Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas and More is Merrier

Just after opening presents this Christmas, I overheard my three year old niece, dressed in her brand new Snow White costume, calling to my three year old son, adorned in his fresh from the box Buzz Lightyear wings, "Buzz Lightyur, Buzz Lightyur!  Come save Snow White fwom the dwagon.  He's twying to get me!"     
Christmas has always been my favorite holiday.  As a kid, I loved this time of year because it meant Mom had some time off work, my sister and I were out of school, and Santa was coming to town.  For much of my life, Mom was a single, working parent, and I honestly do not know how she managed to pull it all off.  We ran around at the last minute shopping for presents, frantically putting up the tree, stringing popcorn, scurrying to get out our Christmas decorations, and pulling late nighters to get ribbons on all the packages (mom insists on beautiful handmade ribbons to this day, and I will be passing that on to my own children).  Christmas morning arrived year after year with Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers singing "I Believe in Santa Claus" in the background.  It has always been our quintessential song for getting the good cheer and Christmas spirit flowing.  Most of the time it was just the three of us, but in our earlier years, we might share Christmas with a grandparent or two and my dad.  Still, Christmas was a small, intimate family gathering in my own house that was over in the blink of an eye, and for sure, everyone was guaranteed a bed for sleeping.

Then I became a wife and a mom, and Christmas, among other things, had to evolve.  As I learned when I married my husband, beds are not a guarantee or a necessity for any family gathering, especially Christmas.  While I grew up living with mom and sis, my husband is tied to a very close-knit, big extended family, none of whom mind sleeping on top of each other, literally.  Personal space is not a priority.  This is a very difficult reality for someone like me who can't even pee if others are within earshot.  Christmas is a prime example of our struggle over the years to find a compromise for our two family extremes.  Actually, saying we struggled doesn't come close to describing the all out blow ups that ensued trying to make our Christmas celebrations fair for all families, keeping in mind that I come from a very complicated, divorced family.  We started out alternating holidays with us traveling to one house or another other every other year.  Then we had kids, and we learned very quickly that the most thought out plans get shoved aside, quite frequently.  Christmas holidays bring out the unexpected bad weather, illnesses, family deaths, car trouble, and this year the never-ending bed rest.  There is no such thing as a fair way to alternate families and Christmases.

Bed rest and Christmas.  Those two things coinciding, as they did this year for us, opened a whole new can of potential Christmas chaos.  Traveling was out of the question.  I was lucky to even make it downstairs Christmas morning.  What to do?  Well, I'll tell you what we did.  We embraced Christmas chaos.  Before I knew it my house was covered from wall to wall in parents, in-laws, sisters, little cousins, a puppy, presents, presents, and presents, luggage, sleeping bags, air mattresses, blankets, holiday goodies, food, food, and more food.  The only thing we didn't have in abundance was space. 

And then, Christmas morning arrived with the all familiar "I Believe in Santa Claus" music jamming in the background.  The house was rockin'.  The smells of the tree, fresh coffee, and sausage balls filled the air.  Who knew reindeer poop on our roof and visible to all could be so intriguing (thanks to my husband's disgusting sense of humor)?  Presents took over the living room.  The kids came downstairs to see what Santa had left behind, eyes sparkling and wide, their little bodies just vibrating with excitement.  The grown-ups just sat and encircled the kids, watching as the morning unfolded (that's really all we could do because there was no room for movement unless we wanted to risk serious injury). 

This was true Christmas chaos, much different from the small, intimate Christmas mornings I grew up knowing.  In the middle of chaos, there I was in the coziness of my den, surrounded by family I love so much, buried in multiple conversations full of laughter, the Christmas lights reflecting the pure joy of Christmas in the eyes of my children and their cousins.  The joy was unavoidably contagious and pure.  My house was overflowing with the warmth of love, peace, and the sweet spirits of beloved family members who have gone before us, reminding me that  "Every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17)."  I truly cherish the Christmas chaos I experienced this year.  What a good and perfect gift!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Congratulations! Today is your day.  You're off to Great Places!  You're off and away!     -Dr. Seuss, Oh the Places You'll Go!
How many of you received this classic graduation book, Oh, the Places You'll Go!, for one milestone or another?  This book is full of encouraging and supportive words for the wide open world and infinite possibilities of greatness that await us.  And even though the book warns us of life's unavoidable tough times and "prickly perches," the expectations for us are the highest of high.  No pressure, right?

Do you ever stop and wonder, "How did I get here?"  Well, here I am.  I just celebrated my 32nd birthday, and those expectant words from Dr. Seuss still ring in my ears.  Am I fulfilling my "brainy" and "footsy" potential to "move mountains" and be the "winning-est winner of all?"  Am I in the midst of "Great Places?"  Am I doing enough with my God given talents and gifts?  My quick answer is no.  I can always do more.  I am in a good place, yes, but I haven't exactly moved mountains or become famous for my accomplishments.  Once we jump into life, how are we to balance our expectations for what life offers with where we find ourselves at any given point in time?  That is really a never-ending dilemma.

Instead of continuing to be the ambitious, busy work-aholic I had been my whole life, I have spent most of my post-married life growing and nurturing my family.  I have become a busy stay-at-home mom full of sleepless nights, diapers, play dates, homework, dinner parties, and community projects.  As of today, I am on my 80th day of bed rest due to complications from my third pregnancy.  Once this little one arrives, I will be a mom of three boys.  Me, a mom of three boys?  A high-risk pregnancy?  A homemaker?  The list of life's surprises for me, and for you, I'm sure, is endless.

When I am not forced to sit still on bed rest, I often run around from day to day like a crazy woman trying to cross everything off my to-do list.  Going through my daily routine doesn't usually translate into working on my own expectations and dreams for life; and for some silly reason, I let myself feel guilty about that.  It does, however, mean that I can go through an entire day without time to hear myself think about much of anything.

Enough is enough with the self-inflicted expectations already!  Why in the world do we put expectations on ourselves for how life should be or will be?  Yes, there are some things we can control; but for the most part, we are not in charge, people!  We can plan the best of plans, organize like no other, analyze our world, and even attempt to predict what lies ahead.  The truth is though, who knows the places we'll go.  None of us can change yesterday or control tomorrow  Life happens, and it happens on purpose, be it "high heights" or "hang-ups and bang-ups."  I am certain of life's purpose because I believe in a loving, sovereign God. 

I am not going to lie (no pun intended), bed rest for this long can make you kind of crazy when you are used to going ninety miles an hour all the time.  On a positive note, looking at the world from the confines of my bed has been a wake up call for me.  Life is definitely a journey, and the "Great Places" Dr. Seuss describes are not necessarily about traveling to far away, exotic places and becoming rich and famous for our ambitious accomplishments (even though that is a possibility).  Instead, "Great Places" are for us to recognize and embrace in our here and now.  "Great Places" are not an accident or luck of the draw, nor are they limited by our circumstances.  Going to"Great Places" is about how we intentionally and conscientiously choose to focus our time and energy.  "Great Places" exist in even the most ordinary daily lives, and if we visit them with eyes wide open, they can turn our ordinary lives into extraordinary ones.

I want to recognize and appreciate my own "Great Places."  That is the whole point of my blog.  For this to happen, I need to be what Dr. Seuss so cleverly terms a "mind-maker-upper."  I have to stop getting caught up in my own routine rat race.  Oh, the Places You'll Go! isn't just a fun and inspirational graduation book.  It provides an ingenious way to welcome each of our todays, "with brains in your head and feet in your shoes," you and I can choose to be mind-maker-uppers.  I can't wait to see where this revelation takes me.