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I sat down to work on our yearly Christmas e-mail this past Wednesday. Three hours later I was still typing and formatting. I got done and was completely overwhelmed and undone.
December has already been so full. Just. So. Full. Of. Goodness.
Sunday two weeks ago, we joined a Sunday School class that is discussing discipleship. The whole first class my heart burned within me and as soon as the class was over, I made a beeline for a fellow mom I look up to and told her I wanted to “walk together in a God-ward direction” with her.
Two days later we met at Panera and I poured my heart out to her. I told her about why discipleship scares me, why I don’t like to pray, and my on-going Bible baggage. But I told her that I didn’t want to stay there and I put myself at her mercy to come up with a discipleship plan. With such grace and love, she said we could start right where I am – with Bible journaling – and she’s going to color WITH me. And just like that, I heard walls falling down in my heart. Within just a few days, I was the one texting her with Bible verses.
That Thursday, I was SO blessed to be able to speak to a room full of ladies about jealousy and comparison among moms. This was the first time I had a speaking opportunity directly because of my blog, and I think it may have even meant more to me than it did to them.
Sunday was church in the morning and a children’s Christmas party in the evening.
Tuesday was an IEP meeting where we learned, with relief, that Ezra gets to stay in the same class for the forseeable future. Tuesday afternoon Daddy took Ezra Christmas shopping after school. Then they came home and Ezra and I had a wrapping party.
Wednesday morning I spent hours working on our family email. Wednesday evening I snuck out of the house to run up to church to play Christmas carols for our service.
Friday morning was a playdate with no-longer-new friends from our church that involved 10 pairs of sticky little fingers, grapes and strawberries that disappeared faster than you could blink, and warm-yet-deep conversation over coffee.
Friday night was a trip to a live Journey to Bethlehem outdoor performance and Saturday was a trip through our town’s drive-through light display.
Scattered in between all of that, there has been non-stop Christmas music; a few hours spent wrapping presents; far too much time spent cuddling on the couch watching Christmas movies; copious amounts of pizza and Christmas cookies that has gone straight to my waistline and I’m too darn happy to even care; Star From Afar; early Christmas presents and puzzles; and a few trips to Starbucks.
I’ve also started two new online support groups (one for Millennial Moms and one for Special Needs – please join them)! I’ve been pouring out my heart over Facebook live (greasy hair and all). I’ve sent about 200 friend requests to people I used to be connected with online, because life is too darn short and JOY TO THE WORLD and I’m tired of being in turtle mode.
Last night as we drove through our town’s light display, Ezra hung out the window yelling, “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” to all the strangers. He also said this:
Me too, bud. Me too.
All is calm(ish), all is bright. Tis the season for ALL THE FEELINGS.
I’m sure extra estrogen + full moon + Christmas has nothing to do with it. Nothing at all.
Four years ago, I wrote a blog post called Choosing joy when the Christmas spirit is broken. I implore you to go read it before reading this one any further, because it will make so much more sense.
But if you didn’t, the short version is this: 2012 was our first Christmas post-deployment and our last Christmas before exiting the Army. Our future was highly uncertain when it came to my husband’s job. My husband was dealing with undiagnosed and untreated anxiety, and our 2-year-old son (who would in the years to come be diagnosed with several behavioral and sensory struggles) was just starting to show signs of some of his behavioral and emotional struggles. I had no clue what to do with either of them, and trying to get in the “Christmas spirit” just highlighted the hurt, confusion, and anger in my heart.
But that Christmas – and every day after that – I made a choice. To chose joy. To choose hope. To keep believing even when it felt like I had nothing left to believe in. To keep loving two very difficult, broken, challenging people. To keep trying. To keep pouring out myself even when there was nothing left to give. To keep choosing them. To keep looking for God’s beauty in my mess.
That day I wrote these words:
So as I sat there this Wednesday for hours on my couch as the words just poured out, I realized:
Our Christmas spirit is no longer broken.
As I type this – I really should be working with Ezra through his bedtime medicine routine and both boys should be in bed, but instead, he and Little Brother are running through the halls giggling because Ezra is bopping him on the head with a paper towel roll – and my husband and I are just smiling at each other.
We are all just really happy right now. It’s taken a countless amount of therapists, multiple medications, hours of counseling and therapy sessions, tons of tears, and an exhausting amount of hard work. But we are okay.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to paint a picture of sublime perfection. What our family deals with on a daily basis is serious stuff that is ALWAYS with us. But we have learned better how to cope and manage, so that the daily weight of it all isn’t so overwhelming.
We have learned our limitations. We have learned to lower our expectations. I no longer expect to decorate the tree as a family and have it be this wonderfully magical experience like I had when I was a kid. I know that’s something that just Ezra and I are going to enjoy.
We know when to say no. I know it’s okay for me to grab the kids and go somewhere without Russ because we all know he will be too overwhelmed to participate. Because there are so many things that we CAN do together as a family, at home.
As I concluded our Christmas email:
So year in review: It was hard. We survived. And we still all love each other!!!
All joking aside, I look back on where we were in January, and sometimes I can’t believe we are the same family. We have been through so much but are so much stronger.
As we continue to push into Advent, this has got to be the calmest, sweetest Christmastime we have had in so many years! I am loving on my babies and my man, and it doesn’t seem forced or strained. We have settled into our new normal: post-deployment, post-Army, post-diagnoses, post-moves, post-feeling-like-the-world-was-never-gonna-stop-falling-apart.
It doesn’t look like I thought it would. But I kind of like it. Because it’s ours. And that’s all that really matters.
I know what it’s like to listen to songs like “Grown Up Christmas List” and choke back the tears.
I know what it’s like to be broken at Christmas.
But now I know what it’s like for time to heal all hearts.
Healing is a process. I’m not saying we’ve arrived, because I know that we haven’t. I’m not saying we won’t hit some earth-shattering hard days ahead, because I know that we will.
But I know that this Christmas, joy is less of a choice. And I’m going to revel in that with my entire being.