The air is cool for Australia in late December, the rain falls gently on skylights, my three next-of-kin sleep in a darkened room together with white noise lullaby. It's Christmas, this morning we opened some gifts with Nana and Papa visiting from Canada, had a late breakfast and the over-sugared children needed a sleep to make it through the rest of the day. So did their dad.
It's been a difficult few weeks for me, with nothing and nobody to blame. I had high hopes for December, for Advent, for the memories we would create and the traditions we would begin with our toddlers, but only a few of them happened and were definitely not "pinnable". (My homemade advent calender was pretty much the worst - I couldn't wait for the last paper to be torn off so I could throw it in the bin today - Merry Christmas!) I appreciated D.L. Mayfield's writing this week on what is actually sustainable at Christmas time, and for me the trouble hasn't been financial; my expectations on myself are what I can't keep up with. I didn't "do" nearly what I had hoped to accomplish and I still ended up a crying, stressed out, less than festive mess on too many occasions in the past few weeks. If you don't believe me, just ask my husband. Seriously, ask him - he could probably use some support.
The few things that have felt deeply meaningful had very little to do with me at all. I saw some friends give anonymously and generously to some other friends of mine whom they had never met; inviting someone to our home for Christmas who didn't come but hopefully at least felt cared for and included; enjoying the hospitality of others, having meals in homes or sharing drinks outside while children play barefoot.
The line in the carol 'O Holy Night' has been rolling around in my heart for the past few days. "Long lay the world in sin and error pining, til He appeared, and the soul felt it's worth." I've spent so much of this month (and maybe my whole life) trying to prove my worth, and mostly just to myself. Do I deserve to be a friend to circles of beautiful people, a mama to bright and crazy kids, a wife to the gentlest man? I try to answer this question by packing my days fuller than I can handle, full of such good things and people I want to be with, it's not the doing that's the problem, it's the questions my heart is asking, the things that I don't believe true about my most secret self.
It's not in our doing that our souls will feel their deepest sense of worth - it's in His Coming. And like I wrote two years ago, very pregnant but not ready for our new baby to arrive yet, I feel it now. "God came because it was time. Not because we were ready, but because we were in need. The beauty of Advent is in God's willingness to come to us, not our readiness for Him to come."
The kitchen doesn't have to tidy, nor the Christmas cards in the mail (or even on your mind). Maybe you just shouted at your children or your spouse, or cried over an oven full of burnt baking; the gifts might be few or hurried, loved ones too far away, exhaustion holding you hostage for a good, long time. You might feel disappointed with yourself. It's okay. Advent isn't about us preparing beautifully, lighting candles or creating the perfect family memories. It's about recognizing our deep, deep need for a God who still comes, anyway.
As much as I despise all of this seasonal stress I've experienced this month, maybe it's been good for me. Maybe not feeling like I measured up is exactly where I need to be.
Merry Christmas. May your soul today feel it's worth, no matter what.