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.]

A Christmas to Remember 12

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 Christmas to Remember 9

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??]

A Christmas to Remember 11

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]

A Christmas to Remember 5

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.

A Christmas to Remember 7

A Christmas to Remember 8

[sick children mean extra privileges, i.e. pacifiers even when it’s not bedtime]

A Christmas to Remember 4

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.”
[Florence Barclay]

A Christmas to Remember 2

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]

A Christmas to Remember 6

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 Christmas to Remember 10

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?

A Christmas to Remember 3

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]

A Christmas to Remember 1

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.
Just God.
Not expecting a lot of grand, huge things.

But wanting GOD.

That’s my heart for this new year…

 

-clarita

30 thoughts on “A Christmas to Remember

  1. appalolly

    Oh…I feel so bad for you being home with sick kids on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!

    But I loved your honesty here.  Sometimes I think you and I have a lot in common when it comes to mothering.

    Thanks for sharing your heart and reminding us all that life isn’t really about US and what WE WANT! Or even think we deserve.

  2. FOREVERLANE

    Ooooh, I heard a little whispering of something about you all being ill over Christmas, but didn’t know it was quite this severe or that it lasted so long! You *do* have my sympathies. Especially when a husband joins the sick ranks!

    Just got back from a little shopping outing with our whole group of “littles” and my mom and sister for the first time . . . listened to your message on my voice mail . . . came and read your post . . . must CALL you sometime. The package (or *packages*) you sent by with Jana are just LOVELY!! Am thinking of you every day because of all the beautiful and useful items for baby and me. Oh, and Claudia LOVES the tu-tu. How do little girls know to twirl when they put on something like that? I didn’t tell her anything of the sort, but that’s immediately what she started to do. :) And so sweet that Zoe chose the lion for Dietrich. He was “roaring” around the house and in people’s faces with that thing for at least a day. Thank you so very much. If curiosity wouldn’t get the best of me, I truly would set the WRAPPED gifts around for a while and just look at them ’cause you have such a way with making things look beautiful and too pretty to open!!

    I love your thots on Christmas and the New Year. And many blessings to you in 2011.

  3. ABAHM

    Oh my, I can relate to this post. Brought back the feelings of those years for me. Part of the season of being a mommy…letting go of expectations and being a servant. Isn’t it the best having God holding your hand throughout?! I relate to the idea of the grumpiness or surrender too, as far as God and I. I always found the relationship of my boys and myself would also point out many things about my relationship with God. Also a blessing to have an understanding, servant husband. I too remember looking up in my fatigue when he walked through the door and dissolving into tears!
    Looked like some precious times in there in the midst of sickness. I love seeing little girls and their dolls. I love the Nativity story yoo, the beauty that film shows, though I do warn families about the harsh parts. Such a blessing to hear your daughters reaction to it. Yes, Mary as a role model!
    Did you get snow? Your header looks like it.
    My David got those mouth sores as a small child. Ugh. He still gets attacks of cold sores all over his mouth, just seems more susceptible since then. We have found that if he drinks grapefruit juice almost every day then he avoids the sores. Something he needs is in that. He will also do lysine, but I don’t know when little ones can start. Thought I would pass that along in case she gets more sores.

  4. myall4christ81

    Despite the misery of your Christmas, I know years from now when your little ones are grown you will look back over this past Christmas with warmth in your heart. My baby was sick too over Christmas. Seems like a bunch of us moms had little sickies around the house. There were times at night when my baby girl would cough and then start crying cause it was hurting her. Wish we moms could take our little one’s places when they are ill. It’s heartbreaking.

  5. ma_an_pa

    Oh Clarita, bless your heart. I am so sorry about your Christmas and I hope too its one never to be repeated. It sounds like a very depressing way to spend Christmas, but your attitude and honesty about it all is a huge challenge to me. I’m afraid I would not have handled it so well. Here’s wishing you a HEALTHY and HAPPY 2011!

