Every year at Christmas, I forget something important - I forget to plan for our children's 'high excitement'! They are definitely in a high state, vacillating between whispered secrets and loud laughter, and it is a little hard to bear, until I recall my own days of 'high excitement' just before Christmas ... happy days of my own childhood.
I was not nearly as loud nor vocal as our boisterous Storyteller, and I was far too shy to be as punch drunk silly as our sweet Dreamer, but I do recall nights when I just could not bring myself to fall asleep as the excitement of what might be thrilled my heart and mind. I dreamed, not so much of special gifts, but of special times of caring and family. Special treats of Christmas cookies, joyous family time and getting together with friends.
Today, our Dreamer was so excited about her Daddy being home with us for two solid days - she jumped for joy and did a little dance. It made my heart do a little happy dance of joy - our little girl is growing up so quickly, but she is still delighted just to spend extra time with her Daddy.
Their questions are non-stop and rapid fire. I think my ears need a vacation!
"Can we go for a Christmas Light Ride?"
"Will we have Swedish Tea Ring for Christmas breakfast?"
"Can we open one little thing on Christmas Eve?"
"Will Daddy squeeze fresh orange juice for you Mommy?"
"Are you and Daddy going to hug-dance in the kitchen?"
"Are we going to spread out our gifts and make them last all day?"
"If I wake up at 4 do I still have to wait until 6 to open my stocking?"
As much as possible, my answer is 'YES!' I know that in these uncertain times, our simple family traditions are a comfort for our children. They help them to feel like things are normal and that all is well, at least with Christmas. They know we have scaled back the gifts drastically, simply because they have so few needs, and there are so many others who need so much. They are o.k. with 'just' their stocking, and three gifts ( book, toy, clothes), and they know I have not had the energy to do as much as I would normally in the area of homemade surprises. They also know that we are not having a lot of company. We didn't last year either - too much stress for my liver. Thankfully, we enjoy each other's company and get along well. Hopefully we'll have some friends over for a play date or an evening of finger foods and games - we'll see.
One of the hard things about liver disease is having to say 'no' and 'I'm sorry, but Mama's just not up to it' so often. I feel keenly aware that our children are learning to live with disappointment very early in life, but at the same time I am praying that this will teach us all the blessing of being flexible in this ever changing world. We make plans, but they are always subject to change.
Thankfully, the children remain eager and hopeful. In prayer times, they are often anticipating God's touch of healing for me, and it is precious. Yesterday as we made plans for today, our Storyteller eagerly shared those plans with Daddy, beginning with 'Lord willing and if Mama's feeling good we are hoping to ....'. As it turned out, our plans had to change to accommodate a visit to the orthodontist with a broken Herbst device and a young boy with a 'bouncy' tummy who wasn't too keen on anyplace but his own cozy bed.
I read recently some old wisdom, recycled again for those of us with short memories. These special holiday times are like a magnifying glass, making everything appear larger than life. What is bad seems so much worse and conversely, what is good looks so much better when mixed with the special mystery of the holiday season.
As we ran our few errands today before the ice storm hit, I saw so many serious faces - the grim expressions of those who are scurrying about, striving for a 'perfect' holiday. Rushed and harried, they had no time to smile or stop and chat. The clerks were haggard and cheerless. I wanted to flee - but we needed cat food! The pressure was almost palatable. I lost track of counting how many people asked me if we were 'ready for Christmas?' nor how often I smiled and replied - 'We try to keep things simple so that we can focus on the true meaning of Christmas.'
As I began to feel the pressure of those unreasonably high expectations, I felt glad for the limitations of liver disease and the joy of keep things simple. Making happy memories with our children does not require the perfect gift, the cleanest house, the best meal or the latest decorations.It's a good thing!
I guess I just want to encourage you to enjoy Christmas Eve day and simplify your expectations a bit. If you haven't got it all done, don't pressure yourself to do it now. Adjust. Rest. Enjoy.
Christmas isn't just one day, it's a season of joy and a state of heartfelt celebration of Emmanuel, God with us.