Monday, December 29, 2014

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.