It’s a beautiful sun-shiney day in the south. Warm and balmy. Perfect for a walk or a run. At least it appears that way. So far my motivation has stayed indoors today. :)
Well, it’s been an eventful past week and a half. When I last posted, saying it was a “relaxing and quiet week” I had no idea what lay before me!
Christmas is my VERY favorite season of the entire year. I say “season” because the entire month of December is included in that. It’s a feeling the whole month long. The Christmas music [my new favorite this year was Bing Crosby. :) Something about that old crooning made me smile every time!]. The “Merry Christmas!” wishes everywhere we go. The festive decorations. The remembering the miracle of the Incarnation.
[Olivia being caught after sneaking off with the gingerbread house.]
We watched The Nativity as a little family, thankfully being warned beforehand that there are a few scenes which are best to be fast-forwarded for a very young and innocent audience. Those scenes would include the soldiers taking the babies [mildly put] and the birth scenes of Baby John (the Baptist) and Baby Moses [almost mildly put].
Zoe was absolutely enamored. She was absolutely spellbound, soaking it all in. It was so precious. She could not stop talking about it! Taking too much in, really, because afterward she asked, “Why wasth Mary thcreamin’ when Jostheph wath pullin’ the baby out?” My answer, “Well, uuuuuuuuuuhhh, because it hurts to have a baby, honey child!!” [was that answer enough?!]
When I went into the girls’ bedroom later that night to say goodnight, Zoe’ said, “I want to be Mary.” And when asked why, she said, “Becausth I want a little baby.” “When you get bigger and are married, then maybe God will give you a baby,” I replied.
“And then daddy [her assumed husband of the future is always Ben] can hold the sthringsth on the donkey, and I can thit on it, and he can take usth to the plathe where the theeps and the cowth and the animalth are. And then our baby will be BORN!! And it will be Baby JETHUTH!!” [the ending said with great excitement].
I couldn’t help but laugh aloud at her, so innocent and sweet and funny. But then after she was asleep I went back in and kissed her cheeks, and looked at her and cried. She is so innocent, so pure.
A role model of Mary. Not Barbie. Not some silly little cartoon character. Just precious…
I was thanking God that night for the privilege of being a parent.
A few days later I was thinking the parenting thing is slightly over-rated, as I sat at home on Christmas Eve, stroking fevered brows, reading stories to two little girls who were down-and-out SICK. It had started Wednesday evening, and I had hoped it would be a 24-hour sickness that runs its course quickly and be done with. Not so.
I will say, I actually rather enjoy taking care of my children when they’re sick. The mercy and servant side of me [which remains dormant most of the time] comes flowing out of my pores in circumstances like these, and I love to do anything I can to help them feel better. I found myself constantly saying, “Oh, I just feel so sorry for them!!”
Perhaps it’s partly my fond childhood memories of being “babied” by my mom when I was sick, even when I wasn’t a baby anymore. There is just something so good about knowing someone feels so sorry for you in times like those!
But when Christmas Eve Day came around and I realized that they were not going to be better by Christmas, I was an emotional wreck. Ben’s family was all in the area for the whole weekend, and I realized sick children meant no getting out and seeing anybody. No dinners, no parties, no extended family, no Christmas??
[anyone else’s kitchen ever look disatrous??]
God and I had a lot of “time-outs” on Friday. I couldn’t believe this was what my Christmas was going to be like, and had a really difficult time accepting the hard reality. Christmas is my favorite time of the year, and it was just going to be… nothing this year?? I thought about calling this post “Tears on Christmas Eve” but thought that’d be too morbid. :) That, however, is an accurate picture.
I finally made it to the shower around 1pm, and just cried. Cried out of disappointment. Cried because of how this Christmas was not what I expected or desired. Cried for strength to be a gentle mother to my children. And cried for strength to be a good wife to Ben despite my many emotions… Praying for it to somehow still be a special Christmas, to still find Jesus in it.
