Love, Work, and Christmas

Work is love made visible.
Kahlil Gibran
I am tired.

I imagine there isn't a mother right now, on the 29th of December, who isn't.  Especially mothers of many children, especially mothers of little ones, and especially mothers of teenagers who stay up late.

This is the 21rst Christmas Jeff and I have celebrated together, and as we've added more and more children, I have gotten the hang of the season-I know what I will commit to and what I will say "no thank you" to. I have a system of keeping track of gifts, I can rival Mr. Claus (I should I say Mrs. Claus, we all know a woman is behind that well-oiled machine!) with my list twice-checked. I have whittled our traditions to the most beloved and satisfying.  I know what Mass time is the best fit for us, and I have my go-to teacher's gifts.  I love our messy tree, I remember the year long ago when I shed the yoke of magazine perfection, and realized, with relief, that in the end, the gift of many little hands helping, produced a 'rare and beautiful treasure' that makes that magazine perfection look cold and shallow.

So what was it with this Christmas I ask myself?  Why did I feel so behind this December, and so tired and so overwhelmed, doubtful of our traditions, a little resentful that most of the work falls to me, and well, honestly, a little crabby?  Was it wrong to give children who have so much, more, especially with all the work involved in doing so?  That guilt was feeding my resentment, confusing the meaning of Christmas in my already tired, and exhausted head. In turn I struggled with guilt for feeling this way-I told myself I have so much, I am so lucky, I will never get this year back, what of the dear family who lost their son in a car accident just weeks ago, who am I to be anything but joyful, all my children are here and alive and good (not perfect, but good!), I have a hard-working husband who will do anything for us, and SNAP OUT OF IT for God's sake alive, what is wrong with you?  But still...why must the baby (not a baby, she is two) decide to not take naps now?  Why must everyone takes turns getting sick this month?  Why must my husband's work be more time consuming at the end of the year right when I need help more than ever?   Around and around my thoughts churned and my mood reflected those thoughts.

And then, a few days before the big day, I felt my heart changing. It was something I heard-I can't even remember where-maybe it was the Catholic radio station I listen to during my quick errands, or the homily at one of the Advent masses, or maybe it was something I read.  It was a message of the greatest gift given ever- freely, with no heavy sighing, with no resentment or doubting, with no tallying, with no questions asked, with nothing, nothing, in return.

Here is my Son.  For you.

It was my job to buy and wrap some presents, put together some celebratory dinners and bake cookies, decorate a tree, hang some lights, and set up a nativity scene in celebration of that greatest gift.  It was minuscule in comparison, the work I was doing, to celebrate a gift I could never ever imagine giving.  At home here, I was reminded that as mother I have the awesome opportunity to imitate the gift at Christmas for my family-to give as selflessly, joyfully, peacefully, tirelessly, completely as I can.      

It wasn't any new information, and I imagine when I am in the thick of December I will need the reminder every year for the rest of my life.

I am doing God's work, and it's big.

When I take that into account I am gentler with my expectations of myself and I know that come December, tired is good.

Work is love made visible.

Christmas is work for us mothers, some years more than other but in working we experience the authenticity of the meaning of love.


Contemplation and Books

I received a couple dozen really sweet notes this last week in my email inbox asking after our family and wondering where I disappeared to and if we were ok.  

We are alive and well! 

There is no extraordinary reason why I've not blogged but I did want to back away for a little and take some time for quiet contemplation.

That sounds dramatic, I don't intend it to be, I promise!

While our addition was being completed I stepped away from blogging except sporadically because I had to with all that was going on here.  (I didn't think it was going to be fun, but heck, I will honestly tell you that if I could foresee the stress involved (mostly because of bad contractors) I'd have never done it.  That's not to say I don't love it and the space isn't beautifully useful for our family, just to say...it was maddening.  I'm going to stop myself there, because I've come to peace with it all, and don't want to dredge up my anger again.

After it was all said and done, I needed to regain my equilibrium, and center my mind, and FOCUS on my family.  I felt like I had lost months with my children, a beautiful summer, because of this project and the energy it required of me.  I wrote this a few years ago-it was time for a major "regroup" here-we were all craving it, me especially.

But during that stepping-away time, I also began to really have some strong feelings about blogging our family journal-I have written about this before so I won't bore, but as my children have grown, as I've seen the effects of social media, as the internet has changed (and maybe it hasn't but it seems so to me from when I first began) I wanted to listen to these unsettling feelings I kept pushing away over the last year or so.  Since I am an overthinker by nature, I had a high time of overthinking-going back and forth, waiting for a sign or a new direction.

In the end I decided to take it slow and play it safe.  I tried a few different things (concerning ads and comments, wondering if that would suffice) but I still had those nagging feelings.  I decided, in the end, it is best for me to make our family journal a private keepsake for Jeff and I and my children, and I transferred those personal posts to a private blog.  It feels really right to me.

But I also love THIS place, whatever it might become, if it becomes anything at all other than what it is.  I love writing, when I can find the time-without pressure.  I love putting my thoughts down on "paper" -somehow that is all the reminder I need of the way I desire to parent in a culture that is constantly telling me I must do, be, want more.  I've heard from so many lovely readers who have felt the same as me-sometimes it's nice to hear we have companionship when we feel like we are swimming against the grain.  

But...Do I have the mental energy and the time for it now?  I don't know.  Can I write and maintain that balance of authenticity and privacy?  I don't know.  Have I said everything I want to say and will just constantly repeat myself?  I don't know.  I can get really self-conscious about it if I let myself.  I don't have all the answers, really in the grand scheme, even with 20 years under my belt-I'm a "new parent"-what do I know? And writing is also a habit for me-once I get out of the habit, it's difficult for me to step back in.  

So that is where I am at...just thinking on things when I have the time, and trying hard to be present in real life because that is always my priority, especially at this time of year that requires more of us moms.


...I've also been reading...like a fiend during nap time, when I used to blog, and it puts me to sleep at night.  I have so many books to share, but I am over the moon in love with Jane Kirkpatrick's writing and I can't get enough.

For the past years I've been "ordering" books through the library, but it was never really working for me-they'd all come in at once, or I'd forget to pick them up and they'd be sent back.  I decided I was going to spend the $4 most of the books I want cost when ordered used, and I now have a shelf of excellence waiting for me-no pressure, deadlines, disappointment.

Have you ever read Jane Kirkpatrick?  The most lovely well written historical fiction, all pioneer times, all about strong, strong women.  Some of the books are part of a series-this one above is three books in one, which accounts for its hefty nature, and my sore, but muscular wrists. :)  I am trying to pace myself, because I know once I'm finished with my Jane Kirkpatrick binge, it's going to feel like I am saying goodbye to a dear treasured friend.  She, alas, can't write faster than I'm soaking up her gift of storytelling.