My tenacious husband has been so faithful to hang with me, encouraging my heart, while the STRESS of Christmas like we've tried to do less stressfully than the years before (with VERY little success), infected the way that each member of our nuclear family related to one another for 2 full months now. After 20 years of studying these trends and attempting to simplify things a tiny bit more each year, hoping to prevent a little of the previous year's drama the following year, I'm convinced it begins around Thanksgiving, when our children (who live contentedly all of the other months of the year with their thrift/consignment store wardrobes and a non-excessive amount of 'stuff' being brought into our home) are asked by generous, loving extended family members what they 'want' for Christmas.
It's interesting that for years, we've developed a theological vernacular around here about our 'wanters.' Gregg Harris' presentation of the Gospel at the 'Do Hard Things' conference taught us that when we become Christians, we become sheep, following our Great Shepherd. The problem is that we're trapped in what we were before Christ, our wolf nature... until we get to heaven, when the battle between our 'wanter'/flesh/sin nature and our spirit man will finally end. When a small child responds to a simple directive in an integrous, emotionally honest, yet defiant way, by telling us he or she doesn't WANT to eat what we're serving that meal, or that they don't WANT to go to the Y right now, when we're late for Jack's game, we often end up doing the whole schpeel along the lines of 'Your wanter is not in charge of this family, buddy; The Lord is, and He's asked me to be the conductor of our logistical affairs, and you are playing off key right now.'
|Working out helped us decompress in between holiday events.|
How cute is that Baby Love in her Santa jacket on Daddy's lap?
They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. After 20 years of trying to figure out how to NOT get sick and stressed in the aftermath of the contemporary American version of the holidays, we've decided God isn't the author of this mess, and that our fed-up-ness is evidence of a holy dissatisfaction. There's more than enough challenges for us to learn to walk in indomitable joy through, simply attempting to develop a peaceful, less spiritually immature version of a loving routine, for the 11 people that live here (and who are genuinely trying to live out the Biblical 'one another' commands 24/7), but it dawned on me that this trend of home educators bailing on Christmas altogether, may be connected to this same feeling of a holy dissatisfaction we're discovering, with the way we do it in this country.
|Annemarie's yiddle books helped her chill and be less|
fussy when the pace of holiday busy-ness was outside our margins
We're learning, not only from so many years of unpleasant experiences, but from the wise people we're learning to grow up from, as a result of their teaching, that the buck has to stop somewhere. I read a history picture book from the library this year called 'Victorian Christmas,' and it turns out that originally, this gift giving thing was much simpler than it's progressively become. For me, by the time I've sorted our gifts and returned, exchanged, or donated the unreasonable amount of items we unsuccessfully tried to find 'homes' for, in our house, I end up having to spend any Christmas money or gift cards I received on more furniture or creative storage options to house the things we kept in. This involves rearranging furniture and cleaning out closets, 'projects' I told Jack we would be doing less of this year, as the gift he wanted most, since normal living isn't possible when our holiday organizational projects don't typically conclude until March or April .
After weeks of prayer and deliberation, we decided together last night that we will continue to embrace the replenishing, strengthening parts of the holidays, but that we quit all the parts of it that are like trying to cram a square peg into a round hole. Because we've faithfully sought the Lord's wisdom for how to pull off a slightly more scaled back version of an American Christmas each year, and because it's progressively become more and more outside our bandwidth, each year that our family size and logistical equation becomes larger, we look forward to less self-inflicted sorrow and relational drama, and more loud rejoicing, as we courageously apply these convictions, with wise mentors keeping our game plan in check. And to all of you sweet moms in a season of just munchkins, who process your frustrations with me about your extended family members putting pressure on you to engage in holiday traditions that leave you panting, as well, be encouraged that God is a genius who can lead you and your husband to reasonable solutions, too.