I tell everyone that Evan is Buddy the Elf–he wants all Christmas, all the time. I, on the other hand, enforce a very strict no Christmas until after Thanksgiving policy. Normally, this means Evan is putting up Christmas decorations behind my back through all of November, and I pretend to be very mad about it.
This year, however, we don’t have a single decoration up in our house. No garland around the white staircase bannister (my favorite), no stockings hung from the fireplace, no Christmas village up on the bookshelf. We didn’t get a tree because we couldn’t imagine how to keep Ian from pulling it down on top of himself, but for the rest of it, we’ve simply lacked time and energy: Evan is knee-deep in writing his dissertation and prepping for his pre-defense, and I am in the middle of interviews and hiring decisions.
Wait a minute! I take it back: we do have one decoration up. On December 1st, I wrote “25 Days Until Christmas” on the small chalkboard that sits on our mantel. I promptly forgot that it was meant to be a countdown, and it still says “25”.
I’ve been having trouble feeling the Christmas spirit this year, and I realized while talking to some good friends that I was waiting for the shoe to drop. I was walking around asking, “What terrible thing is going to happen, and when?”
The past two Decembers have been a strange mix of the greatest joy and acutest sadness. In November 2012, we found out we were pregnant. A few weeks later, our pastor resigned and I learned I was losing my full-time job. (I always think that perhaps God waited to provide our baby until exactly that time because He knew we would need a reason to rejoice.) Last year, in 2013, that same pastor died. Within days, our good friends’ home was burglarized and Sandy Hook happened. At the same time, we took Ian to Sea World and bought him a Christmas gift and celebrated our first holiday season as a family of three. Deep sadness, abounding joy, all at once.
It left me a little bit tired. Emotionally spent, perhaps.
Once I realized that’s what was happening in my mind and heart, it’s been easier to let go a bit and ease into the season.
Still, I am craving rest and quiet, and we are embracing slow and simple. I think I’ll hang our stockings, and we have two parties this weekend, but I am drinking my hot cocoa with two hands, and I am choosing to write instead of sweeping the floor. We have no tree, but “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” is playing on an almost endless loop.
On some days, I’ve read the devotional on shereadstruth.com. Other days, I’ve opened Ann Voskamp’s new devotional for kids, sharing my favorite lines with my volunteer team. Most days at work, I grab an Advent book from the resource center in the church lobby, lean against the counter there, and savor the day’s reading. Nothing consistent, but still surprisingly intentional.
I thought that making the season meaningful–celebrating it intentionally–meant sucking the marrow out of every moment, and making space for all good things. If I didn’t get the decorations up quickly, they couldn’t be fully enjoyed. If I didn’t follow a devotional all month, I’d missed an opportunity.
But I’m learning that slow and simple is no less intentional. I’m not trying to cram a single thing in: as it fits, I’ll embrace it. And in the meantime, I am catching Jesus in the small moments of my days, and eagerly anticipating the hope of His birth more than ever.
Side note: A few hours after writing this, after hammering away at his dissertation for awhile, Evan got in the spirit. Our stockings are hung, some paintings are on the wall, candles are on the mantle. Still simple, but more festive.