  6. foreveranoatneygirl_n2Hisown

    so sorry for you missing Christmas this year. i know all about that sort of thing….5 years ago we were ALL sick with the stomach bug at my parents, last year, i spent part of Christmas day at the doctors with a sick child (and the other two followed within days), and this year, my eldest was sick for 6 days while we were away. and, it is just like you said: H.A.R.D.!!!

    and, yet, i always try to tell myself that it could be worse, to be thankful for what we do have….it’s just sometimes what i know to be right and true are so much easier said than done.

    and, then there’s this whole piece of ugliness within my heart that thinks i don’t deserve sick children, and on Christmas day, first and foremost. really? wherever does that idea come from? when i stop and think about it that way, i think of all the things i really, really deserve, and yet, God in His tender mercy withholds those from me…

    and, i am once again aware of what a selfish and undeserving of God’s mercy person i am, and i am Thankful.

    o, i could go on, and on….

    suffice it to say, that my heart goes out to you!

    hugs your way, sweet girl!

    ~r

  7. aretheyallyours

    I just love reading your posts because you are so honest.  It is so very hard to be a mother to young children, especially when there are no older kids to help.  It really is about being a servant.  Sometimes I do well with my servant role and sometimes I fail miserably!

    I’m so sorry that you had such a disappointing Christmas but you certainly seem to have learned what it is all about.  When I get down and have a pity party because I feel like all I do is wait on my children, I remember that I’m not doing it for them, but for Him. 

    God bless you and your sweet family and I pray you will all be strong and healthy again soon. 

  8. fruitloops115

    Aw bless your heart. Sick kids are not easy. It is my least favorite part of being a mom, in that you feel so helpless AND clueless too. It could be something serious, but it might not be. I’m sorry it had to be over your Christmas. I prly would have been weeping too.

    I like your header Did you make it?? it adds such a festive wintry look to your blog.

  9. justcallmeM

    So sorry your Christmas was spent as a sick house! Blessings to you for seeking God through the loneliness of a Christmas which was so far from an ideal one. I did have to chuckle at your comment about Zoe deciding a tantrum wasn’t worth it. :) Hope to see you soon!

  10. cupajava

    oh clarita i so know the feeling of being frustrated with sickness!! and especially when the husband is sick! we were sick the week of cmas and luckily it was gone by cmas for us! im so sorry that ur cmas had to come and go wo u being able to enjoy it!! :( i loved your honesty! …i can sooo feel for u!-being a mom is hard work! but oh so rewarding! BLESSINGS!! 

  11. down_onthefarm

    that grumpy part of the getting better but not all the way better??? well rest assured. it is NOT just your kids.
    i’m still waiting for some of mine to decide that tantrums aren’t worth it!!!
    {and i think that My Father God can the same about me}

    i am sorry, from mom to another, for all that sickness and missing out on the expected gatherings and fun.
    hope that everyone is well now {you do know, right? that mom’s can’t get sick?} and happy new year!!!

  12. redladybug18

    I have to admit, I probably would have had the same attitude about having to stay home with sick kids…only probably worse. Getting together with family is one of my favorite things in the whole world. I’ve had a not so good attitude lately and it seems like so many little things irritate me. I’m just not like that usually it’s just that lately it’s become a norm I want/need to change with God’s help. I tend to keep my attitude good for the kids I babysit and by the end of the day at home, I’m worn out and the grumpy attitude comes out. I still get a grumpy attitude when I’m not all well and I’m an adult :(

  13. WasabiBek

    Having to stay HOME over Christmas must have been super hard. You just want to be with family and friends when Christmas is here… sorry you missed out on all the Yoder festivities.
    Loved your post. Being a Mommy IS HARD. No question about it. Also SO WORTH IT! I could relate to this for different reasons… since we aren’t sick right now… but we’ve been home a lot. I’m nine months pregnant tomorrow.
    Huge.
    Getting three toddlers and myself ready and out the door just isn’t happening much these days. I feel miserable and ready to have this baby.
    I keep telling myself over and over how BLESSED I am. I have three beautiful healthy children and I’m going to meet my fourth beautiful baby any day now! But in the midst of hard times it’s still hard. And I sure hope it’s OKAY to cry and tell God how you feel!:)

  14. singingrachel

    wow, your story just kept getting worse instead of better… kept thinking it’s got to stop now.  yes,you expressed your weakness through it all but i’m here to say “you are strong”… for being able to see beyond yourself…. for still wanting to hold onto God.  THAT’S beautiful.  I hope those last few colds will soon be flying out the front door too.