Christmas Eve night Zoe was not only sick, but feeling worse. We were concerned she had strep throat, and were contemplating an emergency room run. Zoe had been a patient little girl until that evening, and despite the sore throat, almost complete voice loss, and fever, had been holding up well. But that night she lay in her bed and just sobbed, or I should say squeaked – as much as a voice-less little girl could squeak out. It was awful.
Up to that point I had been fairly strong outwardly [the shower tears didn’t count!]. A few inward crumbles, but still holding together. But those painful little squeaks just set me over the edge. I just lay there beside her and cried along with her. So much for being a strong, comforting parent. I would have done anything to be sick in her place. There are few things worse than seeing your child in pain and not being able to do anything about it.
We did not take her to the hospital, but instead gave her some painkillers and other CVS remedies that Ben’s sister brought over late at night [BLESS you, Sonya!] to try to ease her misery. We fell into bed exhausted around midnight. The rest of the weekend seems like a blur – a cycle of holding, comforting, caring for, reading to [until I was almost hoarse], sleeping in their room at night with the girls [which meant the worst week of sleep of my entire life].
[we look like a pharmacy around here]
Christmas Day dawned clear and bright. And warm. Almost air-conditioner weather, but we built a fire in the fireplace anyway, just for atmosphere’s sake. :)
We exchanged our gifts as a little family in the morning, which brought smiles from the girls for the first time in over two days. We went very simple with gifts for the girls – gave them both a doll and some little German-made animals, which they absolutely LOVED. You’d have thought we spend our life’s fortune, so happy were they. :) I splurged on Ben completely, and bought him an ipod touch. I had been saving money from My Faire Lady, a few little photo things, and piano money, and he was thrilled to pieces. He’s been wanting one, but ever-frugal husband that he is, didn’t want to spend the money.
[sick children mean extra privileges, i.e. pacifiers even when it’s not bedtime]
Ben spent the afternoon with his family on Christmas Day since all of his family was together, a rare event. I stayed home with the children, and they both took LONG naps which was so refreshing for me. I was able to spend a few hours reading a book of my own calibar, and this quote struck me so powerfully:
“The future greatness of our race depends upon
those noble women who are able to pass on to
their sons and daughters a life which is true,
and brave, and worthy;
a life whose foundation is self-sacrifice,
whose cornerstone is loyalty,
and from whose summit waves the banner
of unsullied love of hearth and home.”
Ben returned home early in the evening and we spent the rest of the evening together – reading more books to Zoe, watching Tom & Jerry on youtube… much to Ben’s delight. :) Hey, on a sick Christmas Day, you’ve got to do something to brighten the moods!! :) Christmas Day was actually a better day for me than the one before – I had enough time to mentally prepare to just be at home that I was okay. Not so many tears that day. :)
My mom is so good for me in times like these. She listens to me over the phone, and I feel her sympathy, yet I always know a particular question is coming, to not let me stay in the dumps: “Well, think of what you DO have – what would be worse than this?” I thought initially that there is not much worse than sick children on Christmas Day [!!], but really, there ARE much worse things.
I could have a child with a chronic illness on that day, I could have a child no longer living that day… Yes, I had sick children that day. But I had children. Children whom I dearly love. Children who ARE going to get well one day. I have full arms. I really am blessed. Even if it was the saddest Christmas I’ve ever had.
Well, it didn’t end there. Ben got sick on Sunday, and spent most of the day in bed. Olivia was feeling much better by that point, so I took care of her while Zoe slept the day away with Ben. By Monday Zoe still wasn’t much better, so Ben took her to the doctor. No strep, like we thought it surely must be, but the doctor thought it was probably mouth sores down her throat, which just need to run their course…
[a bit of the outdoors brought inside]
Later that week the girls were both feeling better, but somehow when kids are getting better, but not all the way better, they get g.r.u.m.p.y. Or maybe it’s just my kids?? As in, ridiculously grumpy, where we had battles over the silliest things. Not carrying Zoe from Point A to Point B, about 15 feet, [she is three and a half years old] resulted in a tantrum. I’ve never known her to throw a tantrum all her three point five years, but she threw one that day. We had a little session in the “woodshed” and she now thinks tantrums are definitely not worth the effort.
