… yelling at my kids, snapping at Daniel and flinging daggers with my rapidly blinking eyelids at the grocery store cashier who had the guts to tell me about all the Christmas gifts she had gotten for her dog.

By the time Christmas Eve rolled around I was so exhausted, I couldn’t wait to get through the next six days of Christmas celebrations just so life could resume its slower pace.

Look at everything I’ve done in the name of Christmas, in the name of helping others. I’ve given and given and given so much, there’s no room left for anyone… not enough time to enjoy the tradition of making cut out cookies with my kids. (I halved the dough this year so that project didn’t take as long.) I barely got to watch the kids decorate the tree. (They had 30 minutes to hang ornaments while I was in the kitchen preparing food for an imminent get-together.) Certainly no time to relax by the tree and enjoy its beauty… not even enough time to put Jesus on the advent calendar.

* * *

Today we opened door #24 and read the last verse… “the Word became flesh”. And I thought about Jesus, how his life on earth was unhurried. He spent time with many, not chasing them away or telling them they were consuming precious time in his carefully planned day.

completed

And I know without a doubt that I failed this season of joy and giving. But I also know there is (hopefully) next year… or even next week or tomorrow. While “doing” is important, it is not the most important.

May this be the last Christmas where I am so hurried that I lose sight of simply being, encountering the unexpected, and welcoming others.

single tree

lillies

floating trees
Merry Christmas to me! We renewed our Longwood Gardens membership. This is one place I go to just be. Looking forward to being here again.

 

 

 

 

The Maiden Voyage

Catching up on my November writing…. because let’s face it, life happens. And it snowed again, which reminded me of a post I forgot to write.

*     *     *

I admit it; I didn’t want to go. The whole week had been very busy, and it was one of those days where everything was planned, right down to the minute. I hate living life like that, but every now and then, it happens. Life happens. Thanksgiving side dishes for 18 people needed to happen along with the rough draft of a writing assignment for church… all in less than 36 hours.

But first, let’s back up a few months. During the warmth of late summer, we stumbled upon an old runner sled at an antique shop. Daniel lit up like a Christmas tree; he was thrilled. I could tell he had a pretty heavy case of nostalgia going on when he saw that sled. Me? I was cool with his find, but my best sledding memories include a toboggan and a huge hill at my Grandpa’s (presently my brother-in-law and sister’s) farm where you had to perfectly time the bail-out or you would end up head-first in the creek.

But now it was November, and we were enjoying the first snow of the season. With a small amount of excitement in his voice, Daniel yelled up from the basement, “Do you want to walk down to the church to take the kids sledding?”….so I can try out the runner sled were the unspoken words hanging in the air.

I paused. When I was a kid, playing in the snow really didn’t thrill me like it does most kids. And the older I get, the combination of cold and wet and frozen fingers and toes appeals to me even less. (I like cold, just not wet and cold.) Earlier that morning, I had given Daniel my snow gloves because he didn’t have any gloves (other than leather work gloves) which left me with a pair of flimsy yarn gloves, the worst for snow play.

And besides, I didn’t understand why he wanted to walk to the church to sled when our own yard is a pretty decent sledding hill to begin with. I imagined dealing with two cold, whiny, tired kids on the quarter mile walk home… oh. so. fun.

I wanted to say “No thanks, I spent enough time with the kids this week. But if you take them sledding, I will thoroughly appreciate the peace and quiet while I compose that piece for church… or peel five pounds of potatoes.” But I acquiesced, put on my cold-yarn mittens, and mentally scoured my to-do list for an item I was going to “Let (It) Go” in order to go sledding instead.

As we trudged to the church, the cold and wind were worse than I had thought they would be; my face and ears quickly began to ache even though I used a saucer to shield my upper body from the wind. I was less than excited about this adventure. Maybe I should have stayed home instead of raining on this parade.

Once we arrived at the field by the church, Daniel tried to forge a path across the gently sloping terrain using the runner sled. It didn’t work very well. We tried another spot, where the sled ran a little better, but we both agreed… our yard was more fun than said field.

In light of Daniel’s excitement, I hated to admit it, but the trip was pretty much a bust. The kids hadn’t even put their sleds in the snow. (Be still, be still my lips and tongue, be still!… Is there a way to jokingly say “I told you so”? I didn’t think so.)

The kids were underwhelmed and getting cold when I finally snapped myself out of my own way. There had to be a decent hill somewhere on this property. I scanned the area, and there it was.

A short, steep run that ended in the… already snow-melted parking lot. This hill was shorter than our own hill at home.

But you only live once, right?

ready, set goWe had fun.

downhill

Ian solo

We laughed

D makes a trail

upside down

…and made some memories.

Alice &D runner

Ian & D runner

And we know that next time, we’ll probably stick to our own backyard… or I’ll convince Daniel to drive to the farm that holds my best sledding memories where we’ll put that runner sled through its paces.

But truly the trip was all worth it. Later that day Alice came to me and said, “Thanks for taking us somewhere different to sled. It was fun.”

I thought so too, Alice. I had fun.