  15. onehappymomma

    This life is such an education isn’t it?  And just when we think we’ve got it under control along comes another lesson.  Thanks for sharing what you’ve been learning.

  16. lifeisadance

    @FOREVERLANE – Yes, let’s talk soon!! :)

    @ABAHM – No, we didn’t get snow. We live in South Georgia, and snow flurries every few years are the extent of our snow! These pictures were taken up north a year ago when we hit a big snow storm. :) And I did get liquid lysine for Zoe, which seems to be helping here… The grapefruit juice is fascinating to me, never heard of that before. I’ll have to try that. Thanks!

    @myall4christ81 – I’m sorry about *your* Christmas! I know I’m not the only one who was home with sick children that day!!

    @foreveranoatneygirl – Oh my, YOU have my sympathies! Several years with sicknes over the holidays?! That would sure test a saint. :) But you are challenging… those thoughts that make us think that we *deserve* a certain kind of Christmas, or certain kind of life… When really, if we’d be getting what we deserve, we wouldn’t be living at all anymore. We are not only not getting what we deserve, but we are given mercy beyond anything we could have imagined. So very challenging. Thank you for that!

    @aretheyallyours – A very good reminder for me – that in serving my children, there is bigger picture – it is GOD I’m really serving. Why do I not remember that?? Thank you!!

  17. lifeisadance

    @fruitloops115 – I did make my header, but I can’t take much credit for it because I used a header already formatted, which I just dropped my pictures into, added font, etc. I would love to learn how to make my own using paint shop… Any tips?? :))

    @redladybug18 – Me too!! It’s not just the kids that can get grumpy. :(

  18. lifeisadance

    @fruitloops115 – ha ha! that’s funny. :) well, yours sure looks good! i’d love to learn how to design my own Christmas cards with paint shop. i know it’s possible, but i sure don’t know how.

    also saw you have premium. did you do that for unlimited photos, no ads? i get frustrated by the photo limit by xanga (maybe I upload too many pictures!) and don’t like the wierd ads but didn’t know if it’s worth it to pay for when some blog sites are free unlimited?? any insights?

  19. fruitloops115

    @lifeisadance – 

    it has been so long that we paid for it. I don’t even remember what it costs…they must have our credit card # or else Daryl paid for a couple years. Likewise, the reasons are no longer clear to me either. I think we prly did it for the photo limit thing. Which is nice to not have, esp. me who posts like, 50 pictures for one little thing And the absence of ads is not horrible either.

  20. SherriMonCheri

    I’m so sorry your Christmas didn’t turn out like you wanted it to, but I’m glad your heart is soft enough to learn lessons from God and grow.  I love the quotes you posted and the reminder that it’s not about me…it’s about God and allowing Him to work in my life so my child[ren] can see and gain a desire for Him. 

  21. twofus_1

    I identified with this post so all the way through. From the thing of a soft mothering side coming out when my children are sick to the non-tolerance for that super-grouchy stage when they are almost well, but not quite. Also how you processed it all. I’m sorry your Christmas wasn’t all sparkles and merriment. I happy for you that in the middle of all the yuckiness, you were able to find God.

  22. lonnasjoy

    Your post made me cry because once again I could so identify.  I had a similar though not as difficult Christmas this year.  A funeral, sick children and adults, and many other things have sought to mess up our Christmas this year.  We have yet to have Christmas with Justin’s family and my family’s Christmas was via skype because of long distances.  Which I should be thankful we at least had that right, and I am, but I have to admit I really struggled with it this year.  And I to had my own selfishness brought out.  I too discovered that even if Christmas doesn’t go exactly as you would like it if you are some how able to lift your eyes up and look to the King of Christmas even though it means some times crying out to Him, once again some how it can still become a beautiful memory to cherish.  Thank you for the gift of your story and struggles. It was once again a source of inspiration to me.

  23. lonnasjoy

    @lifeisadance – actually I was thinking the same about you that mine was easy compared to yours.  The funeral was Justin’s stepgrandpa who was really sick for a long time, so really we were glad he could go to Heaven and be with Jesus.  And thankfully our sicknesses wasn’t so sever that we had to stay home.  We just felt miserable the whole time

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