[When “the sick” become “the grumpy”, I will admit my mercy and servanthood and all those other warm and kind emotions that flowed out of the pores before suddenly cease. Clogged pores somewhere. Bad attitudes don’t stand well with me. If you’re sick, be sick and I’ll nurse you and care for you and deal tenderly with you. But don’t be sick AND grumpy. All baby treatment ends at that point.]
But one day I called Ben in tears and asked if he could please come home for lunch? I was emotionally and physically exhausted from hardly sleeping at night due to sick girls, and was just wore out. We were still having ridiculous battles, and I felt like I wasn’t able to hold up anymore. He was working locally, something very rare, and I needed him desperately. He was a lifesaver. He stepped through the back door. I tried to be brave for 5 seconds, then fell into his arms, sobbing, “It’s SUCH HARD WORK being a mom!!!!!!”
My whole Christianity seems to be tested these days. How two small children can make me feel and act so selfishly is scary. No, not make. No one can make me act a certain way. Just bring out what is really inside. There is still so much work that Christ needs to do within me. SO much.
I thought of the quote by Amy Carmichael:
“The cup that is brimful of sweetness will not spill a single drop of bitter,
no matter how suddenly jarred.”
How I long to be like that sweet cup. But I know there has been a lot of “bitter water” that has been jarred out of me over the past two weeks.
A week later, the sores are mostly better for Zoe, Ben and Olivia are both recovered from their sickness as well, but all three of them have begun a really bad cough… So we’ve pretty much been cottage-bound for the past 2 weeks, with the exception of two outings over New Years’ weekend, and an amazing delightful gourmet meal prepared by my sweet friend Linda… Olivia has begun to BEG to go “bye-bye”, almost to the point of tears. We are all ready to be done with all sickness… and ready to get out and see people again!
So, Christmas of Twenty-Ten, a Christmas to Remember [and hopefully never to be repeated] is now history. Interesting, though, how I feel as though God prepared me for a different kind of Christmas. Sometime in December the thought came to me that this Christmas is not about me. I don’t think I’ve idolized Christmas before, but it’s always been my favorite time of year. And this year? It just felt different from the start.
“It’s not about me…”
Little did I realize how true that would be. Because this year instead of receiving much of anything, it’s been about pouring myself out of for my little family. Somehow, that is the place God had for me this Christmas – in our little cottage, holding and loving sick children and husband, and reading Bible stories to Zoe for hours upon hours. Truly, she should be literate in the history of the entire Bible because of how much she was read to!
Part of me is sad about “missing” Christmas, because to us it feels like it hasn’t happened yet. And I hear about snow up north, and I would love to be somewhere like that. But perhaps this Christmas was CHRIST lived out in our little family like I’ve never had to do before? Or Christ teaching me that CHRISTmas is about giving to others, even if it’s in ways that I would rather not do?
I had been thinking I would really enjoy having a particular older man over to our house, one that I doubt has 5 people in his life that he could say are his friends. And give him a Christmas. Show him love and friendship. Or have a family over from church that doesn’t have other family in the area. That was my kind of sharing-love-on-Christmas idea.
But God’s idea was different. And I admit, I didn’t like it. I wanted to be the strong, brave mother and wife who beamed all Christmas long despite the change of plans. Instead I felt like the weakest of all women, who desperately needed [and needs] God and my husband, who cried because I needed strength and grace, who sometimes lost patience with the grumpy children, who gets irritated by the constant coughing around here…
Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever learn. Ever learn the lessons God is wanting to teach me. Ever learn to just REST in His Sovereignty, even when His Sovereignty looks so different from what I was expecting.
[a lovely arrangement made by my friend Bethany, given for my birthday]
I might not have passed the Test of Christmas, Twenty-Ten, with flying colors, but I did come through it hanging onto Jesus with everything I am.
I might not pass the Tests of Twenty-Eleven with flying colors either.
But I want to walk through this year holding on to God with everything I am.
Not expecting a lot of grand, huge things.
But wanting GOD.
That’s my heart for this new year…