The thing about Christmas as an adult is that it is 97.5% better watching kids squeal and rip through boxes than your best memories from childhood, and yet 2.5% of you wishes you were still a kid and Christmas felt the way it did when everything was a surprise and you thought you lived in a bubble of perfection. Maybe that will change as I get older. I wouldn’t be surprised if the 2.5% fades a bit with time, but I doubt it dissolves altogether. I’m guessing we always long for those days when we hadn’t seen just how dark it could be, and we knew, with complete assurance, that life simply worked out the way it was supposed to.
This week has been about surviving Christmas.
It started well.
I understood the schedule would be exhausting while BJ worked extra hours in preparation for eight Christmas Eve services, but that’s our life in December. It’s always like that. With clear expectations and a little planning, we can deal with elevated chaos for a few days. I had been telling people that it couldn’t be harder than last year, because last year we were also moving. This had to be easier than that (no one let me make this claim next December).
In the five days leading up to Christmas, BJ was away from home for about 60 hours (read: nearly all the waking hours). But again, we know what this week looks like and we make it work. We plan as well as we can.
What we didn’t plan on was Ian spiking a fever for three days and throwing up in our bedroom while we slept.
We rallied and moved on.
Flash forward to 2:30AM on Wednesday. Jack falls and hits his mouth on the side of his crib. As parents everywhere know, the blood just won’t quit with those ones. 4AM, everything seems under control, so I put him back to bed. Two hours later, I check on him and find him sleeping in the middle of a large circle of blood soaked into the sheet.
Cue the family trip to the hospital where, of course, the bleeding slows AT THE SIGHT OF THE DOCTOR. They gave him a popsicle (insert me rolling my eyes) and we ran home to shower and head to my grandparents’ house for a portrait with my family. BJ went back to work around lunch.
We rallied and moved on.
10:00PM Wednesday found us wiped out from no sleep the night before and the energy blackhole that is the emergency room. There were no groceries or gifts for extended family, but the boys were asleep.
Enter flooded basement.
We stood in the water and determined there was no mental margin for handling this. We watched Friends and went to bed.
The next morning saw a handful of sacrificial friends standing in the rain, trying to divert running water away from our house. Over 180 gallons was being pumped out per hour. Even more was coming back in. Five hours later we walked away and prayed the rain would stop.
We rallied and moved on....but then, after I willingly walked through the nightmare of buying groceries on Christmas Eve, the big kid ran away in a parking lot. The sound of my voice yelling only motivated him towards an even faster sprint. Few things feel as insulting as your child deliberately running off. Mix that with the overwhelming fear I had that he was just steps away from being hit by a car and it put me over the top.
I wasn’t rallying this time.
I lost my keys. For an entire hour, I sobbed and searched my parents house looking for my freaking keys (that’s not the word I used to describe them last night). Somewhere in the middle of that time, BJ made the difficult call to tell me that he needed to stay a little later and he was going to miss Christmas dinner with my family. He was going to miss the gifts and the meal…and this time, there was no more rallying. All the pressure, the tension, the lack of sleep, all of it exploded in a sobbing, blubbering, hot angry mess.
We came home late and slipped the boys into bed. A morning consumed by rushing water left us with dirty floors covered in wet leaves, clothes scattered on tables, under sofas and across the piano. Dishes needed to be washed, toys were waiting to be assembled. To add insult to injury, the AC was cranked because HOLY HUMIDITY, VIRGINIA?! All we wanted to do was go to bed and try again next year.
But somewhere in the vacuuming and washing and pushing to make the house feel like “magic” for the morning, something lifted and truth peaked through.
I wonder if we fight for that “perfect” feeling because our souls know we were made for a wholeness we won’t find on this side of death.
I wonder if our efforts to pull it all together, to create a bubble where only the good stuff resides, I wonder if that’s our souls’ search for Eden.
On the surface, I wouldn’t describe myself as a perfectionist. I’m not particularly meticulous, my clean laundry lives in a pile on the couch and my children will never have matching socks.
But for the love, am I ever an idealist. I can’t help but see a more ideal reality and that vision drives me. It keeps me moving and dreaming and aiming high. When faced with the brevity and unpredictability of life, my zeal to live it fully only grows. I want my days to be soaked with love and service and experiences over things.
I’m proud of this part of my DNA; but sometimes, my idealism refuses to make room for the pieces of reality that aren’t going to get better here - the dynamics that won’t change much, the illnesses that won’t heal, the mess that never goes away.
I’ve been learning about making decisions in that space that exists between the ideal reality and the current one.
Last night, somewhere in the post midnight hours of cleaning and prepping and trying to redeem what was turning out to be a miserable Christmas week, I heard a whisper from my Father, inviting my heart to rest.
Because no matter how hard I work to redeem my own life and to create a taste of Eden in the form of family memories, best case scenarios or Christmas magic, the holiness and the wholeness of Heaven isn’t going to be found on this side of the grave, and redemption has never been mine to distribute.
It’s one of the great tensions we face in this life - “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” On earth as it is in heaven. We long for that. Our souls know we were made for that, but seriously??? On earth as it is in Heaven???
Reckoning redemption and Heaven on earth, while still living in the middle of the shredded pieces ripped apart by sickness and pain and the menial everyday junk, how do we do that?
Maybe it starts with acknowledgement. For those that are looking, this life is full of glimpses of eternity, brimming with hope and goodness, justice and love; and yet it still isn't Eden. Not even close. Maybe if I acknowledge that a bit more, I’d stop thinking that I can work towards a point where Eden is fully here and that from that place I’ll coast forward. Maybe I’d enjoy the present more deeply if I willingly accepted its limitations along with its joys, leaning into Jesus instead of myself.
Maybe that would make for a different kind of year in 2016.
"The difference is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances."
Merry Christmas friends. I hope this weekend is full of rest and fun and awkward family moments and all the things that make the holidays rich.